One- handmade- ring to rule them all.

So, you are looking for something special to buy a friend. You may be looking online, or you may be- gasp- in an actual shop. You see two things, say, a nice-looking soap. Your friend likes soap. We all need soap.

One of the soaps is from a well-known brand, it has nice packaging and a good smell. You go to put it in your basket, but then you notice that the other soap is made locally, by a small business. It smells just as good, and the packaging is cute. It costs 10% more than the mass manufactured one, but it comes with a brief bio about the soap maker and her picture on the back.

What do you do?

If you are like the majority of younger shoppers these days, you pay the extra 10% and by the artisanal product.

Don’t believe me? Have you been to Esty? Do you know how many shops exist only on Facebook?

Etsy and its physical equivalents- local craft markets and pop-up stalls- are going through a boom time when many other industries are struggling to survive.

Part of that has to do with the dread COVID-19 which is making us stay at home and spend money, but part of that is the swing towards bespoke, or at least pretend bespoke, shopping habits.

Most of the ‘shops’ or sellers on Etsy and Facebook use those platforms as a way to make extra money. They tend to have smaller output, because they are often single operator businesses.

This makes for less of a particular item available and, human nature being what it is, this makes the items more desirable. Plus, behavioural psychologists who study market trends have discovered that a ‘human connection’ at the point of sale is more important to the under 35s than money.

When the guy who made your candle sends you a note personally thanking you, you know you will buy from him again.

Everything from ‘vintage clothing’- which in my day was called ‘second hand’- to hand crafted furniture, toys, beauty products, jewellery, craft supplies, unique wedding supplies and knick-knacks for the home, garden or office are available.

The words ‘hand crafted’ and handmade’ are particularly significant here. If you want to buy ‘made in China in a factory’, Amazon or its locally branded equivalent are your go-to.

Most millennial and younger consumers, however, would rather eat through their hand crafted organic-vegan leather arm patches than buy anything made in bulk.

They want a unique product and they are willing to pay for it. If they get to talk to the creator of the product, their loyalty is permanent.

Between January and March 2020, Etsy recorded an increase of 357% monthly growth in ‘Art and collectables’ on its site.

Suits and Tie accessories, of all things, increased their sales by 179%. In a pandemic. I mean, seriously, who is wearing a suit and tie?

According to research, the average Etsy and Facebook-only seller is more likely to be a college educated woman aged in their 20s and 30s.

The average Etsy seller makes $44,000 USD per year on a reasonably well managed site. Serious sellers can make over $500,000 USD. That is a LOT of mothball smelling ‘vintage clothing’ going out the door.

Not all online businesses print money, of course, and plenty of businesses fail. Sometimes this is due to a lack of commitment to the platform, or not providing a decent product in the first place.

Understanding SEO- Search Engine Optimization- is also vital if you want your business to succeed.

Attaching ‘key words’ to your site and understanding your market’s mindset go hand and hand with staying afloat. Plus, there is a massive market in ‘training online sellers to make more money’. ‘Niche’ and ‘trendy’ are important concepts to keep in mind, although calling something ‘trendy’ out loud is surely the kiss of death.

The smarter sellers may cross promote their goods with YouTube videos where they show themselves making things – quasi tutorials aimed at capturing sales- or hold ‘live sales’ on social media platforms. Sexy Pinterest and Insta pictures make an enormous difference, and an intrinsic part of any online business is owning a half decent camera. To embrace the tech is to win the race.

Why are these home-making, hand crafting sellers taking over the market?

It’s all about the magic word ‘unique’. For every person out there who wants to feel special, there is a creator who wants to sell them something that is theirs, and theirs alone. Even if 1000 other people have one. Online creators who become much larger than expected may even market themselves as tiny-little-humble sellers working out of their bedroom as they try and maintain the human touch while making bank. Your favourite sea glass earring maker may have needed to employ ten people to keep up with demand, but you will never know. For the bespoke crowd, big is by no means beautiful.

As we peer into the vintage, preloved, besoke crystal ball of future fortune telling, we may ask ourselves, will this trend continue? Yes, my young upcycling friends, I would bet my handmade geode resin drink coasters on it.

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