Sunday, April 29, 2012

eBay and Etsy

A couple of months ago we began moving postcards and some other items from eBay to Etsy, with the idea that we'd sell primarily antique photos and such on eBay, and postcards, snapshots and such on Etsy.  We did this as a reaction to an upcoming change eBay is making in how they determine top rated sellers.  Beginning June 1, they're going to require 90% of items shipped have tracking on them, and we currently can't meet that. (I checked & in the last 3 months we mailed just under 52% of our items with delivery confirmation). Because of the way we mail things (and the fact we offer free shipping), we mail all our antique photos with tracking, but for the most part we don't mail postcards that way.  In order to mail postcards that way we'd either have to increase our prices or have a shipping & handling charge on them.  If we wanted to make any kind of a profit, that is.  I'm not sure we could do either and maintain our sales level.

So, not knowing how it would work, we decided to try and sell our postcards and cheaper items we would not normally mail with delivery confirmation on Etsy.  We're moving them over slowly but surely.  We started this on the last day of February, so I guess this is long enough to make some observations.

Etsy is quite a bit different than eBay.  It is a whole different culture.  It is a much more artistic, creative, handmade and craft oriented place.  With their circles, treasury lists and convos, Etsy is much more of a social site than eBay.  Etsy has a section for selling vintage items, which is where we and our postcards fall under.   I'm really not sure Etsy is the best place in the world to list & try to sell postcards.  But we shall see.

There are lots of things I like about Etsy.  I especially like the layout of the listings - it just somehow seems nicer & cleaner than eBay's.  Easier to understand. 

eBay & Etsy have a different language.  eBay has stores, Etsy has shops.  eBay watches items and saves favorite sellers, Etsy favorites items and shops.  eBay has categories, Etsy has sections.  It is quite a bit easier to see item and shop (store) statistics on Etsy than it is on eBay.  eBay has more sophisticated reporting if you're in to that stuff - in fact I'm not sure Etsy has any reporting to speak of, other than the shop stats.

On eBay, it's possible to save favorite sellers, or "watch" an item you're interested in.  There is the same type of thing on Etsy, the difference is on Etsy you can see who "favorites" an item or your shop.  You could, if you wanted, "convo" or contact them.   I've often wondered how many buyers on eBay have us in their "saved sellers" list, and who it is watching my items - I have no clue. 

It's a lot easier to organize your favorite sellers and items on eBay than it is on Etsy.  Also eBay allows you up to 300 categories and sub-categories for the items you're selling.  Etsy only allows 10 sections, with no subsections.

There are no auctions on Etsy. 

Etsy seems to be a bit less expensive to do business on than eBay.  The fee structure is different, so it is hard to compare, but at first glance, it seems less expensive. 

Printing address labels is a lot easier on eBay, especially online labels from the Post Office.

eBay is bigger than Etsy, I suspect a lot bigger, and has a lot more structure to it.  A lot of this structure comes in the form of ever increasingly restrictive rules on sellers, and I'm pretty sure there is a reason for that.  Up to now we've just shrugged and adjusted (well, sometimes maybe not), pretty much doing what ever they wanted, but unless we change something dramatically we will not be able to meet their 90% delivery confirmation rule.  For some stupid reason I'm proud of our top rated seller status.  Providing good customer service just seems natural to me.  We're almost certainly going to lose the TRS status, at least for awhile.

So at any rate we decided to at least partially jump ship, and try to establish our postcard business on Etsy.   eBay is so huge, I'm positive absolutely no one noticed. We're like a flea on an elephant.  Not even.  Put 10 elephants on top of each other, then maybe we'd be like a flea on the mass of 10 elephants.  Probably not even that.  Maybe a flea egg.  Maybe if fleas had fleas, we'd be like a flea on a flea on the mass of 10 elephants.  Not very significant to the survival or profitability of eBay.

Anyway, at this point we have 638 items on Etsy (all of which would have been on eBay), and move more everyday.  When we're done, we'll have in the neighborhood of 2,000 items on Etsy.  They'll be mostly postcards, snapshots, trade cards with some antique photos in the mix.  I'm not sure how many items we'll have on eBay, but I suspect in the neighborhood of 1500, about half of what we used to have.  For the most part they will be various ilks of antique photos.  Once those number are established, we'll build from there.

It won't happen by June, when this 90% rule takes effect.  We'll lose our beloved top rated seller status, even though we're just as dependable as we've always been.

Anyway, this is the projection,  assuming things work as planned.  That is a big assumption, the jury is still out on Etsy.  What's important is the bottom line, translated as sales.  Right now sales on Etsy are dismal, and I'm not surprised by that.   For April, we usually sell more in a single day on eBay than we did for the entire month on Etsy.  In fact the entire months sales on Etsy for April, would make a below average sales day for us on eBay (also in April).  Not good, but it's early yet.

It takes awhile to make a profit. We've been selling on eBay since 2006 & I suppose we're pretty well established in the world of postcard & antique photo sellers there.  We have a fair amount of sales anyway, with a fair amount of repeat customers, and we make money every month.   We jumped into Etsy with no customer base, no exposure whatsoever, and obviously we're not the only one selling these items there.  So it doesn't surprise me that after 2 months sales are not good.  We have to stick it out for awhile, keep plugging away, keep learning, use the site the way it's intended to be used, and hopefully the sales will come.  There is a lot of potential, and I'm optimistic.

At some point - not exactly sure when, but at some point, we'll make a go/no go decision concerning Etsy.  If worse comes to worse, we'll regroup at that time figure things out and soldier on.  But one thing at a time.  Right now we're concentrating on making Etsy work. 

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