The challenges of marketplace payments
If you’re new to eCommerce, you can be forgiven for assuming that as you receive an order on a sales channel, you will be able to receive the payment immediately. Unfortunately, with marketplaces, it often isn’t as straightforward as that – and in many cases, you won’t be able to access the money from those orders until they are released by the marketplace. Payments of your funds from marketplaces to your bank account are often referred to as disbursements, particularly by Amazon and eBay.
Where payments take a few days (or longer) to make it into your account, you need to be prepared if you don’t want your business to grind to a halt because of cash flow constraints. This is particularly relevant to DropShippers who only purchase their inventory once a sale has been made and payment confirmed. Having a cash buffer in your account, or securing additional liquidity such as an overdraft facility that allows you to continue to trade is essential. When you’re assessing your sales channels, it may be better for you to opt for a mix of webstore sales (that don’t face this challenge) and marketplaces to maintain steady cash flow.
Accessing your funds isn’t the only payment challenge to be aware of either, there is also the issue that marketplaces change their terms and conditions, and their processes regularly, and there are some much bigger issues to consider, so we’ll touch on those briefly too.
Trading on marketplaces is essential for many retailers, whatever stage their business is at. However, marketplaces do present challenges, particularly when it comes to getting paid instantly, but also due to the fact that they change their policies so regularly! eBay is the most recent marketplace to make changes to payments, so let’s take a look at the impact of those changes.
Changes to eBay payments
eBay payments have historically (and quite famously) been handled by PayPal. In fact, it has been that way ever since eBay bought PayPal in 2002. Although eBay and PayPal split as companies in 2015, they maintained the partnership, with eBay payments continuing to be processed by PayPal. Retailers liked this set up, since it was great for cashflow – they could access payments for their orders in their PayPal account almost instantly, rather than waiting for their funds to be released. Unfortunately, eBay has decided to change that.
However, as from June 1st, 2021, eBay sellers are no longer allowed to receive payments to their PayPal account, and so funds cannot be accessed immediately – rather, payments from orders will be sent by eBay to their bank account. This can be set to daily or weekly, but funds take between 1-3 business days to reach your account.
The transition to eBay Managed Payments has been ongoing for some time, but only became mandatory from June. eBay has said that the reason it has moved away from PayPal is because of customer experience, control, and costs. They claim that sellers should see simpler fees, more convenient payments (there are now more options for payments to be made), seller protections and increased choice for customers, but it is clear that this is linked with eBay’s switch from PayPal to Adyen as their main payment provider. This change is a good example of why it is absolutely essential to remain on top of updates from your sales channels. In this case, businesses no longer have access to their eBay payments instantly, which can have a huge impact on cashflow – particularly for businesses that are using the DropShipping model.
Sellers that are sourcing products from Avasam to sell on eBay will need to ensure that there are sufficient funds available in their chosen payment method, and/or Avasam account balance to ensure that they can still cover the cost of new eBay orders before they receive payment for their sales over the previous few days. Despite eBay putting a positive spin on these changes, it is easy to find professional sellers that are unimpressed by these changes – both in terms of cashflow, and the fees that eBay are charging, particularly when it comes to international orders. Whether this forced change will result in a drop in the number of retailers using eBay as a sales channel remains to be seen, but it certainly presents a challenge for retailers that want to sell on eBay.
When you first set up your Amazon seller account and start receiving orders, it can take up to 30 days for Amazon to release your funds to your bank. After that, you can request that Amazon make disbursements to your account regularly, (usually every two weeks – although it isn’t always that straightforward) and you can see a running total of funds that are awaiting payments on your Seller Central page. Amazon do state though that it can take up to five working days for your money to appear in your account, so if you’re selling with Amazon, be prepared to wait. You can find out more about how Amazon disbursements work here.
Other marketplaces work a little more predictably when it comes to disbursements. Eligible payments from Wish orders are made regularly, on the 1st and 15th of every month, with 5-7 business days processing time. Although you’ll still need to plan ahead to ensure you have enough funds to cover orders from Wish, with this type of arrangement you will know when you can expect your funds to be released to your account. Read more about the Wish merchant disbursement policy here. In certain circumstances, Wish are allowing some sellers to request to be paid a portion of the current Total Cost of their recently confirmed fulfilled orders as an Early Payment. You can find out more about Early Payments here.
Getting paid immediately
When you’re DropShipping, the ideal scenario is to be able to access funds from sales as soon as the customer has made payment, so that you can use that cash in your business and continue to scale. Unfortunately, due to fraud and other issues, there are relatively few marketplaces that facilitate this at the moment. That means that businesses need to plan ahead and have funds available to meet orders, or use other sales channels to help build that cash buffer so they can continue to perform.
OnBuy has consistently proven itself to be a unicorn – and at the moment, for retailers that want the benefit of trading on a marketplace but also to access their funds instantly, OnBuy is one of the few options available. They have partnered with PayPal to handle their payments, meaning that as soon as a customer makes a purchase, the funds are released directly into your PayPal account. They’re held until the order is dispatched, but as soon as your supplier dispatches the order and the order status is updated with OnBuy, your funds are released to you, minus the OnBuy Product Sales Fee. Being able to get access to those funds straight away means that you aren’t relying on a credit card to fulfil further orders, and means that you can use your profits wherever you need them in the business.
Your own website
The beauty of your own eCommerce website is that you are in complete control of everything, from design to how often you get paid. Depending on how you have configured your payment gateway, you may be able to access those funds immediately as soon as payments are received from customers. If you haven’t created your website yet, we highly recommend signing up for BigCommerce with our special offer, but you might prefer Shopify or WooCommerce. We’ve created integrations for all of these store builders, so that you can source, list, and sell easily on those platforms.
Other challenges with payments
Of course, the speed that your money is accessible to you isn’t the only challenge with payments that you’ll face as a retailer. We’ll cover these quickly here, since the focus of this post is on getting paid quickly, but other issues you need to be ready for include:
- Fraud – from customer chargeback requests to identity fraud, this is a major headache for many retailers
- Changing and rising bank and credit card transaction fees – you’ll need to stay on top of these and may want to switch your providers regularly to avoid costs increasing
- Exchange rate fees for international transactions – again, you’ll need to stay on top of these to ensure that you don’t end up out of pocket when you sell to international customers
- Digital wallets and pay later solutions are becoming more popular – so certainly for your website, you’ll need to make informed decisions about which options are right for your customers
The best advice we can give is to do your research ahead of starting to list items on a sales channel. If you’re using DropShipping, even with a cash buffer and a credit card available to cover orders, if one or more of your products really takes off, then you might find you have to wait to access funds from sales to be able to meet new orders. You may have to look at artificially limiting your number of sales if you don’t have the cash buffer to cover shipment, which will throttle your business growth in the long term at minimum, and affect your relationship with customers.
The solution is to use a mixed strategy when it comes to your sales channels – and definitely when you’re starting out – and also to ensure you have back-up liquidity, perhaps via a bank overdraft that you can draw on when needed. Not only does a mixed strategy mean that you can reach more customers, but it also means you will be able to access funds throughout the month. When you need to continue to fulfil orders, that is going to be essential.