eBay kicked off a promotion today to entice sellers to offer free returns during the holidays with discounted commission fees and greater exposure in search at a time when many sellers are reporting slow sales.
To entice more sellers to offer a generous returns policy, eBay kicked off a promotion where it is promising a 50% final value fee credit for up to 500 listings that offer free returns. It defines free returns as follows: "seller pays return shipping no matter the reason for return, with no restocking fee."
eBay is forced to offer a carrot and stick approach since it doesn't own the goods for sale on its marketplace. As it invests in its own brand this year through marketing that includes TV commercials, executives must find it frustrating not being able to promise shoppers free returns on all goods. The brand marketing comes at a time when eBay is making it more difficult for sellers to promote their individual brands on its marketplace and as eBay even limits communication between shoppers and sellers.
eBay has found numerous ways to pressure sellers to offer generous policies - one way is by boosting such listings in search results. And in fact, the new promotion tells sellers they will generate more sales if they participate:
"Offer free 30-day returns on your listings and sell up to 17%* more of your items. Plus: Increase your item's exposure in search results; Stay competitive throughout the holiday season."
It follows that listings that don't offer generous policies get less exposure since rival listings that do offer such policies get higher placement in search results. eBay also gives greater exposure to certain sellers (i.e., "diamonds") by featuring them in email and PR marketing campaigns.
eBay described the terms of the new promotion as follows:
Invited sellers ("Sellers") who activate the offer and then list in the fixed price, auction-style, or auction-style with Buy It Now format during the Promotion Period, pursuant to the terms and conditions set forth herein, will receive a 50% discount on final value fees ("Promotional Rate") on up to 500 Qualifying Item(s)* listed during the Promotion Period (the "Promotion").
The Promotion does not apply to insertion fees or optional advanced listing upgrade and supplemental service fees. Discounted final value fees will be applied to the total amount of the sale, including the cost of the item and shipping charges, excluding any sales tax. All existing selling limits on your account (as well as category and item limits) still apply, and may prevent you from creating the maximum number of listings in this Promotion. View the "everyday rate plan" for full details.
If you receive an invitation to the promotion, be sure to read it carefully for details and restrictions - invitees must first activate the promotion before it applies.