This review is intended to be the first in a series of handmade e-commerce website reviews. The plan is to research the websites and compare them against each other with comparable metrics....and in addition to that also conduct an interview of the founder/owner of the website to get their perspective. =) Review Date: March 3rd, 2013
Interview with Kimberly Kitchen from Handmade Artists
Interview Date: March 11th, 2013
What was the inspiration to start your own eCommerce website?
We began as a forum for artists and crafters and those that love handmade who ran into the same problems on every site. Andrew and I (Kimberly) are crafters ourselves and spent many years selling on various venues. After listening to my complaints about what a site did or did not offer as well as competing with mass produced no matter where you go we decided that rather than complain, the solution was to build it ourselves. We did not have investors as we wanted to have total control over how the site was run and what our standards would be so it started off small but has continued to grow each and every day.
What makes your site different from Etsy? How is your site an improvement?
HandmadeArtists.com is strictly handmade only. While we love vintage and drool over supplies as every other crafter does, we felt that handmade is special and deserved a place in the spotlight of its own. Each and every item is to be made by the artist including the supplies. If there is a flag of a vendor we do our best to investigate immediately and will remove them immediately if we find that they don't comply with the handmade rules.
What is your average traffic? Stats? Monthly traffic/ Daily Traffic? Traffic over time?
500k hits a day
How do you use Social Media for exposure?
We currently have over 150K followers on Twitter and 8596 likes on Facebook. Each and every new item is tweeted (with the exception of the occasional glitch in the system!) and many are posted to facebook and stumbleupon. We firmly believe that the more people that see your product the better chance of the right buyer finding you. Everyone that follows us does so by choice to get our feeds so you know that you are reaching people that appreciate handmade.
What are your plans for the future of the site?
As said before, the site is a slow grow. We are working with a developer to update the look of the site and increase the bells and whistles that our vendors are asking for. We listen to all suggestions and are honest with them when we say we will do it, not do it, or will consider it for the future. We plan on staying fairly small and never grow to the size of Etsy. Our plan is to become the Tiffany of handmade-small and exclusive with high quality so there will never be the question, "is this really handmade."
A common complaint with Etsy is their lack of Customer Service---how does your site improve upon this? If you grow to the size and scale of Etsy, how do you plan to adapt your customer service to still meet a high standard of quality?
As was said, we never plan on being the size of Etsy. Once we reach our goal we are cutting off new vendors and will create a waiting list for each category. As a vendor drops off, a new one from the list will move in...as far as customer service, staying small will help with this. We currently spend a lot of time in the forums; chatting and answering questions, and our email is fully available to any member. We also offer live support as much as we can with the help of a few key members. You can ask a question and have an immediate answer most of the time. If nobody is available, we are sent an email with your question and answer as quickly as possible. Customer service is very important to us as artists as well as site owners and we are determined to maintain the standards we have set as we grow. When we reach the point of not being able to personally answer questions or offer the type of service we feel our members deserve, then we will have to consider hiring help with this aspect of the site.
How many employees do you have?
I wish we had employees! Currently the site is owned by Andrew and myself and we have a private developer that works for us. Our members know us as owners and friends and hopefully understand that because it is just the two of us, sometimes we get busy! We also have a small group of very dedicated members that have been with us since the beginning of time that have stepped up and answer forum questions or help us with live chat. Without them we would have pulled out our hair already!
What is your top selling item category (categories)? Why do you think it's (they are) so popular?
As with any handmade site, jewelry is the biggest and most popular category just because there are soooo many jewelry artists out there! We promote all categories, but if I had to pick the one that gets the most attention that would be jewelry.
What item categories would you like to see more of? Which categories do you think are under or over represented on your site?
We would love to have more fine arts represented, such as painting and pottery. This type of arts are years of practice in the making of an artist and it is understandable that there would be fewer of them around. I don't think of any of our categories as being under represented so much as the fact that we are new and some of the categories have not filled yet. I have no doubt, based on our business model that these categories will eventually be better represented.
How does the search or browse for items on your site work? Is it based on relevancy and recently? How does SEO work for your site and how search engines will find our items?
Recency, Items have meta title, meta keywords, and meta description. Google indexes the site constantly
Is there an option for guest checkout without having to register?
Currently you must register to make a purchase. We do not however handle any of the money, they merely register as a buyer and all money transactions are handled through PayPal. In the future I would like to implement guest checkout as I understand that some may not wish to have to register for a site to make a purchase, but that is down the road some.
How do you ensure that items listed on your site are not mass-produced?
We currently try to watch ourselves as well as allow our members to flag shops or individual items. Obviously we are not masters of all crafts so we use our membership as sounding boards if needed. I am not going to decide if a pottery item is handmade myself as I am not a potter...so I go to one who is and get their opinion. In the end, Andrew and I have the final say as to if the item is handmade or not and do a lot of research on flagged shops to determine if they meet our standard. If they do not to our satisfaction, we contact them with our concerns. If we find that they are not handmade then their account is closed.
What is your policy on copyright/trademark infringers?
Our policy is similar to Etsy in that whoever owns the trademark/copyright must contact us. We would love to police this ourselves, as crafters we understand the frustration of stolen designs and ideas, but are not copyright lawyers. As we grow we plan to enforce the law to the best of our ability and hopefully with integrity.
What additional features do you have that I haven't mentioned above?
