Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How To Think Like A Customer As A Seller

{{This was a blog post I did on my old blog.  This will give you a sneak peek of my intentions on my new blog.  I have not re-edited it so some information may be irrelevant or outdated.  Enjoy!}}

Not only am I a seller on Etsy, but I’m also an avid buyer.  In fact, I’m probably more of a buyer than seller – Etsy is just too cool.  As a result, I feel like I have an interesting perspective when buying items.  Not only am I seeing the shops and purchases from a buyer’s perspective to see what I want, but also from a seller’s perspective in that I can think about how the seller can improve my buying experience.

When I was a newbie on Etsy, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  People can’t mind-read – they don’t know what you’re thinking or doing about your shop.  I didn’t really think about what I needed to do to my shop until I got tips on the Forums and such.  Having good pictures and shop policies certainly weren’t things I was thinking about.  Now, having been on Etsy for almost a year and a half, I’ve gained some insight from the buyer’s perspective on what I want to see in a shop and its products when I’m interested in purchasing.  I never thought about analyzing these until recently, but it has proven to be a fortuitous move because I found I myself can follow my own advice.

Here are some of my tips from a buyer’s perspective.

1. Clearly outline your shipping time and other shop policies.  While having a longer shipping time doesn’t necessarily affect my purchasing decision, it is certainly nice to know when I should expect my package.  I’m excited about it so I want it right away.  However, I realize not everyone can afford immediate shipping due to other commitments, etc.  All I want is COMMUNICATION.  Let me know your policies so I can be an informed consumer – I am less likely to get irritable when something doesn’t go as planned.  Also, if you don’t have clear shop policies, you’re not protected as a seller.  If a buyer leaves negative feedback or complains to Etsy, you have no evidence to back up your claims.  Etsy doesn’t run your shop, YOU run your shop.  Communication with your clients can go a long way – when things go wrong, they may feel more inclined to understand, or at least be less upset, because they feel they know your shop well enough because of your clear policies.  Yes, I DO read them so please let me know what they are! 

2. Good packaging.  Now, I’m not asking for it to be professionally wrapped and done all up with bells and whistles.  But a little effort would be nice.  This is something I had to learn as a newbie, and have seen other newbies do since.  It’s the seasoned sellers I’m confused about.  As one UWIBer remarked many moons ago, it’s nice to see a seller put some fuss into it – it’s like opening a present.  Which, one could argue, in a way it is.  It’s like a present to yourself (if it’s for yourself, that is).  Packaging is another thing I never thought about as a newbie, but have come to understand the importance of since.  Simple packaging is nice – sometimes it’s annoying to undo a lot of stuffs.  I simply wrap mine in tissue and seal with a sticker with my logo on it.  OH, DON’T forget a “Thank You” note.  I’ve learned the value of this as well.  It shows that you appreciate the buyer is supporting your little shop.  It’s nice to be acknowledged, and a simple, two line note can accomplish that.  My argument as a newbie was, “But Amazon and the bigger online retailers don’t do that so why should I?”  BECAUSE… the HANDMADE experience is a lot different than the RETAILER experience.  While I could debate all day about the many frustrations as a seller being put to higher standards and more expectations than a retailer, going that extra step puts you apart from the competition and encourages repeat buyers.

3. Think “safety” when packaging.  We all know it: USPS does not handle our packages with care.  Why?  It’s one of the great unanswered questions of our time.  In the meantime, bubble wrap that sucker like no other!  I cannot tell you how many times my purchases have come damaged or (thankfully) only the wrapping was damaged in transit.  These causalities could have been avoided with the aid of some well placed bubble wrap.  No one likes a broken purchase – it benefits no one.  The buyer is out of their purchase, and the seller is out money and product (because, let’s face it, the right thing to do is refund or replace it).  Not only think pretty wrapping, but how you can protect the package if it got caught in a nuclear blast.  Believe me, sometimes I wonder if my purchases traveled through a war zone.

4. Delivery confirmation.  I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for my new goodies.  It bugs me to no end when I don’t get delivery confirmation, especially when it’s so easy to do.  It benefits BOTH parties.  Not only does it confirm your package is on the move (which proves beneficial if it gets lost), but I’m not here dying wondering where my package is.  Or when you sent it.  I used to get the little green sheets at the P.O.  Then I discovered PayPal shipping *insert Hallelujah music here*.  This tool is SO easy, SO convenient, and SO cheap!  You fill out one page with the details and press print.  It’s that easy.  AND it not only sends YOU the tracking code, but an e-mail to your BUYER, too!  SO COOL.  Another form of great communication, but PP does the awesome work for you.

5. Think about how many pieces of paper you’re enclosing.  I myself am guilty of this one and I needed an epiphany to realize it.  It’s kind of annoying to get five (or more) pieces of paper/biz cards in my orders unless they’re instructions.  The millions of biz cards from your friends just doesn’t work for me.  BUT that’s a personal preference and other buyers might not agree.  So take that as you will.
6. Good photos.  Yes, the dreaded tip; the one that everyone knows, but doesn’t know how to address.  I am constantly working on mine and I admit I still don’t have the formula.  But when I’m looking on Etsy, I don’t care about the FANCINESS about the photos – the frills and fancy angles.  Nope.  I want to see pictures that aren’t blurry and that aren’t dark and I can see most of the product, if not all.  Yep, 3 things.  That simple.  I know how hard it is to come up with good photos.  Believe me.  The long hours and many tears prove it.  However, I know what things are the easiest to control so that’s what I think are the basics of a good photo.  Time and experimenting will get you the fanciness part of the photo, and teaching can only take you so far on that level – some of it ya just gotta figure it out and see what works best.  Again: 1) no blurriness, 2) not dark, 3) can see whole product.  Remember, I can’t see your product in person so your photos have to simulate the store experience.  Which, unfortunately, is easier said than done….

7. Shorten that shop announcement.  We’ve probably all heard the tips from Etsy Admin about too long of shop announcements.  While each person may disagree what too long of an announcement is, I think most would agree too long of one is annoying.  I’ve heard that it’s deterred some buyers from purchasing from a shop.  I *know* how much you want to tell the world about your cool shop, and I *know* we all know no one reads it if it’s in the Profile section, believe me – been there, done that … but it still belongs there.  Yes, I’ve had that struggle myself, but have had to come to terms with the valid point.  So I put the *most* important things in my announcement, the rest in my Profile and Shop Policies.  It is a little irksome when you have to scroll a billion times to get to the items.  There have been some shops that I’ve been tempted to leave because of it.  A good Rule of Thumb, I think: if you have to scroll, it’s too long.

8.  Keep it appropriate.  Many shop owners, myself included, want to boast or be truthful about the quality of their product.  The owner is being honest or explanatory.  However, whatever the intentions, it just comes off as rude and vain.  I don’t need to know how much you spent on the materials and that you think it’s worth it.  Just say it’s the highest quality – it doesn’t sound rude and actually makes me more compelled to buy.  It’s ok to tell me how much time you spent on the product, but even then, be tactful.  Make sure that you don’t sound rude and over-the-top when explaining your methodology and product.  That turns away buyers – it becomes TMI.  There’s been several shops that I have decided not to purchase from because of the tone and attitude in their explanations.  So have a friend proofread before you post into your shop announcement or product descriptions.

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