September 28, 2015
When you launch a new product or brand online, there are two usual ways to go: create a storefront on Etsy or open up your own online store using a third party provider like Shopify.
Before I launched Happy Cactus Designs in late 2011, I spent a lot of time researching my best options. Was Etsy the way to go? Did I need my own shop? From the get-go, I made the decision to have my own storefront rather than start on Etsy. A few reasons:
1. Autonomy: I wanted to have more control and creating my own storefront allowed me to have my own "space" that represented the look and feel of my brand. With Etsy, you are beholden to how Etsy formats their pages. Every shop's page looks the same and there is little room for customization. Shopify, on the other hand, let's you use various themes (some for purchase) to better customize the look of your shop.
2. Wholesaling: I also knew from the start that I wanted to wholesale my stationery, so I needed to have an online spot for retailers to visit that wasn't Etsy. This was pre-Etsy Wholesale, which I also now participate in.
3. Options: I had more options with my own storefront than what was available on Etsy. I could craft a detailed about page. I could add lots of photographs. I could have a press page and a page about my custom work. I could add multiple ways for people to find me on social media or sign up for my newsletter. You are really limited with what you can do on Etsy in terms of these actions. Yes, you can add a bio, but Etsy doesn't allow you to include linkable URLs in your profile. And it's unclear if shoppers even click on your profile to learn more about your company or your policies when they are browsing your products.
4. Preparing for future growth: I have heard countless stories of brands that exclusively launched their products in an Etsy storefront. As their brands grew and they began to do sales at a higher and higher volume, they were stuck with their Etsy shops. And stuck with paying hundreds or thousands in monthly fees (transaction fees, Etsy listing fees, etc.). Many of these brands then elected to finally open their own storefronts and have had to juggle enticing prior shoppers and loyal Etsy customers to jump over to their own storefronts. It's tough.
5. Fees: They are inevitable either way. With my Shopify storefront, I choose to pay an annual fee upfront (versus monthly payments) to host my shop on Shopify. I also pay a transaction fee each time someone makes a purchase on my site - either PayPal takes a cut or Shopify does via their payment system that I use to process credit cards. Fees are unavoidable. That said, with Etsy you also have to deal with listing fees ($0.20 per item) and obligated to pay a fee each time you want to renew that item.
So did I totally ignore Etsy? No! The same time I launched my online store I created an Etsy storefront as well to secure the shop name. I didn't really do much with it for a few years, but after a few years I took the time and effort to list my products in the shop. Some benefits to having this second storefront:
1. Discovery: It's fairly easy for Etsy shoppers to find me. For example, my "Beautiful Mother-to-Be" card is a top seller in my Etsy shop because shoppers are specifically searching for "pregnancy card" and I pop up in the results. These shoppers may have never found me otherwise.
2. Single Card Sales: I rarely fulfill orders of only a single card in my Shopify shop. I find that buyers are usually placing larger orders - a mix of singles, boxed sets, art prints, etc. On the other hand, the majority of sales in my Etsy shop are single cards! This goes back to point number one: that many times Etsy shoppers are looking for something specific.
3. Press Discovery: I have also found that I've received press coverage because editors have found my products through a simple Etsy search. It's an easy one-stop-shop for an editor to search for a specific theme or type of product. I've had various greeting cards, notepads, and more featured on blogs that I have never pitched just because an editor came across my work on Etsy.
4. Wholesale: Etsy added the Etsy Wholesale component to their business a little over a year ago. I was able to join when the program was still in beta. I've found a number of stores love being able to place their wholesale orders online via Etsy, so I am able to direct them to my linesheet there. I spend a lot of time marketing to new and existing retailers, but with Etsy Wholesale, a lot of the work is being done for me because retailers can search by location (Colorado) or by specific product type (Christmas gift tags) and come across my line in the search results. I have developed relationships with awesome retailers this way!
Managing two shops can be a little overwhelming at times, especially when it comes to adding new products or keeping an eye on inventory, but I've been very happy with both so far!
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