The power of Etsy—as a social platform and retail marketplace—can not be overstated. Perhaps, you first heard of Etsy and confused it with eBay, or found their website on google and thought, “Who would buy Jana’s homemade lip balm?”
Turns out, Jana is getting the last laugh.
Last year, Etsy reported a 36.8% revenue increase, with gross merchandise sales rising by almost 21%. For the same time period, the number of sellers on Etsy increased by 10% and active buyers have grown 18.2%.
With 2.1 million sellers, breaking into Etsy, or standing out if you’re already there, may seem impossible. It’s not.
While most Etsy marketing guides include valid search engine optimization (SEO) and keyword advice, rising above the noise also demands a handful of other tactics that most sellers ignore.
1. Pictures are worth a thousand words (and sales dollars)
Etsy shops are a visual medium. Your product name and description can be outstanding, but if the images of your product are poorly lit, blurry or, even worse, non-existent, you won’t be making a dime. The Etsy Seller’s Handbook has a detailed post with multiple links on this very topic, while a YouTube search will bring up a ton of results as well.
Here are a few highlights:
- You don’t need to be a professional photographer to take good-looking photos, but you will need to focus some attention on the task.
- You don’t need a fancy camera either, as your iPhone works just fine. But, using a smartphone brings other challenges you should be aware of.
- Styling your photographs and products helps them to stand out from the monotony of other Etsy shops can help you get noticed.
2. If you’re U.S. based, offer free shipping
This tends to be good advice in general, simply because people hate to spend money on shipping. Unfortunately, so many of the larger ecommerce retailers, looking at you Amazon, have spoiled consumers by offering free shipping all the time, making it decidedly harder for independent sellers like you.
However, this is especially important right now because Etsy has recently announced that U.S. based shop owners that offer free shipping on purchases of $35 and up, will soon receive “priority placement in U.S. search results.”
This new program starts on July 30, and is meant to help Etsy sellers get out in front of the pack. Etsy recommends however that you do compensate yourself for the shipping costs, mainly by baking them into the total product listings.
For example, if you sell a $15 item and charge a flat rate of $5 for shipping, you might want to just up the price to $20 and mark the shipping as free.
More details about this perk, and how Etsy intends to make it easier for sellers to implement it, can be found here.
3. Leverage positive word-of-mouth
If you’ve made any sales at all, and you’ve received positive feedback, it’s time to use that feedback to build your brand.
Initially, you want to encourage customers—even if they’re your mom or sister-in-law—to leave positive reviews on your Etsy shop page. While Etsy is fairly secretive regarding how reviews affect your search ranking, the overall rating is based on a 12-month average.
According to a 2017 study by BrightLocal, 97% of new customers consider online reviews when making a purchase, and 85% consider these reviews to be the same as word-of-mouth.
Why is this important?
One of the tenets of word-of-mouth is trust. You have an established relationship with the person who is making the recommendation (typically). And, one of the reasons you’ll follow their advice is because of that established relationship.
So, imagine the importance of these reviews, knowing that more than eight out of 10 online shoppers will use those reviews to make purchasing decisions.
Lynn Polochok, owner of the Etsy store, Cloud Nine Adornments, has been selling on Etsy since 2008, and finds that reviews are helpful. “Reviews have definitely helped me,” Lynn said. “And I was pleasantly surprised by how willing customers were to write them.”
Josiah Golojuh, owner of Comicollage, agrees.
“It’s not hard to get people to write reviews. And, it’s normally the repeat customers who are most likely to do so.”
Josiah also added, “Repeat customers are also great at referring people, so that makes them even more valuable.”
This leads us to our next tip about repeat customers.
4. Turn your customers into repeat customers
Some of your best customers will be repeat customers.
The old adage that it takes less money to sell to a current customer than it does to acquire new customers is still true. Reports vary, but it is generally understood that acquiring a new customer costs 5% of the cost to keep a current one.
That number may seem a little nebulous, so how about this one? Twenty percent of your repeat customers will account for 80% of your future revenue.
The best way to keep your customers coming back is to let them know that they are valued.
Many online retailers consider email marketing one of the best ways to maintain contact. It is fairly inexpensive and non-intrusive way of reminding your customers that you’re thinking of them. Maybe, the biggest concern regarding email marketing is frequency, followed closely by content.
It seems that 1-3 emails per week is a general benchmark to use regarding frequency. Too many emails could be perceived as annoying, while too few could lead to you being forgettable.
