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Shipping tips for the holiday season

Shipping challenges, as well as inventory stockouts, are the culprits that often undermine eBay sellers’ attempts to make the most out of the holiday season. If you want to prevent workflow bottlenecks, late deliveries, and customers’ dissatisfaction, make sure you are prepared to face the peak season shipping issues.

Consumer trends, priorities, and concerns

As the recently published ShipEngine Peak Season Report 2023 has revealed, global consumers are looking for better value for their money, so they pay special attention to promotional events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Besides, the share of consumers who are planning to do most of their Christmas gift shopping online has grown considerably: 57% against 49% in 2023.

Though the possibility to sell more is good news for eBay sellers, there’s the other side of the coin. Customers’ loyalty has become quite fragile, while their expectations are at an unprecedentedly high level. It means that to win and retain new customers, it’s not enough to sell quality products. You need to provide excellent delivery experience as well.

The ShipEngine Peak Season Report 2023 also shows the top delivery frustrations for global consumers:

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Though free shipping is the first thing usually recommended for increasing sales, it’s obviously not enough to satisfy today’s consumers. Lots of sellers compete for their attention and money, so you need to offer more versatile shipping options and pay attention to your estimated delivery dates.

Shipping tips for the peak season

Delivery speed plays a critical role during the peak season. It’s quite obvious that holiday shoppers may get extremely frustrated by the late arrival of their Christmas gifts and decor. And that’s a large portion of orders made in November and December. Here’s what you can do to ensure timely delivery, avoid problems and keep your shipping costs reasonable.

Reduce your handling time to a minimum

Handling time is the number of business days between the order placement and the moment when the package is scanned for shipping. This period is set up by buyers, and it’s recommended to select the fastest handling time you can commit to (2 days or less). This way you can reduce the estimated delivery time shown to buyers and possibly win their favor. Read more about handling time and how to set it up.

The handling time clock starts ticking when you receive payment from a buyer and ends when your carrier scans the parcel. If you’ve set up 1-day handling, the item should be scanned by 11:59:59 p.m. on the following day in your local time zone.

Example: A buyer pays for an item on Monday, and your handling time is 1 business day. It means your item should be scanned by your carrier before 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday. If the order is made on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, you need to ship it by 11:59 p.m. on Monday. 

Estimated delivery date (EDD), which buyers can see on the item page, is calculated dynamically based on various factors: your handling time, delivery services you offer in the listing, your past delivery performance (regarding those aspects you can control), carrier performance, item location and the buyer’s delivery address.

If necessary, eBay adjusts the estimated delivery dates to reflect delays in the delivery network due to severe weather, natural disasters and other unexpected disruptions. The increased delivery volume during peak seasons is also accounted for.

Offer a variety of shipping options including expedited delivery

Though free shipping is a well-known and time-tested technique to attract customers and appear higher in search results, it certainly doesn’t have to be the only available option. According to the ShipEngine Peak Season Report 2023 data, 61% of consumers are willing to pay extra money (up to $7) to get same-day, next day or nominated day delivery. Besides, this percentage is even higher (78%) among millennials and Gen Z shoppers who are the most significant consumer segments for online retail. With their tight schedules, they are happy to pay a small fee so as to get reliable and speedy delivery. It’s especially true for last-minute shoppers trying to get gifts before December 25!

So, if you want to cater for all consumer categories, offer several delivery options that allow your buyers to balance costs, speed and convenience. Thus you’ll be able to protect your bottom line but at the same time meet the growing expectations of your customers and provide quality service. And don’t forget to add combined shipping and shipping discounts.

Combined shipping is best for items that can be easily shipped in one box or envelope:

  • Collectibles (toys, cards, action figures, Hot Wheels, etc.)
  • Books, comic books, magazines and other printed literature
  • Recorded media (cassettes, vinyl records, DVDs, etc.)
  • Clothes
  • Fashion jewelry and fine jewelry
  • Other small lightweight items

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Maintain clear communication with buyers

Experienced sellers recommend keeping in contact with your customers. Even though buyers can see on eBay that their order is shipped, it would still be nice to send them a short message about that. And if delivery is delayed, it would be better to inform your customers via eBay messages and apologize. Clear communication helps build trust and protects you from getting negative feedback.

