Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Etsy Marketing 101 | Virtual Merchandizing Featuring Etsy Seller GemstoneIsle

First - let me get this little disclaimer out of the way - This is not an Etsy endorsed blog. I am an independent marketing specialist and when I joined Etsy I noticed that many sellers were asking for help getting sales in their shops. So I decided to put my marketing knowledge to work and set up this blog series. I'll be covering a wide variety of topics from social networking to actual tutorials on photography. So let's get started!

The visual appeal of your store is one of the most important ways to get sales. Dark, uninteresting, out of focus photos can be the death of a shop even if you have a great product to offer. In a brick and mortar store this would be a situation in which you need to consider your visual merchandizing. In this case we'll call it virtual merchandizing. 

Gemstone Isle - Otherwise known as Sherry Spiers - is a fellow member of the Help for NEWBIES team on Etsy. Sherry is actually a Lawyer from Florida and when the recession hit she "made lemons into lemonade" and decided to take her freed up schedule to follow her passion for jewelry design.

Visit Gemstone Isle at www.etsy.com/shop/gemstoneisle
Although she has no previous experience in jewelry sales, marketing or merchandizing, her shop is beautifully presented, has solid, high quality photos and a cohesive layout. Sherry was kind enough to do a brief Q&A with me when I asked her about how she decided on the presentation for her shop. 

Kwirk  - When did you first start designing jewelry and what was your inspiration to start?

Sherry I started designing and making jewelry about a year ago. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile, but I never thought I had the time and wasn’t sure I had the creativity to do it. I am a land use lawyer and the recession hit my practice area pretty hard, so I decided to just go for it, turning lemons into lemonade, so to speak. I’m glad I did. Designing and making jewelry is relaxing, stress-reducing, and so much fun.

K - What inspired the theme of your shop?

S - Islands have been a persistent theme in my dreams and imaginings since I was a little girl and saw the movie South Pacific. I fell in love with Hawaii. I would make muumuu’s and hula clothes for myself and my sister Vikki and had a little ukulele I played. My sister now lives on the Big Island of Hawaii (a photo of Waipio Valley on the Big Island is featured on my shop banner). When I visit her there, I feel like I’ve come home. There’s something spiritual about the place, and the people are so beautiful, warm and welcoming. I live in Florida which has its own beautiful islands that I enjoy visiting, especially in the Florida Keys. So an island theme came naturally to me when I started my jewelry business. 

K - What sort of materials do you like to use most?

S - My material choices continue to evolve, but at this point I have four favorites. I love crystals, especially Swarovski crystals, because of the sparkle and the wide range of colors available. I love semiprecious stones because of the endless variety and beauty of what nature offers. It’s really quite amazing and inspiring. Karen Hill Tribe silver is a favorite. I like knowing that it is handmade by native people, and that buying it in some small way helps native people sustain themselves. More recently I have begun to appreciate handmade lampwork glass and incorporate that into my jewelry. It adds a different and complementary texture to other materials, and I appreciate the art and talent required to make it. 

K - What sort of preparations did you make before opening your shop? Did you do any market research?

S -  I just jumped in and am learning as I go. I don’t know much about market research and marketing in general and was na├»ve enough to think “if you build it, they will come,” which of course is not the case for most people. It takes hard work to establish a new business. If I had to do it over again, I would do some market research first or hire someone to do it for me.

K - Your photos are a great starting point for a newbie, how did you settle on the style of photography that you chose?

S - That, too, is evolving, but basically the style flowed from the shop’s island theme. I try to use props consistent with that theme, like the sea shell featured in a number of the shop photos. I also visited a number of etsy shops and continue to be inspired by the creativity of other online sellers.

K - What sort of camera do you use for your product photos?

S - I invested in a D3000 Nikon camera, which I like very much. For me, a point and shoot camera did not produce the clear, crisp photos that are so important for an online business. 

K - Do you use a flash on your photos or natural lighting?

