Saturday, January 1, 2011
Day 9 - Shipping a Nightmare?
You've made it to Day 9 of our Etsy Challenge and today we'll be discussing shipping and the best tools to make it as easy as possible.
Before we begin, I did promised to share the stats from December 30th's feature on the Etsy Finds email and here they are:
- 1226 unique user views
- 5800 page views
- over 100 hearts
- and 43 sales
These are the combined numbers between the 30th and 31st as I received lots of traffic on both days. I'm still getting views today but no sales so far.
I do hope that each one of you gets to experience this at some point. It is lots of fun, stress, and fun again! I have so many pair of earrings to make it is no joke! But I'm just glad I have all of my supplies handy and will be done with all of them today.
Back to shipping...
Shipping things the traditional way works for many people. You take your items to the postal office, they suggest the cheapest service available and the packages are gone.
The problem I have with this is that eventually, you will get tired of having to drive over there, wait in line and then just waste precious time that you could have used for making things.
So what do you do?
Well, my favorite way to ship things is through Paypal. Once your customers pay for their goods, you may log in to your Paypal account and find an option to 'Print Shipping Label' right next to each purchased item.
You do need a scale of some sort to figure out the weight of your packaged product, but these are not terribly expensive and they are a one-time type of investment.
So for example, I sell a pair of earrings and the weight is about 5oz. (This includes the bubble mailer envelope I place them in). So I select the 'Print Shipping Label' option, verify that addresses are correct and choose from the drop down list of shipping methods offered by USPS.
For domestic shipments under 13 ounces, I always use First Class Mail. It takes about 3 days to arrive and it is the cheapest deal you'll find.
If a package goes over 13 ounces, I might consider using a Priority Mail small flat rate box (under $5.00) and if that's not an option, then I have to start looking at the Parcel Post Mail, Media Mail or UPS Ground options.
Note: One thing I recently learned is that USPS Parcel Post service can take FOREVER to arrive to certain locations. I had been using it at the beginning with no issues until I had a customer complain because their package took more than 10 days to arrive. If I had know, I would have definitely not shipped them using this so keep that in mind.
Also, when shipping through USPS, I always purchase delivery confirmation for every item and this is the safest way to be able to track the package and provide proof to your customer that the item has indeed been shipped.
Here is a partial screenshot of how this looks on Paypal:
Paypal also offers a multi-shipping tool which should allow you to pay and print multiple shipping labels at once.
Personally, I'm still sticking to the normal method for printing them. It helps me focus on each package individually and avoid mistakes such as sending the wrong items to the wrong customer.
This is a screenshot of the multi-shipping tool:
As far as printing the actual label goes, some people believe it is necessary to use the self-adhesive label paper. This is not true. In fact, I rather not use this type of paper mainly because it makes me waste lots of time. Why? Well, when you print the labels on it, you need to allow it more time to dry than regular paper. The ink runs a lot easily on the self-adhesive paper and you might find yourself messing up your package or the label several times if you are not patient enough.
Instead, I print mine using regular printing paper in 8.5" x 11". One half of the page will contain the actual label to be attached to the package and the other half will have the delivery confirmation/tracking number plus your postage cost.
You may also use USPS.com to print your postage but their service is not as user-friendly as Paypal.
What about paid tools?
There are many of those around and although I have not tried all of them, I strongly believe that what they offer does not justify paying their monthly fees when you can use a similar service for free.
However, there is one big flaw that I have recently discovered with Paypal shipping and it is that they do not provide First Class International postage.
When shipping outside the United States, you will want to consider two options for shipping.
One is the regular Priority Mail International and the second would be the First Class International service.
There is a slight concern about using First Class as it increases the transit time by several days and it is not as safe as Priority. However, I still believe it is the most cost effective way to ship internationally if you sell items which are not valued at a high price (like mine).
Also, I know that some international postal services have recently increased the quality and care in their mail transportation so I'm giving them a chance until I get any complaints.
So what do you do for First Class International postage?
Well, you have two options. Either take your package to the post office and have them print the label there or sign up for a paid service such as Stamps.com which allows you to print this type of postage from your home computer very much like Paypal.
Stamps.com is currently at about $17.99/month (which I think is a lot). So, unless you are shipping internationally in large quantities, then I would still suggest you take the first option and visit your favorite post office as often as you need to.
Note: Before I forget to mention this... If you ship using USPS, then you can always leave all your packages ready for your postman to pick them up whenever they come to drop your mail. I leave my packages outside my door, right next to my mailbox and they have been really good at picking them up without any problems.
If you prefer, you may now also schedule a free pickup through USPS.com (This type of scheduled pickup is also offered by UPS and Fedex, by the way)
Unfortunately, USPS does not ship some large packages. If your items fall in this category, then your next options would be UPS, Fedex or DHL. In my own experience, UPS seems to be the cheapest.
I'm sure that many sellers do not just choose UPS because of the price but may also go with Fedex because of the slightly better service and package care. Of course, it all could change in one single shipment so I would suggest you try both and see which one you would like to stick with.
You may order free Priority and Express Mail supplies from USPS.com. This includes all type of boxes, labels, etc.
For small packages, I prefer to use bubble mailers and I buy them in large quantities in order to keep my prices low (500 units or more at the time).
For large boxes, you may always stop by Uhaul or simply get them for free by visiting Walmart or any other large retailer and asking them kindly to let you have any empty boxes that they are planning to discard. In most cases, they will be happy to let you take them.
- Pack your items neatly and without adding unnecessary weight to your package.
- Make sure you use a type of packaging that will protect your items from severe weather conditions as well as mishandling.
- Try to cut down your shipping costs as much as possible by recycled unused packaging supplies and using free packaging materials as they are available to you.
- Always worry about presentation. A well package product says a lot more than you might think.
Today, I will be asking you to research your options for shipping. Look for postage calculators online and compare rates.
When trying to decide on a shipping cost for your items, you need to calculate the average postage cost. If you are in Florida (like me, for example). I would calculate postage to Georgia and to California. This will give me a range from the cheapest to the most expensive and I will try to find an amount in between that my customers will be ok paying.
- Research shipping costs for similar products sold on Etsy. (Perhaps most sellers have decided to include some of the shipping cost in the item's price. If that's the case, you need to be aware of this so that you do the same. Otherwise, your customers will wonder why should they pay so much for shipping when some other seller is charging less).
I hope this brief explanation of the different shipping methods/options available help you get started. I'm sure there is much more we could add to it but we'll look into it in the near future.
Posted by Earthy Habitat at 9:57 AM