Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Conundrum Of Etsy

In my musings last week when I thought I made a decision to let KrugsStudio.etsy.com and AlanKrugFineArt.etsy.com run itself down, I also began to ask why? In theory Etsy should be a wonderful marketplace and for some it is. For the vast majority though, something in the vicinity of 1.5 million souls, we wrestle with getting our names out there and sales made. What makes it harder in my mind is that Etsy, unlike any of the others, Amazon, eBay and now Alibaba, is afraid of advertising and using some of our paid money so Etsy will be on the lips of every buyer out there.

Looking at my "favors" as that is all that is recorded, I began to realize more than 90% of the viewers that favored me we also sellers, not buyers. It was after getting my hands slapped for thanking people who visited my store (yes, that's illegal in the Etsy universe) I truly became aware of who was checking me out. And yet, every single item I have sold was to a buyer, no sellers among them. Now I have bought items from Etsy sellers and keep an eye on the competition as well. Its like the owners of the stores at the mall are busy checking each other out and there are few "outsiders" that enter and maybe purchase.

It was very disconcerting when people at the gallery show asked if I sold in other venues. When I said yes and handed them a card with my Etsy store address I got nothing, and I mean nothing, but blank looks. No one had heard of Etsy and in fact other than a few such as my daughter and wife among them, neither has anyone else. It appears then that for the vast majority of sellers, even at 20¢ a four month pop and millions of items listed, Etsy and a very select few are the only winners.

Advertising is the key not just on the Internet but magazines, TV, newspapers, the sides of buses and the names emblazoned on sports stadiums. You may not like AT&T but you will still go to the stadium that has their name on it. Personally I feel that its time for Etsy to spend some of that cash and advertise, get their brand known out there. While you may not know a thing about Alibaba over 500 million Chinese do and after watching Jack Ma on 60 Minutes Sunday, so will you. He's brash, not afraid to tackle new things and personally driven. His sales are bigger than Amazon and eBay combined and unlike Amazon has made tremendous profits. Other start ups like Etsy are around but for most part are irrelevant or are for me. I wonder if I could sell on Alibaba...for once be ahead of the curve?

A friend has pointed out there are a bunch of things I should do including getting my own web site. When I had my firm I did web sites for several clients who paid me handsomely to do it. It took a lot of time but as the hours ticked by, so did billing. It was difficult, I was entering my 60's and it just wasn't fun. I was a print man and told one and all that if desktop publishing was like web design we would still be using hot type set on a Letterpress. While kids today may think its fun corralling pages and photos to where they belong, I did not. There was a box and you put either a photo or text in it and it didn't move around. Period.

The amount of time a site takes can be staggering if you want to remain current and relevant. Its a day job. That is not what I signed up for. I love the creative aspect and always have. However, I don't make enough to afford a web site designer. Just like Etsy, they would make money and I might not. So I only ask that I get to create and sell my birdhouses and that Etsy make my job easier and more worthwhile by advertising its great collection of artists from around the world.

Please visit my craft store at KrugsStudio.etsy.com and my fine art store at AlanKrugFineArt.etsy.com. Thank you for stopping by and reading!


  1. Etsy did a TV promotion in the UK. Also advertised on the subway here in Toronto , but I did not see it.
    It might be difficult to promote a "hand made" site when it is crammed with factory made junk
    Also they are completely ignoring vintage and supplies.
    I believe etsy has no clear idea of where it is going and how to define themselves.t

  2. Hey Alan
    I like your article.
    I responed on Etsy but they would not allow any more posts.
    You should ad an Etsy mini to this blog.
    I have not posted on my blog in so long but everyday I get traffic from my Etsy mini on my blog.
    Thank you for starting the conversation.
    I love your photography. You are blessed with a wonderful gift.
    Have a great day

  3. I really like Etsy, but wish more people knew about it. More advertising would be great!

  4. Lola and Bea,

    I have never heard of the Etsy mini, how does one create one for the blog?

  5. Hey Alan, good article. You're right, Etsy does need to advertise, let people know they are available. Just relying on search engines, isn't doing it. I know, I too am on Etsy, & have been for some time. I'm just getting traction there, with my photo labels, & soon, I trust, with my box printing & making.
    So few people know to land on Etsy as a page, it isn't funny. Heck, it was even mentioned in a movie, & no one got it (except for those of us on Etsy). One small news blurb, years ago isn't helping. Many of their business practices & rules are, shall we say, odd. It's not a medium for everyone, that's for sure, I've been on some of the other ones, & it surely isn't much better. Good luck with your painting, you do a fantastic job. Sorry I have to be anonymous, but there isn't a listing for my sign in preferences, so I'll remain some cool cat ;}).

  6. When I started selling on Etsy seven years ago, no one had heard of it. i would occasionally see vendors at local craft fairs who also had an Etsy shop, but that was rare. Telling people I had an Etsy shop would get blank looks and "whats that?"

    That has completely changed in the last few years, and not for the better. My college-age daughter's friends think of Etsy as the place to go for cheap knock-offs of stuff they see at the mall, or trademark theft that more well known sites won't allow. Want something with Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Doctor Who or your favorite boy band, but dont want to pay store prices? Go to Etsy. Some sellers at local craft fairs are now saying they wont sell through Etsy because they dont want to be associated with the mass produced look and feel of it.