Not so much features as ideas. We are growing but plan to stay small and friendly. We have had many vendors come to us from other sites expecting a fight, and when they do not get it there is a moment of shock. Andrew and I are real people with real lives, family, business of our own and understand the struggle to get found in a mass produced world. We have taken this experience as artists and put that into HandmadeArtists. We listen to our members and look at each idea to see if it fits in the plan.
Founders: Kimberly and Andrew Kitchen
Main Office PO Box 530 Point Pleasant, NJ 08742
The Handmade Artists’ Shop (HAFshop) is an online marketplace devoted to buying and selling handmade goods. Artist build their own shop through an online interface that can be accessed from anywhere, as long as there is an internet connection. The venue was built for speed and ease of operation. Containing thousands of one of a kind creations the HAFshop has a mix of various styles from artists around the world. Although the venue is fairly new with their re-launch 5/18/2011 it originally started in December of 2009. The first site did not meet the needs of the owners and they went into private development to create the marketplace you see now.
The site does not allow vintage items, mass produced, or non-handmade supplies; handmade is the core of the HAFshop. This is different than other venues of its kind, by not allowing vintage and mass produced items the Handmade Artists’ Shop can focus strictly on their handmade items.
Sign up is simple on the HAFshop as it is handled around a subscription system. Vendors do not have to pay the expected listing fees or commissions that you may find in other venues. The simple monthly fee gives artisans freedom to list as many of their handmade creations as they want to.
- The first information available of the website existence was August 2009---this was only a blog and ‘resource’ site at that time[ii]
- Official Date of Founding is December 2009
- Official Re-Launch of the website was May 18, 2011[iii]
Total Number of Items on HandmadeArtists site: 15,992
- “Handmade” on Etsy: 13,729,208
- .0012% of the items on Etsy
Product Type Breakdown
Jewelry: 6535 + 250 Chainmaille category HandmadeArtists: 6785
- Etsy: 3,697,738
- .0018% of the items on Etsy
Crochet, Knitting, and Needlecraft HandmadeArtists: 827
- Etsy: 312,919 crochet + 176,925 knitting + 106,461 needlecraft: 596,305
- .0014% of the items on Etsy
US Traffic Rank: 76,796
Reputation – Sites Linking In: 676
Statistics Summary for handmadeartists.com
There are 76,796 sites with a better three-month US Alexa traffic rank than Handmadeartists.com. Compared with internet averages, the site appeals more to women; its audience also tends to consist of users browsing from home who are not college graduates, age 35-44. The site is located in the US. The site is relatively popular among users in the cities of Kolkata (where it is ranked #26,241) and Los Angeles (#66,113), and visitors to Handmadeartists.com spend about three minutes per visit to the site and 37 seconds per pageview.
- Percent of Site traffic from Search Engines (past 30 days): 9.1%
- High Impact Search Queries
- Beaded Jewelry
- Handmade Artist
- Guitar pick
- Picture frame
- Hand made
Etsy Alexa Ratings:
US Traffic Rank: 52
Reputation – Sites Linking In: 248,962
Statistics Summary for etsy.com
Etsy.com has a three-month global Alexa traffic rank of 154, and the fraction of visits to this site referred by search engines is roughly 12%. The site has a bounce rate of approximately 27% (i.e., 27% of visits consist of only one pageview). Etsy.com is particularly popular among users in the cities of Seattle-Tacoma (where it is ranked #44), Dallas-Fort Worth (#49), and Los Angeles (#50). The site is based in the US.
- Percent of Site traffic from Search Engines (past 30 days): 12.5%
To sell on the HAFshop you have to be a paid subscriber. Right now there are 2 available subscription plans, one is $5.00 a month and the other is $50.00 a year.
- They do not charge any listing fees or commissions.
- You can list as many products as you want and they do not expire.
- Payment from Sales is through PayPal
To compare the yearly subscription/per month price ($4.16) to Etsy
- This is the equivalent of listing approx. 20 items per month with no sales on Etsy
- This is the equivalent of approx. $120 worth of sales in commission fees on Etsy (3.5%)
Number of registered merchants/ shops
Registered Vendors: 781
There are no mobile apps available, but the website seems to be optimized for mobile internet use.
The homepage has a nice clean look to it that fits my mobile browser very nicely. Accessing items is simple on the mobile device as well.
In order to purchase an item, a buyer must first register with a username, password, and email.
No Guest Checkout seems to be available at this time.
- Banner: 760 pixels wide x 100 pixels high
- A shop policies page can be set up
- There is a profile/about me page with 1000 characters to describe yourself
- Shop Sections—unlimited shop sections
- You can easily link your twitter, facebook, and youtube urls to your shop. You can also add a blog badge of 125 pix by 125 pix with a link to your blog. All of these links are displayed on the lower left hand side of your shop page.
- Vacation Mode allows you to set a beginning and ending date for placing your shop in Vacation Mode. No items will be available for sale during that time.
- Stats are tracked through Google Analytics—no internal tracking available.
- Simple Coupon Codes are available. You can create the code and set a percentage discount off.
- A product can be added and then ‘re-listed’ to allow use of that entered information as a template---easing the addition of items.
- "There is no import from etsy or ebay. We have considered an importer in the future, but are not sure if it is a smart decision. So right now the idea is tabled."
- Products can be ‘de-activated’ without deleting by using the ‘block’ feature in the edit product page.
- Communication between buyer and seller is through an internal Private Message system.
- Shipping Options
- You can set up to ship to US with a discount for additional items
- You can set up multiple shipping profiles for similar weight items
- You can set up shipping to individual countries or a general everywhere.