Monday, August 29, 2011

Sensitivity and Etsy

If you ask the typical Etsy seller if they are sensitive to the needs of others, you'll probably hear a resounding chorus of "yes." Yes, we care. Yes, we want to do good. Yes, we really are upset if someone says they're upset.

But if you ask the typical Etsy forum user whether or not its appropriate to exploit a natural disaster, national tragedy, or celebrity death for profit and you get a very different response. Instead of "maybe we shouldn't tag items 'hurricane irene' just to turn a profit," you hear "anyone who is against tagging non-related items 'hurricane irene' is for censorship." You'll see people sling around a bunch of big words that they don't know the actual definition of or question your use of a word like exploitation. We've been through this looking glass before and it's not pretty on the other side.

I could link you to a bunch of discussions on similar topics that have upset me in the past. I won't. I'll point you to the main one recently for context and get on with the point.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Opportunity: Kickstart the New Regretsy Book

Read all about it here.

Helen Killer, aka April Winchell, has written 10 original folktales about Finland that are most likely not even close to true. She hired Regretsy/April's Army illustrators to draw pretty pictures. The goal is to raise money to convert it into a full-color ebook, pay all the artists, and tour Finland.

In case you didn't know, Finland loves Regretsy.

This video explains it better than I can.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Treasury: It's Alive

I wanted to do another April's Army-driven treasury about Halloween. I figured I'd try to hit as many Etsy frontpage mainstays as I could without coming across as a parody. I think I managed it quite nicely.

For those keeping score at home, the Etsy mainstays are: 
  • objects photographed on books
  • objects photographed on library shelves
  • framed objects photographed on library shelves
  • stark white backgrounds
  • babies modeling hats
  • artists camping it up while modeling costumes
  • barnwood
  • things photographed on neutral backgrounds with a perspective line
This is not a commentary on these artists. I genuinely like all these objects. I was just trying to open up my mind to how to best appeal to a wider Etsy demographic with my more offbeat treasuries. It's working quite nicely so far. 

Don't be afraid of choosing items that fit the look of the frontpage. It might not guarantee a feature, but it could draw in some extra clicks, which could work their way back to your shop.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finding Trends: In Store Edition

One of my favorite to do with design is to go shopping. I don't have to buy anything to get the most out of the experience. I'm just looking for ideas.

Big box stores--like Michaels, Home Goods, or Target--anticipate the upcoming season. They keep track of what the next big trend is supposed to be and fill their stores months in advance with the hot colors, patterns, and styles for the next season. Right now, if you walk into one of these stores, you'll see merchandise on the shelves to keep you busy until Thanksgiving. If you do an art or craft (or have access to a wide variety of on trend vintage items), you can capitalize on these window shopping trips.

Walk through the aisles of the store that are easily changed out. Does the store have a U-shape display area? Pods filled with merchandise in the middle of the aisle? Constantly redecorated end-caps? That's where you need to focus your efforts for anticipatory planning. Look at the colors, shapes, patterns, images, sizes, even finish--matte, glossy, satin, rough, smooth, dull, eggshell--to see what you can incorporate into your craft.

Halloween this year, for example, is going to feature a lot of black, purple, and red. Do you have items that fit that kind of tone--spooky but not violent--that feature those colors? Can you make items in purple, black, and red to fit that market? Do you have vintage items that fit those color schemes? Then get to making, photographing, and listing, because you can fall into the type of merchandise the shoppers will be looking for online.

They might not realize it, but they will be drawn to the colors they see in the store. Go ahead. Go to Michaels, Home Goods, T.J. Maxx, A.C. Moore, Hobby Lobby, even K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and larger grocery stores and you will see fall and Halloween decor covered in red, black, and purple. Orange and green are still there, but they aren't the focus. You can't avoid these colors if you walk into any mainstream shop. Your potential customers will, subconsciously, be influenced by these in-store trends. This is why the products go out months in advance; the stores are telling the customers what they have to buy. Even if they don't shop for Halloween until a few days before the holiday, they'll want these red, black, and purple items. They'll want the glitter and they'll want the black silhouettes. They'll even be drawn to witches and zombies, two growing trends in 2011.

And you can hit that market just by thinking about what you can incorporate from the trends you see in the store down the street. If you're in line with the trends and offer a unique product, you might just snag a few extra sales than if you stick with what was in even a year ago. It's about researching and working with the manufactured trends. All it takes is a trip to the local store to get that edge.

Monday, August 15, 2011

So You're In a Treasury...Now What?

You log into your Etsy account and see that you have something going on in that off-kilter concentric circle button called Activity. You click on it and see someone chose your item to be featured in a treasury. You're excited that someone likes your listing but don't know what to do or how to capitalize on it.

It's easy. You do a lot of the same things you would do if you were marketing your own treasury.

First, you need to click on that treasury. That gives it another view, which helps with its hotness. What's hotness? It's Etsy's nebulous and poorly defined way of organizing what treasuries appear on the top of the list at any given moment. It's essentially a popularity contest driven by people like you.

Second, you need to comment on the treasury. This creates another link to your shop (item is one, your comment is two). Try to say something relevant to the theme of the treasury. If you can't think of anything, compliment on the creator's treasury making skills and/or thank them for including your listing. I'm more likely to click on an interesting comment than another bland bit of fan service.

Third, you need to click on the individual listings. The easy way to do it is to right-click on each item and open it in a new tab. You do this because hotness is also measured by clicks on the items. By opening each item in a new tab, you are giving the treasury 16 more clicks in under a minute.

