Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Etsy Alternative #5 - Artfire

In this continuing series, we bring you a review of alternative selling venues, website hosting services, shopping carts, and basically anything else that you can use to sell your lovely handcrafted goods. Next up is a venue we here at Etsy Bitch are actually pretty excited about. Why? Because the people working on it actually listen! There have been a number of issues that new registrants or members have had and they've gone in and fixed them, or added a feature they needed. The site is still in beta, but it's not an insolent teenager like another site we know. Let's talk about Artfire!

Tagline: Sell without fees, Create without limits

Company information: It's being developed by about 8 people in the U.S., the main person you'll probably interact with is Tony, the VP who handles a lot of the customer interaction. Also, one of the people they brought on board is actually an Etsy seller who has over a decade of design experience - they wanted the best for their ad campaigns (yep, they advertise! several million dollars worth actually).

The following sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Art Fire is your online interactive community provided and sponsored by over 25 of the internet's premier suppliers and importers of craft and art products. Art Fire was built as a marketplace for artisans to buy, sell, and interact with a focus on fostering a venue that celebrates handmade unique items. Art Fire is absolutely free for buyers and sellers and is paid for and sponsored by the site affiliates making us a truly FREE TRADE ZONE for all users, yep, no starving artists here! Finally, Art Fire is a place where artisans can prosper and grow their business and connect with likeminded members.

Storefront: Very similar to Etsy - your own banner, your own av, your own categories (unlimited), your own featured items, your own announcement and profile, even your own layout choice (currently limited to 2 gallery or list-type options), and all accounts get a unique web address (i.e. username.artfire.com).

Cost: There are two levels - free and verified. Verified members have unlimited listing with no fees, but it costs per month. Right now, if you sign up for a verified account, you'll have a bill of $7/month for life (it's normally $20). They are also having a "recruit 10 people to sign up and you get a free ride" - that's right, refer 10 people by the end of the month and you get the unlimited account for free, forever. Free, basic accounts have a 10 item limit at any given time. Listings are good for 120 days (4 months).

Features: Stats for verified members; the site is designed for your Etsy graphics to fit (no need to remake your banner); link back to your Etsy shop, they don't block outbound links; one click relist, bulk deactivate mode; view prices in any currency; vacation mode; integrated with paypal; the Forge (their version of alchemy); 10 pictures per premier listing/4 per free listing; one page listing process; sales mode coming soon, but there's a scheduled markdown manager for each listing; shipping profiles; opt in/out for allowing offers to be made on your items - read more for yourself and what's to come.

Receive Payment: Integrated with Paypal, Google Checkout, and Revolution Money Exchange (RME). Also have check, money order, and other as options.

Community: Forums, eventually member blogs, favoriting features, internal messaging system, teams/guilds for premier members coming soon, automated flagging system.

Customer service: Available in the forums, on twitter, and by email/contact form. There is also a separate "report a bug" form.

Items that can be sold: Three categories - Handmade/Fine art, Supplies/Vintage, and Design/Media. All represented on the sidebar and main page.

General impressions: The listing process is a breeze. Yes, the site is buggy at times, but it's in beta and worth checking out. Many improvements have been made in the past month or two alone based on user feedback. Now is definitely the time to check them out so a decision can be made about going verified before the promotion ends.

The folks at Artfire are pretty adamant about not making Etsy's mistakes, and we know they read this blog and take notes. We think this venue could really give Etsy a run for its money, and we're not alone.


Beth Cyr said...

Though I've only listed three items - so far I love it! By far better than mintd and shop handmade. It feels so easy. It also um, kind of seems like they took every issue w/ etsy and made it better! ha ha! Nice huh? There were a couple of strange bugs, but they seemed to be fixed really quickly and with excellent communication. When things have calmed down a little from the holidays I look forward to really jumping in and adding lots to the shop. As far as I'm concerned, as an Etsy Alternative - they are on top.

Angelika@ Purple Sage Designz said...