For content, you want the emails to communicate value to customers. Sales, special promotions and giveaways are most valuable, while new product launches or restocks might be the second most important.
5. Create seasonal or holiday based buying guides
Whenever a holiday rolls around—whether it’s a big one like Christmas or Hanukkah, or something a little less grand like Father’s or Mother’s Day—people are always on the lookout for a unique gift. A great way to get the word out is to create a buying guide with your Etsy listings, along with a handful of others, carefully selected, that complement your product.
Let’s revisit Jana for a second. She sells homemade lip balm and other personal care/pampering items. After taking a look through some of the other Etsy sellers that she follows, she’s able to put together a solid list of “8 of the Best Gifts to Pamper Your Favorite Lady.” Jana selects a seller who makes bath bombs, another who makes personalized, embroidered towels and hair wraps, and another who is known for selling essential oils.
She packages these into a visually arresting post (complete with pictures and links) and shares it across her social media channels and her blog. Lists like this are easy to share and can help you forge partnerships with other sellers, and bloggers, to help promote your small business.
About permission: technically, you don’t need permission to include someone on a list like this. You are using readily available information found online. However, common courtesy would dictate that you should at least run the idea by the company or Etsy seller to let them know. Don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness. Put the post together, so that they can see exactly what you’re talking about, and ask them to sign off.
Additionally, if you have an existing relationship with any of the sellers, see if you can offer some type of reciprocal promotion. For example, if someone purchases your item from the email, they will receive 10% at another seller’s store, or a discount code.
6. Partner with other sellers or local retailers
A good way to increase your reach and raise your profile is to piggyback on the popularity of a like-minded seller. Partnerships will depend on what makes sense for your brand, and also who you know, or who you feel comfortable reaching out to.
Look for another retailer who serves a similar target market, but offers a product type or service adjacent to yours. If the products are too similar, there will be too much competition (and the partnership won’t benefit anyone).
If the products are too different, they won’t make sense. The goal is to raise the profile of your business and the partner so that both parties benefit.
If you have any local retailers that sell products similar to yours or cater to a similar target audience, consider asking if you can have a pop-up shop in their location. The goal is to bring a sampling of your products and introduce them to a new audience. If you offer a service, you could demo your service (if appropriate). Date and time will need to be negotiated with the retailer, but this could provide a great opportunity to find new customers.
A quick note about retailers—even if the retailer is a national chain, such as Hallmark, you might still be able to partner with them, as many Hallmark stores are franchises. That typically means it’s up to the local business owner regarding decisions about including other product for sale in their store. This is not true of every retailer, but just something to keep in mind.
7. Set your own benchmark for success
If you’re using Etsy as a supplemental form of income—a side hustle, if you will—it may not be necessary for you to rake in thousands of dollars every month in order for you to feel like a success. However, if you’re using Etsy as a primary source of income, then those thousands of dollars would be awfully nice.
Either way, both scenarios are different and should be measured accordingly. When asked about their own success, Lynn and Josiah had different answers. For Cloud Nine Adornments, Lynn considered her Etsy business successful once she made 5 to 6 sales a week.
For Josiah and Comicollage, it was a longer road to success. Josiah also didn’t use Etsy as his sole selling platform in the beginning.
“The first few years, I sold in an art gallery and didn’t have much listed (on my Etsy store). Once I focused more fully on Etsy, though, I began to notice a change in sales,”
8. You don’t have to buy sponsored ads
Instead, Lynn found luck on other Social Media platforms, while Josiah on the other hand chooses not to use much social media at all. He does have a Facebook page for his art, but finds that referrals and repeat customers work best for his store.
So, don’t feel pressured to spend a ton of money on Etsy ads in order to find potential customers. There’s no harm if you want to try them out for a limited time, but don’t panic if you feel like your marketing dollars might be better spent somewhere else (or you don’t have any marketing dollars). Many Etsy shop owners find success without this particular option.
9. Pick and choose the Etsy recommendations that work for you
Etsy has spent time trying to provide their sellers with tools that will lead to success.
However, attempting to do all of them will be overwhelming and probably not very successful. Read through the list and pick a few to try. That gives you the time to research the best way to do it and to determine if the tactic is providing any noticeable difference in your sales.
The most important lesson to remember is that no marketing strategy will work overnight (if it does, report back and let us know).
Patience will be a necessary element to whatever marketing you do.