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Seller Handbook

Advice and inspiration for successfully running your Etsy shop

4 Steps to Shipping Success

From shipping labels to the Seller Protection Policy, this guide will help you lay solid groundwork for mailing packages with confidence.

By Triona Fritsch May 7, 2013
Photo by Berry and Rabbit

Shipping is an integral part of selling on Etsy — it’s tough to sell if you can’t ship! As a member of the Etsy Shipping Team, I hear questions and dilemmas about all kinds of shipping scenarios on a daily basis. There’s a lot to consider, and we know it’s not always easy, but it can be easier (and maybe even fun!). If you lay solid groundwork for shipping practices, you can mail packages with confidence, providing both you and your buyers the peace of mind you deserve.

Here’s how:

1. Set Yourself Up for Success

  • Research packaging options. Because mail carriers provide a range of shipping methods and package types, start by surveying the best options for your items. It’s good to know what the most affordable methods are, but if buyers ask for shipping upgrades, it’s useful to know ahead of time what you can offer. Shipping methods aren’t just about pricing, either. Research the other offerings that may be included in your choices, like tracking, signature confirmation, and insurance. All this information should be available on your mail carrier’s website.

  • Estimate your shipping rates. In order to include shipping estimates in your listings, you’ll need to measure and weigh your packages. A kitchen scale should suffice, but if you’d like to be extra sure, take your packages to the post office. Keep track of common item weights for future reference. You can use Etsy's Price Your Postage tool, or use your shipping provider’s online shipping calculators:

United States Postal Service Postage Price Calculator

UPS Calculate Time and Cost

FedEx Rates and Transit Time

Sweet Machines
  • Learn from the Etsy community. Some of the best (and free) resources for advice and tips about selling and shipping are your Etsy peers. Joining an Etsy Team of local sellers may provide insights into local shipping options, common issues, and smart shipping practices. There are also teams dedicated to broader shipping topics that are great resources. Learn about Etsy Teams here.

  • Get to know Etsy’s tools and policies. Here are some of Etsy’s best shipping resources:

  • Shipping labels. If you’re a US or Canadian seller, you have access to our onsite postage tool. Purchasing and printing Etsy Shipping Labels can help you save time and makes it easy to organize shipping records. You can access labels by clicking Print Shipping< Label in your Sold Orders. Some of the perks:

    • No additional fees: Postage costs are simply added to your monthly bill.
    • Discounted pricing: All postage is available at discounted rates.
    • All US shipping labels include tracking numbers.
    • Purchasing labels will automatically mark your orders as shipped and send shipping notifications with tracking numbers directly to your buyer.
    • You can also purchase shipping insurance from U-PIC Insurance Services (in the US) or Canada Post (in Canada) when you buy your label.
    • Save time by purchasing and printing your labels in bulk.
    • Multiple labels per order: You can buy and print up to four labels for each of your orders.
    • Automated customs forms for international shipments: We'll fill them out for you with existing information about your orders.
    • No more waiting in line at the post office!
  • For US sellers shipping with USPS, we’ve set up a new Shipping Tools and Tips section to help guide you through the process of selecting shipping methods and categorizing your shipments.
  • You can quickly apply pre-saved shipping settings to your listings with Shipping Profiles.
  • Processing times are a way to tell your buyer how long it takes between when an order is placed and when it’s shipped.
  • Shipping Notifications make it easy to notify a buyer when their order has shipped and to include tracking information that they can access through their Etsy accounts. Providing tracking lets buyers check on a shipment’s status without asking you first.
  • Our Seller Protection Policy shows you what you need to resolve problems with confidence.  

2. Make a Shipping Plan and Define Your Policies

Develop your practice. Now that you know about your shipping options, it’s time to make some decisions as part of your shop’s shipping plan.

  • Think about the various scenarios that may arise as your business grows, and ask yourself these questions:

    • What are my processing times?

    • Will I offer insurance on all packages, or only some?

    • Will I accept returns, and will I reimburse buyers for return shipping costs?

    • What will I do when items are lost or damaged in the mail?

    • What mail providers do I use?

