You know how you can hear about something new, and then all of a sudden you start seeing it mentioned everywhere? That’s what I’ve noticed lately with Etsy, “the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace,” according to their Twitter bio.
A few months back I saw an Apartment Therapy feature entitled A Visit to Etsy in Brooklyn NY. I love to discover Brooklyn-based independent businesses, so naturally, my interest was peaked. I have to admit that I really didn’t know anything about Etsy at that point, and from the AT blog I didn’t get the full sense of Etsy’s scope as a user-powered marketplace. However, the blog feature did give me a nice look inside the Etsy offices, to which I thought that it looked like a pretty cool place to work and that I should check out the website sometime.
A few days passed without me visiting Etsy.com, but soon afterward, I found out that my friend Alexis was selling some photography on this site. (Thought bubble: “Oh yeah, I just read about them. What a coincidence!”). And then, out of nowhere (ok, somewhere called the “social web” – heard of it?) it seemed like I was just seeing Etsy pop up, well, etsywhere (OK, BAD PUN – I admit it)! So I decided to spend a significant amount of time browsing the site and finally found out just how amazing this Etsy marketplace really is.
This isn’t just another Ebay, let me tell you. It’s a full-blown e-commerce site driven by artisans in all forms, where everything for sale is self-made. Art, jewelry, furniture, even pet toys: you name it, they’ve got it. Because I absolutely love innovative website experiences, I was first floored by the browsing options. Yes, you can browse by category, everything from “Accessories” to “Wordworking”, but the Explore sidebar is what really grabbed my attention. Here you have options to browse by color, geographic location, how recently items have sold (just listed, expiring soon, or just sold), undiscovered items (from shops that have not yet had a sale), items chosen by members, and of course, Editor’s Picks (featured on the Etsy blog, Storque). Seriously: have you EVER seen such richly descriptive and enticing categories to browse by?
I was also highly impressed by the “Favorites” feature, which trumps Ebay’s feedback by allowing both buyers and sellers to “Favorite” sellers and specific items, and see who else “hearts” them. Click on the “See who hearts this seller/item” links and you get an interactive photo collage of other sellers and buyers who have favorited this page and the date on which they performed the Favorite action. Now tell me: who wouldn’t want to be hearted?
I’ve been thinking lately about how marketing online can be so effective when integrated with a fun, innovative user experience and well-designed products. Too often companies forget how integral these three pieces are to the puzzle of a successful business. Essentially, if you can anticipate the user’s needs through a design that’s both easy to use and engaging, then the product becomes self-marketable and viral marketing becomes something that happens naturally, not something that a marketer is trying to figure out how to tap into and thus force. That’s one reason why I think Etsy has been growing so rapidy. It’s just easy and fun and different. Period.
Suffice it to say I’m in love, and I haven’t even bought or sold anything on the site (yet). However, I did just talk to my mom, who creates her own jewelry, about setting up an Etsy store. To my surprise, she’s known about Etsy for a few years now and actually signed up for an account but never set up her storefront. So, that’s my new project: helping my mom to start marketing and selling her designs. We’ll see how it takes off.
In the meantime… if you haven’t visited yet, give Etsy.com a few minutes. I’m sure you’ll be as impressed as I am.