How Does Marketplace Shipping Work? Reseller Guide to Shipping

Seller's Corner
How Does Marketplace Shipping Work? Reseller Guide to Shipping

So many questions arise about how marketplace shipping works as a reseller. Shipping can be overwhelming, but it is a very important part of online reselling. 

Shipping is super easy once you get the hang of it! With experience, you will also become a human scale, easily able to estimate an item’s weight. 

Luckily, most marketplaces have simplified the shipping process by giving sellers the option to ship their item using a prepaid shipping label. Alternatively, many resellers elect to ship on their own to save shipping costs or allow them to use various shipping services. 

Here is everything you need to know about how to ship your items when selling online:


How Marketplace Shipping Works on eBay, Poshmark, Mercari, Depop, and more! 


First, you need to familiarize yourself with the shipping options available to you where you sell.


Poshmark has the simplest shipping available to resellers: they use only USPS Priority Mail labels, prepaid, and emailed to you when you make a sale. Poshmark labels are all at the same label tier up to five pounds, and you almost never need to weigh or measure your items prior to shipment. You can also use free priority mail shipping parcels (excluding Priority Mail Express), or your own shipping materials. There is no self-shipment option on Poshmark.


The other platforms are not quite as simple. For example, on eBay, Mercari, Grailed, Etsy, Kidizen, Depop, Shopify, and Facebook Marketplace, sellers have many more shipping options. 


eBay shipping is by far the most confusing. Questions? Check out this article: A Guide to Shipping on eBay


How to Ship with Prepaid Labels


Most reselling platforms offer the ability for you to “ship with them.” This refers to using a prepaid shipping label generated by the platform (as opposed to creating your own). 


Shipping with prepaid labels from the various marketplaces is very convenient, as you can download or print the shipping label right from your order page or email, and tracking will update automatically, as it is already recorded in their system. Often, you will enjoy a better shipping rate compliments of the marketplace, and extended protection and insurance provided to the sale. 


Another major consideration is that the marketplaces want you to ship with them- It makes them money. There are often special sales and benefits for sellers who ship with prepaid shipping labels. For example, Depop and Facebook Marketplace often have special promotions where they offer free or reduced shipping on all sales that are shipped using their prepaid labels. 


However, there are a few cons associated with shipping with the marketplace using a prepaid label. First, you often do not have many choices of carriers. While some provide more options than others, you are limited to the options of their choice. Also remember that in order to use prepaid shipping labels, you must know the approximate weight (and sometimes dimensions) of your item. Generally, you will be required to enter this information at the time of listing to select a label within the appropriate weight tier. So, be ready to weigh and measure your items prior to listing to select the appropriate information for the label. 


Another important consideration is the shipping cost. While many of the platforms offer incredible shipping rates, they’re not always better than what you can find on your own. Often, you can score a better rate by shipping on your own through a service such as Pirate Ship, especially when it comes to very light or very heavy parcels. If you are offering free shipping (and paying for it yourself), you will want to find the best rate available, which might be shipping on your own!


How to Ship On Your Own


Shipping on your own means that instead of using the prepaid shipping labels provided by the marketplace, you choose to ship your own way. You will be responsible for creating a shipping label, purchasing the shipping label, and updating the tracking information on the marketplace. Self-shipping is available as an option on most marketplaces, and usually it is required for international shipping, where applicable.


There are many pros and cons associated with shipping on your own. Benefits include your choice of shipping carrier, as you can generally ship with any carrier that provides a tracking number, and your choice of shipping service, as you are not as limited as to what the marketplace offers. Another advantage is sometimes a better shipping rate, which is particularly important if you are paying the shipping yourself, as it might allow you to save money! 


Note: Another minor but notable benefit of shipping on your own, you can also always control the size of your shipping label. Some marketplaces (like Mercari and Depop) do not offer 4x6 prepaid shipping labels, and each and every one has to be downloaded, rotated, and reformatted to be compatible with most thermal label printers. 


However, shipping on your own also has many downfalls. First, it can be more expensive than the competitive rates offered on some of the marketplaces. United States territory expands beyond the 48 continental states, and shipping outside of them can be very costly when you ship on your own. 


Another con is that you might not receive the same insurance and protection that you enjoy when shipping with a prepaid label provided by the marketplace. Generally, if there is a postal or tracking issue, the marketplace protection will cover you and communicate with the carrier on your behalf. When you ship on your own, you are the customer of the shipping service, and you are required to spend the hours on hold in the event of a shipping issue or claim. Similarly, the service might not provide the same level of insurance available when using prepaid labels. To learn more about these, look at the help center and FAQ where you sell. 


