Monday, 24 January 2011

Unconventional tips for selling online

My shops have been open for just over a year and a half now, so I got to thinking about the great advice which I've got from forums, blogs, and other lovely sellers. This advice has been invaluable in developing the style and content of my shops. For anyone starting out, hanging around the forums of the major handmade sites is time well spent. But here are a couple of tips which you don't see so often in the forums, and perhaps that's because they are just a little bit controversial...

They are just my humble opinion, of course, and I'd love to hear what you think of them.

One. If you're just starting out, don't start to promote your shop until you're absolutely happy with how it looks. Everyone will tell you to start promoting straight away, but you might find later that you wish you had waited until you've improved your photos, written better commentaries on your items, and got some feedback on where might be the best places to spend your time promoting. So my advice would be to take a little time to ponder and to tweak your shop, especially when you're starting out.  Selling online is a long game, you probably won't miss thousands and thousands of sales, but you will be laying down a good foundation for later!

Some recent sold items.  Can you spot a target audience?
Two. Don't worry about your target market. You'll probably find lots of different sorts of people will buy what you make, and they won't obligingly fit into any different categories. Of course, if you make a particular project niche product, this won't apply to you.  But even if you make for a particular market, for instance, clothing for babies, you may also find your items are bought as gifts by folk who are not parents or close relatives of babies. I've found many different types of people purchasing my jewellery. They don't seem to fit into a particular age bracket. Are they rich or poor? I have no idea. Does that matter? Probably not. Are all my customers women? No, a fair few are men buying gifts for friends and family. A quick look around the bus or Tube reveals that is very hard to categorise which women buy which sorts of jewellery. And those who are magpies, like me, will probably have loads of different styles in their collections. People just refuse to sit in the neat categories the marketing folks would like them to! And what a good thing it is that people don't - the world is a much place for us all being different, IMHO.
More sold items - my customers have eclectic taste!

Three. Have excellent customer service.  Communicate with your customers as much as possible so they know you've acknowledged their order, have put it quickly in the post, and want to hear back from them that they love the item, or even if there's a problem with it. This is where the handmade movement can really outshine the big online retailers. Don't worry about bothering people too much - if someone doesn't like getting an additional email from you, they can always leave it unopened in their inbox.  But most customers I think, appreciate getting a note to say when their item will be posted, I know I do.  So make first class service your aim.

Lastly, be very patient. Neither Rome nor Marks and Spencers were built in a day!  However much you promote (and you could find yourself needing 36 hours in a day very quickly) it will take people time to find your shop. It's a online jungle out there and you need to prioritise taking care of yourself and your time.

What would your unconventional tips for other sellers be?


  1. Good Advice there, I know my own shop changed about 3 times before I was happy with the pictures, in fact I relisted the lot once. I made no sales at all in the first 3 months, until I digested all the information on the forums.
    Good Customer Service is very good point too, of course I have found it all to be so from the sellers on Folksy.
    Wish I could turn the clock back 12 months and have read this first.

    Lynda x

  2. Brilliant Blog Alison - you work very hard and you are always promoting other peoples work too from Etsy,, through Folksy to Dreamaid and everyone should be very thankful that you do. I certainly appreciate all that you have done for me over the past few months with constant help and encouragement - so three cheers for Alison and the marvelous BLUE FOREST JEWELLERY and I can certainly vouch for her jewellery as I am a very proud owner of some and it is BEAUTIFUL and BEAUTIFULLY MADE too

  3. Just talked about your Blog on my blog and posted in Folksy - and it came just under your blog!! Double whammy

  4. very good advice, I guess it just boils down to what works well for you, everyones business is diffiernt and what works for one might not for another - but if you get the basics right, like pics and customer service then you can't go far wrong :)

  5. Good advice. I'm just realising I don't like all the items in my shop and am about to take some out to make it look better. It's a long slow burn I think.

  6. That's great advice....
    My online shop does very little & doesn't pay it's way - I'd love to be able to promote it more/better.....
    I'll certainly be checking our the forums.
    Thank you.

  7. Great to hear there are others who photograph in a similar fashion to me - ( I have also been known to lay on the patio in my pj's to get an 'early morning light shot'.) I really ought to use a tripod though. I'm sure hubby's got one tucked away somewhere as he's the photography geek. I've also tried a fabric light box with lights, but it was too much faffing about and I didn't really like the results. It's true, you can't beat natural daylight.


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