Happy anniversary! It's been nearly 2 years since eBay began providing sellers who opened Stores a coupon for free, eBay-branded shipping supplies. AuctionBytes Blogger Bob takes a look at the program and how significant a perk it is for online sellers. Let him know if you agree!
For all their glitches and mess-ups eBay gets kicked around more than a tin can in a school yard. So, when they do something right they should get a gold star on their forehead.
We're approaching the second-year anniversary (April 5, 2016) of eBay's announcement that they were going to offer "free" shipping supplies to many of its storekeepers. The higher the store level, the more of these supplies one can get. Basic store owners get a $25 coupon every 3 months, Premium get a $50 coupon, and Anchor stores get a $150 coupon (and it can be kind of fun trying to match or stay under that $150 in a "The Price is Right" gameshow way).
While not everyone will ever be completely satisfied with their styles and sizes, there are a pretty good selection of boxes, envelopes and several odd items like tape, stickers and wrapping paper. Prices are a little high. Quality is a little low. But overall nothing too outrageous.
There have been a few bumps in this virtual road. Their larger boxes (most now seemingly discontinued) were a good fit for bigger items, but were too flimsy for the potential weight (great for selling pillow pairs but not much else). And their "special" sealing tapes for the Holiday sales were so gaudy they could outshine the White House Christmas tree (eBay marketed these as "limited editions," for which we can all be thankful).
Regardless, the concept was really brilliant and harkened back to the days when eBay was the leader in online sales.
First, the supplies are promoted as "freebies" for larger sellers. So, store owners get a little bit of their outrageous store fees back (did I say outrageous?). And those sellers' customers get the benefit of their items arriving in spiffy packing materials. This could give some eBay buyers the false (but comforting) impression that, like some Amazon products, these items were sold, packed and shipped from some professional "Fulfillment" type center - and not by someone working off their kitchen table while dressed in boxer shorts (guilty!).
Anecdotal evidence suggests that eBay buyers like receiving their items in the eBay branded supplies. In short, eBay shipping supplies make higher-volume eBay sellers look more professional. And that is very good for the eBay brand.
Speaking of the eBay brand, another corporate benefit is that these shipping supplies put the eBay name in front of many sellers, multiple times, daily. Likewise, eBay buyers get that facefull when their items arrive. The eBay brand is being overshadowed by the Amazon brand, and these supplies might slow that process down a little.
In fact, eBay must know that many of their larger sellers use multiple sites to sell their items. Do these sellers use eBay supplies when their wares sell on Amazon or Bonanza or Etsy? Occasionally? Probably? Sometimes? Guilty again!
If you doubt this crossover, go to Amazon and search for eBay shipping supplies where you'll find a brisk secondary market. Some sellers just don't need all of these "freebies" (that one way or another you pay for). This is a way to get the eBay brand name in front of buyers who might automatically go to Amazon to purchase.
More, the boxes can be recycled and the bags are designed for easy reuse. Some of their bags are marked: "Recycle the fun: use this bag again by becoming a seller." Others read: "Put this bag to good use: Start selling on eBay." Not only are these bags employing an appropriate use of colons, but they encourage the eBay buyer to turn into an eBay seller - if only to clean out a closet bottom or cupboard. And that's how eBay began and grew.
Are all these benefits intentional? Probably not. And while there will always be people who won't give eBay credit for anything (check out the predicted comments below!), this eBay brainchild is a strategic win for the company.
About the Columnist
Bob has been buying and selling online for almost 20 years. Some experts claim that his limited budget was the major cause of the 2001 dot-com crash. He denies the charge.
Note from the editor: Be aware that as part of the recently announced Spring Seller Update, eBay is adding two new Store tiers, as well as raising certain fees.