What is Etsy’s New Guidelines and What They Could Do Instead

by Gail Oliver, Online Marketing Consultant

If you do not understand what is Etsy doing with their new guidelines, last week they announced that they would be changing their business model to allow mass produced products to be sold on its marketplace. Needless to say, many sellers on Etsy are upset about this because they feel it means Etsy is no longer an exclusively handmade community, and they are not incorrect.

But Etsy is first and foremost a company, and it has to make decisions to ensure its continued growth.

Does this particular decision affect their brand? Yes. As a marketer, I never agree with changing one’s brand (unless it is no longer successful) because it causes customer confusion and you can lose all the marketing efforts you have invested in to-date. As a result you risk losing customers, not gaining them.


Artisan vs Entrepreneur

There is a difference between an artisan and an entrepreneur. Some of the top sellers on Etsy are more of the entrepreneurial nature – they came up with a good idea for a product, found a way to produce it quickly, priced it competitively and sales took off. They want to keep expanding even if it means they become more hands-off. There’s nothing wrong with that, everyone has a different vision for their business, and the economy needs growing companies more than anything right now.

These shops also bring in big numbers for Etsy. If you think of the 80-20 rule, 80% of Etsy’s sales are probably coming from 20% of its shops. So, obviously Etsy cannot afford to have these shops move off the marketplace.

Therein lies the problem for Etsy. Expanding without changing the brand that made you successful in the first place.

My Solution – Divide the Marketplace, Don’t Try to Blend It

Etsy is not going to please all parties here, but maybe a better solution to consider would be dividing their marketplace (which has become quite large) into four independently searchable segments, such as Handmade, Vintage, Supplies and General Marketplace, the latter being for those who wish to mass produce.

So people would still land on the same Etsy marketplace page, but they could choose a page tab that indicates one of these sections. From within these sections, you can then choose categories such as Clothing, Jewelry, Kids, etc. This would also drastically reduce the number of listings in the Handmade category, making it easier for those sellers to be found. It will also make it easier for shoppers to find what they really want (a mistake is to lump all buyers together; not everyone wants inexpensive goods, many want unique handcrafted items and are willing to pay for it).

It would have to be policed, and sellers not conforming to the original handmade guidelines would have to move their shop go over to the General Marketplace.

POLL: What Do You Think of This Solution? Is It a Win-Win for Everyone?

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GB OliverIf you need help marketing your online business, I can help. I even have special rates for Etsy shops here or email me at attentiongetting@gmail.com.

© 2013 G.B. Oliver. All rights reserved.

Author: Gail Oliver, Online Small Business Consultant

I'm Gail Oliver, an online marketing consultant. Welcome to my blog, chosen one of the Top 10 Small Business Blogs to Follow in 2014 by American Express Open Forum. If you need help with your e-commerce business, be sure to see MY SERVICES, above.

11 thoughts on “What is Etsy’s New Guidelines and What They Could Do Instead”

  1. This is a great solution. They are losing a lot of support by making these recent changes, if you judge by even a quick glance at the forums. This would keep a lot of the smaller, handmade sellers happy, or at least happier than we are now.

  2. I think this is a good solution as long as sellers in the handmade category are not required to jump through hoops like submitting videos as ‘proof’ our goods are handmade, as an Etsy seller is advocating. I think applications and perhaps a juried process would be OK though you’d need staff to review them. And resellers can game that system too — which I don’t think many of those who are proposing good ideas like realize. Videos can be faked, photos submitted for jurying can be faked, and applications can include lies. I don’t know what solution is out there that would solve the problem, but it seems endemic in internet land.
    All I know is that I intend to stay with Etsy but diversify, something which was already in my plans, long before Etsy decided to make changes to its marketplace. At this point, I find it pointless to expend a lot of energy advocating against this move by Etsy, energy that could be spent more productively elsewhere.

    1. There would be a Wedding category under Handmade and a Wedding category under General Marketplace. I think there are some brides who want that hands-on touch and others that just want to save money.

  3. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home
    a little bit, but instead of that, this is wonderful blog.

    An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

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