eBay Guaranteed Delivery: Should You Opt In Or Stay Out?

eBay’s shipping program promises Amazon Prime-like delivery to buyers. But should sellers opt-in to Guaranteed Delivery or hang back?

Last year eBay introduced Guaranteed Delivery, a program where sellers deliver orders in three days or less. eBay tells buyers when the order will arrive, and they can filter eBay search results to only show listings that qualify.

This is the first time that eBay has had a program like this, so sellers naturally have a lot of questions about Guaranteed Delivery. In this article, we’ll answer 16 of the most important ones. From how it works, to what happens if a delivery is late and, ultimately, whether sellers should opt in or stay out.

What is eBay Guaranteed Delivery?

With Guaranteed Delivery, eBay promises that qualifying orders will be delivered within three days. It was officially launched by eBay in September 2017 and has now been rolled out across the U.S. site. Guaranteed Delivery rolled out on eBay Australia in May 2018.

To qualify for the program, sellers have to have a minimum of 100 eBay transactions per year and a late shipment rate of 5% or less. There are also listing requirements and category restrictions for large items like printers, furniture and machinery.

eBay has other delivery programs and guarantees, so don’t confuse Guaranteed Delivery with:

  • The Global Shipping Program for international orders
  • The Fast ‘N Free listing badge
  • The eBay Money Back Guarantee for buyers

Those are all different programs.

Why have eBay introduced Guaranteed Delivery?

If you ask buyers what’s important to them when purchasing products, fast delivery always comes out on top. But this isn’t something that eBay has done well in the past. eBay now wants to compete better with other marketplaces, especially with Amazon and the hugely popular Prime membership program.

Prime today has a long list of benefits, but at its core it is still about fast delivery. Prime guarantees two-day delivery in the U.S. on almost everything that Amazon sells, or that is in FBA.

With over 100 million members worldwide, Prime is so popular that it has completely changed what consumers expect from shopping online. Deliveries that take longer than two days now look slow to many shoppers, benefiting Amazon and making eBay look out of touch. By introducing Guaranteed Delivery, eBay are trying to catch up with the market and win back buyers.

But eBay faces a number of challenges in taking on Prime. For a start, Guaranteed Delivery is not a heavily-promoted, almost universally-recognized membership program like Prime. Most eBay buyers don’t even know that Guaranteed Delivery exists.

A larger problem, however, is that eBay has no direct control over how orders are shipped. So, as a pure marketplace with no sales of their own or fulfillment capabilities, eBay must bring sellers on board. They also have to set ground rules that ensure a consistent delivery experience for buyers, no matter which seller they use.

Where is eBay Guaranteed Delivery available?

eBay has made Guaranteed Delivery available in the U.S. and Australia.

We’ve heard a lot of sellers asking if and when Guaranteed Delivery is coming to the U.K. There’s no word from eBay on that point, but it’s usual for eBay to test new programs in one or two countries then roll them out worldwide if they prove to be successful.

Having said that, the U.S. and Australia were not just chosen as testing grounds for Guaranteed Delivery. In the U.S., Amazon dominates ecommerce while eBay has fallen behind. A program like Guaranteed Delivery is almost essential for eBay to stay relevant.

In contrast, Australia has been one of eBay’s strongest markets for a long time. But Amazon launched in Australia in late 2017, and Prime launched there in June 2018. Down under, Amazon has parked its tanks on eBay’s lawn, and eBay is fighting back before it’s too late.

How do I get my listings into the Guaranteed Delivery program?

First, sellers have to meet eligibility criteria of 100+ transactions per year and a late shipment rate of 5% or below.

Sellers can then opt-in to the program and choose between Handling Time or Door-to-Door options. There’s more on those options below. Handling Time is the simplest and most common choice.

Listings have three eligibility criteria:

  1. Same-day or one-day handling time
  2. One or more eligible carrier service selected
  3. A location which includes a postal code

A bulk editing tool is provided to help sellers make their listings eligible:

Then there are ongoing performance standards for handling and tracking upload on Guaranteed Delivery transactions. There’s more on those below too.

How does eBay Guaranteed Delivery work?

Here are the main steps:

  1. eBay calculates the delivery dates for every eligible listing, using the listing data provided by the seller.
  2. Buyers can then filter items by flipping a switch at the top of the search results (which selects delivery in 3 days or less) or by using a more granular filter on the left to select between 1 and 4 day shipping.
  3. If the buyer does not receive their order on time, eBay “make it right” with them – more on that below.

Here’s how the Guaranteed Delivery filter looks for buyers, when it’s turned on:

What happens if a Guaranteed Delivery is late?

Until the end of 2018, if an item does not arrive by the date guaranteed, eBay will compensate the buyer. They do this by either:

  • Refunding the shipping cost (if shipping was not free)
  • Giving the buyer a money-off voucher against a future eBay purchase
  • Sending a free returns label (if the seller accepts returns)

As long as sellers meet their handling time, eBay will also remove any negative or neutral feedback regarding late delivery.

eBay also protect sellers, and compensates buyers, in the event of adverse weather conditions affecting delivery.

