Some Etsy sellers are not happy with the new Free Shipping push

Etsy Mobile App

This week Etsy announced it would make Free Shipping a core part of the Etsy shopping experience.

READ MORE: Etsy to favor listings with free shipping in US search results

Since last year there have been suggestions that Etsy may push toward a higher adoption of offering free shipping by sellers, but it has not actively promoted the idea and it did not significantly downgrade listings that did not offer free shipping.

The unique products on Etsy versus Amazon and other ecommerce retailers makes the marketplace stand apart from “product catalog” shopping.

Etsy grew tremendously over the last two years after years of being stagnant. This growth came with a mix of sellers offering free shipping – mostly on higher-priced items – while others continued to add shipping costs.

Free shipping – why?

This begs the question, is it really necessary for Etsy to actively promote free shipping when its growth is still strong?

Do Etsy sellers really compete with Amazon or eBay’s catalog products where free shipping is almost a necessity to get sales?

Etsy claims that internal metrics show higher conversions when sellers offers free shipping.  The marketplace points to a limited time free shipping promotion in May that led to higher order values.

But what was the impact on the bottom line for sellers during this promotion? What will it be as more sellers feel they need to offer free shipping to compete on Etsy?

Normally, when offering a SKU from Brand X and that product is offered by hundreds of other sellers on a marketplace or on other websites, free shipping is an easy decision.

With Etsy, there is a case to be made that its unique products don’t need that “free shipping” push.

They may argue that Amazon Handmade is becoming a larger competitor and they must ensure its leading position in the unique products segment.

But how “unique” are the products on Amazon Handmade if they ship them from Amazon warehouses via Amazon FBA?

Etsy seller responses

Etsy sellers on social media had a lot to say about this “free shipping” initiative. Especially sellers on the US site where products offered with free shipping will turn up higher in search results.

“I think it’s unfair. We aren’t amazon. My customers didn’t pay a yearly fee for free shipping. We are small businesses. This IMO is going to make a lot of sellers leave…”

“The items I sell are usually 2-6 lbs. To up my prices appropriately to cover shipping to the other side of the country, I will also be taking more money from customers closer to home. Of course, that is IF anyone buys the items with the marked up fee. This will be very hard on many shops.”

“I think Etsy lost the whole meaning of “Crafters”. When I signed up for this website, it was for small business to sell their crafts. They have now tried to turn it into “Amazon” which they will never be able to compete with. If they want us to offer free shipping, then charge the “BUYER” a yearly fee like Amazon does and share that fee with all the sellers on Etsy. That is the fair way to do it. I’m a small crafter and I cannot afford to offer free shipping on all my items, and if I raise my prices to cover the shipping cost, no one will buy, items will be way too expense. Thanks Etsy, thought you cared!!!”

“Free shipping offered makes no difference when there are zero sales…”

“I am not offering free shipping. My shop barely gets views as it is. I am not going to stress myself out and alter my whole shop and disappoint my “actual” customers who do not mind my $5 shipping charge. People’s stats will skyrocket at first and then it will all bottleneck like it usually does when there is a big change. Then many people will claim success while others will close up shop…”

The bottom line

Etsy management had to know this announcement would garner some negative feedback from sellers.

When eBay pushed for free shipping several years ago, there were many similar reactions from the seller community. Even today many eBay sellers, especially those selling unique products, complain about having to offer free shipping to get visibility in search results.

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman has grown the company beyond most expectations since he took the helm at the top spot. It is hard to fault him for taking this step to better compete in a market where free shipping is the norm.

But there is also a good counter argument that Etsy’s unique products really don’t need to compete at that level.

Unfortunately, with such a change, there will be some that do well with free shipping while others may end up leaving the marketplace. Only time will tell what impact that will have on Etsy.