S - I read a lot of advice about photographing jewelry and all of it says to avoid flash photography because of the harsh shadows it can create. I don’t presently have a light tent, so I stick with natural light, especially morning light, and that has produced the best pictures for me. 

K - If there was anything you could change or improve in your shop what would it be?

S - The photography, definitely. Photography is an art form in itself and seems to be the one thing online sellers struggle with the most. I try every day to learn something new to improve my photography skills.

K - What was your goal for opening your shop on Etsy?

S - My goal is to work for myself and build my business to a point where I can support my family and continue to indulge my passion for jewelry making. Etsy offers an opportunity for a lot of exposure, the sellers are so helpful and supportive of each other, and the fees are affordable, especially for newbies. I really enjoy this online venue.

K - Is there anything else you would like to share with our fellow newbies and readers?

S - I want to thank you for the opportunity to discuss my jewelry and invite all your readers to visit my etsy shop. I am always open to questions and suggestions.

Sherry is a bright and charming woman who took her good business sense and found a way to make her passion work for her. I have no doubt that her shop will be a big success and look forward to following her progress as she becomes more widely known. 

Here are some images of products from her shop.
Red Coral and Fresh Water Pearls
Blue & Green Swarovski Crystals
Vintage Italian Bead Earrings

Although they don't all have the same background the theme is consistent and clearly shows that all the pieces belong to the same collection. Also when you visit the page for each individual item you will notice that she uses all of her available photo slots and takes pictures of her jewelry from multiple angles. 

Sherry also mentioned doing research on jewelry photography. Researching photography styles for your particular specialty is key. You wouldn't shoot a necklace the same way you would shoot a bench. Fashion, product and editorial photography are all very different styles. Look into the styles that different people have used for a product that is similar to yours. If you find something that speaks to you, take note of it. Study what makes that particular style appealing to you. Do you think you can emulate it? Maybe you need a little help with the technical aspect. Look for online tutorials on photography, check your local library and start following blogs on photography.

Also, choose your setting carefully. Where you take your photos makes a big difference. An image of your product just sitting on your bed might not seem as well thought out as if it were taken in it's "natural habitat" or somewhere suiting the theme of your shop. 

In Sherry's photos she features her jewelry displayed on seashells and rocks and uses palm leaves as an accent. Not only does this bring visual appeal to her items, but it also takes her away from having bland catalog style images. In another instance you might be selling vintage typewriters. Displaying it on a desk with an accompaniment of coordinating office supplies sets the scene for your product. Or conversely it might be interesting to show it on a tree stump outside. The contrast in product and location creates intrigue and interest. 

Lastly - lighting! One of the most challenging aspects of capturing a good photo of your products is light. You may or may not have noticed that the flash on your camera is not your friend. Flash tends to create harsh shadows and can make your photos too "contrasty." Instead, take your photos somewhere where there is a good natural light source. Outside or near a window with morning light is usually ideal if you don't have access to professional lighting tools. Just be careful not to get into direct sunlight or else you'll be battling those harsh shadows again. Another good trick is to shoot with your back to the sunlight. That way you don't end up with an overly bright background. 

Properly merchandizing your shop to make it look cohesive, well thought out and established definitely makes a big difference in whether or not people will stick around to see what you have to offer. Take pride in your products! Show them off to their full potential. If you love them and treat them like they're something special people are bound to agree. 

I've taken the opportunity to include links to a couple photography tutorials for all of you. Feel free to visit them and see what other people have to say:

This site has a huge variety of "How To's" for a variety of different types of products

The title says it all - Professional Looking Photos Without a Professional!

Happy Merchandizing and check back soon for the next Etsy Marketing 101 topic!


  1. Thanks for this great and informative post. I wish you the best with your shop!

  2. So much good info, thank you, looking forward to your next blog.
    I will check out the links you posted, I know I need all the help I can get.


  3. Fantastic! Thanks so much for the help! Sharing the love....I LOVE it!