Thanks, I was reluctant to try yet another venue since handmadefuzion is very slow for me, but signed up for Artfire today.
I would love to hear from sellers there who have upgraded their account to $7/month as I plan on doing so after I have some listing experience there and see how it works.
Maybe it's time to rework that biz plan for 2009:)

sarah said...

the one issue I have with artfire is that featured sellers and featured items (and possibly other content) only come from verified sellers (people paying $7 a month). If they put a disclaimer up, I'd be more okay with it, but until then it has overtones of payola.

Other than that, I've been happy with the service I've gotten from them. It's obvious they're working hard and want to create a sustainable product.

Christine said...

I took advantage of the verified offer and am enjoying Art Fire so far. I love how much easier it is to list things! And last night I sold something three minutes after I listed it. That's never happened before at Etsy :-)

Other than the obvious, I like how AF isn't trying to be super hip like Etsy. It just lets people be themselves, and everyone seems friendly.

Oh, I also like being able to load multiple shipping profiles. I ship from Canada, so I have three...but Etsy only lets me load one. Then I have to add the other two manually. With AF I can just click one link and that's that!

Checking it out... said...

I think I'll be checking out artfire when I get home tonight. Have been looking at it and this review pushes me into the sign-up for it category!

With the mess that Etsy is in, I think artfire should make sure they are ready to scale. In every thread I've been on the last few days, artfire has come up multiple times and people ARE testing them out.

Thanks for the great overview, EB!

PaintedBull said...

I snapped up that 7 bucks for life verified offer big time! What they provide is way worth it, even now in beta. The stats, ease of listing and communication alone is worth it.

To be honest, I am not trying to get people to sign up with my referral because the 7 bucks is more that reasonable...its a bargain.

As far as the extra perks when you do get verified, hey to me if you pay you should get more options...and that is all the more reason to get in at the current offer.

Artfire is definitely going places.
Get verified it is so worth it!

-JJ & PaintedBull

The Dangerous Mezzo said...

AF has definitely paid attention to what Etsy has screwed up, and it shows.

The site can be buggy, but it is in beta, and I've seen first hand how quickly AF Admin respond to customer needs and queries. A seller asked for a category, and the Admin shot right back with -- "Sure! What sub-cats do you want with that?"

A very refreshing change.

Didi said...

I just started an Artfire shop and sold an item in less than 8 hours. It's not as pretty as etsy. I do miss that. I understand they want a wordy front page for search engine optimization reasons, but it's still pretty ugly.

If they could make it look more boutiquey (not quite as niche like as etsy) I think more sellers would go there. It's not too bad, so far.

mrsbeaker said...

I've just joined AF.
I wish the front page was cleaner looking, but I like the log in page a lot.
As with all things, time will tell.

Jen Segrest (verybigjen) said...

I'm Artfire's designer - the look is not perfect, no but then it's not done.

I had to come up with something fast to make it better looking while more adaptable for stuff we would be adding and had no idea what all that would be at the time. So played it safe, but clean, on the design. It's not what you are seeing forever, don't worry, it's just the initial beta design (You should have seen the original one! Whew!) The words on the front page are for SEO but I hope to remove some in the near future, if I can get away with it. BUT They have been VERY good though in getting AF very good search results... very high rankings in very little time. So it's just more of finding a good place for them.

Some of the bugginess is the fact that is IS being built to be scalable from the get go, so after we get it built it'll be time to better tailor the look we are all wanting.

I'm already plotting what the version 2 will look like but we have to get this one done first! After we get all those features I've been designing in finally online I'll know what I have to work with for the redesign!

Give us some time, we're all dedicated to this. And it'll be smoking very soon! It's already better in the tools area, and you don't even know what all is coming! Hell, I forget half of it and most of it is stuff I've suggested!

It will totally rock when we get done.

Magnolia said...

I gladly joined Artfire as a verified member. I love the one page listing process, very easy.
Atfire has impressed me in a way Etsy never has. And to have an administrator email me and personally apologize because I couldn't log in, then explained what happened and what they fixed. I was astounded!

Nightmaiden said...

