Every online business faces the Shipping Challenge. Setting up shipping is one of those "behind the scenes" tasks that every online shop needs to do. It can get a bit complicated, deciding what carriers will be used, if you're going to ship nationally and/or internationally, what type of boxes or envelopes will be used, and of course, there's the question of "free shipping" for the customer. 

I've set up shipping on other sites we've had, so I've had the opportunity to think--and act-- on the whole topic of shipping. As we approach the launch of Lee Buchanan Jewelry on a new platform, it seems like a good time to share my thoughts and tell you the how and why of our shipping process.

Hand-crafted jewelry takes time to make, and we both believe that every piece we sell and ship to a customer needs to reflect our quality standards. So, every piece of jewelry is inspected and carefully put into a white jewelry box to keep it clean, protected, and ready to make someone happy, whether it's a special piece for them, or to be given as a gift. A silver or gold cord and bow are added--silver or gold to reflect the metal used in the piece.

The LMBJewelry Boxes and Shipping next step is deciding how to ship, and what type of box to use.  After a bit of experimenting, my decision was to ship our hand-crafted jewelry via USPS Priority Mail. Small boxes with pendants or earrings fit nicely into the small Priority Flat Rate Box and the larger necklace and bracelet boxes work well in a Priority Flat Rate Padded Envelope with the boxes between two cardboard sheets for support and rigidity. 

Priority Mail rates include tracking and insurance, two extremely important features I feel are necessary for shipping our jewelry.  There are a few other alternatives, but when the fees for tracking and insurance are included, Priority Mail is the winner, in my humble opinion.

We hear a lot of businesses announcing "free shipping". Let's be honest, shipping is not free, just as jumping in your car and driving to a mall is not a "free" trip; you're paying for wear and tear on the car as well as the gas. Yes, as customers, all of us look at shipping costs when we buy online. As a business, we pay shipping charges to have our suppliers ship us the materials we need to make our jewelry and that is part of our cost of obtaining supplies.  Your favorite local stores pay shipping to have the merchandise they sell reach their store. 

So, where does "free shipping" enter the scene? Free shipping is a discount that's offered to you as encouragement to purchase a product. The merchant selling the product typically has done one of two things: (1) included the cost of the discount (10% off, Buy one Get One, Free Shipping) in the price of the purchased item, or (2) they do not raise the price but have determined that the cost of the discount would  still allow for making some profit on the item.

A variation of #2 above is what we, and others, use: free shipping if your purchase is at least a certain dollar amount. In our case, an order of $50 or more entitles you to free shipping.  This way provides a win-win for both the merchant and the customer--the merchant still covers costs and makes some profit and the customer saves on items they wanted to purchase.

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Barbara Buchanan blogs on Life and Adventures as Entrepreneurs