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Shipping and Tips for Buying and Selling Online Jewelry and Jewelry Supplies


One huge consequence of the Covid-19 shutdown is the equally large shift to online shopping.  That in turn created long delays as shipping agents like the postal offices and customs agencies could not cope with the surge. With increased safety measures, fewer workers, fewer flights and other transportation, both international and domestic, severe backlogs are occurring.  So slower deliveries are to be expected for a while.

However, there are things you can do to avoid even longer delays for anything you order.  Over the years, I've learned a few things with shipping items from my Etsy as I had to deal with hiccups.  my experiences only pertain to post office shipments, not courier carriers.

TIPS FOR BUYERS

Tracking

The ability to check the progress of purchases is useful especially when delays are so unpredictable.  That is why I switched to tracked deliveries for my US customers for my Etsy.  Some of you are depending on my supplies for your own shops. 

One shipment to a US PO box address was signed for but could not be found for a while until the customer went through the USPS's help request/missing item service. She had the tracking number as well as my picture of what the package looked like and its dimensions.

Update Shipping Addresses

Always update your address at any shopping portal when you move.  Do not rely on redirected mail service especially now, when postal services are already overburdened.

Ensure Correct Shipping Addresses

This is a no brainer but surprisingly, many people don't enter their addresses and postal codes correctly.  No extra spaces. Capitalize correctly and no strange abbreviations - your abbreviations might not be the same as postal offices' database. For example, the abbreviation for Boulevard is usually Blvd not Bld or Bd.  If in doubt, write it out in full. 

One recent shipment got stuck at a US post office because the home address didn't match their database and therefore they could not deliver to the house. Using the tracking number, the customer had to retrieve it at the post office. 

TIPS FOR SELLERS

Websites and Craft Marketplaces

The pandemic has significantly changed retail businesses, moving them online. Online marketing activities are now even more important.   See this Forbes article on Five ways Covid-19 is Changing the Game for Independent Jewelry Designers. One point the author made is the client preference for meaningful designs.

Nobody knows if traditional craft markets and art festivals will start up again later in the summer and fall. If they are going to be open, one wonders what sort of protocols would have to be in place?  Not just physical distancing, but the wearing of masks, available hand sanitizers etc? Can the handling of items by shoppers be limited?  How do you disinfect merchandise, cell phones when collecting Square payments? What about the trying out of jewelry?

For designers such as reader and friend Aims of BigBlueBarnDesigns, who previously sold only at local craft shows, the online shift has already begun.  She doesn't intend to sell in person this shopping season.  She is busy photographing her designs and uploading it to her new website.

Check my previous post on Where to Sell Your Jewelry and Crafts Online which covers the various options. Some cost, others are free. Each option has its pros and cons. There is no perfect solution - it will depend on your personal preference and needs.

If you want an independent website, consider using the Shopify platform. They have professional themes, but more importantly, 24/7 phone support and all kinds of useful features including easy social media sharing.  It's not free  - $29/month. There is Shopify LITE  ($9/month) for those with websites but wish to use the cheaper version for direct selling on popular social media platforms.

Independent websites mean you share the stage with no one but you will have to work at getting the word out about your store using your customer newsletter (if you built one from craft show contacts) and social media. Instagram is the place to be.

Large craft marketplaces like Etsy might have a lot of competition, but they also draw a whole ton of traffic. So if you design something which stands out from the crowd and someone likes it,  then you are likely to land a sale. That someone who didn't know you existed, found you by searching Etsy. So make sure you nail those keywords in the title and in the tags.

Etsy is by no means the best platform but it is the most well known. I am on Etsy mainly because of the traffic.  Traffic = eyeballs. Your shop needs to be seen by as many people as possible.

 My Etsy shop stats over the last year of operation surprised me. As a long time blogger with a sizable following, I expected to bring in a lot traffic myself. But only 20 -30 % of my Etsy traffic comes directly from The Beading Gem, my social media activity and a few ads. Etsy's search, marketing, SEO etc brings in the rest, a whopping max of 80%!

If you are considering Etsy, here is how you can get 40 free listings for yourself and for me!

Some potential sellers are considering Amazon's handmade marketplace as an Etsy alternative. Amazon also has great traffic but it's actually even more expensive than Etsy.  For starters, it will cost you $39/month as a seller with a 12% transaction fee each time you make a sale.  Etsy charges 20 cents per listing (for 4 months) which works for small shops, and 5% transaction fee + 3% payment fee.

I have direct experience with the Amazon software  - it is not easy to navigate for rank beginners. There is also another thing most potential sellers don't realize.  If you choose to send your products to their warehouses and they remain unsold, Amazon charges you storage fees!

Shipping

Once online, the next big issue is shipping!

The most important tip for internal selling - within Canada (if you are Canadian) or within the US (if you are American) -  is to ship as flat as possible to get the lowest postal rates.  Other countries may have the same deal so check with your local post office.

Fortunately for jewelry makers and suppliers, quite a lot of what we sell can be shipped flat. I actually trialed the popular bubble envelope and found it was bulkier than a cardboard mailer. Plus the latter is also recyclable after use. So I use such mailers most of the time.


What about finished jewelry? I recently made my first sale in my new Etsy store for finished jewelry etc, called CraftaGems (still trying to grow that so please like it and the accompanying CraftaGems Instagram  or CraftaGems Facebook  if you want to see what I am up to). The 3 pairs of earrings were each hooked through holes I made in the earring card. The earring cards are  postcards made with my new logo using Vistaprint which I then trimmed to fit cellophane bags.

All three earrings were put into a flat cardboard mailer prettily wrapped in a red bow with my business card included.  The cardboard mailer is stiff and does a good job in protecting the items. After all, they are used for delicate photos and CD cases!


