10 August 2009

163. Talking shop

Just want to preface by saying that I don't want all my posts from here on out to be about Vocabulary. But a question came up from several blogging buddies about my decision to use Big Cartel for my online shop instead of Etsy. The response I wrote back in the comments section got reallllly long, and I wanted to hear about your experiences, so here it will get its own post.

BTW, I'm not endorsing any one product/ provider, just sharing my thought process. From time to time I can get stuck in analysis paralysis, so when I feel that about to happen, I make a decision and make sure that no one else is harmed and I can change my mind later. So as far as I'm concerned, nothing is set in stone here.

I started evaluating different online storefront providers several months ago. My #1 priority: the simplest storefront possible. It would have been my #1 desire to use the Paypal storefront widget, speaking of simplicity, and I did set one up to see how it would work for my shop. But you can't enlarge the pictures much, you can only show one photo per product, and it didn't integrate with the Facebook fan page. So no go on my beloved Paypal storefront widget.

I checked out Etsy and opened a shop (didn't put any products up for sale) to get a feel for how it would look. The way the shop looked, with my logo and colors and layout, didn't convince me that I'd found the right solution. The people I visited with about why they chose Etsy mentioned they did so because everyone else is on Etsy, or because it was the only option around when they opened their store, or because they thought they would get more "foot traffic" from people browsing other shops on Etsy. To be fair, I didn't engage anyone in super-rigorous discussion about their reasons for choosing Etsy.

So, on to Big Cartel. With as few products as I plan to have available for sale at any given time, Big Cartel's simple, clean layout and ease of customization won me over immediately. Plus, their pricing structure is more my preference -- their base package is limited but completely free, and if you upgrade, you pay a monthly fee. No contracts. No listing fees, no per transaction fees, no extra-photo fees, no nickel-and-diming. All the money stuff is handled in my Paypal account, not in Big Cartel. The simpler for me, the better. I haven't discounted using Etsy in the future, but I will stick with Big Cartel for a while and see how it plays out.

I know many of you have your own shops, so I'd love to know: Who hosts your online storefront? What do you love about it? What do you wish were different? When you buy online, what do you love/ wish were different about your experience at small indie designers' shops?


  1. Thanks for this. I'm wanting to open a shop too, and had decided maybe to use a New Zealand site (Felt) but I had no idea there were so many options out there. Now I'll have to do some more research! good luck with your venture

  2. Antoinette,
    thanks for the info on Big Cartel. I didnt' even know there was an etsy competitor out there. I use etsy and to be honest, haven't been the most satisfied with it. I think etsy is hard to use and I HATE the layout. The header took me forever to figure out and I've noticed on other people's shops that they've had the same problem b/c their banner is all pixelated. For a site that's very art/creative inspired, you'd think the overall layout would be a little cooler. So, congrats to you for branching out! Maybe I'll switch over to them too. Great stuff. Love your shop!

  3. If I were opening a shop, I would likely go with Big Cartel as well. I like the interface and think it has a more customizable, "shoppy" feel than Etsy. Etsy's big draw back is also its greatest asset, which is that it has a very robust community. Which to me as a customer means it's sometimes very hard to find the person's products that I'm looking for on Etsy. With something like Big Cartel, I go straight to what looks like a stand alone website. As a consumer, I find Etsy very hard to navigate, but I'm very impatient, so that may have something to do with it--I'm not much of a browser with regard to shopping as it is, so the browsing thing on Etsy doesn't do me a lot of good.

    I've played with Big Cartel quite a bit (thought about selling some of our overruns of screenprints--we always have extras) and I like it a lot.

  4. big cartel definitely looks way more professional than etsy, but sadly i've never heard of big cartel. but then again a lot of people have never heard of etsy.

    i had moderate success with my etsy shop in that i earned enough $ to buy a very gently used sewing machine and then i closed up shop shortly thereafter with only a few items that didn't sell left in my closet ;) that will somehow turn themselves into christmas presents ;)

    the one thing i like about etsy is the buyer/seller feedback. it's nice to know ahead of time that other people have had good (or not so good) experiences with a seller.

    also, since i don't know graphic design or have photoshop or anything, i really liked that the etsy store was laid out for me and that etsy provided a limited choice of (in their teams/download section somewhere) customizable banners that you could use for your shop.

