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ArtFire Plasters Ads on Listing Pages to Sellers’ Dismay

ArtFire founder John Jacobs confirmed that the online marketplace has changed its policy about displaying ads on seller listing pages, much to the consternation of its merchants. “As a seller on Artfire, I work hard to drive traffic to my shop, and to now have competing ads (aka spam) all over my item page is just wrong,” one seller explained.

Jacobs told EcommerceBytes that for years he conceded that once a shopper is on an item page, that shopper “belongs to that merchant,” but he said his thinking on that philosophy has changed. On a March 3rd post, he announced a new policy, telling users the majority of shopper traffic to ArtFire comes from product searches conducted on search engines, “which in most cases we pay for.” According to the announcement:

Shortly we’ll be rolling out Adsense advertising as well as Amazon Associates advertising on most item pages in line with other major marketplace principals. When we serve an item page to a shopper it will include more of each seller’s similar items; more items in that seller’s shop and will now also serve 3rd party ads and suggest similar items on ArtFire to encourage the shopper to stay and continue shopping. Ads are opened in new tabs and data indicates that if the shopper is enjoying the shopping experience the extra tab is quickly closed and shopping resumed.

An ArtFire seller explained some of the concerns she had: “These ads have the potential to compete, thereby driving the traffic I have generated out of my shop. These ads make the item page look spammy to the customer and have the potential to carry viruses. Some of the ads are from companies that I boycott because of the way they treat their employees. And some to the ads are of random subject matter altogether. This all may result in customer confusion which may lead to loss of sales and loss of repeat customers.”

Another seller said there were no less than six text block ads down the left and an Amazon banner on the bottom of her listing page. “Additionally, these ads have caused an extremely successful soap seller problems by making it look like she claims to cure skin diseases.”

Jacobs explained that ArtFire had previously displayed four items from a seller in each of their item pages, but now displays up to 61 items from a merchant on each item page. The change was made after rolling out a new responsive design to appeal to mobile shoppers, he told us.

“We also added the merchant’s shop categories to each item page to encourage shoppers to view more items from each merchant,” he said. “The majority of our merchants loved these changes and shoppers responded very well, as time on site and page views have improved by over 50% so far.”

But “as a marketplace we’re expected to bring in substantially more traffic than that of a stand alone website,” he said, yet, “we’re careful not to increase monthly rates on our legacy sellers.”

Jacobs said ArtFire would use the revenue from the ads added to item pages to increase its ad spend. “As expected some merchants were not happy with this change,” he said. “Shoppers however, have not expressed concerns with ads. The reality is that shoppers are met with thousands of ads online every day and still manage to find the items they want to purchase.”

Another seller who expressed concern about the ads wrote, “They are using my images for click bait. I have a lot of google image links that draws most of my traffic due to a LOT of hard work and sharing – I have over 10,000 shares from a variety of promotions. Now, my images are sending people to other sites. That won’t stand with me. I already have my own websites, and Artfire has been an awesome community to be a part of. Now, we are all moving, and we have a Facebook page for our community.”

You can read the March 3rd post about the new policy on the ArtFire website.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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.