Bloom Business Basics Bootcamp Week 7: eCommerce Platforms

Well, here we are in week 7 already! If you’ve been following along, we have talked about whether or not you can (or want to!) sell your craft, if you DO sell, how to price your products so that you are making a profit, and business-y stuff like how to come up with a name, how to track your expenses , and how to get paid.  Last week, we moved into the part where you start to show up online, talking about social media (and how to find a flock of raving fans!). 

At this point, you’re all set up and ready to go for it. Just one thing...where are you selling from? If you’re gonna be a real-deal handmade business owner...well...you’ve gotta have a place to sell your goods from!

 There is a whole sea of ecommerce platforms for you to choose from, and if you took the time to look into every single one of them...you might run screaming in the other direction.

For the sake of ease, I’m going to share with you the options that are most popular with handmade business owners.

The first two platforms are marketplaces where you set up a shop to sell your handmade items. For each of these, you are essentially renting a space in someone else’s business (like a store renting a space in a shopping mall). 

1. Etsy (marketplace)

Etsy, established in 2005, provides a global marketplace for sellers. There are 3 general categories of shops: handmade, vintage, and craft supply. Etsy is a widely searched and trusted platform that has given millions of sellers (over 2.5 million to date) a chance to sell their products online without having to figure out the tangle of tech and coding that comes with having your own website. 

The Etsy platform is easy to use and provides a template layout for you to sell in. Listings are easy to make and easy to update.  

The benefits of selling on Etsy include a low cost of entry (in the US: $0.20 per, a final value fee of 5% of the total payment collected, and applicable card processing fees) and a platform that is recognized and known worldwide.

2. Amazon Handmade (marketplace)

Amazon handmade was initially established in October 2015 as a beta program, and has since grown to over 140,000 sellers in 30 countries worldwide. 

I personally have found the Amazon Handmade platform very clunky and difficult to use. The fees are higher than Etsy and include a 15% referral fee for each sale, which adds up quickly. The seller dashboard is difficult to access and payouts are (in my experience) laggy, often coming weeks after the sale. 

The benefits of selling on Amazon handmade include being in front of a wide audience of buyers, but beware of the “Prime mentality” where customers expect their packages to arrive within a day or two.

These next platforms are ecommerce sites, where you have a little bit more flexibility with design and product offerings. Think of these like owning your own brick and mortar: the store exists out in the world and on your terms, but you have to figure out how to get people there with good directions (and once they get there, you have to keep them coming back!

3. Shopify

I admit, Shopify has my heart. I use it, I teach it, and I love it. At only $29 a month for the basic plan, Shopify provides you with a highly customizable ecommerce site where you can really show off your artistic skill and design capabilities. 

The platform is user-friendly, with consistency in layout for product listings, collections, pages, and blog posts. It integrates seamlessly with Facebook, Instagram, and most email marketing services, and has thousands of free and paid apps to add additional functionality to your website. 

Their customer service is outstanding: US customers have 24/7 access to phone or chat support.  Additionally, Shopify offers a rich selection of webinars, tutorials, and classes through Shopify Compass, which is free to all Shopify store owners.

4. Wix

I personally have not used Wix, but market research shows that it is another widely used ecommerce platform for handmade sellers. Wix is known for its design flexibility and drag-and-drop design features. 

Wix offers apps and integrations with most major marketing tools including Google Analytics. Wix does not directly integrate with Facebook or Instagram.  

Where I think Wix is lacking most is in the tech support: currently, Wix offers support by way of submitting a help ticket via email and waiting for a response either via email or callback. They also have a library of FAQs and troubleshooting articles. 

5. Square/Weebly

Square, the popular payment processing company (I covered some more about Square in the How to Get Paid Bootcamp post) acquired the ecommerce platform Weebly in 2018 to add an integrated website builder option to its point of sale system.

Square customers get free access to Square Online Store, powered by Weebly, with options for paid upgrades for additional functionality. The basic free option allows you to have an online presence with a product catalog that is connected to your Square point of sale reader, which is a great benefit for someone who wants a standalone website but prefers to do most of their business at shows or in-person events.

The Square Online Store also offers the option to integrate with Shopping on Instagram (you must have a business Instagram account to access this feature). You will also have to have the Facebook Business Extension, where you will upload your product catalog to access when creating your Instagram posts. 

There are benefits and limits to each option: with a marketplace, you will get traffic from people who are coming to shop, but you have little to no control over the design or layout and the fees can get quite high once you start selling at a higher volume. 

It’s also very difficult to establish yourself as a brand: for example, when someone purchases a necklace from my Etsy shop and they are asked where they bought it, 9.5 times out of 10 the answer would be “I bought it on Etsy!”.  If they purchased that same necklace from my website, the answer would be “I bought it from bel monili!”

See the difference?

If you have the bandwidth, I highly recommend setting your business up both on Etsy and on Shopify (or the standalone eCommerce platform of your choice). Etsy can be used as a great marketing tool to drive traffic over to your own standalone site, so you can be making sales AND building your brand at the same time!

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