Friday, October 2, 2015

Setting up Shop at Handmade at Amazon?

by Sherri Stokey

If you sell handmade products online, chances are you've heard of the new Handmade at Amazon soon to be launched by the folks at Amazon to offer handcrafted products to their millions of customers worldwide.  As we speak, an untold number of artisans have already been invited to set up shop and yes, folks, yours truly is one of them.  I’m not sure entirely sure why I’m putting myself through this, but it does seem like an exciting opportunity to get in on the ground floor.  I manage to muddle through with my Etsy shop and my blog and a little social media.  How hard can this be?  Right?

Well, let me tell you… I don’t want to scare anyone off by any means, but this has not been easy for me.  I haven’t felt this inadequate for a long time - and that’s saying something because I often feel inadequate.  I couldn’t even find my way back to my shop again after closing my browser.  My only consolation at this point comes from knowing there are many other people experiencing the same thing.  Hint #1, if you’re trying to find your shop (the way it looks to buyers), try (Hint #2: you’ll want to substitute your own shop name there where it says yourshopname).  If you’re looking for the Seller Central dashboard part, after you log in, go to Your Account and on the right hand side there’s a spot for “Your Other Accounts” where Your Seller Account is one of the options.  I felt about ten times better just being able to navigate to my shop (stop laughing).

Once you locate your shop, you need to set up your Artisan Profile.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Not so fast there, Skippy.  For the store “cover image” they suggest that you use a photo of your work space.  That’s all fine and dandy if you have a photogenic studio space.  If your “work space” consists of a couch and end table and your “studio space” is the furnace closet (are you laughing at me again?), it’s not so glamorous.  I ended up cobbling together some photos into a collage banner (Picmonkey or CollageIt are good for this) which will just have to suffice.  It's a pretty big space to fill, so keep in mind if you use a photo of yourself, your nostrils might look huge (speaking from experience here).  Bonus, though, you can link up to five of the products in your store to your banner.  If something in your banner, I mean “cover image”, catches someone’s eye, they can click it to be taken directly to that product to purchase.  Points to Amazon for that one.   No time to rest, though, because they allow another three photos in this section and according to all the Smart People, you need to put something in there.  I’m putting that one on the back burner for now because the Little Dog won’t hold still for a portrait and she's the only other thing I can think of to photograph at the moment.

 After all that (and a glass of wine or two, because let’s face it, this is work), there’s still the bio writing to be done.  You know the “why everyone should want to buy from me” space?  Amazon calls it “How are your products made?” but I’m sure they want more than “I tied string into knots” in there.  There are other boxes to be worded up, too, like “Inspiration” and “About You”.  I’m a grandmother from the middle of nowhere Nebraska.  The “about me” section is going to be about as dull as… well, you get my point.  Words, people.  You’re going to need to spend some quality time with your thesaurus or get someone to write it for you.  I glossed over mine and stuck something in there just to get past this step.  I’ll go back later and refine it (famous last words).  Oh, did I mention?  When you make changes to your profile, it takes 15 minutes to show up.  Or more.  Like up to 2-3 hours more.  If you’re a fusser like me and make a hundred little changes, you have to wait quite a while in between to see how the changes will actually look to customers (which gives you time for more wine). 

If you’re still awake/alert/sober and haven’t reached information overload or achieved a total frustration meltdown, you’re now to the part where you can actually list an item to sell.  Yay!!  OMG, hold on… they want your product photos to be on a neutral background without props and without watermarks or logos or whatnot.  WHAT!?  Who DOES that?  Actually, for Etsy selling, we should have been doing this all along.  In my defense, I tried that years ago and my photos were crummy.  So then I staged them a little bit and added a backdrop and “the hand” and hit my stride for a little while.  Not that my photos were spectacular, mind you, but they were apparently good enough for enterprising folks to nab them and pretty soon I started seeing my pictures plastered all over foreign web sites (pictures of jewelry, people – get your minds out of the gutter).  After that I started putting my shop name on all my photos.  Turns out Etsy doesn’t recommend that.  In fact, they say “watermarks make photos unsuitable for features within Etsy marketing materials and offsite advertising programs like Google Product Listing Ads”.  

Most of my photos just had to be retaken.  Above is an example of before (with a prop and watermark) and after.  I tried getting the background and/or props and/or watermark out of the photos, but that required even more work doing the editing than retaking the photos.  I have to say, the only thing I like better than learning a new system and writing about myself is editing photos (can you sense the sarcasm there?).  I think this is about the time that I started whimpering.

I’ll just skip the part for now about photography tips, because despite a lot of trial and error, I still don’t know what I’m doing.  I did just discover Fotofuze (hello Beautiful, where have you been all my life?) which will help you clean up your Etsy photos pretty painlessly if you have a fairly neutral background to begin with.  I will also admit the nice white background and lack of props has given my shop a whole new, fresh feel.  The photos below are an example of what the Fotofuze tool can do in just a few seconds.  The facelift was probably long overdue.

Is anyone still with me?  Kudos to you for sticking with me this long!  You realize, don’t you, that we haven’t listed a single item yet!  Not one.  *sigh*  Let me fast forward a little bit for you – listing requires about 3-4 different tabs, with numerous fields for entry, most of which don’t apply to everyone (read: me.  Because I only care about the ones that apply to me).  I have to scroll through a whole bunch of stone size, treatment, pearl color, etc. and try to make sure I don’t miss the two or three fields in the midst of all that that actually do apply to my stuff like color and size.   According to the Smart People, you really need to fill in as many of these fields as you can if they apply.  Those are the fields people can use to narrow down their product searches and if you leave it blank, you might miss out.

