SETTING UP YOUR BUSINESS
AT CRAFT MARKETPLACES ONLINE
I recently posted an article I had read about selling on Etsy (http://www.today.com/money/etsy-nomics-lets-sellers-stitch-together-living-new-pattern-2D11591368) . There was a big response, so I thought I’d do a little more research. I have been selling online with my own websites for almost 20 years now, but have not had much experience with selling through these online marketplaces.
I have found that many people get frustrated with these sites, in that sales can be minimal, or the numbers of people they are competing with seems daunting. But I have found these same people not doing all the necessary “good business” tasks, such as some intensive and persistent marketing of their wares, and smart photo and text detail for their pieces.
Question: WHAT KINDS OF EXPERIENCES HAVE YOU HAD, and WHAT KINDS OF TIPS CAN YOU OFFER?
Here’s some of the things I have found.
First, there are many, many online marketplaces to choose from. Some let you set up your own website, and others show your merchandise as part of a larger marketplace. Each has pros and cons. Perhaps one lesson is:
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
My list of these sites include:
tophatter (an auction site)
Ebay (an auction site)
The PROS for any site:
- low commission on sales
- good traffic
- ease of setting up your shop
- having a lot of control over how your shop looks; how customizable it is
- no monthly fees
- web host does a lot of promotion
- site has a good search function
- site has good statistics, and lets you easily track traffic and what has sold, at what price point, and when, for both of your specific merchandise, as well as for all merchants with similar merchandise
The CONS for any site:
- high commissions and/or fees
- when site is too big, may be difficult to get noticed
- host limits how you list and present your items
- host restricts your contact with your customers
Other types of questions to ask:
- Does site handle the billing and payments for you?
- What kind of marketing does the site do?
- Is it relatively easy to set up your site and keep it updated?
- Are there are limitations on the numbers of items you might list at one time?
- Are there any limitations on the number or size of photos you can include on your site?
- How and where will your items appear in a search listing on the host’s site?
- What payment methods/options are allowed?
- Does the site restrict items to “Handmade” only, and how is “Handmade” defined? You do not want to compete with cheap, imported, machine made jewelry.
- How easy is it to contact customer service? Do they provide a lot of easy-to-follow tutorials for setting up and managing your site?
Different types of fees that might be assessed:
1. Listing fee
2. Sales commissions, usually as a percent of sale
3. Renewal fees (when listings are time limited)
4. Monthly site maintenance fees
Some Tips and Advice:
(1) Your items should be different enough from others to set you apart, and get you remembered
(2) If your items are similar to others, you might consider competing on price
(3) Do NOT depend on the host to promote your site; you must actively – that means, almost every day – do things to promote your site.
(4) Don’t just list your items and let them sit there
(5) Excellent photos are a must
(6) Treat your online shop as a business, not a hobby
(7) Categorize and label your jewelry and jewelry lines; picture the words someone might type into a search bar in order to find this jewelry, and use those as key words in your labeling
(8) Let your passion shine
Many, many people you will be competing with do not necessarily have good business sense, particularly when it comes to pricing their jewelry. People, in general, tend to underprice their pieces. They go out of business quickly. But while they’re in business, you are competing with them, and often you find it hard to compete on price.
This is a given. That means you have to spend more energy on marketing your competitive advantages, in order to justify the prices you need to charge, in order to stay in business. Some of this will come down to better presentation – more facts and great detailed images about your jewelry, and more details about the how your jewelry will benefit your customer. Better presentation equals more trust; more trust should translate into more sales. Some more competitive advantages: your jewelry is better made; it uses better materials; your line of jewelry is broader; you have better customer care policies; your style is more unique; your jewelry supports as “cause”.
And many, many more people you will be competing with have very good business sense. There are over 6 million items of jewelry on sale on Etsy at any one time – many by sharp, savvy artists. To get seen, heard and responded to takes emphasizing your competitive advantages, as well as persistent, broadly targeted marketing.