Why automate your shipping discounts?
If you offer combined shipping, did you know you can automate this for checkout? Why do that? Because it saves you and your customers time and money. Instead of waiting for you to send an adjusted invoice, they can pay right away. You get your money faster, their order gets shipped faster, and everybody is happier. Plus, the shipping discount option shows up at the top of the new-style listing page when the buyer mouses over the link. To see what I mean, go to my store, The Happy Rooster, pick any sale with multiple items (ebooks or ACEO art are good examples). Right under Shipping you will see a link for "See discounts." Mouse over that, and the discount option for that item pops up!
Letting people know up front that you will combine shipping can lead to more sales. Sure, you probably say that you combine shipping somewhere down in the description. But we all know that people don't always read that deep when they browse. If they can see the discount option right there at the top of the page, it might help make a sale -- or maybe two or three. For ebooks, seeds, light feathers and ACEO art, I offer free shipping on additional items. Rarely do I sell just one. People see that option to get combined shipping, so they buy more to get the discount. The same could work for you.
How to set up automation
In My eBay, click the "Site Preferences" in the drop-down menu from the Account section
Choose "Shipping Preferences" (click "show" if the list is not visible)
Enable "offer Combined Payment and Shipping"
Under "Combined Shipping Discounts," you can now set up Flat Shipping Rules -- as many as you want for the different types of merchandise you sell. (For more info on how the various options work, see eBay's About Shipping Discounts page.)
How does it work? Some examples:
The checkout program charges for the HIGHEST shipping rated item first, then ADDS whatever you specify for individual additional items in various categories. For example, if I charge $6.00 to ship a collector plate, and the person wants to add several packets of garden seeds, the seeds go in the same box for free because I have my preferences on the seed listings to do that. But if they buy a second plate, they are charged an additional $2 for the extra weight, because I have my "plates" rule set to do that. For feathers, I have two categories: light small feathers (extras go free) and larger lots (which have a small additional charge because even feathers add weight if the quills are thick).
In the case of ebooks, I charge a flat $2.50 to custom-burn a CD and ship -- as many ebooks as the customer wants on the same CD. So I created a rule called "digital items" and set that at 0.00 for additional items. The system automatically charges the set rate of $2.50 for the first digital item and then combines the rest for no additional charge, because it costs me nothing to add more ebooks to a CD. And the checkout page even tells your customer how much of a discount you gave them. Cool!
Setting up preferences when you list
After you set up these rules, you check "Apply my shipping rule" in the Shipping section of the Sell Your Item form, then choose from a list to decide which criteria to use for the item. (If it is an item you cannot combine for some reason, then do not check the "apply shipping rule" box. The buyer can still combine their payment, but will be charged the full shipping price on that item. You can then ship it separately from the rest of the order -- just be sure to tell the buyer you are doing that.)
This system works pretty well, but unfortunately it does sometimes screw up, so you may still have to adjust an invoice occasionally. For this reason, I have a notice in my shipping instructions that if the total does not look right, please ask for an adjusted invoice. And sometimes it undercharges if I mis-calculated weight or packaging needs for combining different types of items. (When that happens - rarely - I eat the loss, because I still made money from the extra items I sold. I prefer not to quibble over nickels and dimes. As my father used to say, "It is better to lose a dollar than to lose a customer." But I also tweak my settings to help prevent similar screw-ups in the future.)
How does this work under the new Final Value Fees policy?
As of 2011, eBay is charging you Final Value Fees (FVFs) on the shipping charges as well as the item itself. If you do not combine shipping, you will will end up paying a lot of extra fees to eBay. I suppose they instituted the new policy to encourage sellers to combine shipping and give discounts. The thing is, they calculate the fees based on the total at checkout. So, if your customer pays for each item separately, you are going to end up paying much higher FVFs even if you later give them a shipping refund and manually combine. Not everyone knows to ask for an invoice, or is willing to wait for you to do it. When you autromate combined shipping, you eleiminate a lot of this problem. Uou may still end up with a newbie who pays after each item, but for the most part, people do wait until they are done to pay bwith one payment.
Another word of warning:
This only works if you do NOT use "Immediate Payment Required (IPR)." When you use IPR, the buyer must pay for each item separately and cannot combine shipping. Which, by the way, is costing you extra paypal fees, because for each transaction you pay a flat 30 cents PLUS a percentage of the price. If you allow items to be combined, you only pay that flat fee once for the whole order. But if you require IPR, then you are going to pay that fee for EVERY item in the order. If you sell a lot of little items like I do, you can actually LOSE money with IPR. For example, if a person buys 10 ebooks from me and the order is combined into one payment, I pay the 30 cents once. But if I use IPR, I'm going to end up paying it TEN TIMES that -- which is $3.00 versus 30 cents. This is why I rarely use IPR, except maybe for big-ticket items where an extra 30 cents doesn't matter. But for small items, those extra fees can really kill you. This is also why many sellers ask you to pay for all your items in one payment. So now that you know the reason, be a courteous buyer and do it.
Here's wishing you much success and happy sales!