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eloiseceramics

Online Marketplaces Vs Your Own Website

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Hi everyone! I'm starting to sell some pottery and I'm curious how people sell their work online. I don't have my own website because I've kind of created one through storenvy that I felt was sufficient, but i'm not sure now. I'm also on Etsy because I feel like it's a good idea to be in all of the online marketplaces in hopes of reaching more people. Do you guys think i should create my own website and be in the online marketplaces on the side? Or should I just have my own website to avoid confusion? Or is the storenvy shop enough to just be in the online marketplaces? Thanks!!

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We get steady traffic on our site checking out us and our schedule but not much in sales. I think it does matter though for applications to shows and to add a way for your new customers to become familiar with you. Maybe a Facebook business site instead would work for you as you already have a platform for sales. 

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I just have a website (still under construction and no descriptions or shopping cart yet, and I am already getting purchase requests generated from it, mostly from a link on Facebook (my personal page-I don't have a business page yet), word-of-mouth, local visits w/samples for shop owners, and from handing out business cards. I have very low volume in terms of work for sale...not looking for a career. When I get to finish my website I intend to cross-pollinate by linking with limited online access points.

Edited by LeeU

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LeeU,

 

Just a reminder, links to one's online store are not allowed in the body of a post. I know it's a fine line, when we are discussing anything related to online stores, but we need to draw a line somewhere in order to maintain our "no advertising" policy. We can have meaningful discussions without having these links. You are also welcome to send a PM to eloiseceramics asking for a link.

 

This FAQ thread explains the policy in detail:

http://community.ceramicartsdaily.org/topic/5764-business-forum-f-a-q-listing/

LeeU likes this

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Marcia, yes a link to an informational website is totally fine, as long as it is not accompanied by a "buy this" message. A link to an online store is automatically considered a "buy this" message. And it is OK to have a link to one's website and online store within your PROFILE and SIGNATURE, just not within the body of a post or comment. 

Marcia Selsor likes this

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I think wherever you're selling, (name your online marketplace, galleries, wholesale, retail sales, consignment, whatever) you need to do your own marketing. Etsy is easy to set up, and I recommend it as an exercise, but you can't expect them to drive sales to your shop specifically, out of the one million Etsy shops worldwide.  Not unless a specific set of conditions are met, at any rate, which is unlikely unless you have previous experience running a business, and you are already an expert tabletop photographer.  No marketplace, online or otherwise, will market you, specifically.  They will market the sales venue as a whole, but not you as a person. The expectation that you will be found on etsy without your own efforts is the source of every "where are all my sales?" question thread on the etsy forums.  There are a lot of them.

 

The soloution is not to be on as many online marketplaces as possible and hope that people find you: that wastes a lot of time in setup.  Pick one, be it your own website, or Etsy or Shopify, or Storenvy or whatever, and figure out how to drive your customers to your store. I think as an artist, one needs a simple website for information purposes, and if you want to sell online, linking that website to your existing shop (storenvy, etsy) is a sensible plan.  Particularly in the beginning, as it's not cost effective to pay for a secure payment system below a certain level of income.

 

If you want to sell online, I suggest defining some goals, and taking an online marketing course of some kind that will get you there.

Roberta12, LeeU, TallTayl and 2 others like this

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What Callie said is my opinion on the matter. Having multiple shops with the same inventory can get tricky quickly, managing all that is a huge time sink. I think you should pick one storefront, which ever you want to do, and do nothing but try to drive constant sales to it and never change it.

 

One thing that no one has recommended here for you is to buy a domain name that you want to be your brand. This is key for building brand over a long period of time on the internet. If your going to sell say on etsy, and you are going around the net placing links to your etsy store (example.etsy.com, or etsy.com/example), don't give etsy all the link credit. use your own domain name, with a redirect to your etsy store. This way in the future if you get really big and you want to have your own store to lower fees etc, then you can just change your redirect to that store and all those links you places over all those years on the internet will instantly go to that site. This is three fold, it will keep your old readers/shoppers who know that link from getting lost, it will also boost your visibility in search engines, and anyone finding those old articles or pictures will find you instead of a closed etsy shop. 

 

Just a little tip. I see way too many people linking their etsy shops with their etsy link. 

 

EDIT: I figured I might need to explain the technical part of this. So for example, if your going to have a webpage and an etsy shop. instead of linking to your etsy shop when you link somewhere on the net, link to example.com/store then have that redirect to your etsy shop. hope that makes sense. If your not going to have a webpage, but just an etsy shop, then just buy a domain and redirect it to your etsy shop. it also looks way more professional on business cards having, yourbusinessname.com instead of etsy.com/storename

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If you have your own domain you can also use the ETSY MINI shop code and have it embedded on one of your website pages or blog that shows thumbnails of your etsy shop items and when someone clicks on an image they go straight to your etsy shop where they can buy it. I have both of my etsy shops this way on my own domain site. This way you put YOUR domain on all your advertising, have your brand information out there and then also get a nice compact easy to set up shopping page. The inventory is whatever you have on etsy and it automatically updates it as you update your etsy shop.

