ecommerce

Etsy Featured Artist: Jennifer Steen Booher

This month on the blog we are all about Etsy, the online marketplace for “unique goods.” We have a lot of local people who use Etsy as an ecommerce tool, and they’re the best people to talk to about the platform!
Jennifer Steen Booher is a Bar Harbor resident who focuses on fine art photography. Her Beachcombing Series offers a unique perspective on the shores of MDI and “the overlapping forces and life forms that depend on the shoreline” (from “About the Beachcombing Series). Here’s what she has to say about Etsy (BEC questions in bold).
What made you decide to use Etsy as a marketplace for your business?

I joined Etsy on May 1, 2008, so I just had my 9th anniversary! Etsy was a lot smaller back then, and the community aspect pulled me in. It still works as a community, just a much bigger one. There are forum discussions about every aspect of doing business on Etsy, with more experienced sellers helping out the new people, and I spent a lot of time there when I first started. It was a great way to get into online sales, and it felt like a whole lot of people really wanted me to succeed.

Do you sell your products anywhere else online or in real life?

I have a website, jenniferbooher.com. I’m on a couple of other sites that do their own printing, like Fine Art America and Artfully Walls, and I work with Alamy for licensing my landscape and travel photography. I tend to keep my fine art stuff on my own website and Etsy. My website and Etsy are my biggest source of online print sales.

Seashell Snowflake Notecards- available on Etsy

How do you stand out in this marketplace?

I have a pretty distinctive niche – there are not that many people doing this kind of modern, minimalist, natural-history-and-ocean-themed art.  It appeals to people both on a nostalgic level (it reminds them of things they picked up on their own vacations) and on an artistic level (people who want to furnish their beach houses with something more thought-provoking than lighthouses and starfish). My work is very crisp and clean, so it works with a lot of different decor styles. I give the same artistic weight to trash as I do to shells and beach stones, which sometimes confuses people, but more often it inspires them to look at the shoreline in a different way. It’s easy to ignore trash, but these photos suggest that it’s worth examining.  I’ve shipped my work to at least 15 countries and 30 states.

“Beachcombing No. 50,” available on Etsy.

What’s your advice for anyone considering selling their products on Etsy?

Read all of Etsy’s guidelines for newcomers about things like tagging and getting your work found. Spend some quality time in the Forums reading questions (to get an idea of what problems Etsy sellers run into) and the discussions (to see how other sellers solve those problems.) The Forums are an amazing resource! Depending on what you are selling, joining a team can be helpful, especially if you do craft fairs and can find a geographically-based team. The Etsy Maine Team is very active and in additions to their online discussions they also organize pop-ups and participate in fairs. I don’t do craft fairs anymore (my work doesn’t sell there) so I haven’t been very active with the team, but I think they’d be a great resource for a newcomer.

Woodland Series No. 2, available on Etsy

Tell us about your most interesting Etsy transaction (i.e. weird customer questions/requests, or a purchasing experience).

My very first photography sale was to a guy who wanted to glue my photos of sea urchins and crab shells onto a surfboard as a display. He wanted to know if the photo paper would warp under the wet polyurethane. I thought it very probable they would, but he bought them anyway.

(Just for fun) If you had $100 to spend anywhere on Etsy, what would you buy?

An original drawing from Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf series!Wait, no, a set of Arte et Manufacture’s coffee mugs.

Oh no, hang on, crazy vintage eyeglasses from Collectable Spectacle.

My ‘favorites’ list is 13 pages long – clearly this could go on for a while…

Thanks again to Jennifer for answering our Etsy questions, and make sure you check out her website!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Etsy Featured Seller: Amanda Zehner (Living Threads Co)

This month on the blog we are all about Etsy, the online marketplace for “unique goods.” We have a lot of local people who use Etsy as an ecommerce tool, and they’re the best people to talk to about the platform!

