A Shop Owner's Drastic Decision - Free International Shipping
inApril 2, 2013 - 1:32pm
I have always found it quite ironic that the most 'uncomfortable' part of the online shopping process, seemingly, for my clients is handling their item's shipment. The bulk of questions I received were not about the authenticity of the listings or concern about paying online but about how to work out the additional cost of shipping.
I am sure I have received a lot more of these types of questions than many dealers mostly because the bulk of my sales are international and I am a seller from a small country. That said, even with Ruby Lane's built-in shipping calculator, many clients still find working out approximately how much more, above the sale price, they will need to pay very difficult.
The truth is that there really are many factors involved in the shipping process. The weight of the item, the dimensions of the box, the delivery speed options, the many different freight companies (each with their own policies and pricing), insurance, customs tax and packing fees (which can get complicated if the client has a special request such as gift wrapping). So even with a built-in calculator (which definitely does help a lot), unless a client is just purchasing 'locally' many factors such as the shipping costs and potential customs tax are likely to change quite significantly.
Many sellers, for a combination of the factors above, opt for the 'To Be Determined' option which I have found (unless your Terms of Sale section is detailed) scares potential international clients away. Many choose just to 'move on' instead of contacting the seller, assuming the shipping will be some astronomical fee or that the shipping time will be very long.
At the start of 2013 I made the drastic decision to ship anywhere in the world free of charge. I say drastic because I have had to limit the type of items I can sell so that it makes sense financially. The results have been very positive! A cute thing happened recently. I have had an item in layaway for a client who wanted to pay the remainder of her balance and asked me to please tell her how much to add for shipping. It took two emails to convince her that my store policy is free UPS shipping world wide. As you can imagine she was rather happy, once she finally believed me!
Obviously this strategy does not make sense for everyone, but I recommend a partial use of it. For example offer free shipping on your expensive items or add a phrase to your shipping rules 'for combined sales over $600 shipping is free'. It is a definite incentive for clients to buy more at one time (and if you allow for layaway even better). You might also want to restrict your offer to specific continents. Personally US, Canada and UK are a reasonable price and Asia is very expensive.
The interesting revelation, since I have started this policy, is some of my clients only realize after the parcel arrived that I was not a local seller. They will state how they would never have bought internationally if they had realized! Since this went so well they will be more open to it in the future!
I hope I have given you a few ideas. I am learning new things all the time as I am sure you all are too. One thing I think we all have in common is our desire to help clients have the best shopping experience they can and to create the best 'win-win' scenario possible. If you have been doing novel things with your clients that have had positive results, I would love to hear about it. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org