Sunday, April 10, 2016

How to Choose the Right E-Marketplace Solution : Shopify versus Big Cartel + Etsy Launches PATTERN

If you are already swamped just by reading the title of this blog post, take a deeeeeep breath. You have friends out there in the world of handmade e-shops who are riding this wave of changes with you. I'm one of them!

This afternoon, while sipping an amazing cup of masala chai tea, I was considering opening up a second online shop to diversify what I could do with my Etsy page when I found an article comparing Shopify and (Click here to read the full article.) Like most of you out there, I want buyable pins on Pinterest. I want a shop tab on my Facebook page. I want the look of the real store without having to give credit to whatever web host I've chosen. I'm ready to upgrade...but is it even possible with the limitations from my Etsy page?

Then I began to wonder, how does Etsy compete with all the new guys who offers these services? How do they plan to stay ahead of the game when you can now shop Instagram posts and Tweets? Etsy has been using the same grid format for over 10 years with little change and even less variation at the POS (point of sale).

As always, Etsy is only $0.20 per listing, with unlimited listings, but your items expire after 30 days and you have to renew each one over and over. Now you can either do this manually or automatically, which is fine as long as you remember to select the appropriate option. For every 300 products, that equals about $60 per month, plus the 3.5% fee from every sale. Your web address will have the URL ending, letting your customers know that you belong to the #1 handmade marketplace. However, advertising on the Etsy homepage costs extra and there is no guarantee you'll be a "featured" vendor and reap the benefits of being noticed by the Etsy team.

To compare, Big Cartel is a monthly subscription-based e-commerce site with 4 plans ranging from FREE (for 5 listings only) to Titanium status at $29.99/month for up to 300 listings. That's half the cost of Etsy for the same number of items in your store. You do however have access to promoting your products on Facebook and using the Big Cartel app to handle face-to-face transactions. You also have the option of customizing your URL from to a for a small price. The limitations? Big Cartel currently only accepts PayPal payments.

Shopify is gaining a lot of ground on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. I really like the template options Shopify has for their websites. They look very professional, clean and modern. Plus, how cool is it to cross-post from your blog and create shoppable pins at the same time? The variety of POS options is outstanding. Not only can you create a website and add a functional store to your Facebook page, but you can also make sales transactions in person at your next craft table via the Shopify app.

Personally, I'm an avid Etsy fan. I've been a member since college, when they first launched in 2005. I was selling jewelry out of my dorm room and telling everyone I knew about the great new way to connect with other crafters online. To me, Etsy is like the of handmade and vintage e-marketplaces. And just this April, they launched PATTERN!

Don't know what PATTERN is?
Are you ready to be as excited as I am?
Get more fussy banners, no more thumbnails all over the place, no more chunky sidebar swallowing up half your page. You can now make your Etsy shop look like an actual store and use a ".com" URL ending without telling the whole world that you still use Etsy. It's like being in a secret club. With PATTERN, you are still an Etsy member, but you don't have to redo all of the hard work you've already done for your shop get to make it look pretty + professional though their easy conversion service. And for $15/ month? You have no reason not to switch. PATTERN is one giant leap into the future and I can't wait to re-launch my shop using their new templates!

Before selecting which service works best for you, consider the following:
  1. What is your monthly budget for your website? (If you don't have one, now is the time to make one!)
  2. How many individual items do you plan on selling? Less than 300? More than 300? If you have very few items and a low budget, you may have good results using the free service offered by Big Cartel.
  3. Consider your audience. Where do you receive the most traffic? Your homepage or blog? Facebook? Pinterest? Twitter? Choose a site that reaches out to the majority of your customers. If your shop doesn't have a large web presence and you make most of your sales in person, you may be fine with your smartphone, an app and a nice landing page.
  4. Do you have an eye for web design? Depending on your web skills, you may want to choose a host which has the most variety of templates, leaving your design input to a minimum, so that you can focus on developing your product more so than fiddling around with fonts.
In then end, choose the site that works best for your shop's needs. The internet is a tool that should work to your advantage, not against it. So, stay informed and read up on the FAQ pages. Do your homework comparing the prices and features before you make your final decision. If want to learn even more about the differences between the e-shop marketplaces out there, TheHelloLovely has a very detailed post you can read here.

Let me know in the comments which site you chose and why. I'd love to hear from you!

xoxo jamillah

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