Sunday, September 22, 2013

The CraftStar: It's Not Just A Job, It's An Adventure!

Being an e:commerce seller IS a job, but it can also be rewarding (both financially and socially) and fun!

On The CraftStar, we have many tools in place to make your life as an online seller as easy as possible, and more to come!  We’re going into beta testing this week for the feature we’ve been talking about for the last couple of months:  The Trading Post.  The Trading Post is PERFECT for this time of year and the techs have done an amazing job on it.  You will be able to offer up an item to trade, contact another seller and ask if they’d like to do a trade, request a particular trade, etc.  This will expand into our version of Alchemy …  which was a very popular feature on Etsy a few years ago (before they began the dismantling of community features).  We’re still trying to come up with a name for it, so any suggestions would be welcome!

The online selling merry-go-round is spinning pretty quickly!  With the huge exodus from Etsy, sellers seem to be landing either at The CraftStar or Zibbet.  As the newbies, I’m delighted we’re on the list and it’s very interesting watching what’s going on.  A couple of weeks ago, Zibbet seemed to be the hot spot, and one of our sellers sent me an email saying she was going to go try it over there.  Fair enough, you’re not locked into anything at The CraftStar, although we don’t like to see people go.  Two weeks later, I received another email from the same seller, asking if she could come back.  “Of course!”  Was my response, but was also intrigued with the quick turn around so asked some questions.  It seems the ole’ “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” was the reason.

The CraftStar was built around a community of small businesses.  Online sellers are a diverse but unified community in that we all have a common goal: sales.  In order to achieve that goal, The CraftStar has many unique features:  a dedicated team of people promoting YOU and YOUR SHOPS, quick response to emails, a PR company working with hundreds of press outlets, LIVE broadcasts, chat rooms, to name just a few.  It sounded, from that seller, that when you don’t have that unique support, you miss it.

The CraftStar was also built around a live broadcasting platform.  There is a method to this madness, as my experience consulting for HSN, and my 25 years of working in the entertainment businesses confirmed what the advertising business has known for years: moving pictures sell.   Along with our twice weekly broadcasts: Mondays and Thursdays (7:30pm EDT / 4:30pm PDT), we will be trying out our version of HSN / QVC sales.  Sellers will be given 15 minute blocks, LIVE, to sell their items.  This is going to be a GREAT thing to do!  As it’s a new concept in our field, we’re not expecting it to take off immediately … we’re aware that buyers will take time to get used to this form of selling, that we need to get the message out there, etc.  In my opinion, it’s certainly worth the effort being put into it, as we’re setting it up like an online craft fair.  We’ll schedule sellers in 4 blocks of 15 minutes, generate invitations which you can send to your family, friends, customers … and at the end, you’ll have a 15 minute info-mercial on your items that will live on You Tube and again, you can send to your contacts. 

It’s a tough world out there as an online seller, so all these extra bits and pieces we do for our sellers really help.  Through our extensive research, we have found across the board that sales were down this summer.  There are two reasons for that: summer is a notoriously slow shopping time (for everyone), and the e:commerce world is developing more and more competition.  Think of sites like HauteLook, One Kings Lane, etc.  Once you’ve signed up to these sites, you are bombarded with emails, it’s hard to miss them!  Think of this in terms of you and your promotion of your business, learn from companies like this … customers want to be / need to be reminded of what you have to offer.  Now is NOT the time to give up!

Along those lines, we will be starting a new ad campaign aimed at online shoppers for the holiday season.  You will have seen the extensive advertising we do already, it will be similar to that, but with a seasonal message.   We’re also working with local press in your areas to get this message out:  Please keep in mind, buying from small businesses helps families directly. Please consider The CraftStar for your holiday gifting.  I have added that to my email signature and FB page, something you might want to think about too?

There are other things you can do to help you and The CraftStar get out there!  Please look at our HOW TO GUIDES at the bottom of the front page of The CraftStar. Read the Titles, Text, and Tags article.  Also, check out our blog on Getting Your Shop Ready For the Holidays:  http://thecraftstar.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-craftstar-tips-preparing-your-shops.html

Speaking of The CraftStar Blog …. Here are some things for your To-Do List:
1.     Make sure you have a Google + account.  Listing your items on your Google + page is, as one seller described it: SEO on steroids.
3.     Follow and SHARE The CraftStar Blog :  http://thecraftstar.blogspot.com/
We do daily features on The CraftStar Blog that are based on trending terms and which include a variety of items from different shops.  The PR team turns these blogs into press releases and distributes to hundreds of outlets, and by your sharing  - it will help all the more in getting our fabulous shops and items out there!

Along with making promoting and selling easier for sellers, we also make buying easier for buyers!  If you haven’t checked out The CraftStar Collectives yet, you should do so!  They’re a great tool for shoppers who don’t have a lot of time to find what they want in one place.  We’re continuing to add categories as we see the demand.  Now here’s something you won’t often hear out of my mouth:  I’m delighted to say that we haven’t had sales in The Collectives!  Did she really just say that?  Yes, I did!  And the reason why I’m delighted, is because customers are using the shop backlinks included on all listings and buying from the shops directly!   So, think of The Collectives as a billboard for your shop in a particular category … they’re a great traffic driver.  If you’re interested in participating in The CraftStar Collectives, please email Rhonda@thecraftstar.com .

I think that’s enough for one sitting!  More details to come on the LIVE selling blocks / online craft fairs and the launch of The Trading Post. 

In the meantime, I really encourage you to join in CHAT on site … believe it or not, it’s a GREAT selling tool!  People (sellers and buyers) like to get to know the humans behind the shops, you can share images of your items, and it’s a great way to network and get you and your shop out there.   We have chat parties every Monday and Thursday along with our LIVE broadcasts mentioned above.

See you on The CraftStar!

Bethan and The CraftStar Team



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