We did it! We built a standalone website for Boldlie & Co and I can’t wait to share all the lessons we learned and tools we used to make it happen.
Ash and I have always wanted a website for our handmade business from the very beginning. It can be tempting to imagine all the traffic we’d get after spending weeks of making the website perfect. But – we’re glad we didn’t do too much in the beginning.
We would’ve spent weeks fighting over color palettes and website themes instead of selling our items, talking to customers and validating our product.
We’re now at a point where we believe that a standalone website can add value to our business. The value is not contingent on us getting our website ready before launching.
We’re ready to move to a platform that doesn’t rely solely on marketplace traffic. Are you?
Etsy, Amazon & marketplaces vs your own website
When moving from an Etsy, Amazon or even an eBay marketplace shop to your own website, there’s a whole lot of things to consider. There was a time when making our own website definitely didn’t make sense at certain stages of the business. This list is handy to figure out whether a website is necessary for your business.
Why you should start your own website
- Ownership of your brand. It’s the simple things: choosing the exact colors you like, the layout that shows off your product the best, and a design that doesn’t change on the whim because the marketplace is experimenting with their user interface. YOUR brand is the selling point of YOUR shop – not Etsy, Amazon or eBay’s brand.
- Carve your own competition. When you sell on marketplaces, your products are placed right next to your competitors. Shoppers might favor a similar product because it’s cheaper or the shipping is faster. When you have your own website – you tell your own story, set your own prices, and, you’ll keep the attention of your visitors for longer. Plus, if you’re digitally savvy, you can work on your website SEO and rise above the rest by getting your products ranking high on Google.
- Set a professional tone. Want to get into wholesaling? Or are you pitching your products to magazines and influencers? A website with your own professional branding sets you apart from the rest. You’ll look like a legitimate “big business” even if you’re really still just a one-(wo)man show.
- There are no rules to follow. You don’t have to be afraid of logging into your marketplace shopfront one day and seeing your account shut down because of a new policy. Even worse, the marketplace that hosts your store can shut down and go kaput – much like what happened with Dawanda. If you’re a rule breaker, building your own website feels like an endless playground.
- If you sell a lot, fees can be less. If your items are flying off the shelves, paying a hefty 5% fee per sale can start to add up over time. When you have your own website, you’re often paying a monthly subscription fee and/or a much smaller commission – and, that’s all.
Why you should keep focusing on your Etsy, Amazon or eBay shop
I personally believe that a website is a great asset for anyone – when the time is right. Sometimes, it makes sense to stick with what widely works. If you’re thinking about selling online, here’s why it’s worth starting with or sticking to marketplaces…
- Traffic is easier to come by. Running your own website means you’ll have to do a lot more marketing tasks to promote your shop. If you’re just starting out, you just can’t beat the traffic that marketplaces generate. With a little bit of marketplace SEO, you can get your products seen on marketplace search results much faster than Google.
- You can experiment with your product. With more traffic, comes faster feedback. You can quickly see what products are selling out and which are hitting their expiry date without so much a “Favorite”. If you’re brimming with product ideas, or, you’re not too sure what your niche is – marketplaces are great places to figure this out quickly.
- If you sell less, fees can be less. Like your own website, commission fees might actually be a blessing in disguise. After all, you only pay a fee when you make a sale on a marketplace. For newbies or hobbyists who only sell a few things every month, this could be much more cost effective than a fixed subscription.
- Easier set up. Marketplaces like Etsy have been built and designed to be easy to use. There’s no way to stuff up a bit of code or accidentally delete something important in the backend. You’re given space to input content about your product and your shop – and then it automagically gets formatted beautifully. You can focus more on creating amazing items while all the backend work is done for you.
The premise was simple: increase our customer reach by opening up shops on multiple channels.
But, we never really owned the vision of what we wanted Boldlie & Co to be. We started diving into influencer marketing and I always felt like our true brand was missing.
That’s why we started to build a standalone website. We acknowledged a lot of the cons that came with running a website. But, we figured there are plenty of solutions out there that can help us when it comes to: setting up, costs and promotion…
What platform to choose for your website?
The platform we choose to build our website on is key. We categorized different website builders, did a bit of research and these are our thoughts on what’s available out there…
Marketplace associated websites
- Examples. Pattern by Etsy and Stitch by Zibbet
- Pricing. Both Pattern and Stitch are offered on a subscription based model. Pattern starts at $15mo while Stitch is charged at $5mo with a Zibbet account. Zibbet let’s you manage and sync your inventory with other channels like Etsy and Zibbet Marketplaces. You can get started with just 2 channels.
- Pros. Hands down – the speed. After a little playing around, we realized we could get a website up and running in less than a day. Both websites let you import your inventory from Etsy while removing traces of the marketplace branding. The order fulfilment can also be managed with Etsy or Zibbet – I’m so excited about the idea of never having to login to two different platforms just to process orders again.
- Cons. Pattern will continue to charge payment processing fees per order on top. While Stitch doesn’t charge commissions – if you’ve connected Stripe or PayPal as your payment gateway, there are still lower fees associated with them. Both platforms have set themes and templates that you must use to design your site. You can customize colors, typography, layout changes and upload banners. It’s definitely not as flexible as other website builders. If you had something completely custom in mind, you won’t be able to design it in Marketplace associated websites.
