The more interesting question and response is:
“Why do it at all? There are lots of other ways to sell.”
The first thing you need to help you decide whether online is for you, is a plan for selling. You need to think about how you sell. Selling needs to part of whole strategy that can involve multiple ways and avenues of selling. The ways you sell your goods needs to be integrated into social media - whatever platforms you decide to use to sell. One platform will not be enough. You need to look at where the main effort will have most return.
Planning a selling strategy
Even before you have a whole selling strategy worked out, you need to be using social media to promote your work. A blog about you and your work is a good place to start. It gives you a presence, a personality, a brand. Write regularly about your craft life. Share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and ask them to share it with their friends to get it known.
Linking to and from that blog using Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social media platforms help to spread the knowledge of who you are and what you do. These are the things you need to do whether you decide to join an online marketplace, a stand-alone shop, or stay with physical sales points.
Making an online selling plan:
The first part of the planning is to decide why you are going to sell online, rather than stick with just bricks and mortar sales locations. These physical locations include galleries, museum shops, gift shops, craft fairs and exhibitions, etc. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- What do you gain by interacting with shop owners and direct customers?
- What might you lose by going online?
- How does online fit your products?
- Will you need to put in more, or less, effort online rather than selling in physical locations – shops, craft fairs, etc.?
- Where is your market located? Local? Dispersed?
- Is your market a specialised or a general one?
- Will your products stand up to delivery company handling?
The answers to these questions will help you decide if online will help sell your products. It may of course throw up ambiguous answers – on one hand, on the other hand kind of answers. This would indicate a mixed platform approach is desirable.
But, just a minute!
Don’t sign up to an online marketplace just yet. There are some things you need to prepare before searching out the appropriate site or sites for your work.
Yes, you have a lot of different things you could sell. Think about where you want to concentrate your efforts. A few key products will help to give your work an identity. It will help you define, and so reach your customers. It will focus your marketing and build your experience and reputation.
Online enables you to concentrate on niche marketing more successfully than bricks and mortar can. It is one of the main advantages of online selling. Once you have identified your products and therefore your market, communicate with them. Think about their interests, needs and desires as you write.
Work on describing a strong identity – often called a brand. This should be accomplished in a short sentence. Know who and what you are. Tell your values, your story to the world. But especially to your potential customers. Follow this description up and re-enforce it with photos and descriptions in all areas of social media. This will then be a style to carry over to the online shop, if you decide to set one up. And even if you don’t it will improve your selling at physical locations.
Prepare product titles and descriptions:
Clear titles and descriptions are needed for each item. These should be direct using simple language making it possible for the viewer to understand immediately what is in front of them. These titles and descriptions should include specific words - terms, tags, keywords - that the prospective buyers might use to search for your products. You should include lots of tags for the photos and descriptions, but they must be relevant.
Include all the detailed information – size, colour, materials, price, delivery mechanisms and costs, projected arrival time, etc. – in the description, but toward the end when they have probably already almost made up their mind.
Excellent photos are required.
The main descriptive element when the buyer gets to your page or listing is the pictures. They must be descriptive of all the elements of the piece – several images per item is a good idea. Consider a professional photographer to make these images. They have an independent eye and can see things from the buyers’ viewpoint. In addition, they can take better pictures.
Share these descriptions and images on social media. This all needs be done before you join a marketplace website. It helps to test your abilities to present your products successfully before you commit to online. It will help you in your presentations of your work where ever you place it.
Costing and pricing:
Of course, there is the boring bit – deciding on the price.
These include factual elements:
Costs of production - materials and time, overheads, administration of the materials buying and the object’s selling processes.
Applying this cost information to each item will give you your break-even price.
You then need to consider what profit you want to make for your effort. This might be done as a margin on each piece, or as a part of your desired annual income.
The break-even plus the income or profit factor will give you the wholesale price. The retail price is at least twice the wholesale.
Will the market bear that price? Compare similar products and test your pricing with potential customers. If your price is too high, return to the design of the item and consider how it could be simplified. Alternatively, consider how it could be enhanced to achieve an even higher price for little more effort.
If your product is the kind where purchase of multiples is possible or likely, give yourself enough margin so that you can offer discounts for quantity purchases.
Also think about whether yours is a luxury product. If it is, the price needs to be higher than for general work. E.g., if your jewellery is set in silver, it needs an extra margin for the luxury element of the item.
Cost of delivery – packaging, time, delivery charges. You need to decide if you are you including this in the price, or is it separate? This will need to be reflected in the price, or the cost of delivery must be stated in the description.
This process of preparing for online selling will benefit your selling, even if you decide against online selling. It will clarify your offering to the potential customers. It will help to define you as a producer and develop the awareness of your products. It will assist the customer to understand your story and your work, so encouraging them to buy.