Artists now have many marketplaces available to them that make it easy to sell art, photography and handmade items online.
There are lots of places to sell, but having a successful business comes down to whether people find your store. Do you think opening several stores is a good way to expand your reach or will spreading out to multiple marketplaces just stretch you too thin?
We asked three successful creative businesses owners their opinions about selling on multiple online marketplaces to find out what really works.
Want To See Sales? Consider The Community
Every online marketplace has a culture and community that responds uniquely to different products. Finding marketplaces that are a good fit for your products, style, and overall business goals may be more important than being a little fish in every big pond.
Erin MacMahon from NiftyGiftyGuides hoped selling on a marketplace with a ton of traffic would boost sales, but found buyers on the 'big sites' unresponsive. Erin soon realized buyers on large sites like Amazon or eBay are primarily price driven.
“eBayers have become so jaded by the great deals on eBay that they are no longer willing to spend a reasonable amount of money on eBay items,” she found.
Products that are unique and creative can get lost and be undervalued in large marketplaces, but community-driven sites like Etsy are built specifically to help artists sell their work and attract buyers in search of unique goods.
“I've discovered that Etsy, despite its similarities to eBay (low selling fees, public feedback, etc), is actually more of a community than a competition. On eBay, you're fighting head-to-head with sellers who may have the exact same item, but with different photos, descriptions or pricing. On Etsy, everyone promotes each others' work, and the more experienced sellers take the newbies under their wings; even the site administrators go out of their way to make sure you become successful.”
Elle Green from Austin Modern underlines the importance of understanding that different marketplaces attract different types of buyers. “[Sites like] Etsy attract very unique buyers with a desire for items not found in most garden variety retail shops and it gives many artists a second stream of revenue when in the past a designer could be restricted to selling only at weekend shows and consignment boutiques/collectives.”
Knowing that certain sites are frequented by editors, stylists, set designers, and other buyers who can help her gain exposure for her brand, Elle also strategically lists higher end vintage items on sites like Bondandbowery and reserves smaller pieces and handcrafted items for Etsy.
A Clear Path To Success
“To be a successful seller you have to devote massive amounts of energy to marketing each shop,” says Kym Tolson of Hypnotransformations. “Sales occasionally will happen just due to luck, but generally each shop [requires] hard work to get sales.”
She suggests this strategy: “Getting a solid footing and your name known at one setting is more productive. Once that happens, branch out to other [marketplaces] if you have the time and energy to spend. It's very easy to spread yourself too thin and become obsolete on all the selling venues.”
Every business owner we talked to agreed that, ultimately, the results you get on any marketplace will depend on the time and effort you put into promotion of each specific store.
If you have the time and energy to promote multiple stores in a way that suits the specific audience of each marketplace, selling on multiple sites can make sense. For most small business owners, focusing on one or two marketplaces that cater to creative businesses and are a good fit for your products will be a better bet.
Molly Fisher has more than 10 years experience building brands and social networks for leading companies such as Schooldude.com and Burt's Bees as well as several other clients. She currently runs Craft Ideas Weekly Facebook Community, the Craft Ideas Weekly Blog, and works as an eCommerce and Social Marketing Consultant in Chapel Hill, NC.
Main photo courtesy of Lili Vieira de Carvalho.