Artisans Cooperative is building a handmade marketplace as a cooperative alternative to major marketplaces like Etsy. We have big ideas for features that are important to our unique businesses.
Before we begin building out the technology, we are getting consensus from our growing community about their wants and needs. The needs of artisans must drive the technology of our marketplace.
In the meantime, we are struggling to run our businesses right now. Many of us are on Etsy, but we have serious grievances with them – which have already been shared by the folks at #EtsyStrike.
For the time being, we’ve compiled a list of alternatives to Etsy for handmade artisans (makers, designers, illustrators, crafters, artists, and more). Skip ahead to the list.
Sources and Research
In making this list, we used the following sources:
- Our own research
- The excellent crowd-sourced research by the folks at Indie Sellers Guild
- A comprehensive list published on Made Urban
This list is not a recommendation or an endorsement of any marketplace, but simply us sharing our research with the handmade community. Spoiler alert: There is not one single answer for an ideal alternative that works for everyone (that’s what we hope our cooperative will be!).
Instead, this list is a guide to help you try to find the best match for your business. What an artisan sells, and who their customers are, can make a big difference. Some marketplaces work better than others, particularly if they’re in an artisan’s niche.
Our Criteria: What Makes a Good Alternative
When determining what an “alternative” is, we had the following considerations:
- Is it an online marketplace?
Meaning, can artisans build their own “store” within a “mall” already full of shoppers. We did not include any website-builders (which are stand-alone stores that artisans have to market themselves), but we did include some non-traditional alternatives.
- Does it focus on handmade?
There are some marketplaces worthy of consideration as an alternative, even if they don’t focus on handmade; it depends on the products the artisan is selling and who they’re trying to reach.
- Is it inclusive of all (legal) artisans?
Some are open to all with a particular focus, such as country-specific or thematic, some are juried. Some appear to be inclusive but actually have exclusive criteria.
- Is there a critical mass of customers?
What has made Etsy so useful over the years is their critical mass of active shoppers. It’s a marketplace’s job to attract customers and shoppers to the marketplace, and their marketing efforts benefit the artisan stores listed on it with sales.
As Etsy expert CindyLouWho put it on her popular blog, “No serious business person is going to spend their time promoting a low-traffic site when they could just build their own website.”
If an “alternative” doesn’t have critical mass, or isn’t laser-focused on their target audience, then making one’s own website is probably a better use of the artisan’s time.
While there’s no straightforward way to know how many shoppers are on a website, we used website ranking as a gauge of relative popularity using the research tool SimilarWeb. On a scale of billions of websites, we saw three natural breaks in the rankings for three categories: yes (ranked higher than 100,000), no (ranked lower than 2,000,000), and maybe (ranked between 100,000-2,000,000).
- What are the fees?
Always an important consideration for affordability, and not all sites were forthcoming with fee information. Payment processing fees are universal (usually around 2.5-3.5%), and most have sales commissions. Some also have registration or subscription fees, which are a barrier to entry.
- Is it a cooperative?
It’s important to know who the owners are. Successful privately-owned marketplaces are simply acquisition targets for publicly-traded marketplaces. This is what happened with Depop and Elo7 getting bought up by Etsy, or Amazon buying and then shutting down Fabric.com. We believe that the only way we can rely on future leadership to look out for member’s best interests is through cooperative ownership, so this was an important criteria for us.
There are more alternatives worthy of consideration but not covered here, such as: print-on-demand, subscription, and crowd-funding, subscription boxes, wholesale marketplaces, and social media like Instagram. We provide links to a list of those at the end of this post, too. Those alternatives may work for some, depends on the artisan’s craft and business model.
List of Etsy Alternatives
Without further ado, here is what we found. The underlying data is kept in a spreadsheet which we provide in 3 formats for different screens.
The tables are updated in real time. If you have any updates to share, please send them to email@example.com.
In this post, we were focused on a generalist Etsy alternative. For a comprehensive guide that includes all the options, including print-on-demand and wholesale, check out this excellent article on MadeUrban, Where to Sell Handmade Online 2022 (Besides Etsy).
Have you tried one of these alternatives? Share your experience in the comments below.
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What about Gumroad? It’s been a staple marketplace for indie comics and zine creators. I’ve had good experiences with it. (Even though i did everything else for my comic, i didn’t print it, but i’ve bought many printed and hand-bound indie comics there.)
Great suggestion, thanks! I’ve added it to the list. -Valerie
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