Deciding whether you should sell internationally as an Etsy shop owner is a little complicated, so you’ll need to look at it from a few different angles.
Selling internationally is a must for some sellers, but for others it’s more of a choice based on cost, convenience, and the possibility of problems arising.
Table of Contents
- The benefits of shipping internationally on Etsy.
The drawbacks to shipping internationally on Etsy.
- The cost of liability insurance can be higher in different countries.
- Tracking on shipments might be expensive.
- The price of shipping is more expensive.
- Shipping takes longer.
- Returns and refunds are complicated.
- There are additional taxes in some countries.
- You have to comply with each country’s individual laws.
The benefits of shipping internationally on Etsy.
Because Etsy is a marketplace platform that has a presence in multiple countries, it encourages sellers to ship internationally. They have systems in place that help sellers take care of the legal aspects of selling to customers in different countries in place, so it’s simpler than taking care of it on your own They also promote Etsy in different countries, so they actively try to get new shoppers to the platform.
Shipping internationally expands your potential customers.
The most obvious benefit to selling internationally is that you’ll have a lot more potential customers.
When you sell to other countries, you’ll be able to expand your reach, and you can market your products to people all over the world.
Because Etsy is actively trying to increase the number of customers it has that are in places other than the US, we can take advantage of their marketing efforts to find more buyers.
Etsy will handle the legalities of international shipping for us.
Shipping to different countries requires specific customs and tax forms, and Etsy provides those for sellers in some countries if they use Etsy shipping labels.
This makes it simple to handle the legal side of sending products to different countries.
Etsy also handles the collection of various taxes that are imposed by individual countries, and will remit them to the appropriate governments, so sellers don’t have to register to do that.
If there are any specific regulations that affect sellers directly, Etsy will notify us so that we can take care of them. The package recycling laws in Germany are a good example of this.
Shipping to the opposite hemisphere can help with seasonality.
If you’re someone who makes things that are specifically for summer or winter, you might be out of luck as far as seasonal selling patterns go.
But if you’re willing to ship things to the hemisphere that you don’t live in, you can market your winter and summer merchandise in the opposite season from the one that you’re experiencing.
This can help beat slumps in sales that are related to selling based on the season.
Setting up international shipping on Etsy is fairly simple.
Because Etsy has to process the orders, they also have to have a system set up to figure out the cost of shipping when you enter the listing information.
In the US, you can use calculated shipping settings to price your shipping cost, which is a lot easier than figuring it out yourself.
You can also choose which countries that you will or won’t ship to, because there might be some that you don’t want to send packages to for various reasons.
The drawbacks to shipping internationally on Etsy.
There are a lot of drawbacks to international selling, so you’ll have to decide whether the potential tradeoffs in increased traffic and sales are worth it. Most of the disadvantages are related to the fact that sending packages to different countries just takes longer, and is usually a lot more expensive, than domestic shipping. That’s not the case for every country, though, so read on.
The cost of liability insurance can be higher in different countries.
I hadn’t even thought of this, but Sally of Top Dogs Gear pointed out that product liability insurance can be expensive in the countries that you’re selling to.
And if you’re required to have that type of insurance in order to sell to those countries, you’ll have to weigh your options.
If the cost is too high, you might have to opt-out of selling to that country entirely.
Tracking on shipments might be expensive.
Depending on where you live, the postal service may or may not offer tracking for packages at a reasonable cost.
If you live in a country where the price to send a tracked package will increase the price of the order so much that it almost doubles, the customer might not want to pay for it.
That won’t stop people from being mad when they don’t have tracking for their packages, though. And without tracking, you won’t be able to know 100% that the order was delivered.
The price of shipping is more expensive.
Forget tracking, just the cost of shipping to another country is naturally going to be more expensive!
The cost can jump a lot at low weights, too, so you have to be careful to weigh your products carefully when you fill out the weight and size information when you set up your shipping labels.
If you don’t enter the settings correctly, you could end up having to pay more for the shipping than the price that the customer paid for the entire order! You can always cancel the order, but that’s not going to make the customer happy.
For an article about how to handle shipping problems on Etsy, click here.
Shipping takes longer.
Shipping between countries takes a lot longer than domestic shipping, for obvious reasons.
If the customer understands this it won’t be a problem, but a lot of the time people don’t have realistic expectations about how long it really takes.
Etsy provides estimated delivery times when people check out, but that won’t make people stop thinking that their package will be there sooner than the reality.
If you ship internationally you’ll need to be ready to deal with disgruntled people who think that you are personally responsible for postal delays.
Returns and refunds are complicated.
If a customer has a return, and your policy is that you’ll refund the purchase price when you receive the merchandise back, it can take a while for that to happen.
If the customer wants you to refund immediately, that could be a problem because refunding before the package is returned to you could leave you open to receiving a damaged item back.
International returns from specific countries also tend to be relatively common, depending on how efficient their postal systems are.
There are certain countries that have a really bad reputation for packages not being delivered at all, or being delivered late.
There are also some countries where you can’t even buy shipping insurance because their track record for accurate delivery is so bad. The insurance companies just say “nope” and tell you that you’re on your own.
If you’re going to stop shipping internationally, those are the countries to stop first.
The other complication for international returns is the question of refunding the original shipping price, and who pays for return shipping.
If your policies require that the customer pays for return shipping, and you don’t refund the original cost of shipping, the customer is still going to end up paying a lot for something they returned.
And they won’t be happy about that.
Plus, there are now laws in the EU and some other countries that state that the seller is responsible for accepting returns for any reason for a specific number of days, and that the seller has to pay for the return shipping.
Even if your policies are different, it doesn’t matter, you’ll have to follow the laws in the countries that you’re selling to.
There are additional taxes in some countries.
A lot of countries have additional import taxes and Value-Added Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST) added onto the final price of the item.
This can increase the price that the customers pay A LOT, and some people who have never purchased from a shop outside of their country will blame you for it.
The good thing about this is that Etsy adds the taxes onto the price of the item at checkout, so people can see beforehand how much it will really cost them.
However, there might still be some fees on the other end that have nothing to do with taxes that are added to the sale, including postal surcharges.
If the customer doesn’t know about that, they’re not going to be happy.
Have you noticed a common theme, which is that customers aren’t going to be happy with a lot of this? Yep.
You have to comply with each country’s individual laws.
If you sell to a country, you have to follow their rules, even if you’re located outside of that country. This can be a pain if there’s anything that says you have to register or pay for licensing.
Karen, owner of Tahoe Quilts, said that she’s stopped shipping internationally recently because of various regulations that have started popping up in different places.
I have to agree with this, because for the small number of international orders I used to get, the time and aggravation that it would take to keep up with that kind of thing wasn’t worth it to me.
I don’t ship internationally other than to Canada at this point because of all of the drawbacks I’ve listed here.
As I mentioned, the number of international orders that I used to get was so low it just wasn’t worth the effort to keep up with the packaging and refund laws that were starting to pop up.
And the percentage of complaints that I was receiving from international customers was so much higher than domestic ones, just because of the time and cost to ship, that I decided to pull the plug on it.
If you’re located in a country outside of the US, you might not have a choice about shipping internationally because most Etsy customers are in the US.
Make sure that your shop policies are clear so that you can address any shipping problems that arise, and head them off if possible!
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