In its continued uphill battle to keep up with Amazon, eBay announced on Wednesday that it will offer price matching for 50,000 items, a strategic move to expand in an area Amazon appears to be scaling back on.
Though several major retailers across both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce have long offered price matching, eBay has been slow to the effort. Its timing is telling, now that Amazon is rumored to be establishing protocols to prevent price matching across its growing fleet of physical retail stores.
Seeing an opportunity to one-up Amazon, eBay launched its price-matching program, which is eligible for new, unopened products. A price can be matched if a shopper finds an item cheaper on one of eight sites: Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, Walmart.com, HomeDepot.com, Target.com, Sears.com, Wayfair.com and Jet.com. They must contact eBay’s customer service department, and the price will be matched immediately, if verified.
“Our eBay Deals selection has grown exponentially since it launched in 2011,” Hal Lawton, eBay’s svp of North America, said in a statement. “The vast majority of our deals are already priced lower than, or equal to, our competitors’, but if a shopper finds [an item] for less, we’ll gladly match the price of our competitors.”
However, Jason Goldberg, svp of content and commerce at digital agency SapientRazorfish, said that while price matching is a positive step for eBay, it won’t hold much clout in competing with juggernauts like Amazon.
It doesn’t help that the news also comes on the heels of Amazon launching Prime Wardrobe, which allows consumers to try out a selection of garments, keep what they like, and ship back the rest. The program has already attracted several brands, including Levi’s and Calvin Klein, and incentivizes customers by offering larger discounts if they keep more items.
“eBay’s new price matching policy is a nice tactic, but not a game changer,” Goldberg said. “Amazon offers 400 million products, and eBay is matching price on 50,000 products. The actual process of getting the price match is relatively high-friction: You have to know in advance of your eBay purchase that there is a better price and place a phone call to get a discount code.”
Along with price matching, eBay announced it will debut three-day guaranteed delivery this fall, a policy it was also significantly slow to jump on, said Tammy Smulders, global managing director of LuxHub, a division of Havas Media Group.
“Thanks to e-commerce pioneers such as Amazon and Net-A-Porter, consumers have raised their service and delivery expectation,” Smulders said. “Nowadays, next-day, or even same-day delivery, is becoming the norm. As a result, other major online retailers, including eBay, are reviewing their delivery policies. Amazon Prime Wardrobe’s ‘try before you buy’ further ups the stakes.”
Goldberg echoed Smulders, and said both Amazon and Walmart have long held faster shipping policies. They also have the added advantage and efficiency of working with their own products and internal infrastructures. In most cases, eBay has to work with third parties.
“Every time eBay wants to do something to be more competitive — like free, fast shipping or price matching — they have to figure out a way to do it in partnership with their sellers. Amazon and Walmart can simply make a business decision to improve their policies,” he said.