|Fri Oct 19 2007 22:19:32|
FedEx and DHL Disadvantaged on Some eBay Searches
By: Ina Steiner
eBay has replaced the feature that allows shoppers to sort by price with one that sorts by "price plus shipping." But eBay only supports UPS and USPS in its shipping calculator (and not every service from these providers). For sellers who use FedEx, DHL and other carriers and don't specify flat-rate shipping, their items will show up at the bottom of search results when sorted by price.
You can test it yourself by doing a search on eBay (try to be specific with your search terms so you only get a page or two of search results). The default sort is still Time Ending Soonest, which as of this writing appears to put all core listings on a level playing field. But if you choose to sort your results by Price + Shipping: Lowest First or Price + Shipping: Highest First, you'll see that the items in which the seller has failed to specify a shipping rate appear at the very bottom of the results, even if they put the shipping rate in the listing description.
eBay spokesperson Catherine England said the new sort feature has not rolled out to every category (no category list was available). When I suggested the sort option disadvantaged certain carriers, England said the sort does not look at which carriers sellers are using. She also said the majority of sellers select flat-rate shipping, but did not reveal the exact percentage.
On one search I conducted, I clicked on a listing at the bottom of results that did not specify shipping, and learned that the seller included a flat rate of $20 for shipping in the auction description. He or she could have easily put that rate in eBay's shipping field to get better visibility.
eBay introduced the feature in order to improve the buying experience, a valid motivation. Price plus Shipping sort is an option for those shoppers who want to sort by total price. According to eBay, sellers can always put in a flat-rate shipping rate. But the caveat in my opinion is a possible ding to the Detailed Seller Ratings that judges sellers by shipping and handling costs.
I live in Massachusetts. If I buy something from a seller in my state and see they have charged me a few bucks more than it actually cost to ship the item - even if I saw the flat-rate cost in the description - I may be annoyed and rate the seller lower on that DSR criterion. That's where stealth postage can come in handy, so be sure and ask your shipping service about it.
If you have strategies for dealing with this change, please post a comment. In the meantime, eBay will be holding a workshop on shipping on Friday, October 26.
You can also learn more on the eBay help pages on "Using Calculated Shipping Costs" and on the Shipping Tips page. And eBay Stores guru Janelle Elms has posted some tips on her site Online Success Institute.
Update 10/22/07: Apparently Best Match sort will also begin taking into account Shipping Price, therefore items with no shipping rate specified would presumably show up last on Best Match sorted search results as well. (Doesn't seem to be in effect just yet.)
In addition, Best Match will also take into account sellers' Detailed Seller Ratings. Here's what eBay told developers on October 10. (eBay did tell users in June that Best Match would take into account seller performance, though I don't remember them ever announcing that shipping price would be a factor in Best Match sort):
"BestMatch sort option will factor in the item's shipping price and the sellers 'Detailed Seller Ratings' into it's relevance algorithm."