The titles require a totally different mindset than Etsy titles, too.  I just started putting a whole bunch of relevant terms in my product titles over there and now we're going back to square one.  Search terms are totally different and instead of using short phrases like on Etsy, you don’t need to repeat words.  So on Etsy I might enter “macramé bracelet” and  “macramé jewelry” but for Amazon I just need macramé, bracelet and jewelry.  (Without commas, by the way.)   So, all new keywords and no pressure, folks.  Only most of the time will Amazon users perform a search before purchasing.  

I’m not giving up yet, though.  I am bound and determined that Amazon customers are going to see my micro macramé jewelry and be wowed by it.  If it kills me.

If you’re going to jump in with me, here’s the short list of advice I can offer (and keep in mind I am not an expert in any way, shape or form):
  1. Find your shop (see Hint #1 above) and bookmark it and your Seller Central page.
  2. Put some thought into your cover photo and artist info.  Get a friend to help you if you aren’t good at talking (or writing) about yourself. 
  3. Find a support group.  Join a group on Facebook or bring up the conversation in a group to which you already belong.  You’ll feel better just knowing you’re not alone in your frustration and you might just find someone who can offer assistance or critiques.
  4. Work on your photos.  I know this has been said over and over and is true no matter what online venue you’re using, but it couldn’t be truer.  When your customers don’t have the luxury of picking up your piece to look at it, you need to have really good pictures of all different angles.  Give them a way to visualize the size (note:  props are allowed in alternate item photos, just not the primary photo).  Be sure your colors are good.
  5. There is no “copy” function for listing yet.  Using your browser’s “back” button will save a few of the things for you, but none of the ones I wanted it to save (just my experience).  My solution was to start a word document with some of the things I used over and over so I could copy and paste. 
That’s about all I can offer you at this point.  I will be doing more research on keywords/search terms and I’ll be sure to share that with you when (if) I figure something out.  If you need me before then, you can probably find me hunched over my keyboard  trying to list as many products as I can before Handmade at Amazon launches - if any of you have any hints and tips for this process, we would love to hear them!


Kathy Lindemer said...

Thank you for the tip about Fotofuze. I don't think I am going to move forward on Amazon--way too much work. Best wishes for you!

Glimmering Jewelry Store India said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tammie Everly said...

Funny post - Glad I'm not the only one really struggling. I'm just praying I set the shipping up right. I guess I'll find out if someone orders something and get charged ten cents for postage..... Hang in there! I'm sure it will get easier as we go along. :-)

OmiSilver said...

HAHA - Now I don't feel quite so dense! Glad to hear others are as overwhelmed as me with this!

touch of silver said...

You are too funny, Sherri:) :) Those you hear laughing out there are those who are going through the same thing...especially about feeling very incompetent. Keeping in mind the "parity" thing, when my husband came home from work last night I asked him if he could whip up a little excel spreadsheet on which I could insert my desired 'in pocket $' from a sale, add expenses for free shipping and packaging, add on H@A 12% and give me a final price to post. He brought me to tears when after working for a little bit he came down with a LARGE spreadsheet way too many complicated columns I didn't need:( I sent him for 2 wine glasses and grabbed a kleenex. Back at it this morning! Good luck to you - your pieces will be well received, I'm sure!!! Barbara

Juliette Williams said...

I've struggled with them, too. I got as far as posting one item. Don't think this will work for me, as the fees are extraordinarily high! Plus, after one year you have to pay monthly to have a store. Too expensive and too much stress. I think I'll stick with local business, but the best of luck with your new endeavor!! :)

WindDancerStudios said...

Right there with you! At least your listings didn't disappear on you mid click lol
I managed to get a few new pieces made and have started taking photos, but I'm just not thrilled with them yet. We'll get there! And ground floor is a pretty cool place to be I hear!

Skylar Bre'z said...

I've been invited to list too, but decided that I'd wait and let everyone else work out the kinks. Now, I'm glad I did. :) Though, I could totally use the wine excuse.

Anonymous said...

Whew! This sounds like SO much work! Here is a question for you as I think you were/are an Etsy seller? Does Etsy have a way to add the items in your shop to your Amazon "wish list? I know Artfire did and I really liked that feature. I felt like I was part of Amazon without all the work. LOL I'm still undecided where I am going to open.

Sherri Stokey said...

I don't know of any way to add an Etsy item to an Amazon wish list - that's a cool feature! Then again, I'm (obviously) not the most technologically savvy person around...

freebird7100 said...

I have received emails about Amazon handmade, but I have been stopped in my tracks because of the need for a tax ID number. But I cant wait to see what others shops will look like. Thanks for all of the info.

Tahnya Ford said...

Thank you for this blog post!! Very informative (and fun to read). I have a friend who has been very frustrated with the whole Amazon process too.

LoriF said...

For stregajewellry....there IS a way to add an Etsy item to an Amazon wish list, but it's nothing Etsy has set up. If you use Google Chrome and Amazon, it's an add-on button which will add to your wish list from anywhere.

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