Maintain clear communication with buyers

Use tracked shipping

You buyers will appreciate the opportunity to see where their packages are at any given moment. Besides, valid tracking information will protect you from various issues associated with late delivery, Item not received cases, or payment disputes. If there are any problems caused by events outside your control, but tracking shows that you shipped the order on time, eBay will remove transaction defects and negative feedback. For more information, please read the Seller protection article.

Use tracked shipping

Calculate your shipping costs

Make sure that you won’t have to pay more than expected for shipping your item. The weight on the scale isn’t the only factor that affects the costs. The parcel dimensions also contribute to the final sum your carrier will charge you. 

Sometimes beginner sellers make this mistake: they calculate the shipping cost using the item weight, add this amount to the item price and offer free shipping. But if the item is large and lightweight (e. g. a beanbag chair), the actual cost of shipping may wipe out your profit. So, be sure to use the right size box and put the right dimensions and weight when calculating your shipping costs. And always round up to the nearest whole number.

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Prepare enough shipping supplies

Seasonal demand spikes and your promotional efforts can result in an influx of orders — and that’s what all sellers want to achieve. But if you suddenly run out of shipping supplies, it can cause late delivery and negative feedback from customers. It’s recommended to order more shipping supplies than usual, accounting for a possible sales increase.

If you want to give your packages a professional look, use eBay-branded boxes and envelopes. They are available at ebay.com/supplies and can be used with any carrier (unlike carrier branded supplies, which can be used only with that specific service). Packaging tapes, colorful stickers and thank you cards with the eBay logo are also sold there. 

You can also invest in your own branded shipping supplies bearing your Store’s name and logo. It will increase the visibility of your brand and bring you more repeat buyers. Another way to build customer loyalty is to use seasonal packaging with winter motifs, add Christmas cards with your best wishes or a small gift. Create a festive atmosphere for your buyers, and they will be more inclined to make a purchase again.

Pack your items with extra care

During the peak season, it would be wise to pack your orders a bit more securely than usual. When struggling with the increased workload, the employees of shipping companies may not have enough time to handle your packages with the utmost care. Experienced eBay sellers recommend adding extra packing paper or bubble wrap to fragile items, because peak season parcels are at risk of being tossed around during their journey to the destination address.

Surveys reveal that 84% of consumers consider eco-friendliness when making purchase decisions. You can reduce your store’s environmental footprint by choosing recyclable or biodegradable packaging materials. For more information, please read our article on eco-friendly packaging.

Ensure carrier availability

Since the majority of eBay orders are delivered with the help of shipping companies (except for local pickup listings), the insufficient capacity of your carrier may result in late arrival of orders. Some companies even cap their daily intake for certain types of service.

So, if you expect a significant surge in your sales, it may be reasonable to inform your shipping provider about that. Keep in contact with your carriers, pre-book their capacity if necessary, and have a backup option for critical situations and major disruptions. 

Ensure carrier availability

Enable signature confirmation for expensive items

If your items’ prices are higher than a certain threshold ($750 on ebay.com or €550 on European eBay sites), then signature confirmation will protect you from abusive buyers opening Item not received disputes. It’s an additional service offered by shipping providers and required to receive eBay Seller protection for high price orders. Please contact your carrier to ask about the availability and the cost of this service.

Enable signature confirmation for expensive items

Comply with your carrier shipping rules

Some carriers require specific labels for hazardous materials. And some items may not be allowed for shipping. To avoid delays and fines, make sure your packages are compliant with the shipping rules — especially if you sell beauty products, cleaning supplies, or auto parts.

The most common types of hazardous materials on eBay include:

  • lithium batteries
  • perfumes
  • nail polish
  • hairspray
  • cleaning supplies
  • lighters
  • auto parts

It’s crucial that hazardous materials are properly classified, packaged, labeled, and stowed for transportation. This protects the carrier’s staff and other people from risks associated with the transportation of such products.

eBay has your back!

The eBay team works closely with major carriers and keeps sellers informed about any issues that can affect delivery time or shipping costs. We are continually assessing carrier performance and adjusting the shipping time automatically, so that your buyers could see reasonable estimated delivery dates. In addition to this, you are protected from neutral and negative feedback regarding late delivery, if you ship orders within the specified handling time.

In addition to this, eBay is working in close cooperation with third party companies that offer logistics services, inventory management solutions and other services. If you’re looking for a reliable partner, please visit the eBay Partners page. You can filter by country and category to find a trustworthy company working in your region. 

Our last piece of advice: focus on what is within your control and don’t worry about other issues! Follow our shipping recommendations and make the most out of this peak season!