My experience with having an Etsy store
When I decided to launch my store selling handmade hats and scarves, I thought of Etsy as of my best option. This platform particularly focuses on handmade products, right? I decided this was a potentially good way to go.
Setting up the store on Etsy platform was simple. I added professional pictures and detailed descriptions for my listings, and started impatiently waiting for customers. But it turned out to be not so easy as I hoped. Adding new listings didn’t mean that your store will get discovered by Etsy users right away. Traffic was extremely low, and I did not have any sales. And it was January, the high season for my warm wool hats!
I read everything I could find about how to boost traffic and get discovered on Etsy search when I started with the platform. To improve my shop’s SEO, I packed product titles and descriptions with popular search keywords relevant to my hats. I added more pictures and expanded the “About” section. My SEO efforts boosted traffic a little bit, but it didn’t change the situation overall. Traffic was still very low.
So what else I could do to get more traffic? I asked that question in a Facebook group for Etsy sellers. Many Etsy beginners admitted that they struggle with the same issue. Etsy professionals advised me to promote my business on social media, and route the social media traffic to my Etsy store. Several people said they are actively using Facebook Ads and Google Ads to get traffic and sales.
I thought OK, maybe this is a way to go. But when I started to promote my Etsy shop on Facebook and Instagram, I had many questions about that strategy.
Promoting your business on social media takes lots of time, efforts, and money. Why should I pour all this hard-to-get traffic to the third-party platform, instead of my own website? Here I give you five reasons why having an Etsy store is a poor long term investment.
Five reasons why investing time and money in an Etsy store is not a good strategy for the long run
1. What was on Etsy, stays on Etsy
Your Etsy shop has a successful history: many sales, many times your store has been “favorited” by users, and many stellar customer reviews. But what if Etsy changes its algorithm one day, and your sales slow dramatically? Or you decide to launch your own website or Facebook store, and move away from the platform? Unfortunately, you will lose all your store history you worked so hard to build.
2. You can’t retarget your Etsy store visitors on Facebook and Instagram
Retargeting is a proven way to serve your ads to people who have already visited your store. If you want to use Facebook Ads to grow your business, this is the most efficient and cost effective way to get more sales.
AdEspresso, an official Facebook partner, says that average rate of conversion is higher for a retargeted audience, than if you would advertise to people who never heard of you.
To use the retargeting option, you need to add Facebook pixel to your website. It is not currently possible to add the Facebook pixel to a shop on the Etsy platform. This is perfectly reasonable for Etsy because they want you to use their own platform for advertising, but it isn’t necessarily reasonable for you. The more opportunities you are missing to track your Etsy store visitors, the more valuable data you are losing. This is valuable data that you could have used to convert prospects into sales.
3. The Etsy audience is limited
The total number of Etsy buyers is around 30 million, according to the Etsy website. Sounds impressive, but this is only 4.3% of total Instagram audience, and only 1.5% of total Facebook users. Some people may argue that Etsy audience is better suited for entrepreneurs who sell handmade products. While this may be true, it doesn’t mean that your target audience shops there. I can only find out by selling.
For example, if I sell high quality product at a price that is higher than average on Etsy, my target audience is not higher than 2 to 3% of Etsy users, or 100,000 users. But if I were to sell on Facebook, my target audience would be 60 million users. I would have a higher chance to sell my products on Facebook to my audience, especially with effective targeting.
4. There is no targeting option for advertising on Etsy
Speaking about targeting, Etsy doesn’t know much about its users so it doesn’t offer you any options to target your audience with either organic reach or paid advertising. The only way to affect how Etsy shows your product to people is by optimizing your listings with relevant keywords. You can’t target your audience by age, location or interest, as Facebook or Google AdWords offer you to do.
3. Starting on Etsy is super hard for the beginners
Even if you sell awesome hats for a reasonable price, your chances to get on the home page of Etsy is almost zero. As a beginner, Etsy’s algorithm weights your store low because your traffic is low and the number of favorites and sales is low. If you somehow manage to get on the first page of search results, one small picture and a price tag are all you have to compete with other sellers.
This is not that competition itself is bad. The problem is that Etsy has a very limited number of tools that you can use to win in this competition, especially when you have just started on Etsy, and haven’t built your store history yet.
5. People don’t spend time on Etsy
You know what I’m talking about here. People come to Etsy to buy what they want and then go back to Facebook and Instagram. The period that you can grab their attention is quite short. If your store hasn’t been discovered during the first 20 to 30 minutes, you are done.
These are my reasons to leave Etsy and launch my own website. I know many people who have established shops on Etsy, which they had launched a couple of years ago. Yet they struggle to make their business grow, or grow faster that it does now. My guess is that the amount of time and effort the store owners have already invested into Etsy is holding them back from moving away from the platform. But I’d recommend them to do make this decision sooner than later if they want to win in the long run.