"Etsy is too crowded to sell product on."
Lies, lies, LIES.
If you’ve ever found your way onto the Etsy forums, you've you’ve probably heard the whole “Etsy is too saturated, I can’t sell anything, Etsy, you’re ruining my life etc. etc.” thing waaaaaaaay too many times (in the spirit of full disclosure, I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t been one of those people at some point too!).
But the longer I sell on Etsy? The more I realize that yes, it’s saturated with product. Tons and tons of product. There are 1.6 million shops open, after all!
But there’s still room for you. I promise.
Think of it this way: Yes, Etsy is crowded, but because it's crowded, it gets A TON of organic traffic brought in every minute. Traffic that you don't have to work for-- it just comes.
And yes, 99/100 time your “super awesome product” will already be for sale--multiple times--on Etsy.
This actually ISN'T a bad thing-- it's really quite a good one! Market competition tells us a couple of things that can really help us with setting up our shop:
1- There is already a market there. Hallelujah! This means that your product idea has been validated for you (and now you don't have to do the legwork of getting your idea out there to scope for interest).
2- You have some price points to work with. While I don't recommend ever, EVER competing on price (seriously, just don't do it. You'll regret it), it's helpful to have a baseline of understanding what consumers are paying in the marketplace for similar products.
3- You have other shops that are working just as hard as you to bring people onto Etsy to purchase their product. I guarantee you that some of the people they bring in will browse through additional shops (read: yours) to compare items. Free traffic for the win!
So healthy market competition? It's a good thing! But you're still going to need to make a plan that will funnel the sales into YOUR shop.
SO MAKE IT STAND OUT.
There is a BRILLIANT book out there called The Purple Cow. It is a SERIOUS game changer and has stuck with me ever since I read it waaaaay back in college.
Not only is it fantastically named (seriously, who can forget a book named something like that?!), but it is filled with all that good information. To be successful on Etsy (especially) or any other selling platform, you’re going to need to be DIFFERENT. There are millions (quite literally) of small business e-commerce sites out there— you NEED to stand out if you want to see any type of sustainable income.
I don’t mean that you have to invent a one-of-a-kind product (although if you can do that, you probably shouldn’t be selling on just Etsy anyways! Hello, Shark Tank!)— rather, you need to have something about your product that can set you apart…
Case study: I sell baby headbands. Baby headbands of. all. things. When I tell people what I sell I just have to laugh out loud because it just doesn’t seem like someone could sell baby headbands and make over $400,000.00 in just over two years.
BUT I DID
And a good portion of it is thanks to a Purple Cow.
Now before you say, "You obviously entered the market at a good time...you just lucked out...you have an extensive marketing background....etc. etc.", please hear me on this:
I AM NOT "SPECIAL."
Or at least, not any more "special" than you already are! I'm from a town called Erda (yes, it's real), I have a husband, a toddler daughter, and two insanely fluffy cats. I'm pretty much as ordinary as they come. No insane "special talents" or "influential connections." Ordinary is my bread and butter.
But my business? ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY.
There are thousands (literally) of baby accessory shops on Etsy. Seriously— type in “baby headband’ on Etsy and you’ll get over 311,000 results. That’s insane! By all accounts, one shop selling headbands should not be able to make over 600 sales a month with that kind of saturation.
But enter a Purple Cow and viola! I am one shop among thousands and I am still making a HUGE dent in the baby headband circuit.
What do I mean by a Purple Cow? First off, read the book :) But until then, here's a quick summary: I'm a Purple Cow because I have done something with my business to make me stand out from the rest of the overcrowded headband groupies. Yes, I was selling just baby headbands, but I made it a point to do a couple of things that set me apart:
1 | I designed my own fabrics. When I first set up shop, I noticed that everyone in the baby headband category was getting their fabrics/supplies from the same sources and I would see the same designs pop up again and again and again. I get it— it’s much cheaper and easier to go with something that is readily available. I made mine purposefully different because I wanted to attract a different crowd— not the type that would just spend $2 on a generic headband— I wanted the people that would spend at least $10 (and hopefully $28!) on unique one-of-a-kind designs.
2 | I package them ready-to-gift. That might seem like a waste of money when you can just spend $.10 on a plastic ziplock bag and be done with it, but by putting in the extra time and $ to package it in a gift box + ribbon, I IMMEDIATELY appealed to the baby shower crowd. I would guess that I get around 5-6 orders PER DAY that are shipped as gifts directly to the momma-to-be because my headbands can be sent already packaged as a gift.
HOW TO TURN YOUR BUSINESS INTO A "PURPLE COW"
So you don’t sell baby headbands-- that’s fine! There are seriously a million ways that you can “purple cow” your business no matter what type of product you sell! Here are some ideas to get your wheels turning:
- DIMENSIONS - Is there a gap in the market for a certain size of product? Bridge that gap! Offer your artwork in custom sizes to appeal to buyers filling odd spaces, or make your jewelry into larger statement pieces that really stand out.
- STYLE - Are the products in your category all photographed a certain way? There are A MILLION absolutely horrible, grainy product photos on Etsy, but yours doesn’t have to be one of them! Take a look at what the first 3 pages under a specific search term are showing, and then do something completely different. Give your company a specific branding vibe that goes against the grain and stick with it. Make it so YOUR listings stick out like a sore thumb--you’ll get noticed if you do!
- FORMAT - You know those thousands of printables you see for sale on Etsy? Well guess what? Not everyone wants to print them at home! Take a look at what formats your competitors are offering, and then go a completely different route. Offer your artwork on luxury canvas or a giclee art print. See a million crocheted scarves? Sell an easy DIY scarf kit or a scarf out of a completely different material.
- AUDIENCE - Premium vs. economy. If you search for any specific item on Etsy, the first page that pops up will have a wide variety of price points-- even for the same object. But guess what? Different price points sell to different target markets. Case in point: If you’ve ever heard of the baby mocc company, Freshly Picked, then you’ll know they sell their baby shoes for $60/pair. Search “baby moccs” on Etsy and you’ll come up with thousands of moccs that look exactly the same but are sold at a much, much lower price point. Do both of these companies sell baby moccasins? Yes. But are they hitting up the same customers? Not even close! Decide now if you want to sell premium or economy and stick with it.
Be the “purple cow” of your niche market. Take a look at what everyone else is doing and then do it completely different.
Looking for a way to take action? Well then, you're in luck, my friend!
Pick 1-2 ways you can “purple cow” your business and put a plan into motion. Consider using these “purple cows” as unique branding points that you can hit home again and again when talking about your product. Remember, the point isn’t to sell just another xyz product-- it’s to sell an experience.