Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tips and Tricks 1: Categories

In an effort to write more in this blog despite feeling that I have nothing interesting to share, I have decided to write what I am calling Tips and Tricks For Selling Handmade. Now, I'm hardly an expert, and I may be repeating info you've already read, and I certainly can't claim 100% that these tips will work. Your mileage may vary, and all that. All I have to back me up are my sales on Artfire, on Zibbet, and Etsy, and compared to a lot of sellers, they don't go very far. But then, I've seen more than a few shops with no sales at all, so perhaps chance will bring them to this blog.

As to what, specifically, you may find here, these are only tips. Ideas, things that have helped me, things that may help you. Short entries, small words, easy to swallow info that you can probably put to use almost immediately. They will not be technical descriptions, how-to's, or necessarily 'out of the box'. I've found that sometimes, we think so far out of the box, that we forget the essentials that belong in the box.

Tip Number 1: Categories are your friends.

Categories are an essential part of your shop. This is especially true of shops with more than 5 pages of items (unfortunately, basic accounts on Artfire can't have categories, but if you list elsewhere, this will apply). Even when I love the products, I rarely go past page 5. Page 8, if your items really wow and amaze me. Why? One, I'm not very patient. Two, I know what I want to see, and if I don't have a way to find what I want, I leave after a quick browse. And lastly, it's just quicker to look through someone's shop if you use categories. So chances are, I'm leaving your shop for a shop with categories, and I can't be the only one.

Categories also show, at a glance, the type of items you offer. Now, you may think this is obvious if you look at the items, so I'll give you an example. Around Christmastime, I offer Christmas ornaments. Last year, the first page or two was filled with Christmas items. If I didn't have categories, people might have assumed that all I sold were ornaments. I know you're probably thinking something like, That's what banners and avatars are for. Well, not really. They help, but they don't always help to pinpoint exactly what you sell. And besides that, customers don't always pay attention to that kind of thing. And no, I can't explain why. Customers see pictures first. Not banners, and avatars only if they hang out in forums. When customers arrive at your store front, the first two things they look for are pictures (preferably clear ones!) and categories, to see at a glance what you offer. I feel I can say this because I often have coupons and information right on my store front and yes, even my banner, which is always visible, even in the individual item listings. And yet most of the time, customers don't use the coupons. I can only surmise that they didn't see them.

This is especially important if you sell two very separate types of products. For instance, jewelry and perfume. Some will find you while looking for jewelry, and if they see a page of perfume and no categories they will be confused. Some may be intrigued to look, others may leave. I'm sure there are a lot of people who would buy both jewelry and perfume from your shop at the same time. But not if they don't know you sell it! And conversely, you'll get a jewelry customer who never wears perfume, or someone who wears perfume bu never jewelry, and both will no doubt appreciate being able to get straight to the products she wants to see and buy.

Categories are absolutely required if you sell supplies. I am not going through 10 or more pages just to see if you have the blue Czech glass beads I've been looking for. If you're lucky, I'll get to page 2 before giving up. So please, Suppliers, for your sake and ours, remember the categories!

Part Two: Creative Categories
Before I start, I will say that this is at least 75% personal opinion. But I really can't imagine that I'm the only one who thinks so. So this is certainly not set in stone and I can't back it up with research. Feel free to skip :)

I love creativity. Not only are the artisans talented, but they are truly creative. I have seen many amazing hand made products that are completely unique.

That said, I'm not a fan of creativity with categories. I am of the opinion--and note, this is opinion--that customers want quick and easy. As a customer, if I have to actually click on the category to find out what it means, you've gone a bit past the realm of quick. I like to see what you have, at a glance. If you sell perfume, soap, and body scrubs, I want to see that you sell them. I know what I want and I want to be able to find it. Categories tell me that.

This is especially true of shops with a lot of items. For example, I love body scrubs, and they are the first thing I check for in bath and body shops. If I'm looking for a scrub and don't see a category for body scrubs, I assume you don't carry them and leave to find someone who does. Now, a creative category can be unique, but sometimes, they are just annoying. I don't want to have to interpret each category. When I see something like Blue Birds at Dawn, I have no idea what is in that category. Pictures of blue birds at dawn? Unless your items are really, really intriguing, I'm generally not tempted to stay in your shop long enough to figure out what your poetic categories actually represent.

This is absolutely 100% essential if you sell only supplies. I don't want to have to guess whether Blue Birds at Dawn is a category for faux birds or blue paint.

That doesn't mean you have to be boring. My categories are plain, perhaps boring, but they are quick and easy to navigate. That's what many customers LOVE about Artfire--buying is quick and easy because they don't have to register first. But I have seen some categories that are unique and informative. A jewelry shop had categories such as For the Wrist, For the Neck, etc. Obvious yet unique.

Keep in mind, these are my opinions. But I can't be the only one.

Next time: How to use your Inspiration box...

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