n October 22, 2013
Etsy is, by far, the most recognizable of selling platforms, especially for handcrafted goods, though have recently changed their policies regarding content. Etsy does not charge monthly site fees, utilizing instead a $.20 listing fee and 3.5% commission, which are paid manually on a monthly basis. Listings expire every 4 months.
In the last two years, Etsy has altered their search options, and “recently listed” is no longer the default. This means, listing regularly and often for exposure no longer results in the same sales. Large shops with more disposable income often flooded the search with products constantly re-listed, while small shops were swallowed in the mass listings. However, since Etsy now invites manufactured product, the small business owner is equally likely to experience a lack of exposure. If you generate your own traffic, these changes are less likely to directly affect you, but if you generate your own traffic, there are also far more affordable solutions.
The site is pleasant in appearance, with a professional “image”. The “handpicked” featured front-page items are generally photographed and constructed well. Though this “juried” hand-pick process often relegates less established shops to the shadows, the quality images do, admittedly, draw customers to search and buy. Individual stores are not customizable. Direct downloads are available, with what appears to be little fuss. As with Artfire, there are multiple payment processing options, ideal for those who would prefer a PayPal alternative. This platform offers coupon options, maintenance and vacation mode and bulk edit.
In the forums, the staff interacts politely and professionally with consumers and shop owners, but usually with cookie cutter response, and without any real meaningful discourse.
Focus is all-inclusive!
Site fees are higher, at a promotional $12.95 per month (normally $20). There are no listings fees or commissions. Though fees were partially (and supposedly) used to “advertise this site to buyers” (and note there is no mention of advertising the seller), the sales were, for me, entirely self-procured. The logo is large, distracting and designed to create a site-centric focus (not seller-centric), and the general design of the site is uninspired, lacking a modern appeal. The focus is all-inclusive!
The site is easy to navigate, and caters to a wide range of product, styles and price ranges. The product listings are nicely designed with sections dedicated for the description, materials used, shipping and additional product information and individual shop fronts are customizable in very limited ways. Shop owners are also provided their own imbedded blog, which is a pleasant perk. It seems that, once in a shop, the “search” function defaults to search the current shop, which is also an incredible feature. Direct downloads are not, I believe, currently available. This platform offers multiple payment options, coupon options, maintenance and vacation options and bulk edit.
The forums, in my experience, bred hostility, negativity and condescension, and the staff would often reply to questions or concerns in a manner entirely unprofessional, with foul language and bullying. The forums were trolled by “top sellers” who frequently (and carefully) advertised their “SEO How-To” and “Photography” manuals, and generally promoted a feeling of spam instead of helpfulness.
Handmade Artists’ Shop
Fees are exceptionally reasonable: $5 a month or $50 a year (savings of $10). There is no limit on the number of items you can list, and listings never expire. Focus is handmade! Their website experiences glitches. Direct downloads, though available, do not always send or are not always received with reliability. Clicking “Recent Products” (featured first on the home page), “Featured Artists” or “Handmade Highlights” can often re-direct to the home page. Possibly to blame is the presence of sold items, which remain as highlights. This wouldn’t necessarily pose a problem if it was easy to access the shop via the sold listing. However, a redirect complicates a search for similar items by the same artist or owner. The site logo is pleasant and unassuming, with a focus on products and stores. The product listing side bar is not, in my opinion, well designed. The “Shop Owner” name is large, but directs to a profile instead of the shop home page. This seems redundant since “Profile” is also an option beneath the owner name, while “Store Home” is a small link above. While not problematic, exactly, if you prefer a look more streamlined, this storefront may not appeal.
The site, as a whole is easy to navigate and generally pleasant. Search categories are alphabetized and easily accessible. The forum is friendly and inviting. My experience there was one of helpfulness and encouragement. Andrew and Kimberly (owners) were, in my opinion, quick to help, address site-related concerns and were good-spirited.
With an estimated 600 shops, the products range from high end to quick and affordable gift ideas. The atmosphere fosters creativity, but may not best be suited to those who have a particular “high end” web presence or “juried” expectation in mind. There is no, from my experience, requirements as regards image or product quality, and this site suits a wide range of artists and product. There is very limited internal traffic and sales, generally speaking, result from the efforts of individual storefronts and less from the promotional efforts of the platform.
