New year is a good time for anyone running a small business to evaluate successes and failures from the year prior and, hopefully, make changes that would propel the said small business to success in the coming year. We at hART Sense Design decided to follow this common piece of wisdom and, after thinking long and hard, decided to close our long-running online shops on Etsy and test the proverbial waters on several other e-commerce platforms for small handmade businesses.
Although we had an established jewelry shop with over 500 sales and a supply shop pushing 850 sales, our business had been declining on that site for the past couple of years. Latest policy changes, introduced in October last year, according to which the site decided to allow mass producers to falsely use the tag of “handmade” for their goods, made it even more untenable for us. The main quality of our (very) small business, in addition to great crafts(wo)manship displayed in our products, is our integrity, both personal and business integrity. Therefore, supporting the above nebulous “new definition” of handmade was out of question.
With that in mind, we set out to research and test several other e-commerce platforms catering to either handmade business or small business (or should we say, “micro business”) in general. In the end, we settled on three different platforms and opened a shop on each of them. Here are the preliminary results and impressions.
ZIBBET – While still basically in development and trying to catch up to its “older siblings” such as Etsy and ArtFire, Zibbet is making great strides in recruiting new sellers and starting to market the site to the larger public. Unlike the above mentioned E-site, Zibbet sticks to the traditional definition of handmade, vintage, and supplies. In addition, it has a thriving community with forums and groups (comparable to Etsy Teams) where sellers and buyers can discuss different topics and share interests both related and unrelated to selling and buying on Zibbet. The site offers a free basic plan to sellers with an opportunity to set up their online shop and list 50 items for free, and those who want to start on a larger scale have an opportunity to sign up for paid plans, which offer an additional assortment of useful features for running one’s online shop. As we are just testing waters, we are still on the free basic plan until we decide whether to expand on Zibbet or pack up and leave. The main downside of this site, except that – as many new sites – it is a bit “clunky” and takes time to get used to, is its low traffic. Considering that it is a relatively new site and that competing with other E sites that have been in business for much longer and receive much better financing is a great challenge for any new e-commerce platform, we think we need to give it some time to “prove itself” before we either expand our shop there or leave the site altogether.
GOODSMITHS – We first came across this site while reading Jewelry Making Daily e-mails we receive from Interweave Press. Visually, the site looks very appealing unlike its Z cousin mentioned above. It also supports the traditional definition of handmade, and in addition to PayPal as payment processing partner, it offers credit card processing through Swipe. True, shops on the basic level of membership (25 free listings) cannot sign up for Swipe and are limited to only PayPal, but pricing for other, upgraded plans is very reasonable (from $5 to under $13 per month), and those plans include Swipe in addition to PayPal. Unfortunately, development of this site is far from complete, and some of the basic shop management features like the ability to rearrange items in one’s shop are not yet available. In addition, Goodsmiths community, primarily represented through forums, is quite inactive, with long stretches of time without any posts apart from those created by the site Admin. Last but not least, currently, this site is only open to sellers and buyers from the US and Canada. Although we like the clean and professional look of the site, we think it is lacking quite a lot and, if the developers don’t “get on the ball” soon, a very nice idea may remain just that – an idea. As our free starter shop plan is not costing us any money right now, we will give this site a try as well and re-evaluate our involvement after a few months.
SQUARE MARKET – If you have ever seen those little white, square credit card readers craft show vendors plug into their smart phones or iPads, then you are familiar with Square Up. The company started exclusively as an affordable provider of credit card processing services, and now, it has its own small business marketplace. This site is still very much in development and currently only offers services to US sellers and buyers, but the vision for the marketplace is quite interesting, and it is worth seeing how quickly it gets implemented. Owning a shop on Square Market would allow a seller – whether (s)he has a brick-and-mortar location or not – to integrate inventory with their Square Register and basically, take their shop with them wherever they may go. Plans to expand options available to shop owners, such as offering product and price variations for each listing, and offering customers to check out with their Square Wallet (an online account) even if they do not have their credit card to present at the point of sale, make this e-commerce platform quite appealing. Professional, clean, modern look of the basic page design on Square Market is very attractive as well, and we hope to see this e-commerce platform developed even more in the future. Of course, like with any site in development, there is some “clunkiness” to the process of listing items in one’s online shop, and we are looking forward to these “wrinkles” being ironed out in the near future. Our shop on Square Market will stick around to see where the site developers lead us in the future.
Last but not least, we have finally jumped on the social media bandwagon by joining Google+ social network. Those of you who know us personally are probably quite surprised by this move, knowing our aversion to Facebook, Twitter, and other more popular social media outlets. Let us assure you, opening a Google+ account was solely motivated by our desire to promote our small business to a larger customer base, and our Google+ posts will never include details on what we ate for lunch, what latest mischief our dog got into, and we will not be sharing photos of unsuspecting family members in embarrassing situations. Our Google+ account is strictly business, even though it is registered as personal. After all, our very small business is very personal to us.
What experiences do you have with different e-commerce platforms for small business and other social media? Feel free to share in comments on this post.