Etsy: A Buyer’s Perspective

on Mar 21st, 2013 | in Etsy Tips | 12 Comments

Etsy sellers receive lots of advice about their shops and business. I’ve personally taken advice from Etsy sellers new and old, not to mention friends and family. It’s rare to hear advice directly from buyers. When a prolific buyer volunteered advice, my ears perked. John Major may not be the average buyer, but his perspective helped me see things in a new light. Read on if you’ve ever wanted to know how buyers find you, what you might be doing to turn off a potential buyer, and how the decision to buy is made.

To say I’m an avid buyer on Etsy would be an understatement. I’ve made over 2,000 orders in the last year, nearly all of them containing multiple items. Shopping for thousands of items has furnished me with extensive insight into the buyer experience on Etsy.

I frequently see sellers in the Etsy forums offering other sellers well-intentioned advice that is often ineffective or misguided. I may not be the typical buyer, but I want to share my perspective since it seems quite different than most Etsy sellers.

Finding items

I find products to buy on Etsy only by using search. This is very typical – your target audience will mainly use search to find specifically what they want to buy. I never, ever use Browse. I look at many treasuries, but I’ve never bought a single item from a treasury.

The search tendency of most buyers means that tags on your items are ultra important. Yesterday, I typed two words into search and it pulled up over 12,000 items. After adding more specific words there were only 5 items in the search results. The other 11,995 items did not get my business.

It’s common for me to get 250 pages of search results; the only way I can reduce the results is to use more specific words. Items with excellent tags will survive the biggest cut as I refine my search.

Photos are similarly important. I always look through all the pages of search results once I’ve narrowed down the items, because I know there can be really nice items near the end of the results. It doesn’t take much time to flip through all the pages because I filter very quickly with my eyes. If your photo isn’t clear, I get frustrated and move on.

The buying decision

The most important selling point is having a quality product. It sounds like mundane advice, but you’d be surprised how many sellers know their items need improvement and don’t make the push to up their game.

Descriptions are important. I want to know if the price is for a single item or all the items in the photo. I need to know measurements in both metric and imperial. If I don’t find measurements easily, I get frustrated and move on. I’m from the U.K. and many sellers here will only put the metric measurements on their items. I use both; I drink my beer in a pint glass but I fit out my entire kitchen using millimeters!

Since I’m in the U.K., my orders are predominately shipped internationally from U.S. sellers. I’m well versed in the costs to ship internationally, including the recent increase in USPS rates. Many U.S. sellers don’t offer international shipping, or inflate the rates. I’d have easily made quadruple the purchases if this hurdle didn’t stop me in my tracks so often.

Focus on the things that matter to buyers – improve your photos, refine tags and descriptions, and make sure you’re putting out a quality product. Don’t be afraid of international shipping – I’ve received every single parcel safely.

Etsy networking

I participate in the Etsy forums, which is highly unusual for a buyer. In fact, it’s highly unusual for sellers – less than 2% of sellers on Etsy ever frequent the forums. It’s an excellent place for sellers to talk to other sellers, seek advice and trade tips.

I’ve never bought a single item that I found in the Etsy forums. I’m in a different mindset in the forums – I’m looking to participate in discussion. If I’m in a shopping mood, I go directly to search.

I favorite many items. My wife and children put many items into my favorites so I’ll buy them. If a seller contacts me for any reason after I favorite an item in their shop, I promptly remove the item from my favorites. It may seem harsh, but I never buy from a seller that spams me in any way. My inbox is already full of spam.

Circles are another chance for spam. I circle many sellers that I consider to have excellent taste. If you go favorite-crazy and jam my activity feed, it makes it more difficult to see the other sellers in my circle and you’ll quickly find yourself in the dustbin. Don’t abuse the social systems.

It’s important to remember that many views and favorites don’t equate to sales. Experienced sellers can tell you that 100 favorites with no sales is the same as 10 favorites with no sales. New sellers are getting pushed towards the networking aspects on Etsy before they’ve managed to get the basics right. Focus on the basics before you spend too much time with treasuries, favorites and circles.

Other considerations

I always leave feedback on the items I purchase. Less than half of the sellers I’ve purchased from have left me feedback.

None of my purchases have originated from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other web sites or blogs. Younger audiences may be more interested in navigating these social networks, so if your product targets only the young it might be appropriate to spend more time on social networking. Consider again whether you’ve mastered the basics before investing too much time. Keep tabs on your shop stats to see whether significant referrals are coming from these sources.

I’m male, which puts me in the minority when shopping on Etsy, but I don’t believe I shop differently because of it. After all, I learned how to shop from my wife – and she knows how to shop!

I’d like to stress this is only my perspective as a buyer. I can’t speak for other buyers, but many of my habits seem to ring true with what I’ve heard from experienced sellers. Work on the basics and you may see my name in the “Ship to” box soon.

John Major is a dedicated Etsy buyer. Retired after 20 years running his own retail and wholesale businesses, he joins us from the U.K. to share his perspective as a prolific purchaser.
Cover photo by Evan Leeson on Flickr.
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12 Responses

  1. Janet Allen says:

    Wow, this confirmed what I’ve thought all along: social media, favorites, etc etc do not equal sales, so concentrate on what’s important: your products/descriptions/photos/tags….THANKS

  2. Thank you for a great article that every seller should read!!!

    I buy and sell on Etsy and feel exactly the same way. It is actually against Etsy rules to initiate a convo because someone faved, clicked or liked your shop/item

  3. Mary Beth says:

    Great Information. I enjoyed reading a buyer’s perspective! It’s actually very similar to my own. I am mainly a seller but am a buyer as well. I too will not buy from a seller that spams me!!
    Thank you for posting this and thank you to John Major for sharing your POV.

  4. Trudy Connor says:

    This is by far the best advice I have read so far. As a new seller on Etsy, I have gotten very distracted with other attempting to get favorites. It has reminded me when I shop online I search first. Keywords here I come. And photos – watch out, I need more lessons!

    Pinterest I will work on you slowly.

  5. Maya says:

    This was fantastic — thank you! It helps to confirm what I have long believed…that my sales come mainly because of my photos and descriptions and the way I tag my items.
    I usually include both metric and imperial measurements, and now I will make it a point to always include both.
    Thank you for this post –these are some great tips!

  6. Yarn Darlin says:

    Interesting perspective. It’s refreshing to hear your thoughts! Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. sheriberyl says:

    Great Post John. I agree virtual buying is a entirely different game. Once successful getting a buyer in to your listing a killer photo/description seals the deal.

  8. Coralie Milne says:

    Thank you John – I have an Etsy shop and I am an Etsy shopper as well. I can totally relate to what you are saying as I have felt the same in many of these ways since I joined Etsy. Your words are so true and we should be happy to be enlightened. I hope a lot of shops owners will see this and perhaps take note.

  9. Cheryl Dunham says:

    I don’t currently have an online presence, but I was very impressed with John’s perspective. I do love to shop, but have never looked at Etsy. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I make jewelry and am not interested in purchasing it online. I think his comments work well for any online presence. Thanks for the article.

  10. Thank you, John! Your perspective is extremely helpful.

  11. Thanks so much for this article … You have supported what I feel is really important for us as sellers, but it’s not what the usual scuttlebutt is on Etsy. Thanks again!

  12. Eliazbeth says:

    I really enjoyed this post! Thank you!

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