My three followers are well-aware of my frustrations installing this Zen-Cart.
I seem to hit snags everywhere I turn.
From enabling the SSL, which couldn’t be done from the cPanel apparently (I got fatal error messages, and finally succeeded by editing it offline and Filezilling* that Bad Boy) to the USPS’s failure to “authorize” my attempts to connect to their production server, to utilize my shipping calculator. …
Still waiting for that to be resolved, and in the meantime, I’ve added some manual shipping options.
*I just coined the verb “Filezilling”… i.e. uploading files to a server using the Filezilla program. I predict it will catch on eventually – like Googling did – but you read it here first. ;)
Overall, however, I’m extremely impressed with the functionality of this all-inclusive e-commerce system.
I don’t regret my decision to host my own store.
I could spend months testing all the gizmos and gadgets… Oh wait, I already HAVE spent 1.5 months just tinkering with it, and right now I have ONE product in my shop – My Darcy Dominic.
He’s been my beta product, so I could experiment with all the variables by adding 5, 10, or 20 of him into my cart.
Seriously, though, people spend 8-10 hours per day obsessing over their Etsy shops… their photographs, their tags and titles, their positions in the Almighty Category Search.
They waste spend time chatting in the forums, in order to “be seen” (both on-site and in Google), and have their comments reflect positively on their expertise.
They make Treasuries, join teams, and Twitter their fraking listings to death.
I am no marketing expert. Let’s just make that clear. ;)
I do believe, however, that all those hours would’ve been better spent on my own site, promoting just me.
Granted, Etsy is a giant shopping center, like the Mall of America…
Except more global… the Mall of Earth.
They get an insane amount of traffic!
I received a couple of sales recently, even after I had virtually abandoned my shop there, being otherwise engaged in The Zen Drama.
The odds of success on Etsy, however, are slim without constant promotion… and the downside to all that insane traffic, is how easily they can migrate out of your shop and into the arms of 200,000 other sellers who will offer items at half price, with free shipping, and tons of goodies thrown in.
Retailers in the most crowded malls are not faced with the obstacles that we Etsians take for granted:
Even in large malls, featuring 140+ shops, you will find a diverse group of storefronts which are strategically placed.
Except for the Food Court, you won’t find an imbalanced clump of direct competitors, i.e. 10 bath-and-body sellers in a single section of one wing!
Let’s explore the massive mall in my extended neighborhood, for instance…
Tyson’s Corner Center is the 5th largest mall in the U.S. and has an interactive map which allows you to search for applicable shops by category:
A search for Children’s apparel brings up 19 retailers, 10 of which are on the main floor. A closer look at these shops reveals the different target groups – The Disney Store, The Washington Redskins Official Store, Kid’s Foot Locker, Republic of Couture, and Macy’s… to name five of them.
Would you expect to find the same (or nearly identical) products in each shop?
I highly doubt it. ;)
They are also interspersed with bookshops, entertainment stores, jewelers, and sporting goods.
Each shop has a large glass frontage with which to make a killer first impression – showcasing their best lines, huge sales banners, and allowing customers to see their inviting interior designs.
On the other hand, at the time I write this, Etsy has 216,586 sellers (“with items in their shops” – in their words) lumped together on one website.
Most customers visiting for the first time will do a keyword search, or look into a specific category.
Children’s apparel has 4,444 pages to dig through. How do Etsy sellers get noticed?!
Well, that is where each owner spends their 8 hours daily… obsessing over those tiny thumbnail images and descriptive titles…
“Blue Roaring Lion Baby Infant and Toddler Long Sleeved Light Grey T-shirt in 0-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-9 Months, 9-12 Months, 2T, 3T, 4T, 5T, Junior and Adult sizes You Can Wear This to Your Christening, Graduation, Wedding, and Funeral”
… You gotta make it cheap, and add “Free shipping” somewhere in that title for good measure, unless you’re on page 1,287 … in which case, you’re screwed unless you have the budget and time to sit there and spend 20¢ every 1-2 hours to bring your listings back to the top.
Customers will never even get the chance to see your shop, if you can’t reel them in with the best damn teensy-tiny photograph and catchy title you can create… unless you kiss lots of butt and get yourself featured.
I don’t mean to knock Etsy; they have created a fabulous site, and the more time I spend creating this little corner shop of mine, the more I appreciate the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.
They have provided 216,586 sellers (oops, I think it’s 216,587 sellers now) with the opportunity to be seen by bazillions of potential customers, provided they list their products at the magical time of day/night when everyone gets “the most views”.
I don’t anticipate receiving a fraction of my Etsy shop’s traffic, although I do hope to cut down on my bounce rate… as I seriously doubt thousands will be just passing through my shop on their way to buy a one-size-fits-cradle-to-grave Roaring Lion Tee.
I fully intend to post a few links and banners from my site, to those shops and blogs owned by friends… like Jessica and Lily… because they are awesome people and I like to watch them celebrate each fully deserved sale.
What is unfortunate about Etsy, is that you promote the hell out of your own shop, and occasionally the shops of friends, only to watch 70% of your viewers trail off into the vastness of Etsy-La-la-Land, to purchase something cheaper from a stranger …or the most hated of all – the god-forsaken Re-Sellers, charlatans who buy commercial goods and list them unaltered as “handmade” OOAK items.
Okay. I promise to stop complaining about Etsy.
My plan is to continue my Etsy shop, in a limited capacity, but in the next few days when this Zen Cart is fully equiped and ready for business… I’m gonna put all my blood, sweat, tears, and ripped-out hair into my own art shop… because isn’t it the goal of each and every self-employed person to be his/her own master?
To stop lining the boss’s pockets while accepting a minimal wage for work that is worth 5X, 10X, even 20X more?
I’m remembering that former bakery I worked for, baking and decorating wedding cakes worth over $500.00 for which I received $7.50 per hour…. that flour and powdered sugar certainly didn’t cost $470.00.
Stop spending $1.00-$3.00 each day to renew that Blue Lion T-shirt in the sea of lion tees, and invest in a dedicated domain, an SSL Certificate, and the free Zen Cart.. which “anyone with basic computer skills can install and set-up”.
Also, download the $30 user’s manual, just in case your basic computer skills are inadequate. ;)
Alternately, you can purchase an island in Tyson’s Corner… Roaring Lion Tees would fill a much-needed niche between Macy’s and Abercrombie & Fitch.
There are 216,599 sellers on Etsy now, and I am going to bed.