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Etsy review for merchants

Ecommerce Platforms|12.12.2014

Are you trying to reach a bigger audience with your new business? Etsy could be just the channel you're looking for.

Etsy is an online marketplace packed with a community of artists, designers and crafters selling their unique hand-crafted or vintage goods. Most of the products sold on Etsy fall into the category of either arts, crafts, jewellery, homeware or baked goods, so if you sell any of these it could be a perfect platform. 'Vintage' items, which Etsy defines as at least 20 years old, are also popular.

Etsy has over 1,000,000 active shops, and is a platform that is always rising in popularity, with more and more online shoppers recognising its status as a great place to find unique items and gifts.

This article discusses the main benefits and drawbacks of selling your products on Etsy.

Let's begin!

Benefits

1. Low cost to get set up

Etsy is not the only platform that you can use to sell your products online, but it is certainly one of the cheapest. It really does not cost you much to get set up selling on Etsy, especially when you consider the alternatives available to sellers of unique items: Not On The High Street, or a bespoke website for your products. Not On The High Street charges £199 + VAT as their joining fee (around £240), and takes a 25% commission on all sales you make, while having a website designed will cost even more. Etsy, on the other hand, lets you set up your shop for free.

2. Established community of buyers

Probably one of the biggest benefits that selling on Etsy can offer you is being a part of a very large, established community of loyal Etsy customers. While any small business should be constantly marketing themselves regardless, knowing that a lot of people visit Etsy could potentially help with having customers find you. Do bear in mind that traffic to Etsy does not equal traffic to your shop. You still have to make your products enticing and try to get featured by Etsy. However, take a look at the next point to see how you can get a keen new audience of Etsy lovers buying your products.

2. Great platform to grow a business

A marketing mix consists of four elements, known at 'The Four Ps': 

  1. Price 
  2. Product
  3. Promotion
  4. Place 

The 'Price' element is self-explanatory: it is defined by how much the customer has to pay for the item. The 'Product' element looks at the features of the item that is being put up for sale. 'Promotion' looks at the marketing of your shop and items, and how customers are informed of your products. 'Place' is where the products can be bought from, so Etsy in this case.

Here's how the marketing mix applies to someone thinking about selling on Etsy:

Bruce Forsyth has been saying it for years: you have to make sure that the price is right. One of the only disadvantages to e-commerce is that it's much easier for a visitor to click away from your site and find your competitor than it is for a customer to leave a store they are actually stood in. If your price is deemed too high by your visitors, then they won't convert into purchasers.

Your product has to be appropriate for selling on Etsy. As a general idea, the people that shop on Etsy are like those that shop in boutique outlets – they come looking for products that have a degree of originality to them and enjoy the personalised nature of buying directly from a designer-maker. To make any sales, you have to be offering Etsy's shoppers what they are looking for.

As mentioned earlier in this point, despite Etsy's high amount of traffic, you still have to market your shop effectively. To maximise your sales, do not ignore the 'Promotion' element of the marketing mix, but rather use all sorts of advertising to engage your potential customers. You can use free methods like social media engagement, and paid ones like Google AdWords, to drive customers directly to your shopfront.

Etsy does give you a great platform to sell your products, but that does not mean you have the 'Place' element of the marketing mix covered. Customise your shopfront as much as you can to try and reaffirm that you are a brand and make yourself recognisable to customers.

3. Sell instantly

Screenshot from Etsy.com

If you simply can't wait and want to begin selling your products as soon as possible, Etsy could be the route for you. It has a really easy and fast sign up process, and even offers a 'Sign Up Using Facebook' button. Once you have your account, you could start selling in just a few hours. If you have your product photography and descriptions ready, that is! Particularly beneficial if you want to start selling during peak shopping times of the year.

If you think of the alternatives for sellers of unique items, like Not On The High Street, or having a bespoke website designed and made, none can offer such a quick way to get selling quite like Etsy can. Not On The High Street takes a while to review your application to sell on their platform, while web design takes multiple weeks.

4. Secure

In a society that is (rightfully) becoming increasingly aware of its online safety, it's essential to make sure your customers feel comfortable shopping from you. Etsy is a secure platforms and offers checkout via PayPal - a payment gateway online customers are probably most familiar with.

Etsy also includes SSL encryption as standard for all of their sellers, which means that your online shop will automatically be secure. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer and always encrypts customer data that is sent over the internet - such as name, address, and bank details - so you know that there won't be any issues with data breaches. It is a requirement of the Payment Card Industry's compliance code to have an SSL certificate, and they can sometimes be troublesome to obtain, so Etsy's inclusion of this is a big plus for their platform.  This all helps to convert your visitors into purchasers. 

5. Offer discount codes and shipping

Image from Etsy.com

One of the best ways to keep customers visiting your online shop time after time is to offer a loyalty incentive. A great thing about Etsy is that it makes it very easy for you to implement various discount codes and shared shipping costs for the same customers. It's an excellent marketing tool that you can use to potentially drive customers back to your shop and gain more repeat orders.

Drawbacks

1. Expansion has reduced its support service

Screenshot from Etsy's forum

While Etsy used to offer live chat to all of their sellers, the fast-expanding nature of the platform meant that they put a stop to this service in 2011, after not being able to cope with the demands of their sellers. A lot of people on Etsy's forum have expressed a lot of anger and upset over this, claiming that the live chat feature was their lifeline when they first started their online shop and now their problems aren't dealt with as efficiently as they once were. You can see this in the screenshot above. It seems that Etsy was not prepared for its increase in users and has thus had to dilute its existing resources to make them stretch.

2. Overpopulation

An issue that is universally recognised by all of those that sell on Etsy is that there is far too much competition. This is worrying enough in itself, before you learn that it's estimated that there are more sellers on Etsy than there are buyers. With so many other people selling on Etsy, it may be hard for you to stand out and make many sales.

You can overcome this by putting more time and money into marketing, and generally sharpening and honing the elements of your marketing mix, which was explained in detail in point 2 of the 'Benefits' section. This increased competition could in fact be a blessing when trying to work out what the right marketing mix for your business is.

3. They take some of your profit

Etsy's fees are 20 cents to list each item, which is only listed for four months. In return for supplying you with an audience, they charge 3.5% of the product's price price when it sells. Some merchants may find this expensive, but as a new sales channel it could easily be worth it.

4. Not that customisable

Selling on Etsy is not nearly as personalised as having your own beskpoke e-commerce shop. The platform does offer some customisation tools, but they aren't extensive. You can add a banner to your shop and write up shop policies, but your URL will end in '.etsy.com', which can make your business seem less professional. Etsy, unlike eBay, does not offer HTML customisation, so the customisation of your shopfront is always going to be limited.

If you want your shopfront to be completely bespoke to your business's brand, you will need a website designed for you. Many people find that this is a natural next step once you've proved your business on Etsy.

5. No independence

Extract from Etsy's Terms of Use

If you're a bit of a control freak – and let's face it, who isn't? – then you might find being at the mercy of Etsy slightly unnerving. They reserve the right to suddenly shut your store down or change their fees without notice, so you never have the security of knowing that your business is safe. If Etsy put their fees up and you could no longer afford to run your business and make a profit, you could end up in a difficult situation.

You can see this plainly written in Etsy's Terms of Use in the extract pictured above. This is fairly normal for cloud based services but you may want to build your own standalone online store as a backup should they decide they don't like the look of you.

Conclusion

Etsy certainly has its merits as a platform if you're looking to get quickly set up selling online, but do bear in mind that the marketplace is highly competitive and you'll need to budget in the costs. We think it's a great way to trial a creative business idea and many crafty empires have grown out of their marketplace.

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