 

T

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I think a domain name is key-I have one but am not selling intentionally on the web. My site is info for existing customers or that was the idea long ago.That said about 50 plus boxes get shipped out every year because of it.

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Hi Eloise, the key to getting organic search results when people are using search engines to look for items they wish to purchase is optimizing your site for the search phrases people are typing in the search engine. You might consider taking a community ed class in search engine optimization if a class exists in your region. I do all my business solely through web sales and have done so for the past ten years. I quit my day job eight years ago to fulfill a long standing dream of being a full time potter because of my web sales. One of the ways to go besides Etsy is to get your own domain name, get a basic shoplfy dot com site, and optimize your site as mentioned. I've been fortunate in that I've never spent a penny to advertise, and I'm very fortunate to be as busy as I am. So to answer your question in a somewhat long way, I suggest you do your own site. Your mileage may vary, hope this helps. The bonus of a website that works, providing that you are selling high quality wares, is no more street fairs or galleries (unless of course you want to do those things).

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We have been doing quite a bit of business analytics lately on the issue of exposure for studio potters for an upcoming initiative. The biggest barrier the studio potter faces when entering the market has been briefly touched upon by a few of the previous posters. The issue of branding for search engine optimization is critical.

 

Every single month, approximately 8,100 people type the search term "Roseville Pottery" into Google. 27,000 type in the search term "Roseville", most of which are also looking for Roseville pottery. This from a company that has been out of business for 70 years. And this does not even count searches done in Bing, Yahoo, or Facebook. Yes, there are plenty of people who collect vintage and antique pottery, and that is where all these queries are coming from. But there is an important lesson here. Brand matters. Not just a little. It is everything. Most potters can only dream of getting 1% of that sort of traffic. If you were to somehow have a website that ranked #1 for the search term "Roseville Pottery" a reasonable estimate for your monthly traffic would be well over 20K unique visitors. Of course, none of us have that and are unlikely to ever accomplish that. But this an important concept to understand.

 

From a branding standpoint, you want to create a business name that is from the very beginning designed to be one which can garner you internet search traffic. "John Doe Pottery" does not really afford you any way to capitalize on search terms for exposure.

 

One reasonably effective way to achieve this is to use place names. "Detroit Pottery", or "Sandy's California Pottery" allow you to associate popular search terms into your name. Someone searching for "California Pottery" may well find Sandy if she has a decent website that is reasonably set up for search engine visibility. Also, it makes the unenviable chore of finding  good domain name much easier. Believe it or not, DetroitPottery.com is not registered, and anyone who wants it can just pick it up for the yearly registration fee. Build a website around that domain name and quickly rise to the #1 ranking for google searches for "Detroit Pottery", and also catch traffic from dozens of other Detroit-related searches. This is just one example, there are an unlimited number of others.

 

We have found that there is a common thread that runs through the businesses of studio potters. They spend years and decades honing their craft. But to compete in the market, you often find yourself trying to compete with people who have spend decades honing THEIR craft, which just happens to be marketing. It really is not a fair fight. We are working hard on solution to this, and hope to have something substantial to offer in a year or so. but until then, hopefully this post will give some of you a leg up.

Aurora likes this

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Branding takes time and just having a website will be a slow start for sure. It will take many years to get it up to a full time job status with web only.

There are many ways to  get your brand out there but the best is personal contact with the customer with a quality product. That also takes work and time.

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I certainly appreciate all the input and tips found here! The tips will come in handy when I do decide to sell, however modest that scope may be. Right now, I am giving away my nicest pieces to folks I really want to have something I made. That is generating a surprising degree of word-of-mouth. Someone will see a catch-all dish in someone's house and then I will get an e-mail asking about how to get one & for how much, so that certainly makes me feel good. I will be happy to have my marketing efforts and pieces just pay for clay and overhead!!! Next week I will be delivering 30 small incense cone burners to a group having a retreat and using them as gifts for the participants. Yee haw! 

Edited by LeeU

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I encourage all new potters to think of their web presence as the most critical marketing arm of their ceramics. But it's not for everyone. Read on...

 

You've learned that you need to invest in certain things in order to make pottery...a wheel, a kiln, slab roller, pug mill, materials, a place in which to work. None of these things are free, but they are the best investment you ever made, because you are either making money or have the potential to make money off of those investments you put in to your tools and work place.  

 

You probably also have spent a certain amount of money on books, classes, and workshops over the years. You didn't think that any of these expenditures were bad because you were investing in the expansion of your talents and abilities. You are a better potter for having spent that money by investing in yourself. 

 

So in that vein I suggest you think about your website in terms of another investment in you and your sales, and put some time and a little money towards it. As I told someone who contacted me back channel after my previous post in this thread, I'd rather take 85% of the revenue from a sale than the 50-60% that I was getting at galleries and street fairs. Websites are not free. But, they are very cost effective. And, all things being equal, I'd rather be at home on the weekends rather than sitting in unpredictable weather at a fair. I love seeing people and getting feedback in person, but I get enough feedback from my web customers to know that my work is highly valued. And over the years a lot of local business has come my way also due to the fact that I have a website that is optimized for my location. So I still get plenty of feedback from direct interaction with my customers.

