DISCLAIMER: These are just my personal opinions. I am not sponsored by any E-Commerce site (in fact, they take MY money). I am a consumer just like you, and these are my opinions which I used to make decision for my own business. There is no one formula that will work for every business.
Etsy is almost like a rite of passage for crafters who decide to start selling after their friends and family tell them, "This is really good! You could sell these!"
It's tempting, because they don't charge monthly fees and everything seems to be pretty plug-and-go and user friendly. Even at shows where I'm set up with full display and handing out business cards with my new website and my own domain on them, people still ask, "Do you have Etsy?" I get this question often, but it still trips me up. Mostly because my Etsy site is currently still listed on my business cards. (One must resist the temptation to ask well-meaning people if they read). It gets me thinking: What is it about Etsy that people think I still need it, even though I clearly have my own domain and setup where I can do whatever I want?
The decision to switch over to an E-Commerce website was daunting for me. I was horrified at the prospect of having a monthly fee. What if I don't have any sales? I had just quit my job as a mail carrier because my husband had to start traveling for work and the options for daycare in our area are slim, to say the least. If you don't work Monday-Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 P.M. and you don't have family or a babysitter to help you out, you don't have much choice but to stay home and make it work. (As you can imagine, our area is especially inundated with direct sales vendors and crafters... "momtrepreneurs," as the kids say).
At this point, I had been on Etsy for almost 2 years and hadn't even hit 20 sales. I was fed up. After tireless hours of marketing, promoting, BEGGING people just to visit my page, hunched over my laptop wondering what else I could POSSIBLY write or what product photos could possibly lure people into at least LOOKING at my products. I had watched at least 20 videos by Wholesale Ted on Youtube and how they use Shopify to manage foolproof ecommerce sites in conjunction with social media advertising in order to dropship items and make loads of money basically doing nothing. Now, this was never my goal. And I can tell you that if you watch just a few of Wholesale Ted's videos (usually narrated by Sarah. You never see Ted), you will start spotting viral dropshipping ads on Facebook EVERY DAY. But I digress... It got me thinking that my products deserved their own platform. If these anybodies can write facebook ads that are convincing enough to persuade thousands people to buy a mermaid coffee mug from a Shopify store that was just set up 3 months ago, surely I could put in the effort and convince people to buy my very nice, luxury products which were lovingly crafted by my hands.
Here are the major factors I considered in my big switch from Etsy to E-Commerce:
1. Monthly fees
The prospect of having a $30 monthly fee had me shaking in my boots. However, Etsy isn't completely free. In fact, their comission fee is pretty hefty if you think about it. 3.5% adds up quickly. So if you were to really take off and do $1000 / month in sales, you'd quickly exceed the monthly feed for Etsy anyway. Etsy also charges per listing. Again, it seems innocuous at first at only 20 cents per listing, but that compounds when you're listing over 20 items a month. I felt really restricted while using Etsy, because I wanted to keep creating and creating, but the task of creating every new listing and paying to have it up each month really stifled that drive.
2. Domain name
Etsy now has a tool that allows you to basically have your own E-Commerce site, but tied to the Etsy marketplace. I really didn't see the point in paying for this service, especially when there are so many other E-Commerce platforms with so much more to offer, which can tie into a domain name of your choosing, and which don't require you to adhere to Etsy's strict Handmade / Vintage regulations. Those regulations may be good in nature, but every day more and more sellers on Etsy are clearly reselling items (NOT crafting them) and it's a real drag to see that happening and know that even if you wanted to add a few resale items to your shop (perhaps they fit your theme very well), you'd probably get shut down. Plus, it just plain looks nicer when you have your own domain that isn't tied to anything. It sounds better in conversation, when I can just point to the logo on my table runner and say "Sugar Free Cosmetics dot com." It's surprising how much it really does take a load off to have your own space.
One definitely pro of having an Etsy page is that they do a fair bit of marketing for you. Even now, when I have barely touched my Etsy shop in months, I still get views and favorites on the few items that are left (more on that, later). The problem is that Etsy boasts this marketing, but all of the pressure to get the purchases still lies on your shoulders. Yes, you will get traffic because your items are displayed on "related items" pages, and because of the sheer size of the Etsy marketplace and audience. People are bound to stumble on your corner of the internet if it's in a space so big. But in my humble opinion, Etsy will give you traffic and then just as quickly, rip it away. When people were viewing the page for my best selling item (Strawberry Cheesecake soap), they are presented with "related" items, AKA other things they might rather buy. And in my case, one person who had actually ripped off my exact design! In my experience, thousands of people could view my product before one ever considered adding it to their cart. And though Etsy sends you frequent e-mails about how to convert viewers into purchasers on your sales channels, the cold truth is that there isn't a whole lot you can do to attract would-be customers, other than advertising discount codes on your in-store announcement bar or banner, and offering the cheapest option out of all your competitors. In the end, the marketing they do FOR you actually ends up to be pretty draining. And as far as driving traffic to your website, I have personally had much better experience with social media advertising when directing people to my own personal domain name, and not one tied to Etsy.
