Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Etsy Branding And Overstepping Their Bounds

I swore to myself I wasn't going to make any more posts about Etsy. I really wasn't. I have been avoiding them for a while because they frustrate me so. The only thing I have done is list new stuff and leave. I have barely read the forums in the past few weeks, I haven't looked at the front page, I haven't relisted any of my items and I haven't promoted them in any way. I have been happier for staying away too. However, I discovered a link on another blog to their post about their new marketing strategy and made the mistake of having hope that they finally figured it out and went to read it.

In the past, even when I have made harsh posts about Etsy I have given them the benefit of the doubt to a degree. I keep thinking they are going to figure this out and make their site work for the masses. After their latest marketing strategy I don't think that's ever going to happen without a complete overhaul of their administration team.

It's never been any secret they take it upon themselves to brand certain types of items the staff favors and promote them, but they finally come out and more or less admit it in their post about Etsy Merchandising found here:
You can read her post here

They are going to have "themes" and they encourage people to make things to fit those themes in order to get that exposure they dangle like a carrot in front of our noses. We know deep in our hearts we won't get it. But they still dangle it.

The problem I have with all that is this...yes Etsy is their own business and they can run it however they want, but..BIG BUT here...they have touted themselves as an online venue for all things handmade up until this time. If they are a venue, what gives them the right to try to make trends? Shouldn't that be up to the sellers and the buyers? They claimed in a subsequent post that they were trying to create a breath of fresh air with the front page and yet people keep saying how stale it is because it's always the same stuff. I completely concur. I don't even bother to look at it anymore because I know what I am going to see before I ever get there, and most of it isn't something I am interested in. When I find a gem on Etsy it's nearly always because I did a search.

The majority of people who run Etsy are incredibly young. The people who sell on Etsy are all ages. The people who (would like to) buy on Etsy are all ages. So how can this small group of very young employees decide what a trend or theme should be for their customer base when they don't even have a good grasp on who those people are? I don't believe for a minute that they are basing it on any type of public polls. If you want to find out what people want to buy, there is a sure fire method to get those answers...ASK THEM! Then use what they tell you. Get the demographics, find out who your customers are, and what ages they are. What price points they like, and how much they are willing to spend. Don't just decide for them.

Many of the artists trying to sell on Etsy have been in business considerably longer than they have, so what gives them the right to suddenly stand up and say they get to choose what the theme for any given time will be, beyond holidays and that we as artists should conform to that. Etsy's motto should be celebrate the unique! Isn't that the point of handmade? Think how fun it is to find a great little treasure that you know not everyone has made and not everyone will have. That is half the reason many artists make what they make. We want to provide a unique, high quality item that can't be found anywhere else.

How many artists have you seen getting upset when someone creates something similar or exactly the same as what they do, but yet here is Etsy telling them they should do that very thing. How counter intuitive is that?

I am sure you probably think well Kel if you're so frustrated by them why not leave. Yes, and and that is coming soon because I can barely stomach the site any more. I am hardly involved there now other than to list and leave on the off chance someone sees my work that wouldn't have seen it anywhere else. To me that is worth the twenty cents a listing, it is not worth my time to promote my shop or relist my items any longer. But the larger issue is this; Etsy has grown to the point where they can make an impact on the handmade movement as a whole. Even if we are not selling on the site we have the potential to be effected by their choices if they set a precedent.

Do these people have the right to set trends in the handmade marketplace? From my perspective the answer is no. Not unless they are going to make it a juried site. If they only want to promote certain types of items aimed a small market then they need to step up and jury the site. If you think otherwise that's fine, but think how it might impact your business dealings in the long run. If you feel this is wrong, make your opinion heard. I posted on the feedback forum and put my two cents in. I doubt it will do any good, but I had to say what I felt.

If they want to be a shop with a specific look and style of items that's fine. They can be the next Urban Outfitters or Zappos as they quoted. If they want to remain just a sales venue for all things handmade then they need to step away from overstepping those bounds and their trend setting and allow the customers to choose what they like and what they want to buy. As it stands right now, they are not giving their customers the fair chance to do that by displaying all types of items the site has for sale in order to make them aware of what their choices are. If you don't go to Etsy with a specific item in mind you want to search for, chances are unless it's one of their pet items you won't know it's there. Even if you do go search for something specific you have to keep your fingers crossed that their faulty search engine will find all that you are looking for.

Etsy is such a great concept, I really wish they would stick to that concept and give both their sellers and buyers a fair shake, and realize that it's not their place to choose for us unless they are willing to brand themselves first and admit they have become a store or specialty type of site. Buyers are intelligent, we can decide for ourselves what we want to buy without having to be spoon fed their so called trends that largely only appeal to a very young market.


Patricia Lazar Ceramic Art .com said...

Hi Kelly, I agree that Etsy has developed a certain 'look' and very low price point for younger audience, but there are still some sellers who don't fit into that look and some do very well there. I, for example, get loads of hearts on my shop, but am very disappointed in my sales there.. I must confess that I'm finding myself trying to conform more to their 'look' and will soon list new ceramic teapots that might work better there.....we'll see.

FenBeary Folk said...

Hi Kelly, I don't actually have an Etsy Shop but have pegged it for a future venue...................am not so sure now!!! What I don't understand is why do "big guys" want to change things, when the originality of the site is what has made it great. You only have to look at Ebay, yet another fantastic idea that has been taken over by GREED. And this is greed again
Huggies Sue xx

Kelly said...

Patricia, none of us should have to do that though. As artists we should make what we choose and not do it to conform to any selling venue in order to get sales. If Etsy was doing their job and creating a place for people to sell with all price points and all types of items you wouldn't have to do that unless you chose to.

Fenbeary, most bear artists have hardly any sales at all on Etsy. They don't have us in the correct category, they don't give us any type of promotion at all, and they don't care. I made a post in November called "The Good, The Bad & The Etsy" about my journey with them as a bear artist and what I had learned. You might consider reading that before you bother setting up a shop. I think you would do better on some of the other venues, but I don't know for sure.

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