Thursday, March 27, 2014

Etsy, Madeit or Bigcartel?


It's a question I have been asked several times recently by crafters interested in opening their own online stores. As you probably know, I have a Bigcartel shop. What you may not know is that I also have an Etsy and Madeit shop too, as part of an experiment I have been doing. Several makers I know keep more than one shop. Others commit to one and have had great success with whichever marketplace or platform they sell from. The following are my thoughts and experiences on the matter, and hopefully they will be of use to other creatives making a decision about how to host their online store. These are my opinions and I don't wish to disparage any of these platforms; these are, as I said, my thoughts and experiences. (This is not a sponsored post.)

There are so many online marketplaces now. My experience as an Australian maker who has been blogging for over five years now is with Etsy, Madeit and Bigcartel. The reasons I chose Bigcartel as my main shop are many. Firstly, it's just a personal thing, but I think it looks more professional to have an independent shop in your chosen name. Secondly, it is just one flat fee each month. You don't pay to list each item and they don't take a percentage of your sale. I like knowing what my business costs to run each month - Bigcartel fee, oxygen bottle fee, consumables etc = my monthly running costs. No surprises.

I don't like that there are so many re-sellers on the more popular handmade market places now. People who buy cheap items off overseas websites, then resell them claiming they made them. I have come across this personally several times. No one can compete with this sort of thing and it isn't fair business practice and I don't want to be associated with it. With bigger platforms you are a very very small fish in a HUGE pond. There are sooooo many items, the chances of anyone finding your item seem pretty slim, unless you keep listing or re-listing items - paying each time. The chances of them buying it seem slimmer. Unless you have sent them to your site from your blog. Then they know your designs, know your story, feel a connection to you and are more likely to purchase. But if I am solely responsible for directing traffic to my site, I want to send that traffic just to my shop, rather than risk having a potential customer searching the rest of the site for a similar item and buying something similar but cheaper, or a re-sale. I have also found that there is more freedom with how you want your shop to look. There are no rules to breach. And I have found it a lot less time consuming than trying to compete in the bigger marketplaces. You can also choose to keep five items in your store without any fees at all, which is great for those starting out and testing the water, or for when you go off and have a baby... :)

But, curious as to whether I had made the right decision by choosing Bigcartel, I embarked upon an experiment and opened a Madeit and Etsy shop, while I had my Bigcartel shop running too. I wanted to see if my products alone and the selling power and advertising power of these sites would be enough to sell my items, without telling my audience. So I didn't tell anyone. I just quietly opened the shops and didn't direct any traffic to them. I can tell you, of the two months that I actively did all the things you are supposed to do on Etsy - list or re-list a new item each day to stay in the first few pages, pay for advertising, etc. - I did not make a single sale. In the same time period I did the same on Madeit and I sold one piece. Meanwhile, I just did my normal blog posts and posted pics to instagram and I had two of my best months on my Bigcartel shop. So that pretty much cemented it for me, which is why I have decided to close the other two stores when the listings expire, focusing all my energy on my Bigcartel shop instead.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the matter, or how you as a customer think about the online shops you purchase from? I know I find some of the bigger sites frustrating and overwhelming.
If you do have an online shop, please leave us a link in the comments so we can check it out!
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