We love businesses who love to help others, and that’s exactly what Living Threads Co. is all about. Founded by Amanda Zehner in 2014, Living Threads Co. features handmade textiles from around the world, in an effort to join these communities with the American market. Here’s what she has to say about Etsy as a way to increase online exposure/awareness to products (BEC questions in bold).

What made you decide to use Etsy as a marketplace for your business?   

Access to an already established customer base through a marketplace that attracts a similar demographic as Living Threads Co. is targeting. Access to resources and a network of other similar businesses.

Do you sell your products anywhere else online or in real life?

 Yes, a majority of our business is done outside of Etsy. We primarily use Etsy as a supplemental platform and another way to get our name out, help new customers and businesses find us and then direct them to our e-commerce website. We also sell in seasonal pop-ups and through wholesale B2B relationships to expand our impact on small scale artisans.

LTCo. Nicaragua Family Impact 2015.08.11 from Living Threads Company on Vimeo.

What has contributed to your success on Etsy?  

We view success on Etsy as relationship building and brand exposure but do not have a great deal of success in sales.  Creation of a shop on Etsy does not mean sales and business. You have to prioritize marketing and driving people to your Etsy shop.  That is not our priority as we choose to focus on driving customers to your own commerce site. However, the cost of maintaining inventory on  Etsy is so minimal that it is worth it to us to maintain it.

How do you stand out in this marketplace?  

We are a higher price point product then a majority of products on Etsy and as mentioned above, we strategically focus our energy on driving traffic to our own e-commerce site. However, I do think that our higher end quality product on Etsy helps us to stand out.

From the Living Threads Co. website. One way Living Threads Co. stands out (in our opinion) is their unique story and the fact that their products are not only high quality but have a direct impact on the lives of others.

What’s your advice for anyone considering selling their products on Etsy? 

Make sure that you have a strategy for driving traffic to your shop and standing out, high quality product images and a marketing plan with a focused effort to drive people to your site and convert that to sales.  Whether that is a blog, Instagram, Pinterest, or all of the above.

Tell us about your most interesting Etsy transaction (i.e. weird customer questions/requests, or a purchasing experience).

Have had great experiences purchasing from other vendors and greatly appreciate the ‘small business’  feel. Also being able to interact directly with the owner, have custom work done and have questions answered very quickly.  We have had people reach out about larger orders but have been on completely different pages cost-wise (there seems to be a lack of understanding of the value of hand made artisan products, which is why on our own site we try to tell that story really clearly).

One of our personal favorite items from Living Threads Co is this finger puppets set! There are also sets for other famous children’s books, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight, Moon.

(Just for fun) If you had $100 to spend anywhere on Etsy, what would you buy?

We would buy more custom handmade cotton tags for out handwoven blankets. I love being a part of the design process of each part of our final product and creating a final product that is hand made from fiber to tagging and supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs, artists and creatives from Guatemala to Maine or Colorado.  So much fun!

Thanks again to Amanda for answering our Etsy questions, and make sure you check out her website! 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Etsy Featured Artist: Dory Smith Graham (Worthy Goods)

 

This month on the blog we are all about Etsy, the online marketplace for “unique goods.” We have a lot of local people who use Etsy as an ecommerce tool, and they’re the best people to talk to about the platform!

Dory Smith Graham, owner of Worthy Goods, has been using Etsy since 2008 to sell her products. She creates bowties, wool felt jewelry, scarves, and much more from organic, sustainable sources. Here’s what she has to say about Etsy (BEC questions in bold).

What made you decide to use Etsy as a marketplace for your business?

Etsy was fairly new back in 2008 when I started out, a handmade selling platform that was just beginning to take off. It had a very low barrier-to-entry, and that was perfect for me. I had a wicked slim product line at that point, four reversible baby slings and very little extra time with a 6 month old, a sewing hobby and working part time as a goldsmith. I was able to get the shop up and online in just a day.

One of Dory’s products, a gum ball felt and velvet choker

Do you sell your products anywhere else online or in real life?

