A Prepping Guide for Etsy Sellers

Prepping Guide for Etsy SellersA Prepping Guide for Etsy Sellers or, not putting all of your eggs in one basket

Our little Etsy Shop was chugging along

We have been very happy Etsy sellers since 2014. A few minor bumps in the road but all in all a very good 7 years or so, growing sales and learning to deal with the changes in the Etsy selling platform. We have become accustomed to selling on Etsy. To help others we prepared this prepping guide.

As in most of the serious Etsy selling community, we tried to exceed customer expectations and maintain a five star rating. This was goal number one and all of our actions from providing accurate descriptions, offering fair pricing, using safe packaging and always shipping fast helped to keep us there.
That is until recently, when we ran into some problems that we had little control over.

The problems started with Shop edits

We needed to go in and change some settings in the shop. They should have been relatively minor changes but something strange happened when we got some errors. The errors continued to compound and our shop was basically shut down for two weeks. We could take orders but they could not be fulfilled and they could not be cancelled.

After a harrowing half a month working with Etsy Support, endless tickets and calls we finally solved one problem only to run into another even more serious problem. I will spare you all of the gory details but our shop was essentially shut down. A technical bug in the Etsy Shops payment processing algorithm stopped us dead in our tracks, no payments would clear, we could not cancel a sale and we were powerless to do anything other than reach out to those customers that placed orders and keep calling Etsy Support.

Panic sets in

Panic sets inSo we started to get very anxious. We started to read other stories of shops getting closed, shops getting poor ratings from late sales and all the other bad stuff one finds on line about this kind of stuff. It was not cool feeling so helpless, unable to solve our problems quickly.

We then did the thing that many do we began to panic. We started making explorations into Etsy alternatives. We thought that while we waited for Etsy to fix their bug that we could magically re-host our shop on another platform. This of course is the worst time to plan an exit. Especially when you should be focusing on getting the issues resolved and communicating with your customers.

The moral of the story

The moral of the storyIf you are going to be a proper business person you need to take the time to plan for issues that are out of your control. When using a selling platform that you do not have a great deal of control over you have to have a well developed contingency plan. You need to have such a plan ready, tested and documented before you encounter the emergency (that you will almost never anticipate).

Every day we read about shops that have been closed for a variety of reasons. Some the sellers fault and some (like ours) from a bug in the shops technology stack. Here is a quick check list to help you structure your backup/recovery plan.

A ten step prepping guide to help recover quickly

1. Know how to contact support. From tickets to phone contact methods. Don’t wait till you need it to understand this!
2. Understand what credentials you will need to contact support. This is really important because you will need a combination of your email, the physical address of the shop, your payment methods and access to other key pieces of information you used to set up your shop. Document them and put them in a safe place.
3. Know how to document your problem effectively and accurately. Most ticketing systems are limited to a certain number of words. Know how to get to the point and provide important facts. Don’t ramble, don’t exaggerate and be truthful.
4. Gain a full understanding of how the support system works with the platform you are selling on. This includes hours of operation, ticket service levels, escalation procedures, and learn to read the documentation.
5. Understand how to backup your listings
6. Keep a document of all of your settings (like Tax-ID, Shipping accounts, Bank Accounts, Payment methods and all of the details) you would need to either reopen the shop or migrate the shop. Put it in a safe place.
7. Understand how to dump all of your reports and listings. They are documented in Etsy but they are not very clear. You will need to understand not only the way to export them but also understand what format they will be produced in and how you can import them into a usable format.
8. Make a step by step list of actions to take should your shop need to be moved. Put it in a safe place.
9. Make a list of alternative selling platforms that you might migrate to if it becomes necessary.
10. Make sure that you have a backup method of accessing your shop if your computer dies.

Making this list will be very helpful in preparing you for extended downtime with your shop. It will also help you to start thinking about how to move to another platform. We came right to the edge of leaving Etsy but were saved by escalating the problem with some persistence but it easily could have gone badly. We were not prepared to re-platform in the “heat of the downtime”. Making your own prepping guide plan will help you to manage the anxiety and hopefully solve your problems quickly.

We will cover re-platforming in a future post. Thanks for taking a look. You can find our Etsy Shop here

Hyperantiques best practices for good reviews

Hyperantiques best practices and Etsy shopping for vintage items

Customer Satisfaction Hyperantique best practicesHigh levels of customer satisfaction and great customer reviews are very important to our Etsy business. We will try to describe our Hyperantiques best practices in the following post. We will also try to describe our items as best as humanly possible and if we run into issues prior to shipping we usually cancel and refund the order before it turns into a problem. We sell honestly by describing our vintage products as best and we possibly can – in text and in photos. We also try to ship as fast as humanly possible.

