Friday, February 12, 2010

Etsy Alternatives - Beta Test Opportunity

I received an email from the jewelry designer behind a new handmade marketplace shop builder - WickedPlumShops. They are currently open to beta testers to setup shop using the ecommerce platform they built after being dissatisfied with Etsy.

"...the available ecommerce options still stink, especially for small crafters and non-techs, and Etsy is still the faustian compromise a lot of people make when they want to sell their crafts and products online. We're trying to fix that with the recent launch of Wicked Plum Shops. The same technology that runs the Sweet Tarragon shop is available to everyone now, for a reasonable monthly fee. We've built the whole thing so that the whole process is as simple as we could possibly make it, while still maintaining an attractive, SEO-friendly shop front, decent inventory tracking and secure, inexpensive payment processing (via Mal's Ecommerce)."
We haven't tried out the site yet (it appears to be a handmade alternative to BigCartel with a one-on-one component of shop setup), but wanted to make sure you all knew about it. There is a fee, which is laid out on their pricing page. The next round of beta testers will be $11.99/month on a month-to-month basis.

"Being a beta user also means that you’ll spend a bit of time in our queue. Right now, we’re adding sites on a first-come, first-served basis, so you may need to wait a few weeks before your site is ready for the world. You pay nothing until we’re ready to work on your site, and we’ll always let you know where you stand."
For full disclosure about who the people are behind the site, they provide the same information on their about page that they provided me.

If you decide to try it out, send me an email and let me know what you think so we can offer a more extensive review. If you're interested but not sure you want to beta test, they do have a mailing list for you to receive information when they plan a public release.


NotVintage said...

TX, EB, for keeping us informed. When they have a chance to show what the site will really look like, I'll visit it again.

Hope they can stay away from the black hole of vintage. (and I sell vintage, too)

Anonymous said...

One of the things I like about AF, even Etsy, that you do have some built in traffic, this leaves you out in the cold.
They don't say if you can change your mind about your chosen shop design if your want and a custom one will cost more; you can't customize it yourself.
The shipping options are limited. By item(all items have to have same shipping price), flat rate or by price.
For a someone like me who sells a lot of different size items and not too much, I need to be able to be customize shipping per item.
I guess if you really want to have your own site and have the time to advertise enough, I guess this is what you'd want. But if you want to have a different look, it is going to cost more plus 3.99 each time you call customer support.

RRobin said...

The fees are really high for a site with no traffic, no name recognition.

Perhaps somebody should start marketing before they open for business
build the buzz about how they are better than what's already out there. Start advertising in consumer magazines and websites, again before they open. Paint themselves as exclusive
Perhaps partner with Rhinebeck and some well-known curators, crafts publications, or arts organizations.

And maybe even run it as a nonprofit for the benefit of artists, rather than yet another everyone's-an-artist-to us-and-all-we-care-about-is-our-own-bottom-line capitalist enterprise.

SAWIT said...

I would think it would be a step down from designing your own website, and more $$.
However, competition is good.............

Danielle Nelson said...

Hi All,

I'm Dani, one of the founders/builders behind Wicked Plum, and I'd like to address some of the comments above.

First, thanks for both the mention and the feedback! I'll be adding much of this to our FAQs.

To address all comments in general, WP is a shopping cart package, much more comparable to Big Cartel or Pappashop than Etsy or 1000 Markets. While we do intend to promote WP shops to a certain extent, WP is *not* a marketplace. Because of that, you're free to market your shop how you want, sell what you'd like, and set your own Terms and Conditions. Does this mean you don't have a built-in customer base? Absolutely.

@NotVintage - we don't have any restrictions (and do not intend to) on what types of shops can/can't use the software, because it's a software package as opposed to a marketplace. It was primarily designed for crafters (because that's our background), but it's by no means limited to them.

