eBay takes wraps off new membership program in Germany

eBay is jumping into the loyalty program mix with eBay Plus.eBay

Regular eBay customers can now get a little more for their loyalty. Well, at least those in Germany can.

The online marketplace, which is in the midst of celebrating its 20th birthday, on Friday took the wraps off a new program called eBay Plus. The service offers free, express shipping and free returns on millions of items from thousands of mid-size and large retailers that sell on eBay. The program, which will cost 19.90 euros (about $22.50) a year, will be available throughout Germany soon after a mid-September launch.

News of the loyalty program’s existence first started to come out in May.

“It feels like the next stage of the kind of innovation … that we want to go after,” Carl Gish, eBay’s worldwide vice president of shipping and delivery, said in an interview. “It’s kind of the new eBay.”

He declined to say whether eBay Plus will expand beyond Germany, saying the company will focus first on executing on the rollout there.

eBay Plus will serve as a new competitor against Amazon’s hugely popular Amazon Prime membership service, which offers no-fees shipping and other perks. Prime in Germany costs 49 euros, more than twice that of eBay Plus. Other new contenders in online membership services include Jet.com in the US and Walmart, which is piloting a US unlimited shipping program.

The eBay program could be a new way for the company to revive its slow sales growth and fend off new startup competitors including Poshmark and ThredUp. The company is now working on a turnaround for its marketplace of roughly 800 million new and used goods, a tough effort after it split from its fast-growing PayPal unit in July. eBay is now working on becoming a more active participant in its marketplace by making its site more organized for buyers and offering easier ways for casual sellers to list on its site. For example, the company has been promoting eBay Valet, which lets people send their items to experienced eBay sellers, who then photograph and list their items.

Gish said the mission for eBay Plus will be to drum up more activity on eBay, and not to create a new stream of revenue through membership fees. Because of that, he said, much of those fees will help pay for the free returns under the program.

eBay sellers who qualify for eBay Plus don’t have to pay anything extra but need to offer free one-day shipping for orders arriving by 2 p.m. (For orders that come in later, two-day shipping will be acceptable.) In return, these sellers will have their listings highlighted on eBay’s site and they’ll receive a 15 percent discount on their selling fees to eBay.

 

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