Shipping challenges in the COVID era and maintaining Hyperantiques best practices

COVID has created some challenges in the area of shipping. Prior to COVID we used to try to get the package packed and shipped the same day as the order was received. That practice has been deferred as we do not go into our local post office for any reason while COVID rages in our community. The US Postal service has made it possible for us to not go to the post office by facilitating pickups at our shop. This however has led to challenges in timing as we cannot request a pickup for the same day but must wait for the regularly scheduled delivery person to pick up. This usually adds a day to the shipping process.

So, if an order is received on Sunday through Friday we try to pack it and schedule a pickup for the next day. For example an order received on Sunday is packed on Sunday and scheduled for pickup on Monday. The same process is followed for each day except for orders received on Saturday. These orders need to wait until Monday for a pickup. We have altered our shipping policies to reflect the changes in effect during this COVID pandemic.

USPS scheduled pickups

Other strange anomalies in the process of scheduling pickups with the USPS is that it is difficult to modify the quantity of items scheduled for pickup. We have not figured out the precise process and how it works but we have found that if we have scheduled items for pickup and we receive another order before the pickup is to be made, the new item cannot be added to the list of items and it has to be scheduled for a future date. We kind of understand why this is but for small shippers like us we only try to add one or two items to the list. It is just not dependably consistent so we apply the next day rule to orders received after a pickup haven scheduled.

Other things that influence our shipping positively is that our local post office is staffed by some pretty amazing people. For the most part they really try to make our shipping a pleasant and dependable experience for us and our customers. We rarely have seen any issues with our local team. The bigger postal ecosystem is a bit more unpredictable.

Most if not all of the issue that we have experiences have been with orders that ship to densely populated cities or to homes that have ambiguous addresses. For the tricky addresses we either use the address provided by the Etsy shipping portal or if that does not work we contact the USPS to validate the address. If all of these methods fail, we will reach out to the customer to seek more information. We never ship to an ambiguous address.

We do not ship to nefarious re-shipping addresses. We will only ship to a verified business address or to a verified residential address. As we do not ship overseas we avoid these re-shippers like the plague. Unfortunately our vintage Chanel jewelry and garments seem to attract a lot of activity to these re-shippers. Our assumption is that people are seeing the stock from afar and using a re-shipper to get the goods delivered to them. Just avoid them where possible. Googling these re-shipper addresses can help you weed them out. Many complaints are shown for the ones that have seen trouble in the past.

We decided early on to not sell outside of the US. This decision was based on the high number of problems we had in a former iteration of on-line selling through eBay. The terrible stories we have been hearing about items being delayed for weeks even if just going to France has kept us from entering that market. Perhaps in a post-COVID time we will reconsider that decision.

Another practice that we found very useful in high value items is obviously to add insurance to the item. We insure all packages over a certain value. We also insist on a signature with USPS priority shipping for any item over $300. We also try to price our items in a way that we share in the added costs for insurance and required signatures. So far it has been an excellent deterrent to loss of packages (knock on wood).

Things Hyperantique does to help ensure a high quality customer experience

A few odds and ends that make our process better (in our opinion):

  • We try to use new boxes where possible. We will use recycled boxes but only for items that are larger or unusually shaped. Some smaller items will ship in lightly used boxes but we have tried to stop that practice wherever possible. We try to avoid “frankenboxes” as they detract from the positive experience of receiving an item from our shop.
  • We add branding to the package. A sticker or an ink stamped message is all we have right now but we do plan to have boxes imprinted in the future. We like to build a bit of excitement when the package arrives.
  • We add a hand written note to each order. A thank you note mostly but if we find that upgrading the delivery method is fitting for the item we note that as well.
  • We always upgrade shipping if there is left over money to cover the upgrade. Sometimes we even upgrade if the money is a tad short. We feel that getting the item to the customer as fast as possible is our best curse of action.
  • Package like it was the Mona Lisa. We never want to see an item arrive damaged so we “over pack”. Nothing more frustrating than seeing a one of a kind vintage item get broken on the way to a customer. We take packing seriously.

Here is a link to our shop to review Hyperantiques best practices Our humble shop – Hyperantique

How to sell on Etsy without making it a full time job

Here is a check-list for those looking to sell on Etsy:

Selecting what to sell on Etsy

Item selection is very important but not for the reasons that you might think. For an Etsy seller, size and weight matters almost more than any other attribute. Of course the items must be of high quality but if you can not ship it cost effectively you might just be wasting your time listing them. Choose items that are easy to ship and do not weigh too much. Unusually large items will not sell unless they are extremely interesting or rare.

Does the Item Photograph well

Larger items are difficult to take a meaningful photograph of. Smaller items can be much easier to take a good photo of and will sell on Etsy. Do not use distracting background and try to place something in the picture that will show scale. Use pleasant but neutral colors in your background. Use natural light when possible. Make sure to put any defects, scratches or patina in a photo for full disclosure. Use all 10 Etsy photograph slots if you can. If the item is simple (like a bowl) use as many as you can to show the item and use the rest to place the item into a good contextual use case – like put fruit in the bowl.

