Brian Butkowski, our CDPUG President, kicked off the July meeting by sharing some updates regarding the new, revamped website. He also graciously gave special thanks and shout-outs to members who have volunteered their time and brainpower to make the site a reality. Judy Beveridge, our Membership Coordinator, also jumped in to mention some user updates for the new site and to say thanks to our attendees and members who have recently made donations.

CDPUG July zoom meeting attendees
July Zoom meeting attendees

Continuing from the safety of our own homes, members and attendees joined this month’s meeting via Zoom. In place of real-life mingling, we had a chance to chat with each other beforehand via Zoom’s Breakout Room feature, which split attendees into small groups.

Real-life SpikeReal-life Spike
Illustration of Spike by Janet Dodrill

Social distance doesn’t dull the creativity and inspiration of our CDPUG members. Janet Dodrill, shared her uncanny illustration of Spike Radway, our Director of Programming and musicians, Pat Walker & Nancy Crum of EO11, performed an uplifting song called “My Own Two Hands” written by Ben Harper. Although our meeting was held virtually, Pat and Nancy’s rendition brought some much needed optimism and delight into each of our homes. 

Pat Walker & Nancy Crum of EO11
Musicians, Pat Walker & Nancy Crum of EO11 playing "My Own Two Hands"

Our featured speaker Karen Koch followed, and we dove in with a quick member poll. According to our poll, most of our attendees were familiar with Etsy or had purchased from the site before. Yet, nearly a third (30%) had never purchased anything from Etsy. Only 30% of our attendees had an Etsy shop, and an additional 33% were considering starting one. Those who had a shop on Etsy seemed to vary in success and had many questions that Karen addressed.  

Karen Koch compares selling services chart
Our featured speaker, Karen Koch

An accomplished mixed media artist and gallery owner, Karen has over twelve years of experience with selling on Etsy and was happy to share her expertise with everyone. Drawing inspiration from nature and nostalgia, Karen uses paper, books, maps, and paint with stitching and buttons to create colorful mixed media art. Her robust background in web content, search engine optimization (SEO), and on-line marketing informs her decision-making when selling her own art online. In addition to being a full-time artist, she also co-owns Uncommon Art, an art studio and gallery on historic Main Street in Hudson, which features modern art and fine craft by Northeast Ohio artists. 

Karen Koch compares selling services chart
Uncommon Art in Hudson, OH
Karen Koch shares her Etsy store
Karen's Etsy shop, LifeNeedsArt

Karen started the conversation by exploring her Etsy store, LifeNeedsArt, and artwork featured there. Etsy allows Karen to sell her artwork with a relatively low cost ($0.20 per listing), and no monthly contract fee. It allows sellers to have multiple shops, and has an easy-to-use interface. Etsy also provides some valuable analytics for sellers, including search engine optimization (SEO) information. Another great feature of Etsy is that it provides a sense of community for those selling on the site, and a wide array of tutorials and support to help shops improve their sales. The company also acts as an intermediary between buyer and sellers in disputes. 

Karen Koch explains the cost of using Etsy
Etsy's basic costs and fees (before advertising)

As Karen described, Etsy has made a large effort to carve out their niche in the world of vintage, handmade, and one-of-a-kind products and can be somewhat selective on what items they allow to be sold on their platform. Over the years, the company has grown and expanded its reach to over 47 million buyers. This includes integrating print-on-demand services that were previously only available through other sites, allowing buyers to buy custom products and alleviating seller inventory woes. Additionally, Etsy also tracks buying trends, and shares that with their sellers, as Karen mentioned. Because more shoppers are staying home due to COVID-19, products made for that domestic space are rising in popularity. Games, gifts, outdoor items, and small luxuries have also been trending as well. Despite the pervasive economic impact of the pandemic, Etsy has shown dramatic growth in the second quarter and released their results here.

2020 Trends on Etsy

However, Karen explained that Etsy is not always a one-size-fits-all solution and discussed some potential drawbacks of the site. She made a great point that while Etsy is a great tool for selling items, it does not automatically drive traffic to your store. Sellers still need to market their stores as they would with a physical store, or any other service.

Etsy’s shop design options are also rather limited. With only two store layouts to choose from, banner or featured image, the site lacks appearance customization that some artists may desire. Another drawback she mentioned is that Etsy automatically displays listings from other sellers with similar products. This detail is meant to serve browsing buyers and give them a wide selection of potential products, But, as Karen explains, it can be a double edged sword because it can potentially entice buyers to your store, or lead them away.

One of Karen's Etsy listings

In her presentation, Karen compared Etsy to other online selling options, shining a light on some large differences in cost and features. Shopify was one tool Karen pointed out, which allows for more customization and integration with an existing site. Unlike Etsy, though, there are monthly and transaction fees associated with Shopify.

Karen Koch compares selling services chart
Etsy compared to other online selling tools

Karen also mentioned Amazon Handmade, which has the power of Amazon behind it, but also has some significant drawbacks. These include a hefty monthly cost of $40 a month plus 15% transaction fee, and sellers relinquish some control because they are strongly encouraged to ship their products to Amazon’s facilities for fulfillment

Square is also another great tool that Karen uses in her brick-and-mortar boutique as well as at in-person art shows (COVID permitting). This service has no monthly fee -- the only cost is that of the card reader -- and it integrates well with Weebly for online stores and Facebook’s store catalog feature. It allows for easy customer transactions and helps sellers like Karen to easily keep track of what is being sold. In the future, she plans to explore Square’s integration features that would allow her catalog to be visible on social media like Facebook and Instagram, reaching a larger audience and driving more business to her store. A few other services Karen walked through were GoDaddy, BigCartel, Fine Art America among others as well as YouTube. 

Karen Koch compares selling services chart
Karen demonstrating an auction technique for selling on YouTube

The pandemic has led to some creative ways to sell online. Recently, Karen spoke with a friend who uses YouTube Live to sell vintage items in a weekly, auction-style live stream, where bidders compete to be the first to comment and buy an item. She also mentioned another artist, 
Ash O’Conner, who was unable to attend the meeting, but is involved in the local Cleveland maker scene and part of Made Cleveland, an online store devoted to selling art from local artists.

Later this year, Karen will be offering introductory and intermediate-level courses, focusing on specific ways sellers can improve their techniques on Etsy. These are designed to help sellers set up a shop, identify their customer base, as well as advice on branding, marketing, photography, and search engine optimization (SEO) for their shop.