Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Jan 5 2015 15:16:22

Does Offering Free Shipping on eBay Help Boost Sales?

By: Ina Steiner

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Can offering free shipping on your listings help boost sales on eBay and other platforms? Specifically, a reader wrote today to ask if eBay's partnership with the U.S. Postal Service rewards sellers who only use Priority Mail as their shipping option.

"I use free first-class shipping with the customer option to pay for priority mail," he wrote. "I guess my question is, do you think that I would see a sales increase if I made all of my listings include "free priority mail" and raise the price to cover the cost on my side?"

"I am tempted to try it," he said, "but not sure if it would end up costing me in the end from a loss of sales due to higher prices."

Does eBay give a boost to items with free shipping, and if so, does it vary depending on which carrier and service the seller uses?

And, do shoppers favor items with free shipping, or do they do the math and factor in total costs including shipping?

Sellers often say, there's no such thing as free shipping. What's your experience?

Comments (79) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

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by: Russ This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 10:45:37 2015

Yes, Rexford, that is partially to what I am referring and then some as the ''evolution'' will undoubtedly continue into this new year.

Now that the holidays are behind us, I wonder when sellers will begin receiving returns of SNAD items.  After all, who longer needs that utensil mark laden, chipped dining service for 12?  And with dried on food, no less.  The ''buyer experience'' will give me a refund, maybe I'll even be able to keep the service and if I do return to seller it is FREE SHIPPING!!

But all kidding aside, is it not a crying shame that all this hoopla impacting people just trying to make some money selling whatever they sell?

From what I read on this blog, the majority of posters appear to be honest, hard working folks that bust butt to provide fair pricing, excellent customer service and a desire to experience online selling whether for hobby or living.

There is an element of purity in so simple a concept.  But then corporate America figures it differently.  Cash cows must be milked!!  And so it goes...

Your competitors are not whom you might think such as others in the same niche but rather eBay itself.  Blasting you, fighting you, punishing you and just out-and-out abusing you.  All the while, you pay hard earned dollars for it.  Not unlike certain forms of prostitution...horrible but true.  eBay is one hell of a pimp!  And the chief pimp is a John!

Like so many have stated before, ''if you can't afford to lose it or give it away, don't sell here''...

I know, get of the soapbox, Russ...done!

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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Tue Jan 6 11:00:29 2015

Needless to say, the real question for 2015 will be, will Devin “Little” Wenig turn out to be a greater or lesser fool than the cretinous Johnny Ho that, for the past seven years, has been trying his hardest to flush the eBay marketplace down the toilet? …

The eBay executive suite—where the incompetent mingle with the disingenuous, the malevolent and the outright criminal, and the just plain stupid ... http://bit.ly/11F2eas

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by: thebobman This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 11:04:42 2015

I just looked up some items I usually buy to resell.

One seller had a lot of 7 for $43.99 + $6.16 shipping with a button for best offer.

There are 125 offers for that item on ebay, anything ranging from $5.39 with free shipping to about $20 with free shipping (it weighs about 2 oz). About 8 different brands and being sold in qty of 1 to 10 units. The only other seller with a lot of 7 has it at an auction.

Lets say that I value that lot of 7 at $35.

I going to either offer
$35 with free shipping or
$28.50 + $6.16 shipping (I'm just going to round down)


Where is the benefit of adding the shipping charge for an item that is going to cost $4 to ship and no one else is offering an identical item?

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by: Tornad0sRul This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 12:22:15 2015

I get the feeling that free shipping benefits EBay somehow because they put so much effort into trying to convince sellers to offer it. When I shop on EBay I look for the lowest price and my eye automatically goes to the lower priced item. That initial response is probably what harms offering free shipping because it will always be priced higher than the items that don't provide free shipping.  

One benefit of using free shipping is when using insurance. If something was broken during transit the insurance will cover the cost of the shipping as well because the insurance amount is determined by the sale price.

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by: Toledo Maude This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 13:12:22 2015

Over the years, I switched from one shipping charge fits all, to free shipping to charging for shipping charges only to currently charging for shipping and including a charge for the box and packing supplies.

I never experienced a sharp rise in sales with free shipping that would cover the cost of free shipping.

Several months ago while reviewing a spreadsheet that compares the actual cost of shipping (USPS and Fedex) plus cost of buying packing supplies versus the revenue that I collect from buyers for shipping charges, I was shocked to see that even with sales at a low point (thanks eBay!) I had a $400 gap between actual and collected shipping revenue.  

If I followed the advice of the “sharp as a pin cracker jack” eBay MBA’s, I should be offering free shipping and all my troubles would be solved.