4. The Rules
I touched on this very briefly, earlier, but I feel the need to come back to it because it ended up having the most impact on my decision. Etsy has strict regulations regarding what can and cannot be sold on their avenue, and violations can have your store shut down without hope for refunds of any pending payment or listing fees. Even though one quick glance through the Etsy marketplace will lead you to countless people who are obviously reselling things they bought on the Wish app or the clearance rack at the craft store, you just KNOW that with your luck, some disgruntled person would report you for reselling a cupcake keychain that matches your soaps, and you'd be S.O.L. On a related subject, I spent a lot of time searching Etsy (and many other sales channels) for affordable, plus sized rings. REAL plus sized rings, not the cheap "adjustables" that pinch your finger flesh and turn it green. My ring finger is a size 11 and I'm allergic to nickel, so it's always been hard to find affordable, cute and comfortable jewelry for my sausage fingies. When I finally did find a supplier who had them, I couldn't wait to make them available to others who might be searching, and maybe make a few bucks in the process. In fact, the very first sale I ever got was for a vintage size 13 ring that I had found in an antique mall. These products were obviously unique and very in demand, but the sales channel I was currently utilizing had regulations against selling them. I ultimately needed freedom from these rules and from the discomfort I felt through the shops around me, who were breaking the rules and branding these items as their own. Now, I can freely purchase gorgeous products from my suppliers, which keeps them happy. I can list as many of them as I want on my very own website and only care about happy customers who might be looking for them.
One of the biggest obstacles I faced (and still do) on Etsy was communicating with customers. Etsy does not provide an easy segue to e-mail, facebook messenger, or any other communication platform. If someone contacts you on Etsy, there is a good chance that message has been sitting for 12 hours or more. And they may not see your reply for several days, because Etsy's way of informing you that you have a message is a tiny orange bubble over the "Conversations" tab in the drop-down menu. I had inquired for a custom quote from another seller and didn't get a response for a week - which by that time, was too late. I had a customer reach out to me for a custom quote, and then she never responded. I have no idea if she even got that reply (I now direct customers to the "Custom Items" tab on my own website for this purpose). It's just harder to drive those sales home without a smooth and convenient form of going back and forth to answer inquires promptly. My E-Commerce website has an email address that is automatically forwarded to the shop's e-mail account, as well as links to Facebook messenger. Many E-Commerce platforms also offer add-on apps where you can integrate a "chat now" module into the website itself, so that people are prompted to chat while they browse. Judging by the amount of questions I get to my business's Messenger page, I wonder how much of these inquiries (and possibly sales) I missed out on because people didn't want to (or didn't know how to) rely on Etsy's shaky messaging method.
6. Ease of Transfer
Most E-Commerce websites are ready for you make your leap of faith from Etsy to a paif platform. A simple youtube tutorial can teach you how to export your entire Etsy shop to a .csv file, and import it into another E-Commerce site such as Shopify. That way, your entire shop, including ALL your listings, descriptions, item tags, images, inventory, everything! Is all imported into a nice, new, organized commerce site in just a few clicks. This is the video that I used to import my Etsy shop into Shopify: The video is from Megan Brame (A shopify affiliate) https://youtu.be/mIO3zHeWp24 (How to set up a Shopify store and import Etsy products in under 4 minutes)
The following video is a business owner (Littlebean and Me) who makes yarn, who explains the recent changes which took place in late 2018 on Etsy, and why she made a personal decision to move her business to a different platform. She also has a lovely, soft voice and I really enjoyed hearing what she has to say, even though I have long since transferred by shop (mostly) off of Etsy. She discusses fee increases, plan changes, and much much more. A really great 30 minute chat which you can either watch, or listen to while you wash dishes: https://youtu.be/4RayizZa_vQ
What I ultimately decided to do was keep my 5 top-selling items on Etsy, and use my announcement bar to redirect potential customers to the main website. This meant that for about a dollar per month, I could keep the traffic that was coming to my Etsy shop, and perhaps redirect them to the main site for sales. The main site has a better integration with social media, which translates into more page "likes," shares, follows, etc. You don't have to delete your shop completely. You do have to have at least one active listing in order to keep your shop active, but my humble opinon, the 20 cents is absolutely worth it if you have at least ONE really great, attention-grabbing item that gets views every month.
Have you recently started an E-Commerce site? Have you left Etsy? Do you have strong feelings either way? Leave a comment and share your experience! I'd love to hear it.