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Craft maker wants an ecommerce website
Will a website work for one of a kind items?
roldar




msg:3023241
 9:45 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've got a friend who would like a website on which to sell her crafts (beads, knitting, etc). All of these items are one of a kind. She is also about as computer illiterate as one can be.

I'm not all that convinced that crafts are something that is easily sold over the internet, because I think buyers want to touch and examine this type of item before making a purchase.

I suggested the possibility of a brochure website with contact information and some examples, but she's not really interested in that.

So then I thought I could use a commerce CMS and allow her to upload a picture, price and description each time she completed a new item. Seems like a lot of work, but the one thing she has is plenty of time.

I've dabbled in some very small scale ecommerce, and upon thinking this through I'm convinced it would be an utter nightmare to try and sell one of a kind items. I think she has some unrealistic expectations about how the internet works, despite my trying to explain how difficult it is to get any kind of website off the ground.

Any thoughts on this? Should I try to talk her out of it, or have any of you had success promoting unique crafts?

 

roldar




msg:3023250
 9:50 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

I should also note that I first helped her try to sell her items on Ebay. The results were very disappointing; very few people even looked at the listings, and bids were usually only a dollar or two despite the high quality of the items.

We took several high quality photos of each item, dimensions, etc., but it just didn't seem to fly. I think the people on Ebay are used to buying boxes of necklaces in bulk, and do not appreciate high quality craftsmanship nearly as much as they would if it were in a retail store.

Tastatura




msg:3023278
 10:13 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)


I should also note that I first helped her try to sell her items on Ebay. The results were very disappointing; very few people even looked at the listings, and bids were usually only a dollar or two despite the high quality of the items

Actually, I think that Ebay might be her best option until she gains more footing (then she can re-evaluate). Maybe even set up a ebay store, as time/effort/money versus setting up custom commerce site is big (IMO), not to speak about marketing and actually getting eyeballs to look at the product. I wouldn’t set the price at $0.99 and then be disappointed when it only gets to $1.99 – set the price close to market value and go from there. Granted she might be paying a bit more in fees, but she might actually make a sale (and weed out “basement” price shoppers. As for “buying jewelry in bulk from ebay” comment, I disagree – a lot of people buy one item. I am basing this on my wife’s shopping habbits (and her sister’s and friends, etc.)

akmac




msg:3023279
 10:13 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

What price point are the items?

$5,000 works of art or $6.00 bead bracelets?

For the first, yes. For the second, no.

In my experience, in order to make money selling one of a kind items they need to have a hefty price tag healthy profit margin.

sun818




msg:3023283
 10:21 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

You can try niche online malls like TIAS that caters to the antiques/collectibles crowd. IMO, anything under $50 is not worth selling online. The labor involved with taking attractive pictures and good copy is not worth the time for a one-off item.

She might also try weekend art fairs. Its very possible her clientelle not very computer savvy and would not think to shop for her items online.

pp_rb




msg:3023309
 10:38 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Are her products the type that will entice repeat customers? If so, you may want to work on a solution that will help her build a customer base, rather than trying to emulate a shopping cart solution to capture purchases from casual internet shoppers.

Give her ideas for building email contact lists, advertising regular "shows" (e.g. any customer who comes by her boutique on Saturday morning gets a 15% discount), etc., and anything that will help avoid the stale effect you sometimes see on brochure-style websites. (Maybe the entire site doesn't have to be populated from a CMS, but let her easily rotate out featured images & update announcements.)

roldar




msg:3023326
 10:51 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

These are some great ideas...

I'll see if I can convince her to give Ebay a shot one more time before pursuing other options. I've used their stores in the past and didn't find the results very impressive, but I was selling a completely different type of item.

The items she's selling allegedly have a market value of ~$30-$100 each. Some of them are lower quality beads, but most make use of sterling silver and semiprecious stones. I say alleged market value because that's what I've seen items of a similar quality priced at in retail stores. I don't know how well they sell there, though.

