If you’re a fan of internet shopping but supporting small businesses, I’d be surprised if you had yet to hear about Etsy.
Known to many as the ‘handmade marketplace’, Etsy has grown year on year with both their vast catalog of items from individual sellers, as well as the attraction from side hustles looking to increase their income.
However, Etsy has come under significant skepticism due to several controversial changes, including substantial fee increases, US-centric policies, and most recently — their collaboration with popular UK blogger/vlogger, Zoella (also known as Zoe Sugg).
Let’s start with the simplest reason, shall we? Influencer irrelevancy. This irrelevancy can be broken down into two parts: via the influencer’s niche and their target audience. When both of these are taken into account for this instance in particular.
Zoella’s demographic has always been young, impressionable teenage girls. Sounds great, right? Wrong. These girls don’t have the care nor purse strings to purchase sustainably via a website that has always applauded itself on high-quality products.
Zoella’s collaboration history proves this: Superdrug, Boots, Asos and Primark are hardly leading names in sustainability and are tied with both unethical conditions and unsustainability . These brands cater for the fast and cheap consumer behaviour that is abhorrent in the demographic of Zoella’s followers.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that not all of Zoella’s followers are this demographic, and there are older women who do enjoy her content. But with age comes greater responsibility, and thus the older your audience, the less impressionable they are: and the likelihood of this collaboration bringing in successful revenue with her older audience is low.
If you know Zoella, you’ll know of at least one of her past controversies. Whether that’s the false-advertising of her ghost-written books, or her notoriously over-priced advent calendar, Miss Sugg no longer has the same trust and commercial impact.
When speaking to many Etsy sellers on their closed Facebook group, concern regarding past PR controversies was the greatest concern for many. Through association, Etsy would be branded as a marketplace known for dodgy transactions and unprofessionalism. Etsy has always had a difficulty in proving the price of their seller’s products online (handmade products should always be more expensive than mass market, FYI), and teaming up with a woman notorious for inflated price tags and ripping off consumers may not have been the best strategy.
As a digital marketer myself, I’m a huge advocate for using influencer marketing in your brand strategy (but only when done well). Let’s be honest though, Etsy really missed the mark here. What can only be seen as a combination of Zoella’s irrelevancy and ignorance for her controversial history meant that she wasn’t entirely the best fit for this campaign.
Without reading the minds of those who made the decision, it seems that Etsy simply went for the famous name with an extortionate number of followers: thinking that would translate into positive reach, conversion, and ultimately: sales. That may have worked in the past, but influencer market and the naivety of audiences has evolved considerably since then.
In short, no — why would they? What has become increasingly known during my years as both a seller and buyer on the marketplace is that Etsy sold out to their shareholders quite some time back. Trustpilot ranks Etsy with a shockingly low score of 2/5, you can tell the ‘glory days’ of the indie brand is far behind us.
So why are they still dominant? Well, simply a lack of competition. It wouldn’t take a genius to set up a similar platform, but the constant outbid on marketing and PR would make it difficult to break into the market. However, I wouldn’t be surprised until a challenger comes along, offering better protection to buyers and better fees to sellers, replenishing the community vibe that Etsy lost through their growth.
Etsy always did pride itself on its independent sellers, describing themselves as the ‘Handmade Marketplace’, but have, for quite some time, come under fire for selling out to investors — losing the trust and loyalty of many of their original sellers. Folks like Etsy need to remember that without the sellers, their platform would cease to exist — so maybe next time a consultancy of where the fees would go would be more beneficial to the Etsy community.