Many handmade artisans today will get or got their start on Etsy – and why not?
It’s inexpensive ($0.20 to list for four months, 3.5% transaction fee), an established and trusted brand with consumers, and friendly to crafters. But, over time, sellers and their shops needs change and many artisans are left wondering….should they leave Etsy for greener pastures?
The Handmade Wild West
It’s a classic American story – the scrappy startup with a unique vision builds a loyal tribe of devotees, grows and evolves over time, only to become a victim of it’s own success and leave a scattered wake of disillusioned and bitter former fans. Etsy is experiencing the tail end of this story, with hordes of sellers complaining about the “wild west”-like lack of regulation on cheap foreign-made goods flooding the “handmade” marketplace, while at the same time the sudden swift closure of shops who smell sort of like Taylor Swift. Not to mention the literally thousands of competing options that make it very difficult for your item to be found in the first place, most of whom are vastly underpriced.
$6.00 for this [handmade wire wrapped necklace]? Crazy!! These types of posts are probably why people don’t value handcrafted items. I definitely need to get away from Etsy. – Vicki
Should You Stay or Should You Go?
Despite the complaints, there are still a number of sellers who are quite content to remain on Etsy, for a variety of reasons… and there are some sellers who have decided that they needed a space of their own and closed their Etsy shop. While no one can make that choice for you, here’s a list of potential pros and cons that might make it a bit easier.
- low financial barrier of entry
- organic search traffic from Etsy buyers
- google search optimized
- free and easy google product listings (people can purchase your items directly from google shopping)
- associated with a brand consumers know and trust
- large community of sellers for support
- site is already mobile ready
- huge volume of searches on a daily basis (for Etsy as a whole)
- some boutique and store owners search Etsy for new vendors
- saturated marketplace in many categories
- many sellers are underpricing their goods which makes price positioning difficult
- unregulated mass manufactured goods also devaluing the marketplace
- transaction fees and credit card processing fees add up
- unable to collect emails easily from visitors
- customers can be tempted by other sellers while on your page (especially on mobile)
- etsy SEO is difficult to master
- limited visual branding opportunities
What Did I Do?
Personally, I found this to be a “both, and” choice as opposed to an “either, or” – when I created my own website I kept my Etsy shop open (still is, in fact!) and continued to make sales from it as I built up my audience on my personal channel. While I typically do not actively drive traffic, and would never pay to drive traffic, to my Etsy shop the sales I make from Etsy searches are more than enough to cover the fees that I pay to maintain the shop, and helps through leaner sales periods on my personal site. I have also received a couple of wholesale requests through Etsy that I may not have gotten otherwise, so for me the choice to leave my shop open has been easy.
I found this to be a “both, and” choice as opposed to an “either, or” when it came to Etsy and a personal website.
My friend Sara of Tiny Galaxies was in a similar situation earlier this year when she was opening up her own website, and her decision was also a good idea if you don’t want to manage a full inventory on two shops. She put her Etsy shop into vacation mode for the first two months or so after her launch, and took advantage of the new shop banner to post a beautiful photo of her earrings with her new website address overlaid. After she felt like she had a handle on the volume of her new shop, she reintroduced a selected handful of her best sellers and traffic drivers to her Etsy shop in order to retain that organic traffic she was getting from Etsy. In the listing details she informs her customers that if they would like to see the complete line or place a custom order they will need to visit her website. My one caveat to this technique is to be careful not to run afoul of Etsy’s fee avoidance rules, which basically amounts to not pushing people off-site to complete their transaction. Of course, Etsy could choose to interpret this differently at any time, so be prepared to adjust as you go to suit their rules.
So if you have decided to head for greener pastures where should you look? I’m a huge fan of Shopify for ecommerce – they are configured for it, their servers are blazing fast, and their customer support is top notch. If you know me you know I usually work in WordPress but it takes a lot of customization to get a WordPress site to run a decent sized ecommerce shop properly without issues because of the internal architecture of the software. Shopify was built for ecommerce so they don’t have those issues. They also have much better SEO than SquareSpace (who also isn’t built specifically for ecommerce).
What are you considering? Let’s chat about it in the comments!