Help! My Craft Shop isn’t Getting Any Sales!
Welcome to Episode 17 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. It can be very distressing if your handmade craft shop is getting few, or no sales. What is wrong? What should you do?
In this episode I will be trying to help with this situation…
Listen to the Help! My Craft Shop isn’t Getting Any Sales! podcast here, download it for later or read the transcript below.
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To see the other episodes available – Craft Seller Success Podcast Main Page
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number seventeen – Help! My Craft Shop isn’t Getting Any Sales!
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
Today I am going to be looking at a problem that can be very frustrating and upsetting for craft sellers. What to do if you are not getting any, or many, sales.
Obviously, I can’t offer you some magic secret sauce that will instantly get those sales flowing in. But hopefully, by a process of elimination, I can help you work out where the problem may be occurring.
And of course look at some possible ways to fix it.
Where Is the Problem?
Firstly we need to understand where the problem is actually occurring. Why are you not getting sales?
To do this we need to look at your shop’s stats. They are usually called something like “Stats”, “Statistics” or “Reports”.
If you selling on a marketplace site like Etsy, Folksy, Amazon Handmade or eBay, you will have access to stats from the site providers.
Most shop-building websites like Shopify have extensive stats available to you.
Self-hosted sites using WordPress.com and Blogger.com have access to detailed stats on their websites.
If you are using a self-hosted WordPress.org website, there are various WordPress plugins that will give you access to loads of stats. A popular one is Jetpack.
For most sorts of websites, you can also get access to your stats through a third party source such as Google Analytics.
I recommend using Google Analytics for all online shops, if you can because it is such a powerful source of info that can really help you. I will be dedicating an episode of the podcast to Google Analytics soon.
If you are not already using Google Analytics, you will need to wait a while after you first link your site to it, to generate any data to analyse. This is one reason I recommend people connect to it as soon as possible, even if they don’t want to start looking at the data yet. The sooner you connect, the more data you will have available when you do want it.
What am I looking for?
The first thing to look at is your traffic or lack thereof.
Are people actually coming to your shop? You should be able to see your traffic for different periods. Your site might call this “visitors” or “views” instead of traffic. Write down your average traffic for a day, a week and a month. An approximate number will do here.
I have often seen it said that “You only need one visitor to make a sale!” and this is of course true. But in real life, it helps to have lots of visitors. The more people who are visiting your site, the more chance someone will buy.
So let’s deal with what to do if you have no, or very little, traffic.
I Have a Problem With Traffic
Are you a very new shop? If so, you may just need to be a little patient. Traffic can take time to build up. It takes time for people to get to hear about you.
Follow the rest of the podcast for any recommended tweaks that you think might apply to you. With any luck, your sales will start once your traffic picks up a bit.
Keep working on driving traffic for now.
Has Your Traffic Changed Dramatically?
If you were getting traffic but recently it has stopped or lessened considerably, this implies that something has changed. Looking at your stats, you may be able to see when the change could have taken place which will give you a good clue as to what it could be.
Some possible changes that could dramatically affect your traffic are:
Has the marketplace you sell on changed lately?
Look for announcements, emails or on their forums to see if there has been a change that may have affected you.
Has your competition recently changed?
If you are selling in a small niche, even one, new, strong competitor can make a big difference. If you sell a trending item you could easily find that lots of other people begin to sell it too, lessening your share of the traffic quite quickly.
Have you stopped or changed some marketing?
If the marketing was generating much of your traffic then this is a strong culprit. I’d recommend that craft sellers keep track of all their marketing campaigns in a planner, calendar or notebook (physical or digital). Then it is easy to see if changing something has an adverse (or indeed positive) effect.
If you rely on social media for your marketing, check that the social networks you use are still online and functioning as before. Check if anything significant has changed.
If you pay for marketing, double check your ads are still running. Could a subscription have expired, a change of credit card stopped payments or some similar problem have occurred?
Have you changed your product range?
Look back over your sales. Have you stopped stocking products that were once big sellers? Have you introduced new lines that are not getting much attention? It can be surprisingly easy to migrate your shop’s product range to something quite different without really noticing as you go along.
