An Etsy Experiment


The wardrobe of a vintage fashion enthusiast can be a little overwhelming. Tightly packed with dresses, skirts, blouses, hatboxes and garment bags, its a minimalist’s nightmare. And that’s before you take into account sharing it with a partner, and the lilliputian amount of storage space offered by most urban living spaces.

It’s a dilemma I can certainly empathise with. As a frequent online shopper, with many of those purchases shipping from overseas, I also have a dedicated ‘Stuff I Bought While Being Overly Optimistic About My Measurements’ section of my wardrobe, a dark and dusty corner where many a nice frock languishes that is an inch too small. Even so, its pretty obvious we all have too much stuff: research by design firm California Closets in 2013 revealed that people wear just 20% of items in their wardrobe, making a spring clean a solid option for vintage and non-vintage fans alike.

What to do? Stick those unworn items on eBay? Take a quick snap for Depop? Some items are just too nice to be bought as a throwaway eBay purchase, and that’s what led me to open my little Etsy shop.

I initially reserved my shop name in late 2014 when the idea to sell vintage on Etsy first germinated, but didn’t make much progress until buying a dressmaker’s dummy to model clothes on sometime last year. A pretty important purchase when you can’t fit into your prospective stock, don’t have a willing friend/victim to model stuff on, or simply don’t want to fill the internet with photos of your bad poses. Luckily, Etsy allows sellers to use mannequins; other retailers like ASOS Marketplace require shops to showcase their products on flesh & blood models.

So this year, I’ve become more committed, overhauled my photos, written my shop story and started thinking about social presences. Its still early days, but a couple of insights stand out.

1. Product photos can make or break your shop


It sounds obvious, but appealing product photos are vital: according to BigCommerce, 67% of consumers consider image quality “very important” when making a purchase online. Potential customers browsing through hundreds of listings need to see a primary image that stands out, communicating all the item’s plus points (i.e. showcasing it in its entirety, not an artsy photo of a collar), is well lit and has good colour saturation without misrepresenting the product.

Ensuring photo quality is as high as possible will also save time when using social media to reach consumers beyond Etsy. Lighter, deeply saturated images attract more repins on Pinterest, for example.

2. 1940s vintage rules, at least on Etsy


Checking out my own shop stats, 1940s vintage items are overwhelmingly popular. Keywords like “1940s dress” and “1940s evening dress” are driving views, though this is obviously dependent on the items for sale.

Taking a more holistic view of the web, 1940s vintage styles are the second most popular category by search term, attracting an average 9,000 searches per month. Incredibly, this is still 80% less than searches for 1950s vintage clothing! So stock up on 50s styles if you’re a vintage buyer.

3. Fridays are the most popular time for consumers to browse (slackers).  


Ever wondered what your work colleagues are doing after beer o’clock on a Friday? Apparently Fridays are the most popular day for visitors to my shop, making it a good time to promote listings. Conversely, business and pleasure, respectively, seem to be keeping people away during the first half of the working week and on Saturdays.

4. If you want to drive traffic to your shop through social media, don’t use Instagram


Instagram is one of the most popular outlets for vintage-related imagery, and I’ve seen many style bloggers move away from websites to focus on the platform. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be particularly effective so far as a referral medium: I’ve identified just one click-through to the shop from Instagram since setting up a presence a few weeks ago (despite using lots of calls to action in copy – marketing people: you know what I mean).

At this early stage, I’m just being impatient. However, taking a cue from Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report, I’m planning on building a more Pinterest focused strategy: 55% of US Pinterest users specifically visit the site to find and shop for products.

Wish me luck. And follow my Pinterest board.