Friday, October 02, 2009

ArtFire versus Etsy.....The saga continues...................

So.  Not being able to post on the Etsy forums gets frustrating from time to time, but after 3+ years, not much is new. 
Same gripes, the whiners may change but they're pretty much the same issues.  Ad infinitum in the ideas section and yadda-yadda-yadda.  Among one of the discussions was a "I am closing my shops on Artfire" declaration, followed by the usual supporters, naysayers and a slew of people content to use someone elses reasons, rather than their own judgement, to either close or not even open an Artfire shop,

So I meandered over to Artfire and perused their forums.  I have had a basic shop for over a year now, made a few sales and just basically let it sit.  I wanted to spread out my eggs a bit, but I wasn't ready to fork over the cash just yet.  There seems to be a new promotion going on, The Free For All, where all basic shops can list as many items as they want, and they've even provided a tool that transfers all your Etsy listings to your Artfire shop, rather than having to do it all at once. Pretty neat, huh?  Here is the link to the Artfire thread.

As expected, there was an outcry against this, some Artfire members feel that they are being shortchanged by basics being 'given' one of their sacred tools they pay for.  I can see that.  AF staff says that the point is to generate as many listings as possible and flood google with all the products so shoppers are lead to AF.  The thing is, What do you do with a shop full of items you can't organize or categorize, you can't get a facebook kiosk to sell your products there, and you do not get preferential treatment when it comes to the internal search.  Their search is based on relevancy with dash of random thrown in to give everyone an equal chance.  Except, they will pull verified members items first in a search.  So if your category is overly saturated by verified members, the liklihood of you being seen is much much less.

As I ruminate over this some more, it starts sounding a lot like Etsy and their method of advertising.  Etsy constantly appeals to crafters to generate sellers, but not really to help the current sellers improve their sales by advertising to buyers.

Artfire makes it sound pretty that they are doing everyone a big favor by the unlimited listing whoo-haww.....but it smacks of the sellers being used, and appealing to the bandwagon mentality that exists on Etsy that if someone says something is awesome, the lemmings storm over the cliff to get a piece of the pie.  Ok, so I mixed my metaphors, but you get what I mean.

So for my first post, here, I decided to make a suggestion to give all basic members 2 months of free verified services.  And if they could swing it, give the verified memberships a break on fees for the month, to make it equitible.  My reasoning was/is based on my own feelings about this unlimited listings offer.  What am I going to do with a mish mosh of 100+ items that I can't put into categories?  My shop will be a mess.  If anyone does come to my shop, they can search for things, if they use the search box, but categories are much more convenient and buyer friendly.  What if a new buyer comes upon a few of these basic shops with no bells and whistles and thinks the whole site is that messy?  Buh-bye.

If I upload all my stuff from my Etsy shop into Artfire and there they sit for the next 3 months and I don't sell a thing, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to sign up for the verified account, hell, I have no proof of viability.  And if I did make reasonable sales during that time, what is my incentive to upgrade then?  I can do it without all the bells and whistles.

This is when I discovered that Artfire isn't really doing it for anything but the numbers.  They want to have a full site with lots to choose from for shoppers and the only way to do this is to encourage as many of the shops on Etsy as they can to open or add to their basic shops.  It was mentioned that Artfire's finances are based on only 10% membership, they expect that 90% will use the basic shops and if any of them upgrade, it's just icing on the cake.  Or it makes up for the verifieds that close up for one reason or another.

My suggestion for the 2 months of free verified status for basic shops was actually based on making Artfire more money.  IF a basic shop has no clue what the perks and tools are or how they could work for them, they don't miss them.  But give them a taste of it and let them get used to having them for a period of time, they won't be so easy to give up.

A few people saw the wisdom of my suggestion but thought maybe the timing wasn't so great because some people were upset with the recent unlimited listing thing.  Others implied that I was just being greedy and that I was given an inch, but wanted a mile and some people are never satisfied no matter how much they are given.  oooooooooookay.

And now there are grumblings that Artfire is turning into Etsy (wished I would have taken bets on that one) and they are not as transparent as they used to be, and artfire's view of things may not always coincide with sellers views.  Big surprise.

So, will I upgrade to verified for the Christmas Shopping season?  Probably not.  And I won't be uploading 100 things I can't keep in a neat shop, and I definitely won't be upgrading afterwards.  Why?   because I don't like being used,  And I need to see some benefit to me for handing over my money.

