Should I Offer Free Shipping on Etsy? Pros and Cons

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As a platform for buying and selling unique handmade and vintage items, free shipping is an added perk for buyers, but not necessarily a major expectation. Most Etsy shoppers know what to expect, and they’re ready to pay a little extra for the product they’re getting and the chance to support an independent artist or craftsperson.

However, with some of Etsy’s new policies on how they prioritize shops in searches, there’s a bit more to consider with free shipping now, beyond simply what you as the seller can afford.

Should I Offer Free Shipping on Etsy?

As of July 2019, items with free shipping and shops that offer guaranteed free shipping on orders above $35 (both with the caveat that the shipment destinations are within the United States) are given search priority over shops that do not offer free shipping.

However, free shipping isn’t always a viable option for all sellers to offer based on their profit margins and other variables, and search priority doesn’t guarantee an increase in your sales.

How Does Free Shipping Typically Increase Sales and Earnings on Etsy?

Offering free shipping does not guarantee an increase in your Etsy shop’s sales and earnings.

It will, however, guarantee that your shop or item that includes shipping in the price will be given a higher priority (meaning, better placement) in a buyer’s search results than shops or items that do not include free shipping.

With Etsy’s option for sellers to offer a free shipping guarantee, buyers will receive free shipping on orders totaling $35 or more. In some cases, if you’re selling a lot of small, lower-priced items, your customers may buy more items in order to meet the $35 minimum.

This can increase your sales if customers are frequently striving to meet the minimum when they’d otherwise only buy one or two items.

However, this may not increase your profit margins significantly if you have to pay the cost of shipping on any orders above $35.

According to Etsy’s statistics, 83% of sales made through a search on Etsy’s website come from the first page of search results. This means that if you’re not offering free shipping, your shop/items are less likely to be selected, due to their placement in the search.

However, this statistic only applies to sales made via searches. This isn’t the only way that buyers will encounter your products, and a lot of sellers have said that not offering free shipping has not affected their sales one way or another.

Do Bigger Etsy Shops Generally Offer Free Shipping?

While a lot of the bigger and more well-known Etsy shops do offer free shipping on orders totaling $35 or more, a lot of them still choose not to offer free shipping at all.

Etsy’s recommendation if you want to offer free shipping without using the $35 minimum incentive is to fold the shipping cost into the price of the item. A lot of sellers have some qualms about this because it seems a little bit deceptive to say you’re offering “free shipping” when technically they’re still paying for it in the price of the item.

Another way to look at it, however, is that your prices should include all of your production costs, which includes materials (which can include the price of having them shipped to you, in some cases) and time.

“Free Shipping” simply means that the buyer will be paying the price they see in the item listing, without being surprised by the added shipping cost when they check out.

But folding the shipping cost into the price works best if you’re already charging a flat rate for shipping.

If your shipping varies per item depending on its weight and the shipping destination, folding the shipping cost into your price may not be a good option for you, because you may have to either forfeit having a competitive price or be willing to eat some of the shipping cost.

Does Free Shipping Affect Search Rankings on Etsy?

As of July 2019, free shipping does affect Etsy’s search rankings.

Etsy made this change to incentivize offering free shipping. Under this change, items that include free shipping and shops that offer a guarantee of free shipping on orders exceeding $35 will be placed first in a customer’s search.

Prioritizing free shipping in searches has been met with a lot of controversy from Etsy’s sellers. Offering free shipping isn’t an economical option for all sellers, and not all Etsy shoppers would consider this to be one of their main criteria when choosing which item to buy or which seller to buy from.

It seems that Etsy chose to prioritize shops that offer free shipping in order to compete with bigger selling platforms, such as Amazon.

However, most seasoned Etsy shoppers come to this platform because they’re willing to pay a little extra for something unique and because they want to support independent artists and sellers.

Many of them expect to pay to ship and are willing to do so in order to get what they’re looking for and help you make a profit.

In fact, if a buyer is looking for something specific and your shop is the one that has it, it probably won’t be a deal-breaker if you’re charging for added shipping.

What Does Etsy Recommend for New Sellers?

