EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 304 - February 05, 2012 - ISSN 1528-6703     18 of 18

Sellers Choice 2012 Marketplace Ratings: Artfire

By Ina & David Steiner

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In January 2012, EcommerceBytes surveyed over 7,200 online sellers and asked them to rate the marketplaces on which they had experience selling. An introduction to the Sellers Choice survey along with a summary of the overall ratings can be found here, along with links to results for each of the 16 online marketplaces included in the survey.


Profitability:

Customer Service:

Communication:

Ease of Use:

Would you recommend:

Artfire.com
Year Established: 2008
Description: Handmade and vintage goods, fine art, digital arts and craft supplies
More Info

Summary:
Online marketplace ArtFire first appeared in Sellers Choice in 2011, barging into first place with an overall rating of 8.2. What a difference a year makes - in what feels like a case of whiplash, ArtFire placed last this year with an overall rating of 5.2.

That's not to say the site has no fans - many positive comments show passion from sellers who report successful sales. So what happened? In July, the site announced it was eliminating free, Basic accounts - everyone was forced to move to the paid Pro account with fees of $9.95/month. In addition, sellers say the site is now instituting an extra $1/month fee for an "assurance" program designed to increase trust on the site.

Some complaints include lack of traffic to listings, poor categorization, as well as some reports of a hostile environment from moderators on the forums. Many report bugs or glitches that are not acknowledged. "Site changes in August created loads of new site bugs and glitches that caused me major problems with my shop," wrote one respondent. "Artfire admin is always quick to dismiss seller concerns often blaming sellers and users for the sits problems."

Others report that ArtFire has lots of tools available to sellers, and its up to each to make the site work for them. "Artfire is a great selling platform for people who want to grow in their own business name. It is not a "destination" site like others," wrote one. Another wrote, "I feel like I have many more tools and way more information given to me at ArtFire than other sites I have tried out in the past. There are occasional glitches as changes are made to improve the site, but I always feel I can find out what to do or let the staff know about it easily."

