Online marketplace Etsy announced on Tuesday it is providing sellers with tools and support to encourage them to offer free shipping on all orders of $35 or more, according to a company press release.
In an effort to further incentivize sellers, beginning on July 30, Etsy will give priority placement in U.S. search results to merchants who adopt free shipping, per the release. The company said beginning in September it will actively market free shipping to buyers.
The company added that the tools and support will be available to merchants around the world, not exclusively to U.S. sellers.
As the fast and free shipping race heats up with major players like Amazon, Walmart and Target, online marketplace Etsy is making efforts to ramp up its own shipping to entice shoppers to purchase on its platform.
While Tuesday's announcement didn't mention anything about speeding up delivery times, CEO Josh Silverman mentioned on a call with analysts back in May that Etsy is "not trying to be exactly like Amazon. We're trying to be great at what we are," and eliminating delivery costs may help better position Etsy against other smaller online competitors.
"[W]e hear that high shipping prices often deter shoppers from completing their purchases. ... Ultimately, we believe this will help increase marketplace conversion and order value, encourage repeat visits, and drive more sales for Etsy sellers," Silverman said in a statement on Tuesday.
Etsy cited its own buyer data, which found that buyers are "significantly" more likely to complete a purchase when free shipping is available compared to when shipping costs are added at checkout.
The initiative will likely delight buyers more than the merchants that sell on the platform. Offering sellers more visibility through its U.S. search if they adopt the free shipping program raises concerns for some sellers. "Priority goes to people offering free shipping, so again, theyre backing you into a corner if you choose not to," one merchant said on Twitter in response to the announcement. Another merchant lamented how, "I'm supposed to be Amazon now."
I just got an etsy letter this morning, glad I'm leaving their platform. Priority goes to people offering free shipping, so again, theyre backing you into a corner if you choose not to. pic.twitter.com/e2FS5J64cT— Bubble Rhapsody @ pokemon design zine (@BubbleRhapsodys) July 9, 2019
Started my day with an email from @Etsy about how I'm supposed to be Amazon now. So I can either inflate my prices to cover shipping, which will screw over all my international buyers, or I can eat the $7-$10 domestic shipping on each sale. Way to care about small businesses Etsy pic.twitter.com/2zokFZzjt9— Cyrrus (@tabbydragon) July 9, 2019
In its most recent earnings quarter, the company reported active sellers grew 13% year over year to 2,227, while active buyers grew 18.3% year over year to 41,029.
"Buyer expectations continue to evolve, and we want to help sellers adapt and thrive in an increasingly competitive retail landscape. Free shipping is now table stakes when it comes to online shopping," Kruti Patel Goyal, Etsy's senior vice president of product, said in a statement. "We realize that offering free shipping may be a big step for some of our sellers, and we will be there to support them every step of the way."