Today, eBay reminded its sellers that beginning the first of May it will reclassify USPS First Class Mail delivery as a standard service in all listings that state that First Class mail is the delivery method. eBay first announced this move in February and described the change as a way to set “the right buyer expectation regarding USPS First-Class service.” The timing eBay’s move corresponds with the Postal Service’s expected implementation of new slower service standards for First Class Parcels.
Why eBay Says it’s Making the Change
Ebay identified two reasons for making this change
1) In general, buyers do not perceive USPS First-Class as an expedited service. Packages don’t reach buyers consistently within 3 days since delivery time varies based on distance and season. Based on eBay’s historical tracking information, the majority arrive within 2-5 days, which is more consistent with our classification for Standard shipping.
2) This change will make delivery estimates more accurate and help protect your DSR [Detailed Seller Rating] for ship time.
eBay currently defines an expedited service as having an estimated delivery time of 2 to 3 business days and standard shipping service as having an estimated delivery time of 2 to 5 business days. eBay’s historical tracking information indicates that items shipped using First Class Parcels take from 2 to 5 days to be delivered so they often take longer than eBay buyers expect from an expedited service.
Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs) are important for sellers as low DSRs can raise a seller’s fees and make listing less prominent in buyer searches. To the extent that the purchases shipped using First Class Parcels arrived in 4 to 5 days when customers expected speedier service, eBay sellers selling lightweight items may have found their DSRs lower than they needed to be because customers expected more than what the Postal Service could deliver.
What eBay Did Not Tell its Sellers
In its announcements, eBay made no mention of the Postal Service’s plans to lengthen First Class Service standards for many origin destination pairs in May. eBay knows that its sellers of low-value, lightweight items need the low-cost delivery option that First Class Parcels now offers. As all other shipping options would make selling on eBay non-remunerative, these sellers have no real option other than First Class parcels even after the Postal Service increases First Class service standards.
eBay also knows that slower delivery service from the Postal Service poses a risk to sellers that sell low-value lightweight items as the slower service would increase the risk of low DSR’s unless the buyer’s perception of delivery time is changed. Therefore the changes that eBay is making are all designed to lower the perceived quality of delivery service available from the Postal Service’s First Class mail among buyers.
The Importance of eBay’s Timing of First Class Mail’s classification
eBay is making the change in First Class mail’s classification at least two weeks before the Postal Service is expected to change its service standards. This gives buyers very little time to get used to the idea that delivery via First Class parcels is slower than they might have expected before the slower service commitments go into effect. By making the change so close to the Postal Service’s change in service commitments, eBay indicates that its concerns have less to do with historical delivery times and their impact on DSR’s but with delivery times following the change in service standards and the real risk that more customers will find that delivery time was unacceptable.
What eBay Sellers Need to Do
eBay sellers need to make sure that all of their items that are delivered using First Class parcels do not describe the delivery service as an “expedited service” in the item description. In addition, all references to “First Class mail” need to be removed and replaced with “First Class Parcels” as eBay is doing.
Customers that ship using First Class mail, in addition to Priority Mail, UPS or FedEx ground services, need to track their DSR’s on items shipped USPS First Class parcels. If DSR’s begin to slip on these items they need to raise this issue with eBay to prevent being penalized for poor DSR’s as they may be seeing something that is common among all sellers that ship using USPS First Class parcels. They may even want to consider limiting their sale of low-value lightweight items if their shipping DSR’s on these items start slipping until buyer perceptions of First Class parcel service starts reflecting the service that the Postal Service actually provides.