Mercari Plans Dynamic Pricing For New Buyer Fees That Will Adjust With Supply & Demand

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


A month into Mercari's buying and selling fee shakeup, the ecommerce platform says Key Performance Indicators like number of listings and new user acquisition are showing improvement, leading to the possibility of further changes to variable buyer fees to account for surges in supply and demand.

The new fee structure announced in March shifted payment processing and service/commission fees from the seller side to the buyer side of the marketplace, but where sellers used to be charged a 10% commission fee on all sales, the new buyer fee is variable depending on factors such as brand, item category, and transaction specifics.

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Buyers have expressed their frustration with the lack of transparency about how the fee is determined, with many saying there appears to be no rhyme or reason and that similar items of the same brand, category and price are often showing different fees anywhere from 5% to over the 10% sellers used to be charged.

But Mercari's most recent quarterly financial report shows the rate could get even more confusing and opaque as they are considering a surge pricing system where fee rates would fluctuate with supply and demand.

Users in the Mercari subreddit expressed their thoughts on this possibility, with some even suggesting Mercari may already be testing this system live.

"I remember someone posted they were already doing surge pricing. They tracked the fees on a single item and highlighted that the fees changed drastically based on the day of the week and hours."

Another user brought up a very valid point that if sellers have no visibility into what fees buyers are being charged at any given time, they will have no idea if their items are priced competitively and demand may actually fall as a result.

"So now they're considering dynamic fees based on demand? Meaning, if you have items buyers want the service fees will be maxed out for them, probably much higher than their current high of 15%. Imagine if those greedy bastards charge a 20%-25% service fee for in demand items. Demand will actually fall and the seller won't know why because they don't get to see the fee buyers see.

This is why I cautioned even if you're still selling well you should be concerned with mercari's variable fee structure... it is designed to take control away from sellers and put trust into a shitty algorithm and the lack of transparency was a big clue that the fees would just keep increasing.

It's not good for anyone in the long term. I suspect once mercari scares off enough buyers they will eventually double dip and charge sellers a fee as well (e.g. promotion fee) until nobody is happy."

Mercari has not provided any additional information about how fee calculation based on supply and demand would work or if they would cap buyer fees at any point or simply allow "the system" to run wild.

What do you think about the idea of an ecommerce marketplace adjusting fee rates dynamically based on supply and demand? Will buyers and sellers continue to use a platform where they cannot predict and depend on consistent fees and costs? Let us know in the comments below!

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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!

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