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: collectorjim This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 6 23:17:41 2015

Ditto @whipnet

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This user has validated their user name. by: Shop and Ship

Tue Jan 6 23:43:48 2015

''Free Shipping'' helps speed eBay sales if eBay ranks that listing higher in search results. I tested by offering ''Fast and Free Shipping'' and then revising the listing to flat cost and variable cost with one day shipping. The ranking dropped with the removal of ''Fast and Free''. And my listing ranked at about the same when the search priority was set to ''Price + Shipping Lowest First'' so the impact of combined costs was negligible. As noted earlier, ''Free Shipping'' elminates 2 DSR ratings from the Buyer's grasp and that too impacts the ranking. It appears to me that Buyers often opt for ''Best Match'' from the top 5 listings regardless of price, so it is worthwhile to appease eBay so that my listings will be at the top of the heap. Retailing studies show that some Buyer equate price with value: the higher the price the better the item even if you and I know that it's an identical item with equal value to the item priced at wholesale cost.  

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by: AC_in_Mich This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 7 17:19:43 2015

Thanks to everybody that commented!  It certainly seems as though each seller has to carefully consider the items they are selling and the market. I have read from you folks different strategies and it seems as though each works well for the niche market.  I am concerned with visibility and ranking hits when not offering free shipping as well as DSR vulnerabilities.  I guess each of us has to experiment and use what works best.

As a side note, look at ebay auction 371195908398 . How does a chinese seller sell a nail clipper for a penny with free shipping and make money?

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Wed Jan 7 17:26:01 2015

@ajeweler

Back in the beginning of FS, that was quite true as you know.  However if your sell price was $50+ [I think that was the number] you actually did start saving on the total combined FVF.  That was back in the day when FVF was not a flat percentage like now.  It had steps.

There are plenty of studies that Ebay didn't have their hands it that show that buyers like FS.  Just Google it and you will find some.

*******************************

Some sellers will have good success when offering FS and others, not so much.  It is driven by products.  Some products do very well, others do not.  Which is why sellers have mixed reviews of FS.  But because it may not work for one seller does not mean it isn't a good thing for another.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Wed Jan 7 17:33:37 2015

@kitty ninja

That may be a rounding problem or something.  The fees are the same.

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

Wed Jan 7 22:50:29 2015

@AC_in_Mich, the 1c nail clipper with free shipping is possibly a commercial scheme for supplying feedback numbers; you aren't expected to take delivery of the goods; only the feedback. eBay knows such abuses are going on but does nothing about it, just as they do nothing about the demonstrable, endemic, shill bidding fraud on nominal-start auctions ...

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: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 8 03:11:22 2015

No.
Free shipping gave no added increase in exposure or sales.
FP and auction was tried, me and other sellers did over 500 sales all the different ways here and it was AGREED that it did not increase exposure- for items at ANY price point.
Do not mislead sellers.
How can posters come in here after all this discussion and try to summarize and close with exactly the opposite claim of what has been experimented on 100's of times and PROVEN.
Some folks.
MH
Gee buyers like "free shipping"- GENIUSES- they like our free items too. Google that too.

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by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 8 03:17:34 2015

Oh, its a "rounding problem"- LOL!
MH

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by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 8 06:26:15 2015

Does free shipping give ads a boost and raise a sellers gross income?
We determined long ago that it doesn't and that sellers would absolutely lose $$ trying it.
We all agreed that if the traffic was the same it had been in the past, with no tinkering of search, that what ebay claimed (increased views, sales & profit) FS MIGHT have worked.
In short, given the present search and exposure, no mater the price point, you will make less profit 100% of the time, with free shipping.
MH
I spent over $1000 on fees running those experiments over 3 months and reported results right here, as other sellers did.

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by: GotToGetOut This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 8 10:24:16 2015

Free shipping does nothing to attract buyers as far as I could see with my listings.  If you are a top rated seller with 20% off, it does give you the 20% off the shipping that is rolled into the cost of the item.  

Since I'm no longer a top rated seller due to all of the reasons people file "not as described" items, such as it broke and I want a replacement (sent out and resoled but the buyer doesn't know he can just write a question), or most recently, "not as described -- I refused shipment and having it returned to you since I could see it's not a dinner plate, when I had salad plate in the title and the size, 8", in the description??) These defects are just ridiculous.

So, now that I'm not a top rated seller, I don't include shipping in the sale price and I don't find it makes a difference, especially with auctions since People making a bid tend to look at the bid price.

Also, a comment on this discounted shipping that Ebay offers:  Ebay gets a huge USPS commercial rate for shipping that is across the board.  Once a seller is no longer top rated, that discount disappears and Ebay just uses the electronic mail discount that everyone can get and Ebay keeps the difference.  A nice money maker for them and, in my opinion, should not be legal.   I am now finding that Smark Fedex or Fedex ground is usually less expensive unless there is a delivery surcharge that is about $3.  

