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What We Learned From Etsy's Top Sellers

Diana Mackie

The most successful sellers on Etsy employ similar tactics to rake in the cash with their unique products. Take cues from these standouts.

Etsy is a microcosm of the economy: connecting sellers and buyers to facilitate business.

In fact, Etsy is actually even more of a competitive marketplace than the standard economy because many of the wares are quite similar, and all companies are listed together in one single place. Many of Etsy’s top sellers employ relatively simple, yet effective tactics to achieve success.

These marketing and promotional strategies can be used outside of the Etsy website, to the benefit of brick and mortar (or digital) small businesses just like yours.

Here are 4 key things your business can learn from the most successful sellers on Etsy.

1. Branding & Design

Having a professional “look and feel” builds consumer trust and makes an important first impression. Etsy allows sellers to upload a banner image for their main storefront and a profile picture. This combined with their storefront description creates the look and feel of their store. These graphics, combined with quality product photos, are what customer base their purchasing decision on.  

When comparing the top 20 most successful Etsy shops to randomly selected Etsy sellers of similar types, the top 20 all have more professional-looking, polished and attractive profiles. Consumers are inclined to select the storefront they trust the most and the company they perceive as having better quality. Both of these perceptions are largely based on which storefront looks the best.

Three Birds Nest

Image via Etsy

Small businesses can apply these findings to their web sites and their digital storefronts on major review sites. RetailingToday found that consumers will likely compare you to at least three other competitors before making a selection. Having an excellent small business website design, and attractive profiles on review sites, can have a huge influence on whether or not your company is selected. Make sure your imagery is crystal clear, modern looking and appealing.

2. Keywords: General and Specific

Much has been written about the value of optimizing your website and product descriptions for highly searched for keywords, but the top Etsy sellers have a secret, secondary plan: highly specific keywords.

Eighty-nine percent of consumers search for their product needs before purchasing; they are thinking about their own specific context and situation. "Bridesmaid bracelet” instead of just “bracelet." When studying the 20 most successful Etsy sellers against other Etsy shops selling similar products, the top 20 Etsy accounts came up as results for specific keyword searches, while their competitors did not.

On the flip side of this tactic, when searching for hyper-specific keywords (a noun with more than one additional adjective), smaller shops were more like to appear as top results over their bigger competitors.

The first lesson here is that the top Etsy shops are successful because they are able to grab potential customer traffic from numerous angles. Small businesses can apply this logic to Google search traffic to increase their sales. Consider multiple uses for your goods or services as well as multiple cultures. If you do not want to clog up a single text field of product listing, use your blog to promote your products using these additional keywords.

Lesson two is that by getting very specific and niche, smaller shops will get a chance to rise to the top of search results and, therefore, capture more traffic than they would for general searches against bigger competitors. As customers turn to the web for more and more of their product needs, consumers are increasingly searching for products using specific, descriptive terms.

It may be true that “a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet”—but the customer is searching for a “pink and yellow anniversary rose” and if you want that customer, that’s how you’ll have to describe your rose.

3. Offer Discounts

Consumers have always been motivated to make a purchase decision by coupons and discounts. In fact, SociallyStacked found that 42 percent of people who “liked” a brand’s page did so just to get coupons. Of the top 40 earning Etsy sellers, 88 percent offer discounts in their main shop bio, or on their social media accounts. Only 35 percent of randomly selected Etsy shops selling similar products offered some kind of discount or promotion.

Three Birds Nest Coupon

Image via CouponFollow

When stores are selling products of similar quality, it’s only logical that the consumer will go with the company that also provides a discount. Discounts are one of the key reasons these top 40 earning shops were able to rise about the rest.

The research on the importance of offering discounts is conclusive:

  • Ninety-three percent of shoppers use a coupon or discount code throughout the year.
  • Seven out of 10 people reported using an emailed discount in the previous week.
  • Seventy-five percent of consumers report searching their inbox just to look for relevant discounts.

Small businesses can best employ the discounts tactic by having their promotion stand out right away to website visitors.

  • Place banner-ad style call-outs
  • Use pop-ups
  • Include the offer in your review site description
  • Work with review sites to generate coupons for all new followers
  • Share discounts on Twitter and Facebook (be sure to also advertise that you do this to attract followers)

4. Partner Up

Many of the top Etsy sellers work in partnership with other shops selling complementary products. They include call-outs in their shop description (“for pillows to decorate your new couch check out…”) and slip product and business cards into their product packaging. It amounts to a cross-traffic exchange, and it works.

Both Etsy shops have satisfied, trusting customers and by partnering up each Etsy shop is giving the other its stamp of approval and will allow the customer to easily trust the new, recommended brand.

Small businesses should look for complementary shops in their town or industry to do similar cross-promotion. Whether it’s a product or a service, the rising trend of curated services proves that customers appreciate you taking the work out of shopping and searching. Connect to your partner on your website, include product promos in your businesses’ mailings or shopping bags, and definitely share each other's sales and new inventory on social media.

Just be sure to partner with someone who has a decent amount of customers so the benefits will flow two ways.


Image Credit: ijeab / Getty Images
Diana Mackie Member
Diana is a small business and marketing writer who lives in New York City. She uses her expertise is digital marketing to help small businesses master branding, blogging, social media, and so much more. Currently, Diana serves as Chief Content Officer at Funding Gates, a company that helps businesses manage their Accounts Receivable needs. You can follow Diana at @Diana_at_work