Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Calculated Shipping & New Shipping Labels

Calculated Shipping

I've talked a little in the past how shipping on Etsy was a messed up game of averages.  Check out the "How do you set shipping costs?" section in the link for more detail, but the short version is I had to create these shipping profiles and assign them to products.  It entailed a lot of fine-tuning them again and again and again.  If the guessing game was wrong and I was short on what Etsy collected for postage I was kinda screwed because I wasn't going to go back to a customer and ask for extra to cover the difference.  If it was too much over, I was doing refunds.  There was also no way to do shipping upgrades at checkout. 

Calculated shipping is a new feature in Etsy that live-calculates the amount of postage needed to send a parcel from me to you.  Each item in the shop is now assigned a weight and dimensions (meaning I had to weigh and measure every individual item, which is why this all took a little while to get off the ground).  When you add items to your cart, Etsy adds up the total weight for the package and then checks my address, then yours, and then figures out what it would cost to ship a package of that weight from here to there.  It also adds in a very small ( 50 cents) shipping and handling fee per item to cover the cost of packaging materials, labels, tape, time spent packing, etc.

As a bonus, you now get to select from multiple shipping options if you'd like things there faster, or pick the lowest rate if the box doesn't need to break the sound barrier along the way.

If you want to check the shipping on a single item, it's on the Shipping & Policies tab.  To see multiple items and combined shipping you'll have to check in the cart.

New Shipping Labels

My international customers have never seen what the domestic labels look like, but it was like this:

I used a postage printing program called Endicia that allows me to create my own (domestic) labels and print all labels (domestic and international) from home.  This was a huge boon over having to address and weigh all the boxes and take them to the post office, but the process was still pretty inefficient.

It went something like this:
  • Take all the items for an order and put them in their box/bubble mailer
  • Weigh the package
  • Put the package weight and the customer's name on the package
  • Put the package in my shipping bin
  • Repeat for every order (usually 8-20 on the nights I pack, which is very late at night on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays)
  • Once all the orders are packed, go to the office, open Photoshop and my postage printing program
  • Enter the address and weight for a package and create the label.
  • Pull the labels into Photoshop and arrange it on an 8 1/2 - 11 page (usually I can get 5-6 labels per full sized sheet)
  • Enter the tracking information on Etsy
  • Mark the order as shipped on Etsy and send the confirmation email
  • Repeat for every order
  • Print out the sheets of labels
  • Cut out the labels by hand
  • Play hide and seek, matching the right label to the right package
  • Peel and stick the labels
  • Put all the packages back in the shipping bin and set them out for the post
On a night with 8-10 orders, assuming every product was already packaged with a label (which is another ongoing battle), boxing would take me two or three hours with labels taking another hour+.  For such an inefficient process, I was pretty fast with it in the end, but yeah, still inefficient.  

Enter two things:  Etsy shipping labels, and a new label printer.

Etsy Shipping Labels

Etsy recently paired with Endicia (which is the same company I was already using) to allow sellers to print labels right off Etsy and be charged through there rather than buying postage for my account and having it deducted that way.  Here's what it looks like on my end:

The arrow is pointing to the option that says "Format for 4x6 label printers"
Here I enter the final package weight (if it was a little different than the calculated weight), enter a message to the buyer, pick a few other variables and the decide what I want the output to be.  By doing it this way, the tracking number is automatically assigned and sent to the buyer in one step, eliminating the chance of me screwing it while entering it. 

I go through each order this way and then at the end print them all out to one PDF document that's sized for 4x6 labels.  They look like this:

Lame, I know.  I hate them.  That these labels look so... not special is one of the main reasons I held out doing this for so long.  I like the idea that my customers get excited (at least I hope you do!) when you see the pretty NightBlooming logo on your package.  I'm currently looking into a sticker I could add to the label to make it a little more special again.

If I actually had magical packing faeries, I'd be the happiest person ever.

But, regardless, I'd love your thoughts.  Do you like the logo on your packages?  Does it make them feel special or am I being a little silly?

New Label Printer

In any event, design aside, the new labels can be printed on this little guy:
Come on, for a printer he IS pretty cute!

The label paper is thermal-printed, so it doesn't consume ink.  The labels are also glossy, peel and stick, and much more weather-resistant than the ones I was previously using. 

So what's the process now?

A lot more streamlined.  I just ran my first night with the new labels and printer and already tell it's going to be a massive time improvement once I get a into a groove with the new system.  The process is now like this:
  • Take all the items for an order and put them in their box/bubble mailer
  • Write the customer's name on the package
  • Check the final weight and enter it into the Etsy label field
  • Repeat for all items
  • Purchase and print all the labels
  • Play hide and seek, matching the right label to the right package
  • Peel and stick the labels
  • Put all the packages back in the shipping bin and set them out for the post
MUCH better.  I'm hoping over time I'll be able to make better improvements, like printing each label as I go (right now that feels like a time sink because I have to go through the label purchase process per each label rather than all at once and print them at once, but there might be a better way).

I know this all wasn't the most exciting stuff ever, but I knew people would notice when they started getting labels that looked differently and wanted to give the why.  As always, I appreciate your feedback.  That you have the best experience possible and reliably get your packages for a reasonable rate is super-important to me.  I just bought a $4.50 eyeliner pencil today and they charged me $5 to ship it.  I promise, I am never going to be that person :)


  1. The original packing routine sounds very time & energy-consuming! I'm glad that you have been able to stream it down a bit. For what it's worth, I am too busy ripping into my package to miss having a pretty Nightblooming logo on it, but I can also understand why you want your packages to stand out and be something for your customers to get excited about. :D

  2. I have to be honest, I do *love* the pretty Nightblooming label,it means I've gotten something especially lovely and special. If you can find a way to create a sticker to affix to the package that isn't too time-consuming, it wouldn't go unappreciated.

    1. Your wish is granted! Pretty stickers are here:

  3. I'm juat glad that you are able to start streamlining everything! That has to be easier on you.

    Your old label was beautiful, but the new label is functional. As you said, the sticker helps!

    By the way, I loved the green tissue paper and your NB sticker on my Selkie:) I tend to notice the inside of packaging far more than the outside, to be honest.

    Haha... It sneaks to your door, disguised as an innocuous package. You open it, slightly ho hum, and BEHOLD! 'tis beautiful forest green tissue paper with the seal of Night Blooming! Your heart quickens; you may squeal with excitement. It's here! It's here!!

  4. ahahaha that is fanatic :) I'm glad you like the new packaging!