If you regularly make handmade crafts, you have probably thought (or been told by friends) that you should start an Etsy shop. It's not a bad idea, especially because it's so simple to create a seller account on the popular site. But success as a handmade e-commerce business requires a lot more than signing up for a third-party marketplace.
"If [craft entrepreneurs] are new to the world of online selling, they may think that all they need to do is list their items, and then they will be found in a search or someone will seek them out to buy their product," said Craig Weiss, CEO of marketplace platform ArtYah.
Like any other business owner, you're going to have to invest some time and effort in marketing your brand to keep it growing. Here are a few things you can do to get your name out there and stand out from the crowd. [See Related Story: Etsy Alternatives for Crafty Entrepreneurs]
Build your own website
Selling your crafts on a marketplace site can be a quick and easy way to set up shop, but with so many other sellers out there, it can be difficult for you to compete. Jonathan Peacock, founder and CEO of Zibbet, said a seller's individual brand can easily get diluted by the marketplace's branding — for instance, most people will tell their friends they bought an item "on Etsy" as opposed to saying they bought it from a specific Etsy seller.
The other issue is that marketplaces are built for discovery, Peacock said. People who land at your shop page are encouraged to click around and discover what your competition is selling, which can ultimately end up losing you the sale. That's why Peacock said it's so important to have your own stand-alone website in addition to a marketplace shop.
"Marketplaces are great and you should use them for distribution, in order to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible," Peacock told Business News Daily. "[But] use [your website] as your primary channel that you send your buyers to. That way, your brand will be the one they remember and you'll completely own the traffic you send there."
Peacock noted that Zibbet's platform allows sellers to create their own customizable website in addition to listing their products in the site's marketplace.
Explore new avenues for selling
If you've already established your store on a particular marketplace platform, you may not think you need to look elsewhere for new customers, Weiss said. However, strategically choosing another avenue or selling tool could expose you to a wider audience and generate more interest, traffic, brand recognition — and ultimately — more sales.
On top of opening up a version of your shop on an additional marketplace, you can also look into social commerce tools on sites like Facebook and Pinterest to help you sell directly to your social media followers.
Leverage the marketplace community
As Peacock noted above, third-party marketplace branding efforts can sometimes overshadow the individual brands of sellers. But this brand power can also work to your advantage. For example, in addition to its Editor's Picks and Community Tastemakers roundups, Etsy hosts an annual Small Business Saturday trunk show to help its wholesale sellers get their products in front of retail customers.
Most third-party marketplaces also have a built-in community element, such as a seller forum. While this shouldn't be your primary customer acquisition strategy, you should make a point to participate in these discussions to pick up new ideas and selling techniques from your peers, Peacock said.
"Use the forums to build connections with great, like-minded people [and] learn," he said.
Tell a story
One of the biggest trends in modern marketing tactics is storytelling. This technique is especially effective for smaller businesses, and your handmade e-commerce shop can benefit from it, too.
Richard Stevenson, head of corporate communications for cloud-based e-commerce software provider ePages.com, advised using storytelling to communicate your mission and values.
"American shoppers love small retailers because it feels highly satisfying to buy goods that are a little special or niche," Stevenson said. "Storytelling is the big differentiator in e-commerce. It's the reason why buying from or supporting a small business can provide a more powerful experience than from a larger retailer."
For handmade businesses, storytelling is also a highly effective way to build connections and trust with consumers in order to increase sales conversions, Stevenson said.
"Online consumers want to buy from experts, passionate and attentive, and will pay more for the experience," he added. "Social selling and ethical shopping is not just fads — data shows they are growing in the retail landscape."
There's no single formula for success when it comes to marketing. Peacock reminded entrepreneurs that there are many different methods out there, but they need to find the ones that work best for their business.
"Everyone is selling different products [in] different parts of the world," Peacock said. "This means the strategies and channels you'll use may be different, too. You need to try a bunch of things, find what works and double down on that. Constantly tweak and optimize to get the best results."
Looking for more tips to make your handmade craft business a success? Visit this Business News Daily article featuring advice for DIY entrepreneurs.