It really is great. I loved the $7 a month flat rate fee. Its better than paying every time you list something, plus you can relist (when it goes live soon) without having to pay that 20 cents again... I love it there. I will probably still keep my Etsy shop just because I have so much on there plus all my sales and feedback. But all the features that they have set up right now are so much cleaner and easier to use.

Checking it out... said...

Customer service will go a LONG way in making a business successful. Just look at Zappos and Nordstroms. Especially Zappos... everyone told them selling shoes online was impossible. Guess what, they made searching pleasant and fun (imagine... search that works, is fun and actually recommends other things you may like if you liked something else). They also made getting and returning things easy... and they have GREAT customer service when there is a problem.

Etsy FAILS on all of the above.

Hey Buttons ! said...

WOW! Now that was easy!

I'm so glad I got my $7 account. Artfire is so user friendly with one page to list your products and one page to put your policies and bio. Oh and my items still can be seen in vacation mode:)

Shopping on Artfire is also easy to do.

And the fact that I see the prices in my (Canadian) currency is great too.

Paw and Claw Designs said...

I had my first artfire sale this week.

i did a LARGE dance :D

the customer service is AMAZING, and though i only check the site veer few days, it seems that every time i check it, there's new and better improvements.

verified is the same as daily listing on etsy, which given the recent changes to search and batch loading, is necessary to be "seen" on etsy, so why not.

guess what etsy?
i have a limited budget each month for my sellgin fees. Since artfire's giving what I and other sellers have been begging for for years, i'll happily give them my money rather than renew an item with YOU each day.

i'm sure i'm not the only one.



The Funny One said...

Much improved and listing today, but the batch load for pix does not always work - and what a time saver that is!

The traffic seems to be higher than Etsy. Ever since Etsy started making "little-non-seller-focused" changes to the site 2 weeks ago, my traffic and sales have dropped into the negatives. No one is even looking, and I can't be the only seller so negatively affected by the search fuck ups and constant page load problems - how frustrating for buyers!

Etsy sellers would be wise to try out lots of the alternatives, especially if you do not sell the finite number and type of products that Etsy promotes constantly for a very small audience. Each seller will find a site that works for them - and Etsy will be left with just what they want anyway - stores making products they personally like to promote.

Almost ALL of them have features that Etsy sellers have been begging for since the start. And they don't have blogs with 784,983pages; wonder why Etsy is so slow these days???

geelizzie said...

I love artfire so far, it's incredibly easy to use and the 7.00 per month fee is about 10 times less than what I spend on etsy each month. The only thing I don't like about it is the beta look to it, but that's to be expected. I would like to see something on the front page with featured items, a lot of the newly listed have that 'not such a great picture' look. But, I'm giving it at least 6 months to see how well it gets off the ground, the 7.00 fee is so very reasonable to list as much as I want. I haven't sold anything yet, so am hoping that buyers start finding the site real soon! It's the best I've found out of all the new start ups (shophandmade, lollishops, handmadefuzion, etc.) so far, and I'm really excited about its possiblities.

Alorinna said...

I have a $7 a month account, and I'm redesigning my website and blog to point there.

Now if only I could get 9 more referrals, it would be perfect... LOL

There are still some minor bugs, but like everyone says, it is in BETA.

Here I come, Artfire... said...

I snapped up the 7$ for life option too. What a great deal! Last year on Etsy, I sold so much - this year sucks!!! It's just to hard to be seen on ETSY anymore unless you get free admin publicity or have been around long enough to build a substantial customer base. I guess now, I need to fill m shop!

Branding is important... said...

Jen, I really like the "fairness" of the front page & have read what you said about minimizing some of the text in the near future - but don't you think sometimes the pictures on the front page are kinda crappy? That just bothers me so much right now - I would hate Artfire to have the uber favorites system that Etsy does, but I just don't think some people take very good pictures!! I cringe thinking of Etsy admin sneering at Artfire's jumble sale look - I want Artfire to suceed!!!!

JustaJewelryDesigner said...

