I recently received an email from an artist asking about calculating shipping costs on his website. This is a challenging issue for any artist who sells online, but especially for artists who work in 3-D.
Email from Artist
I make sculpture vases out of wood.
I have a question about your web site’s shipping instructions. I have a web presence. Unfortunately, it’s a ‘backyard’ special—I made it. When possible, I will devote the money required to have one professionally produced.
In the mean time, I would like to add a shopping cart like you describe your gallery has, to encourage additional sales.
Here’s my question: How do you deal with shipping costs for web generated sales? You must have many variables to consider when costing out a shipping price: crating, physical size, and weight for shipping the piece.
The packaging and shipping costs for my vases range from $12 to $80 for my small and medium sized vases. My larger vases are 24” tall and weigh 28 pounds Shipping on those are about $130 to $180. I do have FedEx do the double-box packing so they can’t come back to me if damage occurs during delivery and say I packed it wrong. I even have a 34” tall vase weighing in at about 70 lbs. I shudder to think about its cost. I suppose whoever buys that one will not be dissuaded from the shipping, however.
So that’s my problem: too much variability in packaging and shipping.
Do you have any suggestions on how to handle the variableness (to invent a word) of total costs for shipping for your web sales?
I fear if I have too high a shipping cost added to an already expensive vase, the potential client will shy away from the sale, or ask that I pay for it. I suppose I could include an averaged figure and add it to my cost of doing business to the web price of each item. My thinking is that with so many different regions in the country that require different rates, the potential for over pricing could negate a sale.
Thanks for any help, Jason,
Mike – this is a great question and not an easy one to answer. On our site we do exactly what you suggested – that is, we’ve taken an average of our shipping costs based on price of the artwork and tried to create a correlation between price of artwork and shipping cost. We’ve done this based on media (bronze sculptures and glass are more expensive to ship than paintings). Because we have a high volume (relatively) of sales we have enough data over time to create a fairly accurate average over our total sales. On any given shipment we may actually lose or make money on the shipping, but on average we break even. The reason we do it this way is that I believe there is a perception among buyers of what an “acceptable” shipping cost is relative to the the cost of the piece of art. In our case I believe that number is between 3-7% of the retail price (again, depending on medium).
What are the retail prices of your pieces? This is obviously a critical factor. If the vases are selling for $500, $130 for shipping is going to really impact your ability to sell.
As your volume of sales increases you can move your shipping in-house which is going to help you decrease the cost of shipping dramatically. There’s no reason you can’t double box the pieces yourself to FedEx standards and decrease the packaging and shipping cost to around $30-$50. Paying a retail FedEx or UPS location to package and ship the artwork is going to absolutely kill you.
As far as damage, I have filed claims on broken glass and never had a problem getting the carrier to pay if they were indeed at fault. Offering a much lower shipping cost will make a huge difference in your ability to sell online, and the more you ship the less damage you will have as you become more an expert in packing the pieces for safety.
For the website you could then take your variables and price the shipping based on worst-case scenario.
Remember, if your clients are accustomed to buying art, they are also accustomed to paying for the shipping as long as the price is fair.
What do You Think?
How have you dealt with shipping costs for your website? How do you calculate shipping for your medium? Do you generally come out even on your shipping costs? Share your responses to these questions or any other thoughts you have on shipping below in the comments.