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Fulfilled by eBay

Over the last few years, eBay has launched its own fulfilment services in various countries across the world, including Germany and Australia. The next station of the fulfillment wagon was supposed to be eBay’s home market, the US.

Amazon and eBay are probably two of the most well-known and biggest online marketplaces in the world. Amazon boasts over 197 million monthly users worldwide, while 183 million buyers are registered on eBay from all over the globe.

With such similar popularity and reach, it’s no surprise that the competition between them is fierce. But they have far more competitors than each other. Besides the “usual suspects” like Aliexpress, Etsy, Wish, Zalando, or Allegro, e-Commerce has other innovative actors like the Facebook marketplace, and WhatsApp or Google shopping also entering the scene.

So what can eBay do to get sellers to either stay on or return to their platform? Well, one of their major plans suggested it could be fulfillment. Amazon has an incredibly successful fulfillment service across the world, and eBay seemed to think this is the logical next step for them.

Over the last few years, eBay has launched its own fulfilment services in various countries across the world, including Germany and Australia. The next station of the fulfillment wagon was supposed to be eBay’s home market, the US.

What is fulfillment?

In a nutshell, fulfillment is the middleman between seller and buyer, taking care of the practical side of e-Commerce. It is usually described as a set of logistics used by the seller to ensure that the product is packaged and delivered to the buyer within reasonable time. There are plenty of third-party services that offer fulfillment, but it is usually easier for sellers to be able to use a fulfillment service that is already attached to the marketplace they use.

Amazon has one of the most advanced fulfillment networks in the world. Sellers can store their products in one of the many fulfillment centres where Amazon staff pick, package and send the item for delivery. Not only does this save the seller time, but it usually means that the item is received more quickly by the buyer too.

Unmanaged delivery

The eBay fulfillment program in the US was supposed to be called “Managed Delivery”. Sellers could sign up for the pilot program in 2019, with full rollout planned for early 2020.

Screenshot of eBay seller center and signing up for future managed delivery in US
Screenshot of eBay seller center and signing up for future managed delivery in US

However, the program hasn’t come to fruition yet. The pilot was ended in December 2019 with consultants reportedly advising eBay: “You can never, ever come close to competing with Amazon.

But all is not lost for sellers hoping for fulfillment by eBay. After all, the program’s success in Germany could provide the company with valuable lessons for a future launch in the US, or any other country.

Successful eBay fulfillment in Germany

The testing of the German fulfillment program ran parallel to the US pilot in 2019, but the end results couldn’t have been more different. What seemed unviable for the US market worked out really well in Germany. So much so that the beta-phase ended successfully at the end of 2019 and the full program was rolled out.

eBay fulfillment Germany works with various third-party logistics providers (e.g. JTL, Fiege, or Dreamrobot) that handle the entire logistics process for eBay sellers who have signed up for the program.

According to Steven Marks, Head of Shipping & Local Commerce bei Ebay Deutschland, the main advantage of eBay fulfillment is that small and medium sized businesses can finally compete with larger sellers. eBay fulfillment enables them to offer the same shipping advantages (e.g. fast delivery at a reasonable cost) to customers as big companies. Not to mention that they don’t have to worry about storage, packaging, and many other costly logistics processes.

The German experience of eBay fulfillment has been so good that the company decided to enlarge the program in late 2020. By including another logistics provider, Orange Connex, eBay hopes to make the program even more attractive and cost-effective for its sellers.

Fulfillment and brand protection

For the purposes of online brand protection, a fulfillment service may muddy the (already not exactly clean) waters of e-Commerce.

With an additional actor coming between the seller and the buyer, it may be harder to detect who is the actual seller of the product. Without fulfillment, the buyer would pay the seller directly and get their payment data, which would help identify the seller. However, with fulfillment, the buyer pays eBay and has no real contact with the actual seller (quite like in the case of Amazon).

The information deficit between seller and buyer becomes even more pronounced, making the buyer more vulnerable. This is why eBay should take steps to restore the balance and ensure that the seller is in fact reputable and trustworthy.

The ball is in eBay’s court. They should follow closely what sellers use their platforms, what kinds of listings appear, and put checks in place that protect buyers from fraudulent sellers.

While we definitely welcome the chance eBay fulfillment gives to small and medium sized businesses, as online brand protection experts, we have to be vigilant and make sure that this service doesn’t enhance the opportunities of counterfeiters and grey marketers as well.

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