  5. hmmmm....i do like the layout of big cartel and some of the stuff you are talking about is some of the problems i have with etsy. i will have to think about this.

  6. These are the pro's and con's I've heard about Etsy.
    - A great context to be found in, at least for some products.
    - Established name/brand. High credibility.
    - Generates a lot of traffic
    - User feedback/community

    - Hard to do updates and shop layouts.
    - Easy to get drowned in the vast selection in each category. Etsy seems to work best for those who has content that can be updated daily (so that your products get more visibility).
    - Bad search engine that makes it hard to for buyers to find the right product (I can vouch for that!)
    - You still have to do your marketing, so why pay extra for being on Etsy?
    - Many listing fees can add up.
    - Bad shopping cart.
    - There is a certain Etsy aesthetic ("Brooklyn hipster") and if your product doesn't have the right look chances are slim that it will ever be a featured product.

  7. @Deb - Thanks, I had not heard of Felt but will check that out. Seems like I have seen tons of sellers from Australia and New Zealand on Etsy!

    @dana - Thank you for sharing your experience. I noticed, too, that some of those banners are kind of pixellated.

    @Sarah - It would be awesome to see your overruns for sale! Let me know if you set up a shop. The base shop at Big Cartel is completely free, maybe perfect for overruns.

    @bookwormbethie - Congrats on your successful shop! I also like that seller rating function, which again emphasizes that Etsy is about community and Big Cartel just provides a storefront and shopping cart.

    @Columbia Lily - You've been with Etsy from the time you opened your shop, right?

    @Johanna Lu - I had never heard the comment about your products needing to fit a certain aesthetic, but it makes sense if there's one person selecting which products get featured. Might be interesting if they asked their top sellers to feature their own top picks, for more variety in what is featured (or maybe they do this and I haven't yet seen it?).

  8. For me, Etsy made sense because it was all I knew. I later discovered ArtFire, 1000Markets and Big Cartel and even considered having multiple store fronts (highly recommended on the ETsy forums) but I just don't have the time or inclination to promote more than one place.

    I know Big Cartel is a winner for people who know their items are going to sell out (uniform studio, wiksten, little things) b/c they charge a one time fee (as I understand it) while Etsy (or ArtFire) might be better for people like me who can have inventory sit for ages.

  9. I'm on Etsy and it has been excellent for exposure. If I'd have opened a Big Cartel shop I doubt I would have had half the amount of sales I've had on Etsy.

    I've been a featured seller on Etsy (which alone got me 30+ sales within a few days), plus the front page, search engine and 'hearts' exposure.. It adds up to a lot, and I think the listing and selling fees are more than worth it.

    I have been considering opening a few other shopfronts online, but I'm wary of spreading myself too thin. Since I make one offs, I've decided it's best for me to focus on one online avenue, for customers sake (to save them running all over the internet) as well as my own sanity, and I've chosen Etsy.

    End Etsy rant.

    By the way hello! I just came across your blog and love it! I refashion too, so it's lovely to find someone who does the same.

    I added Clevergirl to my favourites blogroll - care to do a link exchange?

    See you around!


  10. You make very valid points here. I have an Etsy shop and a Big Cartel shop and I definitely prefer Big Cartel.

    It's cleaner and very easy to use. I love how easy it is to link to your blog. Customers can view item easily without a lot of clutter and I love not having to tag each item only to have it move waaaaaaaaay down the search list 2 mins later.

    With Etsy you have to constantly keep posting items daily in order to show up in the first 20 pages of a search. What I do like about Etsy is the community it has created for both buyers and sellers. They offer very good advice on forums, and they often highlight undiscovered talent. It's a great community, but if your just looking for a simple clean store layout that's easy to use Big Cartel us perfect.


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