This is a story of copycats on Etsy.
Jenny was one of my first clients. She owned a brand that began humbly as handmade jewelry on Etsy but progressed eventually to other accessories and even dresses. Jenny’s success was overwhelming because of the uniqueness of her designs. Then came the competitors. Ruthless copycats desperate for a piece of the profitable pie. Being overworked and constantly worrying about the future of her brand eroded any remnant of inspiration to create. Jenny felt she was sinking. She cried, she raged, then came the resolve to survive no matter what. She loved her work and she was determined not to let anyone stop her from creating. She wanted to fight back.
Together we crafted a new narrative that allowed Jenny to share her love of fashion with her audience. Competitors can copy your products, they cannot replicate your story. With a new brand storytelling strategy to helm her branding and marketing direction, Jenny broke free from her competitors and now is happier doing meaningful work with clients who truly adore her creations, who tell others about her, who support her brand philosophy.
Copycats are everywhere. While people might say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it never feels nice to see your hard work being stolen. Months of research, years of experience backing up your products, gone with the wind. Copycats often pose a common problem for sellers on Etsy. I have heard stories of shops copying designs, imitating other Etsy shop’s titles or product descriptions, even photography style. I have seen personally how someone’s image was stolen and used in another Etsy shop! Of course these shops are ultimately closed down, but some just keep coming back. Yes, unbelievable!
First of all, understand that the more successful you are, the more visible you are, the more competition there is, and the higher the chance copycats will find you! Get comfortable with this fact and deal with it. The only thing you can change is to be one step ahead of your competition.
Next, remember to diversify. Many Etsy sellers are often myopic – just because you started out on Etsy and business is good now doesn’t mean it will constantly be so. Your shop can be closed down without any warning. If you do not have a back up, you are going to lose everything. Increasingly, Etsy sellers are branching out. Given how many Etsy shops who have been around for years are suddenly seeing no sale or low sale, people are more open to trying out new ways to salvage their business or expand their reach. I have seen many sellers giving Amazon a try, or setting up shop on Shopify or WordPress.
A new beginning might seem scary, But you can also view this as an opportunity to distinguish yourself from copycats and other competitors. Having to learn how to navigate new e-commerce platforms is always uncomfortable at first, especially if you have gotten use to how Etsy works. But accept this challenge and know that you can easily overcome the problem. If you could learn how to navigate on Etsy, you can learn again on a new platform.
Focus on the positive. There are many advantages to branching out from Etsy. Having your own shop gives you more control, and you will find that you have more freedom to try out different marketing tactics and promotions. Having your own shop also means you have more ways to tell your story, and more avenues to engage your clients. Especially for Shopify and WordPress, many apps are available to help you sell and manage your clients. Many of these apps also automate certain processes, saving you time to do them yourself. Things such as sending welcome emails, offering promo codes, prompting clients to join your mailing list – leave those to the apps!
You can provide better service or improve your products but if no one knows about your brand, it is hard to convince people that you are the best or the pioneer in your industry. However if someone with a similar product comes along, who provides ok service yet could tell a better a story than you, they might be seen as the real deal and everyone else might be viewed as the copycats. Thus you have to recognise the importance of branding and pay attention to how you wish to market and brand your business, creating more awareness.
Having your own shop means having new opportunities to rebrand or tweak your existing brand strategy. It gives you a chance to rework how you want to tell your brand story. You can blog, you can link your shop to your social media accounts and engage audience with relevant content. You can create an “About” page, a process page of how your work, filled with images relating to your business or even show a video about the people who work for you, or who will be interacting with your clients. This is your chance to connect with your audience, to generate interest and make yourself memorable.
Showing your authenticity is the first step to establishing a good brand story. Every business has its own set of values and goals. Every business has its unique beginning and each faces different challenges. How are you solving your customer’s problem? Why should they choose you? How are you communicating this important information to them without sounding boring and dry? Lastly, how do you want to be remembered by them – if they remember you at all?
You can develop meaningful relationships with your audience by telling a story that is unique to you and at the same time, striking a chord with them. Make this your goal as you craft your brand story because half-hearted shoptalk no longer impresses anyone. It is now time to speak with emotion and sincerity. It is now essential that you reach out to foster a bond with your audience. And it is ok to show some vulnerability because that is what makes you relatable. People will value the genuine, so think of ways to show them why you are the real deal.