Etsy sellers strike! That headline hit thousands of online and print publications in April. Higher Etsy seller transaction costs weren’t the only peeve for Etsystrike.org, a group of irritated Etsy sellers infuriated by Etsy policy and price changes.
Thousands of sellers put their Etsy shops into vacation mode for a week on April 11th. An entire week without a healthy Etsy income. Was this a clever move? Or just a conscientious one?
The reasons behind the strike seem justified. And it can’t be denied that Etsy’s current CEO is opening doors for reseller activity - opening doors, but not directly inviting resellers in. Resellers and the original Etsy policy don’t mix.
That’s going to change. Because when it comes to Etsy, the future looks bright. But that future looks very Amazon- and Shopify-like.
The main grievance aired by the April 2022 Etsy strike was a hike in transaction fees. As we’ll soon see, that’s not the only problem this group of creative, small to medium sellers are facing.
What’s The Etsy Strikers’ Problem?
There’s not one problem, according to Kristi Cassidy, initiator of Etsy Strike. She’s also a long-standing Etsy seller who specializes in the type of products the marketplace was originally designed for.
However, most sellers seem to hang their frustration on the transaction fee and advertising options. A jump from 5% to 6.5% might not seem that much on paper, but it’s a 30% leap. And obligatory Etsy marketing fees have snowballed; sellers are finding it hard to keep up. In Etsy Strike’s words:
“To keep up with Etsy’s corporate greed and not take a paycut of 36% on any of our sales, our 2022 prices need to be 36% higher than our 2018 prices.”
It’s easy to observe the sore points, as the Etsy Strike website is packed with information. Of course, that information is a little biased. You’ll find a list of grievances on a petition signed by over 80,000 people. 30,000 of these being on-site sellers:
- Etsy authorized a transaction fee rise in 2018 (from 3.5% to 5%) to fund a move to “encourage buyers”. Instead, Etsy used that revenue to boost seller numbers; so any promises to make life easier for sellers with the 2022 Etsy transaction fee hike are considered empty
- Etsy is not cracking down on resellers and not promoting handmade goods; it appears to be becoming another Amazon, catering for every buyer and every seller; this upsets genuine sellers of handmade goods
- Etsy forces successful sellers to pay for all sales via Offsite Ads (a charge of 12 to 15% per sale); sellers think this program should be optional, not an obligation. Only sellers making less than $10,000 per annum can opt out
- Listing descriptions are hidden from view until potential buyers visit the product page; this makes automated Offsite and Ads-based Etsy marketing success very hit and miss
- Star Seller badges are geared to high-volume sellers (often resellers) and is practically impossible to attain for crafters of intricate goods
- Etsy customer support is slow and unresponsive; its software can automatically hold funds or even terminate accounts. In these situations, contacting live human customer support is extremely difficult
Etsy didn’t respond to the petition. But Etsy’s founder - Rob Kalin - did. His Twitter response?
But until someone develops a new platform, there is no good Etsy alternative. Thanks to the large percentage of sellers who keep it stocked with original and unique handcrafted goods, Etsy still fulfills its unique gift promise. But that’s changing.
Now, Etsy - like it or not - seems to encourage a growing number of sellers who precariously perch on the outer edge of Etsy listings regulations. That’s not surprising. Because a company that doesn’t expand rarely survives.
‘Old’ Etsy has been given a facelift, but not all under the leadership of CEO Josh Silverman. ‘New’ Etsy attracts more commercial sellers, resulting in a broader spectrum of buyers. The reseller market (hidden or blatant) is part of Etsy, whether Etsy approves them or not. Etsy bosses say they don’t want reseller activity, but they’re not doing much about it.
They’re putting top Etsy seller noses out of joint, instead.
Higher Etsy Transaction Fees - Are They Justified?
The last time Etsy raised transaction fees was in 2018. Then, it raised a gentle 3.5% to 5%. At the same time, sellers were suddenly expected to pay $0.20 for every listing. And, of course, add to that the payment processing fees, paid to the banking institutions that make online payments possible.
On February 24th, 2022, Etsy announced it would boost transaction fees from 5% to 6.5% starting April 11th.
This happened after a record-breaking fourth quarter 2021 profit of $717.1 MILLION - the result of 10 million new Etsy buyers joining 80 million existing ones.
The fact that Etsy is prepared to alienate long-term sellers with higher fees is revealing. It shows that Etsy will become bigger, not more exclusive as the strikers want.