You bet! At SevenArts in Ellsworth, year round, you can find much of worthygoods full lineup of hats, bow ties, linen smock aprons, and more. Other shops that carry worthygoods are Island Artisans in Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor; Salon Naturelles, Bar Harbor; Quench, Belfast; Archipelago, Rockland and Center for Maine Craft at the Gardiner exit. Online there are three venues: my main website, worthy-goods.com with a full product line and I have two Etsy shops as well, worthygoods, and the other is worthygoodstextile where I sell organic cotton fabrics and vintage wooden spools & bobbins from shuttered textile mills. I vend at a handful of vibrant summer and holiday fairs locally on and around MDI as well as in southern Maine. My very favorite events to show at are the IAA Labor Day Fair on the Village Green in Bar Harbor and PICNIC Holiday in Portland.

What has contributed to your success on Etsy?

For the first couple years I received a lot of support as a member of the Etsy Maine Team. Then as a more senior member, I offered support to new members. Etsy also offers webinars and email/pdf type ‘schools’ that help with solid advice in parcels that are usually easy to work through to improve targeted areas like developing voice, branding, Etsy SEO as well as planning for the holiday season.

How do you stand out in this marketplace?

Since worthygoods is dedicated to gear steeped in Maine style, I stand out with my product line and my branding. Both highlight and reflect my love of Maine from The County to the coast. My branding uses a vintage Maine lobster license plate, something that still resonates with me and my customers, especially. I find that the more I accentuate the things that ring true to me as reflecting Maine heritage, the more my customers see worthygoods as authentic Maine gear.

What’s your advice for anyone considering selling their products on Etsy?

If you are just starting out on Etsy, I would suggest you take a long, hard look at your pricing structure. Since Etsy has become a publicly traded company, they have really increased their transactional fees, added a fee-based payment processing platform, incorporated two paid layers of search-based advertising, in addition to the shipping platform. It’s easy to under-price yourself and hard to bump it up later on once you’ve established yourself a bit.

Tell us about your most interesting Etsy transaction (i.e. weird customer questions/requests, or a purchasing experience).

My favorite sale on Etsy for worthygoods was relatively uneventful, but Farrah Fawcett had an employee of hers custom-order and purchase a hat for a relative. I was on cloud 9 thinking that one of my Little Trapper hats was having a brush with fame in California. An interior design service, Homepolish reached out to me via worthygoods textile on Etsy for a variety of vintage wooden spools and bobbins. They purchased a bunch and used them for a pop-up men’s shop, J Hilburn in NYC. Esquire did a feature article on it and there was a decent bit of local press and write-ups on it, too. I still use their styling as inspiration for my own shop photos and decor.

If you had $100 to spend anywhere on Etsy, what would you buy?

Ooh, fun! I would buy myself a bag (or put it towards one, at least!) from roughandtumblebags.Etsy.com. I was in Portland recently and was thrilled to find a second-hand one at a cool consignment shop there. They are hand-made in Portland Maine and have a great lived-in look and casual feel about them.
Thanks again to Dory for answering our Etsy questions, and make sure you check out her website
Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

How To Help People Buy From Your Business Online

You have a great product/service. You even have a website setup to sell said product/service.

Yet, you get the feeling that business could be better. Maybe your customer needs a hand to buy from you? Here are some ideas:

1. Make Yourself Easy To Find.

Follow SEO best practices. 

Search engines like three things (to overly simplify): words people are looking for, links coming into your website and frequently updated content. For more information on SEO best practices, check out some of our blog posts on the topic:

Playing well with search engines means that the people looking for you (or more accurately, your product or service) can find you.

Consider listing yourself on other websites or marketplaces. For example, if you sell Wordpress themes, maybe a marketplace like Themeforest or if you make handcrafted cribbage boards,  make a listing on Etsy.

Like anything, listing your goods on a different website has pros and cons. One pro is that you’ll be able to see a wider selection of the market. You’ll be in a position to increase awareness about your product, as well (out of the population of people who use Etsy, only a handful may already be aware of your business).

