Wednesday, 23 January 2013

How To Handle Increase In Shipping Costs

   I've noticed a lot of people on forums talking about USPS's increase in shipping. Now, I'm in the UK, myself, and our shipping rates went up last year. It didn't affect my business, though. However, as an international buyer, higher postage prices might well put me off.
   There is a way around this.
   A lot of people are put off of buying things if the shipping price is too high. For example, if an item costs $15 and the shipping costs $10, that would certainly make me turn tail and leave. That much for shipping? No way. However, if the prices were adjusted to $20 for the product and $5 for shipping, the full shipping fee IS being payed for, and you still make the same money from the product, but by merging the prices, buyers are more likely to come to you.
   And because the price of the product has increased, you may be able to offer local shipping for free, assuming that the $10 shipping was for overseas, and shipping within your own country is only $5. That's certainly a nice upside! I'm always more attracted for free shipping within my own country.

   Now, some people I've spoken to don't like this idea. They consider it lying, and in a way, it is. But the buyer is still paying the same amount as they would before hand, and the seller isn't making any extra money. There's nothing sinister going on behind it at all, it's quite straight forward.
   This is usually how companies are able to offer "free shipping". Being businesses they get lower shipping rates, and are able to merge them into the price of the products and give what appears to be free shipping.

   Of course, the price of the shipping can be used to gauge how fast a product might arrive, or how safely. Higher shipping certainly suggests to me that the product will arrive quickly and safely. But at the same time, I often consider the fact that items shipped for a lower price arrive just fine! But if you don't want to split the shipping in such a way, and would rather your customers knew how high the shipping truly was, then leave the costs as they are. At the end of the day, the shipping prices are the shipping prices, and that won't change.

   This "solution" comes down to personal preference. I have merged shipping with product price in a part of my own shop, because I felt the need to add tracking to my more expensive products, and tracking is expensive. So instead of putting people off of buying with higher than expected postage prices, I split the price of tracked overseas shipping right down the middle and put half of it onto the product price. This has also meant that shoppers within my own country get the item shipped for free, also with tracking, because local tracking is half the price of overseas tracking. I see it as the right thing to do, for me, because it's what I would prefer.

   This post is merely my own suggestion and by no means should you feel you have to follow it.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Etsy Team Thank-You

   Today I received a package from Etsy, as Team Captain, much like last year. I accept it on behalf of everyone in the team, and hopefully the team and blog will continue to grow, and provide help for eachother and all other Etsians.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Free Etsy Holiday Calendar 2013

   Holidays tend to sneak up on you, don't they? With Christmas having just passed, it took me up until a couple of days ago to realise that Valentine's Day is just around the corner. It might seem a little soon to be thinking about it, to some people, but to us Etsy sellers, it is never too soon. But it can be too late.
   Like I just said, it took me up to a couple of days ago to realise that Valentine's Day is only 1.5 months away - that's 6 and a half weeks. Translate that to a 2-3 week shipping time for overseas (which are the majority of my sales) purchases, and that puts it down to just 3 and a half weeks. 3 and a half weeks to get a couple of ideas, order in the supplies, put the pieces together, photograph and list them, and then try to generate some interest. For a few shops it's no problem, but I don't make 20 sales a day, so I rely on planning ahead.
   It is for this reason, and a post I saw on the Etsy Success forum about when to list for the holidays, that I decided to compile an Etsy product calendar for you all. Free to download and us, of course.

   This calendar works through January to December 2013, and has marked on it the popular western holidays (Valentine's, Christmas, Independance Day and so on), and when I would advise you begin preparation. At first glance it might seem hectic and absurd - planning Valentine's Day in November, when Christmas hasn't even passed? Madness. But it's for a good reason. This calendar can help you as an Etsy seller prepare for all of the big shopping holidays, and keep you three months ahead, and certainly on time.

   I have based all of the dates and timing on what works for me. Being in the UK, I mostly get sales from overseas, which means I need enough time for people in the US and so on to find my products, buy them, and receive them with time to spare. First of all, let me explain the times and why they are as so, using Easter as an example:

   Easter is the 31st of March this year, but the first date I would advise you start thinking about it is, as marked on the calendar, around the 17th December. The 4 weeks that follow (December 17th to January 18th) should be used to plan out new ideas, purchase supplies, practise with them if necessary, and photograph and list the finished products. The second date that comes up is 4 weeks later, the 18th January. This is the time in which you must begin listing your products if you haven't already. It might seem a bit soon, but treasuries, and Etsy themselves, will start plucking items out to use in curations from about 1.5 months before the event itself, and if you ship overseas, you certainly want your customers to have the chance to purchase your products and have them in time for the event. The third date on the calendar is the 31st January, and states that, by this date, you must have the majority of your listings up.

