As the cry for goods and services that are “locally grown,” “artisan,” and “small batch” has grown, there have been plenty of people ready and eager to answer the call. While Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods, has been around since 1998, it has exploded in popularity in the last ten years. Similar to an online craft fair, it’s been lauded as “a crafty cross between Amazon and eBay” and “your grandma’s basement.” The more popular stores sell custom art, homemade jewelry, vintage dresses, or inspirational mugs, but you can also find stuffed squirrel wedding cake toppers, purses made from recycled cat food bags, and plenty more.
Everyone who has an Etsy storefront, from the graphic designers who whip up posters to the people selling their grandmother’s wedding dress, are all small business owners. While they pay a small fee to list on Etsy, customers are buying directly from these shops and the creative minds behind them, not from a distributor or factory. Whether it’s their side hustle or full-time gig, these businesses have to market their products and their shops to get noticed and get sales. And it’s even more difficult to attract customers when you add in the fact that they don’t have a physical storefront where customers can stop in and browse. So how do they do it?
A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words (and Many Sales)
On any list of how to be a better Etsy marketplace member, you’ll find info about the importance of good photography. Most Etsy shop owners don’t have an actual store where people can browse and handle their art, crafts, handmade soup, or vintage wedding tiaras, so the Etsy product listings are a customer’s first interaction with your products. Photos should be well-lit and detailed with simple backgrounds. If you sell clothes, jewelry, or other wearables, you might feature some imagery with models (this could always just be your hip friends you’ve traded favors with) showing off your wares. Killer photography is key to selling more products, period.
But how can you get customers to your shop front in the first place? Same way: with good pictures, posted on Instagram. QLP has written previously about the importance of having your brand on Instagram and what it can mean for your overall marketing, and because it’s so visual in nature, it’s the perfect place to post your Etsy products.
Etsy shop owner Kelly Barth says, “I can’t say enough about Instagram. You are already taking beautiful photos for your shop – don’t forget to share them with the world! I especially like Instagram because you know your followers will see what you post, unlike Facebook which likes to hide posts form business pages.”
Plus, Instagram includes a fun feature that can help you hashtag your way to glory. More and more social media channels are offering hashtags as a way for communities and individuals to organize and search topics. Tagging your posts “#Etsy” will help users easily find your Etsy store and featured goods. You can also feature yourself in categories like #jewelry, #handmade, #mugs, or the name of whatever products you are featuring, making, and selling.
Etsy seller Elphy Theodoropoulou has also incorporated the visual story sharing medium of Snapchat into her strategy, saying, “My main marketing tool for my online business is Instagram and now Snapchat. I have over 16K following with 300 sells on Etsy. For my business Instagram works best due to the image dominate [sic] format. I am able to show my creations and show off my customers in the creations they purchased from me.”
Get Social: Both Online and Off
Photo and video sharing apps aren’t the only game in town when it comes to social media, of course. Facebook is great to advertise shop information and sales. Tumblr and Pinterest both offer ways (and hashtag support) to connect with other crafters and business owners as well as organize inspiration for projects or promote the work of fellow shop owners.
But social media isn’t really the only way – or even the most important way – to get your name out there. One way to connect socially is to use your currently existing social circle: your friends and family. Consider gifting some of your products (and a stack of business cards with your shop name) to willing cohorts. This kind of investment means that when someone compliments the ring or scarf they’re wearing (that you made) and asks where they got the art hanging on their wall (that you made), they can happily and enthusiastically point them in the direction of your shop.
Lots of successful Etsy shop owners also recommend connecting with bloggers at the beginning of their Etsy careers. Offering bloggers a sample of a product to review or buying a small ad space on a popular blogger’s page will drive traffic to your store.
One charitable Etsy seller, Stephanie Rohr, recommends connecting with a good nonprofit to help do some good in the community and also spread the word about your brand. She says, “I am a big animal lover, so I sold pieces at an adoption event for PAWS Chicago and donated a portion of profits to the charity.”
Keywords Are Crucial
Every Etsy listing needs a good title. Each one is a marketing opportunity because they lead to search results from search sites like Google as well as Etsy itself. Including the name of the product as well as size, color, scent, and other identifying characteristics will lead to more search results and more sales.
Katy Blevins, owner of Promo My Shop, has helped many new Etsy shop owners find success and says, “Owners must take advantage of every opportunity to describe their store, their products and services with keyword rich listings that will be picked up in organic search results. A keyword rich listing considers the search terms their clients might use to find their products, and how and where they might use them.”
Perfect Your Packaging
You know what they say – you don’t get a second chance at a great first impression. If your product pictures, social media accounts, and friends and family have convinced new customers to shop your Etsy store, make sure that when you ship out your product, it reflects that they’ve made a good choice in trusting your brand. You can easily slap a label on an envelope and put your bubble-wrapped item inside, but personalizing your packaging goes a long way towards helping your customers remember you. It can be as simple and affordable as using colorful tissue paper to wrap their jewelry and sealing it with a custom sticker. You can also include a handwritten thank you card or business card with your package.
Also, make sure that your pretty packaging is protective; part of successful branding is delivering a great product that your customers will want to order again, so make sure everything will arrive in one undamaged piece.
Take It to the Streets
Your Etsy storefront might be your bread and butter, but it might be time to take your goods to market. Craft fairs still take place all over the US, and the internet has made it easy to find one happening near you. Craft fairs and markets offer your brand a fresh new place to shine. Most fairs and events will require a booth rental fee, but this investment can be worth it if it means introducing your scented, homemade candles and custom pillows to new customers.
Online orders are pretty straightforward; you receive payment and details and then you ship off your products. In-person sales are little different. To prepare for your show appearance, make sure to:
- Prepare booth decorations that accurately represent your brand (colored tablecloths, vintage display trunks, shelves for more display opportunities)
- Have a wide price range of options and consider offering a small discount
- Have change prepped for cash carriers and consider having a credit card processing app on your phone like Square
- Don’t forget about packaging – remember to wrap your products like you would if you were shipping to add a special touch
- Don’t forget business cards – include one with your shop name with each purchase and give one to anyone who stops by to chat
Stephanie says this selling in person has helped her have more success online. “Selling at local craft shows and art fairs (and again passing out [business] cards), would always increase my online views and sales right after the event.” Over five years, she was able to go from cross stitch as a hobby to the business that pays her bills!
Free Gifts Make New Fans
Whether you want to include a special gift with the shipment of each package or want to draw people to your craft show booth, personalized items that are both useful and help create brand awareness are a great tool. If you’re a vintage bookseller or you make book purses out of recycled covers, give a personalized bookmark, or sub out a standard business card for a custom magnet. When it comes to adding a creative touch that will set you apart, the options are almost limitless!
In 2015, there were 1.5 million sellers registered on Etsy with over 35 million products, so it’s never been more important to figure out a way to stand out and get your brand seen. If you’re looking to start your own Etsy shop or could use some help in getting the word out about your existing one, start with these helpful, handy tips for a solid foundation towards becoming a successful Etsy entrepreneur!