A recent search on the internet and social media lately has revealed that many once successful Etsy sellers are having a rough early sales start in 2019. Many handmade sellers have disclosed that 2018 was their worst year for sales on Etsy and this year, 2019, is projected to possibly be worse. Sellers have been writing posts in search of an alternate place to sell their handmade items as Etsy is no longer the best option.
Maybe not for all Etsy sellers. On the flip side, new Etsy sellers seem to be shining bright. However, for many who have been on the site for several years with older inventory, they are reporting that their sales have dropped tremendously. This includes their regular repeated top selling items, as well. Unfortunately, long-time Etsy sellers are struggling while new sellers adding new inventory every day are bubbling up to the top of the SEO. While, much of it can be attributed to an over-saturation of new inventory on the Etsy selling platform, the more recent sales drop can be attributed to a big change that Etsy made (which is still a mystery to many Etsy sellers) around the fall of 2018. Many check their stats to see their visits and views data are up and down with few sales.
Sellers have reported that the stats provided by Etsy are not truthfully accurate. You can refresh your stats report two minutes later and get number results and data that looks entirely different. There should never be a drastic change in the data in only a few minutes, which leads to this provided information as being completely useless.
No one really knows specifically what the big coding change was but many have speculated that if a seller has inventory listed back to 2017, or before that year, none of these items, or this dated inventory in their shop, will be found in the new Etsy search algorithm. This rumor cannot be confirmed but after so many sellers have conducted test searches of their own product with specific keywords to their items (by logging out, searching as a guest from a different IP address), it seems to be holding some validity. Since that big change occurred on the platform last Fall of 2018, many successful shops that have been selling on Etsy for years felt like they (or their handmade goods) were purged from the website searches entirely.
Loyal seller’s that have depended on their Etsy shop for an actual full-time income have suffered the most from this sudden dip in sales and their overall income has gone down drastically, if not entirely dropped off to either a small trickle of sales every week or weeks with zero sales.
HARD TRUTH: TIME TO MOVE ON AND BRANCH OUT ONLINE
The personal stories have been truly heartbreaking and financially devastating across many of the Etsy selling social media groups where sellers have shared their life changing situation due to the lack of additional income from their once successful handmade side business. Stories of mothers who can no longer stay at home with their young children and instead had to go out and find a full-time job and put their children into daycare. The many seniors who depended on this extra cash to supplement their social security income in order to have food. The young college graduate or out of work employee still looking for a good paying position that could make a small supplemental income while job searching.
These stories are not simply disgruntled sellers; they are REAL PEOPLE. Makers, artists, inventors, boho jewelry designers and humans sharing a tearful realization that a weekly income that seemed dependable is now gone. These truthful admissions online are painful to read. It is as heartbreaking as the Titanic, to use a cliche comparison- you were big and glorious and headstrong in your handmade business and now the ship is sinking or has already sunk. So many displaced lives due to Etsy’s behind the scenes instantaneous code upgrade. One little coding iceberg obstacle and puff! It’s gone. Since this fairly recent SEO search ‘improvement’ (as they pitched it) sellers have expressed a range of emotions toward Etsy from bewilderment, sadness and even rage about the outright loss of control of their once steady income and livelihood. The descriptions online have been akin to a giant monster that dominated the online handmade seller market and left them feeling undervalued and helpless.
Etsy sellers are now left asking the question, “Where else can I sell?”
ETSY ALTERNATIVES: BEST OPTIONS FOR CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS
Is there an alternative to selling handmade outside of Etsy? Yes, there always has been and now, more than any time before, in 2019 there exists many new platforms and online websites to sell handmade items.
Whew! Take a breath and relax. In fact, take a step back for some hard truth coming and read on for new opportunities outside of Etsy.
It is hard to make this admission, but the reality is that sellers knew better and have been warned, in the forums and in collective social media selling advice groups, about selling all their handmade items solely on a single online website. Sellers never had any control over sales on Etsy, ebay, Amazon or any selling platform. Online sellers never owned these shops on Etsy and the idea that these so-called storefront home pages were something that they actually managed with absolute autonomy, is and has always been a false facade. Additionally, no amount of tweaking, adjusting descriptions, adding new key tag words, changing titles, or even hiring a professional photographer was going to guarantee sales. In fact, Etsy sales, or rather the delivery of handmade goods to the public, has always been in the hands of Etsy.
To be fair to Etsy, the goals as individual sellers are not unlike the goals of Etsy as a company and to its shareholders, which is- to make a profit. How this has been done, however, has changed a great deal. The methods to reach those profit goals are changing to meet the needs of an ever shifting and expanding online consumer market. Thus, for Etsy to remain profitable to their top shareholders, they have to change constantly to continue to grow.
Now for some positive helpful advice and good news . . .
There is HOPE, in what was once a barren desert landscape of ‘the one and only’ site to sell handmade goods. Etsy is not the only place to sell handmade online now. In fact, there are new websites and apps popping up like crazy in 2019 as new online selling opportunities. The demand for a ‘side-hustle’ for many millennials has helped to create new competition for the existing big three online selling platforms which are Amazon, ebay, and Etsy.
I could name several other selling websites, but I have been shifting my focus to not only one, but a few alternative websites and apps for selling online and so far my best success, highest sales, and favorite has been selling on MERCARI.
