Okay, so here I went, posting a discussion on the Etsy forum: little did I know it would generate so many replies: 119 as I am typing this blog, but surely more by the time you read it.
Since in my last blog I raised a few questions, and the reaction on my post gave insight on what some people felt about the possible answers (at least from their opinion), let me share the results with everyone.
After all, crowdsourcing is in.
By the time I analized this, 40 US individuals had given their opinion on the issues I raised. Here are the results.
Of the 40, 35 said they did not have any real problems with buying from international stores, located outside of the USA. Thats a good score. The remaining five however, did have fundamental issues preventing them doing International orders. Of those 5, 1 reason was sort of patriotic, wanting to support US economy, one was due to the fact that international stores often only accept Paypal as a payment option, a service the customer did not want do signup with. The other reasons quoted for not wanting to shop international were of a more practical reason: costs. Either the cost of International shipping, or the costs of the goods themselves, due to the weaker dollar.
So, 5 out of 40 (12,5%) seems a good number. But we have to put this in perspective.
Don't forget that 62% of all 10 million Etsy users are US Based, according to this report, accounting for around 6,2 million customers, still amounts to three quarter of a million users that DON'T want to buy international. A sizable amount indeed.
But thats not all. In fact, only 17 (around 50% of potential international buyers) say there is no reason why they would not buy international. The other 50% list a number of apprehensions on buying from a non-US store. The graph here shows what are the quoted reasons.
The vast majority say the shipping cost and the shipping time are huge barriers when it comes to ordering from an international seller. Obviously, we want it, and we want it NOW is the key here, and adding another 10$ for postage is not a very enticing idea. The next big one is the cost of the goods, basically due to the low dollar exchange rate compared to the UK pound or Euro I guess. Well, the financial markets have recently partially done their best to reduce that difference ;-).
So what can international sellers do about this?
I guess the following 6 pieces of advise can be distilled:
1) Make sure you have a clear shop policy, stating what international buyers can expect in terms of delivery times. Don't make promisses you cant keep, the shipment process is out of your hands, but a positively surprised customer is a better ambassador than a disappointed one. And be sure to put in your policies that any surplus on the actual shipping price will be reïmbursed, and adhere to it!
2) Minimize the transit times by clearly filling out custom forms, not including shipping costs in the declared value and (for US adresses) follow this link to the USPS zip locator for a correct addressing which seems to shorten the transit time (Thanks to Helen from Frenchsoul for this tip!)
3) Maybe, include part of the shipping rate into your item price. Now this is up for debate. Some will in no way want to do that, even if it is not to deter local buyers. On the other hand, since 62% of all potential buyers are US based (and international of course a lot more!), this might be a good strategy. After all, a lot of buyers will see a relative high shipping price upon checkout, and decide to cancel at that point.
4) Since most buyers can be found in the USA, make it a point to get good feedback from your international buyers, and maybe also ask them, in their feedback, to put something on the real shippping time. After all, uncertainty on it seems a large deterrant for many, even though some national US shipments also take some time.
5) Be sure to have a unique product. After all, if a US prospect buyer can choose between simmilar items, one international with potential shipping delays and high shipment costs, and one that doesn't, you can't blame them for choosing the latter.
6) Maybe most importantly: respond fast and clearly to all questions or remarks, gaining potential buyers' trust and, above all, get them to become repeating customers.
Good luck selling!