Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Etsy VS. Artfire - Market Research Experiment

* For those of you looking for tips on selling and just the highlights of this article, skip to the summary at the end.

As I get a little more serious about selling my pottery, I've started to look into venues other than Etsy.  While selling pottery isn't my main goal in life, it's important to me to appear professional in every way when I present myself to the world.

I've opened an Artfire shop just to see how it compared.  Oh by the way, this is going to be a long ass post.  You may want to grab a cup of coffee and a snack.  Don't worry, I'll wait.  Need a mug for that cup of coffee?  No?  Ok, can't blame a girl for trying.  We all settled in for a nice long read?  Ok, let's go.

In my twenties, I worked for a marketing research company.  Not the career for me, but I learned so much while I was there.  So in the spirit of what I learned there, I conducted a little Market Research on Etsy VS. Artfire - what do the buyers see?

Our players:

Me!  Yes yes, I rock.  No please, sit down.  No, no, really I don't deserve it.  PLEASE!  No applause, just throw money!

Bryan - Internet friend of mine.  In his early 20's.  We only chat every few months and it's usually brief.  Doesn't know anything about my pottery.  We've never met in person.  Zero knowledge of my preferences.

Paula - My BFF.  My biggest fan.  Insists on being present at every kiln opening and all of my rejects end up in her kitchen.  She does know my preferences on the experiment at hand so her opinion might be a tad tainted.

My Hubby - Tends to be a bit removed from my pottery hobby but loves that I do it.  Might have heard my preferences but is never shy to disagree with me so I trust his opinion.

The mission - Compare and contrast my shops on both Etsy and Artfire.  Then go to the front pages of each and try to find my stuff.

In order to show that I tried to conduct this experiment in such a way as to elicit real opinions and not just telling me what I want to hear, I'm now going to post the conversations I had with Bryan and Paula unedited.

[13:20] AlexMMR: do you have a couple of minutes to conduct an experiment for me?

[13:20] Bryan: Yes I do
[13:21] AlexMMR: Ok. I've gotten so good at pottery at thsi point that I really do need to start selling it. I've had an etsy store for a while but I'm thinking of moving over to artfire. So What I'd like you to do is to check out both shops
[13:21] Bryan: oh fun i'm all over this
[13:21] AlexMMR: tell me which one you would like better if you were shopping. Check out the main pages of both sites and tell me which one you would be more likely to purchase from
[13:22] AlexMMR: The first one is etsy. My page is and the main page is
[13:22] AlexMMR: take a minute and look around. Go to the main page and see if you can even find my products, that kind fo thing
[13:23] Bryan: ok
[13:23] AlexMMR: Then after you've experimented there, try artfire. My page is and the main page is
[13:23] AlexMMR: I'm goign to make my husband do this too and blog about the results
[13:24] AlexMMR: brb while you experiment. Potty break.
[13:25] Bryan: Etsy was really easy to find you by searching by your name....your stuff is gorgeous on here too. Looking at artfire now....
[13:28] Bryan: oh artfire by a longshot! Etsy seems very one-off, buy a bowl, never see you again....artfire invites you back, it seems. They're equally user friendly, but artfire is much better to build clientelle or to get your name out
[13:28] Bryan: Girlfriend is here. I'll be back later. Glad i caught you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, so we have one vote for Artfire.  Let's hear from Paula.

[21:57] AlexMMR: wanna take a break from the sound and help me with an experiment on which pottery store I should focus on?

[21:57] Paula: ?? still trying to decide?
[21:58] AlexMMR: I just want to quantify my opinions iwht other peoples opinions. it will also give me something to blog about
[21:58] AlexMMR: I'm running an experimetn with people. I'm sending them to each of my stores and compare. And then the front page of each site and have people try to find my stuff.
[21:59] AlexMMR: So vs
[21:59] AlexMMR: then vs
[21:59] Paula: Well the Art fire site is WAY easier. I spent about a hour and played there the other day
[21:59] Paula: Looked up bowls, mugs, color - whatever
[21:59] Paula: WAY easier and your stuff came up a lot
[21:59] AlexMMR: oh awesome
[21:59] Paula: ya
[22:00] AlexMMR: how much would it matter to you if you had to join a site in order to purchase?
[22:00] Paula: your blue ruffle bowl came up a lot as did the heart bowls and the ...shoot - the light gold mug??
[22:00] Paula: I am totally screwing up the description
[22:01] Paula: honestly - if I have to join a site to by something. unless I REALLY REALLY love the product and literally can't find it anywhere else, I would move on
[22:02] AlexMMR: ok, that's what I thought about the joining thing too
[22:02] Paula does artfire require you to join??? I didn't notice that
[22:03] AlexMMR: no, etsy does
[22:03] Paula: oh - gotcha
[22:03] Paula: ya....I'm totally liking artfire