The con is that you don’t always have full control over order information. For instance, on your own website you may have an email newsletter signup as people check out. But at least consider making yourself easier to find by having a presence on websites where customers are looking for your product.

2. Make It Easy To Buy.

Accept multiple forms of payment (ex: credit cards and PayPal). What happens when people go to your online cart? What are you offering in terms of payment processing? Having more than one option, such as PayPal and a credit card processor (i.e. Stripe), could improve your checkout rate. 

If big product, consider payment plans. If you’re selling a big ticket item, consider breaking it down into payment plans (based on the actual price). This makes your product more attainable at no

Make sure payment/cart works on mobile. It’s expected that 50% of purchases online will be from a smartphone in 2017. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, or cannot handle purchases online, it’s worth taking the time to add this ability.

Watch ten potential customers navigate your website (and be quiet while they do it and take made notes). You’ve probably spent time working on the setup of your website, so the ins and outs of navigation probably make complete and total sense to you already. Watching someone else try to navigate your website from start to finish will give you a more accurate perception of a user’s experience on your website and where any shortcomings may exist.

3. Make It Advantageous To Buy.

While you don’t necessarily need to offer this for every product on your site, adding some form of incentive once in awhile can give sales a little boost.

A few ideas for making your product advantageous for customers include:

  • Coupon codes
  • Affiliate programs
  • Early Registration Discount (or other time sensitive promotions)

Someone will always think they can buy it later. By incentivizing action, you can turn ‘later’ into ‘now’.

4. Make It Easy To Share.

We’ve talked about making products easy to share, perhaps by adding social share options for coupons or on the product itself. Zulily combines these tactics in the following product post:

A few things you may notice at the bottom of the image:

  • Incentive to share the product for a discount
  • Three options for sharing- Email, Facebook, and Pinterest (Email is a great sharing option for customers without social media, or those who want to share with a person who doesn’t have social media).

Sharing is only a click away, and if you’re saving $15, why wouldn’t you want to “share”?

5. Make It Easy To Stay In Touch.

In some cases, creating an easy way for customers to stay in touch or communicate with you/among themselves will encourage them to follow through with a purchase. Some examples where this would be helpful include online fitness programs (i.e. month long challenge groups where people can interact with one another), any sort of online class, or any event where it’s helpful to have a ‘community.’

Another fairly simple way to stay in touch with people is to add an email signup somewhere in the checkout process. This gives them a way to stay in touch with you after a purchase, perhaps so you can ask for feedback or send information about future offerings. The idea is to check in at a regular increment, maybe weekly-monthly, not to be the email equivalent of a “Hey what’s up” text that you didn’t sign up for but for some reason keep getting every 12 hours anyway. Communication should be helpful, not annoying or unnecessary.

By making it easy for your customers and potential customers to buy from you online, they’ll be able to show more love to your business. Let them love you, but be easy to love too.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Live Videos and Products

This post is a continuation of our live video series. Check out last week’s post on non-profits and live video

When it comes to live videos and branded content, video streaming for businesses that sell products seem like a no-brainer. There are many different ways to use live video for these businesses, the most popular being product demos and launches. In other words, it’s easy to create a live video around a physical product. The goal, of course, is not simply to do it but do it well. The point of live streaming is not to create an infomercial or a commercial- this is about marketing, not advertising. Here are some examples of companies that have used live streaming for their product based businesses without phoning it in:

Barkbox is a subscription service dedicated to dogs (they send accessories and treats). I suspect their success on Periscope has a lot to do with their primary material: puppies. Since they can’t talk and share their feedback on BarkBox products, the marketing team shows various dogs enjoying their goodies from the box. The target market is dog owners, preferably the type who can be moved into purchase by adorable puppy videos.

Doritos used Periscope to create excitement around their product  “Doritos Roulette.” They created a contest involving Periscope, Twitter, Vine, and YouTube. The contest itself seemed a bit complex to me, but maybe I’m just not that passionate about my snacks. Doritos has a pretty big following on social media, so the contest had high volumes of participation. Below is one of the tweets from Doritos announcing the contest:periscope_doritos

The rules for participation felt like a lot of hoops to jump through (again, not a dedicated Doritos fan) but it still had a lot of participation.