Could world events be affecting your traffic?
Sometimes external factors affect us. Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes or fires could affect your marketplace or web hosting. And, if you live in or near an affected area, could be deterring people from shopping with you.
If you sell products that are considered trending, be aware that the trend could die out – possibly quite suddenly. For many years owls have been big business in the craft world. But recently I have heard a few craft sellers saying that their owl products are no longer generating much interest. Other animals are now more in vogue.
Times of depression, recession and political upheaval can also have strong effects on businesses – both online and off.
I Am Not Getting Any Traffic At All
First, check that your shop is actually live and open for business.
If you are selling via a marketplace site such as Etsy, check that you are not on vacation or holiday mode. Also check that your shop has not been suspended for some reason.
If you have a standalone site, be sure that you can see your products when you go to the URL, the web address. Ideally, check in a different browser or on a different computer to the one you usually use – or ask a friend or relative to double check for you.
If your usual URL is not working, check that the domain name has not expired.
If it looks like your site is live and accessible, continue on to the next section.
I Am Getting A Little Traffic
Your site is live, but you are not getting many visitors. Let’s see what might be the problem.
There are basically three ways to generate traffic to a website or store. You can use all three or any combination of them. If you are not getting the traffic you would like then I would, logically, advise you to consider trying all three.
1 SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is often the most recommended way to generate traffic. This is because it is relatively easy to set up, and passive. By that I mean, it works in the background all the time, even when you are asleep. It is usually free and it really can work.
I have mentioned SEO a few times in previous podcasts and will continue to do so in many more. It is a pretty important subject for online craft sellers.
In order for people to find your items via search engines, you must have relevant keywords set up for the search engines to find. Understanding what a keyword is may not be as obvious as new sellers think, for a start, it is rarely a single word. It is more usually a short phrase. Having the wrong keywords will make it hard for potential buyers to find you. This is a very, very common issue for new sellers.
If you have no idea what SEO is all about, I strongly recommend you do a bit of research into it. If you sell on Etsy or another marketplace site you can often get quite a lot of traffic from their internal search systems. So it is very important to have your listings set up to work the way they intend. Read the seller’s handbook, help pages or guidebook and be sure you understand what you need to do. This is particularly true for Etsy which does not work like most sites in this respect. I will be doing a podcast all about Etsy search engine soon. Here is the link to my existing “plain English” guide to Etsy SEO, here on the Tin Teddy Blog.
Whatever type of website your shop is on, you will probably benefit from learning a bit about Google SEO. As the most used search engine in the world, you want people to find you from Google searches. Other search engines tend to work in a very similar way to Google too, so if you optimize for Google you will almost certainly be covered for others as well.
There are countless articles, books, videos and blogs about Google SEO. Again I will be doing a podcast on it at a later date.
Even just a little bit of SEO tweaking can make quite a difference. The sooner you learn how to optimize your listings for Google and/or the marketplace you sell on, the easier it will be. You will be able to list new items using this knowledge. It can be a bit annoying to have to go back and change large numbers of product listings that have been published with poor SEO.
If you sell on Etsy, check out episode 30 of the Craft Seller Success Podcast – Etsy Seo – Tags and More – Getting Found on Etsy.
SEO Algorithm settings
There are many other factors that affect SEO as well as keywords.
Search engines tend to keep many of the factors secret, others are well known. Factors that could affect where you come up in a search result can include; how long your shop has been open, how many visitors you get, how many sales you have, how many other sites link to yours and many more.
If you are a very new shop you will inevitably struggle to compete with more established sellers at first. But bear in mind that everyone is new once. You can still be found, don’t worry. But be prepared that most new shops do need a while to “take off”. This is normal.
2 – Marketing
This is one of the most potent ways to generate traffic and something that most craft sellers need to use in one form or another.
Nowadays it is much easier to market our craft products internationally cheaply, or even for free.
If you are not doing anything to actively promote your products, then this is something I very strongly recommend.