Okey dokey, that's 2 votes Artfire.  Believe it or not, that was the brief part of this blog post.  Now we get into the research I did with hubby.  I took 5 pages of notes on that conversation.  You might want to refresh that coffee. 

You're back?  Brave soul.  Here we go.

We started out at Etsy.  He did a search for "Mugs" and immediately said "oh forget it!".  There were 7760 listings on 370 pages.  Totally overwhelmed.  Wouldn't bother looking at any of them because there were so many.  Knowing my inventory, he looked up "Mugs Carved".  My stuff was on page 2.

I asked wht he thought of the competitors.  His general impressions on the quality he would find at Etsy.  The quotes I wrote down were "definite mix.  some plain.  some amatuerish and some professional and well done.  Half look like they were made by kids.  Some look very good."

We moved to my etsy shop and I asked his first impressions.  I got a half hearted "It looks ok".  I asked if having to join a website would prohibit him from buying.  He said yes.

We moved on to Artfire.  First impressions at comparing the two?  Artfire looks like you're buying from an artist.  Etsy, you could be buying from an amateur.

Artfire front page - it shows you more stuff.  It looks more populated with product.

Did a search for "Mugs" and got 23 pages of listings.  He said he would be more likely to search through all of those pages since there weren't hundreds of them.

He really liked the "Search within the search" function and said it made things a lot easier.  At this point, we discovered that my stuff wasn't showing up.  After troubleshooting, we discovered it was because he was searching "Handmade" and Artfire has their pottery in the "Fine Art" category.  I immediately posted a plea to Artfire to move the pottery category based on this finding and then recategorized all of my stuff to be found under "Handmade".

When we did search under "Fine art" (again, the average customer ain't looking for mugs there), my stuff was on page 1 of 14.

I was very surprised at what happened when we went to my shop.  The first thing he did was click on the artist blog.  It never occurred to me that he would be the type of shopper to give a hoot about anything other than the actual product.  Then he clicked on my bio.  He felt that there was more information about the artist on the Artfire shop page.  The tabs were not only visible to him but they invited him to click.

I asked what knowing the artist does to his perception of the products.  He said that he had a better feeling about the artist [since getting to know them a little] and that purchasing would be a more personal transaction.  "I'm more likely to like what I get." 

In general, the Artfire page looks more like an actual company website as opposed to a listing on Ebay.  On Artfire, the add to cart button was easy and he expected to be able to add to cart and keep shopping.  He also liked that he could easily see the various categories within the shop to narrow down his search.

We went back to Etsy to explore the means of getting to know the artist there since he didn't see those links the first time.  I pointed out the add to cart button there.  He said it was smaller and doesn't invite you to click it like it does on Artfire.

Here are my next notes, I don't remember exactly what elicited these answers.  "If I know what I'm looking for - Artfire."  "No info about artist on Etsy."  "More artist connection on Artfire."  "Artfire looks better, pure and simple"  "[he] wants to get to know the artist so when [he] purchases a gift for someone, [he] has a story to with it"  "quality of products about the same on both sites" 

Ok, I think we can agree that this is now a 3rd vote for Artfire.

*** So here's the summary

1)  Three out of three voters preferred to buy from Artfire
2)  Etsy has so much stuff, it's too overwhelming to actually look through
3)  Joining a site just to purchase an item will prevent them from buying
4)  I need to write more tags
5)  Artist blog and bio make a connection to the customer which increases their chance of buying
6)  Pics of my studio in my blog give the buyer confidence because the buyer knows it's not just someone who took a class and is selling off their rejects but rather someone who is committed to the craft.
7)  Artfire - Buyers are not looking in Fine Art for their functional pottery!!!
8)  Artfire looks like an artist commerce site.  Etsy looks like a random listing on Ebay. 
9)  Artfire invites you to shop around, stick around, and buy again.  At Etsy, there's a feeling of buy your damn thingamajig and get the hell out!
10)  The various links from the Artfire store (blog, etc) are visible and inviting to click on.  On Etsy, you have to really want to find them to look.  This leads to a more enveloping shopping experience.

