Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Learning Curve ...

I know that there are a number of you who are thinking about setting up your own website and I thought it might be helpful if I shared my recent experience with you.

I'm using Indiemade.  I did a some research and this looked like it would be a good platform for independent artists who want a site with a simple CMS (content management system) and a range of functionality - integrated store,  order tracking, pages which you can adapt to your own needs (eg. blog, news, galleries, FAQ etc) without having to learn code.  

this is the backend of the pages interface where you can edit and add pages to your site

Indiemade is, like a lot of other platforms, completely template driven so you have very limited capacity to alter the layout of pages.  You don't need your own url to use Indiemade but if, like me, you've registered a domain (ie. www.quisnamjewelry.com) there are really clear instructions for pointing it to your Indiemade site.  I absolutley recommend registering your own domain name (I used godaddy to purchase mine) as it belongs to me and is fully transportable so, in the event that I decide Indiemade isn't for me and I move to another platform, my customers will still find me and I don't have to inform them or promote a different  www.

this is my FAQ page - you can set what page people land-on  - mine is my store
There are a number of pricing packages available (you get the first 30 days free) all of which involve a monthly fee - I'm on the pro package at $14.95 a month which allows me to link to my etsy store so I don't have to switch back and forth to update sales and listings. 

One issue I haven't resolved is that all my individual etsy listings include links to other areas of my etsy shop. Because both stores are linked, this information also appears in my Indiemade listings (which means if people click on these links on Indiemade they will go to etsy which will be utterly confusing for them).  It seems the only solution will be to remove the links from the etsy listings which wouldn't be such a big deal but etsy's new page layout no longer has the shop navigation bar. 

Here's the front and backend of the product listing interface

I want to thank Patty, my first purchaser on the site, who took the time to provide incredibly helpful feedback on the checkout process and enabled me to tweak my FAQ copy to reflect her insights - it was unbelievably helpful and also took away all the stress associated with a first transaction.  From Patty's experience purchasing is quite straightforward (uses PayPal so neither I nor Indiemade hold any credit card details so no worries with security). You don't have to set up an account to checkout but it will automatically provide you with a password at the end of the process in the event you want to make purchases in the future.

Here's my FAQ which has information about  payment and how to checkout (thanks Patty)

From the seller end, processing and tracking orders is excellent.  When you create a product listing you allocate items an SKU (essentially an individual code for that item) which is great  for me as I can tie my own cataloging system to my Indiemade store,  something I can't easily do on etsy.   I got a notification that I had sold an item almost instantaneously (as did the buyer) along with all the relevant information.  It's then just a question of logging in and updating the order when it has shipped.  It looks like I've got a bunch of reports available to me (revenue, sales etc) but I haven't had a chance to really dig into these yet.  I've linked the site to my google analytics so I can track a range of useful data and compare it to my etsy store.

Bonnie asked a really good question about buyer feedback and this is another area I haven't found an answer to yet.  Indiemade isn't a market place like etsy;  it's a essentially a host for seller's individual shops so the platform doesn't have some of the centralized features that etsy has including, as far as I can  tell, feedback.  I'm planning to create a Testimonials page so I can share any comments, feedback etc I receive (quite a lot of my etsy customers send me lovely individual convos rather than leaving feedback - I expect this will be an increasing trend under the new star based system). Another advantage of using a platform like Indiemade is that you don't have the same issues around communicating with customers outside of specific transactions. Etsy has some very strict rules around this. 

The most important thing to consider if you are thinking about setting up your own site is, in my opinion, how you are going to get traffic to it ie your marketing strategy.  Most etsy sellers know that they have to do an enormous amount of work promoting their shops in order to get people to come visit them.  But, even if you do nothing, you are likely to get some views (even sales if you are lucky) on esty there's just that many users.  But, if you don't have a plan for promoting your own site you are pretty much dead in the water (of course you will some traffic, if the sites SEO is good).   

Another important consideration is that having your own website/domain  means you don't get the substantial benefit of brand association with an online marketplace.  Etsy, even with all the changes, packs a considerable punch when it comes to trusted brands.  There are of course alternative online marketplaces including (groan) eBay.  There has been a lot of chat about Zibbit which I had a quick look at and may have some potential.

I don't plan on leaving etsy - not just because it still delivers results but because it is a fantastic global community of people who provide support, advice and friendship.  So, one of the issues I am going to have to resolve is how do I promote both my website on Indiemade and my presence on esty without creating confusion - I'm still figuring this one out but what I do know is that there are lot of businesses out there who successfully manage a number of online channels so I know it's doable.

For me, whilst setting up and managing my site creates an additional workload it has also given me a new sense of control, energy and direction all of which, I hope, will be reflected in my jewelry which is what's important after all.

I hope some of this information has been helpful.  I know there are a lot of you out there who are thinking about setting up your own  site so please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

'Till Next Time (might even have some jewelry to show you ....)