Warning, you might want to make a cup of tea before starting reading today's blog.
I've been on Coriandr for a while and I'm just about getting settled in. It is a beautiful, fresh, uncluttered looking site, which makes it easy to navigate and use as both a buyer and a seller. I like it a lot. Many people have been asking me about the site and asking about selling there, so I thought I'd write up a quick step by step of what an online shop needs, so that if you are thinking about joining us at Coriandr, you can get it all ready before hand, to make the actual signing up and setting up of your shop run quickly and smoothly.
First and foremost you need to decide how you want your shop to look and how you want to brand your products. Branding is very important so take time to get this right. Coriandr allows you to load up an avatar and a banner to give your shop a branded look of your very own. If you already sell elsewhere you will probably already have a design in mind and all you will need to do is resize/redesign your banner to fit the 930 pixels wide and 160 pixels high that is allocated for it and 150 x150 for your avatar on Coriandr. If this is your first shop you have the fun of deciding how you want to brand your business. Remember clean, simple designs and logos usually make the best impact. The most common thing I see wrong with banners is that the name of the shop is either not on the banner or very hard to read because it is either too small or blends in with the background colours. Design a logo you can use on everything - banners, avatars, emails, invoices, letterheads, business cards, packaging... everything. If you don't know how to do this you could enrol the services of someone to help you. Remember Coriandr, as with most sell through sites has a forum where you can ask fellow sellers for help. We are friendly bunch so feel free to ask away.
2. Welcome your customers
The introduction/welcome in your shop needs to be short, to the point, but also within your branding concept. Concisely sum up what your shop has in it whilst welcoming your customers in. Most people are eager to see what you sell and won't take the time to read a huge long introduction. It can even put people off looking at your shop if when they open the shop page they cannot see at least one row of photographs of your goods. They may just click on to the next person, so keep that introduction to the point.
In the "Edit your profile" section of your account you can add a bio about yourself. I would seriously urge you to fill this out as it gives customers the feeling they know you a little better and gives them confidence to buy from you. Online selling can unnerve some people, especially buying from small businesses, as they know nothing about the seller. Don't write an epic all about yourself from birth to now, just give them an over all feel of who you are and what led you to your craft. Enthusiasm is very catching. Use it to your advantage and write in an upbeat way about yourself. People like to know the person behind the shop. When you go into a bricks and mortar store you get to meet the person you are buying from and you get to assess a bit about them. On-line the buyer can't do this so the bio helps to let them feel like they know you a bit better before they hand over their cash.
4. Terms and conditions of sale
It is very important to fill out the "Shop Policies" page for your business. When someone buys goods from your shop, you and they are entering into a legally binding contract with each other. You must display what that contract is. Remember that there are laws in most countries about distant selling (i.e. selling via catalogue or online etc) that you must stick to. Look up the laws for your country and stick within those laws when you write your terms and conditions. It is pointless saying "I am not responsible for goods lost in the post" when the law of your country says you are.
Having law abiding terms and conditions of sale written out and on display may seem like hard work and a daunting task, but once it is done it means both you and your customers know where they stand when a transaction is made. Once you have written the policies, stick to them. Don't promise to ship within 3 days if you can't always do it. It will just reflect badly on you and your business. Bad word of mouth travels much faster than good.
Your photographs are all the customer can see of the item you are selling. It is very important that they are clear, in focus, well lit and represent the colours of the item as best you can. For a consistent look it your shop it is best to take the photographs on similar backgrounds with the same light set up each time. Most people agree that natural light is the best, but if you live, like I do, in a place where for 6 months of the year it is pretty much guaranteed to be dark and overcast it might be worth building or buying a light box to take you photographs in. If you have large items this may not be possible, but do try to stick with the same kind of light from the same angle for you shots. Don't use backgrounds or settings that fight for attention with your goods, because it will only confuse the customer about what is for sale.
Take photos of your goods from every angle. If you think of all the ways you look at an item when you go into a bricks and mortar shop and try to think of all the bits you look at in detail this will give you a good idea of what to take shots of. Backs, fronts, stitching, clasps, earring post solders, feature details, etc. The more you show them the more they have to go on. In one photo try to show the scale of the item. If the item is very small put a ruler with both inches and centimetres into the shot. If it is a large item have a person in shot or a hand. This gives people an idea of the size of the goods.
When you write your description try to do it so that if there were no pictures, the person would get a minds eye view of what you are selling. Mention materials used, colours, size (in both cm and inches), uses, special features or details, shape etc. Also enthuse a bit about what lead you to create the piece or what you love about it. Enthusiasm is catching and if a potential customer starts to feel enthusiastic about your goods you stand more chance of them buying them.
7. Shop Categories
Break your shop listings up into categories. This helps a shopper to navigate around your shop quickly to find what they want to purchase. In Coriandr you can set up the categories by going to "Add custom categories" under the Shop Management Header in your account. Do this before you start listing goods.
8.Tags and site categories
When you list your goods you will be asked to add tags and to choose a top category for your listing. Tags are very important as they are the key words the search engine on the site pick up on when someone is looking for goods on the site. Likewise top categories for the site allocate which of the main site categories your item appears in. There is a skill to getting these right and it just takes time and testing to find the right combination for your goods. Adding colours, materials, and your location and shop name in the tags can be helpful. Some people search for goods by colour, some by materials. If a person wants something fast they may search for people local to them to buy from, hence adding location. Just try to think about how people would search for you goods, and what words they would use and then add those as tags to your items.
Do not tag abuse! Don't tag earrings as a necklace just to appear in more searches. Don't tag an item a colour it is not just because that colour is fashionable right now. There is very little point in tagging to get into more searches if what you are selling isn't what the buyer wants. It is more likely to put them off looking through pages of unwanted things than it is to get them to buy.
9. Stock levels
Keeping your shop well stocked is a must. Shops that have only a few items in don't usually grab buyers attention, but equally having 30 pages of stock can also be a turn off. Most people will not flick through that many pages. Keep a sensible balance and if you do have more that 5 pages worth of goods remember to use your shop categories well to break down the pages into set groups.
There is a whole big wide world out there and when selling on the internet you can access customers from all over the world. If you have a product that is of a size and is allowed to be shipped overseas then I say, go for it! By not shipping overseas you will be limiting your market place and losing sales. Some goods are not allowed to be shipped to some countries or your government may have rules that ban certain items being shipped out of your country. Check out the rules that apply to your goods being imported to other countries. Any goods that you can ship and are willing to ship overseas must have a shipping price put into your listings for the countries you are willing to ship to. Many customers are put off by you having the statement "I will ship overseas. Contact me to find out the price". They want to be able to shop right here, right now, without having to wait for you to reply with a shipping fee. If you are willing to ship, put a price in your listing. Don't risk losing out on a sale.
Well that is my basic guide to setting up a shop on Coriandr. There are probably hundreds of other hints and tips people can give you and ones that you will find and learn along the way. I learn something new about selling handmade goods on-line all the time. It's always a learning curve. Never be afraid to ask questions. The next thing you need to do once you have a shop is promote it, so people know it's there.... but that's a whole other topic for another day. Thanks for reading!