Monday, 26 July 2010

What makes a successful shop?

This post originally appeared as a guest blog on Iyobo Design's blog.  Thanks to Beata for featuring it :-)

OK, I’m going to make a bold statement now. I think I have a successful shop! Actually, I have four online shops on Folksy, Etsy, Dreamaid and Zibbet. I’ve been selling for 11 months online and across the Folksy and Etsy shops I have 54 sales.

Were you expecting the number to be closer to 5,000? Or 500? What do you think it means to have a successful shop? Is it loads of sales, loads of stock, repeat customers, wholesale orders, being a household name?

I guess like most sellers when I started I was a bit naive and imagined that customers would be queueing up to buy my jewellery on a daily basis – maybe I wouldn’t be able to make things fast enough! I soon learned that making the jewellery and listing it was the relatively easy part. There were all sorts of things about promoting online that I didn’t even realise that I’d need to do – blogging, tweeting, chatting in forums, all that was new to me. Now I spend a lot of time promoting, but I’ve learned to focus on the things I enjoy. And customers still don’t come in droves. So why do I think I’m successful? Maybe I’m just mad LOL

It’s because of the best thing about online selling, something I’d never even thought of when I started my shops. It’s about the customer experience. A lot of people I’ve sold to have emailed me about the jewellery, have left me feedback in the shops, have blogged or mentioned my shop in other forums and online venues. I’ve been lucky all my feedback so far is really positive. And that’s the real joy of it for me.

Everytime I sell an item and put it in the post, there’s a bit of anxiety about whether the recipient will really like it. After all, they’ve only seen a few pictures and read my description of it, and I’m no David Bailey in the photo department! And all my designs are from my imagination and are things I’d like to wear, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world shares my taste, does it? So the relief and pleasure when you get feedback that it’s beautiful, that my mum will really love it, that it’s well made, that it’s better than the picture etc etc, is really sometimes better than the sale. I don’t think people working in a bricks and mortar shop get that experience very often. So I’m happy to trade loads of customers for a few, really happy online buyers any day!

It’s lucky that making jewellery is my hobby and I do feel for people trying to make a living from their crafting in such tough economic times. And if a hundred people suddenly found my shop and each bought an item, I’d be overjoyed. But just at the moment, on an average of a just over one sale a week, I’m quite a happy bunny. So my advice to new shops would be, don’t be impatient, work hard and the customers will gradually come and then, well, it’ll be lovely!


  1. Very true, selling online is hard work if you want to succeed.
    And patience is a virtue!

  2. What a lovely positive story and I truly concur. I have had some sales on Dreamaid and I really like the positivity from all my customers, which means as much to me as the sales. Thank you Alison for putting up this little booster story for all us small little people out here.

  3. I do this for a living, and I think I am a success, I don't make much money but I am happy with what I do and how I run things...happiness is what I think is important so that in my eyes means I am successful!

    Does that sentence make sense? LOL

    Great blog :)

  4. Sharon - that makes absolute sense to me. And the fact that you're doing what you love is fantastic, I think.

  5. Success can mean something different to each one of us. For a lot of people it's about profit, making money. If you need to make a living it has to be so. For those of us who don't need to make a living, maybe supplement a pension or other income, it is really about the validation of knowing people value our work. I have yet to make a profit (in fact I'm still making a loss) yet like you I feel successful purely because I am selling some of my creations. I feel successful because I'm proud of what I'm creating.

  6. averilpam - really good points. That validation is very good for your self-esteem, isn't it?

  7. Very good! I think I'm at the point of considering myself "a success" - I think I've found my niche; but then again, who knows if my stuff will fall out of favour next week...I agree regards the validation too.


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