At this pointed on eBay, I banished “one price fits all shipping charges” and started to charge actual by zip code, weight and package size including a charge for eBay shipping fees and packing supplies.

I was prepared to write-off sales to far away West Coast buyers, but I continue to receive orders from them in spite of the high shipping charges.

But as the sage comment from LDS Brother: “Nothing helps with CAN'T SEE ME !” over rides free shipping or not.

During a nearly 10 day stretch in December of the juiciest selling days, eBay shut me down with zero sales.

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by: songe-d-automne This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 13:31:19 2015

I do shipping 3 ways.

1. free shipping on first class qualifying items (under 13 oz).

2. Partial shipping on heavier mid-priced items ($20 and up) that I can cover part of with the item price.

I.E.: I weigh an item and just price as if I was shipping locally, that way I get at least part of the shipping cost if it goes west (I am in Mass), which seems to always happen. "Pfft! California, figures"

3. A very low priced ($10-$18) item that is over 3 pounds, I use the calculator, because the profit is so low, I have no way to cover the shipping hit.

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This user has validated their user name. by: LasVagueness

Tue Jan 6 14:06:47 2015

If you offer 'free' shipping for heavy items you are liable for return shipping if a SNAD is filed. You pay both ways. I NEVER offer free shipping for heavy items.  

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by: Redlion This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 14:16:06 2015

I think it depends on the niche.  I sell multiples of low priced items and I LOVE the free shipping lie.  I build the cost of shipping into each and every item as though it would sell on its own.  When I have a buyer who comes in a purchases 10 items all I hear is cha ching as I pocket the shipping cost on the other 9 items.  

Does it give me a boost in search?  I have no idea.  I do know that buyers notice they got "free" shipping because they comment about it in my FB all the time.  I hope buyers never wake up and figure out there is no such thing as FREE shipping.

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by: Redlion This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 14:19:12 2015

To Lasvagueness...  If a SNAD is filed you pay shipping both ways regardless of whether your item had free shipping or not if the buyer whines loud enough.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Tue Jan 6 15:08:58 2015

I haven't seen any difference between "pre-priced" and seperate shipping.

Among other items sold, I have been selling a fair amount of books. Since most of the books do no ship internationally (even though some have sold), I just figure in the Media Mail rate & 1 price fits all.

For inexpensive post cards, bumping up the price by $1.93 for 1st class package rate + the 15% FVF (I include packaging & PreyPal in that %) seems to be excessive for an under $10 card - so I separate out the shipping & offer a discount on multiple items. That seems to work OK.

For other light under 13oz I may or may not offer 1 price depending on my mood. I'm trending towards separate shipping for them lately.

Where I will NOT ever offer combined shipping is in consignment sales. I do some consignment sales & I price the shipping seperately. That way I control my shipping costs & the consignee does not get whacked with my fee on shipping - unlike eBay.

I too like to know what my total cost would be for an item, but on Amazon and eBay, if you look closely, you can see the shipping costs. My customers usually are a step above the unwashed/uneducated masses so they can figure out what works for them.

Once in a blue moon, I'll get a request for "free shipping" on a best offer. Whether I'll accept the offer or not has nothing to do with "free shipping", I just consider it as part of the price.

Soldier on you entrepreneurial minions....

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by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 15:13:48 2015

I'm with Annie on this one.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Tue Jan 6 15:16:30 2015

I tried "free" shipping for a while, and I didn't see an increase in my sales. In fact, I think free shipping hurt my sales. Because almost all of my items ship as first class packages, the majority being nine to 13 ounces, folding the shipping cost into the item price made my prices seem unreasonably high. As soon as I separated out the shipping cost from the item price, my sales took off.

As for myself, I used to be swayed by the "free" shipping sign, but now, where there are multiples of the same item I'm looking for, I compare the item price with and without free shipping, and very often the price with added shipping is actually less. I think that might be because when sellers boost the item's price to cover shipping, they are making a guess as to what the postage will be, and err on the high side.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Kitty Ninja

Tue Jan 6 16:38:34 2015

If you do the math...you will discover the REAL reason eBay wants you to offer "FREE" shipping. Ebay charges a percentage on both sales AND shipping.  If you offer the "FREE" shipping (with the shipping price covered in your sales price as they suggested) lo and behold eBay will get an extra penny or two out of you for FVF fees. I calculated in on several of my listings and in almost all cases the FVF fees were at least one cent or more HIGHER on the items which offered the "FREE" shipping. SO GLAD I bailed out of the eBay pimp factory!!!!

