• Becky Hodgkin

Closing my Etsy shop boosted my sales by 50%

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

When I started my business selling digital printable almost 3 years ago in 2018, I was looking for a low investment way to start selling my digital illustrations online. I am a trained Graphic Designer with nearly 10 years experience, but I have no formal training in illustration.

Etsy was the natural starting point, as they have an established audience, they created a shop for you and took care of SEO (as long as you put in the right keywords). It allowed me for minimal start up costs, to create and sell my products to their Etsy community.

I opened my own shop online in December 2020, as a soft launch, and last week I finally closed my Etsy shop for good. During the 3 months I have had my own online presence, I have had the same value of sales for the prior 12 months on Etsy.

There are many reasons and variables to why this might have happened and I have tried to outline and summarise them below:

Why I would recommend Etsy to a small business:

Etsy allowed me to test products, conduct a lot of market research and see trends within the marketplace. Etsy gave me the opportunity me to experiment, and immediately test the value and impact of my work. It helped me shape my style, and allowed me to get to grips with my SEO and flesh out my product descriptions and USPs.

However, there was a tipping point. I realised at some point that Etsy might not hold my target audience, and might not serve the purpose that I need it to. Part of the process was realising that Etsy might be part of the reason that my work is not selling as I want it to. This is a confidence game, how can you believe you can do better on your own if you aren't doing great on a platform that helps and supports you? Leaving Etsy was a risk, but I had to follow my gut.

5 reasons why I left Etsy:

1. Control of your brand

You have very limited control over your shop front. As a designer, I didn't like that I had to create a single shop banner to somehow summarise and differentiate my business from every other illustrator on Etsy. A big part of the USP for my business is me, my take on the world and my experiences. There were limited opportunities for open communication, campaigns, 'soft information' like about me, what I'm up to etc. They did have some of these features available but it was very much buried below a long scroll past everything else, which was rarely seen unless someone was specifically looking.

2. First Impressions

Unfortunately, for me, I associate Etsy shops as a hobby. This is harsh but I felt that my work was worthy of being on it's own platform, not supported or 'held up' by a legitimate platform such as Etsy. I was never truly proud to say you had to buy my work via Etsy. It has always been a vehicle to get from non-existent to established. As I am not a natural Etsy shopper, I never truly bought into the platform itself. I think it boils down to creating trust. The Etsy platform creates a sense of trust for people who trust Etsy. For those who don't like or use Etsy, trying to direct them to that platform was actually a negative part of the buying process, for those who would rather buy direct.

3. Competitive Pricing

Etsy was a marketplace that was totally oversaturated with illustrators like me. This meant that price became a huge differentiator for some sellers. Some of the prices were crazy, and would not have created any kind of profit. I never lowered my prices on Etsy but I can see how easy it would be to think that would solve all my problems. I felt that I could be undercut at any stage, and there would be nothing that could draw those shoppers back.

4. No access to 'Community'

Etsy will notify each shopper who has 'favourited' your shop when you add a new product to your store. Apart from that, Etsy was very protective of their contact lists, and it made it difficult to tie the shop in with email campaigns, freebees, or other potential resources that buyers might be interested in. You can manually add customers to an email base but you would still need to ask for permission, and that doesn't allow you to capture other people who like your store, but haven't bought before. I wanted to speak directly to the people who read, like, follow my brand. Yes I want to speak to people who buy from me but that's just a segment of my target audience. Having an independent shop allows me to own my contact lists. These lists are invaluable in small business.

5. Too much choice

I was very intimidated by the other sellers on Etsy. Someone always had more sales, more favourites, selling their items for cheaper that I was, and I found the platform quite intimidating. I didn't like the idea that because I was relatively new (at 3 years old), with 50 sales, my shop looked less appealing that someone who had 10 times that. I felt like new shops were penalised in that respect. And as a new business this didn't help my brand build trust with new customers.

Overall, I think Etsy served a great purpose, and it was a risk to leave the platform. That's why I kept them both open when I made my own online shop, because I wanted to test both sides, and decide what was best for me. Ultimately, the numbers speak for themselves and I am so happy to use my online shop as the exclusive place to buy my work. It feels like a milestone, and a step towards my goals for 2021 for bigger and better things for Aniris Design!

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