If you've visited my website lately, you may have noticed a few things have been moving around. After a lot of consideration and lengthy discussions with my business-savvy husband, I've decided to move my main shop to Etsy.
I'm still deciding whether or not I'll keep some products for sale on my website, but with Paypal checkout only - or if I'll just do it all in one place, so that may be subject to change.
There are a lot of reasons for the move, and I feel a lot of my experiences could help other small business owners, so let me elaborate. Please forgive my verbose nature - it's just who I am. :)
Any online payment gateway is going to cost, and I fully understand and expected this. When I created my new web shop, I also created an Authorize.net merchant account and working with them was an incredible experience. However, a lot of small business owners don't initially realize the obligations that come with hosting your own payment gateway. In February I was due for my PCI Compliance check up and I failed, miserably. I wasn't doing anything illegal with credit information - in fact, I never even saw or stored that information, but as a one-person business, I just didn't have the resources for a CIO and weekly security monitoring (a requirement for PCI Compliance). The platform I was using for my shop was (and still is) a very secure platform, but it simply didn't meet the standards of PCI Compliance. Therefore, I had to add a second platform on top of my existing platform to process credit cards through their website (similar to how Paypal takes you to their page when you check out with them, rather than staying on the shop page). It wasn't ideal aesthetically, and it added another cost factor to the pre-existing transaction fees and monthly charges. I honestly wonder how so many small shops process credit cards directly on their site - or if they just fudged their way through their PCI Compliance (trust me, it was tempting!). With Logan currently finishing a Masters of Information Security, he helped me sympathize a bit with the laws... but sheesh. It was a nightmare.
Beyond the additional cost of the second platform (which truly was reasonable - just annoying on top of my pre-existing costs), I decided to open a sister Etsy shop in January to see if that would help my sales. Within about a month, I had sold more than my web shop sold in three months. I've already surpassed my entire 2012 year's revenue last month (on Etsy alone - not even taking into account custom work), so I'm definitely loving my Etsy experience! Of course, now that I had two shops, I was paying for payment processing in two places. My heart and soul wanted to only have my web shop, but I couldn't turn down the consistent and large volume of sales Etsy was providing me. So after five months of running both, it just seems natural to close the one that's not bringing in as many sales. Sigh.
Another difficulty with having two shops is keeping a consistent work flow. Due to the volume and regularity of my Etsy sales, I have a daily routine of processing orders and accounting, and it's difficult to juggle that work flow with spontaneous orders coming in from my website. For instance, I print all of my shipping labels through Etsy, but I have to use USPS.com or visit the post office to ship web shop orders. Therefore, those orders were taking longer to process since they were out of my streamlined Etsy work flow. Additionally, I work an 8-5 job every day, and managing both of these work flows (on top of my custom projects) was getting a little confusing and overwhelming at times, and I think I can show my customers better service by having 100% focus on one single work flow, for timely ordering and processing. If I do end up reopening a small shop with Paypal check out, I'll really have to look into how to manage both work flows simultaneously. It's an arduous task on top of managing my custom work as well, but as all things are in owning your own business, it's a labor of love!
The platform I used for my website is an awesome service and worked beautifully with my amateur experience in web development. However. It seems the nature of the internet is to change the moment everything is figured out, and it was getting difficult to keep up with the development issues my web shop would encounter with new updates. I felt for awhile there I was constantly emailing my ever-generous developer friends with random questions and favors in exchange for help to get my shop up and running again. Every tiny update would cause a kink somewhere which would inevitably mess up the thumbnails, which would then cause the product page not to load, etc, etc. It finally came down to Gravity Forms not working properly (read: products would not add to cart) that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I had been thinking about making the move for a few weeks at that point, and it finally seemed like the most logical decision.
Again, I may be reopening a portion of the shop with Paypal checkout only, but until then I am excited to be converting my main website into a hub to showcase my custom work, rather than treating my custom work as my second priority, which I felt my current website organization suggested. I will be transitioning the site into a full portfolio site, and directing retail shoppers to Etsy for their shopping pleasure. :)
I hope you will come along on this journey with Lemon Tree and embrace the creative community that Etsy provides. It's kind of weird going from running my own web shop to just having my shop through Etsy, but financially and administratively it really does make the most sense, and I am so grateful for the opportunities my Etsy expansion has brought me in 2013.
Please feel free to leave any thoughts or suggestions in the comments - I'd love to hear your opinions and ideas on the matter!