Since it launched 13 years ago, creative marketplace Etsy has helped turn countless creators into successful entrepreneurs. It's easy to see why. As of 2017, more than 1.93 million sellers used Etsy to sell their products, and nearly 33.4 million buyers had purchased goods through the marketplace. For someone just starting out, that's quite a reach.
The reality, however, is that your Etsy shop won't necessarily reach 30+ million potential customers, and you are competing for attention with nearly two million other sellers. Starting a shop on Etsy is simple, but it will only take you so far. Think of it as a great way to test the waters with very little commitment. When you are ready to take your Etsy store from a side gig to a full-time job, you'll want to create your own website. Here's why.
Controlling the Narrative
Branding is an integral part of building a business. As an entrepreneur, you need to figure out how to best tell your brand's story — through both words and visuals. Research shows that 29% of small businesses do not have a website, and 31% “use social media instead." Although social media is important, a website is still the only place you can completely control your brand narrative. While platforms like Instagram and marketplaces like Etsy are powerful tools for increasing your brand's reach, you are always at the mercy of their algorithms and product updates. With a dedicated website, you control every aspect, and are able to establish a direct connection with your customers. Skilled entrepreneurs know this. It's not a coincidence that nearly all top sellers on Etsy have their own websites as well.
Legitimacy & Social Proof
The first thing most people do when they see or hear about something they think they might like to know more about is google it. A brand that doesn't have a website will not only lose out on potential new customers but can also risk not conveying legitimacy. Building a website is so easy these days that there simply is no excuse to not have one.
It may seem suspicious to customers if you don't have a website. The same goes for social media profiles. Your business should be easy to find and engage with on social media. “Social proof" is a very buzzed-about concept that refers to our innate tendency to follow the crowd. It's why the more followers you have, the more likely someone is to follow you, and why influencer endorsements and testimonials are marketing gold. Use social proof to your advantage on your website, by incorporating product reviews, testimonials and press mentions.
The Power of SEO
Building an audience for your brand and getting your products out there is hard work. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a powerful tool that — if done right — can land you at the top of Google's search results for certain terms related to your business. Although Etsy has built-in SEO tools that allows your shop to be found through Google, a dedicated website will extend your reach beyond the Etsy marketplace. Having your own website show up in search results also builds brand awareness and credibility in a more powerful way than an Etsy store.
Extending Your Reach
Creating your own website does not mean that you need to shut down your existing Etsy shop. On the contrary, having multiple sales channels is often a good thing, at least until your business grows to a certain scale. Etsy is an effective way to find new customers and reach a wide audience, so use that to your advantage. Providing potential customers with multiple entry points is always a good idea.
Community & Connection
While it's true that Etsy has a very dedicated following and has been able to build a large community of buyers and sellers, nothing compares to connecting with your customers directly. As an entrepreneur, you are not just managing an Etsy shop, you are running a creative business that happens to use Etsy as a platform to reach customers and sell your goods. Your own website gives you a platform to tell your own stories and build your own community. On Etsy you will always be one of many. Your website will always be entirely about you.
So why don't all small businesses have a website? Around 25% of business owners say it's because they lack technical knowledge and 22% state it's because they don't have the human and/or financial resources. Those may have been valid excuses in the past. These days, building a website doesn't have to take any longer — or cost much more — than setting up an Etsy store. Your customers are out there, and your job as a small business owner is to ensure that they can find you, wherever they are looking.
Ready to give your business a home?