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Is Selling on Etsy Right For You? Part 2

How to run your Etsy store for success

In our first article about selling on Etsy, we discussed the kinds of things merchants sell on the site and who shops there. Now it’s time for you to explore running your own Etsy store.

We won’t go through the process of setting up an Etsy store. That process is detailed nicely on the site and easy to follow. If you’ve ever set up an eBay Store, for example, the process will seem very familiar. Instead, we’ll provide tips from shop owners about writing descriptions, taking pictures, listing, customer service and—this is especially important—working with wholesale buyers.

A great resource for selling on Etsy is the Etsy Seller Handbook. It is a collection of Etsy’s favorite resources about successful selling on the site. Other recommended resources include the Seller Handbook’s Best-Of Archive.

“Think about ways to make your product and online business stand out from the crowd. Monitor what’s working and go with it”

Kimm Alfonso, Etsy’s community development manager, suggested this article from the Etsy Blog. It has Etsy’s top 10 tips to help get people ready to launch an Etsy business.

She also added her own two cents, “Think about ways to make your product and online business stand out from the crowd. Monitor what’s working and go with it!”

Now, assuming you’ve perused the above articles and have a rudimentary store in place, let’s gather some pointers from experienced merchants selling on Etsy about running successful shops.

Titles and tags

If you don’t tell your potential customers you exist, how will they find your store? That’s one big reason why your store’s title, as well as the tags you assign to describe it are so important.

Search engines look for those things. Jesi Josten of Hip Violet advises “sellers make sure their shops are set up correctly for Etsy’s relevancy search results. That means making sure your titles and tags are set up for people who are searching for that particular item. There are very informative articles out there that explain how this works, why it’s so important and how to do it.”

Josten recommends this article, which she says is one of her favorites from the Etsy forums.

Kate Pixley of kate pixley designs had a lot to say about tags.

“Tags, oh tags. OK, so originally I thought, ‘Wow a coffee cozy, 13 tags: coffee, tea, mocha, cuff, cozy, cozie, java, etc.’ No, no, no! I’ll say this again no!” she notes. “People search for more than one word, so I updated it and now get upwards of 400 hits daily! [I went with] coffee cozy, coffee cozie, tea cozy, java jacket, mocha muff, etc.”

Picture perfect

The pictures of your items can make or break a sale. Etsy sellers had some good points to share on this topic.

“Make it easy for them to see exactly what they are getting by providing in-focus, well-lit photos of your product from every angle”

First off, Josten implores sellers they make sure they have “excellent photos.”

Josten reminds sellers that “you have to remember that online a customer can’t pick up, touch and feel your product.

“Make it easy for them to see exactly what they are getting by providing in-focus, well-lit photos of your product from every angle,” she suggests. “Use natural light instead of a flash and make sure if you have small items you know how to use the macro setting on your camera to get the best focus.

“A tripod is a great tool to use, too,” she continues. “I reluctantly bought one a few years ago and can’t believe how much better it’s made my photos!”

Pixley had some advice for sellers who have strengths other than photography.

“Take amazing pictures, this isn’t always possible, you might only have a point and shoot [camera],” she notes. ” … So offer to exchange product for pictures with a local photographer. It makes a huge difference. I mean these items are blood sweat and tears, and then a bad picture turns them into a mud puddle.”

List every day

While you’re at it, list often, suggests Lisa Sumner of JustCoolRecords.

“[List] every day, if possible, or as often as you can,” she says.

Elizabeth Cogliati operates Lizbeth’s Garden and she agrees with Sumner.

“I am much more likely to get a sale if I list an item every day,” Cogliati notes. “If I list an item every day for a week and promote it on social media, I will almost certainly get a sale in that week or the next. Whereas it’s not at all certain I will get a sale if I do not list every day.”

Along these lines, Pixley advises you feature as many items as you can. “Get over 50 items listed if possible, over 100 and you will hit more searches,” she reports.

Customer service counts here, too

Provide excellent customer service, and you’ll definitely boost your chances of cultivating a dedicated client list. Liz Binder thinks that’s the secret to her thriving shop.

“I work hard to keep every one of my customers satisfied,” she tells us. “I provide fast service to exceed their expectations, make each and every one feel as though they are my only customer, pay close attention to detail, and offer a reasonable and fair response to any issues that may arise.”

“I add in special gifts for repeat customers or large orders, and always include a handwritten note in every package. I feel that this reduces some of the anonymity associated with online shopping”

She adds that because she only works on her shop, she’s able to respond to, create, and complete orders quickly, while paying careful attention to be sure the work is done how she would want it, “on time, with attention to detail, and always designed with a memorable and personal pinch of spice.”

Yamini Kukreja of KangarooCrafts thinks her shoppers appreciate being updated regularly about the status of their orders.

“I send an email when the order is received, let them know how long it will take to arrive and send an email when it has been shipped,” she says. “I also check back to make sure they have received their item fine and are happy with the order.”

Kukreja also personalizes many of the packages she sends out.

“I add in special gifts for repeat customers or large orders, and always include a handwritten note in every package,” she continues. “I feel that this reduces some of the anonymity associated with online shopping and people feel more inclined to give me feedback on their overall satisfaction.”

Catering to the wholesale buyer

More than one Etsy seller told us that wholesaler buyers were an important part of her customer base. Dana Morton, who runs EarthborneArt sends out links to potential wholesale buyers, so they can easily look at her products.

Tiffany Barry of In a Pretty Box suggests that merchants selling on Etsy should be “open to negotiation with a wholesale buyer. They have a budget, too.”

Also, Barry says to treat your wholesale buyer as fantastically as any other buyer who comes to your shop. But you knew that.

Lots of Etsy sellers court wholesale buyers, and Etsy is well aware of that market’s importance. Later this year the company will launch Etsy Wholesale.

Lots of Etsy sellers court wholesale buyers, and Etsy is well aware of that market’s importance. Later this year the company will launch Etsy Wholesale

“This will be a business-to-business platform where retailers—local boutiques, museum stores, national retailers like West Elm—can discover and connect with fresh talent who offer wholesale pricing and larger quantities, in a trusted and easy-to-use environment,” Etsy officials tell us.

The company adds that Etsy Wholesale “will be a private place where wholesale buyers can connect with vetted vendors, view their online line sheets and submit orders. Vendors or sellers will have to apply to the wholesale marketplace and talk about their prior experience wholesaling, and whether they have business insurance, among other questions.

Sellers who want to do wholesale should be able to scale their production, have appropriate wholesale pricing and most importantly possess a passion for growing their businesses,” Etsy adds.

Etsy says it sees Etsy Wholesale as an additional online channel “for sellers who don’t want to spend the money on tradeshows, and for retailers who are looking for fresh products that are available all year round.”

Live and learn

Pixley was candid about her recent ups and downs as an Etsy shop owner.

“I originally thought ‘OK, upload a picture and set a price, and you will make a sale.’ Then I was told, ‘Renew your listings,'” she reports. “So, daily, I would renew. I might sell one bag every now and then, but really never had positive cash flow. By August 2011, I had only 15 sales and that was hardly covering the cost of fabric. Well, I didn’t close my shop. I just didn’t update any listings or sell any items. In May 2012, I decided to relaunch kate pixley designs and read everything, learn everything possible, and apply it to the best of my abilities.”

Pixley’s diligent work has paid off.

In part of this series, 3 we’ll discuss effective strategies for marketing and promoting your Etsy store, and cover branding, how to drive traffic to your store and using the Etsy site itself to your best advantage.

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.



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