I have nothing GOOD to say about Art Fire..during the FIRST day of their $7 forever campaign I got ripped off and deleted and my IP banned. WHY???
Because after I signed up with a brand new account I could not add a seller account..I asked for a refund instead, got my account deleted, they kept my $$$...
Still no answers to email iquiries..I get a canned response..that my questions are omportant but they are too busy to answer all mail...ppfffttttttttttt...

The Righteous One said...

justajewelry, how were you charged without signing up for a seller account? You have to opt in for the verified seller account before you get charged anything. Also, several people had log in problems but they were worked out within a week. There are issues with IE popping up for many sites recently, including betas

Alyssa said...

I'm a pretty small scale seller on Etsy and $7 is damn cheap. I'm guessing that the full $20 is going to mean savings for most sellers. I also really love the idea of member blogs. I don't blog but I totally would if it were attached to my account like that, instead of something I had to drive traffic to. Sounds like this site has it right and will be stiff competition for Etsy in the future

JustaJewelryDesigner said...

After I signed up and YES my Pay Pal account was debited $7..I logged in to find I had a BUYER account ONLY.(I did add seller acct info at sign up)I could not add a seller account..I emailed for support and never let me repeat NEVER got a response other than an email that said your account has been deleted per your request (WTF?).. My account was deleted~ and I can't even get a buyer acct...or an answer of why this happened..so NOPE nothing good to say about AF...

Art Fire said...

Just a jewlery designer. Your feedback really disturbs me. I have been confirming that all emails are answered withing about 24 hours and that means 700+ every day. Please email me directly and I will make sure you are taken care of and well compensated for this trouble. We do not take a customer service mistake lightly.


Tony Ford EVP Marketing, ArtFire.com

tony at artfire dot com

MI Zombie said...

ArtFire crushing Etsy a little bit everyday! Die you evil bastard child of Satan aka Etsy!

The Disgruntled One said...

Wow. The frickin' Artfire VP of Marketing is doing customer service via EtsyBitch's comments!

That is a sweet thing to see, my friends.

I'm so there.

look for me on AF said...

I like ArtFire so far and signed on for the $7/month for life.

I've sold thousands of items on etsy and will continue to have a shop there; but in time perhaps my domain will be routed to AF instead of etsy.

On a critical note, I'm not fond of the current graphics or front page appearance (and I think the font is too light), but I hope it will get better.

I also think they can do better than the blue, orange and peachy color scheme; seems like etsy-lite or something.
I'd rather see a more neutral palette that's a bit more sophisticated. But hey, it's not my site. :-)

AF is so new, but the approach and the people behind the scenes seem mature and obviously care about customer service. I think they have a bright future and I'm glad I get to be an early part of their growth.

Heather said...

To those who have had trouble communicating with artfire - try again, really. They are very busy but please give them the benefit of the doubt. Getting my account started there was a little rocky but now I'm very glad I did it.

Yesterday I had a spaz out that was rather needless on my part. I put a couple things up for my friend (I've told my friends to go to my etsy shop and tell me what they want - then I take them off etsy and put them in my artfire shop, usually with a little discount for their trouble, lol). After I put the items up it had disappeared from Artfire; my friend said she couldn't find it. I was on twitter and got help ASAP, I went to the forums and got help ASAP, in the meantime the items came back on line and my friend purchased them!

The site's still in beta so I expect some bugs. But the fact that people are accessible, no one's going to treat me like I'm a dumbass and tell me to "clear my cache"...that there is such an improvement over etsy. Try to get that on the etsy bugs forum, lol. I'd STILL be waiting for an answer, if one would ever come!

MI Zombie said...

I have had 5 orders so far and barely have anything listed! I am going to spend this week listing there and my domain!


Paw and Claw Designs said...

The Disgruntled One said...

Wow. The frickin' Artfire VP of Marketing is doing customer service via EtsyBitch's comments!

That is a sweet thing to see, my friends.

I'm so there.



it's blowing me away to get GOOD customer service.

i've had a few bugs too, one of which i had to figure out on my own. They where never anything more than annoying.

The mere fact they they ACKNOWLEDGE the bug rather than saying "we we're unable to find that issue, have you tired clearing your cache?"

