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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?
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.