There's been a huge resurgence of the homemade in recent years, whether you're looking at fashion, home decor or just people filling their time with hobbies. As part of that resurgence, there has sprung up a new generation of makers, and many of those makers are looking to turn their craft into a career or a side hustle, and the most popular way to do that is on Etsy. This post will give you some ways to help make sure you have a great experience shopping on Etsy, and how to be an Etsy seller's best customer.
Founded in 2005, Etsy is a global marketplace for crafts of all types, from fine jewelry to slime, from pieces of statement furniture to laser cut wooden earrings (shameless plug) When I started Pew Pew Lasercraft in 2019, there was no question for me that I would start my business on Etsy. It's easy, the overhead is comparatively low, and the audience is there to give me access to people I might not otherwise be able to reach.
Over the last couple of years, I've learned a few things about my customers, and other shop owners, thanks to Facebook groups, my local #SFEtsy group, and just generally talking to people I meet in the world.
This post is a collection of things that Etsy shop owners want you to know, if you're going to shop on Etsy. (And believe me, we want you to shop on Etsy!)
Before you shop on Etsy
Etsy isn't Amazon. If Amazon is the world's largest store, Etsy is the world's largest mall. Etsy is not a behemoth company, it's just a banner under which millions of independent stores operate. If you're looking to save money by combining shipping, for example, you need to combine that shipping from a single shop, you can't surf all around the website adding things to your cart and have everything arrive together. Similarly, if you have a bad experience with one Etsy seller, that shouldn't reflect on all Etsy sellers as a whole.
We really want you have a great experience. If your Etsy shopping experience isn't flawless, we feel personally responsible and want to make you happy. We are our own customer service departments, so we're hands on every day, and want our customers to be happy. Please remember that there's a person on the other end of those messages you send, it's not a bot or some faceless droid in a warehouse somewhere.
Reviews can make or break a shop. I really can't emphasize enough how much a good review makes my day. I really can't. I literally do a happy dance when I see a good review, and it's heartbreaking when a customer isn't happy, or if something doesn't go just right. We're pretty much always aiming for five stars, and even four stars, while technically a good review, it can be a huge bummer, and many sellers will wonder what they could have done to get that fifth star. Want to get all the brownie points? Include a photo of the item you received!
Starting in Sept 2021, Etsy launched a new feature called “Star Seller”. In order to qualify for this program, a seller needs to respond to all incoming messages within 24 hours, ship orders on time with tracking, and maintain at least 95% 5-star reviews. Because this is a new program, we don't yet know how this may impact the long term performance of our shops, but it's bound to matter in the long run. All this is to say, PLEASE contact your seller if you're unhappy. Don't go straight to a review or a case, and please don't mark the review down because the postal service screws up. Once an order is out of our hands, it's literally out of our hands and we can't make it get delivered faster.
When you do review, review the product, not the shipping or Etsy. Of course, we always want a five star review, but sometimes it's hard when the customer is actually reviewing the shipping or the Etsy platform itself.
It's super frustrating when a customer goes straight to a bad review. Because this isn't a giant company like Amazon, we usually keep track of our customer orders more closely than they might, and we pretty much always want a chance to make something right before you ding our shop with a bad review. Again, I cannot understate the important of reviews to an Etsy shop.
Our control over shipping is next to none. Once we deliver a package to the post office, we can't speed it up or track it any more than the buyer can. We are at the mercy of the postal service, and those delays are completely out of our control. We get delays too, and understand how frustrating they are, but we're doing our best with the tools available to us.
Speaking of shipping, free shipping isn't. We've all been spoiled by Amazon, who will ship free for a $2 item. For an Etsy shop, we are paying close to retail for shipping, and have to pay again if you ask us to cover postage on a return. While it's totally reasonable to ask a shop to cover return shipping on a flawed item, asking them to cover postage because you don't like an item you bought is taking money out of their pockets, and so many Etsy shops work at slim margins for profit already, covering return postage can actually make your purchase cost them money.
Please read the full item description. We know that (for some reason) Etsy doesn't always make the product details easy to spot, but you'll find most product descriptions are chock full of info like dimensions, materials, and most importantly, turnaround times.
Here are a couple of handy reference images that show you where to find the full item description on both desktop and mobile:
Your products are most likely not made yet. Etsy's primary focus is on handmade, and while they have expanded the products that can be sold there, many, many of them are still being made to order. We aren't pulling finished things off a shelf and sticking them in an envelope. They're being cut, painted, or sewn, resin is curing, and glitter is being sprinkled. These little handmade works of art require time, and your seller's turnaround time will reflect that. If they have a 3-4 week turnaround time, it's because that's how long it will take them to process your order. While some offer rush fees or expedited shipping, they might not, so your best bet is to notice the promised turnaround time when you place your order.
Thank you for shopping small this year and always; when you place an order with a small business, someone at the other end is happy dancing and giving thanks for you. When you place an order with a small business, you're helping someone's dream become just a little more viable, a little more real. You're basically a hero when you choose to shop small.
Thanks for reading. 🙂