Should We Start Our Own Ceramic Art and Craft Online Market Place

Some of our members use etsy, or other online craft mall. Some have their own websites for marketing their own work. On the craft malls, it's tough to get noticed in the crowd of vendors. With a one person website, it's also hard to show up in searches. 

I have been exploring ecommerce applications, multi-vendor shopping carts, and existing crafts marketplaces.  It appears to me there is an available niche for a dedicated Ceramic Art and Craft specialty mart.  With proper support in the form of linkages from this network, the market's title and description, and from myriad internal references to pottery, sculpture, mugs, bowls, etc., I'm thinking such a market could get very high rankings in the search results of people looking for what we sell. This is similar to how well the cone6pots network shows up in the results of potters looking for glazes.

I chatted with a representative of Kodemall.com and offer you the transcript of the conversation for your consideration.  

[11:08:52 AM] George Lewter: I have a network of 1000 ceramic artists and craftspeople
about 300 of them professional. Exploring the idea of making an online marketplace for them.
[11:10:03 AM] karan ahuja: ok excellent - you can enable ecommerce for them through kodemall  -- yes - each store owner will receive a store on facebook as well  --  and also a mobile store
[11:10:46 AM] karan ahuja: you can create a plan which is free and charge comission on sales ---  to get initial users
[11:11:25 AM] George Lewter: How does your pricing work
[11:14:38 AM] karan ahuja: (Secure Web address sent)  --- complete features and pricing link shared  --- for pricing - please scroll to end
[11:15:05 AM] karan ahuja: it starts at 750 usd one time fee with 90 days support inclusive
[11:15:29 AM] karan ahuja: we have 70 users using kodemall on production :)  so good stability and performance is assured
[11:15:55 AM] George Lewter: Some of my members now use etsy which is so vast that it is hard for them to get noticed amidst the clutter of knick knacks. Are any of your users art markets?
[11:18:00 AM] karan ahuja: artsydog is one user  artsydog.com
[11:18:38 AM] karan ahuja: it is not exactly an art marketplace
[11:20:37 AM] George Lewter: Our users will need to be able to post up to 2-4 med res photos of a particular piece.
[11:21:08 AM] George Lewter: with a paragraph or 2 of description
[11:22:13 AM] George Lewter: The experience should be more like being in a gallery than being at a retail store
[11:23:38 AM] George Lewter: looking at artsy dog now  - not bad
[11:23:58 AM] karan ahuja: for customized experience - we will need to create custom theme for frontend
[11:24:18 AM] karan ahuja: this is good as we can research and tailor experience for your industry
[11:25:03 AM] karan ahuja: also - if we choose to customize - we should keep everything as minimal as possible to enhance adoption , reduce time/cost
[11:25:19 AM] karan ahuja: alternately you can use kodemall out of the box with only few changes
[11:25:49 AM] karan ahuja: and we can change colors for target audience to launch within a week and very reduced time/cost as compared to customized themes
[11:27:21 AM] George Lewter: Refined and spare would be good, but also unique
[11:28:08 AM] karan ahuja: ok then it is best to first create documentation for your industry and what will add value to them
[11:28:11 AM] George Lewter: Do you have a playground environment for user theme development?
[11:29:27 AM] George Lewter: sandbox that is :)
[11:29:31 AM] karan ahuja: we have theme editor to change colors , images
[11:34:57 AM] George Lewter: OK - I would like to poll my members. Do a bit more research and get back with you in 1 week. You can view my network at http://cone6pots.ning.com/.
[11:37:58 AM] George Lewter: etsy.com, mainstreetartmarket.com/ceramics.php are other current multivendor craftmarketplaces
[11:40:13 AM] George Lewter: my email is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Thank you for talking with me.

 

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Sounds very interesting George.  I've been considering Etsy but it is so cluttered and I really don't want to go that direction. Artsy dog looks pretty good.

I have been working my way toward marketing my work, but with little knowledge of how to do it.

I am interested in where your inquiry leads.

I agree with your ideas about a gallery-like experience that is understated and streamlined.  It could be quite interesting.  I've tried etsy - so much stuff, and such a wide range of merchandise.  I'm not so much interested in internet sales (shipping ceramics is a high-risk operation) as in getting the word out for local sales and studio visits: a more informative than directly and unabashedly commercial site.  I do have a website, but as you say, it's hard to show up on web searches.

I have had the same feelings about etsy....I would be interested in hearing more about it too

I have liked purchasing pottery from Etsy sites. The potters were ones I was familiar with. I think that it is up to the potter to create a presence elsewhere and then send customers to Etsy to buy when they are not in the area. I'm not sure most people who buy pottery would just find a random potter on any site and then buy. So going with a leader is better than going with a fledgling site that has higher costs. 

I notice that Amazon also has a way to sell hand made items.

I would be very interested in seeing a strictly pottery selling site and think it could work with the proper SEO and promotion.  I do like etsy and do well there,  and many of my customers found me directly from a google search of something they were looking for, but there would be a definite advantage to not having to compete on a site that contained unrelated items

In terms of setting up our own "etsy.com

I may be able to contribute a high-end shopping cart shopping mall software package. I could probably even do the basic set up. This would basically provide the web marketplace software. One can get quite good hosting for about six dollars per month.

There are two major obstacles from my point of view.

1) marketing and promotion of websites can be a major enterprise. I know I've done it. The first and most obvious step is doing search engine optimization so it gets high enough on Google so there is some traffic. I have done a lot of this up until about two years ago when the Google dance changed. I am now out of date on the technology and would not have time to take charge of this. We probably have to hire someone who specializes in such things.

2) even though it would be far cheaper and more effective than everyone doing their own little website to display and sell their pots, getting enough C6P participants to put their work on the site and to contribute to its development and support.

Having tried Etsy with very poor results I would love to be in on the ground floor, I look forward to hearing more.

There seem to be some questions we need to answer as a first step.

how many people are using etsy.com or similar?

how happy are they with it?

how many people are trying to sell directly from their own website

how happy are they with it?

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Here are a couple of more questions added by George Lewter 4/17/2014

  • How many members are marketing through galleries or shops? Are you satisfied with that kind of venue? Is the commission you pay them worth having them do all the marketing and sales? Can you take away enough revenue to make the production of your wares generate income?
  • How many members are marketing by purchasing space at arts and crafts festivals? Are you happy with that kind of venue? Are the costs of space, booth display, transport, lodging, meals, and insurance plus all the labor and time sitting in a booth worth the effort?

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how many of the above are unhappy enough to be willing to support another alternative?

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