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What Makers Should Do About the Handmade at Amazon News

by Arianne Foulks

November 10, 2015 / Updated: March 11, 2022

It’s been hard to ignore Amazon’s rapid infiltration of the handmade product scene. Today I’m giving you a news roundup, and sharing how you can prep for changes in the world of selling the products you design online.

Get caught up on where I’m at by reading Protect Your Shop From the Amazon vs Etsy Battle.

What does Etsy think of Handmade at Amazon?

Here’s some reporting from Etsy’s side of things. From Visiting Etsy, Amazon’s Next Prey:

Artists can sell in both places, and Handmade at Amazon, which launched with just a few thousand sellers, is surely hoping to encroach on Etsy’s stable of more than a million. But Amazon has the clear advantage when it comes to active customers: Etsy has about twenty-two million; Amazon has more than ten times that number. The day the press release was issued, a dozen news sites referred to Handmade by Amazon as an “Etsy killer.”

“That kind of language doesn’t really fly here,” an Etsy employee told me last week. “It’s just so violent.”

Martha Stewart’s American Made partners with Handmade at Amazon

Martha Stewart’s American Made Market, previously on eBay, is rumored to be moving over to Handmade at Amazon. This is hush hush for now, but keep an eye out for that announcement probably next week. eBay is not a perfect fit for handmade products, so this seems like a positive move, but I’m curious why Etsy wasn’t the original choice. I’m guessing Etsy wouldn’t be able to accommodate this type of marketplace within a marketplace, and I’d be interested to know more. Martha’s backing will add some credibility to Handmade at Amazon, for sure.

I also see that Handmade at Amazon has been sponsoring craft fairs and connecting with sellers and the handmade community in other ways.

Etsy tries something new: connecting sellers with manufacturers

An interesting move on Etsy’s part is the launch of Etsy Manufacturing:

Etsy Manufacturing is a marketplace that helps sellers find and connect directly with manufacturers to form responsible partnerships. Starting today, we are accepting applications from manufacturers in four categories: apparel and textiles, machining and fabrication, printing, and jewelry and metalwork.

Thanks to Abby Glassenberg for tipping me off to this. This seems like a great idea, and I wonder how it will play out.

Amazon is up to all kinds of things

Unrelated to craft, but highly interesting: after pulverizing small bookstores, Amazon has created a brick and mortar bookstore of their own. Audacious! This is in Seattle, where I live, and I haven’t checked it out yet. I have been eying that building for a while, wondering what was going to appear there. I’m very interested in the forward-facing books, because that is my favorite way to shop for books. I like the tables in the front where new releases, best sellers, and staff picks are laid out.

Why is this a challenge for handmade product designers?

We are talking via the Aeolidia newsletter and in the Aeolidia Facebook group about making the big move to self-reliance in ecommerce. One member of our Facebook group asked,

I’m all for switching from Etsy to Shopify because I like the idea of driving people to my website instead of the “sea of competition” on Etsy. My fear is the cost of Shopify coupled with the lack of sales I’ve gotten on Etsy. I keep thinking “If I’m not doing so well on Etsy, then who am I to take this next big step?”

The huge problem for many is not knowing how to market their business and drive traffic to their site. It is a wonderful thing that Etsy can do the work for so many businesses, keeping them afloat and busy with sales without the shop owner needing to find customers on their own.

The flip side of that is that if you don’t know how to gather your own audience of customers, you will be high and dry if Etsy stops sending them to you. At least until you can figure out how to do so yourself.

If you aren’t confident in your ability to attract customers, sell to them, and keep the momentum going, setting up your own Shopify site is not going to be your best next step – not without some attention paid to marketing strategy. If no one is buying from your Etsy shop, no one will buy from your own shop. If your Etsy shop is busy, but you know that Etsy is sending you all the customers, you’ve got the same problem. You need customers that are yours, not Etsy’s.

What should Etsy sellers do about an unpredictable future?

So what should you do now to prepare your business to weather the difficulties which may come up? Things may go well, they may go poorly, but you want to be captain of your own ship, and you need to know how to steer it if you see an iceberg ahead.

Now is the time to learn how to promote your own shop, get your name out there, gather a tribe of loyal customers and people who will spread the word for you. You need to create a mailing list, send a newsletter out regularly, choose one or two social media platforms to get good at, pitch what you do to the press, attend trade shows or craft fairs, network, collaborate, and make what you do worthy of sharing.

Rather than sending these new people to Etsy, I would recommend sending them to your own domain name, even if that domain directs people right to your Etsy shop, or to a simple site that has a link to your Etsy shop. If you can afford to (the fees aren’t incredibly different, depending on how much you sell), go ahead and set up on Shopify, or try out Big Cartel or another “starter” ecommerce platform.

Keep an eye on your stats and work to grow the amount of sales you get from your own efforts. Once you feel that you have a sustainable group of customers, you can invest more time and energy in your own shop, and ease away from dependence on marketplace platforms.

I am going to write more on this topic in the new year, and we have also written about many of these topics before. Here is where you can get started learning how to take charge of marketing your own business:

Aeolidia’s blog posts about marketing your business »

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