EBay on Monday announced a new delivery program poised to launch in the summer, in which it will guarantee delivery in three days or faster for 20 million eligible items. Millions of those will ship for free, according to a press release.
Participating sellers must meet certain requirements, including a track record offering and following through on expedited delivery, according to eBay’s notice to sellers. Buyers will be able to search items eligible for free, speedy delivery, and if a package is late there are consequences: Buyers can request refunds on shipping, and if it was free, the buyer can receive eBay credit or return the item at no cost.
The auction and marketplace retailer is also revamping its homepage, aiming for a Netflix-like level of personalization that brings customers suggestions based on search and purchase history, ReCode reports.
About a year ago, as eBay CEO Devin Wenig outlined eBay’s turnaround plan, he noted that its friction-free marketplace, where just about anything can be found for sale, also made several areas of e-commerce more complicated. Now eBay is planning improvements to search, personalization and logistics.
Over the year, eBay worked to boost its search and homepage personalization and ended the year strong. The holiday season helped bring two million additional active buyers across eBay's platforms in the quarter, for a total of 167 million global active buyers. Fourth quarter revenue rose 3.1% to $2.4 billion, and its marketplace revenue was up 4% in the quarter on a currency-neutral basis and flat on an as-reported basis. Nevertheless, eBay is back to the drawing board. The changes come as Amazon has also introduced changes to its dependable if workaday homepage, and as Wal-Mart has stepped up its e-commerce through its Jet e-commerce unit.
The promise of personalization in the e-commerce age has been largely unmet, even in the case of Amazon, which still famously pops suggestions for toaster ovens after a customer has just bought a toaster oven. While there’s plenty of data, even e-commerce giants are still figuring out how to apply it.
“I want to be a shopping experience of one for [each and every eBay user],” Wenig said Monday at the Shoptalk 2017 conference in Las Vegas. “Your eBay is different from my eBay. It will take time. The promise of personalization is our industry has been a letdown. But there are breakthroughs coming. We’re a data company. At the end of the day, that’s what we do. That’s why we have to make this work.”
The move to guarantee fast shipping — and make it free for so many items — could be an answer to the added competitive strength coming from Jet now that it’s a unit of Wal-Mart and has deeper pockets and a more certain future. For its own e-commerce site, Wal-Mart in January ditched its Amazon Prime-like “Shipping Pass” in favor of lowering its free shipping minimum purchase to $35; Amazon in turn responded by lowering its own free shipping minimum for non-Prime members to $35.
Now eBay plans to join what is beginning to look like something of a price and delivery war. "We’re not a logistics company — eBay is the place to shop for what you love and need," Wenig said in Las Vegas. "It’s rare you won’t get a better price or choice on eBay, but people want [delivery] speed. [The new policy is] optional for sellers — we’re not mandating it. But if you do it, you gain increased visibility. It’s flywheel dynamics."
While that’s good for consumers, it’s only going to thin the already lean margins of e-commerce, says Nick Egelanian, president of retail development consultants SiteWorks International. “We can see the effect that Jet getting into the business is having — making it even less profitable,” Egelanian told Retail Dive.