You know I’ve moved to Earth very recently and while moving here I was promised to be a millionaire by selling some goods online! E-commerce is so profitable, they said. You can sell anything online, they said. And I believed them. What do I know? At the end of the day, I am just an alien. We don’t sell online goods. We don’t even have that many goods! We usually walk around naked so no one’s paying £100 for a stupid jumper or a pair of slippery shoes! Seriously, what’s wrong with your feet people?
Anyway, I have decided to open up an online jewellery store. Why jewellery you asked? Because they are shiny…
Within many different options, I selected to proceed with Etsy, why you asked?
- It has a more sophisticated image when compared to its competitors such as Amazon or eBay.
- Pieces on Etsy are usually unique and therefore a bit more expensive but desirable.
- When I need a pair of shoes or a water bottle, I visit Amazon, but when I need jewellery it is always Etsy… I mean my friend… Not me… My friend. I don’t need shoes.
Being a seller on Etsy, made me realize that Etsy has its own issues.
Found in 2005, the idea behind Etsy was unique. The main aim was to create a platform for handmade items and an artisan market. Other platforms that support artisans such as Folksy or Society 6 could not even gain the attention of that amount of sellers when compared to Etsy.
It is possible to think that with its unique strategy, Etsy will be safe for a long time. However, the online world is cruel and once a business is successful, it has no luxury to stop. It has to continue creating new ideas and solutions to make the business better and irreplaceable. Well, Etsy was a bit late to do that. But Amazon wasn’t and in 2015, it introduced “handmade at Amazon“.
The biggest advantage of using Amazon for the sellers is the company’s huge distribution network. It is possible for the sellers to send their products to a selected Amazon fulfilment centre and then the company distributes the products to the end-customers.
Etsy sellers, on the other hand, have to deal with the distribution issues by themselves. Considering that most of the items on Etsy are handmade products that are usually made to order, producing them, sending them to the end-customers, dealing with the cancellations, returns, refunds, and postal fees are already a hard job. That is why when you read the info section of most of the Etsy stores, you will see no cancellations or refunds are accepted and sellers do not take any responsibility in regards to shipping issues. Because otherwise, they will eventually end up losing money while trying to earn some.
Well, if a seller cannot produce stuff like mass production, is it really possible to have some revenue in the end? Or is it really possible to be able to shine out amongst 29 million listings of handmade items and guarantee a couple of sales a month without managing your page as a real business? No. So you will manage your page like a real business but you cannot produce like a real business as you need to keep being handmade. Confusing, huh?
Amazon’s “handmade” move and “small business” move happened to be a big threat to Etsy. Other platforms were just some simple Etsy wannabes. Amazon, on the other hand, is huge. It has a lot to offer when compared to Etsy, it makes everything more convenient for both sellers and the buyers. Sellers do not have to shut down their stores while going on a holiday, or buyers do not have to deal with non-refunding policies of individual sellers.
Aware of this stuff, Etsy opened its doors to wholesalers. When Amazon invites artisans, this has a positive impact however when Etsy invites cheap wholesalers products to its artisan market, it ruins the uniqueness of the platform and ruins the brand’s soul. Most of the users are not happy either as it is no longer possible to differentiate the handmade from the wholesale product anymore.
Etsy formed local communities and started to offer marketplaces and pop up stores in different locations in order to make the sellers meet the end customers in real life. This makes sense since although the world is pretty much digitalized, people still want to see the product before actually buying it as digital photo manipulations can make everything look high quality.
Before losing its popularity, Etsy could try helping the sellers when it comes to distribution, or raise the number of pop-up stores and invest some best selling local items to display them in these stores. Or at least providing some digital marketing tool, just like Shopify does, that could help sellers to create more successful digital marketing activities and increase their sales.
Although Etsy still seems to be one of the profitable examples of sharing economy, by welcoming the wholesalers from China, and ignoring what its main audience asks for, it might be damaging its reliability.
Briefly, Earthlings, it has been 2.5 years and this Visitor is still not a millionaire – I blame Etsy for that, shame on you Etsy!- But if you Earthlings need a pair of earrings please remember to visit ShamanOxford.
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