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Etsy's "Free Shipping" Controversy

Etsy's "Free Shipping" Controversy

When it comes to any type of commerce, the general sales pitch revolves around the age old saying ‘the customer is always right’, meaning that every aspect of the business serves the consumer. With ecommerce on the rise, many modern buyers do the majority of their shopping from big businesses and corporations online receiving every item they need without ever having to leave the comfort of their own home. While some may argue that giant internet corporations like Amazon have taken away from local businesses or the simple pleasures behind walking into a store, online shopping itself has developed into the best way to shop for deals and also has become a new resource for small businesses. One of the most popular websites for both buyers and sellers is Etsy, because it offers a unique arrangement of items ranging from bath towels to earrings that are all directly made by the seller. Although Etsy is a business itself, the company rarely influences the exchanges that occur on the website, unless there are controversies regarding the basic guidelines, or rules, that Etsy provides before entering the website. Individuals, whether it be a buyer or a seller, who visit Etsy maintain their own experience by discussing issues or answering questions between each other. This leaves a lot of room for offered discounts, a wide range of items, and also a way for the seller to decide how much they want to be paid. The freedom of Etsy and their equal care for both the buyer and the seller has helped grow its success, but a recent shift in their company’s guidelines may change their consumer’s loyalty.

Etsy’s Buy/Sell Struggle

Similar to any other website, Etsy undergoes updates and new developments to try and make their consumer experience as pleasurable as possible, but sometimes that does not always work out. On an ecommerce website such as Etsy, the consumer is not just who is buying something from the website, but it is also the seller. While it is a struggle to balance which side of the buyer/ seller spectrum should be more important to adhere to, without the various small businesses that make Etsy what it is, then the company itself would cease to exist. Etsy makes profit off of the transactions made on the website, and in hopes to increase those profits, they pushed free-shipping, which is definitely more convenient for the buyer making them more likely to continue shopping. On the other hand, this new development caused an uproar within the Etsy seller community, because they ended up having to pay for the cost of the shipping themselves and also having to take out Etsy’s cut of the profit. Many sellers shared a mutual complaint that if an Etsy store offers a diverse array of items varying in height and weight then it is impossible to offer the consumer free shipping only keeping in mind a medium sized package. Although Etsy offered to pay for the shipping cost for both the buyer and the seller, the seller ended up having to pay out of pocket for any item that exceeded the shipping limit. 

Due to this one single development, Etsy’s stock plummeted and many sellers have closed their stores on the website. Etsy’s Chief Executive, Josh Silverman, apologized that this push for free shipping hurt the consumers and now Etsy no longer prioritizes this marketing strategy. Overall, it is interesting to analyze the importance of factoring in all scenarios and types of consumers when developing a new strategy for ecommerce and how taking advantage of the consumer can be an entire corporation’s downfall.


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