Thursday, October 4, 2012

Selling Online Redux

In my last post, I commented about how different sales were between a small craft fair in the town where I live compared to a year long attempt to sell many of these same items on my store. Seven sales in a year compared to four sales in four hours.

ETSY is not the only store I have tried online. I also heard about and tried ArtFire and the sales were even worse after six item and that was to a friend.

Though I have asked the question and have seen the same question or variations of it in the "team" posts on ETSY, other than my daughter (who urged me by the way to try and sell my items there) and my wife, no one has ever heard of ETSY. Now, if you ask them about Amazon or eBay everyone has heard of them. With many independent shops that Amazon and eBay manage for small sellers, buyers rarely realize they are not buying directly from these giants.

You never see ads, and rarely references to ETSY though they boast over a million items for sale and ten of thousands of sellers. In my mind its the best kept secret on earth. Meanwhile, the 20 cents per item for four months and the 3.5% on any sales keeps mounting. One sleepless night I figured it has returns in the millions. To be fair, eBay and Amazon charge fees, and while not particularly cheap are a big step above a brick and mortar store and have a marketing presence felt around the globe. No seller in a store in Rosemead will ever have that reach.

Being a senior, this computer gig and the steps that are required to set up stores and manage marketing and such is difficult. i won't even start on trying to set up a YouTube movie today even following a book that managed to have settings changed since it was printed. Yet it is amazing that from the very first day they came out, I was completely able to master the first iPhone and all the versions since. In fact, other than a few pages, the iPhone comes with just about no detailed instructions. Kids and old folks manage to use them just fine thank you.

So the conundrum is do you break out of your home shop? How do you reach potential buyers? I tell you, I really would love to know and I know that I am not alone.

The ETSY community is interesting. They are helpful, kind and of course artistic. And that could also be the greatest weakness. A friend observed that views to my shop are from other sellers looking at the competition. And looking at the source of views to my store, I have rarely had less than 90% of all viewers that didn't came from ETSY. Now its true you don't have to be a seller to buy on ETSY. However, it is the majority of viewers.

It is tempting to say this is sour grapes. and according to the authors of the books I have read about selling on ETSY, they are selling like gangbusters. A closer look at the average, non author seller tells a different story. Many sellers have few sales and ask why. Others have seen their sales drop by over half over the past year. The authors? I am tempted to say that the reality is they sell far more books than crafts. Meanwhile, the rest of us continue to look for a way to break out from the pack.

The answer may well be to take those items and pound the pavement finding a suitable brick and mortar shop that is willing to buy or sell on consignment these very same items.

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