11)  Customers generally prefer Artfire.  Period.  Game over. 

Rock on folks!


Julie said...

Very interesting. A lot of their reactions mirrored mine when I first discovered Art Fire. I started out on Etsy (I currently have a small shop on each) but despite all the talk of connecting with the artist when buying handmade, I never quite got the feeling that I was doing that on Etsy.

One of the things I love about Art Fire is all the opportunities there are to connect with people, to give them a chance to get to know me and my art. Being able to really customize my shop, add widgets, have a blog, post pictures in the gallery of work that isn't for sale or has already sold, and the artist bio page really do give me that feeling. It just feels friendlier on Art Fire. :)

It truly makes a difference when I'm exploring someone's store who takes the time to fill everything out, it makes me really want to buy their stuff! I get disappointed when they don't have it filled out.

Thanks for posting this! Fun and interesting reading!

Kay Sommers said...

yes, interesting. My fiance once said that artfire looked less generic/more unique than Etsy.

i love the non account checkout. i have sent many customers to buy from my AF store by telling them it's not necessary to sign up to buy.

i love how when my cousin bought something for me, she could buy it without registering and just deliver the money personally. it's definitely easier to tell them to buy from my shop (so i have a record of the purchase) when they don't need to register.

when i only had an etsy store, i felt almost guilty for telling my buyers to register so i could have my records on sales, you know. i felt it was more selfish.

Julie said...

I felt the same way about some people having to register to buy something from me. I felt like it was such an inconvenience for them, especially the one person (my sister) who would most likely never buy anything from there again. In the end, she didn't have to, as I just gave it to her as a present when she was going through some tough times. But it was something that really bothered me.

Plus I like that people have a bigger variety of payment choices, not just Paypal.

Cool Straps Custom Handmade Guitar Straps said...

Absolutely fantastic bit of research here! Thanks for doing this.

M2bC said...

Wow! Great research - thanks for sharing. I admit being an Artfire fanatic and therefore biased. But I think the studios on AF have an independent, individual feel - like each artisan is different. Whereas Etsy seems to make each artisan conform to their style. (hey, I already admitted my bias!)

No-account buying rocks too!

Joyce Wilson (acadienne) said...

I agree that Artfire has always looked more like an artist site, for me, almost to the extent of wondering if my items were good enough. It's far less crowded than Etsy, and the pricing and professionalism are far greater.

EmilyClaireCreations said...

That was an awesome experiment. My husband also agrees, no register for buying is a huge plus to shopping!

Thank you so much for doing that!
Great work!


Amy said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this! It's confirmation of what I'd been thinking. And I've been surprised, too, at how many folks click on my blog (shows up in Google Analytics). Artfire is lightyears ahead of Etsy as far as artist-friendliness AND user-friendliness, imo.

blueberryjunkie said...

Great post. It pushed me to finally fill out the bio portion of my studio.

I totally agree with your results. AF makes it sound more like an artist/artisan marketplace than Etsy. Just a quick example of this is calling their shops a Artist/Artisan Studio...right there you get the sense you are coming into an artist's place of work, where you will be able to see samples of the artist's creativity, and buy, if you are inclined to do so.


DK Miller said...

Neat research. I signed up with Artfire first, then added small stores on Etsy and 1000 Markets. I consider Artfire my home base. I love the widgets and features.

I picked Artfire first because you don't have to sign up to buy something and I have decided against purchasing things before purely because the site needed me to sign up and I didn't want to. So that was a big factor.

Thanks for sharing!

Cyber_Hippie said...

Great post, even though the study population was small. Very helpful information there!

I have not regretted for one minute switching to Artfire from Etsy. The only account I still have over on Etsy is a buyer account (I have a lot of artisans there I love to buy from,) but I STILL look on AF first.

BTW, your work is amazingly wonderfully great, and I'm following your blog. :)

Jen Moore
JenniferLynn Productions, LLC