Learn tips on ways to market and sell crafts online.
Many crafters find that they can carve out a profitable niche when they sell their crafts online. Buyers can find homemade holiday ornaments, purses and jewelry through individual Web sites or online craft selling sites. Business Week quotes general craft sales at $31 billion in 2007, with a significant boom in the online market. From online marketplaces to individual business Web sites, there are many avenues for crafters wanting to sell their wares online.
The first thing to do before attempting any sort of online sales is to perform market research. Find out if there is a demand for the product, how stiff the competition is, the price of competing products and whether or not customers can get a similar product for a cheaper price from a local discount store. Once the market research is complete, the next step is deciding between an online marketplace and an individual Web site.
An online marketplace involves one particular Web site that allows numerous crafters to promote and sell their crafts. Etsy is a popular marketplace and has been advertised through media outlets as a great place for crafters to market their products.
The general idea of a marketplace such as Etsy is that the crafter sets up a storefront displaying the product. For example, if the crafter makes diaper bags, the product goes into the search engine of the site and when a buyer comes looking for diaper bags the crafter's products will appear in the search results. Buyers can also search all products from a particular crafter. Many times a ratings system is in place so prospective buyers of a product know how satisfied buyers are. Buyers can also request custom-made items and communicate with the crafter through the online marketplace.
Crafters should research different marketplaces and choose the one that best suits their business needs. An article from USA Today shows how marketplaces differ in their business practices by pointing out that one Web site charges a listing fee and small sales percentage, while another has a membership fee and takes a fairly large commission. Crafters will commonly run across sites that don't charge to list the items but do have a two to five percent commission charge. An advantage to using marketplaces is that they handle Web site maintenance and are fuss-free avenues to sales for crafters. For example, if the seller accepts PayPal payments, marketplace sites will take care of setting up the shopping cart and checkout features.
For crafters who don't want to share profits with a marketplace, starting a personal business Web site is an option. However, choosing this route may end up costing more than using a marketplace, especially if sales are low. Creating a Web site requires the purchase of a domain name and hosting service. Companies such as Gone Country Graphics, specialize in creating Web sites for crafters. There are also general domain and hosting services available for crafters who want to create and manage the Web site themselves.
One important part of creating a business Web site is attracting traffic. Merely building a Web site that sells homemade soap won't attract visitors or increase sales. Just like a store business, an online business needs marketing. One way to increase profitable traffic is to research keywords and use them throughout the site. Keywords are terms people will use when searching for a specific craft, such as "handmade soap" or "beauty gift baskets." The keywords are what help a site appear on the first few pages of a search engine. A program like WordTracker can help locate the best keywords for a site.
Web marketing is slightly different from regular sales marketing. Online buyers are typically Web searchers, so sending out flyers and advertising in the newspaper won't attract the main customer base. Here are a few tips for marketing an online craft business:
According to a report from the New York Times, many people are choosing reasonably priced handmade gifts in lieu of expensive store-bought holiday and birthday presents. Indeed, with sales of homemade craft items on eBay jumping 34 percent during the 2008 shopping season (November until January), having an online presence to attract customers and sell products has never been more important.