Today, just about anyone who has a product to sell can lay the groundwork for an online business in a matter of minutes. Etsy is one of the most popular third-party marketplace options for new e-commerce entrepreneurs, especially those who create handmade goods. Whether you're starting your first business or using Etsy as an extension of your existing retail operation, here's what you need to know about turning your shop into a success.
Find your vision
Like any business, a great Etsy store begins with a distinctive product and brand. To make sure you'll be able to stand out in the marketplace, Kathryn Fink, new seller growth manager for Etsy, advised potential sellers to explore the site and see what types of businesses already exist in your category. Once you have a vision for your Etsy business, use it to inform every decision you make about your shop.
"Most successful shops attract buyers through clear, descriptive language in their titles and tags, crisp and illustrative product photography, promotion through social media, and a range of merchandise and price points," Fink told Business News Daily. "All of these facets work together to draw shoppers in and create a comprehensive buying experience. Those successful shops invested time and effort to get to that point, and each of them took their own path to get there."
Start off small
When Claudine Hellmuth started her art, illustration and paper goods Etsy store, one of her biggest challenges was building a well-rounded inventory. Any seller, of course, needs a steady supply of products to keep sales rolling, but when you're first starting out, it's better to focus on quality over quantity. Hellmuth took her time stocking her virtual shelves with her labor-intensive creations, and though it took a while to get there, she now has more than 65 items in her shop.
"Sales really start to multiply once you've got a critical mass of items, but it's also important to get a well-curated inventory that showcases your best work," Hellmuth said. "Your customers will look at your shop as a whole, so you want to make sure that your inventory feels cohesive and on brand and that you're not just posting things just for the sake of having more items online."
Pay attention to your traffic
In a brick-and-mortar shop, store owners usually pay attention to the days and times they get the most customers in the door and plan their advertising strategies accordingly. A virtual shop on Etsy is no different — building up an audience and getting people to purchase your items depends on how well you target them.
"The Etsy platform and community really has a daily cadence or rhythm in terms of people interacting with your shop," saidChris Cook, co-owner of Sydney Hale Co. home fragrance Etsy shop. "Identifying good times of the day, week and month to list and relist your products so they are visible to shoppers takes time and dedication to figure out. Keeping track of how/when you listed and then seeing how many views, favorites and orders [you have] is really important to managing your marketing budget and making sure you are targeting buyers at the right times."
Keep in touch with your customers
Excellent customer service is one of the cornerstones of business growth. If you want people to come back to your store, it's not enough to have a great product — they need to have had a great shopping experience to go along with it. One way to do this is to engage with customers and offer timely responses to any questions or comments.
"Etsy has so many ways for customers to interact and ask questions about your products," Cook said. "We've always made sure we respond to each customer inquiry and thank customers for their reviews. I also can't say enough about good communication. On Etsy ... so many products are made to order, so it is important to be accurate with shipping timing and communicate to customers if you are back-ordered or delayed on a shipment."
Hellmuth noted that using the right marketing tactics will help bring customers to your virtual store. Email newsletters are particularly effective for reaching the Etsy crowd. [For a side-by-side comparison of the best email marketing software, visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews]
"Having an email newsletter is critical for keeping your sales up in your Etsy shop, or any other online shop that you may have," Hellmuth said. "In my newsletter I offer coupons [and] free printable downloads, and I promote seasonal products for my Etsy shop. I send out my newsletter roughly every two weeks and every time I do, I get a nice boost in sales."
Take advantage of Etsy's built-in resources
One of the benefits of running your business on a third-party marketplace like Etsy is that you have access to the site's wealth of seller resources and community forums. Fink said that Etsy provides tools for day-to-day development and long-term growth, such as social media connectivity, analytics programs and structured listings designed to improve your SEO on and off Etsy. The site also offers rich educational resources for sellers who want to dive even further into growing their business, available through the Etsy blog or through the biweekly Etsy Success email newsletter. Finally, you can tap into the broader Etsy community and connect with sellers who can help you improve.
"The global Etsy seller community ... comprises one of the best tools for success," Fink said. "Both on- and offline, Etsy sellers often learn from one another, share best practices and provide a truly special peer network of support."
"The Etsy platform provides such great tools to engage with other sellers and buyers," Cook added. "I would encourage a new store owner to really explore all the communication and conversation tools to figure out how best to connect with the community and let people know about your great products."
Succeeding on Etsy requires patience, hard work and most importantly, the creative vision to pursue your particular version of success, Fink said. But working hard doesn't mean working alone — as with any business, it's all about capitalizing on your strengths and getting help in the areas where you need it most.
"Etsy connects you to the business tools, education and supportive community members to help you grow," Fink said. "Just remember that no matter what path a seller takes to build their business on Etsy, each got there by setting incremental goals, celebrating the milestones that are meaningful and unique to them, and staying in tune with their visions of success at each step along the way."