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Is Selling on Etsy Right for You? Part 1

What sells on Etsy, and who buys on the marketplace?

We have relatives who give beautiful handmade quilts as special gifts. Each one is unique and represents hundreds of hours of painstaking work. They’re just the kind of items you might find for sale on Etsy, the bohemian bazaar for creative types with a bit of entrepreneurial spirit in them.

If you haven’t considered selling on Etsy before, now is a great time to check it out. Etsy is the best online market for selling handmade goods, both vintage and new, including jewelry, clothing, furniture, toys and everything related.

In EcommerceBytes’ 2013 Sellers Choice Awards, where more than 11,000 ecommerce merchants ranked 16 marketplaces, Etsy came in at No. 1.

Should you be selling on Etsy? In this series we’ll discuss the kinds of things sold there, how to list them most effectively, and how to market and promote for the site. By the time we’re done, you’ll know if Etsy is a place for you, and you’ll have a clear path toward getting started on the site.

People on Etsy are passionate about it, something you don’t see much anymore when it comes to online marketplaces

In this article we’ll consider what to sell on the site, and we’ll look at who your potential customers might be. But first, we’ll give you a little background on Etsy.

A marketplace sellers are passionate about

Whereas it’s taken a while for Etsy to build traction, the fact is that there’s money to be made on the marketplace, and it’s quite possible to make selling on Etsy your full-time job. The key is having the right merchandise and marketing it effectively.

We know you have heard that before. But each online marketplace is different, and Etsy definitely has its own character. Consider its pedigree.

Founded by Rob Kalin, who the site describes as a painter, carpenter and photographer, Etsy now has more than 22 million members and hosts more than 800,000 shops.

What’s more, people on Etsy are passionate about it, something you don’t see much anymore when it comes to online marketplaces. On Facebook, Etsy’s received more than 1 million likes, and more than 1.8 million people follow Etsy on Twitter.

Sell what’s different

Sourcing means different things when you’re talking about eBay and Amazon as compared to Etsy. As an Etsy seller, your emphasis may well be less on where to acquire items for resale at the right price and more on what you might be able to make yourself.

Ann Marie Cernoch, who sells gadgets and unique jewelry items through ElectronicGirl, suggests you think about “what can you create that not many others can.”

Ann Marie Cernoch suggests you think about “what can you create that not many others can.” The next step is to “turn that skill into a great-quality product”

The next step, she advises, is to “turn that skill into a great-quality product.”

Yamini Kukreja opened her shop, KangarooCrafts, to share a hobby she loves with the rest of the world.

“I sell hand-crocheted items, mostly made from my own original patterns and designs,” Kukreja tells us. “I try to make products that are different from the others. For example, when I made my music scarf, I knew that I wanted to make a scarf because it was the season to bundle up, so I took some time to develop a design that was uncommon in the marketplace, and it has now become my best seller.”

‘A fabulous concept’

Through her store, kate pixley designs, Kate Pixley sells makeup bags, wristlets, clutches, coffee cozies, diaper wristlets, clutches, baby bedding, name pillows, sippy cup leashes, Sophie savers and lots more. And Michele Rappoport sells “playful art from recycled objects” in her store, Blingaling.

Step into her shop, and you might find gift tags made from recycled cardboard, origami earrings, nesting boxes and necklaces made with vacuum tubes. Rappoport admits she’s not especially into computers, but she’s definitely artistic. She feels Etsy is “a fabulous concept” in that it “found a way to give people affordable online presences.”

As more food for thought, here are the categories of items available for sale on the site:

  • Art
  • Home & Living
  • Jewelry
  • Fine Jewelry
  • Women
  • Men
  • Kids
  • Vintage
  • Weddings
  • Craft Supplies
  • Trending Items
  • Spring Celebrations
  • Gift Ideas
  • Mobile Accessories

Not just for crafters

“What is popular on Etsy varies on a daily basis, but one thing that is constant is that Etsy is the place where people come to buy things that are unique”

For specifics about what sells on the site, we turned to Etsy’s public relations team who told us the following:

“What is popular on Etsy varies on a daily basis, but one thing that is constant is that Etsy is the place where people come to buy things that are unique, personal and that can’t be found anywhere else. Jewelry is currently our No. 1 category. Weddings, clothing and housewares are popular as well. Furniture was the fastest-growing category on Etsy this year, growing 134 percent from 2011.”

If you’re not a “crafts person,” for example, but a good ecommerce merchant, is Etsy a viable site for you? Etsy says “absolutely.” In an email interview, Stella Shi from the Etsy public relations team elaborates.

“Etsy has always been an open marketplace, inviting any seller worldwide who meets our policies to sell in the Etsy marketplace,” she says. “We welcome any independent, creative businesses, whether creators, collectors, or suppliers, and whether they have experience selling on other platforms or have never sold before. You can learn more here about what can be sold on Etsy.”

Who is the Etsy customer?

As you’re thinking about what you might sell on the site, you might also give some thought to who might want to buy your stuff.

“Who is your target market/buyer?” Cernoch suggests you ask yourself. “Promote to those people.”

Etsy says its shoppers are primarily female, but that it has a “strong and growing” male shopper presence

“I would also look for a target market that has disposable income to spend,” she adds. “If they don’t have the money to spend, then they can’t buy.”

Etsy says its shoppers are primarily female, but that it has a “strong and growing” male shopper presence. Its shopper audience is global, with transactions taking place across 150 countries.

Of course, if you can appeal to a broad base of buyers, you’ll boost your chances for sales.

Kukreja suggests you appeal to all kinds of buyers. “I am really focusing on offering as many options as possible to attract as many people as possible,” she reports. “For people who are looking for an especially one-of-a-kind item, I am open to custom orders, where people can convey their idea, and I can make it real for them.”

Ready to look into Etsy further? Our next article will cover running your Etsy store, from listing items to maximizing your chances for sales, including writing descriptions to titles and tags for search optimization, pictures and pricing. It’s not unusual for Etsy sellers to sell directly to wholesalers, so look for information on that topic, too!

About the author

Brad & Debra Schepp
Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Alibaba.com Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book is How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Brad is also a literary agent for Waterside Productions. For further information, visit the couple's website, bradanddeb.com. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • dave Meixner

    dont bother! as an Etsy shop owner for 5 years – other shops are leaving faster than you can blink – Etsy does not support the shops, customers leave ridiculous feedback – lots of other shop supported sites to choose – etsy will be in the dust in no time!

  • Most insightful information…Thank You!

  • Derrick Lindsey

    Thank you. I am going to have to try them out.



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