Marketing is a very big subject and one which I will discuss over a few different podcasts.
Episode 8 was all about Social Media 101, for example. Many craft sellers use social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Check out that podcast for more info. I will be covering the different social networks in detail in future episodes. I have already looked in more depth at Pinterest in episode 12 Pinterest for Craft Sellers, which has been a very popular episode. As Pinterest has worked well for me, I do recommend looking into this to try to increase your traffic.
Some marketplace sites, such as Etsy, have their own internal paid promotions system. There are also paid advertising systems in some of the social media platforms such as Facebook. Many blogs and other websites also accept paid advertising allowing you to put your products before your target audience.
Before paying out for marketing, I strongly recommend that you thoroughly research the type you intend to use.
For example, the Etsy Promotions only really work well if you already have good Etsy SEO in place. And Facebook advertising does require one to know one’s target market quite well to get the most value for your money.
3 Other people sending traffic your way
In an ideal world, lots of people will be linking to your shop and products from their own websites, social media and blogs. These links are called backlinks. They are not only fantastic for bringing in traffic, but having lots of them can also boost your ranking with Google. This means you come up higher in search results than you otherwise might. Win, win.
But getting backlinks can be hard.
Do not buy backlinks, never ever.
There are plenty of people offering them, very cheaply. This can be tempting but it is important to realise two things. Such backlinks are probably useless. They are not going to bring you in any traffic at all because they come from fake sites that no human being ever goes near. Plus Google is wise to things like dodgy backlinks. If they spot that you have some, they could simply ignore your site or pages from now on, ouch.
If you have great content you will naturally generate good, safe, powerful backlinks. For example, if your product pictures are attractive they are far more likely to be shared on social networks and featured in shopping guides.
Don’t forget to ask your friends and family to help you drive traffic to your shop. Chat to them about your craft selling, get them involved and with any luck, they will become brand ambassadors for you. They will tell their friends about your cool shop.
Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful ways to get sales, by the way. Delight your customers and they will sing your praises. Some of the most successful sellers have become so because people talk about their stuff.
I will talk a lot more about marketing in future podcasts, so if you haven’t already subscribed…
Ok, so let’s assume you are now getting some traffic, what could be the reason that this traffic is not leading to actual sales. It is, after all, all about the ka-ching.
I Have a Problem With Getting Sales
First, check that people are actually able to buy from you.
If you are on a marketplace site most of the checkout process is handled for you. Double check that your listings are live and visible in your shop. I don’t advise you do a test purchase as on most marketplace sites this would be considered shilling and be against the rules.
Check that your listings have the correct shipping profiles for the countries you wish to sell to. If you have accidentally turned off (or not turned on) shipping to one or more countries, for example, this might make quite a difference to your sales. And you would be surprised how often I have heard of this happening, by the way.
If you currently only ship to your own country, consider whether offering your products to overseas buyers might encourage some sales. Especially if you live in a small country!
If you have a standalone website you can do a test purchase to see that everything is working as expected, or ask a friend to do so. Be sure all the steps of the checkout procedure are clear and present.
Have Your Sales Changed Dramatically?
If you were previously getting sales, but they suddenly stopped, here are few possible problems that you could check for.
Has your marketplace changed? If you sell on a marketplace site, has there been any big changes that could have affected you? In particular, has there been any service outages, problems with checkout or scandals about the site in the news? Check the marketplace’s forums, or search on social media for groups to find out more.
If you sell a product that was trending, could it simply have had its day now?
Have you changed your prices significantly? Both increasing and lowering prices can have big effects on sales.
Have you changed your product ranges? Compare what you have on offer now to what you used to be selling. For example, if you now have lots of pastel coloured products but the bulk of your sales in the past were for bright colours, you may want to revise your range.
Could your products be affected by external events? Sellers of fabric dispensers for plastic carrier bags have seen a big downturn in product sales now carrier bags are being phased out. Try searching online for your product type, in general, to see if there are any news stories that might be relevant to you.
Has your competition increased? We all have to face the fact that there are more and more craft sellers online every year. You might be the Queen of your Niche one year, but just one of the pack the next. Search to see how many other people are selling very similar things to you.