Items are art

We sell antiques and vintage items. One of our goals to sell on etsy is to try to pick out items that are made with interesting materials. Those made using a process that is extinct are the best for us. Our favorites are items items that are essentially impossible to duplicate because the process is too complex or the maker used materials that are not abundant any longer. These items sell the fastest for us. Luxury items that are gently used are also very popular. We specialize in Chanel stock items from the 1990s along with an eclectic mix of unusually well made items. Take a look at our shop here Middle Cove Antiques

Item Title

The Item Title is important for the (internal) Etsy Search Algorithm. We will talk more about internal search later in this piece. More importantly, the item title that you provide is submitted to Google and other search engines by Etsy as a snippet. Most interesting is that Etsy uses only the first 66 characters of the item title to submit to search engines. See the attached image where the preview uses the first 66 characters and the word by and your shop name to construct the first part of the preview.

This makes it extremely important to use your best efforts to describe the item as you would imagine a buyer searching for it. The second part of the submitted preview is the first 160 characters of your item description.

Item Descriptions and Stories

If you want to get found inside of Etsy and more importantly in search engines you will need to focus on your item description in two parts. First you must concentrate on the first 160 characters and then the balance of the description quite differently.
To be effective you really need to try to concentrate on how you would search for what you are selling as you construct first 160 characters of item description. Use the balance of the item description to talk about size, condition and other important attributes you wish to convey to a potential buyer.

In Middle Cove Antiques we try to spice up an otherwise boring description with a little bit of a story. That said, don’t write a novel about your item. Tell your prospective buyer what the item is, what the condition of the item is, the size and weight of the item, the color and materials that the item is made of.

It is also very helpful if you know what the item actually is. While this sounds strange, some items are so out of place in modern times you need to be able to tell your customers what the item is and what it was used for. They will like you to be truthful so don’t make stuff up. If you have some amusing tidbits about the item, how you came across it or how you think it might be used in modern times add it to the bottom of your description.

Tags – use them all

Etsy describes tags as tools to help get your item found. Etsy tags are limited to up to 20 characters. We try to use the first 5 tags to add great search triggers. We try to use the remaining 8 tags to place context around the use of the item. For example if you are listing a bowl, use the first 5 tags to clearly lockdown descriptive search keywords: soup bowl, glazed ceramic, etc. Try to use the other 8 to capture different related keywords that are highlight the practical use of the item. We get creative with tags but we try not to get crazy with them.

Clearly Etsy messes with the search results constantly so I suggest that you read the article at Etsy SEO

What I have written here appears to work well for us to sell on Etsy, your results may be different. At the end of the day Etsy has their own rules for placing your listing into its search results. Once the snippets go to Google or Bing only they know what actually makes them important or highly ranking in search.

Materials Tags

Materials which are optional appear to show up in the product overview under “materials”. Looking at what Etsy has to say about materials does not really shed much light on their actual purpose. I suspect that they may be part of some filters that Etsy uses somewhere in internal search algorityms but I am not clear on their impact on the ability to get your item found in outside search engines.

Etsy Search – Tag and Title Relevancy

Here are some notes from Etsy on internal search relevancy: “Items in Etsy’s search results must match the buyer’s search word or phrase. Items that do not match a buyer’s search won’t be included in results”. (This was taken from Etsy’s “Factors in Etsy’s search placement” article).

Exact phrase matches are stronger than matches on individual words. For example, a search for “banana backpack” would return all items with the words “banana” and “backpack” in the tags or title, but items with “banana backpack” in the title would be considered a closer match.

If a word or phrase in a buyer’s search appears in both the title and tags of a listing, the search algorithm considers that listing more relevant than a listing with that word or phrase in the tags or title alone.
According to Etsy the words at the beginning of titles are considered more important than words at the end of the title.

All I can conclude from this is that while a customer is in Etsy, using Etsy search you better use your tags and your titles in a manner that is consistent with Etsy’s search algorithms. Once you are outside of Etsy, search engine placement is a whole different ball game. We will talk more about this in another article/post. In the meantime let us know how you sell on Etsy.

Where is Etsy Heading? – sellers aggravated

Where is Etsy Heading?

Etsy has been doing some very strange things as of late that are making many Etsy sellers wonder where is Etsy heading. While Etsy sellers have access to some great tools to make selling on-line easy, the overall value of Etsy is coming under question by many shop owners. Continue reading “Where is Etsy Heading? – sellers aggravated”

For sale on Etsy

Vintage Etsy

We are selling vintage and antique items on Etsy. We use the WordPress Etsy Shop Plugin. The items that we sell are served to this post by a WordPress plugin that grabs Etsy sections from our shop (via the Etsy API) and displays them under this text block. The plugin is called Etsy Shop. We have made small modifications to the plugin so that it presents a url that will go directly to our shop and will not display items that you may also “like from other easy shops”. By clicking on one of the listings below, you will be brought to our Etsy site. From there you can browse all of our items. Continue reading “For sale on Etsy”