Selling on Etsy: The Pros & Cons

Monday, March 18, 2013

In the last few months I have received some emails asking about Etsy. How much I like or dislike it as well as how I get my listings to show up in search results. While I am by no means an expert, I have come across a few tips and tricks that have helped me steadily increase my sales and I am always hoping to learn new ways to help my shop succeed. SO, I thought I would add this feature (Selling on Etsy) to the blog and I hope that it will help those of you already running an Etsy shop as well as those of you who are thinking about opening one!

To answer the question of whether or not I like Etsy, I obviously am a big fan. Without it, I wouldn't have a place to sell my goods at the moment. But, just like many things in life, there are pros and cons, so I thought I would start out sharing my thoughts on those.

PROS OF SELLING ON ETSY

01 | EASY TO OPEN UP SHOP.

Setting up your Etsy shop is so easy. There aren't that many options for customization, which as you'll see below, I view as a con, but it does make for easy set up. They walk you through step by step until your shop is up and ready to go.

02 | ETSY ADVERTISES.

I don't know much about how this works, but I have traffic driven to my shop daily from Google product listing ads that are paid for by Etsy. Obviously, if I make money, Etsy makes money, but it's nice to know there is someone else promoting my shop.

03 | IT'S A SMALL WORLD.

By selling through Etsy, my goods have been put in front of the faces of people across the planet. I don't do any paid advertising and I rely strictly on social media, word of mouth, and Etsy searches. People all over can search "return address stamps" on Etsy and my stamps will show up nearly on every page (including the first). If they were to simply search "return address stamps" on Google, there is no telling how far down in the results my shop and stamps would be. Etsy has given me the tools to be accessible to the public.

04 | ANALYTICS.

I love that Etsy keeps track of traffic to my shop and listings as well as how people are finding me. I know exactly what keywords people are looking under when they find my listings. This helps when listing a new product. I can figure out the types of keywords potential customers are searching under and use that to my advantage.

CONS OF SELLING ON ETSY

01 | BRAND RECOGNITION.

This is something that I myself have been guilty of, but a lot of times when someone is asked where they got an item (that they purchased from Etsy), their response is typically, "I got it on Etsy". They don't mention the seller who has worked so hard to create their products. For example, one of my customers blogged about her wedding invitations. She had purchased one of my return address stamps to use with them and when telling her readers about it, she simply said "I got it from Etsy". She did link to the stamp she purchased in my shop so I'm thankful for that, but there was no mention of my name anywhere. Unless a reader decided to click through, they would have never heard of me. Now, I am not putting blame on my customer in any way. As I said above, I'm guilty of this as well and I completely understand. It is however, a con of running an Etsy shop and it can make it hard to distinguish yourself as a legitimate shop owner and not just a hobbyist, but it can be done. I'll share more on that in an upcoming post!

02 | VISIBLE NUMBER OF SALE.

Your sales are on display for everyone to see, as well as the date you opened your shop. This allows everyone to see how well your shop has done in the time period your shop has been "open". For me, this hasn't been very helpful. As you can see, I "opened" my shop on December 1, 2010 and I (at the time I'm writing this post) have 514 sales. These numbers say that I've done OK and have had on average, under 300 sales a year. In reality, I created and sold my first listing in October of 2011. So in about a year and a half I have made 514 sales. That ratio is much better but customers don't look into that. They only see what is right in front of them. The number of sales you have gives new buyers confidence in you and your shop. If they see you have hundreds or even thousands of sales, they might be more likely to buy from you since others have as well. This obviously can pose a problem for new shop owners. It may take awhile for your sales to start growing, but I promise once they do, they won't stop! :)

03 | MINIMAL CUSTOMIZATION.

Besides your Etsy banner and how you style your photographs, there isn't much opportunity to distinguish your shop from others on the Etsy platform. This contributes to con number one. If my shop looks like all the other stationery and paper good shops, what is going to make customers choose me? There are lots of answers to this question and I hope to cover it in an upcoming Selling on Etsy post!