Adobe used Periscope for a 24-hour broadcast leading up to the release of Creative Cloud last year. The @CreativeCloud channel shared inside looks at the software and discussions with employees. Throughout the day, the Adobe Periscope channel followed various employees across the world while discussing/demonstrating the different components of the new product. Adobe took their product launch and made it into something more, something that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from them. The 24 hour broadcast was an interesting innovation, too. Most channels won’t have broadcasts that go for that long- although this was a bunch of smaller streaming events from the same channel rather than one continuous stream, it was still a unique use of the app.

adobe_stream

BMW (and any car company, really) uses live streaming video to roll out new models (pun intended). Last October, BMW used Periscope to stream the live launch of the M2, and it was a huge success (they gained about 3,000 new followers). They already have plans to use this method for new model launches this spring. Rolls Royce was a slightly earlier adapter,  as spokesperson Gerry Spahn  explained: “Given how stunningly beautiful the car is we wanted to share it with as many people as possible. Today that means live streaming.” Bingo, Gerry.

You may ask yourself ‘If I’m a small business though, what am I supposed to do?’ Try taking some pointers from Miami Candy, showing how to make candy kabobs with their products.

(PS I can’t screenshot the broadcast and the name of the broadcast so I picked to screenshot the title while it was loading.)

candykabobperiscope

How to do my own candy kabobs? Don’t mind if I do.

What can we learn from these examples?

1) Know what your customers want to see. Yes, it helps to have an amazing product that everyone wants to see, but if you can’t make it interesting, then what’s the point? Each of the companies mentioned above has a different formula for their live streaming stories. BarkBox uses puppies and puppies enjoying products, which makes sense considering their customers. Adobe recognized that it’s customers are probably interested in learning more about how they can use Creative Cloud and other products, so that’s what they delivered. Before you start streaming, think about what your audience is interested in.

2) Announce in advance. You’ll notice that most of the examples above use One of the keys to any event is to make sure you give people enough time to plan their attendance. Adobe used their blog and social media to get the word out about the event, and the Doritos post above was shared 5 days before the event. If you can, be as specific as possible about the date/time for followers to tune in.

3) Customer service on a new level. One of the more popular components of Google Hangouts on Air and Periscope is the ability for audience interaction in real time. People who are watching can send comments and questions, which is a great opportunity for a Q&A around a new product/use of a product. This article from Hubspot has some tips on responding to questions as they come in. For brands with lots of followers, broadcasts are likely a whirlwind of activity and might require an extra person to help facilitate the stream. Responding to questions and comments is a recommended best practice in live streaming content.

4) Have fun. Like Barkbox showing puppies, you can show people using your own product in a fun way. You can take people behind the scenes or give them tutorials like Miami Candy. The point of live videos is to make your business interactive in a way that people will want to buy from you- build trust, tell a story, and don’t be overly aggressive with the sales pitch.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Selling Stuff Online: The Basics

SellingShizOnline

So, you have a thing that you want to sell on the internet, maybe some old college textbooks, tickets to your concert, or your first ever e-book. You’ve promoted your “things” online (hey, you may be offering the best water out there but if a thirsty horse can’t find it, well, you both lose). So, step one of selling your product online is hustling beforehand. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend checking out this 39 step product launch list from The $100 Startup. It works well with all industries and types of products.

Back to the matter at hand- you want to sell something online. Where do you start? It depends on the type of product you’re selling: physical (t-shirts, furniture, etc), events (tickets to a concert at your venue, hourly booking for a conference room), or electronic (an ebook or webinar streaming). Remember, hustling comes first- this series is going to help get your product from A to B in terms of function (although we will get into some neat sales strategies later on). Don’t worry, this is the first in a series of posts. Consider this the essentials to getting set up to sell online.

You need three things to sell online:

1) A secure certificate (SSL)

2) Some system to sell.

