Whether it’s a side hustle that brings in a little extra income, a way to share your creative passions, or a fully-fledged business selling your hand-made items online, Etsy has been a boon for makers and creators. But if you depend on Etsy for any portion of your livelihood, there are three potential minefields to avoid in marketing.
1. Depending on Etsy to market for you
If you’ve had success on Etsy, you’ve probably figured out how to work within their system. The most successful sellers, however, don’t rely just on the platform to market their products. They’ve developed additional ways to reach new customers and stay top of mind with their existing fans by establishing a social media presence for their business on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other channels. These efforts on social networks drive traffic back to their stores to see new products and offers, and help expand the shop’s audience beyond Etsy.
But top sellers don’t stop there. They also routinely exhibit at craft fairs and events to reach audiences who may not be on the Etsy platform at all. And they use traditional marketing techniques such as establishing a strong brand, registering their trademark, and providing business cards and postcards for customers to keep on file or deliver with gifts. In-person meetings and physical materials may seem antiquated in such a digital world, but they’re an important representation of your brand in the eyes of a past or potential buyer.
In order to balance where to spend limited time and resources, we advise creative entrepreneurs to develop a 360-degree marketing strategy that includes all types of marketing, offline and online. It’ll help you define how to share your unique story, diversify your audience, grow your sales, and stay in touch with your customers.
2. Not backing up your shop’s data
Many Etsy sellers have discovered just how important that network of customers can be for your store’s ongoing success. One shop owner we spoke to recently, Meril from Two Feathers NY, said that much of her sales on the platform actually come from customers who’ve purchased her delicate hand-made jewelry in the past. It’s these steadfast fans that provide the backbone of her business, and their online and offline referrals carry much more weight than the average buyer.
But that network of customer, sales and product data is going to be worthless if you can’t access it. So if your Etsy store is the only place that contains all of your information, we recommend backing up your shop’s data right away and making it a priority to continue making backups every day or every week, depending on your volume of transactions. Keep a Word document of all your “About” data and clearly-organized copies of your product images and descriptions on file, too.
Why go to all this trouble? While Etsy wasn’t a victim of last month’s global ransomware attack, experts agree that businesses of all stripes should be backing up their data online and offline. To get started, see the instructions on Etsy’s help section to find out how to download your store’s data, and be sure to get a copy of your sales information.
It’s important to note that Etsy prohibits email marketing to customers outside the platform. This means if your shop gets shut down or you decide to leave the platform, you’re out of luck contacting past buyers if you haven’t established a social media presence or a website. Which brings us to our next pitfall to avoid…
3. Relying solely on Etsy for your storefront
While Etsy has transformed the creative marketplace and many sellers wouldn’t be where they are today if not for the platform’s innovation, we shouldn’t assume that it’ll be around forever or that the volume of traffic will always be the same.
In fact, a recent report in Bloomberg Businessweek highlighted struggles in recent years; beyond suspending shops for violations to a confusing set of rules, Etsy faced an investor activist campaign and laid off 8 percent of their staff recently. We’re not saying the platform is going away, but wouldn’t you feel better if you had an alternative if traffic declines, the platform changes policies again, or some other corporate move puts your business at risk?
We recommend creating a separate website on a domain you own to showcase your products. There are lots of e-commerce platforms that provide a similar service, and several work well with Etsy behind the scenes—which means that you can keep your store on Etsy for the time being and sync with your new site to keep the stores’ inventory aligned. It’s a low-cost measure of security we recommend for clients, and an owned domain serves as a home base to connect your products, your story and your social media channels. Most importantly, by focusing solely on your products a dedicated website provides a shopping experience that strips away distractions and puts your creativity where it should be: in the spotlight.
A final note
Much of this advice applies to other specialized storefronts as well; it just happens that we've spoken to lots of Etsy sellers since it's one of the largest platforms for selling creative wares. Whatever platform you're on, we hope you found the advice helpful in expanding your reach, improving your marketing and refining your strategy. As always, feel free to contact us with questions or post comments below.
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