    • What shipping methods do I offer, and what are their average shipping times?

    • Will I offer expedited shipping?

    • Will I ship internationally?

    • Am I taking all the steps that will make me eligible for Seller Protection?

    • Will I ever offer free shipping?

Update the shipping section of your Shop Policies to include the answers to these questions. By publicly informing your buyer of your practices, you’ll help protect yourself in the event of difficult transactions, and promote the fact that you are a reliable shipper.

Develop your routine.Putting your policies into practice will be the best test to determine whether they work. Pay attention to your process, and re-evaluate when necessary. As you encounter different situations in which your policies are put to use, you may find that they need to be revisited or updated. We learn through experience, and there are always going to be things that you discover along the way. For example, you may notice that shipping times to certain destinations are consistently different than what your mail carrier estimates. Keep track of that, and update your info accordingly. Don't forget to stock up on your frequently used shipping supplies.

3. Communicate as Much as Possible With Your Buyers

It’s one thing to put all of these awesome new decisions into practice, but you won’t experience the full benefits of your plan if you fail to communicate with customers. For example, what’s the benefit of offering insurance if no one knows it’s available? Good communication shows your buyers that you’re moving forward with their orders and answers common questions. There are two kinds of communication you should use — forward-facing information that anyone can see from your policies and listing pages, and follow-up communication that takes place throughout the process of fulfilling an order. Take advantage of all of these ways to keep your buyers in the loop.

Etsy shop The Peach Tree uses shipping policies to provide clarity to potential buyers.

Forward-facing communication:

Follow-up communication:

Also, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

While you can do your best to share as much information as possible, there are also times when you’ll need to follow up on details with a buyer. For example, don’t be afraid to confirm an address with a buyer if it appears to contain a misspelling.

4. Keep Calm and Carry On

Once you’ve crafted your shipping plan and set up your communication channels, pat yourself on the back. As you probably already know, sometimes shipping challenges are out of your control and are just part of the online retail experience. The good news is that if you’ve armed yourself with good practices, you’ll be a lot more prepared. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Identify problem areas. If you know the scenarios in which shipping complications are more common, you’ll be ready to catch them ahead of time.

International and tracking: Be ready for things like longer shipping times and customs delays. If you can prep buyers with information that you’ve gained through research and experience, you’ll lessen the possibility of unexpected surprises on their end. Even letting buyers know ahead of time that their order is coming from another country can make a big difference in setting reasonable expectations for them. Read Shipping How-To: Custom Forms, Duties, and Taxes for more info.

Stay alert. When something does come up, you want to realize that as soon as possible so you can start taking the necessary steps to resolve it. If you’ve kept your buyer in the loop throughout the entire process, they should be able to act as a resource to you and let you know as soon as something doesn’t look right.

Keep good records. Proof of shipping is your friend. Pictures of items and packages prior to shipment, label receipts, insurance, tracking: Any of these will help you figure out where things may have gotten waylaid, while serving as proof that you were not the cause of any issues. If you did make a mistake at some point in the process, all of these records will help you identify at which step the mistake occurred. If you’ve done a good job keeping track of your information, it will be that much easier when you need someone else to help you track something down. Remember: Retaining proof of shipment for your records will help you in the event a case is opened on Etsy.

Ask questions. When new shipping scenarios present themselves, it can suddenly feel like you’re on your own in very unfamiliar territory. Although you may not have experienced this before, someone else has. In addition to Teams, here are some ways to connect with experienced sellers and shipping experts:

For general questions, communicate with Etsy sellers in the Etsy Forums.

If you need help with a more sensitive or private issue, contact Support.

For issues with your postal service, you can always go straight to the source and talk to your shipping provider.

Did this article help you? We'd love to learn about your shipping insights in comments.

Author

Triona Fritsch

Triona Fritsch is the Shipping Operations Manager at Etsy, where she facilitates projects, partnerships and other programs to improve the shipping process for sellers and buyers alike. Her interests outside the realm of order fulfillment include photography, knitting, film appreciation and taking care of the 29 plants currently residing in her apartment.

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