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Etsy Rolls Out Long-Awaited Calculated Shipping

Etsy sellers who are tired of refunding buyers for shipping overages or not recouping their entire shipping costs are a step closer to getting relief. Etsy launched a beta version of calculated shipping, and all sellers can test the new feature by joining the prototype.

Sellers can charge more accurate shipping rates to buyers by using calculated shipping, which works by factoring in the weight and dimension of products and the location of the buyer and seller.

It may seem a basic feature, but shipping calculators are notoriously difficult for online marketplaces to develop. EcommerceBytes readers had put an Etsy shipping calculator high on their wish lists in this year’s Sellers Choice Marketplace Awards, and it’s clear why. Currently sellers have to use flat rate shipping – so, for example, sellers could offer $5 shipping and $1 for a second item. “That could lead to really inaccurate shipping costs,” Etsy Product Manager Calia Talmor told EcommerceBytes.

The new shipping calculator works on an order level rather than on an item level by taking into account the weight and dimensions of each product and then display shipping costs in the shopper’s cart.

Sellers set up calculated shipping by using profiles. Either a profile accepts calculated shipping or it doesn’t. If you have a group of items in one profile that offers calculated shipping and want to change it, you create a new profile and move those items into the new profile. There are a number of ways for sellers to bulk edit and apply profiles, Talmor explained.

Etsy wanted to make sure it built something that worked for sellers and the uniqueness of their items, that was simple and easy, and that allowed sellers to offer accurate shipping costs, she said. “Expedited and international shipping functionality was important too.”

Ron and Char from TwistedRiverClay were one of a small number of sellers testing the early version of the new shipping calculator. Prior to using it, they refunded shipping if the charges were excess, but, “We found no comfortable way to request additional funds from buyers who underpaid. The constant challenge was to deliver attractive shipping prices everywhere.”

They told EcommerceBytes they had actually had to scale back the number of countries they shipped to after changes to international carrier rates in 2013. “As a micro-business, resources are limited, and an automated shipping calculator was crucial to remain open to a broader audience.”

The new Etsy calculator changes all this, the pair said. “We did not expect to retire our homegrown shipping calculator (in spreadsheet form) altogether and never revisit it again, but we can.”

And because of the time they expect to save dealing with shipping issues, Ron and Char also plan to lower their handling charges.

Another seller who has been pre-testing the new calculated shipping function is Pat who operates vintageNCtreasures and Custom Pet and Tack.

She said before using calculated shipping, it was difficult to figure out shipping on items over one pound since costs vary a lot depending on whether the buyer is located on the east coast or west coast. She’s based in North Carolina, and found the difference in rates could range from $5.32 to $9.97 for a 1.5-pound shipping box.

“I always had to put the highest shipping cost, which I think deterred some buyers,” Pat said. Plus on items weighing less than 13 oz., it was difficult trying to figure out how much shipping to put for each additional item.

But now, “since the shipping is based on the total weight, and if the weight comes up more than 16 oz., it automatically gets figured for Priority rates,” she explained.

Talmor said Etsy is recommending that sellers use the item weight and size, and not the final package size. “If items require a lot of bubble wrap / packing, we’ve seen that it’s been a good idea to use the size and weight of the item wrapped,” she said – more on this issue in the accompanying blog post.

Etsy explains that joining the prototype team will not have an immediate impact on sellers’ shop, listings, or shipping costs in any way since calculated shipping is totally optional, even for member of the prototype.

“You will have the ability to set shipping costs the way you always have – either individually on each listing or by using the original version of shipping profiles. In order to use calculated shipping, you will need to add a weight and dimensions to each of your listings.”

You can read the full announcement on the Etsy website along with FAQs.

Comment on the AuctionBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.