I am excited to announce that FinerWorks has been approved to be an Etsy Manufacturer. Noelle Hines, one of our senior account executives and customer service representatives will oversee aspects of this as well as be our token Etsy expert. As an Etsy seller herself she has been able to view first-hand what many of our customers that are also Etsy sellers experience. Over the past couple years Etsy has evolved their policy so artists selling on Etsy are more easily able to outsource production without violating Etsy terms of service. I think to some degree that this was almost inevitable. If there was a flaw in their business model it was no mechanism in place initially that would allow their users to continue to use the Etsy platform once they reached a certain level of growth. Unless the seller had the capability or funding to setup their own production facility and hire staff, those abiding by Etsy's original terms would find themselves having to close their Etsy shop and find customers elsewhere if they wanted to outsource. Admittedly many users chose to ignore Etsy’s policy and eventually Etsy began to loosen their stance on this. Now it appears they are somewhat endorsing companies that meet the criteria they require by allowing them to be part of their Etsy Manufacturer’s program. For us it is a good thing because it provides us a level of credibility in the eyes of new customers. For our customers it is just as good because it encourages us to continue to meet their demands and explore ways to improve things.
Outsourcing is a great way to process your orders because of the time you save. Not to mention the expenses involved in stocking supplies and not having to deal with repairing or replacing equipment. I can tell you all kind of horror stories that people have shared with me which caused them to give up doing their own production. Not that doing your own production is out of reach but the time and expense for some eventually becomes too much. But for even some of them that do outsource to us as their volume increases they begin to look for a better way to submit orders.
Next week in Las Vegas and again in San Antonio early next year I will have the opportunity to meet with a number of heads of various printing services and color labs. One of the things I am looking forward to besides equipment and technology to improve the prints we produce is how others offer an outsourcing / order fulfillment option and ways we can incorporate those things for our users.
A few years ago I had a candid discussion with one of our competitors who also was a popular company for Etsy sellers to use as an outsourcing partner. I say candid because we both were happy to share with each other what has worked best for us. Like us they would accept orders similar to ours through their website but they were struggging with getting orders out accurately and in a timely fashion. Part of the problem was their ordering system left things too vague so there was a lot of back and fourrth beetween them and the artists. For instance since they did not have any sort of realtime preview tool when people ordered prints so images were more likely to be printed incorrectly. But even though he was strugging with that aspect, I was impressed with was the brevity of the ordering process he offered his users at the time of checkout. One other aspect we discussed was a process he had been trying which would allow people to submit orders in batches on a spread sheet. This llowed some of his high volume users to submit orders outside of his website. There was a small charge for this service but he found for us customers it was incredibly useful and a big time.
Last year we began testing this concept of submitting orders on a spreadsheet. It was done through our sister site which prints strictly canvas prints. Those who were part of that test would submit their orders in an Excel document that would be manually keyed in by our staff. We wanted to make this free of charge however after some time we found that in order for us to continue to do this we would need to charge a small administrative fee based on either projected or existing average order volume.
We are still finalizing some of the details based on things I personally observed could be done better with the Excel submission method but if you think this is something that would be of interest to you, contact us so that we can discuss this with you personally and find out if it would help or not. To be very frank, it won’t be ideal for everyone, even some that submit orders daily. You will want to weight the cost and time associated with populating a spreadsheet versus entering it on our website. But even if a batch submission process is not for you, all is not lost:
Earlier this summer Noelle Hines who many of you know and I mentioned above came demanded that I do something about the ordering process. I say demanded because as an Etsy seller she can really empathize with many of our users. Plus, over the past year she was been inundated with calls from some of our power for a quicker checkout process. Over the summer we had been working diligently on rolling out some massive updates to our API (Application Programming Interface) that would allow them to place orders much easier and very quickly but during my meeting with Noelle it was pointed out that this would not be enough. The question posed was "How many would be able to actually use the API?" A web API assumes someone using it has the programming experience needed or have an app developer on hand wanting to build an App on another site and integrate with FinerWorks. Noelle said while we need to continue with development of the API, what would be of more beneficial for most would be a simplified and updated checkout process.
Running a website like FinerWorks is no easy task. It takes a lot of talented people behind our IT infrastructure. This includes both internal staff as well as the incredible team of individuals at Rackspace here in San Antonio that maintain and monitor our servers. The good news is the people behind FinerWorks from developers to our support staff “LOVE” a challenge.
It is in our interest just as yours to have an easy to use checkout process. So over the next few weeks expect to see some updates to the shopping cart as well as the checkout process. Not only will it be more up to date with what a more mobile friendly interface for those who use tablets or other mobile devices, for the average user it should decrease the checkout time by half or more. Over the summer I started to engage with some of our users on how we can best help them with the ordering process so they can place orders more quickly. Starting last week and through this week I have and will be speaking with some of our high volume sellers to get some feedback of their experience and how best we can serve them.
Thanks to feedback already received, both solicited and just as welcomed non-solicited from our users we are giving it our full attention. Since Noelle herself is a fairly successful Etsy seller we usually have her test things to get some quick feedback on updates however if you have some ideas you would like to share please feel free to message us on Facebook, or through the support tab on our website.