Ecommerce website builders
- Examples. Shopify, Squarespace, Big Cartel, Wix, Weebly, BigCommerce, Volusion
- Pricing. All ecommerce builders charge using a monthly subscription model. Prices vary widely between $12 to $300 a month. I personally wouldn’t pay more than $30 a month unless I was generating thousands of dollars in revenue every month. You’ll also find lower priced subscription packages still charge Stripe and PayPal fees on top, while higher priced packages often do away with this completely.
- Pros. Website builders have waaay more flexibility when it comes to the look and feel of your shop. Platforms like Shopify and Squarespace have a huge library of premium themes that look closer to professional websites. They’re pretty easy to customize and the web builders are fairly intuitive and easy to use. Shopify has an entire app store of plugins and features you can integrate into your shop.
- Cons. You’ll need to manage your orders via the platforms which can be a headache once you start making a lot of sales. There’s also a lot of hidden costs when you run your shop on an ecommerce website builder. On top of your monthly subscription fee and sales commission fees, expect to fork out extra cash to buy premium themes and shop integrations.
Self hosted websites + open source ecommerce plugins
- Examples. WooCommerce for any WordPress website and Magento for any self hosted website.
- Pricing. This can be the cheapest or the most wallet draining option depending on how you look at it. WooCommerce and Magento are free plugins. But, to run them, you need to have a hosted website. Magento also has some higher tier ecommerce packages that can cost up to $22,000 a year (eeeeek!) Plus, with these options you’ll most likely need to spend money on a developer to get things off the ground – unless you can do it all yourself.
- Pros. Complete flexibility and the sky’s the limit. You can make your website look and do whatever you can dream of. Think of these platforms as your backstage crew. You have complete freedom to design your stage, sets and costumes while these guys sit silently in the back making sure everything works.
- Cons. These options are not for newbies and non-techies. You’ll probably sink A LOT of time into learning the software, piecing things together and paying for external help before you can sell a single thing.
And the platform we chose is…
I’m sure this is of no surprise… we ended up going with Stitch!
Why? Even though we wanted a beautifully designed website that looks kickass, our end goal doesn’t align with the amount of time and money we’d need to set aside. Here are the factors that went into deciding why Stitch was best for us.
- We’re a new business that isn’t making many sales (yet). We wanted something that was fairly cheap while we keep experimenting on our marketplace channels. Plus, we work for Zibbet, so we technically get Stitch for free 😜
- We wanted something low cost that would grow with us. We couldn’t justify the money spent on more traditional website builders and the time that would be sunk into them.
- We want to save more time to focus on marketing activities. Once you have a website, you’ve gotta drive traffic. We wanted to spend less time on creating our website and more time on marketing activities. We want to approach retailers to wholesale our products, and we want to build a strong brand that influencers will want to work with. That means we need a website builder that’s quick, easy to set up and looks fairly good (but we don’t expect mind blowing).
How we built our website on Stitch
After the decision, it was time to start building our website. Here’s our step-by-step guide with screenshots and all!
Step 1: Import your Etsy products with Zibbet
Stitch is exclusive to Zibbet. That means to use Stitch, you need a Zibbet account.
When you first sign up to Zibbet, you’ll see a few channels that you can choose to connect. We’re starting off with Etsy and Stitch, so these are the ones we want to connect first.
After you’ve connected Etsy, Zibbet will automatically import your products. If you’ve got existing items, you can merge them up or list the items as new products.
Note: Etsy import is only available to current Zibbet users. No fear, though. Zibbet will be opening up this feature to the public very soon so register your name to the waiting list to get your invitation.
Step 2: Add your imported Etsy product to Stitch
In a few clicks, our products had been imported into Stitch. All in all, the process took me about 10 minutes. Compared to that time I migrated our Etsy listings to Amazon Handmade, this was a walk in the park.
Ta-da: two channels connected now!
Step 2: Design your website
Next, we added our own touch to our website. Ash made this adorable banner for our shop and I added in some website copywriting.
Here’s a guide on creating your own shop branding assets that might come in handy.
Step 3: Connect your domain name
Finally, Zibbet let’s you sign up for a free domain name for a year.
We already have our own domain that we registered on GoDaddy that cost us $17. We wanted to snatch our name up before anyone else. We connected our domain name by following the GoDaddy portion of this tutorial.
Finally, say hello to our standalone shop, boldlie.co! Ash and I shared the workload and we did a little bit each day. Altogether, we spent about 2 hours to take our products from marketplace to our very own standalone website. With the time we saved, we can focus more on outreach, talking to our customers and product development.
PS: In case you missed it, Etsy import is only available to Zibbet users. If you’re an existing Zibbet member, you can still set up a Stitch website in a snap. Everybody else – Zibbet will be launching to the public very soon so register your name to the waiting list to get your invitation.
Do you have a standalone website for your shop? Leave the URL in the comments below and/or let me know what your experiences have been like running it.