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by: exdwh This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 8 10:47:45 2015

I don't think anyone mentioned the 'Free shipping' filter in search options? I'm convinced that box is what kills us.

Our total price and service level are superior, but if the FS search option is selected, you'll never see us.

I agree that if you're selling an item that will rarely be purchased in quantity or combined, then there's no reason not to play the 'free shipping' game. However, we're catering to buyers who typically combine many lightweight items. We also have many international buyers.

I believe the China shippers can literally pay by total weight of outgoing packages. That makes it very easy for them to include shipping cost in the price. USPS rates vary too much to include shipping cost without cheating someone.

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by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jan 8 17:00:34 2015

Good point Phil- sort of like the old penny or Paper Clip auctions we used to see here in the US.
MH

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by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 9 16:44:18 2015

Any would-be buyer should be intelligent enough to know there is No Free Shipping Fairy!  Sellers who offer "free" shipping are merely jacking up the item price to cover what is an inescapable COST.

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by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 9 18:22:31 2015

As a REMINDER:
We also did an extensive study of relists and this is what we found, as I do not want to go through this again.
-relisting an item through "relist unsold items" gave less and less exposure each time it was relisted.
-relisting through sell similar gave the same results as the straight relist of unsolds.
-The only way to revive exposure of an unsold ad is to RE-DO the item from scratch, including new photos (we hated to tell our fellow sellers that they needed to re-do ads from scratch but it was the only way).
-Changing the description OR photos did nothing but writing the ad from scratch gave it new, revived exposure.
These are FACTS- which any seller can use to increase sell-through and profit.
Many others ran their own experiments and every single person had the same results.
Mass Howler

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by: I Must be Crazy This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jan 9 19:26:06 2015

I constantly ask myself the same question. I would love to dump free shipping. However, these days it seems more or less required to remain selling on Ebay. The risk of low DSR's isn't worth charging for shipping. In those instances where we do charge, we actually keep it on the low side. We have offered free shipping on our products ever since it became popular on Amazon. As an Amazon customer I liked free shipping. So it made sense that our customers would enjoy it on Ebay as well. This was even before Ebay, lacking innovation and always a follower, thought it was a good idea and began to extort sellers into offering free shipping by instituting policies to achieve that objective.  Previously it gave us a competitive edge. Now, most of our competitors offer it so we just maintain it. Who knows...given visibility issues, problems with search and hidden selling limits, buyers aren't seeing the all of their options anyway.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Shop and Ship

Mon Jan 12 12:28:53 2015

As to 371195908398, what your Chinese Seller lost on the nail clipper auction was made up for in volume ha ha ha. It appears that many more were sold at auction for $1 and up. We all know what our time's worth, eh?  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Tue Jan 13 14:08:10 2015

It totally depends on what you're selling. Free shipping works great for me, but I also sell lightweight items (generally 6 ounces or less) and rarely have multiple purchases. I charge flat rates for international and domestic Priority/Express upgrade options that are partially subsidized. On heavier items, I'll sometimes use calculated shipping, but usually use a reasonable flat rate. I may lose a few dollars shipping to a far location, but the overage on a more local shipment makes up for it.

I think this is one area where one size does not fit all. Free shipping works with my business model, but may not work for yours. of course, Ebay tries to stuff us all into the same model, which shows how little they understand about sellers and the market in general.

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by: Gina This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 20 21:03:32 2015

I weigh in with Anonymous Annie: As a buyer, I like "free" shipping because I know exactly what my total cost will be for a specific item.  This is imperative so I can price what I sell.......
As a seller, since the enviornment for sellers has become so toxic, I've had no sales, so there is no way to gauge whether FS would get me more sales than the other!
I need 10 +FB to get on Bonanza's non-paypal direct checkout, so I thought I'd give away free recipes, gain some +FB & start selling again...  I can't even give things away nowadays!

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by: Gina This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 20 21:17:09 2015

FS simply doesn't work in Canada!  Insured shipping locally costs  $9.00, but the same item going up north could easily run $15-17 MINIMUM!  (& fuel surcharges that the customer must pay to get their packages!!)
I am forced to open a US-based account on sales sites (I am right on the border, have US passport, US SS# & US bank account). I then offer "shipping included to the USA" & International Priority for $25 to all non-US customers including Canada. Canadians make (made) up less than 10% of my sales.
It wasn't an issue when I trusted drop-shippers to ship my packages...but those people discovered several ways around AliExpresses's "Customer Protection Policies" to screw me over & avoid negative feedback for not shipping anything at all!!!   So now I'm unemployed as I don't pay to be lied to, screwed around, & belligerantly blackmailed!
I see Priority as the ONLY option for packages for it is the only solution to offer both tracking and insurance...which PayPal demands nowadays!  Be aware that many foreign lands DO NOT GIVE TRACKING OR DELIVERY CONFIRMATION!!  I won't ship to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, UK, Italy, etc. because I never know if the item REALLY arrived!!  These customers know it and I assume they take great advantage of it to ensure lots of free loot!

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