 

Stamp your web site address on the bottom of each piece of pottery you make in clearly legible type. You'd be surprised how many orders come in that way. Customer Sally buys a bowl in Olympia from your site and gives it to her best friend Mary in Boston for Mary's birthday. Mary loves the bowl and thinks they will make great gifts this year at the holidays. She turns the bowl upside down and sees your website, takes out her phone and places an order. Then she sees you also make chip and dip platters and...Right? (Make sure you have a website set up before you stamp your pottery of course.) 

 

Another good strategy: Test your glazes for lead and cadmium at a lab and post the results on your web page.  (Do not take the ceramic supplier's word that the glaze is food safe. Test them yourself, it's your responsibility to know exactly what is in your glazes. There are many threads in the glaze forum on this topic. Commercial glazes...well I don't use them. Makes my life simpler. If something changes, I know about it, because I made the change, or I found out that a material had changed and I made adjustments for it in my glazes.) For this reason I also do not use encapsulated cadmium stains or inclusion stains. Makes it a lot easier to market "Cadmium Free" if you don't have to explain that actually, you do use cadmium in some glazes but they leach in acceptable levels that are food safe. You probably just lost a customer. I recently learned when putting together a glaze class series for my local clay guild that only India and China even make these stains as no other country in the world has safety regulations set low enough to allow the process to occur due to the extreme toxicity the process involves. So there's that too.

 

You'd be surprised how many people out there are buying pottery from potters who spend the little bit extra to test their glazes and put the results up on the site so they can be verified by your potential customer. It shows that you care and customers appreciate that. Test every glaze that you use that comes in to contact with food in your ware. Using a lead/cadmium free liner glaze is a good strategy. Tony Hansen at Digital Fire tested some commercial glazes. Individually he found some of them were in fact food safe, but when overlapped with another commercial glaze that was also food safe, guess what? It was not food safe. So, find out what you are selling and give your customers confidence that you are providing healthy dishes to eat off off and drink out of.

 

I disagree with Mark a bit about the the time it would take to get your web business attracting good traffic. Kings Fortune in a post above outlines some strategies, and I've given you a couple in my posts on the topic. And though I specialize in making mugs, there is no reason why selling other pottery items will not be successful. If your stuff is any good, and if you have excellent customer service skills, you can make a great on line business that provides you with a decent income. I started my website ten years ago as my hobby business, and two years after that I quit my long career in the printing industry to make pottery. I am not a computer expert, and I really feel that if someone like me can have this success, anyone can. 

 

Bottom line, if you don't have a website, ask yourself why you have not done this yet. If you spend the time and invest in it, down the road you are going to work less for the same amount of money. In my book this is not a bad thing. If you set up your own domain name and get your own site, rather than the etsy route, and optimize it for organic results, you are in a much better position to have your pots seen by many more customers than if your site is only known to your customers. Maybe etsy is better at this (organic search results) now, I checked it out ten years ago and decided then to go with my own domain name which is a brand name that people can remember.

 

And, if you like doing the street fairs and galleries, take no offense. Clearly, a potter like Mark and others on this forum have this sales channel wired. They have no reason to change, and after all why should they? If it ain't broke... You have to do what is right for you and fits you best. I'm all web. Others are all galleries and fairs. Others mix the two. You'll find the right balance for you.

 

Making a living as a potter is a hard life, and any timesavers are a real godsend. A website can be a timesaver. It might allow you to cut back some of your time, if nothing else. A 50 hour work week is better than a 70 hour week for the same pay though, right? Or a 35 hour work week instead of 50. You get my drift. The more profit you reap from each individual sale, the less you have to work for the same money.

 

One other thing, I hardly do any social media marketing any more since I'm pretty busy all the time from web sales. Another time saver for me, though up until about 4-5 years ago I did a lot more marketing on Twitter and Facebook and had some good results there. I was pretty active for 4 or 5 years. Then I did an experiment and stopped for a while to see if my sales would go down. They kept going up so I figured I didn't need to spend time there anymore. I think I was getting a lot of people seeing my website address on the bottom of a mug they got as a gift. My best sales representative is my work. And it should be yours too!

 

Okay, over and out. My complete $.02 on web sales.

 

Cheers, Owen

Joseph F and chezzi64 like this

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If you have your own domain you can also use the ETSY MINI shop code and have it embedded on one of your website pages or blog that shows thumbnails of your etsy shop items and when someone clicks on an image they go straight to your etsy shop where they can buy it. I have both of my etsy shops this way on my own domain site. This way you put YOUR domain on all your advertising, have your brand information out there and then also get a nice compact easy to set up shopping page. The inventory is whatever you have on etsy and it automatically updates it as you update your etsy shop.

 

T

Hii

 

I am appreciate with Pugaboo, You have own domain you should be work on your site and get more direct traffic to your site. i think you can get sufficient result .

 

 

Thanks..

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