Ebay takes on Amazon with guaranteed 3-day delivery on 20 million items

In response to the growing threat of Amazon and its annual Prime membership program, eBay this morning announced a new program that will offer online shoppers guaranteed three-day delivery on 20 million eligible products — “millions” of which that will also include free shipping. “Guaranteed Delivery,” as this initiative is called, will roll out in the U.S. starting this summer.

Already, 67 percent of eBay’s transactions ship for free and 63 percent are delivered within three days. The move, then, is more about formalizing these perks in a commitment to online shoppers. Ebay says that if the guaranteed item arrives late, eBay will refund the shipping cost, or, if it shipped for free, the buyer will receive a coupon toward their next purchase. Ebay also will offer free returns on those late-to-arrive items, it says.

“While the majority of items on eBay already ship within 3 days or less, as well as for free, Guaranteed Delivery will give shoppers even faster delivery options and the confidence that their items will arrive on time,” said Hal Lawton, Senior Vice President of North America at eBay, in a statement about the new program.

It’s hard not to see Amazon’s influence at work here — especially as eBay notes that consumers will also be able to search its site and filter for items by 1- and 2-day deliveries, too.

Shoppers’ desire for more instant gratification on their online orders has set a new precedent in the e-commerce market. It’s no longer acceptable for deliveries to take weeks, or for sites not to inform customers about when — exactly — their orders will arrive. The need for this sort of enhanced transparency and communication is fueling new businesses that operate as a layer in-between the store and consumer, in fact. The delivery management platform Bringg, for example, just pulled in another $10 million to help companies take on Amazon via expanded features like these.

In fact, eBay itself says a guaranteed delivery date is now the second most important criterion for online shoppers after free shipping.

For comparison’s sake, Amazon Prime free, 2-day shipping is available for more than 50 million items. It also offers more than a million items for one-day or same-day shipping, and 25,000+ for Prime Now two-hour delivery. Ebay, by comparison, is starting with 20 million items for 3-day delivery.

As part of eBay’s program, sellers are also being offered new shipping tools that will help them provide more accurate ship times and charges to buyers by region, as well as the flexibility to customize the days they work, and the cut-off times for same-day handling.

That means sellers can set the specific schedules they work in order to account for their own staffing variables, like weekends and holidays. They’ll also be able to specify how late in the day they can handle a same-day delivery.

Additionally, sellers can now create up to 20 shipping-rate tables and specify shipping charges based on more than a 100 regions, the proximity of the warehouse to the buyer’s location and multiple shipper services.

The tools will be offered at no additional cost, but eBay says the sellers will have to meet a required set of shipping standards in order to participate in the new program. For those that do, however, there’s a chance to increase their sales, satisfy customers and attract repeat business.

The new delivery program is rolling out later this summer, but the company is also relaunching its home page today in an effort to better personalize the shopping experience to consumers.

This is something eBay has been working on for years. In early 2013, for example, it tried a Pinterest-like home page experience; the following year, it rolled out personalized mobile apps. And in 2015, it debuted a new app platform the company said would allow it to focus even more on personalization going forward.

Today, the new site will take the burden off customers to “follow” the products and sellers they like, eBay says. Instead, it will feature horizontal image carousels stacked on top of one another. The rows will be organized by items shoppers have recently viewed, added to watch lists and those that are recommended to you based on eBay’s algorithms — which the company compared to those used by Netflix.

The idea is that eBay wants shoppers to happen upon new products they’ll like, instead of requiring them to manually seek them out, then track them. Ebay will just follow users’ on-site activity, and learn what they like that way.

More home page features, including other commerce experiences, will be introduced in time, eBay says.