The Global Shipping Program (GSP) must be one of the most controversial features of eBay. Our New Seller’s Guide to the GSP still receives plenty of attention and comments, even years after publishing. I thought it was about time we dug further into the Global Shipping Program debate. Let’s start at the beginning.
Why sell internationally on eBay?
There is no question that selling internationally on eBay can be lucrative. Over 60% of eBay’s net revenue so far this year was earned on eBay sites outside of the US. There are over 250 million searches every day on all eBay sites combined. Simply put, selling internationally increases the potential for more sales, and hence, more profit. eBay claims that sellers who use the Global Shipping Program can increase their sales by up to 15%.
The Global Shipping Program: Step by Step Process
eBay advertises the Global Shipping Program as a simplified way to ship items to international buyers. The GSP is currently available to eligible sellers in the UK and US to deliver items to over 100 participating countries. Participation in the GSP is free.
Here is the step-by-step process of the Global Shipping Program:
- A seller must first opt-in
- Next, select the Global Shipping Program option under international shipping when creating a new listing OR edit eligible existing listings
- The listing displays an automatically calculated estimate of shipping and importation costs via the Global Shipping Program.
- When the buyer pays for the item, the shipping costs are split with the domestic portion going to the seller and the international portion going to Pitney Bowes, the Global Shipping Program company
- The seller then ships the item to the domestic shipping center (in the US, it is in Kentucky)
- Once the package has arrived at the shipping center, the package is shipped to the delivery address designated by the buyer. The shipping center takes care of the customs declaration and importation clearance
In addition to taking care of the international shipping and customs declaration, the Global Shipping Program also takes responsibility for any item loss or damage during international transit. For Global Shipping Program transactions, sellers are protected from any neutral or negative feedback associated with international shipping.
Using the Global Shipping Program as an eBay Seller
Taken at face value, it would seem that the Global Shipping Program makes international shipping easier for both buyer and seller. A few years ago, we examined whether the GSP made purchasing internationally easier for buyers. During a limited experiment, we discovered that the GSP provided a streamlined and reliable service as a buyer. For low-cost items, however, it was clear that the Global Shipping Program option was prohibitively expensive.
But what about for sellers? The Global Shipping Program receives plenty of criticism on our website as well as many others. The actual GSP process is not the main issue, but rather ‘excessive’ shipping costs for buyers. While some could argue that this is a problem just for buyers, it cannot be ignored that sellers can’t make any money without willing buyers!
Two particular issues seem to come up time and time again:
- eBay charges a flat import rate for every item sold through the GSP, even for items that may not have this charge applied on arrival in the destination country.
- Sellers also criticise eBay for exaggerated international shipping fees. An often cited figure on message boards and forums is three times the regular shipping cost.
Other seller problems with the Global Shipping Program include (but are not limited to):
- Packaged items are sometimes opened and repacked at the shipping center. Buyers are therefore not receiving the item in the manner that the seller originally sent it.
- eBay reserves the right to return or destroy so-called ‘undeliverable’ items. In this situation, eBay may also ‘require’ a refund to the buyer of the item and shipping costs.
- Returns are not currently included in the Global Shipping Program. Accepting returns for GSP items can, therefore, be an expensive enterprise. Items that buyers believe are ‘significantly not as described’ are still covered under the Money Back Guarantee when purchased via the GSP.
- It is not currently possible to offer a combined shipping discount on Global Shipping Program orders. In addition, sending multiple items together is only allowed under certain conditions.
- Shipping times can be slower due to the domestic and international process required. In our own limited experiment, however, we found shipping times to be significantly faster than expected.
The most efficient way to use the Global Shipping Program?
Some sellers would argue that there is no efficient way to use the Global Shipping Program at all. If you have read the above criticisms but still want to try using the GSP, consider these tips:
- Experiment – offer a mix of Global Shipping Program listings and regular international shipping listings and see which are received better.
- Cherry pick which countries use the Global Shipping Program for. Items sent to Canada worth less than $20 are not liable for duties so using the GSP to send low priced items to Canada is not cost effective for buyers.
- As mentioned, the Global Shipping Program import charges for small, low-cost items, in particular, can prove costly. Sending larger, heavier items via the GSP is usually better value.
- When listing, look out for the GSP option being pre-selected. It is not uncommon for sellers to accidently list an item with the Global Shipping Program set by default.
- When sending an item to the shipping center, be sure that the order reference number is clearly noted on the label for identification.
Alternatives to eBay’s Global Shipping Program
The Global Shipping Program isn’t the be-all and end-all of international selling on eBay. There are some alternatives available to sellers who want to take advantage of eBay’s global marketplace but don’t want to use the Global Shipping Program. Here are the main methods:
Advertise international shipping options
The most straightforward alternative to the Global Shipping Program is to advertise international shipping options on listings and ship directly to the international buyer after the item is purchased.
- Easy to set up, sellers just need to add international shipping options
- The downside, however, is having to arrange international shipping and work with unknown importation charges.
- Some listing categories are also restricted
International site visibility
Sellers can choose an optional upgrade to make eligible listings visible in top-level search results on other eBay sites. Listings will appear on international eBay sites exactly as they appear on the ‘home’ site. This upgrade is currently only available for sellers from a minority of eBay sites (UK, Canada, US).
- Another easy option, adding international site visibility is a paid listing upgrade
- Disadvantages include the cost of the upgrade plus the hassle of arranging international shipping and dealing with potential importation charges
- Note – eBay.com listings that offer shipping to Canada, North America or worldwide will automatically show up on eBay.ca with no upgrade required.
List items on international eBay sites
eBay user IDs can be used on international eBay sites, enabling sellers to list and sell items on international eBay sites exactly the same way as they would on their ‘home’ eBay site.
- This is the most direct method of reaching international customers and hence allows for the most exposure and potential traffic
- Despite the potential for sales, this international selling alternative is the most difficult. Think language barriers, additional listing fees, different selling rules and regulations, international shipping hassles and more
Do not sell internationally
Of course, the final alternative must be to not sell internationally at all. Sellers can block international purchasers by changing the settings of buyer requirements.
The future of the Global Shipping Program?
While there are plenty of eBay programs and procedures that are disliked by sellers, the GSP is a little different in that it is not necessarily popular with buyers either. Love it or hate it, however, the Global Shipping Program doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. Despite the widespread criticism of the program, there are clear monetary advantages for eBay to offer this service to buyers.
Share with us your thoughts on the Global Shipping Program below