eBay's Guest Buyer Program Just In Time For The Holidays

Now buyers don’t have to register to buy on eBay!
By now, most people know that eBay has launched a guest buyer program. I think this is where they were initially going with eBay Express, but it didn’t work out as well over there. I think it’s a smart idea to bring this to the core of eBay, particularly as the holiday season approaches.
Here’s how it works:
A buyer uses the Buy It Now option for a fixed price or store inventory item. He is then immediately directed to a PayPal page (which looks like it’s still an eBay page so they don’t freak out) to enter shipping information, credit card details, etc. (He does not have to be a PayPal user, just use their credit card processing form). Only once the payment is completed does the listing end. It’s very similiar to the Immediate PayPal Payment Required option.
The buyer then has the option of registering for eBay as well. Since all of the other details were already entered, all he needs to do is select a User ID, password and secret question. If the buyer registers, then he will be able to leave feedback for you (and you for him) if not, then no feedback can be left for either party.
So, how does this affect sellers? Well, the restrictions on the program aren’t as strict as for eBay Express, so you may see an increase in fixed price and store listing sales.
Here are the requirements:

  • Premier/Business PayPal account
  • Specify shipping costs in the listing (calculated or flat-rate)
  • Item price under $2,000
  • Qualify for the top-tier PayPal Buyer Protection ($2,000 level)
  • Use eBay Checkout, not a third-party checkout system

Now as to how they are promoting it, according to Evan Liang at eBay, “We are hitting them at the most contextual point in the purchase cycle which is the sign in page. We are also considering adding some messaging on the visitor homepage but that’s not quite live yet. We certainly want the word to get out about this feature.” So it looks like eBay is promoting this, but not in offline advertising.
Why the sign in page? Well, when a guest decides he wants something, he clicks Buy Now. This takes him to the register/sign in page. According to Liang, a lot of guests drop off at this point, not wanting to go through a full registration process. So by offering guest buying on this page, should help entice a buyer into purchasing. Then, once they’ve completed the purchase, it’s only three more boxes to fill out to become fully registered. Of course new buyers don’t think about that at the time, but it’s a good way to get over that initial hurdle.
Is it catching on? According to Liang (who wouldn’t give specific numbers), a few thousand new buyers are using the Guest Buyer feature each day. And the vast majority are converting to full registration immediately. There is a limit for Guest Buyers of 2 transactions before they have to fully register. Plus, items must be shipped to a US or Canadian address (assuming you offer international shipping to Canada on your listing). So no true “international” buyers can use this option.
For those who have preferences set to “confirmed address only,” you may still receive guest buyer purchases. It will simply mean that both the shipping and billing addresses entered by the guest buyer match.
Personally, I think it’s smart to offer this in the holiday season because this is the time of year that we see most seasonal eBay buyers checking out the items. They may not be year-round buyers, but they always look for a deal on eBay. It makes sense to make a guest buyer purchase more like any other website purchase he may make.
Chargebacks will be handled in exactly the same way as usual, and blocked bidders or suspended users will continue to be blocked. eBay matches the registration information (address, credit card, etc.) so a blocked bidder can’t then just use the Guest Buyer process to circumvent the system. Since the listing isn’t removed until the payment is sent, there is less risk using a Guest Buyer than, say, a buyer with zero feedback who’s just registered and wants to pay with a non-PayPal method.
If you have a problem with a guest buyer, or you think it is a scammer that eBay’s system missed, you can report it to customer service. The buyer is given a default ID which you can use to report any issues, just like any other eBay buyer.
You will also get the buyer’s email address so you can sending shipping notices, etc.
All in all, I think this is an interesting new feature. I think the two item limit is a little low, but we’ll see how that pans out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that increase.

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