Alienating sellers creates repercussions. In 2008, the eBay seller strike drove thousands of new sellers to the Etsy platform. Look at the jump in Etsy merchandise sales between 2007 and 2009 in the graph below!
But the final two years have been the most impressive. And the driving force for those years has been wrongly identified by Etsy Strike. It’s not the Etsy CEO.
The COVID-19 pandemic is most responsible for 2020 to 2022 Etsy profits. Not the arrival of Etsy CEO Josh Silverman in 2017. His first 2 years saw good but not great returns. The real explosion was pandemic-generated. And that’s why ‘new’ Etsy is being forced to expand. It wants to keep this trend going, fueling new moves through fee increases. And changing the soul of Etsy forever.
However, Etsy Strike points a very direct finger at Silverman for Etsy over commercialization.
Is Josh Silverman To Blame For The 2022 Etsy Strike?
On March 20th, 2020, as pandemic lockdowns became reality, Josh Silverman sent an email to all Etsy sellers:
“We are all going through very trying times. As Etsy’s CEO, I’m acutely aware of the important role we play in the lives of our entire community.
In times of crisis, small businesses and the self-employed face enormous financial challenges.
This is the community that Etsy is built to support, because behind every purchase, there’s a person, not a factory.”
It’s the pandemic that turned Etsy into a factory, not Silverman.
And whether Josh agrees or not, the Etsy seller persona is changing, too. Any Etsy search result includes items that only just scrape through listings regulations. Some results directly contravene them.
That burst of profit generated by the COVID online shopping boom reshaped Etsy listings and shop protocols.
Silverman is just continuing that pandemic-inspired flow. By working inside broader borders and nudging those borders a little wider.
Increase Etsy Fees To Help The Seller?
Does Etsy intend to do anything with the income generated from the higher seller fee? Or is it, as Etsy Strike insists, purely a move to satiate corporate greed?
Etsy claims the fee hike creates more scope for:
“marketing, customer support, and removing listings that don’t meet our policies.”
But Etsy Strike claims it’s all about fat-cat greed. And in one sense, they may be onto something. Because if the transaction fee hike is to be put into marketing, why charge so much for Etsy Ads and make Offsite Ads obligatory (more about that later)? And why does Etsy customer support have one of the slowest reaction times? And - most important for those striking sellers - why remove listings that don’t meet with policies when it is obvious the Etsy keyword is expansion?
At the same time, Etsy Strike spoiled their argument, mentioning Silverman’s $40 million bonus payment. They failed to mention his contract only offered a pre-contract bonus, then nothing until 2021.
And $40 million isn’t so incredible when you compare it to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy’s $211.9 million bonus in the same year. A bonus very similar to Chad Richison’s, CEO of Paycom Software.
The extra fees will more than likely feed different parts of the Etsy machine. But are those fees really so high for the individual seller?
Are Etsy Seller Fees Too High?
Josh Silverman is following the most basic trend of ecommerce. Expansion. To compete with other leading online marketplaces, Etsy is slowly shedding its early bohemian, New York Village roots. Opting for global dominance is going to alienate anyone interested in sustainability and/or unique handicrafts. To set up an Etsy alternative that meets the standards of the original brief today, growth can’t be forced.
Josh has two choices: let the Etsy engine turn over until it runs out of fuel and dies, or replace the engine altogether and feed it (with fees).
He has no qualms admitting Etsy has to expand. But the Etsy CEO is less willing to admit this means selling (and reselling) non-unique offerings to compete with giants like Shopify, Amazon, and eBay.
However, Etsy isn’t a bad choice at all. It has MANY virtues for the seller community. For a start, Etsy fees are (still) competitive. The marketplace offers an immediate buyer audience (currently) targeted to exclusive and personalized gifts and craft supplies. Etsy is a global, recognized and trusted brand with a simple user interface for both buyers and sellers.
If you don’t believe me about the competitive fees, let’s look at them. Sell on Amazon, and pay the following:
For those additional selling fees, you need to do a lot of scrolling. They include transaction fees, payment processing fees, excess listing fees, and marketing options.
What about Shopify? A monthly subscription fee. Not great for small shops. And times ten for the serious seller advanced option.
Again, there are plenty of additional fees to scroll through.
So how do Amazon and Shopify seller plans compare to current Etsy seller fees?
- $0.20 per listing, cumulative for listing variants when variants are purchased
- 6.5% of the total order amount, including shipping as a transaction fee
- 3 - 4.5% payment processing fees plus 0.25 to 0.35 cents (bank fees)
- 12 to 15% on every sale made via Offsite Ads (optional when you earn under $10,000/year)
There’s only one subscription option - Etsy Plus - at $10 a month. It’s not an all-inclusive solution and I’m very sure it will receive a big makeover in the future.
