Monday, December 27, 2010

To or Not To Etsy

Setting up my Esty account in 2007 was so straight forward and fast, that it won my heart. In fact, I would describe it's simplicity as winsome. I had Winged Beast Outfitters' web store up in about half an hour (discounting the time it took to do the first photos and the banner). I think this is probably the truth for most sellers and buyers on Etsy.

The site is growing. A recent NYtimes article on Etsy said that there are close to 400 000 sellers and that's quite a herd in which I must stand out. The quirky tshirt market is already pretty saturated and capturing market share is tricky. On the other hand, Etsy expects to do about $400 million in transactions this year. So, there is definite merit in maintaining a presence here. It's a big sea with a lot of sizes of fishies.

I've wonder if clearer pastures might not be a bad idea. I've casually investigated other selling options, such as Artfire (a clear Etsy knock off, but with a little more power when it comes to shop appearance). There's also Big Cartel, which focuses exclusively on clothing and has a fairly powerful set of tools of customizing the look of your shop.

As a design-first sort of person, the ability to control the look and feel of my shop is a big draw. Etsy has only a few options by comparison. There is a catch. If you look at the pricing for Big Cartel you see that it's scalable based on how much you want to build and expected volume of sales.
At the same time, you would need to maintain your monthly sales to pay for the site. Artfire has very similar price points. In both cases, the free site is a nice draw in, but the pay as you go attitude at Etsy seems to work for the amount I sell, right now.

It's not just look-and-feel or pricing, it's discovery. Etsy was more or less first to market for the craftster niche and has the benefit of recognizability and trust. Also, it's had longer to build up the meta-data(tags and catagories and user inputted 'like') on its site. This makes searching for something more fluid between items, shops, and lists, as well as giving power to Etsy searches.

Big Cartel for instance has no option that links between stores through common themes, materials etc. other than the search function. This mean people searching for Robot themed shirts will land on one site and not be easily linked to other shirts of the same theme! This is not great. Not if the goal is to be stumbled across(which is a big chunk of the new artist/businesses customers).

No site will be perfect. I accept this. I like Etsy and for my level of sales it seems to work well. Over the next months, I think I will start up a site of both Artfire and Big Cartel using their free accounts. And, I guess we'll see.

Business, like science, is a process of experimentation. So, if I'm gonna be in it for the quiche then I'd better get on that experiementin'.

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