Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tips For New Etsy Sellers: Part One, The Basics

Running an Etsy shop is serious business. It can be rewarding and fun, but first and foremost it is a business and needs to be handled as such. If you have visited the forums on Etsy, no doubt you have read more than one post where a seller complains that their sales are slow or nonexistent, or that no one is visiting their shop, or that they are ready to throw in the towel (and so on.) I mention these things because the reality of running an Etsy shop can be very different that what most people imagine it to be. Competition can be fierce. The market is over-saturated. After all, this is the DIY generation living the DIY revolution. Don't let that scare you. Let it instead make you aware and prepared so that you can be one of the success stories. In this article, "Part One, The Basics" I will give you some basic, useful information about running your Etsy shop. I hope that you find this information helpful. Please feel free to leave you comments at the end of the post. 

Part One, The Basics

Qualities Of A Successful Etsy Shop

A successful Etsy shop has...

  • Quality Photos
  • Descriptive Item Titles
  • Complete, Concise Item Descriptions
  • A Product That Is Unique Unto Itself
  • Ample Inventory
  • A Friendly, Responsive Shopkeeper & Excellent Customer Service
  • A Stated Return Policy

Here's a closer look:

1. A Successful Etsy Shop Has Quality Photos

You do not need to have an expensive digital camera to take great photos, but you do need to know how to use what you have. Learn how to use your camera and all of it's settings and adjustments. Know that most customers browse items by photos first and by reading product titles second. Basically, your photo must speak volumes: it should be in focus, well lit, the colors should be correct, and it should be an excellent representation of your item. There are many free online photo editing tools that are helpful for cropping, color correcting, sharpening, etc. One that I have found useful is Picnik.  Also, Etsy allows you to put five photos of your item in each listing. Use ALL five slots. Consider showing your item from different angles. Also, use a background that compliments your item but be sure to keep it basic and uncluttered by props or distracting patterns. Keep it simple!

2. A Successful Etsy Shop Has Descriptive Item Titles

This is more important now than ever. Etsy recently revamped it's entire search schematics so that when a shopper searches for an item with search terms, the "most relevant" items appear first in the results. Without being overly verbose, keep item titles basic and concise, being very careful of what words you choose. Be descriptive, but don't go overboard. Avoid fluff, fillers, and generalization. Be precise. Here is an example of two ways to describe the same necklace:
Wrong: Super cool colorful orangish necklace made with beads and chains
Right: Carnelian gemstone beaded necklace with sterling silver chain.
See the difference? Also, use your most basic descriptive key words in your item tags.

3. A Successful Etsy Shop Has Complete, Concise Item Descriptions
When describing your item be complete and to the point. Tell your customer what your item is, what it does, what it is made of, and describe the materials and or techniques you used to make your item. Why is your item interesting/useful/beautiful? Why should the shopper buy your item? Now is your chance to sell. Take the time to write good descriptions! Also, be sure to include accurate measurements and descriptions of materials used. A customer should not have to email you ask you how big it is or what it is made of. Put all of this information in the description. Do you offer next day shipping? International shipping? Gift wrapping? Was your work recently featured in a magazine? Put it in the description! 

4. A Successful Etsy Shop Has A Product That Is Unique Unto Itself

Widgets are popular. Everyone is making widgets. I will make widgets too. This way of thinking never works. What IS attractive to consumers is what is different and unique. Like the saying goes, "You were born unique, don't die a copy!" When you create something that is different than what everyone else is creating, you become known for your own personal style, creativity, and innovation. Customers then turn into repeat customers because they come back to YOU. Think of what you can do to stand out from the crowd and do it. 

John Mason

5. A Successful Etsy Shop Has Ample Inventory

Ah, yes, nothing like the forum complainer who says, "Gosh, my Etsy shop has been open for three months and I've yet to have one single sale (insert sad face here)"  Then I go and take a look at their shop and lo and behold, they only have four or five items listed for sale. Sheesh! Talk about being invisible in a sea of sellers... I think you get the point. Give shoppers a selection of items to choose from and they will spend more time in your shop.     

6. A Successful Etsy Shop Has A Friendly, Responsive Shopkeeper & Excellent Customer Service

Answer messages from shoppers (known on Etsy as "convos") promptly. Be friendly. Say Thank You. Express gratitude. Use common courtesy. Go the extra mile. It's simple, and it only takes one minute. You'd be surprised how many shop keepers do not do this. I've made purchases on Etsy where there was not one single word of communication from the seller. To me, this is unacceptable. Sure, my package eventually showed up in my mailbox, but after I made the purchase I wondered many things: if my order had gone through, when it would be shipped, if it even was shipped. Unresponsive sellers who don't care enough to thank their buyer do not deserve my business. It's as simple as this: create a document that says something to the point of, "Thank you for your order, your package will ship within X days. I appreciate your business and hope that you have a great day." Save that document and simply cut and paste as needed. 

7. A Successful Etsy Shop Has A Stated Return Policy
This shop area is often neglected. You can make your policy whatever you wish it to be, but have a stated policy. Whether you accept returned items for exchange, store credit, or whatever you decide, just have a written policy. Seeing it in writing boosts buyer confidence and lets the shopper know that you are a serious business person. Having a written policy also helps avoid misunderstandings that could occur down the road.

I hope that you gained some useful information from this blog post. Be sure to check back for Part Two, where I will talk about pricing your items, shipping, and branding!

My experience: I opened my first online storefront for my jewelry and artwork on Ebay in 1999, where I amassed over 3,800 positive feedback (yes, all positive! check it out here) and learned the ins and outs of online marketing. I later moved my storefront from Ebay to Etsy due to Etsy being a handcrafted marketplace that better suited my needs. I am a full time artist, designer, and writer, and my day is spent creating, designing jewelry, fulfilling custom orders, and maintaining my online shop