EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 265 - June 20, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     5 of 8

EveryPlaceISell Merchant Profile: Jewelry Artisan NatashaSuter Design

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AuctionBytes-Update regularly features multi-channel merchants in our "EveryPlaceISell Merchant Profile" series. To find out how you can be featured, go here.

Natalie Suter is a hobbyist artisan turned fulltime mompreneur. She designs, makes and sells jewelry and accessories through her business, NatashaSuter Designs, selling on marketplaces and on her own website. Natalie is extremely active in marketing her business through her writing, social networking, and participation in a number of organizations. She launched her own website at http://natashasuter.com using a designer to build a custom website with ecommerce and marketing capabilities.

Natalie has some interesting advice for other sellers who are interested in setting up their own ecommerce site and shares her approach to social networking.

You can find NatashaSuter Design and her other online shops on the EveryPlaceISell.com merchant directory and learn more about being featured in AuctionBytes on this page.


Name:
Natalie Suter

Name of business:
NatashaSuter Designs

When did you start selling online and why?
My start was in 2008, selling enamel work on Etsy and beaded necklaces. Honestly, when people started asking to buy what I made, I decided that I should start selling! I soon discovered that I could make a business out of it for myself and the potential reward would equal the effort I put into it!

What was your background?
I am a hobbyist turned full time mompreneur. This is my full time job, I actually have a walk-in studio attached to my home. I am a wife and a mother, active member of my community in the PTO, Scout Leader, Booster Mom for sports and band. I am also a contributing columnist at Trendhunter.com, a member of the Artfire Maven Team, GuildMaster of the NJ Artisans of Artfire and an active promoter and Blogger of Handmade Artisans and Handmade Goodsn

What do you primarily sell and why?
My products include a diverse collection of jewelry and accessories. I also have a limited line of hand blended and cured artisan scents - natural perfume oil. My products are available for retail and wholesale.

What are the unique challenges you face with the types of items you sell?
I am a trend hunter. My work focuses on products and designs that incorporate the latest looks and things trending toward being rage. From the first catwalk to what you see in retail evolves as quickly as the stock market ticks. Being in the know, using and designing those elements that the average person can wear, as well as getting the word out is the biggest daily challenge.

On which marketplaces and venues do you sell?
My primary venue is Artfire. I also sell on Etsy and my own .com website. I have Rapid Carts and Product Listings on blogs as well as a Merchant Selling feature on my Facebook Fan pages.

What are the pros and cons of each marketplace and venue?
Artfire Pros - SEO, personalized mini-website studio complete with an SEO optimized blog within a venue that does your google legwork for you and puts you out in front of buyers. They also have an interactive community for beginners that might need help and your buyers do not need to register, like Etsy, to make a purchase using Amazon, Google, Paypal checkout. You don't need to be an internet guru to sell there. They also feed to Marketplaces like Google Shopping and TheFind.com for you! Artfire Cons - I truly can't think of one.

Etsy Pros - the name and longeivity of web presence Etsy Cons - they constantly change their set-up and listing methods and you need to be on top of it to turn your switches on and off (syndication, favorite items, titles.) They only offer Paypal checkout and the customer must become an Etsy member to purchase from you. People are cautious with opening accounts and their info being harvested on the net.

My Website Pros - independence of content, if anything goes wrong - I don't need to rely on a venue to be in business. My Website Cons - I wonder about my potential customer's confidence because I am not affiliated with a Brand name venue, and perhaps losing that sale.

When considering all the places you sell, which channels are most profitable?
By far on Artfire. They have multiple merchandising and marketing tools that do the work for you!

Do you feel you are one of many sellers on Artfire (a marketplace, in other words), or do you feel like you have a store that happens to be hosted on Artfire? Please explain.
Being on Artfire, I am among a varied interactive community of networking sellers that are able to have their own unique artisan business hosted within the Artfire Marketplace. For me, being grounded there and pulling on all of the resources and guidance provided is essential to grow and learn.... for example - that's how I heard about you. ;)

How does your revenue break out by channel (what percentage of sales come from each channel)?
95% of my sales are from Artfire.

Which payment methods do you accept?
Non account checkout at Artfire - Google, Paypal, Amazon, Revolution Money Exchange; Etsy- Paypal; My website - Paypal.

