4 Feb 2008

Please critique my shop....

Nearly every time I log onto the Etsy forums I find someone asking other users of the site to critique their shop. The post usually goes along the lines of "I've just set up my shop a month ago and I've had no sales. What am I doing wrong?" or "No one is looking at my shop. Why?" So I though I'd give some tips and hints on common things that people get wrong and how to improve them. This is in no way a definitive list but it will contain the things that I regularly give as advice on the forums.

1. The look of the shop.

The first thing people see when they open up the page of your shop is the banner and the shop announcement. That is, if you have a banner and have filled out the shop announcement.

Think of the banner in your shop as a way of branding your pages as your own. 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. Take time to get it right. Try to make the style of your banner reflect you shop goods. That doesn't mean to say you have to have photos of your goods in the banner, but it should in some way indicate what your shop sells. If you have a tag line try to use that in the banner too as it will help people to understand what you sell. A tag line is the few words you use to sum up what your business is about.

Above you will see a banner I cobbled together in 15 mins to show you what I mean(click image to get a larger view). The fictitious shop is selling art made from reclaimed bicycle parts. You can see that pretty much from the name of the shop, the tag line, the bicycle pictures and the recycling symbols. Now I'm not claiming this is a work of art or even a very good banner because it quite plainly isn't, but it gets across it's message of what the shop is about. With more time I would have knocked something better up.... but anyway, you get the idea. Make your banner relevant to your shop.

The colours in your banner should also tone in with the way you photograph your items for sale. If you have pictures that are on dark backgrounds it looks very odd if you have a very white banner. Equally if you have pastel coloured backgrounds a banner that is made up of garish bright colours will be at odds with your photos. Try to make them all tone in together whatever style you use.

Shop announcements are your way of saying hello to your customers and giving them concise information about your shop. Many people are put off by very long announcements as it pushes the pictures of what you sell out of view when they open the page. Try to make it short enough so that at least some of your photos show as the page is loaded.

2. Using the featured items function.

The featured items function is a good way of getting larger photos of your items on the front page of your shop. To use it you need to go into "your Etsy" and you will see a list open of the items in your shop. On the right hand side there are some grey stars. If you click on the stars they will turn green. This means you have chosen that item to be featured. Only 3 items at a time show up on your front page as featured, but it is always wise to have more than 3 items starred as if one of the featured item sells, another item, that you have starred, will fill it's place automatically. On the left hand side of the same page is a button to "featured in shop". If you click on this you will have a window open that allows you to move your items up and down the featured list. I usually do this once a day to keep the pictures on my featured section on my front page different each day. It gives each item more exposure that way and stops repeat buyers coming back and seeing the same things over and over.

3. Terms and conditions

All shops should have written up somewhere terms and conditions of sale, shipping and returns. All listings should refer to where the buyer can see this list. Most sellers on Etsy put it underneath their profile, as so far Etsy haven't provided a designated space for them. It is very important that you do this as it tells the buyer what the contract between you and them is. Remember when writing these terms and conditions that you must stay within the rules of your country/state. If you do not know those rules look them up. Most countries governments will have websites where you can find this information.
[edit] Etsy has now provided pages for T&C, so please use them.

4. Photographs

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.

5. Descriptions

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 cause you to choose to sell it. Enthusiasm is catching and if a potential customer starts to feel enthusiastic about your goods you stand more chance of them buying them.

6. Categories and tags
Etsy allows you to have one top category and 13 other tags. The search engine on etsy is a bit strange to say the least, but to get the best results from it for your shop it is best to try and use all the tags. It will give you more chances of getting picked up in a search and therefore noticed. Do not abuse the tags! Use them wisely, for someone that tags earrings as a necklace and bracelet may well bring their items up in more searches, but when someone is looking for a gold necklace they don't want to see earrings and it just annoys them that they have to search manually through the results to find exactly what they want and if they get fed up before they find that, and they leave, you have lost a chance to sell them anything. If everyone tags correctly then the search engine would bring up more useful results for all.

7. Avatars

These are the little square pictures that come up by the side of your name in your shop, when you post in the forums, use the chatrooms or make comments on treasuries. Many people like to use a small picture of something they make or something that represents their craft or their shop logo. On etsy the avatars are 75 pix square. That is not a very big space to show a picture in, so the picture you use needs to be very clear and not cluttered or the avatar will not show off anything other than blobs of colour. A good avatar can make people want to click on it to see your shop, so again take time to make it look enticing.

8. 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.

9. Listing items

When listing items it's a good idea to list them at spaced out times. If you are just starting out and you have 30 items ready to be listed, don't list them all in one go. Spread them out over a few days and try posting at different times of day. It's wise to list at least 3-4 times a week because it keeps your shop at the for front of the search function and gives you your 15-ish minutes of exposure on the time machine. If you are in a popular category, like jewellery you might find you have to list or re-new items even more often to stop your goods from being buried. The Search on etsy pulls up the most recently listed items first. It's very easy with so many sellers listing all the time for your items to end up on page 50 of the search if you don't list and re-list.

I've taken a pledge not to re-new items any more, because I feel that the money I save by not doing that can be better spent advertising off the etsy site. Those ads will bring people directly into my shop when they click on them, so I don't need to worry how high up on the search results I come. By still listing new items I am still pulling my shop back up the search listing. I just won't be constantly renewing old items that people have seen before.

10. Profile

Etsy gives you a space to write a bit about yourself and a place to fill in your location. It is a good idea to write a short piece about yourself, what you make/sell and why you love it so much. Again it's the case of enthusiasm being catching. Use it to your advantage. People also 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 profile helps to let them feel like they know you a bit better before they hand over their cash.

11. Shipping

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. Any goods that you can ship and are willing to ship overseas must have a 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. Message 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.

12. Sections

Etsy allows you to split your goods into sections. This helps buyers to find just what they want faster in a fully stocked shop. Give the sections titles that accurately represent the goods in it. I have seen shops that seem to have wild titles to their sections which didn't help all that much in finding what you want. One yarn shop had sections named after food dishes..... It did in a way relate to the persons shop name and photos, but it didn't help someone looking for some worsted yarn or a bit of double knit.

To set up your shop sections and split your goods into those sections is easy. Click on "Your Esty". On the left hand side, under the title "shop set up" is the "sections" button. Click on it and it is fairly self explanatory how to do it. You can have up to 10 sections.

Well I hope this list helps a little. There are many other hints and tips people can give and if you have any feel free to add them to the comments page. After all the better that all the shops look on Etsy, the more people that will stop by to shop.


  1. Nice idea. I've wanted to write something like this myself because I see it so often. Most important though... have patience!!! Some people start freaking out after not selling anything for 1 week! Yikes. Slow times DO happen!

  2. Skully! great blog topic. we should all new etsians here to gain a little much needed guidance!

  3. This is a great summary of some wonderful tips! You need to send any and all posters who ask the same question directly to your blog! :oD

  4. Thank you, Skully! Very useful list...

  5. This is a great list. As a newbie, it's still nice to hear some feedback on the appearance once all the tips are followed.

  6. this is a really great post and I hope lots of newbies read it! :D


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