Etsy has plenty of resources in its website’s Seller Handbook to help you while you’re setting up shop to keep up with the market.

For new sellers trying to navigate the complicated process of shipping, Etsy recommends these steps:

Estimate Your Shipping Costs:

You’ll need to know the item’s weight and dimensions. You can easily get a kitchen or shipping scale to keep on hand, or you can take your items to a local USPS office and use their shipping scales for free.

Etsy has a Calculated Shipping feature to set up your pricing and labels based on the information you put into the system, or you use the USPS website to calculate this yourself.

Keep Your Buyer in the Know:

Good communication with your customers is very important.

What sets independent sellers apart from larger markets, other than unique handmade goods, is customer service and a personal connection.

Let your buyer know when to expect their purchase based on your process time (for personalization, customization, etc.) and shipping time combined.

Package Your Item:

Make sure to ship safely and securely, wrapping things well.

For fragile items, a 2″ margin of padding on all sides is recommended. You can also put any branding items, business cards, or even a trademark thank you note into your package to further your brand.

Etsy’s Seller Handbook also has resources for how to set up Competitive Shipping, so that the extra cost added onto the item price at checkout won’t be a deterrent from the customer following through with the sale.

Etsy recommends that, when offering free shipping in order to keep up with the market competition, you adjust your prices to help cover the cost of shipping that you’d otherwise incur.

If free shipping isn’t a viable option for you on every individual item in your shop, Etsy suggests guaranteeing free shipping on orders of $35 or above.

Having a minimum price before free shipping can incentivize customers to purchase more items from your shop, boosting your sales.

How to Know if You Should Offer Free Shipping

Here are a few factors to think about when you’re trying to decide whether offering free shipping is a good option for your shop:

How Competitive is Your Product?

If it’s’s something that can be found in a hundred other shops, and a lot of those shops are offering free shipping, you probably don’t have room to charge your customer shipping because your products just won’t move.

How Much Does Your Product Weigh?

Items that weigh under a pound typically ship for under $5.

In this case, it might make sense to adjust the price of your item to cover the shipping.

What is Your Item Price?

Even if your item weighs less than a pound, this question is a big one.

If your item is priced at $600, for example, and shipping is around $5, it is not out of the question to adjust your price just a bit to include shipping.

However, if your item sells for only a couple of bucks and comparable items go for the same price, it’s not going to work for you to double your price just for the sake of the “free shipping” tag.

These questions should at least get you started on finding out whether offering free shipping is even an option for your shop and your expected profit margins.

How Do I Deal With International Customers and Free Shipping?

Etsy’s new free shipping policy gives search priority to shops offering free shipping on orders being shipped within the United States.

Even if you’re offering a free shipping guarantee, that doesn’t mean you have to eat the extra cost on shipping orders internationally.

If you have adjusted your prices in order to offer free domestic shipping, you can lower your international shipping fees so that your international buyers are paying the same amount that they would before your price adjustments.

To do this, go into your Shop Manager settings, and from there, go to your shipping settings. Click “Edit” next to one of your shipping profiles. Decrease your International Shipping cost by the amount you were previously charging for domestic shipping, and save your changes.

If you’d like to offer free shipping to all buyers, you can just account also for international shipping when you adjust your prices.

How Do You Offer Free Shipping On Etsy?

To offer free shipping to all of your buyers, set your shipping prices at $0.00.

You’ll probably want to adjust your prices a bit higher so that your profit margins don’t shrink.

You can also set your shop up with a Free Shipping Guarantee, which applies to domestic shipments. With a Free Shipping Guarantee, any item priced over $35, or any order meeting or exceeding this total will ship for free.

Free Shipping is an Added Incentive for Your Buyers

But remember, shipping isn’t free. Either way, that cost has to be covered. If it is viable for you to adjust your prices to also cover shipping so that your customers aren’t caught off guard by an added fee when they check out, go for it!

But if you’re shipping a lot of heavy items, lower-priced items, or competitive items that can be found somewhere else without shipping fees, it is okay to still charge.

Most Etsy buyers are willing to pay a little extra for something handmade and unique.

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