It reminds me of the "good 'ol days" of etsy when Rob Kalin and the like were actually ON the forum, interacting with users and actively responding to requests.

it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

PaintedBull said...

I would just like to add one more thing to my comment above. I am so pleased to be a part of the beta and development of such a dynamic site.

Artfire, staff, admin, management have been so responsive to their sellers request and suggestions.

Their communication with us has been top notch. They listen to our suggestions and will discuss viable options to our needs. If it is a request that they can do, they will do it. If there is some technical reason for not being able implement a request, they tell us why and have an open discussion with us to figure out other solutions.

The enthusiasm of the Artfire crew is amazing. The accessibility to top management is very encouraging.

As to the question of "Loyalty" that many have issues with at Etsy, my only remark is that Artfire has earned my Loyalty and Respect.
-JJ & Painted Bull

KreatedbyKarina said...

I have heard SO much about ArtFire on the Etsy forums...after reading all of these comments, plus actually seeing their customer service in action here, I will definately sign up after the holiday rush is over in my Etsy shop.

Can I help anyone out by signing up under their referral? Convo me on Etsy.

SA Team said...

I'm there too..and so far SWEET!
here’s what I like so far:

1. Stats. Honest to goodness stats. I can actually tell where my referring URLs are from and how many of my items are being found via google. Holy cow
2. One page listing process. ONE page.
3. New items appear on the front page for a bit…very cool
4. Unlimited items for $7 a month
5. My stuff is already appearing in google searches
6. Requests are handled pretty quickly by the admin team, at multiple formats,including the forum, twitter and email.
7. Traffic to the site is WAY up according to alexa. YAY!
8. Print advertising campaign already in place and growing
9. I can use HTML in my product descriptions. This means I can format text and add links, etc. YAY!

And freakin' rock on Tony for posting a note to this forum.

MI Zombie said...

Yes isn't that great PaintedBull! I hate how Etsy keeps everything a deep dark secret!

ebbandflo said...

I'm not a frequent flier on Artfire yet tho I've signed up and reserved my space (christmas delivery cut off is too soon for me to start marketing seriously) but everytime I do visit the site there are more improvements. I'm impressed! When I signed up I made a few comments without following up and next time i logged on the problems were gone! Double impressed! Compared with my early experience of mintd, Artfire certainly is bliss to use. Compared with my experience on Etsy, Artfire is a winner. I'll be revamping my 'webpresence' in the new year (gee that does sound grand but thanks artfire)

Angel said...

Check this out:

I get bashed on the Etsy forums yesterday for copy/pasting an email from Tony at ArtFire which was sent to EVERY member to apologize for a mistake. Admin(bastards!) closes the thread because the email Tony sent me was "private."

(WTF are they, masochists?!! That just wound me up even more!)

So I started another thread asking for clarification about what constitutes PRIVATE when the email was sent en masse. Hey, I'd happily sign a waiver if ArtFire wanted me to! I thought the email was goshdarn genius. I felt loved and cared for and.. appreciated! I wanted others to know what a great experience I'd had with another company. I didn't even realize the problem existed but it was nice to learn about it.

An e-commerce businesman who cares enough to apologize for a mistake which was made and give everyone a head's up about who/what/when/where occurred. Damn. Who'da thunk that'd be the right thing to do? Sincere apologies don't kill you. They help your business grow and help you to understand exactly what your customers need.

Tony wrote in to my blog yesterday:

Art Fire said...
Hey There! Welcome to Artfire! A couple of points about the post on etsy.

1) We have over 5,000 members. (and now over 90,000 visits in the last 30 days)

2) It really is me - When other people post they will use their own names in forums, blogs, comments etc. We believe strongly in transparency in posting.

3) Artfire forums will not censor people for such threads. We'll thank you and use the feedback to get better.


Tony Ford
EVP Marketing ArtFire.com


See?! How's THAT for customer service?

Granted, I know that ArtFire will grow and need more staff. Answering 700+ emails a day would make me dizzy. But what my gut is telling me at this point is that ArtFire seems committed to doing the opposite in some regards to what Etsy is(has) done.

