Maybe you’ve been selling your creations at markets for years and you’re thinking of expanding your reach by shifting everything online. Or perhaps you’re one of the Etsy crew who’s feeling the need to spread your wings and launch your own platform. Wherever you’re at in your creative journey, it’s important to assess the pros and cons of taking this big step and building a website on which to sell your homemade goods.
The last thing you want is to lay down a whole lot of time and money, only to discover half-way through the project that you’re really not committed to it.
Instead of taking this gamble, have a look through the pros and cons listed below to see whether the rewards of running your own eCommerce website will be worth the challenges.
What are the benefits of selling your creations on your own website?
Lets start with all the benefits you can look forward to if you take the plunge and set up your own eCommerce website.
1. Your branding dictates everything
If you read our pros and cons of selling your homemade goods on marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon Homemade, then you’ll remember one of the cons of those sites is that their branding always has pride of place.
Your design options are limited when selling your goods in an online marketplace. However, when you launch your own website, you can carry your branding through every aspect of it, from the fonts to the color palette. You also get to dictate the way the site flows and the way all your products are categorized.
One of the biggest advantages of having a standalone website is that when customers are looking at an item, they won’t have Amazon suggesting some other seller’s products underneath your description!
2. It’s easier to win return customers
When you’re operating your own website, you can easily set up an email subscription option for visitors. Add an incentive (like a discount code or the promise of tips and advice relevant to your artform), and once people sign up, you can keep in contact with them using a regular informative newsletter and other email marketing strategies.
3. No listing fees or sneaky commissions
This benefit is one that makes many an Etsy or eBay seller’s eyes glaze over as they wonder how much more art they could be creating if they were earning the full amount from each sale.
Though there will be costs associated with your website’s establishment and hosting, these can be claimed back at tax time, and if you’re doing well with sales, the cost-to-benefit ratio quickly tips in your favor once you cut out all the fees you’re hit with by the online art and craft marketplaces.
4. Having your own website adds clout
No matter how skilled of an artist you are, you’ll still get a reputation boost from having your own well-designed website. Fans and potential customers will take you more seriously, meaning they’ll often also be primed to pay the asking price for your work.
On top of this, you’re more likely to get attention from galleries, and potentially even the media. Of course, if you have a sloppy website that you threw together in your spare time, you’re unlikely to get any of these benefits (in fact, you may find it does more harm than good). Being the creative soul that you are, we’re sure you’d never be so negligent though!
Take the time to build a killer website with brilliant branding, popping colors, a design aesthetic that suits your art, and a user experience that makes navigation a breeze, and you’ll be winning new fans in your sleep.
5. It just feels more satisfying
This point is an important one to make before we head into the challenges you’ll face. Building your own creative website will not be easy. Nor will you necessarily have success with it right away.
However, building a digital home to showcase the creative work you’re passionate about is an incredible experience. The website is both a reflection of and a magnification of your art. It reaches out into the global community in a way that represents you, authentically, without any cross-branding or noise from other sellers.
If you put the work into designing and marketing your website well, then you’ll get to enjoy all the baby steps and sudden leaps forward involved in growing something like this from scratch. The sense of personal fulfilment you’ll get from this is pretty close to unbeatable.
What are the challenges of selling your creations on your own website?
With all the lovely benefits wrapped up, let’s get real about the challenges of establishing your own eCommerce website.
1. Building the website of your dreams isn’t easy
There are plenty of web-building platforms that will walk you through the process of constructing your website. Most of them offer decent quality coupled with the ability to knock together an eCommerce website in little more than a day. The question is, will it be truly representative of you as an artist?
To create a high-class website that emanates professionality and makes users want to stick around, you need to either put the work in yourself, or outsource to professionals who can do it for you.
From domain name selection to logo design, color palette, layout, widgets, eCommerce setup, and user experience testing, there are so many details that go into developing a good quality website. This means you’ll either have to fork out a fair bit of cash or be willing to take on the steep learning curve involved in doing it yourself.
2. You’re starting from nothing
While online marketplaces like Etsy and eBay offer you a pre-existing customer base and plenty of free marketing, you’ll have none of that when you launch your own website.
If you already have an Etsy store, a social media presence, or both, this won’t be too much of an issue for you. However, if you’re starting form scratch, you’ll have to do a lot of marketing and outreach to start drawing customers to your site.
3. A marketer’s work is never done
When you’re running your own website, all the marketing is up to you (unless you pay someone to handle it for you). This means you’ll need to regularly step away from your creative work for self-promotion. From email campaigns to social media marketing and competitions, the work of a marketer never ends.
Of course, building up a bangin’ social media presence will be worth your while whether you go ahead with a website or not, so this challenge definitely comes with a silver lining.
4. Competition is still an issue
Though your product listings will be free from the presence of ads from other sellers, you’ll be up against a new form of competition when you venture out from the online marketplaces into the tangled digital wilderness that lies beyond their borders.
The wider web is overflowing with competition from other artists and creatives. Not to mention the fact that you will be competing with the big marketplaces like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon Homemade for customers. Many people bypass Google altogether and simply log into Etsy when they’re in the market for something homemade. So, getting new traffic to your website will be a challenge.
5. The best eCommerce add-ons often come at an extra cost
The costs involved in running your own website don’t stop once the design has been finalized and the site launched. In addition to your hosting fees, you may need to pay extra each month for add-ons that improve the user experience on your site.
When it comes to eCommerce sites, user experience is paramount – if navigation is clunky, search terms aren’t well parsed into accurate results, the checkout process is too complicated, or you don’t have the most desirable payment options, then the likelihood of you making sales drastically diminishes.
So, you may find yourself paying more than expected each month to ensure your fans have a premium experience when they visit your online store.
Building your own eCommerce website: final thoughts
There are so many challenges involved in building an eCommerce website that many artists choose to ease their way in, selling on social media or through an online marketplace before committing to building a site of their own.
Wherever you are in your journey, if you’ve read through all the pros and cons and you’re feeling enthused and up for the challenge, then you’ve got the right mindset to make your website a success.
We wish you the best of luck in your journey!