Selling Your Work in an Online Marketplace?

Selling your work on Amazon, Etsy or Ebay? Building your own website is one choice. Marketplace sites are another option, and there are pros and cons to using them.

Marketplace websites, such as Amazon, Etsy, Facebook or other places that offer access to artists and makers, own their online space can be low cost, high sales opportunity.  That said, they also make the rules. They can suspend your store, increase fees, or require terms that you aren’t comfortable with – and leave you with little recourse. Be careful and always play by the rules!

The benefits of marketplace sites are that you have a place where your images are easy to upload, and you don’t have to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel.

Unlike your own website, they have high Google rankings, and their sites are easy to find. Plus, they do a lot of marketing to pull in traffic.

They provide other services, like additional promotion, analytics, shipping and payment processing which provides you with what you want most… more studio and design time!

This makes it simple to get into the business of selling your art or handmade items, and clearly is the reason that many creative entrepreneurs start out using these sites.

However, e-commerce websites are also crowded with the work of many other artists and makers, and this means that you must find a way to stand out.

You will need to spend some time every week tweaking keywords, adding descriptive content, and analyzing your promotions so that you can get featured on the front page of the site or at least in a popular product search.

You also have no control over the quality or type of the other work shown there. Some sites have a huge mix of wonderful items and not-so-wonderful items for sale. Some marketplaces like Etsy and eBay feature products that aren’t handmade, or even new, which can make you feel like your handmade work is being featured next to someone’s otherwise yardsale merchandise. You must decide if that type of platform is right for you.

Placing your work on a marketplace that features hobby level work can suppress your product value.

One of the main disadvantages is that you have no way for customers to sign up for your email updates. The marketplace gathers addresses from its visitors but often does not share that with you. Most customers will remember the name of the marketplace, but will rarely remember your name.

Marketplace sites will show your art or handmade work on your page, but have images and links to other pages in a sidebar, or near the top of the page. These promotional “advertised” products may encourage visitors to click away to look at products on the site which are not yours. On the other hand, if you participate in the promotional opportunities offered, it works in reverse too, bringing customers to your pages of products.

Tip: Don’t think you will be successful without additional advertising in the marketplace. These sites feature millions of products and most sales are made from promoted products. Play the game or don’t bother.

Marketplace sites are great ways to add sales, but you will definitely want to make the investment in your own website so that you can present your work the way you need to.

What are the benefits of having your own website? You are, of course, the one who is completely in control. You create the rules, terms and the way your photos are shown. You can change your business model at any time.

Fortunately, there are ways to incorporate e-commerce right into your own website, through plug-ins (on WordPress for instance), linking through to a shopping cart system, or using a customizable storefront like Shopify, BigCommerce or SquareMarket.

These website platform providers help minimize the cost for small businesses who want a beautiful and functional site without the big price tag that a customized site can command.

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  1. Another great article from the Arts Business Experts! I would add one other caveat that I see a lot in my consulting: multiple sites.

    Many artists use a shotgun approach to getting as much “exposure” as possible, but most third party sites do require that the artist is actively marketing and sending people to their page. As stated above, you can’t just put up some photos and be found among hundreds or thousands (millions?) of pages at most third-party sites.

    If you have your own website and “need” to use a third party site – use SQUAREUP Market. It’s free – no fees of any kind until you make a sale and then it’s a normal credit card processing fee. Similar to PayPal and others.

    The site is beautiful. It has all the bells and whistles of a professional shopping cart – coupons, too! It is really easy to use the system and its YOURS. No drop down menus filled with your competition.

    Back to multiple sites: Don’t have two or more other locations where your work is “stored” online. Pick one and market the heck out of that. Send all interested parties. Post the link to your Social Media sites. Send an email to your subscribers that only lists ONE place to purchase. Keep it simple for your clients (and yourself!) and you will see more sales.

    Fifty percent of people who land on a web page leave within 15 seconds. Sending them to two or three different sites – with some of the same things and worse: some other things, too – will only confuse them.

    And if anyone wants to learn more about SquareUp Market, just contact me and I will give you a full tour. It’s amazing.

    • Great advice. And another caveat is that if you sell through multiple sites and then abandon them, those site links may come up before your own art website in search, because of the higher ranking of that third party site.

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