eBay’s Global Shipping Programme rolls its sleeves up

David-BrackinDavid Brackin is the co-founder of Stuff U Sell and has sold over 150,000 different items on eBay. He is also a regular contributor to Tamebay.

eBay’s international structure, with a hotchpotch of independent country-based silos looks increasingly anachronistic in today’s world of international ecommerce. Furthermore, with some of these country-sites successfully attracting buyers but desperate for more sellers and with stock looking cheap as result of recent foreign exchange movements, it is no surprise that eBay has decided to focus on cross-border trade to drive sales.

At its heart this is a search problem – getting the right products in front of a buyer when he looks no matter where he is. However, fixing search (and fixing the ingrained country structures which make it so hard) will prove tricky and so eBay has had to look for easier ways to approach this problem.

The Global Shipping Programme is one of the solutions they’ve come up with. Simply put, the GSP allows sellers who do not offer international shipping to send their items to an eBay team in Derbyshire using standard couriers, and then eBay does the rest: shipping and tracking the package to the overseas buyer. It even guarantees protection for delivery DSRs and claims for items lost or damaged in transit.

Stuart Davies, who has been managing the programme, presented at the recent Linnworks Workshop, and gave more details. Sellers have to opt into the programme (and can do so on an item-by-item basis) and then where no international postage option is shown, eBay will automatically offer one to the buyer.

There are already over 8 million listings signed-up, even though the scope is still limited: only certain categories are covered and shipping destinations are currently just in Europe: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain & Sweden. There are, however, plans to expand this further afield to Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and USA.

He described how they have had to really roll their sleeves up and get involved with the nitty-gritty of handling international shipping. Car parts too big or too heavy to ship, oversize boxes of fluffy toys too cute to condemn and long sets of golf clubs have all given him headaches as he’s tried to wrestle with the complexities of international shipping that face sellers on the site on a daily basis.

I was frankly impressed both with the GSP and this change in eBay’s attitude towards getting stuck-in. GSP provides a solution which requires nearly no effort for sellers to gain incremental sales. The other delegates at the Linnworks Workshop clearly were impressed as well. Regular industry attendees often see sellers react badly to the eBay speakers at such events, venting their frustrations with the site, but there was real respect for Stuart as he described the challenges everyone faces on a daily basis, and more than a few eyes lit up when they got the idea that this might be the solution to those awkward packages to Italy and Spain which are all-too-often “lost in the post”.

So what does it cost? Well, the first thing to note is that the buyer pays, not the seller. In fact the seller never sees the shipping cost. As an example, a buyer in Italy would pay £9.83 for a tracked package weighing 500g. That compares favourably with Royal Mail International Tracked Small Packets at £10.15. Stuart was clear that this is an incremental option for sellers with no other arrangements and isn’t designed to be the lowest cost and eBay is doing this to increase volume, not to make money on shipping.

I think this is an excellent development and eBay are to be praised for it. We’re going to give it a go – will you?