The most important point here is that eBay compensates the buyer, not the seller.

So will sellers have to compensate for late deliveries from 2019?

That depends on whether you are on the Handling Time option or the Door-to-Door option.

From 2019, sellers on the Handling Time option will only have to compensate buyers for late deliveries if they fail to meet their handling time. Otherwise, eBay will continue to compensate buyers.

So, if you are on the Handling Time option, it’s pretty crucial that you:

  1. Set listing handling times that you can definitely meet
  2. Set your same-day handling working days and order cut-off times correctly
  3. Use vacation settings or temporarily change handling times if you know you can’t ship on time for a while

Here’s what the same-day handling and order cut-off times settings look like:

With the Door-to-Door option for Guaranteed Delivery, sellers will be responsible for compensating buyers for late delivery from 2019.

For both options, eBay will continue to handle the customer service with the buyer.

So all I really have to do is ship my orders on time?

Yes, under the Handling Time option, you have to ship your orders on time for eBay to compensate buyers.

But you also have to upload tracking information to remain in the Guaranteed Delivery program. For both options, there are ongoing performance standards which are in line with Top Rated Seller requirements:

  • A minimum of 97% on-time handling on Guaranteed Delivery transactions.
  • A minimum of 95% on-time tracking upload on Guaranteed Delivery transactions.

If sellers fall below those standards, they might be removed from the program.

You will see that these standards are only for Guaranteed Delivery transactions. If you have items which take longer to ship or you can’t send using an approved service, make sure that is accurately reflected in the listings. Then they will not qualify for the program and won’t affect your metrics under it.

Note that you don’t have to be a Top Rated Seller to participate in Guaranteed Delivery. Top Rated Seller has additional performance requirements. The only connection is that the two performance metrics above are set at the same levels for both programs.

eBay provides a Guaranteed Delivery dashboard under the Seller Hub performance tab to help sellers track their performance.

What is the Handling Time option?

The basic idea of the Handling Time option is that sellers are only committing to ship orders out within the handling time they set for their listings. The handling time must be same-day or one day to qualify.

eBay then calculates the delivery date based on the item’s location, buyer’s location, handling time and carrier service used. If that’s within three days, the listing shows when a buyer flips the switch at the top of the search results.

If the seller meets their handling time, eBay will compensate buyers for any late deliveries.

Because the Handling Time option calculates the delivery date using the item’s location, and you can only set one location per listing, it’s not recommended for sellers with the same item in multiple warehouses.

What is the Door-to-Door option?

The key point with the Door-to-Door option is that the seller themselves is guaranteeing a delivery date – they are saying when they will get the order to the buyer’s door.

The Door-to-Door option is recommended for sellers with warehouses in multiple locations. eBay can’t automatically calculate the delivery date in this case, so instead sellers upload rate tables that define shipping speed and cost by region.

From 2019, sellers using this option will have to compensate buyers for late delivery, even if they meet their handling time. That makes sense, because the seller is guaranteeing the whole delivery “door-to-door”, not just the handling time.

Will Guaranteed Delivery lead to more negative feedback?

Some sellers are concerned that by opting in to Guaranteed Delivery, they are setting themselves up for a fall.

They feel that they are raising buyers’ expectations by guaranteeing to deliver the order within three days. That risks negative feedback not only if the delivery is late, but also if the buyer considers anything at all about the order to be less than perfect. This is a valid concern, and no doubt based on experience for some sellers.

However, expectations are already raised for the millions of eBay buyers who have shopped on Amazon and other websites. Guaranteed Delivery is a reaction to the overall ecommerce environment and, like most eBay programs, completely optional.

eBay removes negative or neutral feedback regarding late delivery, but does not protect feedback on anything else.

How many buyers are using the Guaranteed Delivery filter?

This is a hard one to judge. But, given that it’s currently not a default setting, and not  advertised heavily, it’s not likely that many buyers are using it yet.

Most buyers come to eBay with a set idea of how to search for products. They enter a search term, check the results and then consider using filters. Many won’t look beyond the filters that they are already familiar with. There’s a kind of learned blindness when it comes to shopping online!

The Guaranteed Delivery button should not be compared with the Amazon Prime checkbox. People sign up and pay for Prime, then are naturally drawn to the Prime badge. Many shoppers report automatically ticking the box because they have signed up to Prime and want to get the most out of it.

eBay Guaranteed Delivery is not like that. It’s not a program that buyers sign up to, and they don’t pay a membership fee. Most of them won’t know what it is or even realize that it exists.

Some, of course, will notice the new option and give it a try. If there are plenty of eligible products and buyers learn to trust the delivery times, usage should grow organically. If eBay are satisfied with seller performance and buyer feedback, perhaps they will push it with a major advertising campaign during a peak selling period. Then it could really take off.

Does Guaranteed Delivery boost your search ranking?

Guaranteed Delivery does not appear to affect eBay search ranking. There’s certainly no statement from eBay on that, and no other evidence that it has any influence on search.