Reader Comments - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly:
I absolutely love all of the tools available and ArtFire staff has already unveiled new projects for the first 2 Q's of 2012. I love how they keep us informed and are constantly in the forums to answer questions. And the seller workshops are invaluable. I guess you can tell that I love being a part of ArtFire. It has been one of the best decisions I ever made. It works for me.
***
I've been on Artfire for three years now and currently have two shops. I love everything about it.
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I have been selling there since 2009 and between the guest check out, tools and all the selling guides, you have all the tools you need to succeed. YOU need to supply the product and spend the time.
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I like the way the site looks, I like the extra features like providing multiple payment options for buyers, and including blog pages for sellers.
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I've been selling on ArtFire since Nov. 2008 when it went live to the public. What started out as a small venue with few sellers and a lot of bugs and growing pains, is now my favorite online venue for both selling and shopping. AF staff teaches us how to be successful, the tools are the best available anywhere, the site is not only pretty, but it's functional and easy to navigate, customer service is friendly, helpful, and usually quick to respond. The cost to run a shop on ArtFire is very low, meaning that more money from my sales land in my own pocket. Another thing that sets ArtFire apart from the rest is that we can offer a variety of payment methods, including credit cards directly from our shops, and of course PayPal, Amazon Payments, checks, money orders, etc. I have shops on other venues, but ArtFire is by far my favorite.
***
Tools for selling are awesome and easy to use. 10 PICTURES of the item for sale. You can get answers from the ArtFire Mentors to help you with your pages. The admin is in forum daily...even on weekends.
***
With an attitude of "We don't want to be the next eBay, we just want to be the best ArtFire we can be", Tony Ford and his crew continue to be cutting edge and the only place to be for handmade Artisan goods. A slight downside is that the site is so cutting edge that there is a pretty big learning curve for new and the less computer savvy sellers. There is a lot of support for them though and Support doesn't ever give up until you "get it".
***
It has been a God-send!! I closed my shop at Etsy and was at one point #1 top-seller '06-'08, but the lousy treatment from Etsy Admin and how they would allow abusive customers to create havoc for numerous top-sellers, forced me to shut it down. I immediately set up shop via Yahoo website and 2 shops at AF....I LOVE them both!!! AF Admin are extremely professional and I rarely have prob's. When I do they correct the issue immediately. Love love love-ArtFire :D
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ArtFire makes an effort to include the sellers in its decision-making process. The platform runs smoothly and has shown continued traffic increases. It allows multiple payment options, and has a terrific Google feed. All it needs now is a bulk upload feature.
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This is one of the best handcrafted markets around - the price is incredibly inexpensive and though I run four of my own websites, this is the one that I am in love with.
***
Artfire keeps a very open relationship with sellers, and even asks for input before launching anything new. Traffic could be better, but they are working on that by attempting to make it a destination shopping site, which will hopefully bring more buyers. There are a few bugs that could be addressed before another major launch of a new program, but all in all, it works with its sellers, and gives personal attention to problems...even phone calls to talk us through an individual fix-it.
***
SEO education potential is worth much more than the monthly fee. Sales are an added benefit.
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I have five shops on Artfire and everyone of them has paid for themselves for many years! I take orders online and frequently over the phone just from being seen on Artfire!
***
The seller education available there (especially for those new to selling online) is absolutely incredible! The seller tools are nice and easy to use, and the staff, in my experience, is very responsive. As for the bottom line, as the saying goes, one size does not fit all. Some will do quite well there, while others will have better sales elsewhere. I would recommend it to those new to selling online who are hungry for lessons on how to start out in business.
***
I have sold over 3000 items on Artfire since I started in 2009. The site is a terrific value with just 6.00 a month fee. I find it very easy to use and get great traffic from google, bing, the find etc. My customers find me through search engines and don't have to register to purchase. It works very well for me. I do speaking engagements to fellow soapmakers and always recommend Artfire.
***
I have made only 2 sales on Artfire, and those were over 2 years apart. The seller/item setup is not user-friendly, and now that they have dropped the free service, I cannot afford it, because even though the cost is small, on a per-month basis, it is more than I've ever made there, so I closed my account.
***
I didn't like that Artfire went from having free shops to charging because they didn't really do enough to charge a monthly price. Their website is not easy to navigate and is not user friendly.
***
I have many inquiries from potential buyers who find the site confusing. Since the many changes Artfire has made I don't find it as seller friendly as it first was. Setting up my studio has been a try and miss experience as far as banners etc. I don't like the feed back system. Only artfire members can leave feedback instead of every buyer. I do like the google search feed.
***
Have had slow sales on Artfire. Because they are mostly search engine driven, and I am not an SEO person and don't care to chase the Panda, I probably do not do as well as I could here.
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Inadequate vintage clothing categories. suggestions ignored. Few sales and expensive.
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I personally promoted my Artfire shop while I had one there and could generate no interest at all. Then suddenly I either had to pay to sell there or not sell, I chose the latter.
***
The site is a lovely site to sell, its beautiful, has a lot of tools to use to help in selling and several different way to accept payment. However, sales slumped in August and seem to just be recovering slightly now in January. There have been some issues with bugs and there is a group in the forums that have caused many other people to stop posting.
***
You have to retype descriptions when you renew expired listings which is very time consuming.
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I left Artfire when they suddenly announced their decision to end the free basic accounts. I'd done a lot of work promoting the site that was then wasted. Artfire does not do their job in bringing in buyers (or even the advertisers to keep the free basic accounts going). You may as well use the money to have your own website as sell on artfire.
***
I started off being rather enthusiastic about Artfire. In the past year, however, its service has seriously declined. Bug reports are ignored, and my field, vintage, is hardly acknowledged.
***
Artfire has a good selling platform with lots of useful tools including ProPay integration for a smoother checkout experience for customers. All in all, the site itself is excellent but there is a noticeable lack of traffic that effects sales on the site. Administration has a habit of occasionally being rude and off-putting in the forums, which can lower one's opinion of an otherwise good site. There's been some question about ethics late in this year concerning the raising of rates and changing of service agreements that may be a concern in the coming future.
***
I tried Artfire for 6 months and sold 1 item in all that time. There doesn't seem to be much buyer traffic there. They have great seller's tools, and I promoted the site, too, but I just lost money month after month till I gave up trying.
***
Relatively easy to use and set up. NO TRAFFIC. since they removed free accounts, the place has gone way downhill. Now they want to charge an extra $1 a month for "insurance"??
***
ArtFire original mission has changed. They are no longer for the sellers. They used to be fair upfront with their sellers. Now they're adding in "extra" fees so they can raise the locked in rates without technically breaking their contract.
***
As a shop owner for 4 years at ArtFire, my sales have been minimal at best. I joined the site after the demise of 1000 Markets. I have seen many changes on AF and most were to improve the site, but lately the improvements have not helped the sellers, that I can see. Their last change is a slap in the face of their sellers. They are implementing a so called "Assurance" plan to help draw more buyers to the site. They are thinking the buyers are staying away because of a lack of confidence. I think buyers are staying away because ArtFire has become similar to a "Flea-Market". It is no longer handmade Art as their name suggests, but with Vintage, Supplies and now Commercial added to the mix, the artists fall to the unnoticed bottom of the barrel,... ArtFire is attempting this "Assurance" Program that undercuts the Sellers, makes them subscribe to a 60 day money back return policy, that AF will back if the customer and seller cannot resolve the issue and charges the seller $1.00 a month extra, even for the "locked in forever" people that helped to build the site in the early beginning. They say we "locked in folks" don't have to pay the extra $1.00, but if we don't, we will not show up in searches in the Assurance program, thus painting us as untrustworthy even though we have high integrity with our customers, and personally offer a lifetime guarantee. To say the least, we are extremely disappointed in this new forceful move in the structure of the ArtFire site. It's not the money but the principle. They don't trust us, so why should we trust them. Very, very unhappy seller, and soon to close my shop there, I'm moving everything into my Etsy shop as soon as possible. At least I receive sales on Etsy! Too bad and very sad.
***
Artfire has excellent potential...but, like all the new sites, without viable promotion to the general buying public, no-one knows of them and there's no traffic. There are far too many jewelry makers on the site, which is not Airfire's fault...but, it does leave such a heavy jewelry impression that it's hard to think of the site as the first to go for other items.
***
ArtFire has been the biggest disappointment I've ever encountered on the net. The site has totally changed focus and I am probably leaving within a month. I signed up for a lifetime rate and now they are starting some sort of buyer/seller assurance plan that will allow jerks to keep an item for 60 days and their money back from seller or from AF if the seller, CC co. and PP do not cough up the refund. If lifetime members opt out of the program we will have a tag on our items that say the item is not covered by AF's assurance program. There will also be searches that will eliminate opt out sellers from the program. Since I refuse to participate in a plant that will encourage irresponsible sellers and scam buyers, I see no way to survive there.

Sellers Choice
We thank all readers who took the time to rate the marketplaces. If you have comments about the survey results or the survey itself, please feel free to post them in the EcommerceBytes Blog.


About the author:

Ina and David Steiner are publishers of EcommerceBytes.com and have been writing about ecommerce since 1999.


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