The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of selling on Etsy (and what you can do about it)

There are many benefits of selling your wares through Etsy and others but there are some problems too.  Let’s start with the good.

  • They provide traffic from their large user base and you receive a portion of it.
  • They build the website for your and you just upload your products.
  • They are recognized as more trustworthy than an unknown site.
  • They help you with Customer Service, FAQ’s, Forums.
  • You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They already figured out a method that works.
  • Extremely low startup costs.
  • Extremely fast startup process.

For many people, the above will always outweigh any bad.  Generating traffic and establishing your website are the hardest parts of eCommerce and they largely handle those tasks for you.  Even so, there are some drawbacks.  Here’s the bad.

  • Very limited design control.  While you can make some customizations and changes, the sites are pretty cookie cutter which means you’re out of luck if you want a different design or additional features.
  • Fees.  While you definitely receive something in return, there is no doubt that listing fees, Etsy fees, and Pattern fees can eat into your bottom line.
  • Copy-Cats.  It’s possible to run into people stealing your ideas online no matter where you sell but Etsy seems to be particularly susceptible to this issue.

It would be great if you didn’t have to deal with these issues but for most, they aren’t deal breakers because they are to a degree just the cost of doing business.  There are still, however, a few “Ugly” aspects that have many Etsy sellers worried.  Here they are:

  • Traffic-  Strangely enough, traffic is both #1 “Good” aspect and #1 “Ugly” aspect.  The traffic that you enjoy from being a seller on Etsy is generated largely by the marketing Etsy has done to create their brand awareness as well as the marketing they do to ensure they are listed highly for search engine listings.  If they decide to greatly reduce their ad spend, you’ll see your traffic and sales plummet with nothing you can do about it.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening right now1st Page ranking for Etsy
  • Banning- Etsy walks a thin line in terms of protecting intellectual property rights and allowing sellers to make them money selling unlicensed goods.  It seems as though they will pretty much let anything go unless it gets reported in which case they will ban you from the platform.  If you’re a hobby seller, this isn’t a big deal but if you just quit your 9-5 to sell on Etsy full time and get kicked to the curb without notice, that’s what I call Ugly.

As of today, Etsy has 10,188 first page listings.  Since they began tracking their first page listings in January of 2012, that number has never been below 14,946.  Not only are fewer people finding Etsy on the first page when they conduct a search, but there are more sellers to compete with within Etsy than ever.  As of May of 2016, Etsy has 1.6 Million sellers.

Worried yet?  Don’t be.  While slumping sales are tough on your wallet and your heart, they may be a blessing in disguise.

The Solution: Control Your Online Destiny

Here’s how:

  • Stay on Etsy.  Even if traffic has slowed down drastically, it’s better than no traffic at all.
  • Launch your own stand-alone eCommerce store.  There are a ton of options available online but as someone who has worked with  literally dozens of different platforms and seen first-hand how they look, how they are built, what the costs are, what the hidden costs are, I strongly recommend this.
  • Drive your own traffic to your store.  To do this successfully, you’ll need multiple sources of traffic to work as a “funnel”.
    • External Business Blog– Consistently create unique, compelling content and use keyword anchor links to point at your website.
    • Social Media Marketing- Spread your blog content across any and all relevant social media platforms and grow your following organically.
    • Grassroots Marketing Campaign- Include a card with your shipped product inviting your customers to upload photos of them with your product tagging your store account and using a particular hashtag in exchange for a discount on future products.
  • Get Help from a skilled professional.  I will provide you with 2 FREE 3o min sessions to troubleshoot, plan, teach on any area of your eCommerce business you want.  I’ve had many people ask why I give my time away for free and here’s the best answer I can come up with.  If I spend an hour of my time with you and you don’t sign up, the worst that has happened is that I’ve helped another human being; and I’m alright with that.  Also, why do you think they give out free samples at Costco?

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