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Etsy free shipping debate sparks sellers’ concerns

By Sasha Fedorenko February 20, 2019 - 12:41 pm

Some Etsy sellers are claiming that Etsy free shipping debate blackmails them into offering the service to stay on top the marketplace’s search rankings. Otherwise, they claim to be “penalised” by appearing lower in search results.

Etsy merchants are complaining that they’re heavily encouraged to offer free shipping service. In a post ‘how 5 sellers use free shipping in their shops‘ in Etsy seller handbook, the marketplace said yesterday that buyers would purchase more if offered the service. They said that January 2019 saw Etsy shoppers spent an average of 34% more on their order when shipping was free. Here is what advise Etsy gave on free delivery:

  • Understanding customer psychology: While free-shipping may put pressure on sellers’ businesses, shoppers would purchase more as a result of free delivery which would mitigate the cost of the service for merchants.
  • Finding the right place: Analysing the products to see where free shipping might make sense.
  • Encouraging customers to spend: Offering free shipping as an incentive for customers who bought an item multiple times.
  • Eliminating the fear of shipping cost: Offering free shipping to remove the fear of shipping costs.

While this advice-piece gives sellers more ideas to implement in their business strategies, some Etsy sellers have criticised the concept.

An Etsy seller said that Etsy “blackmails” shoppers into offering free shipping if they want to stay competitive.

Unfortunately, since Etsy is pushing sellers to offer free shipping and sellers are penalised for not offering ‘free’ shipping by getting pushed lower in search results, Etsy has basically blackmailed sellers into offering ‘free’ shipping if they want to stay competitive. ‘Free’ shipping has become a joke and if it continues, every shop on Etsy will be offering ‘free’ shipping, at which point, the whole concept become ludicrous.”
– Etsy seller

Another Etsy merchant has said that Etsy is trying to make more money by getting a percentage from merchants’ sales and shipping costs.

Artisan and handmade item sellers pointed to the difficulty of adding free-shipping to low-ticket items. They said that raising the price for low-ticket products would mean losing the sale to competition.

I sell beads that cost around $5 and free shipping with free returns makes my business a bankrupt business. If I raise my prices to cover the $3 shipping cost for 1 ounce to CA or WA from NH, no one would buy my beads, because their are others out there at a lower price.”
– Etsy seller

While there is a sheer difference of opinion between Etsy and sellers, what’s your take on offering free shipping?

  • Weeze
    7 months ago

    On Etsy and Ebay free shipping is rarely free shipping, you only have to look on fleabay to see this, you can but X item for £2 with a £2 shipping cost or the same item for £4 with ‘free shipping’. It is essentially shipping included in the price. This works if someone buys just one item BUT if they purchase multiple items then they are paying shipping again and again and again. This is what ebay and etsy are banking on, as the that’s more fees for them. It makes it harder for us sellers to calculate our shipping prices based on what the customer actually orders and how much the shipping has actually cost, it is essentially dishonest and misleading.

  • M Johnson
    7 months ago

    It seems like price fixing and trying to be too competive with Amazon, which customers pay for prime to get the freee shipping. Also, they have minimum so does Walmart. And Amazon is losing money on shipping. But what does Etsy care about its sellers. (Check out what happened this weekend… they took sellers money some people thousand and then put it in their payment account… check out the bugs section) Also, a lot of stores are competing with Stores in China, Maylasia and their shipping cost is ridiculously low. We can not compete on price it is make a lot of stores go bankrupt. Including mine. And then some complain when you do cave and do free shipping you are pushed even lower in the rankings. I had this happen. My Etsy dream has become a nightmare and I need to wake up.

  • Kay
    7 months ago

    I tried offering free shipping last late summer/early autumn, not long after Etsy first started pressuring sellers to offer it. Of course, this meant raising my item prices to cover the cost of shipping, because as we all know, “free” shipping isn’t really free. And my sales dropped down to absolutely NOTHING for the three months I had free shipping.

    And this is the problem with it. Having free shipping doesn’t make customers buy more if they look at your item price in the search results and go “no, that’s too expensive” and don’t even click on it, let alone buy it. Whereas when I stopped offering free shipping and dropped my prices back down, the sales started coming in again, because with the lower item price, people WERE clicking on my listings again, and then decided that the HONEST shipping price was worth it. Even though they’d have paid exactly the same money either way, they still preferred the lower item price and honest shipping price.

    So… I dunno. I’m not sure I really believe the whole “customers want free shipping” thing. Last year, Etsy was saying that in customer surveys, most customers said they want free shipping. But maybe people answer surveys differently to how they actually behave when shopping. Maybe they say they want free shipping, because who doesn’t want to save money? Everyone would always say they want to pay less money for a thing rather than more, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect their actual shopping habits.

    Certainly when it comes to MY Etsy shop, I sell more when I charge for shipping than when I don’t.

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