Etsy and Artfire have their strong and weak points, but honestly, I may be jaded, but I feel that their first responsibility is to their business and will try to put the spin on anything they do to make it appear to be to sellers benefit.


mizdarlin said...

I read your blog carefully, having been an ex-verified member of AF for three or four months and having zero sales to show for it...
A few points, first-I think that AF does two things well-I love the one page listing, much faster and easier, and I also love the fact that, unlike Etsy, yo don't need a degree in IT to get on the Google train...
I 'gave up' my sales, not many views, and absolutely nothing but cupcakery in the Forum there...

Apparently, AF is losing many of us, and for the same reasons...I don't even know what you sell, but, like Etsy, the supply sellers and soapmakers are the only ones making any kind of decent sales on AF, and for the same reasons...
I find that the only thing any of these sites are good for, in my case, is for Promo ...I do lots of craft markets, farmer's markets, etc. and use links to these sites to show new places I apply to what it is I do (all these markets are adjudicated). Secondly, prospective customers, via my business card, can go to the site and see a wider variety of my work than i can show at the individual markets...I get lots of business at these markets, ane lots of custom orders too...
Maybe it's my photos or whatever the 'secret' is on these sites, but I am disappointed, and determined to not put out any more money without matter what the site. If that is whining, so be it.

Kevin Ian said...

Hi WindysDesigns,

I just finished reading your blog and wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts on the matter. I do remember the forum post you made a few days ago regarding the free trial idea as well. So first let me thank you for being involved in the discussion, critical feedback and open communication are incredibly valuable to a company and we are grateful there are people willing to put forward their ideas and opinions.

We are always investigating and looking into different ways to help increase our pro member sign ups. Sometimes we see people frame the argument that we don't care if our artisans sell or not, we get the monthly subscription at the end of the month anyway. However this view would be very shortsighted on our part. At ArtFire we understand that the best way to keep loyal members is to help them make sales.

It is with that understanding, that the best way to make loyal members is to help them make sales, that we created our current promotion. The "Holidy Free-For-All" was developed based on our research and findings that strongly correlates sales with listings. Sellers who have more items for sale are significantly more likely to make sales. We believe this is due in part of several different factors.

More listings means more chances to be seen in a Google search. Somewhere around 65% of all online shoppers kick off their shopping trip at a search engine. When a shopper clicks on your listings as a search result they are taken directly to your product, which Google felt was one of the best results it could return based on the search they made.

More listings means more chances to be seen on site while people browse. While our internal search is based completely on relevancy (pro members get a +1 in the event of a tie). Category browsing is random.

More listing = more chances to be seen by on site browsers. Those browsers would again be taken straight to the listing they clicked on.

More listings makes a shop look full and attended to. We see many people list two or three items as a test run, however a shop with two or three items can almost look abandoned to the average buyer.

We work hard to increase the value of a pro membership to our members every day. We are always looking into new ways to get basic members to try out a pro membership. Our next move is to put a box on the MyArtFire panel that will rotate messages about features pro members get.
I can completely understand your reasoning behind suggesting a free trial offer. It’s always easier to sell a car after a test drive, however it is a slightly different situation. ArtFire doesn’t really “sell” a car, it’s a rental. It is really tough to let one person rent a car for free for two months, and simultaneously convince the person paying for the rental (with no contractual obligation to stay) to keep paying the rent. Maybe a good compromise would be to have rotating pro features that basics get to use for a limited amount of time, e.g. one month you get to try out coupon codes, the next month shop categories, and the next month the gallery; letting basics experience a little bit of a pro membership at a time. Something like this wouldn’t happen until after the holiday season. However this would likely cause turbulence with our members who have already taken the leap to become pro members, it's always a difficult line to walk.

We don't currently have plans to offer a free trial type of promotion during the holiday season, but it may be something we try in the future. As ArtFire progresses we are always thinking and looking for new ways to aid in its growth and development.

I'd like to close by thanking you again for being willing to share your opinion on the matter. We hope to see you around and wish you the best of luck during the holiday season.


PussDaddy said...

If you want to help them make sales Kevin stop slurping up Etsy's problem children and rejects like ShadeJewerly and nutmegclick. Do you think any buyer relishes the thought of buying from those two? You people are so happy to to snap another Etsian you don't even care whether you are scraping the bottom of the barrel or not. Personally as a buyer I don't need either one of you. I am doing just fine buying without being a member of either you or Etsy.