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by: fashionista This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 17:06:58 2015

I think it depends on the seller, the weight of the items they sell, their price point and category.
I have a relative that works at UPS (management) and a few months ago he gave me a copy of a study that UPS conducted regarding "customer habits, preferences, etc) Consistently, when free shipping is offered, it boosts sales, no doubt about it.......however ebay is not the norm, so who knows.
For me, generally my price point is $70 to $100, most my items weigh less than 6 oz, so I do offer free shipping, if there is anything heavier, I charge shipping (very few items)
It works for me. I get a lot of feedback thanking me for free ship.
I have tried both, and have done a flat $2.95 to ship and you get the email....will you ship for free..., and the complaints about shipping rates.
My husband buys a ton on ebay, and constantly goes with the "free ship" seller.
It works for me.

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This user has validated their user name. by: SellSellSell

Tue Jan 6 17:36:09 2015

I offer free shipping as well and if a buyer purchases several items I have had them ask for a small discount since I am saving total postage cost by combining shipment. If a buyer is buying multiple items with FS, it doesn't hurt to ask for a small discount, does it?

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This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Tue Jan 6 18:01:27 2015

It never hurts to ask. If you're a seller, you know that the cost for shipping is factored in.

As a seller I'd approach the discount on "free shipping" on an individual basis. It is not a negotiation, the buyer is on the hook. For a couple of books, the incremental shipping cost is $.48/lb - if you want to toss a bone back - why not. For 1st class parcel, it is pennies - is it worth your time & will your customer be satisfied with the $.18/oz refund? Your call.
Don't forget, multiple items may put you into a different shipping category with consequences, e.g. Priority to Zone 8 instead of 2 flat rate 13oz parcels.

The road to perdition is paved with good intentions.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Tue Jan 6 19:09:03 2015

(7:13 AM ET) NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, -0.01% said Monday that sellers on its site sold more than 2 billion items in 2014, setting a record. Sellers from than 100 countries fulfilled orders to customers in 185 countries, using the Fulfillment by Amazon service, the company said in a statement. China and Hong Kong-based sellers offering goods internationally grew 80% from 2013, while offers from India more than tripled. On Cyber Monday, more than 16 million units were ordered, and orders processed by businesses using Amazon Payments grew more than 60% from the year earlier.
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/updates-advisories-and-su
rprises-2015-01-05


Hey Devin Little, how’s it going over there at eBay? Johnny Ho still mentoring you?

The eBay executive suite—where the incompetent mingle with the disingenuous, the malevolent and the outright criminal, and the just plain stupid ... http://bit.ly/11F2eas

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by: whipnet This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 19:22:43 2015

As a buyer I look for free shipping because you technically get Ebay bucks on your shipping cost.

As a seller, I went to free shipping a couple of years ago and never looked back.  My sales increased, but an added bonus was getting a new class of buyers that are FAR less hassle to deal with through and through.

*

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by: Baubles This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 19:56:43 2015

I used to use this strategy when I was trying to figure out the free shipping thing.

The first time around, I listed an item at auction with free shipping.  This brought people who liked free shipping, and I've seen feedback from them such as ''love the free shipping''.

If the item didn't sell after two rounds, I reduced the cost of the item and added a shipping charge accordingly.  This brought in the people who wanted the cheaper item cost, and were not bothered by a small shipping charge (I only charge $2.50 and sell mostly small items that once packaged weigh 1 - 3 ounces.)  

After several months of this, I noticed that the cheaper priced item with shipping charges actually got bids faster.

I also noticed the free shipping folks tend to bid at the last minute.  They seemed to be browsing and caught the item when it neared the end of the auction.

Unfortunately, I also noticed that people who like free shipping are also more trouble.  They open seller protection cases very freely.  The only cases I had opened against me were on free shipping items.  And why not!! The item was totally free on their part to try out. They have no qualms sending it back when it costs them nothing as well.

I found free shipping to be a great hassle with little reward. I was wasting so much time on the phone with ebay appealing those cases.  I don't feel free shipping is worth it and have been changing my auction listings back to include a shipping charge as they end.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: shabbychick

Tue Jan 6 21:11:17 2015

I was always under the impression that first class is just as fast as Priority. So under 13 oz I always use first class. It makes it cheaper for me in the event of a return as well. I've had more returns in the last 4 months than just about all my time at Ebay.


I sometimes offer free shipping on 1st class items but BB2 has me thinking. I like what he said about


''The perceived value of the coffee table is diminished when you separate the cost.''  

That could be said of a lot of things besides coffee tables.  

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