   There are 3 dates listed on the calendar: the first date, marked in yellow, is when you should start designing products. The second date, marked in coral, occurs 4 weeks later, which suggests that you begin listing what you already have, and perhaps retag and retitle pieces that you already have that are relevant. The third date, marked in purple, comes 2 weeks after that, at the end of the design and supply-purchasing month, and it is at this date that you must start listing. 2 months then remain before the event for customers to purchase from you.

Purchasing Deadline Dates:

   A note on gift-giving holidays, such as Valentine's and Christmas: there is enough room on the calendar for you to add other holidays you wish to commit your work to, and, of course, you can always disregard the holidays you don't wish to participate in, but if you are participating in a holiday in which demand may be high and products will be desired as gifts, you'll want to make certain that you have deadline purchase dates set out.
   If you ship overseas frequently, you should have a rough idea of how long it takes items to arrive in the recipient's possession. For myself, shipping from the UK to the US with standard air mail, it takes roughly 2 weeks. But because products may be required as a gift for a very specific date (25th December, 14th February, etc), then you'll want to be sure they have it before that date, not just afterwards. In this case, it's best to add a week or two onto the usual shipping times, and then create your deadline. For example: for something to arrive around Valentine's Day, I'll want to ship (overseas) around the 31st January. However, to be certain that it has the chance to arrive before the date, and subsequently "in time", I'll actually want to ship it around the 24th. This gives the product a chance to get briefly delayed, and then move on its way, and gives the buyer a chance to look the item over, and to also not start panicking about the item not being there in time.
   Long story short: it usually takes 2 weeks. To be safe, I estimate 3, which means that my own Valentine's deadline date for overseas purchases is the 23rd-25th of January.
   You'll also want a deadline date for local purchases, too. I don't know how long it takes for things to travel from one side of the US to the other, but in England it typically takes 2-4 days, depending on 1st or 2nd class. As a result, I would set my national deadline date within the UK as the 5th-7th of February. Also be aware of alternative local shipping options - Next Day is not an option for overseas orders unless they're willing to pay upwards of £100, but it is an option in my own country, so I can create an extra deadline date for that option. Be sure to state the deadlines clearly at the top of your shop announcement, but also in your shop policies. Not many buyers read shop policies - even I, as a seller, don't read shop policies. But it's always a good idea to keep them filled in and up to date, because if a problem arises and Etsy has to step in, those policies (and Etsy can see exactly when changes have been made to the policies) could save your neck as a seller.

   If, however, you're setting your deadlines for Christmas, you will certainly want to consult your courier's website, who usually give a list of deadlines, and then perhaps add a week to that time, just in case things are busier than they expect. Afterall, there is always a huge Christmas rush, and things frequently don't get through in time.

A Word of Warning:

   Do be aware, there will always be individuals who purchase after the deadline dates, either because they assume that you're in the same country, they don't check the deadline dates, just want to try to chance it, or, perhaps, don't mind if it's a week late. In these cases, assess them carefully. If there is enough time for communication, send them a message stating that the product may not arrive in time because they have purchased after the deadline date. Offer then alternative shipping or give them the chance to cancel.
   If there isn't any time for communication, then either ship it immediately and cross your fingers, or cancel the purchase. A lot of buyers won't respond to your messages, or even perhaps read them, for several days. In cases like this, they may respond a week later requesting faster shipping when it's already too late. Once you send a message, the situation is locked. If you ask the buyer if they'd like to chance it because it could arrive in time (if they respond within 24 hours), you can't ship it in case they decide to cancel it and not chance it. On the other hand, if they take too long to respond, they may still expect it to reach them in time. It's a very difficult situation, but you would be best resigning yourself to sending messages and holding the buyer entirely responsible, if they take too long to respond. If you decide to send them a message instead of taking the chance, be sure to mention the very last date you could possibly send it with any chance of it reaching them. If they read the message 2 days after that date then they should already realise it's too late. Be sure, if you have to contact the buyer, to do it both through Etsy, and through their paypal email address.

   I'll leave this here. The calendar below is free for any Etsy seller to use. Feel free to add your own dates. It's all colour coded to reduce the amount of writing and so to make for, hopefully, easier understanding. Dates marked with a yellow circle are dates from which to begin designing. Dates marked in coral are dates from which to make sure you begin listing. Dates marked in lilac are dates by which listings must be live. The colour code is stated at the top of each calendar month, and at the bottom of the calendar month the appropriate birthstone and zodiac signs are printed, giving you extra info to help you along.

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Disclaimer: this calendar was put together by myself, a rather sheltered English woman who doesn't celebrate strictly religious or unfamiliar holidays, and so I've not added them in. Instead, the holidays I've added are those that are popular in Western culture that usually involve gift giving or decoration. I mean no insult to anyone by not including all holidays. It is exactly the opposite, in fact: I don't wish to personally commercialise holidays that have strong religious ties. Of course there are some religious holidays that I have included, such as Easter and Christmas, but these have already been commercialised.