If you are struggling with increasing levels of competition, you could consider:
- adding in new products which have less competition
- looking at ways to increase the perceived value of your existing lines to get ahead of your competitors
- working on becoming an expert in your niche – see episode 16, An Expert in Your Niche for more on how to do that
I Am Getting Traffic to My Shop But Not My Listings
Can you see traffic to your shop or shop website in general, but not to the actual products?
Check the following to see if they could be causing an issue:
1 Can a visitor easily get to your actual products?
If you have a standalone site ensure that someone arriving at your front page or landing page can easily tell what to do to get to the stuff for sale. Be sure that your products are in clear categories or groups as necessary. Double check that the “Buy it now” or “Add to cart” buttons are very clear and present. You may want to ask a friend to visit your site and check this. You know where the buy button is but does anyone else?
2 Are your thumbnails clickable?
Whether you are selling on your own site or a marketplace site, check that your product thumbnails are particularly clear. These are the images that will come up if someone searches for your product on a marketplace site. They are also on display when someone visits a product section in your shop.
On a marketplace site, it is particularly essential that these pictures pop. You will be competing with loads of other pictures from sellers who also have products that match what the visitor has searched for. Why should they click on yours?
Be sure these pictures are really showing off your product as best they can. I will be discussing product photos in depth in a future podcast. Here are some things to check:
- Is the picture in focus?
- Remove any busy backgrounds
- Is there a colour cast?
- Are the colours true to the actual item?
- Is the most important feature of the product prominent?
With small things like jewellery, have you zoomed in enough to enable someone to see properly?
- Are there any distracting text, boxes, filter effects or other items that could be putting people off?
- Clean and uncluttered is usual for product images like this
- Look at your competition – do their product pictures look, more “clickable” than yours? Why?
3 Is your shop legit?
Let’s face facts. There are a lot of people who will click out of a shop if they see something that they consider dodgy.
One of the commonest “dodgy” issues I see with online craft shops is that they are selling products that infringe on other people or companies’ intellectual property.
If you are not licensed to use characters such as Disney, Sesame Street, Harry Potter etc, or football team names or logos, or popular tv show titles, or other trademarks – well, then you shouldn’t be doing so.
Either make sure you are letting visitors know you are indeed licensed or remove this stuff.
This is probably one of the quickest reasons I personally have for leaving an online shop.
Oh yes, and it is illegal.
4 Does your website look professional?
If you have a standalone website you will need an SSL certificate if you sell from it. Marketplace sites and many of the shop-building sites like Shopify will do this for you. It is easy to tell if you have one – your shop’s URL will start with HTTPS, the S on the end being the important bit. There will also be a picture of a locked padlock next to it to show it is secure.
Not only does this reassure potential customers that you are safe to shop with, but it will also help your standing in Google searches too.
There are many websites with checklists and guides to what your standalone site should include and what it should not have. You can use these to help you ensure everything looks enticing to your visitors.
Modern websites tend to be clean with lots of white space. A very cluttered page will look old-fashioned and off-putting. Look at your own favourite shopping sites for pointers.
Convincing someone to buy from your standalone site is often much harder than selling from a marketplace site such as Amazon Handmade, eBay or Etsy. Your visitors need to trust you.
If you use a shop building site such as Shopify or Wix, check out their forums and ask for a critique or suggestions on ways to improve your shop. First though, be sure you have read the guides to shop creation that they provide. You would be amazed at how many people struggle to get sales simply because they haven’t finished setting up their shop properly.
If you have a standalone site that you built yourself you can also ask for critiques and suggestions in relevant forums or on sites such as Reddit.
If you are in any doubt about the quality of your site, would it be worth getting a professional website designer to give it the once over?
Double check how your website looks on mobile devices too. More and more people are using phones and tablets to shop. If you don’t have a mobile device to test on, you can find online emulators.
