Etsy recently announced a new guidelines that is to take effect 30 July 2019 where their search algorithm for products listed in US would favor sellers that offer free shipping for total purchase of USD35 and above.
This new regulation would put a strain on small time creators and crafters who are barely making enough in their sales store. There is also a lot of outrage and many Etsy sellers have taken upon social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube to rant and even started an online petition to go against this decision.
The writing is in the wall
Unfortunately, I do not think that Etsy would sway in their decision. I am sure before they announce this, they have thought it out carefully and have anticipated the reaction of sellers.
Anytime we list our items, photos or posts at a third party’s site, we are at the complete mercy of the site owners. Etsy is not the first company that does it and it would not be the last.
Others have done it already:
1. Webshots (now no longer exists) was started as a free platform to enable people to share photos online. Later, they started inserting advertisements into the user’s side in order to monetize from the traffic that comes in from the public. I was shocked but this prompted me to start my own travel blogs instead of posting my photos on Webshots.
2. Facebook originally started without any advertisement. Posting and sharing via Facebook drives in droves of traffic for many business, creators and bloggers. When people follow to your page, any new posting would appear in their newsfeed.
Then Facebook started putting advertisement- nothing major… just a little at the sidebars. No one seemed to mind at all.
Eventually Facebook also changed what users would see on their newsfeed. Business pages no longer appear in newsfeed of the followers’ page. Many businesses, creators and bloggers who are using Facebook to drive traffic and income saw their traffic plummet overnight. Now if you want your page to appear in front of the user, you would need to PAY for it. Good thing is that the traffic is quite targeted because Facebook knows the demographics of its users very well.
3. YouTube is the world’s most popular video sharing platform. When YouTube opened the option for creators to monetize and earn income with Adsense, many creators devote their time and energy, even quitting their jobs to do YouTube full time. In February 2018, YouTube implemented a new policy on monetization. Before a creator is able to monetize, the channel must achieve a minimum of 1000 subscribers AND 4000 hours of total view time.
This causes a huge backlash from many content creators. This was of course implemented and eventually creators know they have no choice- it is either they work harder to earn the subscribers and put in more time to do videos, or they leave YouTube.
Etsy- following on the trends of online shopping
Actually free shipping can be a deciding factor when it comes to purchasing a product. Consumers tend to buy more (sometimes more than what we need) just to make enough volume for free shipping. Sites like Shopify and Amazon Prime are offering free shipping which makes their sales go up. This is an undeniable trend- and Etsy has caught on with it and wanted to offer this option to buyers to increase overall sales on their sites.
Because Etsy sellers are operating on Etsy’s platform, they have no control over the changes in policies. But you have control on how you react and the actions that you take.
Suggestions that you can consider to get through this change:
1. Increase the price
The most obvious solution to this is to increase price in order to be able to offset the delivery charge. This applies for smaller creators who only earn a small profit margin for every product that they sell. I know some of you may feel strongly against this practice.
But this practice is more common and acceptable than you may think. Product pricing is always increase in return for convenience. For example if you want to grab instant noodle from a 24 hour gas station, it will cost more compared to a grocery stall.
2. Find a way to increase your profit margin- either through automation, change of product or sourcing from alternative suppliers
That is how companies like Ikea is able to offer free shipping and still thrive because they source from cheaper suppliers and work force when it comes to making their products.
If you are buying your raw materials from a retail shop, the cost would be much higher compared to buying from a wholesaler. If the amount of order is enough, you would need to look into buying the same items at the cheaper price or being innovative and replacing the item with alternative without sacrificing the quality.
And sometimes there are tools and programs that you can also use to increase the production of your items. For example, if you are making cross stitch pillows and find it is too time consuming to make each one of them and they don’t sell as quickly… how about offering cross stitch kits whereby it is a complete set- with the graphic design pattern (that can be replicated on a computer and printer) and the coloured threads that are required to make the pattern. These do not take long time to create and you are able to sell at a higher profit margin.
3. Promote like crazy via other channels like YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram
Put out your Etsy store address everywhere- via your Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. If you really really do not want to raise prices and do not want to waive shipping fee, then you can attempt to increase the reach to your online store by driving traffic to your store through other channels.
This also meant that you would need to be spending time to build up a following in the channel- and for channels like YouTube, it takes a lot of time to build up a following. However, setting up an Etsy store is already very competitive and many sellers get their names out there through creating their YouTube channels. Sometimes when their channels hit big, they can even earn passive income through monetizing their videos.
Should you leave Etsy and go to other platforms?
In the midst of this, you may consider that you want to set up your own site and sell from there. However, many others have tried that and was met with little success. Buyers really like a huge variety of choices when it comes to buying online so they tend to favor online shopping sites like Ebay, Amazon and Etsy.
If you are a crafter or creative person, like it or not, a lot of your potential clients are going to be found on Etsy. I have seen some who wanted to sell at craft fairs. But if you sell on craft fairs, you may not be able to meet the number of targeted customers as how you would if you are selling online whereby you can really expand the reach of your products and creations.
Furthermore, you would be spending a lot of your valuable time to set up a physical store, sitting the whole day (sometimes with no air conditioned if it is held at open space). Time spent that could easily be used into making more craft items. And the fair ends when you load up and drive back, you would probably be too tired to be able to create your own products.
Finally, consider channeling your creativity towards other endevours
Creativity is a form of energy. Just because you are creative and like to make craft items, it does not mean that you have to continue making craft times as your only form of earning extra income. You can channel and move the energy towards other fields that may be more fulfilling and rewarding in the long run.
For example, crafters who are making their own crafts often end up teaching others how to make the craft. They either upload courses in online platforms such as Skillshare and Teachable or they monetize via Adsense in their YouTube videos. They can also write an ebook or a physical book- now it is easy to self publish your own book/ ebook.
At the depth of the heart of a crafter, we all feel we want to leave a piece of ourself in the form of our creations to the world. But if you ask yourself honestly- it can get demoralizing if the crafts that you pour your heart and soul into to make is not selling. It is easy to get discouraged when this happens.
When you produce an ebook or a YouTube video, all you need to do is to put in the effort once (in every book and video) and you could earn passive income even years down the line. Many people love crafting videos especially watching how their favourite kind of craft is created by hand. Don’t worry about people copying you because even if you don’t do it, others have already done it and they are earning income. Sometimes, the income gets so good that they move away from making crafts to just doing videos online.
Perhaps, just perhaps this new policy may end up propelling you to work towards other alternatives that are more rewarding and free up more time in your life.