With the 2012 Spring Seller Update, eBay is introducing a new seller return center. I know there are many eBay sellers who are upset about the site’s changes regarding return policies and see it as part of an “Amazonification” of eBay. I, for one, see this as a positive change.
eBay sellers will be able to begin using the return center in May. I hope I’m one of the first, as I am very excited about this improvement and eager to implement this into my eBay business, Kat’s Boutique.
eBay will start rolling out the return center the week of May 28. It will begin with Top-rated Sellers and gradually roll out to all sellers. Signing up for this will be optional for eBay merchants.
How the return center will work
Once you have specified your return policies, including the length of your return policy (your options are 14, 30 and 60 days), who pays return shipping (you decide), and if you are charging a restocking fee, then you can use the return center to administer all U.S. sales. At least in the beginning, the return center is not going to be able to handle international sales, sales paid for with any payment method other than PayPal, or any category that is not included in eBay Buyer Protection coverage.When you automate the return process, the number of returns does go up. However, this is offset by the increased security that buyers feel about your listings
The really great thing about this return center is that the process will be fully automated. Your buyer can log in and request a return. You can even issue a Return Merchandise Authorization number, if you’d like. Then if you have chosen to have the customer pay the return shipping, they can print a label from the center that will be charged to their PayPal account. If you have authorized the return, the label will be charged to your account (only after you click to accept the return).
Worth the risk?
Will returns for eBay sellers go up? I am completely certain they will—possibly to the higher percentages that Fulfillment by Amazon sellers experience. Even those numbers, however, generally hover from just 1.5 percent to 3 percent of sales. In my opinion, this is a reasonable number, and one to plan for when setting prices and profit margins.
In my experience, when you automate the return process, making it easier for buyers, the number of returns does go up. However, keep in mind that this is offset by the increased security that buyers and potential buyers feel about your listings when they see your generous return policy with “easy” terms. Based on this increased security, it is almost certain that your sales, as well as your realized prices, will also rise.
Flowing with the market
So back to the question posed in the title. Is eBay’s new return center part of a perceived “Amazonification” of the site? I don’t think so. I believe that, rather than going with the flow of Amazon, eBay is responding to the demands of the overall marketplace.
It is true that Amazon is a huge part of that marketplace, and so it asserts pressure, but so do Zappos.com and many other large Internet retailers. E-commerce was in its infancy when eBay began and, with the lightning pace of change in this industry, it is surprising there have been only two major updates from eBay in recent years.
Customers across the Web are becoming more and more demanding. First was free shipping, which has become a standard of sorts across the Web—albeit with qualifiers of various types applied in various ways (Join our PRIME program, order $50 or more, etc). Now customers are demanding a more uniform and easy return policy. If you want to “blame” any one company for this, I’d point to Zappos.com before Amazon.