January 11, 2010

Top Reasons I Have My Own Website

Filed under: Branding,Ecommerce — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 1:40 am

Like many of the people who read this blog, I have a shop on Etsy.com (as well as shops on sites like 1000 markets and Art Fire). That said, having my own website is completely indispensable. While sites like Etsy have some good qualities, here are a few reasons I couldn’t be without a website of my own:

1. Convenience
My own website is a lean, mean, streamlined machine. It takes orders, it collects money, it sends out notifications when orders get shipped. The manual effort involved with dealing with the orders that come through my website is kept to a minimum.

When orders come from other sources, like Etsy, I have to manually enter those orders into my system. I have to double and triple check that I haven’t made any errors while copying over the order information. Since most of my orders just come through my website, the amount of time I spend manually managing orders is kept to a minimum.

My own website also doesn’t allow an order to be “complete” until a payment is collected. Since sites like Etsy separate the purchase and payment process, it’s possible for a customer to “buy” and not pay. That means I have to track them down and if that doesn’t work I have to request a refund for transaction charges. All those issues just aren’t a concern with customers that come through my own site.

2. Too Many Logins
Sites like Etsy break one of the most important rules of e-commerce, they require logins. When it comes to selling online, the goal is to make life as easy for the customer. This means not requiring them to register for an account and not requiring them to remember a username and password.

Sites like Etsy require customers to log into both Etsy and Paypal! That’s two logins. If the customer is new to both services that’s TWO accounts they have to create just to buy something. As a customer I know I’m unlikely to actually jump through that many hoops to make a purchase.  On my website, customers just enter shipping and payment information and they’re done. There’s no logins to remember, there’s no account creation involved.

3. Branding and Customer Relations
When I hand out marketing materials, I just want to promote my own brand. I certainly don’t want to send customers to a website that hosts my business and my competitors’ businesses.

Additionally, when someone comes to my online shop, I want to offer them lots of ways to keep in touch. I want my mailing list sign up form on every page they see. I want links to my Facebook and Twitter pages. I also want a way to reward loyal customers with coupons. Having my own website allows me to do all of that.Using a 3rd party service puts too many restrictions on my ability to customize the visitor experience.

4. SEO
A lot of the business I get online comes from organic search. Having my own website allows me to optimize for search engines to my heart’s content. I can create as many landing pages as I like. I can make sure keywords appear in the title tag and URL. Using an Etsy shop doesn’t give me that kind of flexibility.

Alternatives
So what are some alternatives to putting all your eggs in Etsy’s basket? Here are a few ways to get going on a website of your own:

  • Big Cartel The customization is pretty flexible but you’ll still be using Paypal. It sill cuts down on a lot of the other issues I mentioned above, and is very artisan friendly
  • Volusion A highly flexible hosted solution but it will cost you. Pricing starts at $24.99/monthly. That said, the cost of not having your own site might be well above that each month.
  • Shopify Another flexible hosted solution with a monthly fee, packages start at $24/month.
  • Yahoo Stores A flexible hosted solution with monthly fees starting at $39.95/month
  • Zencart A free shopping cart you can install on your own. This solution requires more technical expertise and you’ll have to get your own hosting package that supports PHP and mysql, but if you’re looking for the cheapest option, this is one to consider. If you’re not so technically inclined, you may want to hire a web designer to set up your Zencart site for you.

Disclaimer: I have NOT used any of the services above. I can’t vouch for their awesomeness. I have a custom shopping cart for my business. That said, if any of you out there in blog-reading-land have tried the above services, feel free to chime in about your experience with them.

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9 Comments »

  1. Good article. I always suggest crafters build their own website. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation either. Many crafters have very effectively embedded or linked to their Etsy shop from the website. Even if a crafter isn’t “ready” to run their own site, they should invest the $10 a year on the domain name that matches their shop name. That way they can protect their brand going into the future and avoid having to compete with another artisan using the same name.

    Comment by Michele — January 11, 2010 @ 8:28 am

  2. @Michele, true, that is a good 2nd best option. If going that route the crafter can still give out the link to their URL instead of Etsy (often your own URL is easier to remember too). They can then use their own site to link up their social media accounts, newsletter, do some SEO, etc and still use a site like Etsy or Artfire or whatever to actually do their ecommerce.

    Comment by Meredith — January 11, 2010 @ 8:31 am

  3. [...] Shopping carts that require registration This is one of my biggest gripes about Etsy. If you have your own website, make sure you aren’t making this mistake. Don’t make [...]

    Pingback by Smaller Box :: Blog :: 10 Habits of Highly Annoying Websites — February 23, 2010 @ 8:29 am

  4. [...] sign up box on your pages. You can read more about why I recommend you get your own website here. In the meantime, one thing you can do is provide a link to sign up for your list in your order [...]

    Pingback by Smaller Box :: Blog :: Email Marketing Part 1: How to Get Subscribers — March 1, 2010 @ 10:54 am

  5. Don’t have a website yet but would like to protect a domain name. How do I go about doing that??

    Thanks for the good info here!!

    Comment by Dorothyann Strange — March 3, 2010 @ 8:03 am

  6. @Dorothyann Strange Just buy the domain name from any domain name registrar.

    Comment by Meredith — March 3, 2010 @ 8:16 am

  7. [...] the millionth time on this blog, I’m prefacing this article by saying YOU NEED YOUR OWN WEBSITE. You cannot take advantage of an affiliate program if you only sell on sites like Etsy or Ebay. Now [...]

    Pingback by Smaller Box :: Blog :: What the Heck is an Affiliate Program? — May 13, 2010 @ 6:43 am

  8. [...] said it before, I’ll say it again. YOU NEED YOUR OWN WEBSITE. Getting one can be challenging for small online retailers because of the technical skills often [...]

    Pingback by Smaller Box :: Blog :: Cool Tools: Ecwid — May 21, 2010 @ 3:50 am

  9. After failing at trying to integrate my Etsy/ArtFire shops with my WordPress blog, I just bit the bullet and paid for a subscription with BigCartel. I like it so far, and my only gripe with it is as you say, it only allows PayPal. I’ve had 2 sales in a month with minimal advertising, so at least it paid for itself!

    Comment by Jenny — June 17, 2011 @ 11:39 am

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