What Are The Big Problems With Selling On Etsy?
I feel comfortable considering myself a fairly seasoned online re-seller now, and perhaps in a position where I can comment on the different websites and what is good and/or bad about them. Etsy is a website with which I have a truly love/hate relationship, and that is why in this article I will discuss what the major problems are with selling on Etsy.
If, at the end of the article, you feel you can overcome these challenges, then go for it! I would love to hear what your experiences are and whether they differ from mine. For an easy but useful read, Mamasgotittogether has an informative and detailed look at both the pros and cons on her blog, check it out here.
Please bear in mind that all of the below comments are matters of personal opinion, and only reflect my own personal experience.
1. The listing fee system is difficult to keep track of
I dislike websites where you have to pay a listing fee because you don't know yet if your item will sell - I would rather pay a monthly subscription that I knew I had to cover or pay commission when the item did sell. Etsy functions on a 3 month product listing basis, and once an item expries - you have to pay to relist it!
Now, that's fine for sellers of goods that can sell in Volume, but for small vintage resellers those costs can really cut into profit margins if there is only one of any item.
2. The website is flooded with Chinese wholesalers
This particular issue is so prevalent that it has caused financial issues for Etsy.Wired actually did a very good article about this that I read when it came out, after Etsy announced it was going to allow sellers to outsource production of their goods to some extent. Etsy did this because it wanted more sellers to hit a sales bracket where they could give up their 9-to-5 job and live the 'crafter's dream,' an entrepreneurial, more creative lifestyle that Etsy loves to promote.
However by doing this they have made it easier for sellers to rely on wholesale items and as a result, a lot of what is listed on the website is no more 'handmade' than what you could pick up in Topshop. Things are often listed as 'antique' 'vintage' 'silver' but are mass produced silver metal items with no age or value to them.
Some sellers do still create everything handmade, others will buy wholesale and add finishing touches: but this move certainly angered some in the Etsy community who felt strongly that the crafty, homemade angle of the website was what made it so special
3. The website CAN (not always) have quite a sour atmosphere
This is probably a terrible thing to say - but I've noticed from belonging to a few Etsy groups on Facebook that the community of mumsy, crafty sellers can quickly turn sour when spited. Witch hunts are not uncommon for shops that have ripped people off (which I actually think it quite justified, although I would suggest that going to Etsy with complaints and not fellow sellers might be more appropriate.)
There's a big super-right wing Christian mommy community on there (the type who might forgo Yoga pants in order to not offend their husbands) who seem to have keyboard warriorism embedded in their genes.
4. There's a lot of poor quality products on the website
It's a homemade website - there are a lot of products that are...errrr... well... homemade. Sadly the hilarious blog Regretsy (featuring the worst and most cringe inducing items listed on the website) was forced to shut down. These products don't impinge on your business if yours are of a high quality - but it can make browsing the website more off-putting than it should be.
If Etsy curated it's pages a bit more, it might draw in a few more customers who enjoy the experience of browsing and e-window shopping, rather than going on the site to search for specific items
5. Listing sections are swamped with products
The sheer volume of Etsy can be an issue. Yes, there's a huge market of potential buyers out there for your items, however there is such a number of listed items that it's almost impossible to get your products at the top (also see Etsy's ever-changing algorithms, which just like Facebook's, are the scourge of small business owners)
6. Individuals profiles are not personalisable enough
I personally have a bone to pick with how static seller's individual profiles are. They offer such limited opportunity for creative expression on a site that is all based on aesthetics and individualism! They're better than eBay, granted, but I consider eBay one of the most poorly designed and ugly websites around!
You can change a banner image and a small profile avatar, but even just being able to personalise colour scheme would go far to improve these issues and just make the shops feel a little less monotonous.
7. The separation of shop profile and personal profile is messy and confusing
This is probably a hugely unpopular opinion, but I do find the separation of the personal seller profile and the shop front profile confusing. I would like to see about the shop owner on the same page as the shop, and the separate click through method seems unnecessarily complicated.
There you go, my big problems with selling on Etsy. Having said all this, I probably will take up selling on Etsy again after my Masters degree if I can't find employment for the simple reason that it is a truly global (as opposed to European) marketplace with traffic that you cannot really ignore.
So don't write off Etsy just yet, but as most larger sellers have come to realise - you will need a third party shop on a more autonomous platform to exert full creative control and really begin to expand your business. Who knows, you might be the next Nasty Gal!
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As always, thanks for reading and leave any comments you have below!