What are the pros and cons of each payment method?
As a merchant, I prefer Amazon. Their customer service is stellar and the monthly statements are perfect for my accounting. I think the Amazon reputation is also a factor for customers. Most of my check-out has been Amazon.

Background (URL, when launched)
Natashasuter.com

What was the impetus for starting your own website?
My motivation for starting my own website was to expand my web presence, promote wholesale work and launch a Merchant account on Amazon.com.

If you hired any companies to set up your website and/or design your logo/branding, how did you find them?
This is a decision that should not be made in haste. I contract a company that designed and built my website. A fellow peer Artisan and handmade seller herself, she has a .com and builds websites. She knew exactly what I wanted and who I was, has a background as a seller herself which gave her insight to what was required - this made the project smooth and she catered to my needs. She knew what was needed and how to do it! The build included a customized template blog and website with links and widgets.

If you didn't have a friend to set up your site, what do you think you would have done?
My web designer is not really a friend, just someone I network with and a .com expert with a fab portfolio. I was intending to set up a website regardless, but working with Trish was an easy choice because she understood the needs of an Indie Artisan since she is one herself.

What software/service powers your website, and would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?
ZenCart

Does it have a checkout system, is so, what do you use, and what do you like/dislike about it?
Paypal

If you use an ecommerce service or shopping cart, how would you go about the evaluation process if you had to purchase one today?
Can't answer.

What did you pay to set it up, and what are the monthly costs of running it?
confidential. This was a contract with retainer. Web hosting is minimal ($4/mo)

How difficult was it to set up?
She did the work for me! Easy.

Does it have analytics, reporting?
Yes - comprehensive.

What are the challenges you faced in starting your own website?
Not being proficient in search engine optimization or knowing where to start by looking at what features and google codes needed to be in it!

What would you do differently if you were setting up a website today?
Absolutely nothing!

How do you control inventory as a multi-channel seller? In other words, if you have the same item listed on multiple channels, and it sells, how do you make sure you take it down from the other channels?
Keeping up with your websites and inventory is second nature once you get into a routine. I do advise a monthly inventory review of sales and quick count.

How did you create the logo/branding for your business/site?
My logo is a set of lips whispering Swank. I wanted it to be generic yet eyecatching. I did not want to limit myself to a product photo or actual photograph that could become outdated. My logo will be permanent, recognizable and identify me across multiple venues and networking sites.

How do you differentiate yourself from others selling similar products?
I am a trend designer and in companion to my work, I blog, contribute as a columnist and validate my designs and finds in my writing portfolio.

How do you drive traffic to your listings, and which channel do you primarily drive traffic to?
I try to keep a high web presence and be the early bird with opportunities to promote my work and tell the world about it; such as contests, blog posts/articles, forum interactions and jumping on situations - like this interview. =)

Can you talk about some of the SEO techniques you employ to drive traffic to your site(s)?
I'm not an SEO guru - that's why I really like Artfire - it has been consistent since day 1. I use their Help Guides, read every word of their advice and implement their suggestions. Their education is applied to blogs, tweets, listings and even my work outside of Artfire.

Do you think online sellers have to be able to write good content in order to succeed, and what do sellers do if they aren't good writers?
Yes, and find a mentor for help if you need it - there are a volunteer group on Artfire, of which I am a part of.

Do you participate in social networking sites? If so, which ones?
Twitter, Facebook, plurk, google wave and Stumbleupon.

Which ones work for you? Which don't?
They all do - I prefer Twitter and have a fun diverse following of over 5000. The trick is to become human and not spam with "buy this, buy that". Let people get to know you!

I'm intrigued by your use of social media, can you expand a little on what works and what doesn't? How is your Facebook presence working out for you? (How long have you been on Facebook?)
I've been on Facebook before the Marketplaces and I try to keep business & personal separate as much as I could. Twitter, blogging, groups - they are all great sources for promoting and networking.

Do you have any advice for other sellers about how to utilize social networking?
Social Networking brings an element of humanism and the added benefit is that most tweets and facebook posts are google indexed. Not only can you have fun with interactions, they will be planted in search and is another way of making that sale!

Visit NatashaSuter Designs' listing on EveryPlaceISell.com for the links to all of her storefronts and websites. If you are a multi-channel merchant with your own website, you can learn more about being featured in AuctionBytes on this page.


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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