Thursday, January 18, 2018

Who is afraid of free shipping?

Mailboxes... can packages ship for free?
Do you have free shipping?
I do some reading on Etsy. I see a lot of US vintage sellers who are afraid of free shipping. Deathly afraid.

(Perhaps it is an issue with shipping in general, but that is a subject for a different post.)

Repeated studies indicate that buyers (in the USA at least) love free shipping. Although they know it raises the cost of an item, they still prefer it. It is not logical (free shipping is not really "free") but there you have it.

Put yourself in a shopper's position... People want to shop quickly. By being transparent and showing the full cost up front, sellers make the job of shopping easier. Yes, shoppers often find expensive shipping to be a turn-off. Free shipping looks golden in the eyes of shoppers.

Also, word on the street is that Etsy's algorithm could bump up your items if you have free shipping.

Is now the time to think about it?

shipping from Maine is expensive
Geographically challenged?

What is holding you back?

Bulky, heavy stuff: if all you sell in your shop are items over two pounds that pack up over .5 cu ft., then you can just stop reading this right now. This is the time when Etsy's Calculated Shipping shines. You are good to go.

(Living in the northeast corner of the USA, I understand the issue of zoned shipping. Most of the west and deep south are expensive shipping zones for  me.) Bulky items over .5 cu ft and two pounds are the exception. Leave them be, safely ensconced in Calculated Shipping.

Yellow ware mixing bowl
Heavy, bulky items are the exception.
Almost everything else? I add some, most or even all of the shipping to the cost and call it good.

(A caveat: my YOY revenue in the first year showed "up 28%".  With the shipping bundled in there, revenue is inflated.)

Can a shop really do that? 

I am. I have converted everything (items under .5 cu ft and under two pounds, that is) over to free shipping. (Some sellers call this "shipping included.")

How: I set up a manual shipping profile called "FREE." When renewing I open the item, check attributes, listing text and tags. I look at how I have shipping set. Most of the time, I increase the price to accommodate the "free shipping" model. Then I click the new "free" shipping profile. Done.

Here is more information on how to quickly change listings to free shipping.

Will free shipping discourage multiple purchases?

Weighing bubble envelope
Small packages are easier
It will not, if you give a corresponding discount off of multiple purchases. I have my shop set at 15% off for purchases of three or more items. That way my multiple buyers get their "free"
shipping back and feel like they are getting a bargain.

Another benefit of offering a percentage-off promotion is that my shop shows up on any search for items on sale.... (And of course searches with free shipping...) I get fewer requests for lower prices, too.

Here is a little bit of Q & A on the subject from Etsy CEO Josh Silverman.

Etsy wants us to "think of shipping as just another business expense you need to roll into your product prices." Free shipping is a different business model... you need to wrap your mind around it. You make more profit if someone local buys your item, and less the further away they live...
Who is afraid of free shipping now?

Happy Etsy selling!

free shipping is easy on etsy
Once your free shipping profile is set up, the rest is easy.

etsy seller screen for shipping setup
Setting up a new free shipping profile

Afterthought: I find that converting my listings to free shipping helps me view my pricing in a new light. Perhaps some items are too expensive to ship, and not worth carrying in my online shops. Will a time come when large, inexpensive items will be again sold locally rather than online?

Another afterthought: offering free shipping forces sellers to be on their game as to the cheapest shipping options. Make friends with Pirate Ship's cubic pricing. Learn the nuances of the USPS (or other postal service if you are not in the USA).

I wanted the graphic smaller, but...

What about international shipping?

Because it can be so expensive, small sellers have difficulty offering free shipping internationally. If item prices are raised to compensate for free shipping to domestic locations what can be done to sweeten the deal for international buyers?

That IS a good question. Perhaps you can lower your international shipping prices to a degree to coincide with the discount you are giving to your buyers who are receiving "free shipping." For example, if a particular item you added $4 to the price to cover shipping, why not take approximately $4 off shipping your international buyers?

I do not ship internationally except by request. I am not sure if there is a full answer of how to make some sort of equitable "free shipping" for international buyers. A case-by-case basis? Set up a bunch of individualized profiles and use the one that fits the size of your item? Please let me know if you come up with a workable solution.


  1. Great post, Joanne. You always have a great way of looking at things and explaining them well.

  2. I have been adding free shipping right along the lines you mentioned in your blog. I go over my renewed items and if they are under 1 pound, I raise the cost a bit and make it Free Shipping. Then, I add it to the title, the description and the tags. Before Christmas I changed all my ornaments to free shipping. They sold very well.

  3. Thanks for your great info, I might try it again with a few items.

  4. I too have been adding "Free Shipping" as items come up for renewal and have been adjusting my buying eye for items under 1 pound.
    Love your Blogs....
    Missenpieces or Just J


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