With Etsy Plus, you get:
- $15 worth of listings credit (75 listings a month)
- $5 credit for Etsy Ads (average price is $0.2 - 0.5 per click!)
- Different banner options and layouts to make your shop stand out
- Buyer restock requests
- Web domain, shipping and printing discounts
All in all, Etsy is still one of the most competitive BIG online marketplaces out there. Especially when you run a small to medium business.
Offsite and Etsy Ads - Worth It?
Type “Etsy Ads problem” into the Etsy community forum search bar and you’ll get over 1000 results. From clicks disappearing to double payments, it’s obvious the site’s advertising tools still have a lot of bugs. So perhaps a percentage of the rise in transaction costs will be allocated to perfect the software? We’ll have to wait and see.
It’s not only frustrating when something as important as advertising doesn’t work as planned. It’s also infuriating as neither Etsy (On-site) Ads nor Offsite Ads are free.
The upside with Offsite Ads is you only pay when they generate sales. Even so, Etsy takes a hefty cut. If you earn less than $10,000 a year, that cut is 15% of the order value. If you earn more, ‘only’ 12%. And you can’t opt out of that 12%. It’s obligatory.
Are Etsy Ads any better?
Etsy Ads is extremely hit and miss according to multiple forums. With the bidding system in the bin, new Etsy shop owners are advised to invest up to $10 a day into this on-site advertising system. That’s a big sum for an unproven business. Even then, results are never guaranteed. Some shops spend minimal budgets and do very well. Others invest large amounts with no gain.
In short, unless you’re an Etsy marketing guru, you can’t expect consistently positive results from Etsy Ads.
Opt OUT Of Offsite and Etsy Ads! Opt IN For Etsy Geeks!
Do you earn under $10,000 a year as an Etsy seller? Opt OUT of Offsite Ads! Do you earn more? You can’t opt out of Offsite Ads. But you CAN opt out of Etsy Ads! Because your best Etsy marketing solution is Etsy Geeks.
Whether you’re a small, part-time business, or you make a comfortable living from Etsy sales, you pay LESS for MORE with Etsy Geeks.
- MORE visible in high-personalization Etsy SERPs
- MORE positive results than Offsite Ads and Etsy Ads put together
- MORE specialist Etsy know-how than any broad-spectrum marketing agency
- MORE human interaction
- MORE bang for your buck
Oh, and unlike Etsy on-site or offsite marketing, Etsy Geeks is MORE than prepared to refund your investment if it doesn’t deliver (hardly ever happens).
With buckets of Etsy marketing know-how and continuous research into Etsy algorithm and protocol updates, Etsy Geeks gets the best out of ANY limited advertising budget. That’s no empty promise!
A human team of Etsy specialists at your beck and call that costs LESS than Etsy Ads and makes obligatory Etsy Offsite Ads easier to stomach - because with the support of Etsy Geeks, you’ll earn over $10000 a year in Etsy sales.
You can’t dodge that 2022 Etsy transaction fee hike. But you can save BIG on marketing … with better results!
Etsy Update - More Than An Algorithm
If you took part in the 2022 Etsy Strike, I raise my hat to you. It’s not easy to let go of a week of sales to prove a point. You were one of an estimated 12,000 to 20,000 Etsy vendors joining forces to fight against Etsy price increases.
But even the higher of the two estimates is just a drop in the Etsy seller ocean.
Using data from the Investor information overview page of the Etsy site (above), 20,000 out of 7.5 million active sellers isn’t so much.
A tiny 0.27%.
But until someone comes up with a non-commercialized alternative to Etsy, there’s no better place to go. And when we look at the pricing plans of other giants like Amazon and Shopify, there’s no cheaper alternative, either. New Etsy marketplace updates are punishing its heart and soul sellers. The same sellers that fulfill that Etsy promise of unique, handcrafted, personal gifts. And that’s painful.
But without a viable alternative, the only successful 2022 Etsy seller gameplan is to move with these updates. Change and hone your marketing tactics, expand your catalog, and pay those increased fees. Because playing fair isn’t part of any large online marketplace - it’s all about competition and elbowing your way ahead.
It’s time to focus on a broader, very commercialized, and very bright Etsy future. Or wait for a new version of the original Etsy. And hope its CEOs stick to its bohemian brief. You might be waiting for some time…