EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2645 - October 05, 2011     1 of 4

ArtFire Launches Commercial Market to Deal with Reseller Problem

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Nothing is so irksome to a crafter or artisan as seeing mass-produced items displayed next to items they've spent time and energy to painstakingly create. But marketplaces such as Etsy and Artfire have a difficult time policing the site for "resellers," as commercial sellers are called. After a year spent studying the problem and reading thousands of pages of feedback from paying members, ArtFire thinks it has a solution.

This week, the online marketplace will launch a commercial market to segregate mass produced products from handmade goods. Shoppers will not see commercial products unless they toggle on that preference. The change will not impact sellers of supplies, who have their own category similar to Etsy.

Paying members can report a shop as belonging to the commercial market. ArtFire customer service will then review the shop and consider a "preponderance of evidence," and will move the store to the commercial section if it agrees with the assessment.

Stores who are moved over to the commercial market will receive a notice and may appeal the decision or remove offending items from their store. Or, they can choose to remain in the commercial section, in which case their subscription fee would rise from $9.95/month to $11.95/month. If the seller provides ArtFire with documentation and wins his or her appeal, ArtFire would return the store to the regular part of the site.

ArtFire Chief Operating Officer Tony Ford thinks some of the regular artisans on the site will welcome the addition of commercial accounts. The company will make 1,000 commercial accounts available for a $100 upfront fee, which is a discount from the $11.95/monthly regular fee.

The move to opening a commercial market is not an indication that ArtFire wants to be an "eBay" style marketplace. Items such as electronics, auto parts and pharmaceutical products will continue to be banned from the site.

"It's easy to police what a product is," Ford said, "but is that glycerin soap made by you?" That's hard for marketplaces to determine. In fact, he said some sellers complain about competitors who they are sure are mass-producing items because their listings look too good. But he knows of husband-and-wife teams who are full-time artisan crafters whose handmade items look very professional.

That's why after a seller has been reported a certain number of times but is found not to be a reseller, they will be granted a grace period in which they can not be reported again. It's not a permanent pass, however, to ensure sellers continue to abide by the handmade rules, he said.

New Search, Digital Downloads
ArtFire is also rolling out changes to search next week in its vintage category to help shoppers find what they are looking for. The faceted search feature will let shoppers filter search results by criteria such as color and maker, with criteria appearing in the left column of search results similar to the way Zappos or Newegg allows shoppers to narrow down search results.

Ford said the marketplace will use the data that sellers have been entering into fields during the listing process in order to populate the search filters. He said vintage sellers have been asking for features to help shoppers and said the new search feature would actually reward sellers for knowing what they are listing. More information will be available when the feature rolls out next week.

Ford said ArtFire is still planning to roll out digital downloads before the end of the year. You can read more in this February interview with Artfire.

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About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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