Kudos, ArtFire! As long as you continue listening and being sincere about keeping the place geared toward your customer's best interest I'll be with you for quite a long while.


the kvetchy one said...

I'm not knocking Artfire, I have a shop there too, although I don't have but a couple of things listed at the moment. HOwever, being with Etsy for 2 1/2 years I seem to recall the same enthusiasm and support for Etsy that I'm hearing about ArtFire. It's taken awhile for the reality to sink in and the larger Etsy has gotten, the worse the communication has become, but once upon a time it was shiny and new with far, far fewer members and an enthusiastic and eager staff.

Time will tell whether Artfire or any other new site will measure up.

I'm not defending Etsy, I have no reason to, I'm disgusted with them at this point, and I like ArtFire so far, but I also remember feeling about Etsy the way people appear to feel about ArtFire, way back when.

Right now it just sounds like the gal who goes out with another guy to make the old one jealous, throwing up the old one's faults in their face and praising the new one publicly. I really hope that ArtFire measures up when the bloom is off the rose.

The Disgruntled One said...

You make great points, Kvetchy One -- there's certainly a lot of that going on.

But I'm willing to give Artfire at least as much of a chance as I gave Etsy. They're starting out the right way, in any case, and they have all Etsy's screw ups to learn from.

MI Zombie said...

In all honesty I can't say I have ever been all gungho about Etsy but I tried. I created a team and was moving forward to go grow it.

While you do have valid points Etsy has dropped the ball and they almost have this attitude of well so what, look how big we are getting and continue to get. Some will pipe up and say there are already alternatives out there while that is true ArtFire realizes they're going to have to spend a bit to get the word out now to achieve the long term goals!

JustaJewelryDesigner said...

Art Fires Admins got to the heart of the problem..fixed it~beyond my expectations!
Thank you~

The Righteous One said...

JustaJewelry, awesome! That's good to hear. I told you they read this blog and take notes ;)

kvetchy, good points and I've been thinking about that, too. If AF can plan for the problems and expansion then they may be able to avoid a lot of Etsy's pitfalls.

It's good business sense to not have all your eggs in one basket. As many have said, here and elsewhere, you can't rely 100% on any venue, it's just not good business sense. Have your own URL to advertise that you can divert to your best venue of the moment.

With OOAK it's always difficult to decide where to spread what, and you don't want to spread too thin. But eventually there's always a need to make a decision about what's working. We think AF will work for many in the way they WANT Etsy to work for them. And yes, it will take time and during that time things may (and will) change.

But the potential...oh god, the potential - Etsy dropped it into AF's lap.

SewCrazyDogLady said...

considering at the moment Artfire is up and Etsy has been down for over an hour?

No brainer

heehaw said...

One page listing!
Links to my etsy shop!
Soothing pastel colours when I log in...ArtFire, you're growing on me!

jaded said...

Sounds like ArtFire has the bitches in their back pocket.Objective review? I think not. Time will tell.

MI Zombie said...

Yes time will tell a lot~

TheSneakyOne said...

jaded, why do you say that? Because they have ads here?

They PAID for them, just like they PAID for the ones at Craftcult (which is an Etsy tool) and various other places. If ShopHandmade, DaWanda, etc wanted to place ads here, they could.

Anonymous said...

what I don´t like about etsy is that it perpetuates the production and selling of KITSCH. and I´m talking of the kind of Kitsch you already find in the mass-producing hyper-commercial world. maybe it´s the customers´ fault. I´m not sure.

If someone takes the time to read this and knows on what platform more extraordinary people buy more extraordinary things - please let me know --> profile, first blog, comment anywhere you like.

I´m pretty sure that we sellers need to find and address the right group of people.
I´m not sure if my ideal customer goes to etsy.

I often find that sellers I like best aren´t liked by anyone and don´t have many sales. either the power-sellers are jealous or the customers have faith only in sellers who have already sold to MASSES - and that´s not the point of etsy, right ?

thanks for the great article !

Beata said...

There is a new venue alternative etsy choice and free. Check out the art explorer http://artfulexplorer.com/
Personally, I love it