Monday, March 05, 2012

Pros & Cons of Selling Online

I decided March was the month I was going to jump on board and participate in the monthly EtsyMetal Blog Carnival. Each month a topic is proposed to EtsyMetal members and those who sign up write a blog post pertaining to the chosen topic.

This month's topic is:

What are the Pros and Cons of selling your jewelry online?

I feel this topic could find itself the contents of an entire novel, not just a daily blog entry. I will do my best to not drone on too long on the subject. I have sold my artwork face to face, direct to customers as well as selling my artwork using online venues such as Etsy, Artfire etc. I am pretty sure I have a good majority of the pros and cons figured out.

I always like to get the negative out of the way first so I am going to start of with my top 3 on the Cons list. Always good to get the bad out there and then move on to the good, don't you think?

The Cons

1. Your buyer can't "feel" the item.
When selling my work this past December at the Urban Craft Uprising holiday show in Seattle, nearly every single person who walked into my booth, picked up a piece of my jewelry. Most often when a ring was picked up, it was tried on. Modeled to a friend and ogled over. Pendants were touched, earrings were held up to earlobes. You get the picture. I sold out of 3/4 of my entire inventory in just a two day period.
When selling artwork online, the buyer has only photographs to go by. Pictures must express the "feel" of the piece of jewelry. If the photos are not good, you can pretty much guess that the piece will not sell. Along with good photos, a great description is a MUST. You must tell the story of the piece with words to basically sell the customer the artwork. When face to face with a customer, they can ask questions and get answers right away. When shopping online, the customer has only photographs and a description to answer their immediate questions. If a question arises that a description or a photo doesn't answer, that customer will most likely go elsewhere and buy from someone else who has offered a product that was better described and showcased. If you have complete and descriptive descriptions paired with multiple photos that show different angles of your work you have a better chance of making that sale.

2. Instant gratification doesn't happen when shopping online
Unless you are selling something that can be downloaded when shopping online, your buyer has to sit tight and wait for their beloved purchase to ship. Luckily, for most, this is part of the thrill of the chase, so to speak. But it can still hinder even a seasoned online shopper. Some people just don't like to wait. And if you are selling something that is made to order i.e., your customer makes the purchase then you create the artwork, this can be even a longer wait to get that purchase into your customer's hands. And this can determine whether or not your customer will stay and make the purchase or get in their car and go to the mall to shop for purchases that they can take home immediately.

3. The Dreaded Feedback AKA the piano hanging over your head
Ebay made the buyer/seller feedback system a household term. Etsy made it the handmade artist's nemesis.
100% positive feedback is what most sellers strive for and bend over backwards to maintain. Good customer service is always a must in my book regardless of any feedback system. I strive to make sure my customers are 120% happy. And I hope this will translate into positive feedback.
In theory the feedback system is a good idea because it can give the buyer peace of mind when shopping and purchasing from someone who they may not have done business with. Unfortunately it can also easily abused. And in the end, the seller is the one who can be most hurt by it. A vindictive buyer can hold a seller hostage with the mere threat of leaving negative feedback. An online seller is really at the mercy of the online buyer. And the impossible to please customers can leave you and your positive feedback flapping in the breeze and it can wreak havoc on one's mental status. I speak from experience. Luckily the honest buyers far outweigh the impossible to please ones.

Alright! Enough of that negative stuff. Let's get to the positive!

The Pros

1. The Internet is open 24/7
Come on in and shop anytime! With the invention of this wonderful thing we call the Internet, shoppers are out there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. My online storefront has its doors open to worldwide customers anytime of the day (or night). Not many brick and mortar stores have the benefit of reaching the International market. My online store is open to all!

2. More studio time
Having an online presence gives me the freedom to spend more time in my studio creating new work. Running a brick and mortar location would take a lot of time and energy (not to mention money) to maintain. That is time that I could be spending making new jewelry for my customers.
With just a few clicks of a mouse I can have my products listed online and then get right back to my bench and get to work.

3. I write much better than I speak
While I do love talking my customers in person from time to time at the occasional art festival, overall I am much better at communicating through my keyboard. I like to spend my time pouring my heart and soul into the jewelry pieces I make in silence. I am pretty shy and feel like I can come across as either far too aloof at times or too talkative at other times when I am in front of my customers. I can speak much more eloquently when given the time to think about what I want to say to someone or talk about my artwork in my online listings. This, for me, is best done by putting words down using my keyboard not stuttering out run on sentences then wishing for a do over.

Funny how I wrote more content regarding the cons than I did the pros. Especially because the pros, to me, far outweigh the cons when it comes to selling my artwork online. I think it is because we can learn so much for the cons and use that knowledge to benefit the pros. I think that makes sense. It does, at least, to me.

Please visit these other EtsyMetal members blogs to see their thoughts on the pros and cons of selling online:

Inbar Bareket:

Evelyn Markasky:



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