We’re completing some work on improving the listing process and making it easier for sellers to comply with the Distance Selling Regulations. As part of this work we’re changing the way we manage postal zones.
Currently you choose from a long list of individual countries. It allows you to be specific about where you want to post to. But is a laborious process for those wanting to post to a selection of different countries and a barrier to people posting abroad. Consequently, it is also frustrating for people browsing on Folksy from outside the UK as they can’t easily see if they could receive items they like.
The data behind the decision
Approximately 26% of all our non-seller visitors are from outside the UK. The United States of America accounts for 12% of that traffic and European countries account for around another 10%. It’s a lot of potential buyers that sellers may be missing out on.
We want more people to opt into posting their items abroad and to do that we’ve chosen the simplest solution, which we believe is also the best: postal zones. Rather than choose a list of individual countries we will be splitting the world into four zones:
- The European Union
- USA and Canada
- Rest of World
Each zone is additional:
- If you add the EU Folksy includes P&P for the UK and the EU but nowhere else.
- If you add the EU and then the Rest of World it gives one price for the EU and then a price for everywhere else apart from the UK and the EU.
- If you add Rest of World but don’t include the EU or USA and Canada Folksy provides a P&P price for the UK and then one for everywhere else in the world including the EU and the USA and Canada.
I want to explain our rationale for doing this.
Zones not profiles
Having researched different ways to make choosing postal areas simpler we settled on two options: zones and profiles. Profiles are essentially settings that allow you to specify countries and prices for individual items. The pros are that they allow you to be specific but the cons are that they take time to set up for each product or item and you need to edit them if any details become outdated.
We also discovered during our research that (for the purpose of selling) most sellers in the UK carve up the world into four areas. There are four distinct areas: UK, Europe, the USA and Canada and then “everywhere else”. Not everyone thought this (some people who have family or friends abroad – for example in South Africa and Australia – specified those places) but the overwhelming majority did. This is our dominant world view: people don’t tend to specify individual countries. So “zones” are already an established concept and if we can keep to a few zones the process of choosing to post abroad should be simple.
We have four zones and we believe the overhead of choosing from four zones for each individual listing is lower than creating and maintaining profiles, especially as listings are now persistant, meaning that most people create new listings less frequently (and just re-list).
The EU not Europe
The one difficulty we faced was how to define ‘Europe’ as there are various definitions of the continent Europe. Wikipedia has a good overview of how Europe is defined:
Europe is now generally defined by geographers as the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, with its boundaries marked by large bodies of water to the north, west and south; Europe’s limits to the far east are usually taken to be the Urals, the Ural River, and the Caspian Sea; to the south-east, including the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea and the waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Because of sociopolitical and cultural differences, there are various descriptions of Europe’s boundary. For example, Cyprus is approximate to Anatolia (or Asia Minor), but is usually considered part of Europe and currently is a member state of the EU. In addition, Malta was considered an island of North Africa for centuries, while Iceland, though nearer to Greenland (North America), is also generally included in Europe.
Sometimes, the word ‘Europe’ is used in a geopolitically limiting way to refer only to the European Union or, even more exclusively, a culturally defined core. On the other hand, the Council of Europe has 47 member countries, and only 27 member states are in the EU. In addition, people living in insular areas such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, the North Atlantic and Mediterranean islands and also in Scandinavia may routinely refer to “continental” or “mainland” Europe simply as Europe or “the Continent”.
So, what should our postal zone of Europe map to? In researching this a few things to help us:
- The broader definition of Europe was not consistent with the popular conception of Europe. Most people saw Europe as “Mainland Europe” and in particular most those countries in the EU (although some people thought Norway, Switzerland and Iceland were in the EU and they’re not).
- Some people don’t feel comfortable selling to countries outside of their notion of “Mainland Europe”.
- PayPal doesn’t support many countries in the broader definition anyway (e.g. Turkmenistan), so if we used a broad definition we’d be being inconsistent in excluding them.
So even though the Royal Mail ships to a broad definition of Europe we feel that we should have a geographically limited definition and the most commonly understood “area” is that of the EU. The EU has 27 member states and includes:
- Czech Republic
- The Netherlands
- The United Kingdom
It doesn’t include a couple of countries that people ordinarily think of when they define mainland Europe: Switzerland and Norway. However, we feel that this is a compromise that is “good enough”.
When will this go live?
The postal zones will go live on the 10th September. We’re giving one month’s notice of this change. Once the change goes live people will be able to bulk edit their listings to change their listings to match the new zones.
We’ll update sellers nearer the time to remind them of the change and to edit listings to include postal zones.
What happens if you don’t edit your listings?
If you do not edit your listings after the 10th September then all your items will revert to posting to the UK only until you do edit your listings.