Periodically, people who’ve seen me in Etsy’s forums ask for help. I’ve decided (with permission) to start sharing some of their stories here. So the other day, I heard from the charming Helene at HandmadeByLN. She makes handmade yoga bags and other products for a market she calls “Hippie Chic” and “Bohemian”. I received the following email:
I see that you are super active on the forum and always love your posts and comments. I also see that you have a marketing/branding background and your shop is very successful! Congrats 🙂
Anyway, I’m contacting you hoping that you would have some insights for me. How do I take my shop to the next level??
First off, isn’t she the cutest? I love this About photo with its bohemian feel, the guitar, and even the fabric around the edge of the table. I feel like I know a bit about Helene just from her about photo. Plus, when I see a shop with photos and products this good, I know they can find success without my help. But I also have a ton of ideas to share so I had Helene fill out my Discovery to get started. I learned about her market and the business including:
- She rotates a few popular designs to stay relevant in Etsy search.
- She wants to expand her other lines of bags.
- She has some creative ideas for new lines and products.
- Her line appeals to health conscious people.
I don’t want to give away her secrets, but wanted to give readers a feel for how the process works. I spent a little time checking her search results and looked over her customer base to confirm what she already believes about her search position and market. Below were my (sharable) thoughts:
Cover Photo, About Photos, Product Photography, and other visual representation of the business all seem very cohesive and aligned. Plus, it appears you have a really strong handle on photography. This is excellent. Keep honing it and improving however you see fit.
To add to this, I feel brand is about the total customer experience, not just a logo or tagline. The thing with Helene is when you click on her shop, you immediately get a sense of who the company is. Every photo and description feels fundamentally hers. This is what all shops can aspire to.
The yoga bags market is strong. A lot of companies do clothing and other yoga hippie related goods, so you’ll want to think about ways to give this market something they simply cannot get elsewhere. Whether it’s the lowest price (a strategy I wouldn’t recommend), fringe, hard-to-source fabrics, or becoming the go-to source for all your hippie chic bagging needs (upscaling to carry on luggage, perhaps). But research it and make sure nobody else is doing that upon which you decide to hang your hat.
It can be hard for solo giggers to know what differentiates them from the competition. Especially in saturated markets like bags. Adding fringe is an excellent idea, even though others already do this. You might also consider other, functional hippie-related elements for your items. Including a detachable keyring and wallet? Having a yoga bag that doubles as something else? You might spend some time researching what IS NOT currently available in the market but for which you’ve seen demand.
A quick search for yoga bag nets about 14,000 results. You are on page 1. This suggests to me that when people search for yoga bags, they’re clicking and liking yours a lot. If you feel you’re not getting enough traction on Etsy for your bags, it may be because demand on Etsy itself is limited. So expanding the line to include other types of items can help.
Understanding how you stack up against the competition is critical to understanding how to present and market your product. If your products are twice the cost of everyone else’s for apparently similar quality (something I see with one forum seller in particular), you may have trouble moving that product on Etsy. Before you list a new product or line, make sure yours stands out from the existing competition and is significantly better or different.
It could be a viable product mix if you start thinking in terms of “what other items do bohemian, gypsy types want”. Because you enjoy making bags, I envision duffels, pocketbooks, wallets, and other items that gypsy types use. I already see cross body bags and I’d recommend coming up with 3-4 really unique but different bag styles and playing around with the same kinds of fabrics you’re currently using – along with some further afield stuff. Just to see what sticks.
Can you think of anything else along this line?
Also, fringe is a great idea but if it takes off it’s easy for anyone to copy and potentially take away some of your market. Try to think of other creative, hard to imitate embellishments, etc. you can add to your bags. Inner pockets for wallet? Smartphone strap? Water bottle zip pocket? Etc.
I can see offering a customize option to existing bags where buyers can add certain details (inner pockets, water bottle pockets, etc.). Because they’re customizing, you can make price them at a premium and offer some hidden tchotchkes like a branded water bottle, etc.
I should add that I really love this product line. It does feels different from everything else I see on Etsy. It’s fun, creative, and its own thing. Notice I suggest she take specific action to differentiate. I think it can be hard to understand what makes your product really original. Many seem to enter a market because “demand is high for this stuff” (which isn’t the case here) and they want a piece of the action. Instead, sellers can either create new markets or find market gaps to carve a unique niche for themselves. This is what I tried to help Helene do.
Pricing seems to be comparable to others on Etsy, if on the high end. I always recommend two things when it comes to pricing.
- Testing. Play around with different margins and markups to see what the market is willing to pay and how that aligns with what you’re willing to give them for that price.
- Multi Lines. Because you do bags, offering a high end and low end line may also be worth testing. The high end line gets designer fabrics and better stitching, maybe even creative linings. The lower line is more affordable with fewer bells and whistles. Something to consider for later.
- If you’re a writer, I see potential for starting a blog that aligns with the product line. Talk about DIY projects you’re doing, healthy cooking, and the hippie chic lifestyle as you see it. Because customers comment on the overall experience, you can expand on this by creating more connection with them.
- Focus social media efforts on the hippie chic woman of all ages. Etsy shoppers bend toward younger, so see if you can’t grab some of the older hippie market elsewhere. For instance, if you’re not on Amazon consider it. And try to connect with bloggers who target the 40+ market just to gage whether or not they have interest in your products.
- Seek out hippie chic vendors, bloggers, IGers and follow them, comment on them, and consider doing contests and giveaways. If you really want to commit to the style, that is. If you’re open to other styles, do it as part of a greater style-strategy.
I’m not sure why these ideas seemed right for this shop. Usually marketing and product ideas come from a short “conversation” with sellers and the general feel I get for their skills and desires. Something about Helene said “blog” to me. I think blogs often make sense for those focusing on a general style or fashion. And I imagine other subject matter interesting to readers and shoppers.
One of my favorite sellers who merges this so beautifully is Wit & Whistle. The site is playful and a little snarky, but the style of her art is consistent and comfortable.
Also, because Helene is comfortable with social media, social media experiments make a lot of sense. For those who hate social media, other tactics may make more sense.
I took at look at this tote bag because it caught my eye. I think it’s a great looking item with strong photography.
It’s currently described as a “cute tote bag” but not on the first 5 pages for that search on Etsy. This makes me think “cute tote bag” isn’t the best descriptor for it. When this happens, I like to play with different adjectives to describe the item. In this case, try “natural” or “leaf” or “plant” or other keywords (use Etsy’s search bar for ideas). Figure out how to get the item in the first 3 pages of any search with over 5,000 results. The trick to that is having an item that is clicked, favorited, or purchased from the search phrase more than others in that search phrase. Make sense?
In a search for “vegan handbag” it comes up on page 2. And another one on page 3. So, in keeping with the hippie chic vibe, words like vegan handbag may be stronger for your shop than “cute”.
I often disagree with Etsy SEO “experts” who claim certain actions improve your SEO and others hurt. They may claim to test, but the methodology behind their testing isn’t made clear (to my knowledge). In addition, many of these so-called gurus reference Google SEO as a source, which I find almost irrelevant to EtSEO. As someone who moves thousands of orders every year, my experience and results differ greatly from what others claim. So take what you learn from both of us with a vat of salt and test, test, and test some more. We don’t know squat about your particular business.
One thing to remember: No matter how much Etsy claims it wants to work like Google, its business model is completely different so its SEO will never – and should never – match exactly.
As you test your search placement for various keywords and combinations, I recommend focusing on EtSEO and disregarding any changes Google has launched in the last twenty minutes.
Do you have any big ideas for this beautiful shop? Please mention them in the comments below.