I feel like I should apologise for the number of Etsy related postings that are appearing on my blog at the moment. If you don’t use Etsy or have no interest in it, this isn’t going to be of use to you, but if statistics, online selling and sales conversion rates are, then maybe you should read on.
The fact is, that this sales platform is currently my only regular income stream at the moment, and I’ve gone from having an online store as a nice addition to my internet presence, yet largely neglected, to it being my lifeline. It’s not nice having to put your financial wellbeing into the hands of a large corporation, especially one so unpredictable, but for now, this is where I am at regardless of what an error that may have been on my part. It feels a little like I am starting again, but I am, if nothing else, resourceful and by creating stability here over the coming months, I hope I can give my business a more solid grounding. I’ve never given it that opportunity before since I am apt to go where the more lucrative income is (ie second job). I hope that these posts will prove useful to others utilisting or considering selling with Etsy.
If you are running your shop for profit, it all comes down to conversion rates. This isn’t as simple as putting items in your shop, sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in. And that’s why MOST of your time is likely to be spent on marketing, updating, refining listings, using Sell On Etsy, checking what’s changed with Etsy’s algorithms, scanning the forums and counteracting the potential damage that Etsy’s website changes can do to your sales stream, quite literally overnight. It isn’t fun if you don’t have that business leaning, but you can’t avoid it so you need to get your money head screwed on or hire someone else to do it for you. It is also one of the most time consuming roles that you don’t get paid for, but that comes with the territory if you are running a business, regardless.
After doing some research, here is what I have discovered about conversion rates:
‘In the e-commerce industry (which is the industry you are in if you sell on Etsy), the average conversion rate for any online shop is about 2%-3%.’ (source).
Simply put, that’s the percentage of people who come to your shop, who then buy something. That 2-3% isn’t relative to small businesses or Etsy businesses. That is in ALL business. Anything higher than that is considered very successful, so realistically, the percentage of people who visit your shop and then make a purchase is relatively miniscule. Making that calculation is simple. Just take the number of sales you get per month and divide by the number of views (not visits) to your site per month.
As you can probably guess, I’m not there yet, not by a long shot. Many of us aren’t. Etsy has always been a very small sideline for me. I’ve had other jobs that removed all money pressure: income from photoshoots, direct customers, second jobs in offices. Etsy was a place for a few choice products and has never been something I relied upon. I should have nurtured it better, because in mid August this year, its role changed dramatically.
You could condense the effort I’ve put into running my Etsy shop since it opened in 2012, into six months. Breaking down my Etsy traffic doesn’t demonstrate a clear conversion rate, by any means. It is very unreliable data because I have’t using it properly. In fact, there seems to be almost no correlation between them at all which isn’t great for my perception of how my effort is paying off. Here’s an example chart between revenue (in blue) and views (in red) for each year my Etsy shop has been live. If you’re wondering at the huge spike in traffic in Year 2, that’s the year I stopped doing costume design and sold my entire stock:
Motivation isn’t always easy to rustle up if you’re going it alone. Perseverence and patience are the secret ingredients and if Etsy isn’t your income focus, your attention to it will quickly fall by the way side. Nothing happens overnight or in a week, or in a month or in two months, which is why I am letting things tick along until next year and hopefully doing all the right things to get it there. There are no miracles happening here and the correlation between views and revenue is not immediate.
So, here’s the big question. At what point in your Etsy store’s establishment can you start to expect a conversion rate? As in all business, it depends on what you are selling, your market, how oversubscribed what you do, is. LittleHighbury (whose blog I have drawn on for my links in this post) started seeing consistent sales once she hit 200-300 views PER DAY. Here’s the lowdown on her recommendations. In a nutshell that’s about 6000 views per month, or 72000 a year! And this is her baseline. The numbers go up during the week and during seasonal holidays. That’s a huge number, and it takes time to nurture and grow. Without a doubt there is a correlation between climbs and spikes in views (that’s individual listing views, not shop visits) and sales. Here’s an example from my shop for 2018 so far, which at least gives me hope I am headed in the right direction if I just stick to the plan:
LittleHighbury, of course, is very different to my business, so it’s not a particularly accurate conparison in many respects. She sells baby headbands, so she may have many many sales, but she is selling small items, at much smaller values that are low risk and perfect for gifting. And of course babies are everywhere and there is a continuously replenished market for her products. She is also in the US, a country with a much larger customer base on its doorstep. These are small reasons. They are not excuses, but they are what you need to look at when trying to compare yourself to someone else.
My October/November stats, which follow on from this update and are shown below, continue to show an upward trajectory in my traffic month to month since I started making the effort in late September. Whilst it is a consistent uptrend (I have more than doubled my traffic this month), it is still going to take time if I am aiming for LittleHighbury’s kind of footfall or at whatever point I have enough of a conversion rate to notice the impact of sales. View for view it’s going to take me another two months until I reach 6000 views. Can I wait that long for an income if that’s what it takes?
I have taken advice on utilising the Sell On Etsy app which I think does have a noticeable effect on traffic. I make changes to listing titles and update hashtags regularly to see how they affect my views, and I have filled my shop as much as possible in recent weeks, to provide variety in product and price that is more likely to catch the eye of a range of Etsy customers. Christmas is approaching and stocking fillers are on people’s minds. £200 dresses aren’t likely to fit the stocking gift criteria and I need a quick hit. The bags and keychains I am now listing in an effort to constructively clear some of the remaining clutter in my studio, are, I hope, what people are looking for and are what I am testing with.
The ratio between visits and views is really important. You need to know that unique visitors are staying and taking a look around your shop. Are they favouriting items or bookmarking your shop? If your visit and view numbers are similar there’s a problem because it means people are clicking on your shop and then leaving again straight away. That’s not a good statistic. My ratios are pretty good, so that’s a good sign for now.
But no matter what you do, it is still difficult to beat the system and I regularly read complaints from customers who are bombarded with cheap, free shipping items pushed to the top of their searches rather than what they want. And that’s down to Etsy, not sellers. Competing with other shops on the site who don’t follow the traditional ethos is not easy if you are small, but it is inevitable. The reality is that not every company selling on Etsy is handmade, small business or ethical (how things have changed) and that is something you just need to deal with because Etsy has let them sell under their banner.
If you don’t want to put your hand into your pocket to fund shipping costs, or drop your prices drastically (both great ways to bankrupt yourself but what Etsy wants you to do in order to climb the ranks), then you may have to accept that you will appear lower down the page listings. Customers report having to scroll 8 pages into their results to find what they thought would come to the top of the pile, but at least some of them are aware of this and keep on searching. I am starting to see my items appearing on page 1 in search results but I rely on users using reasonably specific search terms in order to be found. Getting to grips with how customers do search is an ongoing issue and something I will definitely be experimenting with more in the coming weeks.