Stud earrings can be tricky especially if you do not want the posts to get bent in the mail.  So boxes are great, and not just for stud earrings.


But alas, the boxes (inside bubble packs) can only be used if you are shipping out of the US or Canada. These packages cannot go through the "slot of doom" for internal mailings.  20 mm in the case of Canada Post. Not even the box itself could get through -  as you can see when I tested it with a 3D printed Canada Post mail tool I bought from Print3DD. The store also sells the USPS mail tool.


So this is what I came up with for stud earrings. Cut up little cubes from white erasers which I got from the dollar store.


 I stuck the stud earrings through the earring card, reattached the backs and finished off with an eraser cube. This means the stud posts will not bend nor will it poke out of any packaging.


The eraser backings don't stop the mounted stud earrings from rotating in place.  Here are the earrings ready for shipping in its cellophane pouch.


When the prepared stud earrings package is placed inside a cardboard mailer, the whole thing makes it through the slot of doom!


Scroll through this Etsy Packaging group on Flickr to see more ideas on how to package your jewelry for sale.

Good luck!

NB. Some of my latter photos above have lighting issues - that is because I was testing an auxiliary LED lamp for artificial light photography. As you can see, the results are not encouraging.

Before You Go:
Disclosure

This blog may contain affiliate links. I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation.
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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Wire JewelryTips  -Jewelry Business Tips 

10 comments:

  1. Great post, Pearl. Lots of good advice. Thank you. Bev

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    1. Hope it helps as I think there will be a whole ton of shipping and delivering this coming season.

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  2. Firstly - thanks for the mention my friend. I've already starting making sales on my new website and although it's not going to match my market sales I'm happy enough at the moment.

    I get a newsletter from one of my markets and it's got a long list of requirements if anyone is going to be selling at it. A plexiglass barrier and a mask is the standard. I just can't see that with jewelry. The thought of a number of people trying on my jewelry or touching everything just makes me cringe and I simply can't do it. I'm not sure what Lysol spray would do to everything but I do know it would ruin my earring cards for sure! It might leave a bit of a residue as well and who knows what multiple sprays would do? Then I'd have to clean every piece when I got home and that would involve touching what everyone else has. That's a definite no for me! I'm super high risk and after staying away from everyone since the beginning of February...what would have been the point?

    So it's online marketing for me.

    I went with the WIX.com shopping platform. The only reason I did was because they had
    a sale when I first signed up and it was fairly inexpensive which I thought would be a good way to test online marketing. Then they renewed it for another year months before the end of my contract and put it through at full price which is just dollars less than Shopify. I happened to be away on holidays when they did that and didn't catch it on time. This time around I'm going to change to Shopify.

    Wix.com is a tough one to navigate and you can't do much with the program. It definitely has it limitations but was worth trying out. Now I know.

    On another note - when I get my earrings findings they are now often shipped with plastic covers over the posts. Reusing those would make the package lighter and I'm sure getting hollow plastic tubing in 20mm is easy enough.

    I'm taking from this post that you don't like your new light? After much trial and error I've finally got mine managed and know where to hold it for my pics. I also have a stand I can mount it on and hold it over my piece. Sometimes I just use it instead of the lights in my Foldio. You can see those particular results on my snap buttons.

    Since online shopping has blossomed into the new norm I'm practicing my photography and using props repeatedly. Hubby does all my Instagram posts from the pics I've taken and I check my analytics on a daily basis to see what's working. Even though I don't like Facebook I still post on there and have had some shares that resulted in sales. So everything is worth trying to see what works and what doesn't. At present I think I'm halfway to putting my stock on my website. It's a lot of work but can be satisfying in the end. Especially now that I'm not in a gallery any more.

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    1. Great to know that your website has been making sales. It takes a while to build up a following so keep at it. Good luck with Shopify when you switch.

      The auxiliary light I bought was supposed to give me options for warm and cold light but it didn't deliver!

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    2. That's too bad Pearl. Very disappointing. I'm quite happy with mine. Has so many LEDs! I've learned to add an extra filter on it when I'm taking pics of extra shiny....or dial it down to just add a slight glow. Even though at times I can get frustrated trying to mount hard shapes on hard display shapes...double sided tape and sticky dots are my new best friends....I'm really enjoying the journey and the final results are extremely satisfying. I've referred to my notes taken during your photography seminar many times!

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  3. This post is invaluable for anyone thinking about trying to move into the craft market. As always you never disappoint in bringing forward new and useful information and crafters.

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    1. Thanks Wayne for your kind words. Selling online is a whole new kettle of fish for sure! Lots to learn!

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  4. Great packaging tips. I have shipped to a lot of countries from India and to most states locally and one thing that I have learnt is to ship in a cardboard box. Bubble mailers are fine for supplies but not finished pieces particularly if they include breakable materials like glass. Thankfully we do not have a flat package system here so that helps. But since March, parcel and courier system has gone haywire due to lockdown in India. Import of most items are banned. Clients want to shop online but we cannot post or receive non-essential goods even inside the country in most places. So while the Forbes article may address concerns in countries with fewer restrictions it is not a global projection. Here, at the moment having an online presence is only to engage clients and not to make sales.

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    1. I agree that boxes are best. I envy your no flat package system. Thanks so much for the insight into what is happening in India with shipping during lock down. So far, I have been able to ship to the Canada, US, Europe and Australia which are where my customers are. No stoppage. Just very slow.

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  5. This is a terrific article chock full of useful information. I especially liked the shipping and Etsy information. Thanks for sharing so much of your experience!

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You're AWESOME! Thanks for the comment and feedback. You do make a difference on my blog!

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