@FantasyClay - you can in fact change your design at pretty much any time. We even have a plan for a future feature where users will be able to swap themes on the fly. We do offer a per-item shipping option. As far as support, we do offer unlimited free support via email/Twitter; phone support is limited right now because there's only two of us. :)

@RRobin - I think if we had set out to be a marketplace, we would have taken that route (which is kind of what ArtFire did, if I recall - I remember getting emails from Foxy Findings, their parent company, well in advance of the launch.) The fees cover the software, hosting, email, and unlimited (email/Twitter) support. Without going into much detail, I will say that we priced our services in a similar fashion to the way we price our jewelry - accounting for expenses + labor + being able to eat at the end of the day. I totally recognize that not all crafters are willing/able to pay what we're asking, and I'm OK with that.

I hope that this helps to clear some things up - again, thanks for the feedback!


DontTakeThisBait said...

Yeah, going to nod and agree with RRobin. Especially the price point for what you're actually getting.

I checked out the video examples of adding items and etc. Yeah, the site looks well designed, but hell, Etsy's design is pretty manageable (that was hard to admit out loud) once you're used to it.

But right, they may be SEO friendly, but that doesn't account for much when no one knows who the hell you are. You'd still be doing all your own marketing, just like Etsy, but instead you'll be forking over monthly fees just because they've gotta pay server bills and probably spent a pretty penny on that fluid site flashwork.

Anonymous said...

Even if they advertised/ got buzz about it,unless they had a directory page of shops and what is sold at each, what is the point? At it is not, once you're set up, getting traffic is your business. They'll support your website but that's it.

The Funny One said...

It's an alternative for some sellers who might otherwise use another web-building package but geared to the handmade&craft seller. It will be interesting to see what other marketing tools they add (which is an excellent point), but the main issue of the complete lack of marketing tools for sellers remains with the aggregate sites, including Etsy.

From what we've all experienced in the last 2 years with almost all of them is that (1) the employees pick their faves for all the front page promotions (2) sellers really have no access at all to decent marketing, promotions, and ads ON these sites, paid or not (3) it's always left up to the seller to do their own marketing with no real benefits to the seller by being a member store on a group site.

What I'd like to know is, with such a saturated online market for these types of products, what do the aggregate sites really offer?

Traffic isn't traffic if it's NOT getting to your store and you are not selling.

I'd like to see the current sites get off their butts and offer sellers better tools to market their products right on the site.

The site that does that will have much happier sellers selling more products. (And they might have a brighter financial future.)

There are more sellers NOT selling than ever before. What's wrong with this picture?

The Righteous One said...

Alternatives to Etsy include more than marketplaces. I mis-termed it in the original post but have corrected that (though I did refer to it correctly as an ecommerce platform and not a ecommerce site). Many disgruntled Etsy sellers don't like Artfire or 1000Markets, though many consider them viable alternatives. So what do they do? They setup their own shops using ecommerce platforms, which WickedPlum is. When I got the email about beta testing opening up, I thought there may be some readers interested.

You don't have to try it, you don't have to like it, and it may not be what will benefit you. So then don't use it.

Simply saying that it's not a marketplace so that's bad isn't constructive. Marketplaces work for some people, whereas others want their own sites because of the amount of marketing they're doing already. Simply because it isn't what you want to do doesn't mean it's entirely wrong for everyone.

We started the Etsy alternatives series to offer alternatives period, not just alternative marketplaces. In fact, we profiled Big Cartel in the series, which is mainly a shop builder.

If you don't know the difference between a marketplace and ecommerce platform or how they overlap, you should do some research for the sake of your business decisions.

RRobin said...

All I want is a site that does not expect me to do my own marketing, that does not play favorites, that does not expect me to police the site for resellers etc., that does not remove items from my shop until they are paid for, that is easy and intuitive for buyers to search, and that does not rip me off in the process of providing these services.

Is that really too much to ask?


The Righteous One said...

RRobin, Everything you asked for was perfectly reasonable from my point of view with one far as marketing goes, if you're running a business you're going to be doing marketing.

A marketplace will only advertise themselves, not individual sellers (if they're large and trying to avoid favoritism). If someone doesn't want to do marketing, they shouldn't run a business (the same can be said for inventory and finances, can't run a business without taking care of them). That's the same problem Etsy has - they don't feel they should advertise, someone else (the sellers) should do it for them. But all businesses have some form of marketing they have to embrace if they want to succeed. From the marketplace to the individual seller - it can be advertising, branding, labels, banners, business cards, trademark images, PR...the list goes on. It's like being in a mall..yes, the mall has to advertise, but once the customer is in the door, you have to get them to your store.