The selling platform or app is actually not new, in fact it has been around for a few years and has been gaining in popularity. It is designed as an app to sell with ease from your phone, but you can use it from a desktop too. Although the app is best because a seller can take a photo with their phone, list, and sell. Yes, it is that easy. No need to over-stylize your photos, buy an expensive camera or write up extensive amazing descriptions. Nope. Quite the opposite for selling on this app. The idea is to quick list, sell, ship, get paid, list more, repeat. Some people only have seven key items they want to sell, others have an entire purge from around their home they are trying to move without the hassle of holding a garage sale. While some sellers specialize in only the resale of high end brand name items, tech devices, or lovely Rae Dunn white sugar canisters (if you don’t know what this is, look it up) or farmhouse style home decor.
No, I am not being paid by Mercari for this blog post. I am simply sharing my own personal experience and some learned knowledge about selling on the app. I am actually suggesting that you try many platforms to sell online, and determine which one works best for you. It just so happens that this one has been an ideal fit for me.
One major selling feature to be aware of about Mercari (or any new selling platform that you try out), if you decide to jump in and start selling outside of Etsy is to be ready for a different set of selling guidelines. Don’t expect to have the same experience as other selling platforms or as you have in the past on Etsy, Amazon, or ebay. Keep in mind each online app or selling website is going to have its own set of rules and guidelines and will operate differently than other sites- don’t try to make it what it is not. They set the parameters and you sell under them, not with your own set of ‘how it should be done’ ideology. In order to move forward with selling online, YOU have to change.
The most wonderful selling and buying experience with Mercari is that they have made every effort to keep it SIMPLE. While there is a list of ‘not permitted’ items and selling guidelines, much like every other online selling platform, much of the process has been designed as uncomplicated, both for buyers browsing and for sellers to offer their items online to those potential buyers with ease.
All sales are essentially final after 3 days from proven delivery date. A buyer can leave an honest, positive or negative rating with 1 to 5 stars, some limited feedback comments. Sellers can not see their buyer’s rating, until they leave their own rating. Mercari is a community of buyers and sellers with a fairly well understood rating/feedback system. This is a hurdle that many seasoned seller’s that have sold elsewhere online, will have to adjust to. Personally, I gladly welcome it. I myself have had buyers miss reading size details and leaving feedback that reflects this information clearly in the description. My attitude is- no point in dwelling on it. Move on to the next sell and buyer and focus on providing a positive experience and quick sale every time. Learn from it and don’t play the blame game.
The upside of this is that refunds and return requests rarely happen and when they do happen, Mercari is usually involved in the process right away, depending on where you purchase your postage label. This can be a saving grace for both parties. If you purchase postage mailing labels directly from Mercari, as long as you followed the selling rules, your postage label has some built in insurance coverage. If you choose to purchase your labels directly from the USPS, FedEX, UPS or other postage selling websites (I like PirateShip) – just know that a refund due to delivery damages or a return request could cost you out of pocket. You will need to read up on the selling guidelines on your own for a better understanding of these rules, not just on Mercari – but wherever you intend to sell online.
Next set of key selling differences on Mercari encourages a short shipping window of three days. This is all tied to their 3 day rating system as well. It is intended to work in favor of both parties. Ship quick for buyer’s to receive their items fast, and in return they should be rating seller’s online within 1 to 3 days. Rating a seller on the date of arrival is always preferred, since seller’s do not have payment released until a buyer rates their transaction and experience. However, seller’s should be patient and not message or harass buyer’s to rate sooner. There are pros and cons to this shorter shipping timeline, the rating guidelines, and the payment process but for the sake of quick and easy purchases and sales for both parties- Mercari has created an excellent selling platform. It may not be for you with these guidelines, but good, kind, and honest sellers tend to do well and even have repeat buyers.
What about selling handmade on Mercari?
The handmade category, on Mercari, is truthfully a bit of a work in progress and not exclusively only handmade goods. It is also not policed or monitored for handmade ‘authenticity’, like Etsy, or juried like some of the other online exclusive handmade selling websites. A random search in this category may come up with all kinds of mass market items mixed in alongside some amazing handmade designs, party goods and home decor. This could most likely be to the possibility that often new seller’s coming to the selling app are not entirely sure which category to assign an item. A seller may think that someone may want cute brand name unicorn or mermaid stickers to make their own handmade greeting cards- so logically, a seller naively adds this item to the handmade category but with the best intention in mind. The key is to add new items daily if your are selling and to search daily for new items of you are buying. More handmade items added daily will tend to bubble up to the top of the search.
The reality is that more ready to ship handmade items are needed to draw more buyers and that means that more handmade sellers are encouraged to sell some inventory. Maybe one item you made and offered was not a great fit on Etsy but you still want to keep your shop on Etsy open. Try selling just a handful of items on Mercari for a whole new audience of buyers that may have never found you on Etsy.
Obviously, this whole positive glowing review of Mercari may be viewed by some sellers as leading to a potential over-saturation of the selling app. Not so. In fact, because of the structured- list one item and sell fast is encouraged (rather than offering 18 colors, personalization, and other complicated options), my new searches turn up new items daily.
I love that ‘fresh’ factor of the platform and simplicity of selling and buying. Yes, buying is a big plus too! I can choose to use my balance earned from sales to buy something I want as a reward or transfer my earning directly to my bank account. Yes, you can use your balance to buy some cool stuff too.
My final advice-
Download the Mercari app and try it!