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Free Postage Or Not?

Two years ago, the advice was simple – always offer free postage and packing. Buyers loved it and eBay rewarded sellers who offered it.

Slowly however the picture has become muddier, as many top listings now have postage separated out.

This is puzzling, as across the Internet generally the research shows that buyers still prefer free postage.


eBay still offers quite a few good reasons to offer free postage:

  1. eBay generally gives you higher search results with free P+P,
  2. there is an option (which some people use) to filter search results by free P+P,
  3. if you offer free P+P then you automatically get 5 stars for the postage option (again your stars probably influence your search results.)
  4. eBay now charges fees on the total price, including postage so there is no advantage to having postage separate.

However, for cheaper items it may now be a good idea to split out the cost of postage. I believe this is because of the psychology of buying – if an item costs £2 or £3 then it doesn’t really matter what the postage is, as the final cost will be insignificant. If postage is £3 or £4 then buyers don’t care enough to do the maths and work out which is cheaper.

But on higher cost items the postage somehow becomes more important (also the actual cost is probably going to be higher, either because it is a larger item or a more expensive item requiring tracking).

For these items “Free P+P” is a more attractive option to the buyer as they may well balk at the actual higher costs.

It’s worth remembering that many people don’t send parcels and will have no idea how much postage costs, and the actual cost will be an unwelcome surprise. Buyers will instead conclude that the seller is being greedy. Most buyers also have no idea that eBay takes a cut of postage fees whether “Free” or not, so they assume that high postage costs are an underhand attempt to avoid fees. This was actually the case many years ago, and the myth lingers.

The advice is to keep free postage if the cost is high, but to consider adding postage separately if the item is cheap and the postage is small.

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