February 20, 2013

Etsy Shopping Tips

Want to shop handmade and indie?  New to Etsy shopping?  With all the shop choices, do you need some tips on which shops to purchase from?  This succinct guide, a culmination of what I've learned over the past two-plus years while being both an Etsy buyer and seller, EmeraldCut, is designed to help you make decisions such as these.

1. Always read a shop's Policies Page before purchase, and if you want, the About Page.
If there is nothing typed in this section, you are at a loss of knowledge that may affect your purchase from that shop, such as shipping method(s), returns policy, and general information regarding the product.  Keep in mind that some sellers have typed their policies into the Shop Announcement in the shop homepage (i.e.: www.shopname.etsy.com). The About Page is voluntary, and can be accessed under the Shop Info category on the left-hand side of a shop's homepage.

2. Shops with the most sales are not necessarily the shops with the best product.
Some of my favorite items have been purchased from shops with under 100 sales.  Give these shops a chance, and you may find that the experience is entirely positive.  Smaller shops also may respond to inquiries quicker, with more in-depth answers, than larger shops due to volume--which leads me to the next tip...

3. If you have a question regarding a product, always feel free to contact the buyer.  
If the buyer does not respond to your inquiries (please kindly give the buyer a few days to respond), then it may be best to: 1. Contact again, and/or 2. Give your business to another shop.  As proper etiquette, it is in my opinion that the consumer should always have their questions answered.  (See #8 for inquiry etiquette.)

4. Read the Shop Announcement for discounts/sales, vacation notice, affiliated social media sites, etc.
The shop Announcement, located at the shop's homepage, is a wealth of information for buyers.  Many times it contains a coupon code, a sale notice, and/or a vacation notice--the latter stating when the buyer will be on vacation and for how long, which affects when orders are shipped out.  On top of that, buyers state their social media sites in this general area.  These social media outlets oftentimes have coupon codes, sneak peeks of new items, and other pertinent information listed in them, so check them out.

5. Purchase from a shop that fits not only your aesthetic, but also your values.
Some shops push the envelope in terms of aesthetic; others definitely feel more part of the norm.  I advise you not to purchase from shops that go against your beliefs.  For example, I do not believe in accentuating sexuality in order to push sales, so I will never purchase from a shop that employs sexuality to "sell" their work.  Would you feel comfortable walking into the shop if it were a brick and mortar?  Follow that sixth sense because the model(s) reflect the vision of the person/people who create the items. 

6. ALWAYS read seller feedback!
I cannot stress this point enough: reading feedback written by buyers is important.  Yes, there are some truly unneeded, rude comments, but there are also some helpful ones, too.  Seller feedback will tell you about the quality of shop's products, the presentation/packing as well as shipping, and/or experiences with the seller from the buyer's perspective.  If there are many negative comments (and by this, I don't mean outright rude or snarky) regarding these aspects, it is a glaring red flag that buying from the shop could potentially signal trouble for you.

7.  Carefully read the shop listing(s) description that you are interested in, and examine the images.
Not saying to be nit picky or overly critical, but if the images are taken in very low light, where little detail can be seen, there may be more than meets the eye to the quality of the product.  If the shop listing description below the image(s) is very short and non-descriptive, either: 1. Email the seller if you're interested, or 2. Skip it.  Personally, as a seller, I am very honest and thorough with my product descriptions because I want my customers to be satisfied with their potential purchase.  This makes the description lengthy and long-winded, but my goal is for buyers to know exactly what they are purchasing and will be receiving, if they choose to buy from my shop.  In other words, you don't want a surprise in the mail--so to speak.

8. When you contact a seller, please be courteous and descriptive in your inquiry.
Sellers are people, too.  If we do not understand what you are asking about, we cannot read your mind.  Also, mind the time difference and the fact that many of us have full-time jobs and busy lives outside of Etsy, so we will respond to your inquiry as soon as we possibly can.  Being courteous does not have to entail constant "pleases" and "thank yous"--it means respecting others and treating them like you'd like to be treated: kindly and professionally.

9. Etsy is a collection of sellers, and not a brand name--
so do not expect all shops to created equal.  There is a wide array of items and quality on Etsy.  Unfortunately, I have seen some, for lack of a better phrase, shady-looking shops, many of which sell haphazardly-made products from cheap materials, with sleek photography and rock-bottom pricing as the icing on the proverbial cake.  If you want a cheap product that will most likely not last you long, then by all means purchase from these types of shops.  However, if you're looking for quality, read #1 and #7 of this list for tips.  There are also some exceptional shops on Etsy, where you can tell buyers have done their research on their incorporated materials, their work pieces of art.  Shopping "American-made" bolsters our economy, although overseas shops may be cheaper.

10. If you have questions or concerns on a general Etsy topic, check out the Forums here.
The Forums are generally where sellers voluntarily discuss their experiences with Etsy--if this has piqued your curiosity, the Forums may be of interest to you.

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If you found this guide to be helpful, please share it with others!  Just kindly remember to link/cite it back to my blog.  Comments, as always, are always welcome.

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