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An Artist Shares Her Impressions of Amazon Handmade

Handmade at Amazon launched on Thursday with some unique features not found on its main site in order to appeal to shoppers of artwork and handmade goods. Amazon category manager April Lane explained the company’s thinking when it first began developing the site 2 years ago in an interview in Sunday’s EcommerceBytes Update.

We also talked to a seller who has been selling her artwork online for many years to get her initial impressions. Laura Milnor Iverson of Zen Breeze Art Gallery has been selling online since 2002.

What might come as a surprise to some readers is that Laura has been selling her artwork on Amazon.com since 2012. She was one of the sellers invited to join Handmade at Amazon in the months leading up to the launch. Ironically, she is encountering issues because she had been selling on Amazon before the launch of the Handmade marketplace, issues that artisans who are brand new to Amazon will not face.

We asked if she had gotten any sales on launch day and to share her impressions of the new marketplace. Here is her response via email (headers added for readability).

Laura Milnor Iverson on Handmade at Amazon
I did not get initial sales on launch day but many sellers did. One had 12 sales before noon. A couple sellers commented they immediately sold higher-end items, and items that had been sitting for months on Etsy. So that’s looking good.

I have been selling on Amazon since 2012 (all handmade products). It’s honestly been the best venue for me by far. I have been able, for the first time, to make a living from my art. The only disappointment I had was when Amazon launched Fine Art and decided to exclude us artists already selling there and only include galleries. When I heard about Handmade, I was hoping to get in there. And I did.

Here are my impressions so far…

The Launch
First off, the launch itself. Part of the agreement of being accepted was that we could not share links to Handmade before the launch. This was because it was going to be a big deal. We got several emails from Amazon along the way saying that they would give us several days’ notice before launch. A few days before, we did all receive an email saying they were putting the “finishing touches” on but there was no launch date and, heck, they said the same thing in August. Then, boom, the site is suddenly live. And no real hype about it. It’s just there.

For new Amazon sellers, this was not much of an issue. But, it was for existing sellers. You cannot list an item in both Handmade and the regular categories. As the Handmade listings were not live, I did not want to move listings over until I had a firm launch date, which I never got. So the launch found me with only a dozen products up.

The gripe at the moment for all sellers is that we were not given a Copy listing feature. Each listing has to be done from scratch. Not a problem for the main description but time consuming for all the fields. That was another reason I didn’t have as many listings up as I would have liked.

Categorization and Findability 
The main issue I see with Handmade is categorization. Handmade is a completely separate category. Handmade listings are not seen in their respective categories in the main Amazon catalog. For example, a buyer searching for a turquoise bracelet in the Jewelry category will not see the handmade bracelets. To see Handmade bracelets, they’d have to either search All Categories or just Handmade.

Another issue having to do with visibility is brand recognition. Before Handmade, there was the Handmade Brand Registry. My brand is registered as my name. There is no integration between Handmade shop & Brand. If I click my Brand name, buyers will only see the items in the main categories. If I click my Handmade shop name, buyers will only see the items in my shop.

New shop on Handmade at Amazon: link

Existing shop on Amazon (you can see both the regular categories and Handmade through that link – so that one thing is integrated): link

Brand name on Amazon (does not show the Handmade items): link

Losing Sales Rank and Reviews
The next issue that is big to all us existing sellers is that you cannot simply move an item into Handmade. You have to list it in Handmade as a new item & delete the old item. Although that’s cumbersome and time consuming, the big issue is that you then lose sales ranking and reviews, and any buyers who have bookmarked or wish listed the item. My plan is to leave all items with a strong ranking in the main categories, which I think a good idea for visibility.

So, bottom line is that I’m very happy to be included and I feel Handmade is a better fit for my original paintings for sure. Jewelry, I’m going to split between the two.

We thank Laura for sharing her experience with Handmade at Amazon and to readers who have weighed in on the EcommerceBytes blogs since we first began writing about the new marketplace in May.

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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.