She's currently selling them at the local trade fairs and flea market type places, but does not move them as quickly as she would like. I don't think flea market shoppers are the kind of folks looking to buy this type of item.

Unfortunately, and I hate to tell her this, but I don't think there's a very ideal place for her crafts.. retail store would be out of the question unless she were to consign them, due to the low volume... and they seem to be right at the threshold of being worth the hassle of selling them on the internet (in agreement with previous poster that said anything <$50 is too much trouble).

Hopefully the ebay store will work! Thanks again for the advice.

LifeinAsia




msg:3023358
 11:34 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

My guess is her best bet would be to continue the offline selling part. Are there any types of artist/craft fairs nearby where she can get a booth? A lot of communities tend to have things like that closer to Christmas.

I web site showcasing her products would still be good, with an updated schedule of the flea markets or other places where she'll be selling. Link to an eBay store where she can sell, but not expect a lot of volume to move. Put the web site on business cards handed out at her booth and with all purchases, as well as any customized packaging, newsletters, etc.

It's probably more likely that online sales will be from people who already purchased somethign from her and are interested in getting more as presents for friends and relatives.

Just my opinion.

minnapple




msg:3023592
 3:41 am on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Computer illiterate and ecom don't mix unless you want to hold her hand each day.
She needs to take the first step by becoming literate.
Help those that help themselves.

Armande




msg:3023926
 10:30 am on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hey, a topic I know a bit about.
I sell my handcrafted jewelry online and I do okay. There was no success overnight (of course) but over a few year's time I have built a solid customer base, new and repeat customers.
So I found there is a possibility to sell handcrafted items online, on a few conditions:
- Make excellent pictures, also detailed pictures.
- The items themselves have to be unique and personal, otherwise people are not going to be bothered with it.
- Keep the website fresh, add new items frequently.
- Keep it personal. Especially since it's handmade, it makes sense not to get hoitytoity about it. I write newsletters and I keep a blog that people can place comments with. There is a pretty big group of my customers that visits my site every day to see if I have something new. And buy it immediately if they like it a lot, because they know it can move pretty fast.

Still, I am not a millionaire yet. I am happy that I am able to make a living doing the things I love. It was not until I started selling the loose beads and materials seperately that I was able to give up the day job. I now have 3 sites: one with my handcrafted jewelry, one with the beads etc for people who want to make something alike for themselves, and a shop with readymade affordable jewelry that I buy in China.

Ebay did absolutely not work for me. Nada, zilch.

Armande




msg:3023929
 10:34 am on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

PS I made my (first) site with homestead, that is very user friendly for newbies.
Offline selling was not my thing either. My items are too expensive for fairs and craft markets. I use gemstones and silver mostly and the average price for a necklace is about $ 75. People are not going to pay that on a fair.
Jewelry home parties do work however. She can ask a friend or a family member to host a party for her and that will at least get her going. I generally sell for at least $ 200 on an evening like that and it's a good place to leave cards etc.
I always gives the hostess a discount of 10% of the evening's revenue on her purchase, to make it interesting for her and for her trouble.

JesperFJ




msg:3023955
 11:03 am on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

I tried to sell unique silver jewelry also, but after not having a buyer in 500 visitors, I gave up on it. To me it looks hard but not impossible.

Probably with the long effort, resent updates, blogs etc. to keep a customer base that Armande put into it, it can be pulled off.
Totally agree on this: Make excellent pictures, also detailed pictures.

If I had this kind of product I woul dseriously consider to partner up with someone like Armande who already have a succesfull site and a faithfull customer base. Evidently this will take percentages of the revenue, but while selling through partners there is no reason that you couldn't build your own site on the sideline.

Notice that others on this forum including myself often look for "manufactorers" who are willing to drop-ship items.

topr8




msg:3023962
 11:14 am on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>Computer illiterate and ecom don't mix unless you want to hold her hand each day.

:) :)

i'd agree to that

Essex_boy




msg:3024700
 6:55 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ebay is becoming the place NOT to sell, so im not surprised she didnt do that well on there.

roldar




msg:3024869
 8:49 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Armande, those are some very helpful suggestions. I'm glad to see that somebody has been successful doing this!