What do you think about Etsy pushing for more sellers to offer Free Shipping? Please use the comments section below or head over to our Facebook Group for Small Business Sellers and interact with other small business owners.
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  1. We sell very large pieces of furniture on Etsy (Bedroom Sets, China Cabinets, etc) and we are having a hard time with being forced into proclaiming “Free Shipping” or be shoved into the last pages of search results. What they are telling sellers to do should be clearly worded as “Shipping included”. Etsys’ version of “helping” Sellers is posting a banner on the top our Dashboard that said “Starting on July 30, 2019, items that ship free and shops that guarantee free shipping to buyers in the US will get priority placement in US search results.“ That message is gone now- replaced by 2 messages that dominate the Dashboard causing you to scroll down half the page to see your shops’ stats. These “help” articles further explain “do it or be penalized in search results” and offer a new “tool” to help shop owners quickly add all of the shipping costs into one price and proclaim “Free Shipping”. AND- in order to qualify for “priority placement” you must use this tool and you must offer “Free Shipping” for every item in your shop! So, now if we choose to do this we have to calculate shipping for each and every OOAK item as if it is going the farthest distance possible and add that amount as the shipping cost- for us on the East coast that would be Washington State. The problem is, shipping rates vary tremendously for large items, for us it can be as much as $500 on ONE single large item! So now we have to decide: Do we do as Etsy says and raise prices drastically to cover shipping? There is no “average” shipping cost when selling Vintage in the USA- there are too many miles to cover!! ETSY: WANT TO BE LIKE AMAZON? HOW ABOUT NEGOTIATING BETTER SHIPPING RATES FOR YOUR SELLERS AND NOT CHARGING US AN ADDITIONAL 5% IN FEES ON THE SHIPPING COSTS COLLECTED? HOW ABOUT PROVIDING ACCURATE SHIPPING CALCULATORS FOR FEDEX SO CUSTOMERS PURCHASING LARGE ITEMS CAN BE CHARGED EXACT SHIPPING COSTS?
    No other Vintage / Antique selling sites offer or promote “Free Shipping”. None. Look at 1st Dibs, Chairish and similar sites- this is an unnecessary and intrusive bullying technique by Etsy. As others have said, why not just keep the existing “Free Shipping” filter in place so a customer can toggle it on for search to return only items with “free shipping”? Our sales are just fine, our business has had significant gains each year and we charge the true shipping cost. We NEVER get complaints about shipping costs. “Free shipping” is only appropriate for mass produced items sold through HUGE companies with fulfillment centers and delivery resources- and if you take Amazon as an example EVEN AMAZON DOESN’T SHIP FOR FREE!! You must pay a membership fee and only purchase the items that they have in warehouses by the millions in every state! One-of-a-kind Vintage and Handmade items are special- they are what made Etsy special but now Etsy is making them a lot more expensive by forcing sellers to add in “worst case” Shipping prices.

  2. Let it be anything we talk about, obviously, there are pros and cons both. With Etsy’s free shipping factor coming into the picture, it is proving beneficial for many sellers and buyers. Sellers, as they are getting profits with more potential customers coming in. And definitely for the buyers too as to no doubt, nobody likes paying for shipping.

    In fact researches show that more than 60% of customers abandon their orders because of the shipping charges and around 79% of the US consumers state that free shipping would make them more likely to shop online (Source: CPC Strategy) To understand the benefits hidden, there should be more time given to the buyers and sellers.

    Less prices to pay would bring in more customers your way!’

  3. If I wanted to be like Amazon I’d sell on Amazon…just saying. Stupid move, and not a single seller really likes it at all. Amazon free shipping is a payed program, kind of like Sams club. Etsy doesn’t offer that type of membership.

  4. This entire debacle is unethical. Buying on line is a leap of faith and a matter of trust. A buyer can’t hold or touch or examine closely the quality of products in which they’re interested. All they have to go on is seller reputation and a few photos. If sellers on Etsy are building the cost of shipping into their products, but calling it “free shipping”, it’s a breach of that trust. It’s a lie. If the buyer is still paying for it, albeit in disguise, it’s not free. It falsely advertises something as free when clearly it isn’t free. And what happens to buyers who purchase more than one item? They’re now paying shipping on each of those items because it’s been included in the price. So, not only is the shipping not “free”, it’s charged over and over again for each item purchased. In addition, in states where shipping is not taxed, buyers are now paying tax on shipping because it’s added to the price. In short, both sellers and buyers are getting the shaft here.

    • While your point is well taken, it is also a fact with all sellers online. All business costs are going to be included in the sales price of an item. The larger sellers may look at repeat business and average shipping costs among all sized orders. For many Etsy sellers, which are smaller sellers with lower volume, that is just not that simple. For some raising prices to cover free shipping is the only way to deal with the cost. As long as consumers respond to the marketing gimmick of “free shipping” businesses are going to market their products in a way that generates sales.



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