November marked my fifth year of selling on Etsy, a journey that began with a shop called JN Originals that features crocheted and felted personal accessories, continued with papercrafted items in Mister PenQuin, and extended with recycled craft supplies in 2nd Chance Treasures. Along the way I’ve learned lessons about marketing, photography, shipping and customer service. My journey has been made easier by becoming a member of multiple selling teams on Etsy, most particularly BBEST (Boomers and Beyond Etsy Street Team) and Blogging Business Artisans. In fact, one of the strongest pieces of advice I would give a newcomer to the Etsy scene is to join a team that reflects your interests, as this will shorten your learning curve. Visit the information-packed Etsy post, What is Teams? to learn more. I also recommend becoming familiar with the Etsy Seller’s Handbook. Finally, you can pick up lots of marketing and organizational tips by visiting such sites as Blacksburg Belle, written by April Bowles-Olin, and Handmadeology, written by a team of entrepreneurs.
One of the pieces of online selling advice that really caught my attention this past year is the concept of having a cohesive shop. In her post, How to Create a Cohesive Shop, Etsy staffer Michelle writes, “Creating a cohesive shop is the most important tool for branding yourself, and one of your biggest allies in your search for repeat customers. Customers who love your style will share your shop with others and come back again and again.”
Define your style
What is a cohesive shop? According to Michelle, a cohesive shop has a clearly defined style that can be summed up in just a few words. This makes it easy for both you and others to promote your shop through blogging, simply because it is easy to identify your style and describe it. Your shop may also be more visible if you have a well defined style because search results may better match what you sell than if your shop is a mixture of unrelated items that share no common theme other than that they are handmade by you.
For the first shop on Etsy that I opened, JN Originals, my style has evolved over time. In fact, when I first began selling on Etsy, I was like a lot of other sellers who are not exactly sure what they intend to sell. I remember starting off with felted wool coasters, crocheted hair scrunchies, and long, fuzzy scarves, none of which I make anymore. I added crocheted spa cloths and felted java jackets, felted needle books, felted wool clutch purses—and eventually, crocheted wearables such as flower brooches, scarflettes, headwarmers, hats and fingerless gloves. What I observed is that while all of these products share a common material—yarn—the ones that sell best for me are the wearables, particularly the ones that feature a flower as part of their design. Moreover, they are customizeable, which is a selling point. This, then, has become the style that defines my shop: crocheted wearable accessories featuring a flower motif.
Match your products to your style
Michelle points out that once you define your style, it is important to make sure that your product line-up meshes with your definition. Gradually, over the course of this past year, I have been redefining the sections in my shop to include only crocheted wearables. To be sure, there are still some products that don’t quite fit. These include my felted wool java jackets which, despite the fact that they sell, sell infrequently and inconsistently.
I am still wrestling with the appropriate home for the felted wool needle books I make, not because they don’t sell, but because they no longer fit the style of JN Originals. Perhaps they will move into a fourth shop that has been sitting on the Etsy site, product-less, for more than a year. This shop is Dancing Thimble, intended for fabric accessories—what I like to call “fabric solutions.” I can visualize a section containing sewing tools at this selling venue.
As of December, I moved out the spa cloths and the last set of coasters from JN Originals. What will also move out during 2013 will be the long, fuzzy scarves that were popular some years back (and seem to still be worn by Midwestern women because of our very cold winters and the warmth of these scarves), but are perhaps not so popular elsewhere. Likely these same scarves will sell locally at craft fairs, rather than online.
Having a defined style helps you to develop new products, or to modify existing ones that will conform better to your style. For longer than I would like to admit, I have needed to pull my felted bags from my shop to modify them to include the floral motif that highlights other products. The bag with the felted flower below, for example, is one I made for myself but whose style has never appeared in JN Originals.
Recognize who your buyers are
Part of having a cohesive shop is knowing who your customers are, and making sure that every product you offer is geared toward those potential buyers. For the most part, I have come to recognize that women and teenage girls represent my buyers. But I also realize that my buyers include those who like to crochet the same items I make. So, I have begun to offer crochet patterns to address the needs of this type of customer. My first pattern is a set of fingerless gloves that fits an average-sized woman or teen. I expect that in 2013 I will roll out other patterns, not only on Etsy but also at the Craftsy site. In addition, I intend to broaden my market by including some unisex items.
Match your shop appearance to your style
Etsy’s Michelle, in her post about creating a cohesive shop, advises sellers to tailor their photographic backgrounds and banners to their style to create a cohesive shop. My product backgrounds, which are a plain white, will remain so in order to show off the colors and textures of my work. My shop banner, on the other hand, needs some work. It currently features a pink background with tiny flowers scattered on it (which ties in somewhat with the floral motif I use), but doesn’t really tell you what I sell. We’ll see what the new year brings!
Creating a cohesive shop takes time and experimentation. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of products you consider to be your favorites, but don’t sell particularly well. Likely these are items you can turn into special gifts. In the end, it’s all about your buyer!
I’d love to hear what other sellers are doing to make their shop more cohesive; let me know in your comments below.
© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.