One question: How do you handle payments? Do you process credit cards, use paypal, or other? She already has a paypal account, and I can't think of any very pressing reason to complicate things.

I can already see the kind of problems ecommerce + computer illiterate will create, but I am willing to do a bit of hand holding.

I think the best thing I can do now is allow her to read this thread and then she can decide how to proceed.

Armande




msg:3024878
 8:57 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

For my Dutch customers I have created a sort of form where they can order. I get that in the mail. I then have to make an invoice by hand. This is more work but the handmade jewelry site is not doing a dozen orders a day... (max 2 or 3) I also have Paypal and for my foreign customers this is the best option, especially when they are from outside Europe.

For the beadsite and other jewelry site I purchased PHP shop software (license). Much easier in the end since I have multiple items of a certain product. I don't know PHP either but someone else set it up for me and I can manage the shop just fine by myself.

Computer illiterate is one thing but your friend has to be willing to learn. And DO. You learn best by doing it yourself. I didn't know that much either when I started out.
There is an excellent website with tips for home jewelry biz. I will PM you the link.

Kendel




msg:3024919
 9:27 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Creating a site using a Paypal cart, or now, possibly Google Checkout, would not be that difficult and pretty low cost (easy enough to find prebuilt templates to modify). Once you get an item page template, managing the site should be quite easy. I'm currently doing similar for a relative and all I have to do is copy the default page I created, update the "content" section, the Paypal button section, and upload. Also, if it does not work, it would be easy enough to just turn it into a gallery site.

She may also be able to find some designs that could be made into "production" versions. I know of a potter that said though he enjoyed making one-off items he "paid the rent" with standard vases, plates, bowls, and the like.

woofwoof




msg:3025191
 1:56 am on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Think Carefully. If you just build the site it will fail. If your willing to hold her hand ALL the way and she's willing and able to learn the skills required and her product is good enough in terms of quality and cost. She may have a chance.

My first ever site was a beading/craft store for my girlfriend (who's very computer literate), I completely rebuilt it four times, seo'd it to death spent hundreds of hours on it(at least) and in three years she made ~$5000. It makes a pretty brochure.

Her best week online ~$500 in contrast that same week she sold $4000 worth offline to stores.

My gf who sitting here with me suggests a 'shopping blog' wordpress with a paypal shopping cart and a slightly customized template (lots to choose from) where she can post each new piece with a couple of pictures on an easy to use front end, its free and should take you a couple of hours to set up. The blog approach might work well for link love too in the right circles. (try searching for BUST on google) and have a look at their links page entitled girl wide web - thousands of individual craft sites/blogs to link too/from)

Also have a look at Etsy cheap ebay for crafters.

[edited by: lorax at 11:48 am (utc) on Aug. 5, 2006]
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Armande




msg:3025514
 9:13 am on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

O I agree, I think a shopping blog would be a good idea in this case. Very easy to use and maintain and it's set up to make updates whenever you can.

psage




msg:3035219
 10:15 am on Aug 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

Etsy is good for craft people. She could give that a try.

I love some of their functions like search by color and I have bought things through them b4.

madeinhawaii




msg:3035626
 9:08 pm on Aug 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

Building a website is very time consuming. Building an ecommerce site, even more so. BUT, a website is a great complement to one's real world sales efforts. My wife is a landscape and nature photographer. As such, it is impossible for her to carry or display all of her prints and all of the available sizes she offers with her at any given time or place. With the exception of, that is, doing it online.

Often we will direct potential customers to our website and have them order from the website or in person after they have made their decision. Sometimes, we will set up a special page for them just to highlight specific offerings. This concept is ideal for the custom jewelry market. We ocassionally email previous customers with new offerings when we think it is something they would be especially interested in.

Since she is designing one-of-a-kind pieces. A good place to start would be ZEN-CART, an open-source php ecommerce engine on sourceforge that would allow her customers to purchase her products via paypal or some other merchant account service.

Best regards,
Dennis

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