Free to join and list, sell fine art or photography prints and products on RedBubble. Upload an image and RedBubble will print, package and ship the item when a purchase is complete. They provide a base price for each type of print or product, and the seller chooses their mark-up value. Where materials and overhead were previously included in your cost of doing business, they now become obsolete via the RedBubble platform. Payment is remitted for sold items (I believe), once a month.
Though this isn’t the most affordable option for the customer, with a higher base price and seller mark-up, the products are of a lovely quality and the website represents this quality well with a very modern, portfolio web presence. The search is easy, with oodles of eye candy. Though I’m not sure if this feature still exists, account holders were also able to upload original fiction, poetry and artwork (not otherwise for sale) for comments and discussion within the RedBubble community, which remains a feature I found particularly appealing. Traffic and sales were, in my experience, entirely self-procured. This platform is better suited to those who want to “set it and forget it”.
Hate it in every possible way. Wont buy there. Wont sell there. The fees are outrageous and, as an indie or handcrafted business, it’s impossible to compete with mass production with a yard-sale mentality. The storefronts are functional, but not attractive. The checkout process is PayPal dependent and the favored option to place a “bid” (instead of the immediate gratification of a “buy now” purchase) is patience-withering and often results in paying more for a product than the product is worth. eBay is no friend to the handcrafted ideology unless that ideology also includes making no money.
Focus: Everything under the sun. Plus the sun. Made in China.
Motto: If you want to become the victim of a crime….
Regarded as the perfect alternative to Etsy, Bonanza sports 3.5% transaction fees on the first $500 plus 1.5% on any remaining transaction balance, with a $.50 minimum. Fees are paid manually once a month or automatically for every $100 of final value fees accrued within a month. Which is too complicated for my tired artist brain. Otherwise, there are no membership, monthly or listing fees.
The site has a beautiful classic look, and easy search, but is not utilized well. Storefronts are called “booths” and are fairly generic with no customizing options. Re-selling is the name of the game here, generally speaking, and If I never see another Louis Vuitton “vintage” listing, it will be too soon. The front page consists of a collection “curated” by a user, and usually consists of 20 blue items, 20 Gucci watches, or 20 babies in lion costumes. Not incredibly creative and, in my opinion, tiresome for the consumer.
Products range from cheap dollar store finds to overpriced $5000 bulk iPhone parts, and everything in between. Digital downloads are currently unavailable. Booths are equipped with “live chat” options, but sellers are rarely available. The forums proved to be unhelpful and dull with generic “ask support” responses, indicative of a lack of presence by site staff.
By far my personal favorite, and the best experience I’ve had with a selling platform, Storenvy is entirely free. No membership fees. No monthly fees. No listing fees. No final value fees. To keep this service free, features you might have enjoyed on other platforms are now “extra” services which require purchase. Though a single generic coupon option is available, “super discounts” are available with purchase. Custom domains are also available for $5 a month. As with Artfire and Etsy, a Facebook app is easy to integrate. Listing product is easy and relatively fuss-free, but basic. Direct downloads are currently only available through a third party app which, in my opinion, charge high fees for unreliable service. PayPal is the only payment option.
The site has a new “portfolio” front page, featuring editors picks. This doesn’t thrill me, and is not particularly helpful for those who rely on internal traffic. The focus is indie-centric, and the platform hosts more than 50k stores. The default search sorts by “popularity”, and I honestly haven’t discovered what determines the popularity of a listing. If you appreciate the Pinterest platform, Storenvy will definitely appeal. Storenvy “Marketplace” sales (ie site search), for me, have been fairly nonexistent, but that was never my audience. If you generate your own traffic, however, free is where it’s at.
The storefronts are completely customizable, with two available free themes, and dozens of others affordably priced by individual designers. I’m told by Adam (Director of Community) that direct downloads and more themes are on the honey-do list.
Currently, the forum has been disabled but was, admittedly, not very user-friendly to start and seemed to encourage a promotional philosophy. Less discussion, lots of self-promotion. There are a couple amazing Facebook Storenvy communities I would suggest if you like the forum interaction. Storenvy staff are very good at responding to questions or concerns, either via their contact forms or Facebook message and have, in my experience, followed up after tickets or complaints are placed and addressed.
Please note: These reviews are based only on personal experience and in no way represent a wider public opinion. Many of these experiences occurred one or more years ago and these platforms may have since improved or degraded their service. I invite each of you to test these services for yourself, and share your experiences and opinions in the comments below.
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