Wednesday, September 3, 2014

5 Tips for Holiday Shopping on Etsy

Well, folks, like it or not, the 2014 holiday shopping season is zooming up fast in our rear view mirrors.  Personally, we had a much busier summer season than I expected, and we're already gearing up for Christmas.  Having been an Etsy seller since 2007, this will be my 7th holiday season on Etsy, so I thought that before I break out all the new products we're launching this year, I'd step back a little and offer interested folks a few tips about buying on Etsy.

Etsy hosts shops carrying three main types of products:  handmade goods, vintage goods, and craft supplies. Between those three main categories, Etsy stays crazy-busy from October thru December with sellers offering a plethora of personalized gifts, one of a kind pieces of clothing, art, furniture, you-name-it, amazing vintage finds and just about every DIY craft supply you may ever need.  You can find something truly special for just about everyone on your list right down to your pets!  So with that in mind, here are five ways to help you navigate Etsy's abundant marketplace:

1. Take your time and look around.

At last count, I believe there are over one million shops on Etsy.  Yes, you heard me.  One million. Every purchase you make is from an individual's shop. It's conceivable that the perfect gift you're looking for could be featured on the front page or just as easily be buried in a shop you've never seen before, so give yourself time to get acquainted with the site. You'll need to set up an account to purchase on Etsy and it's a great thing to do before you're ready to buy because you can start saving things to your favorites. You can even categorize them and mark certain lists as private. That way the gifts you're looking at for your boyfriend can be private while your list for your parents can be public. Win-win situation.  Etsy even allows you to narrow search results by top category (handmade, vintage, and craft supplies), sub-categories, shop/ship from location, color and price.  Download the Etsy app for your mobile devices as well and shop anytime, anywhere.

(PS. A couple cart tips:  (1) carting something on Etsy does not commit you to buying it.  I keep tons of stuff in my cart all the time.  (2)  You can buy as many items as you want per shop in one order, provided they are all shipping to the same address.)

2. Read listing descriptions and look at all pictures!

There's no doubt that online shopping has revolutionized the power of a picture.  Shoppers are often smitten with an item from the first picture they see and immediately cart it, pay, and get that good transaction high.  (Shop-aholics:  Can I get an amen?)  But as an Etsy seller and shopper, I can promise you that the main picture doesn't tell you everything.  By scrolling through all the pictures (5 on Etsy) of each item, you'll often see variation options you can choose from or amazing uses for something that you would've never imagined.  Take one more step and read the listing description, and you'll know what the item is made of, often how it's made, dimensions, and turnaround time. There's nothing worse than finding the perfect gift for Mom, buying it, and then realizing that it ships from another continent in about eight weeks. All that angst can easily be avoided by looking at all the info the seller is giving you!  Take it all in!  We put all of it there just for YOU!

(PS.  Read shop reviews! It will help you understand if the seller keeps his/her promises to customers and if folks are pleased with what they purchased!)

3. Production times are as various as gift ideas and are not there to torture you.  I swear.

We live in the age of give-me-everything-right-now-and-on-my-phone-this-minute, don't we? As Etsy sellers, balancing the public's appetite for speed and efficiency with a quality (often handmade) product can get really tricky and frustrating.  On the one hand, we want to give every customer exactly what they want when they want it, and on the other, we want to invest the time and talent to make your item 100% perfect and just for you.  So, take a deep breath and let the handmade process happen.  Most Etsy shops are run by one to three people who are just as human as they can get.  We'd love to be able to predict what's going to sell and go ahead make fifty-nine of them in July to be ready, but this type of retail just doesn't work like that.  You took the time to find the perfect gift, give us time to make it.  If you are pinched for time, contact the seller before buying to make sure they can accommodate you.  If they cannot, take a deep breath and keep the piece in your favorites... maybe you can order it earlier next year or take a late delivery in January.  Understand that sellers are people, too, and sometimes run up against a hard limit.

(PS. Production and shipping times are not the same thing!  Production time is how long it takes a seller to make your item.  Shipping times are how long it will take to reach you once it's left the seller.  Take both into consideration.)

4.  Take your time when placing the actual order.

This may seem like a silly thing to emphasize, but, trust me here.  If you've taken the time to find the perfect gift, looked at all the options, understand the production and shipping times, you can take an extra few minutes to check over the order before you buy.  I have to take this advice myself.  I sell personalized gifts, and yet I can barely order one from someone else without making a mistake somewhere.  Why?  Well, because I'm busy and excited and ready to be done and move on to the next task, but this year, I will change that.  I will take the time to make sure I selected the right options, gave the right personalized info and am shipping it to the right address!!

(PS. Etsy sellers are generally thrilled to send a gift straight to the recipient for you, but please put their address in the ship to and not yours.  We are unable to edit addresses, and an address change can be easily overlooked when you're shipping out 70 orders a day. Yikes!)

5.  2-4-6-8 By all means communicate!!!!!

Don't be afraid to ask questions, and make sure you're reachable via Etsy convo after the sale. This is easy to do. Go to: YOUR ACCOUNT // SETTINGS // EMAILS and check the box that says: SOMEONE SENDS ME A CONVO so you know when a seller is trying to reach you.  At both Risky Beads and The Twisted Screw, we typically have questions for about 10% of our customers after orders come through. Sometimes it's just a clarification; other times it's an issue that stops an order until we hear back. Keeping correspondence on Etsy helps sellers tie all your communications to your order.

(PS. If you're setting up a new Etsy account, be sure you've confirmed your email address with Etsy or that above setting won't work.)

Armed with those 5 tips, I think you'll be well prepared to avail yourself of the Etsy-experience this holiday season, and, if by chance, you make it to Christmas Eve without a gift ready to give, don't forget that Etsy also has... GIFT CARDS!!

Stay tuned to this blog for lots of new gift ideas for your whole posse! Talk soon!!


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