04 | FEAR OF NEGATIVE FEEDBACK.

I've said this many times before, but people do not like to read. It doesn't matter whether I have something listed in my shop policies or in the listing, chances are someone won't read it. I have found myself breaking my own rules in order to avoid negative feedback. The reality is, that even if the customer misunderstood or made a mistake, if I don't eat the cost and make it right, they can still leave me negative feedback, which is also visible to the public. I do like the feedback feature as someone who buys from Etsy, however someone can make an accusation about you or your shop and you have no chance to defend yourself. I've been blessed with wonderful customers and have 100% positive feedback but there have been times where I lost profit in order to correct a customer's mistake (typo in return address information) to avoid getting any negative feedback. I want my customers to be completely satisfied with their product, but this is my business and my ultimate goal is to turn a profit.

DO YOU RUN AN ETSY SHOP? I'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

What kinds of pros and cons have you found through your experience? Let me know in the comments section!

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7 comments

  1. Stephanie, I just want to say first of all that I absolutely adore your shop, website, and blog. I love all of the vibrant colors and the cohesiveness and organized layout of your shop and website! :) This is such a great post and the things you mentioned are right on target. The things that stood out to me the most were your points about number of sales and negative feedback. I know that I constantly look at the number of sales compared to how long a shop has been open even though it annoys me the feature is even there! LOL! I have had a shop on Etsy for three years now (Freckle Fox Boutique) and I know exactly what you are talking about as far as negative feedback. I have 100% in my shop as well, but there have been customers I had to eat the cost for because they either didn't read, didn't provide the right address, or didn't specify something when purchasing. It's really frustrating and at least on eBay you have the opportunity to respond to a negative feedback. The plus side is that Etsy has a kiss-and-makeup feature if someone DOES leave you negative feedback so that it can be changed once you both rectify the issue - but even still, sometimes you have to recreate the item(s) and it really wasn't your fault. I wish it was something that could be settled within Etsy instead of the customers. One thing that I didn't see in your post that is a big thing for me is that I have been seeing LOTS of non-handmade items on Etsy recently and they aren't really doing anything about it. I see jewelry all the time on there that are from wholesale websites I have joined (bubble necklaces, scripted "love bracelets" and so on) and these people claim to make the items. I wish they looked into that a little more. Overall, great post and I will definitely be sharing it! :)

    Shannon @ Freckle Fox Boutique
    www.etsy.com/shop/frecklefoxboutique

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  2. Hi Shannon! Thank you so much for your kind words and feedback! I see what you're saying about the non-handmade items. I'm not sure how Etsy decides what is considered handmade because I have seen shops be shut down by Etsy for not being "handmade" but they are selling the same products as many other shops still allowed to sell on the platform! Overall, I'm pretty happy with my experience with Etsy, but I am counting down the days until I can open my very own shop with all the functionality I need. Thanks again for your input! :)

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  3. Hi Stephine,
    I found you through Google. I was researching the pros and cons of Esty. You are extremely helpful to me. Thank you for taking the time to post this information. I still have a lot more to read (and taking notes) up on Esty. I want to find a good "shop" for my handmade items and I'm learning so much more then, post item and wait for it to sell. Good luck to you and thanks again.

    Tracie

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  4. Hi Tracie! Thank you so much for your comment! I'm glad the post has helped you with your Etsy research! :) If you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask! Good luck!

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  5. Hey Stephanie, I am a designer and during my research for a client's Etsy shop I read this. Thank you very much. Great read.

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    1. I'm so glad to hear that! I'm working on an updated version because a lot has changed with Etsy in the last couple of years! ;)

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  6. Well, the best thing about Etsy is that it has practically prepared the shop for you in the form of the site layout and features that are pretty much uniform for all of its users. The only thing that you need is to set up there. You will also have to promote your brand by yourself, but that is okay. It's always how it is whenever you market a product. You have to make your product something that people would want to have and buy.

    Clint Shaff @ Franchise Match

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