So, you’ve recently started your own business, or you’ve decided to dip your toes into the e-commerce waters – right? Whether it’s artwork, homeware, hoodies for pooches or tophats for hamsters, you need a platform to start selling.
But which platform is best for a newbie like you? If Etsy is the first thing that comes to mind, you’re not alone — Etsy is the biggest and most popular site available for individual craftspeople, and it can be a fast route to exposure. But there are downsides to the site too, and those downsides are big enough to draw many of the more successful businesses to sell through their own e-commerce sites instead.
So, which is best for you: Etsy, or your own e-commerce site? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches, as well as how to do each best, so we can turn your business into a full-blown success story.
Selling on Etsy
- Ready to go. Sure, you’ll have to do some work in getting it set up, but an Etsy store is far closer to being done “out-of-the-box” than any e-commerce site. This is true not just in terms of layout and design — a real relief to those who aren’t web designers — but also when it comes to freight tracking, stats on web traffic, and that all-important payment process system, which can be difficult and cumbersome to design and navigate on your own.
- Instant customer trust. When you link your own brand with Etsy’s, you’re tapping into all of the branding work and business development the site has done to gain customers’ trust and respect. There’s a reason, after all, that the site attracts so much traffic. And because motivated niche customers are already visiting in higher volumes than they do on any other eCommerce site, getting on Etsy means potentially exposing your products to an audience it would take much longer for you to find on your own. That means instant viewership and marketing, right from the get-go.
- Help is only a community board away. Even as the site has grown, Etsy has maintained an engaged, passionate, and inherently helpful community of sellers. Should you have any questions — whether they concern set up, marketing, or anything else — on the community boards you’re likely to find a fellow seller willing to help you out. Community boards are also a great place to connect and swap stories, which can often lead to marketing partnerships in the future (see the tips section below for more on this).
- Lack of control. Of course, all of that ready-made convenience comes with a cost. When you’re on Etsy, you’re subject to any company policy changes or administrative decisions, and it’s not unheard of for well-meaning sellers to have their shops shut down for inadvertent or trumped-up policy violations. Even if the decision is reversed, your store and loyal followers can be lost, and you might have to start over from scratch.
- Limited design options. Likewise, when you use Etsy, you’re pretty limited by their template store designs. This might be fine as you’re starting out, but it makes it difficult to brand as you grow, which in turn makes distinguishing yourself from other sellers more of a task. It’s also hard to optimize for marketing with various calls to action (CTAs), like placing email list signups in multiple places throughout the page. Again, this means you put much more of the marketing in Etsy’s hands, rather than in your own.
- Heated competition from other sellers. With so many similar products on the site, it can often be difficult to keep a customer on your page, particularly when competitor products are listed in the sidebar. This is especially frustrating if you’ve done the hard work of, say, going to a crafts show in person, schmoozing a customer, handing out a card with your Etsy store on it, only to have them turn elsewhere because they see a better (yet you might argue, unfair) price.
- It takes a chunk of change (sort of). Each product listing costs 15 pence per item. On top of that, Etsy takes 3.5% of the selling price. So whether or not Etsy is more expensive will depend on how well you’re doing on the platform. And of course, as we covered in the pros, Etsy comes with plenty of benefits that may still be worth any investment.
Selling on your own website
- More control over design, marketing and SEO. When you operate from your own e-commerce site, you’re in control of just about everything. You decide on the layout, design and branding of your site — and if that changes, all you have to do is change your site. Want to add an extra mailing list signup button so you can further your list building? Do it. Want to change your policies? Do it. On your own site, you won’t have to worry about a sudden change in regulations, or having your store shut down and having to start again. In both the back- and the front-end of your site, you’ll have far more search engine optimization (SEO) opportunities as well. And if you want to change your site to promote a big marketing push or product launch, you can just—you guessed it—do it
- Fewer on-page customer distractions. On your own site, you won’t have to worry about a competitor advertising their product right next to yours (essentially in your store). Your page, your show. End of story.
- Media and customers take you more seriously. If your site is well-designed, the media tends to take you more seriously on your own site than on Etsy. That first part is a key caveat here, and it only really happens if your site shows that you’ve put time and effort into branding and design— far more than if you just entered information and uploaded a few pictures to Etsy. For similar reasons, your own e-commerce site can be better for customer referrals, as there’s less brand confusion and customers have an easier time of remembering your personal URL than that of your Etsy store.
- You have to know what you’re doing. I’m not saying that you don’t know what you’re doing now, or that you can’t learn. But if you’re not familiar with web design, making your own site can be a recipe for disaster. Not only will you want your site to just generally look nice, but it’s also crucial to avoid a number of usability pitfalls. Unless you’re a designer yourself, hiring one may be an important added expense.
- Increased marketing tasks. On your own site, there’s no chance you’ll be featured in a popular store from the get-go. You’ll need a comprehensive marketing plan to get the word out about your store. This might include a social media and blog presence, fliers and printouts, and lots of touring at trade or craft shows. While marketing is also an important activity for Etsy store owners, it’s even more important when you’re on your own.
- Web competition. We said before that on your own e-commerce site you won’t face competition directly on your store page. However, on the wider web, you’ve got a world of competition, including all of those Etsy wares. Because Etsy is so popular—pretty much the go-to place for handmade crafts for many buyers—attracting customers your way can be a daunting task.
We’re not saying that Etsy isn’t a great way to get customers and build a business – it is! But relying on it as a platform when you want to expand your business and grow a sustainable, recognisable brand will be a struggle.
It’s very common for artists and makers these days to have both an Etsy shop and their own e-commerce shop! This may take additional time to manage, but could be a great way of experimenting to see which works best for you, seeing as it doesn’t cost you to keep your Etsy shop open.
If you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce site, speak to us and we’ll help you figure out what is best for your business!