5 Is it easy to navigate to your products
If your visitors can’t find your products, they can’t buy. Be sure you have a clear menu system and a search box in place so that a new visitor will be able to find what they want as quickly as possible. You might want to ask a family member or friend to try to find a few items on the site to see if they can do so easily.
I Am Getting Traffic To My Listings
So, you are getting traffic to your products, but not actually making the sales. Let’s look at some possible reasons.
First, let’s look at your product range to see if there is anything that might be causing a sales bottleneck.
1 Do you have a good market?
Are you sure there is actually a market for what you sell?
Your beautifully embroidered, tiny work-of-art hamster waistcoats might be generating a lot of fascinated visitors. But does anyone actually want to buy a hamster waistcoat?
Are other people selling something like your products? If so, this can be a good thing. It clearly shows there is indeed a market.
But of course, you probably don’t want there to be TOO many people selling very similar things to you. It is very easy to find yourself in a saturated market.
If you think this might be the case, consider narrowing your niche a bit. Check out the last episode of the podcast, Episode 16 – An Expert in Your Niche for lots more information on this.
2 Quality control
This can be a bit of a sensitive subject, but if you are not getting sales then it is something you really do need to face.
Look at your products with as unemotional a mind as you can. Are they as good as your competitors’? Have you mastered your crafting skills for this type of product? Many keen crafters do rush into selling products that they have only just started making, and, let’s be honest, sometimes this really shows.
Check you have finished your products properly. I am often surprised at how many knitted and crochet items I see for sale where one can easily spot ends of yarn that haven’t been darned in. Or items with blobs of glue gun glue on them.
3 Are Your Pictures Pulling their Weight?
Have you clearly shown your visitors all over the product? Have you shown all sides, including an inside if there is one? How about a close up to show your workmanship? Is there a picture to show the scale of the item or one with it in use? Have you shown off the best or unique aspects of your pictures?
Ask a friend or family member to look at your pictures. Does anything leap out at them? Sometimes a second pair of eyes can really make a big difference here.
Look at your competitors’ pictures. Do theirs look better than yours, why?
I will talk a lot more about product photography in a later episode.
4 Do Your Descriptions Sell Your Products?
Again and again, I have seen beautifully crafted items for sale but have been unable to buy because the seller hasn’t given me some of the most basic information I need to make such a decision.
Your potential customers must know the size of your products. They also will probably want to know what they are made of. And perhaps why it is handmade, ie a bit about what you did. If someone thinks that your fabric bags are possibly mass-produced in a factory then they may see your prices as expensive. But if they know that you have personally made each one, and can customise them too, well, then your prices now look like good value.
It is impossible to really know whether you want to pay a particular price if you don’t know what you are actually getting.
And please don’t think “oh, people will ask if they need to know more”. Nope, often they won’t. They will just move on to someone else who has a similar item and has supplied the necessary info.
5 Are Your Policies Putting People off?
Sometimes a poorly worded policy or terms of sale can put potential customers right off buying.
For example, if you are in the EU, you must display the physical address of the business, clearly, in your shop. If you don’t you are trading illegally. And obviously, there will be many people who would not want to buy from an illegal seller.
Don’t make the common rookie mistake of saying something like “I am not responsible for lost or damaged parcels”. Sellers are always responsible for ensuring that customers get the items they have paid for. If this is not possible for some reason, then the customer is entitled to a replacement or refund. Canny shoppers will know that their payment providers, credit card companies, Paypal etc, will back them totally on this. If you have a case opened against you, and lose, it will cost you more than if you had just refunded in the first place. Plus you will have an angry customer who may tell their social networks all about their experience. Big ouch.
If you are worried about parcels going missing, use tracking, shipping insurance or signed-for options.
Do you have a customer-friendly returns policy? Unless you sell perishable products like food, digital items or similar, you really should. If you sell to the European Union you must have one. And I strongly recommend it to all sellers.
You have a LOT of competition out there. As long as your products are well made and accurately described you should get very, very few returns. Why would you expect to get a lot?
Saying you do not accept returns is like saying you are not very confident that your customers will love your products.
