There are many important steps one must take when selling online. In this post We are going to talk about one such specific step, because it oft gets ignored by many an online entrepreneur. This step is not only applicable to selling crafts online but to anyone who is selling any of his products online.
Have Your Own Online Store / Website
If you are not going to start an e-commerce enabled store, at least have a regular website where you create a profile for your work, and maybe even yourself as an artist. Writing a blog on it will be an added bonus and liable to find you potential interested customers online.
This step often gets undermined by many people who want to sell online. One of the major reasons for neglecting to open your own online store is the presence of multiple 3rd party online platforms for selling your stuff.
These online platforms make it very simple to list items for sale and take care of many back and functionalities like processing payment, providing an interactive interface to communicate with potential buyers and an otherwise reliable platform with a seamless buying process. Another advantage of these online platforms is that most of them are very popular, and have thousands of people visiting them every day.
Hopeful artisans and artist first list their craft on platforms like Etsy.com to get exposure to these interested buyers. This is all very well. But there are two major reasons why you should also have your own website, if not fully functional online store.
And before we get deeper into those reasons, I would like to tell you at the very outset that this is not a complicated process anymore. You can have own domain name and a fully functional website almost just as quickly as it would take you to sign up with and list any of your items on a third-party online platform like Etsy.
Try Shopify today to see what I am talking about.
The following are some reasons why you should get online with your own online space.
Branding for a business means a lot of things. It means developing an image for your business and for yourself and for the craft that you are making. All of this involves:
- letting your customer know who you are,
- what is your story,
- what's your inspiration,
- the meaning behind your work,
- what inspires you,
- what is the process of your working,
- what is your speciality and
- what is so special about the work that you do,
- the skill that you possess,
- the principles and motives behind what you do,
- how you are different from others doing similar, if not same, work,
- what sets you apart from others,
- your promise of quality,
- guarantee of craftsmanship,
- your vision behind your work,
- what things are important to you,
- your sense of aesthetics,
- why the customer should trust you and your craft.
All of these things and any other message that you want to give it to your potential customer can only be conveyed when you have freedom of space and design online. You will not get this kind of freedom on a third-party website. You will be very limited with the kind of branding that you can do to let the customer know who you are as an artist and what your work is all about.
A brand image is important because it helps you gain trust of the customer, show yourself off as a professional and get a better price for your craft. While all this may seem a little complicated, there is a huge advantage of why you should make this effort right now.
#2 Your own online space not crowded out by others
You need your own space online that is all yours and not being shared by thousands of other sellers. Your space on a third-party platform looks exactly the same as anybody else's because of the homogenised feel of the entire website. There is very little scope of creating any kind of brand image for yourself in this kind of an online environment.
People remember the 3rd party website and not really the individual sellers.
The most important thing that I would like you to understand is that the process of creating your own online workplace is not a complicated process anymore. Gone are the days when you needed expert professionals to do this work for you. There is no complicated programming or design required.
The first thing we recommend is using the services of Shopify to create your own online store or a simple website. You will be astonished at the results that you get with minimal labour. The ready to use templates are really quite stunning as well as very functional.
Their services also take care of a lot of things at the backend which are integral to running a business such as processing payments and transferring it automatically into your account as well as providing an integrated system for providing customer service to your customers and clients.
#3 Your blog vs. microblogging on social media
We recommend having your own website because unlike social media accounts like Instagram, people don't expect it to be updated very frequently. You can set it up once and then update it with new images and products whenever you need to. Social media accounts like Instagram tend to be more of a pressure situation where people are expected to keep posting your content in order to generate new followers and keep the existing ones interested as well . If you don't do frequent content generation then you tend to fall off the radar.
#4 Running Promotions And Ad Campaigns
This is perhaps one of the most important reasons why you should create your own domain space, and an online store.
Imagine a situation when you promote your work to another person through any means. It can be an online promotion, it can be word by mouth or it can be any other form of communication. Now, if you tell a person to go and see your work on a third-party platform like Etsy or Artfire, you are literally handing them over to your competitors.
These platforms are a seal of sellers. A person goes there to buy something and ends buying something else. When you refer somebody to your listing, they are very likely to get distracted by thousands of other listings and hundreds of other similar crafts and end up buying something from somebody else. So what you have managed to do is lose a valuable lead.
It doesn't matter if you didn't pay for that lead. Even if you suggested it to a friend, you still ended up losing a valuable lead that could have converted into a sale for you. Instead of making that sale yourself what you ended up doing was give some more business to your competitors.
Now this is going to hurt even more if you are running a paid advertising campaign. There are many ways to run paid promotions online. You can do it through your social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram or you can run them on search engines like Google. Even Amazon and Etsy allow you to run ads within their framework that allow your products to be listed up on the top whenever somebody searches for the keywords that you are paying for.
Imagine paying for an advertisement only to have an interested customer click on your ad and buy from one of your competitors.
The fact is that even on etsy and Amazon you will need to promote your listing in some way, at least to begin with.
I am absolutely not saying that you should not sell on these third-party platforms. They are amazing places for many reasons. Thousands of people visit them and shop on them for the simple reason that they inspire trust and they have a large variety of products available.
Creating online campaigns and running advertisements is a very wonderful and almost instant method of generating viable leads for your business. You will be squandering away this advantage if you do not promote your own website and online selling space through your carefully researched and designed advertisement campaigns.
You will also realise that campaign development is a skill and requires experience. You will have to spend money to discover the correct demographics and other settings that result in sales. However, if you continue to send customers over to third-party websites through your ad campaigns you are wasting a lot of that money, expertise and experience.
Online resources to help create the right look for your website.
Everything else that you need in order to create a pro look for your website can also be managed easily and cheaply online. There are two websites that I would recommend for all your graphic and designing needs. One is Shutterstock and the other is Fiverr.com.
Shutterstock is a stock photography website that has graphics and images to suit almost all graphics need. Photographers and graphic designers from all over the world upload ready to use images and graphics that you can download and use instantly for an extremely reasonable price. The cost for downloading and image can be as less as $.15 per image.
Fiverr is a freelancing website where all kinds of people offer their services for the minimum cost of $5. Hence the name of the website. You can get people to do everything from designing a logo to writing your articles, designing a front page, writing a copy, search optimising your website all for the basic cost of $5.
The things you will have to learn about…
There is obviously going to be a bit of a learning curve involved when making your own website. But this is not a bad thing. In the long run it will help you attract individual and independent customers online. If you want to sell online you need to learn about search engine optimisation because it applies to all online selling platforms.
Even if you are selling on at Etsy, Amazon or eBay, you have to know the basics of being search engine friendly. This includes having good photographs, writing optimised headlines, titles and descriptions that get the clicks and also researching and targeting keywords that covert into sales.
The same rules also apply to the internal search engine these websites. They determine which products show up for a search result. However, other factors also count here such as the number of sales, good reviews and the price you are selling at.
Avoid the conventional method of starting a website..
I do not recommend going the conventional way of buying a hosting plan, setting up WordPress, or finding a designer, choosing themes, learning how to customise the look etc. It is way too much work and takes a long time to setup if you have never done the work before. Use a tailor made service like Shopify or Gumroad that takes care of all of the above, along with full fledged e-commerce capabilities.