Etsy vs Amazon in the Battle of the Handmade Market

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Why I’m Sticking with Etsy, the Reigning Champion

There’s not an online seller of indie craft who isn’t intrigued by the announcement that Amazon.com will be entering the market for handmade items, particular those that frequent the forums at Etsy, who’ve been discussing the lurking competitor daily.

For the most part, sellers are excited at the prospect; many feel Etsy betrayed them when the company relaxed it’s definition of handmade to include factory made products. Like myself, they are distraught, if not disgusted, at having to now compete head to head with factory-produced items which always undercut on price and can often be found at malls and street fairs across the country. Personally, I don’t think the person who chooses a brightly colored plastic bubble necklace

Selection from Etsy Search on "Bubble Necklaces"

Selection from Etsy Search on “Bubble Necklaces”

is the same customer who would want one of my beaded pieces

A necklace from the Talisman Too Collection

A necklace from the Talisman Too Collection

but I can see how this affects many others. My beaded jewelry shop would probably suffer more at the hands of these imported goods if my goods could be found in searches, but I am not fooling myself to believe that even the massive influx of these cheap goods is the reason my items don’t rank highly. There are thousands of “blue beaded earrings” on the venue, and a large percentage of them are genuinely designed and constructed in the minds and by the hands of people in their home studios, just like me.

Nonetheless, I’m under no delusion that a move to Amazon will solve my dilemma. In fact, I may be helped by the behemoth, once the disgruntled and starry-eyed Etsyians make their move to the newly launched platform.

A small seller like myself simply won’t be able to jump through the hoops that will be required at Amazon, once they have populated their community with hopeful selling residents. Right now, the vague outlines of their program seem almost comforting to the casual observer. Sellers must have less than twenty employees or be part of a collective with under one hundred members, but many people don’t seem to realize that China abounds with factories employing numbers that are well within the “collective” range, particularly when the products being produced rely on hand work, such as intricately embroidered or crocheted goods.

Amazon promises handmade sellers a respite on fees that can bite deeply into one’s overhead, but I wonder if most sellers aren’t employing their reading comprehension skills. Specifically, the lowered fee structure is only temporary, and this has been stated outright. Suggestions of a more “small-seller friendly” fee structure have been hinted at, but certainly not promised, an important distinction. The statement’s been nicely framed, lulling the gullible into believing that this beastly creature(the definition of an amazon, after all) will nurture their growth like a kind motherly type, saving them from  the cruel feudal hardships they feel they’ve suffered under the reign of Etsy.

The issue, as I see it, is that once a person puts the amount of time needed to build out their shop, develop linkbacks and all the other efforts that go into online selling, they will be heavily invested in the venue, and the idea that they might have to abandon the project will certainly bring on feelings nausea. They will hold on, struggling to work harder, and many will fail, while hungry-for-revenue Amazon swallows and burps. I’ve experienced something like this with my ClimbAddict shop, part of which is housed on the print-on-demand venue CafePress, where the Terms of Use I accepted upon arrival in 2006 have been changed nearly as frequently as one changes their bedsheets. I won’t go into those details, but suffice it to say that many, many sellers who once cheered and supported the company now write venomously about the cut-throat tactics they’ve endured. Why will Amazon, with it’s voracious appetite, behave differently?

I like the idea for Handmade at Amazon, but I believe they are counting on naive entrepreneurs to flock en mass to the cozy nest they have created, partly out of some vindictive desire to claw at Etsy’s foundation. Perhaps it is because some of the factories and importers which have been part of Amazon’s selling base found it lucrative to move to Etsy during the relaxed-guidelines transition?. When the harsh winds of reality blow the loose straws away from the nest, I feel many a former Etsyian will have been devoured and excreted like a compressed owl pellets

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5 thoughts on “Etsy vs Amazon in the Battle of the Handmade Market

    • Thank you for your comment Robin. I am writing in general terms, and of course do not feel that all Etsy sellers fit under the notes I have made. I’ve been reviewing shops in which the sellers have expressed their intent to open shops at Amazon, and a large number are not experienced and savvy business people. Of the shops I have looked at, I would guess that less than 10% have the SEO, image quality, and marketing skills(as judged by social pages) to do well as they are, on Etsy. A change of venue will not alter that fact.

    • Robin, who the hell I am is a person with a half a brain. Someone who has grayed out images, one only on a listing that should easily have several to tell a story, a seller who has little awareness of modern SEO, few sales despite years presence and comments in forums that betray a naivety in contractual law…. this, IMO, is not a good candidate for a rough player such as Amazon.

      I appreciate your passionate opinion, but really now, we have a differing opinion and that’s fine. Best of luck to you with your new venture.

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