I do appreciate, that for some niches, returns are a bigger issue than for others. If you sell, for example, party clothes, there is, of course, a risk that people will buy the outfit, wear it for the big do and then return it. If this is something that could affect you, look into ways of protecting your products whilst still being able to offer returns. With the party dresses, you could have large hang tags, or stitched on labels that must not be removed if the customer wants to return. Search online for other ideas like this. If you can find a way to offer returns without renting out your products, you will probably get an edge over much of your competition!
Remember that if your competitors are offering returns. If you are not, potential customers may see you as less confident about your product quality.
Handy hint: studies have shown that increasing the length of the returns window offered does not tend to lead to an increase in returns. It is rather the opposite. Increase your returns window and you instantly get an easy boost over your competition!
6 Prices – the Biggest Bugbear of the Craft Seller
Have a look at your competition. If your prices are generally higher than the average – don’t immediately reduce them!
Think about why your prices are higher. Is it because what you are offering is significantly better than the average? Does it have more features? Is it actually better value for money?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, be sure you are letting your potential customers know why the price is as it is. Have a listen to (or read of) Episode 7, 9 Ways to Add Value to your Craft Products which has a lot more information on ways to be sure your visitors see your products as fantastic value for money.
I also recommend your checking out Episode 11 – Craft Prices, Setting a Product Price for Craft Sellers. Whilst it is easy to lower prices, and doing so may indeed increase your sales, if you are no longer making a profit it is a pointless exercise. Plus, as I have said in previous podcasts, getting into a price war rarely ends well.
Before lowering your prices, be sure you understand what your profit margins are, and the possible repercussions of reducing them.
After doing this, you could try lowering your prices temporarily to see if it does indeed get sales going. This would confirm that the price might indeed be the issue. But again, please consider ways to improve the perceived value of the products before reducing your prices permanently.
If you are considering a sale or promotion to boost your shop, you may want to check out episode 25 of the Craft Seller Success Podcast first – Promotions, Multibuys and Sales for Craft Sellers.
Of course, despite all my cautious sounding comments just now, sometimes it really is simply that your products are too expensive.
There is no point in trading if you aren’t able to make a profit. But equally, there is no point in trying to trade if you can’t lower your prices enough to actually get the sales. The market has limits on what it can take, and that is kinda that.
I do hope that the contents of this podcast help you work out why you are not getting as many sales as you wish. Or at least has helped you eliminate many potential reasons.
The world of retail is a complicated one. Many big, big brands find themselves struggling to get sales on new products. This is despite their investments in market research, powerful marketing resources and years of experience.
Sometimes we have to accept that a particular business model just doesn’t work. It is not easy to do this. I am sure you have all seen episodes of Dragons’ Den or Shark Tank where the rich investors are trying to tell the hopeful entrepreneur that their product is very unlikely to be a success and that they are wasting their money and time to continue to work on it. Seeing this for oneself can be very hard, especially once you have invested a lot in your business.
But please, be sure you have looked thoroughly at your business and thought about all possible causes before you abandon it and start again.
Try to remain as detached from your business as you can when assessing it. Don’t be afraid to ask for constructive critiques.
If you have an Etsy shop and are struggling with sales, I offer a Critique Service. I can look at all aspects of your shop, products and more and offer a very detailed, actionable plan. Whilst I obviously can’t guarantee that implementing my suggestions will definitely lead to loads of sales, I do believe that you will see benefits. If I don’t think there are areas in which I can offer useful suggestions, I refund in full.
If you are interested in such a service, check out the listing called Shop Critique and Review in the Tin Teddy shop on Etsy. Use the special coupon code CSSP10 for a £10 discount – just for Craftseller Success Podcast listeners. This code will be valid until 31 January 2019.
You may want to check out episode 24, Free Websites that could Help Your Business for lots of useful tools and resources.
In the next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, episode 18 I will be discussing Time Management for Craft Sellers. Time is the one thing that most of us feel we never have enough of. I can’t magic more time for you, but hopefully, I can help you get the most from the time you have available to you.
This episode will be out on the 27th November 2018.
Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, bye
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson
Original music by Matthew French