Instead, it’s all down to the filter. If you have opted in to Guaranteed Delivery, and your listings are eligible, you will have a definite advantage over competitors who are not in the program. Once the filter is turned on, only eligible listings are shown. Other listings will be completely hidden from buyers.

If the filter does catch on with buyers, that should bring you more sales. That could also increase your sell-through rate and your ranking for all searches – filtered or not. So, while it may not have a direct impact, it could give you an indirect boost.

Can I opt-out specific listings, or set a minimum spend?

Many sellers will have low-value or bulky items which are not worth sending by a service that qualifies for Guaranteed Delivery. Amazon Prime has this problem too, and created Add-on Items, which do not qualify for Prime unless the order total is $25 or more.

eBay Guaranteed Delivery does not have an equivalent to Add-on Items. However, it’s worth remembering that free delivery is not required for the program. You could offer free or low-cost delivery with a service that does not qualify for Guaranteed Delivery, then also offer a premium shipping service which does.

Otherwise, there is a workaround of taking listings out of Guaranteed Delivery by making them ineligible. Any one of the following will do that:

  1. Setting the handling time to two days or more
  2. Removing all qualifying shipping services
  3. Removing the postal code from the item location

There might be some circumstances where a direct listing opt-out would be better, but that is not currently possible.

Why are so few carriers approved for Guaranteed Delivery?

eBay has a list of carriers and services that sellers have to use to qualify for the Guaranteed Delivery program.

Under the Handling Time option, sellers can use most (if not all) mainstream parcel services from:

  • USPS
  • UPS
  • FedEx
  • DHL

If you want to use a different carrier, or a non-qualifying service, you will be out of luck.

Why are so few carriers approved? It’s just down to the reliability of delivery and tracking information.

Remember that eBay has to calculate the delivery date, and the seller is only responsible for shipping within their stated handling time. So eBay gets to specify the services which they believe are reliable, because they are on the hook if the delivery turns up late.

Under the Door-to-Door option, there is a much longer list of accepted carriers. However, the seller is responsible for the entire delivery, so if the carrier is late they have to compensate the buyer (from 2019).

The Big Question: Should you opt-in to eBay Guaranteed Delivery?

We’ve covered many of the questions that sellers have about Guaranteed Delivery but a big one remains – should sellers opt-in?

Well, let’s look at the benefits:

  1. It could help you sell more, with very little effort if you already meet all the criteria
  2. eBay handle all customer service relating to late delivery
  3. eBay compensates the buyer if the item is late, with a few exceptions
  4. Negative or neutral feedback relating to late delivery is removed if you meet the handling time

On the flip side:

  1. Delivery is in the hands of the carriers, and it’s common for them to be late
  2. Buyers could expect perfection, and be disappointed more easily
  3. You have to manage your processes carefully to stay within performance metrics
  4. The Door-to-Door options puts more responsibility on the seller

On balance, Guaranteed Delivery seems like a fairly low risk program to try. It could increase your sales and, with the Handling Time option, you’re well protected by eBay.

Until the end of 2018, sellers are protected under both the Handling Time and Door-to-Door options. So, now is the time to give the Guaranteed Delivery program a try with almost zero downside.

Thank you to Rachel Go of Deliverr for her help with this post. Deliverr is a multi-channel fulfillment service for sellers on eBay, Walmart and Shopify, providing affordable rates, fast shipping and integrations with Sellbrite, ChannelAdvisor and Shopify.

6 comments on “eBay Guaranteed Delivery: Should You Opt In Or Stay Out?

  1. We were part of the initial test roll out,, all I found it to benefit was I got a LOT of emails from late shipments that were WELL out of my control. We did our part but USPS was not keeping up their end AND most could have been avoided if ebay wasn’t so “Optimistic” on USPS time schedule. Ultimately we opted back out after a couple of weeks. It was just too much CS to deal with and I just saw the potential for negative feedback. Hasn’t hurt our sales that I can tell. One thought, we were in it around the Holidays,, maybe one could opt IN when traffic slows down then opt OUT around the holidays again.

      1. All I can say is we NEVER had “Angry” CS messages until we enrolled in that program,, let a parcel be ONE day late and WOW we heard about it,, We were already out of it before Christmas so none of it was because something showed up after Christmas,,, It was like a “Hot Potato” for us,, could not wait to drop it.

  2. It sounds like a recipe for the end of ebay- if it requires 100+ transactions per year and becomes the norm, how much more difficult would it be for newer or more casual sellers to break in to that level. When will companies ever learn that to compete with a dominant rival in an industry the answer is not automatically to do what they do and do it better. Ebay should play to its strengths and use its difference from amazon as a more open, more personal and flexible marketplace. Better yet, but more difficult, get some brand new ideas and innovate. Otherwise it risks going the way of brick and mortar bookstores, shopping malls and Toys R Us.

    1. Agree, Ebay will NEVER be Amazon and should not run in the same race. They have a unique niche and should play on that uniqueness to build the business.

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