3) A payment gateway

1) Secure Certificate: Keeping Payment Info Secure

First and foremost, your website needs a secure certificate (this link is to a former Tech Thursday video where we explain Secure Certificates). Any site that accepts payment should have a secure certificate- it’s not just a best practice, most only cart softwares (the good ones) won’t work without it.

Remember, you can tell if a site is secure if it’s address is “https://….whatever.com.” (Note that ‘s’!) The setup process varies from web host to web host, but we can tell you that secure certificates are relatively cheap (around $15/year- well worth it, in our opinion). Plus, without this security, you may end up losing potential customers. Who wants to put their information into a site with Death Star level security (hint- there was a gaping hole in the middle of the Death Star. No one should have been surprised when it got breached).

The Mozilla Foundation is trying to get free SSLs for everyone but until that happens, whether you get one free or pay some money for it, it has to be installed on your domain.

If you use Firefox, right click on the padlock in next to URL (it appears when a page/site is https) and click ‘View Certificate’ and you’ll see all about it:

sslinfo

Note: You’ll need a dedicated IP to be able to install a secure certificate. Our host charges $30 for this, so for us to accept payments on our site as an additional per year is:

$13.95 for SSL + $30 for dedicated IP = $43.95/year in additional domain stuff

2) Software To Take The Payment

Next, you want to construct the actual sales component of your website- which we’ll explain in further detail in future posts. This construction process depends on the type of “stuff” you want to sell. If you’re selling physical products (t-shirts, books, jars of sea-glass), your website needs to be set up with a shopping cart. Sites such as Amazon use the shopping cart model. These sites also have to take into account the product’s dimensions, color, taxes, shipping costs. Examples of some popular eCommerce sites include WooCommerce and Shopify.

Amazon- an example of a shopping cart site. Fun Fact: when you're looking for automotive gear, instead of "Add to Cart" it says "Add to Garage." Oh, Amazon...

Amazon- an example of a shopping cart site. Fun Fact: when you’re looking for automotive gear, instead of “Add to Cart” it says “Add to Garage.” Oh, Amazon…

However, if you’re selling events (seats at a concert, spaces in a class), your site needs to be capable of online booking- a different set up all together. This involves more of a date-time purchase than a physical object. Some examples of booking programs include Events Manager (a Wordpress plugin) and Full Slate (a scheduling program we are using for Anchorspace).

An example of a booking site: Bangor Waterfront Concerts. This also made me excited for the summer...

An example of a booking site: Bangor Waterfront Concerts. This also made me excited for the summer…

Yet another option is an online payment form (common for accepting donations, subscriptions to online publications, popular programs for forms include WuFoo and Gravity Forms (a Wordpress plugin).

An example of a simple donation form a la WuForm.

An example of a simple donation form a la WuFoo.

So clearly different items require different amounts of information… and what you sell will depend on the solution you pick. We’ll discuss these in coming weeks.

3) Payment Gateway: The Third Party Taking Your Credit Card Fees

So if you sell things online, most likely you’ll be taking debit and credit cards (unless you are one of those uber cool people who only use Bitcoin or something).

If you sell things in real life, either with a full on credit card system like at a retail store or scanning someone’s credit card with a Square card reader, you know if you scan the payment for $10, you don’t get $10 in your account… you get less than that.

What interfaces between your shopping cart system and the credit card is the payment processor. We really like Stripe, mainly because it integrates with a ton of stuff and means we don’t have to charge our customers a monthly fee or a setup fee for processing… and it’s competitive. But other solutions exist like Authorize.net, Paypal (not the free version), etc. You’ll need to set something up to interface with the credit card before whatever is left is gently placed in your checking account.

If you want an excellent graphic and explanation of this, please visit: http://www.larryullman.com/2012/10/10/introduction-to-stripe/

Now that you know the basics of setting up an online storefront, we can go beyond the basics. Tune in next Tuesday when we’ll continue with this series talking about selling physical products (anything that takes up space in the world that’s not paper space)!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.
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