Fourth, you need to promote your appearance on the treasury. Post it on your Facebook wall, tweet it to your followers, or even post it on your own blog. Whatever you can do to get more people to click, comment, and share the treasury only helps more people see your item representing your shop.

If a treasury becomes popular enough and is on theme for Etsy's Merchandising Desk, it might be put in the daily Etsy Finds e-mails or, better yet, on the front page. That gives you a lot more exposure for your shop for very little work on your own part. It's worth it to try these steps every time you're featured in a treasury.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Relevancy and Etsy

Etsy has finally put on their big boy pants and decided that making customers happy trumps rewarding people who needlessly renew 40+ items a day. While I sympathize for sellers who have made a profitable business out of this quirk, I'm thrilled beyond belief that relevancy rules Etsy now.

What this means is simple. Instead of listing the most recent items that have search terms as tags, Etsy has set relevancy--looking at how related a listing is to a search--as the default option for all searches on the website. It's easier than you would believe to capitalize on. Read on to see how easy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

On Setbacks and Moving On

If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm big on Halloween. It's my favorite holiday. I do it up big for my family's houses, too. Until this year, I ran three yard haunts.

Cue yesterday:
I just got dumped from Halloween.
It's true. It's sad. I'm heartbroken.
I've done my family's house up for at least the past 6 years for Halloween. You can see the results on my haunt site. I was just told that they don't want to deal with the trick or treaters anymore and I have until the end of the month to get all my big props out of there.
Where I'm living now doesn't get a lot of Trick or Treater action. It's a busy street filled with nasty old Catholics who offer criticism on appearance and manners to visitors on Halloween. I can try like hell to hype up the haunt in its new location but it's not going to be the same.
The only plus side is that this new yard is gigantic. It's twice as big. I'm just really far behind to fill that much space with quality props.
This could have been something far more serious. Not that I don't consider this last minute (under 90 days to Halloween IS last minute for a home haunter who does everything from scratch) mandate serious, but think this way: it could have been my business (writing or crafting). That's where we're going today.

Friday, August 5, 2011

When Good Crafts Good Bad: Cupcake Edition

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a good craft goes bad. You can do everything right every step of the way and it turns out wrong.

Such is the case with my cupcake plates.

I designed a really cute pattern of sprinkles and candies for the top of three cupcake plates. One was vanilla with a blue wrapper; one was strawberry with a green wrapper; one was chocolate with a yellow wrapper.

The deal with ceramic glaze is that you just don't know what it's going to look like until it fires. The color out of the bottle is rarely ever the color it fires to in the kiln. Shoot, I have to paint my pieces solid blue or solid green to get a gloss finish on them. So designing plates with this much color is problematic at best. Even if you've used the glaze before, it's unpredictable.

The vanilla cupcake turned out better than I expected. It's shiny, it's evenly colored, and it looks delicious.

But then I saw the Strawberry plate. It's...bizarre. It bubbled, it got rough, it under-fired in the center of the plate (normally happens on the edges if it happens at all), and shot off a few spots completely in the back.

Am I mad? A little bit. These were a pain to put together. I'm too embarrassed to show the chocolate plate that came out a mix of purple, under-fired, and delicious dark chocolate. I soldier on. I'll be able to fix the other two plates. It's just a minor setback I figured I could have avoided. No such luck.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

High Society Blues: On Theme, Taste Level, and Controversy

So...this happened. A recently married couple was interviewed by Etsy about their Depression Era Hobo Chic wedding. Women wore burlap dresses with the logos facing out; men wore overalls and shoddy shoes. Food was served from trash cans and antique quilts were torn apart as table runners. A good time was had by all.

Except for how the couple didn't realize that not everyone would approve of people with $15000 to blow on a wedding playing poor for a day just for laughs and to stand out. They claimed to have researched the theme, but simple searches in any library would disprove their claim that hobo is short for homeward bound. I found the entire post disgusting and was shocked that no one was questioning this period class tourism.

Enter Regretsy. Thank you, April Winchell, for articulating what I couldn't quite wrap my brain around with a sense of humor.

But wait, there's more. Search on down the Regretsy comments and you'll see peple quoting the groom's Twitter feed. Ladies and gentleman, we had a full grown man crying like a little baby that people were trying to ruin his life by criticizing his insensitive wedding theme. He and his wife both quit corporate jobs to become full-time artists and claim to be poor themselves. They think their definition of poor (only have $15,000 for a wedding) makes them immune from criticism related to taste. It's the same argument as "but I have a black friend so I can't be racist." Neither case is immune from criticism.

Now that I've properly set the picture, let's get a little music to carry us to the meat of the post.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Etsy Merchandising Desk Highlights: August 2011

Every month, the Etsy blog features a gigantic post detailing what themes are going to be pushed in the next month. It's long-winded and dry as dirt. It's great information if you can sift through and process the recurring themes in their laundry list of words. You use these to tag your items and create treasuries that can go to the front page. Go ahead and spend your time on your dream treasury based on the episode of The Twilight Zone where it turns out the six strangers in the bottom of the well are actually toys in a Salvation Army Christmas present drive; it's probably not going to get to the front page in August.

Here are the highlights from the Etsy Merchandising Desk themes for August 2011.

Halloween and Fall are In

Forget what you were told last month about listing Halloween merchandise early. The Etsy Merchandising Desk post for August mentions Halloween 4 times. Autumn is mentioned an additional 4 times and Fall is mentioned 5 times.