There is a more complex level to it in that the marketplace should advertise and market two things: for its own customers (more sellers) and its customers' customers (more buyers), whereas sellers advertise for more buyers specifically for their shop. Shop builders (to clarify other topics in the comments) advertise solely for their own customers because they are themselves an individual business as opposed to offering a marketplace for others. It's like the difference between the mall you have your shop in and the landlord of the building you rent for your shop.

Many new businesses go for marketplaces because of the traffic (the difference between being in a mall and a stand alone building), but more established sellers with their own customer base can lose customers to the marketplace and actually be stunted by not having their own site.

Crocheted Little Things said...

i think is a very nice site and I wish I had the money to start out. Seems to me more a guide while you're getting on your own feet which seems very attractive to me personally.

ReadBeforeYouSpeak said...

Jesus...must you all shit on EVERYTHING that doesn't promise immediate sales?

Rrobin - Wicked Plum Shops is basically the equivalent to Big Cartel. Big Cartel is essentially a platform from which you can build your own website. They have templates and features that allow you to customize your OWN WEBSITE, not be part of a larger marketplace. Read what Danielle said - they are not trying to be another etsy. They're offering a tool for crafters/whomever who would like to build their own website but don't have all of the necessary skills. They're offering design help and templates so YOU can build YOUR OWN SITE. It's not their job or their intention to market you. They're offering you the tools to be autonomous and not have to rely on an Artfire or n Etsy.

earthy said...

I like it. It is a wonderful option for an etsy seller like myself who is working towards her own website. The beta monthly fee they are charging is worth it for the webhosting alone - but you also get a shopping cart and templates.

You may be fully responsible for bringing in your own customers. . . but that comes with the territory when you have your own domain.

$10-20/month is a great price, considering they are not taking a percentage of your sales (though you still have to pay paypal/card processing fees, but WP's not getting that). That is far less than what I pay to etsy each month just in the .20 listing fees.

At this point, the only thing stopping me is worry that I may not be able to get enough traffic at this point. I am very pleased with Etsy in that I still make regular sales even though I never promote. But I want to jump in and try!

RRobin said...

Quoting ReadBeforeYouSpeak:
"Read what Danielle said - they are not trying to be another etsy."


Take your own advice and read before YOU speak! Or rather, write. You single me out in your rant, but if you had read before you wrote, you would have seen that my comment came before Danielle's explanation.

I actually think Danielle makes a lot of sense and after reading her explanation and looking at her site again, I think it looks like a very good option for anyone thinking of starting their own e-commerce site. If that was what I wanted to do, I would probably sign on with WickedPlum. Their graphics are nice, the people are nice, and when you compare their pricing with basic monthly hosting fees, it looks like a good deal.

You, however, make no sense by your unwarranted attack on me, and you are not nice.

Maybe you should learn to read date/time stamps, and realize that the more recent posts are the ones further down in the queue.

And yes, before you point out that I also posted something AFTER Danielle's post, READ IT. You'll see that it was just an expression of what I wish for, and not an attack on WickedPlum. If you read what I wrote, you would see it was an attack on Etsy (playing games, removing items from shops before they are paid for, expecting users to police the site, etc.), not WickedPlum.

You live in a glass house. Stop throwing rocks.


acraftyarab said...

Considering my past rants of the racism (not to underscore the favoritism) that happens on Etsy, I'd love to do this, but it's just too much money for me a month. I just don't sell that many cards to get enough traffic to come to my own site. I'm jumping on the Zibbet (with their free listing account) bandwagon and hoping that will get my farther.

conrad walton said...

I'm fascinated by this conversation. I'm a web developer who discovered the crafts world when I built a site for a friend of my wife's.

I've been planning to build a similar system to the WP set up.

It seems that the big concern, beside cost, is traffic.

Does Etsy appeal because you get automatic traffic, even though you pay for that traffic?

How would you feel if I included a whole Internet Marketing training course that shows you how to get more traffic than Etsy can give you and do it for free?

Is a marketing course appealing?

I'd love to hear any suggestions you have on what you want in a web site/host/marketplace/whatever.