Finally, when you ship on your own, you have to do all the work. Instead of clicking “print” on a prepaid label, you have to (1) copy and paste the buyer’s name and address, (2) enter return shipping information, (3) enter the parcel’s weight and dimensions, (4) select the carrier and service, (5) purchase the label, and (6) paste the tracking information into the marketplace website. This is significantly more work (and book-keeping, on the backend). 


How to Ship on Your Own


There are many options for shipping on your own. You might have a FedEx or UPS business account and enjoy great rates, or you might opt to use a service such as Pirate Ship, Sendle, Shippo, or more!


Watch this video to see a comparison about various shipping services. 


Of these, I much prefer PirateShip. PirateShip is very easy to use, saves your defaults and preferences, and sends weekly reports and itemized receipts for book-keeping purposes. PirateShip offers various carriers and services, and is almost always the cheapest option (note: I am a fashion seller). 

Which Shipping Carrier is the Best?


For most sellers, USPS, FedEx, and UPS are the most common choices. Often, if you have an account with these services, you can enjoy special discounts. Similarly, services such as Pirate Ship, Sendle, and Shippo act as the “Expedia” of mailing: providing you with the best rates and options with various carriers based on the specifics of your parcel. Most often, USPS is the way to go.  Though, if you’re sending very heavy parcels, you may find that the UPS or FedEx rates are better.


Shipping with USPS


USPS offers great rates! Some of their most popular services include First-Class Mail and Priority Mail. First-Class Mail is the cheapest way to mail most items with tracking but it is not the fastest, taking (an estimated) 3-5 business days (but often longer). First class mail is only available for items under one pound, and requires that you purchase your own shipping materials.


The most popular among online resellers is USPS Priority Mail. Priority mail is much faster than First Class with an estimated 1-3 business days and more insurance. The pricing for Priority packaging is determined by the weight of your item and distance to the destination. 


 If you’re shipping something heavy across the country, this option can get expensive, so USPS offers a variety of Priority Flat Rate options as well (standard boxes that ship at one rate despite weight and destination). You might also consider Priority Mail Express, which is the fastest but priciest option. These shipments also come with the greatest insurance and often ship overnight. 


All of the Priority Mail (including flat rate and express) shipping materials are free at your local post office, and can also be easily ordered for free from the USPS web store


Did you know that on the USPS mobile app you can schedule parcel pick-ups so you never have to drive to the post office? This is available in most regions. 

Which Shipping Method is Right for You? 


This all depends on what you are selling, where you are selling, and where you are located. 


You should do some research, compare carriers and services, and do some trial and error to determine the best and cheapest way to ship your items in consideration of the pros and cons.


Usually, if you are charging shipping, it is easiest and most sensible to use a prepaid shipping label from the marketplace. However, if you are offering free shipping (and paying it yourself), you might want to explore cheaper options with various carriers. 


Unfortunately, you generally have to opt to ship with a prepaid label or ship on your own at the time of listing. You do not get to see the buyer’s address and then make your decision. So, some preliminary research and obtaining a few estimates will help you to make your decision. Remember that time is money, too! Convenience is worth paying a bit extra for as you work hard to scale and grow your business!


Here are a few extra shipping tips for resellers:


  1. Recycle packaging from your online orders, friends, and neighbors. There is no need for pretty, fancy packaging (that is almost never recyclable).

  2. Purchase a shipping scale. In a pinch, a kitchen scale will generally work, too, as it can calculate ounces. For items over 25lbs, a bathroom scale can also work periodically. 

  3. Of course, protect your items from breakage and from the elements. Your breakables should be so padded that you’re comfortable throwing the box against the wall with all of your might, that’s what they’re going through on their way. 

  4. Package in the smallest parcel the item can safely fit in. There is no need to use a huge box for a t-shirt. In fact, if the parcel does not fit in the recipient's mailbox, they may have to retrieve it from the post office, meaning it will take longer for you to get paid.

  5. Do not strike through or “black out” your return address: if there is an issue with shipment, it won’t be returned (and you likely won’t be refunded). If you are worried about customers having your address, consider a PO Box. 

  6. Offering free shipping makes your items far more likely to sell. We’re living in Amazon Prime days, and people hate paying for shipping.

Do you have any shipping tips or advice? Share with us below! 


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