A Place of Your Own: Releasing New Shops

This week we’ve been finalising the first release of new shops on Folksy. In this post I want to introduce the thinking behind the work and also what you can expect from the new shops.

Beledien, an early tester, shows how your shop can look:

 

Why new shops?

Back in January we did some research to identify what designer-makers wanted from a web presence. One of the key things that came out of the work was control. Control over how their shop looks and behaves. This posed a bit of a tension for us. Because whilst a marketplace like Folksy wants to provide what its selling customers want, it also needs to balance that out with what buyers expect: and our assumption is that buyers expect and demand consistency over their browsing experience.

The existing Folksy shop does a good job of showcasing your work, but it feels very much like another page on Folksy. It doesn’t feel like yours. Consequently many designer-makers have their own website which shows much the same work but looks more like they want it to. This is what many designer-makers prefer to point to despite it usually being a far less effective sales channel. The problem we set out to solve was, “how can we make the Folksy shop more like a place designer-makers would call home?”.

Publishing versus Marketplace

Folksy is a marketplace where anyone can sell their handcrafted work (or craft supplies). Folksy gets around 15,000 visitors a day, 300,000 a month, 7 million visits a year and has around 12,000 active sellers (far more during the Christmas season). We love the meritocracy that brings – seeing lots of different types of work live side-by-side. However, many designer makers don’t like this and want a place where their work lives on it’s own, in its own shop so-to-speak. Marketplaces bring footfall and eyeballs because of the sheer economy of scale having 000 000s of items brings. However, there are two reasons for shops being more personal and for designer-makers to have more control over them:

  1. Shop pages and profile pages on marketplaces like Folksy can seem impersonal. It’s the “department store versus your own shop” argument. We feel that we can make the marketplace shop more personal, more like your own shop / place by making it a bit more more like a publishing model site (such as tumblr, wordpress etc). The new shops are a test of that idea, the first steps. If it proves successful we’ll look to push the publishing idea further, offering you further control.
  2. You own the journey to your shop. Our referrer statistics show that the journey the customer is making to shop pages is driven mostly by the work you do to promote your shop (on your Facebook profile, or on business cards etc.). This is far less true of item pages which are driven by internal traffic (search, browse) and by organic search via Google or similar and key referrer sites like Pinterest. The upshot of this is that the shop should look more like you want it to if you’re driving people to visit.

This first New Shop release sees:

  • Larger area to brand your shop. Full width pages, bigger and better banners and new avatars. You’ll be able to upload your own banner or choose from stock banners (going forward we hope to release premium banners too). The avatars / profile pictures will be given more prominence and so you’ll have to pick a larger image to use. These avatars will, initially, be on the new shops but will migrate across the rest of the site.

  • Less Folksy branding – a much smaller top navigation with no global navigation.

As you can see, above the new global navigation has much less visual weight. Buyers can still navigate to the rest of Folksy by clicking on the Folksy logo and use global search but the shop is principally a place to showcase your work to customers.

  • Ordering of items. Want that red hat next to the red dress in your shop? No problem. Woohoo! We’ve made the ordering of items in your shop super simple. Just drag a drop from a list.
  • Collections of work. Collections work similarly to sections but have an image (drawn from the item order) to provide more visual weight. People tend to scan visually not by text so this should help people see the categories or collections you have more easily.

  • Featured items (Plus accounts only). Feature 3 pieces of work and give them more visual weight as well as a description and the ability to favourite the items. You’ll need to choose a minimum of 3 items (otherwise it won’t display any) and if you choose more than 3 items it will display 3 items in a random order.

 

There are a few more minor improvements such as better holiday mode notification; more ‘share’ links to blogs and Pinterest and a “buying from me” link which provides an overlay with more information about you and your work and the returns policy:

 

 

One change which is focused more on buyers than sellers is that out-of-stock shops will have recently listed items and featured sellers’ work shown. We’ll provide some visual distinction so it’s clear the shop is out of stock. Empty shops are a poor buying experience and we want to make sure buyers still have a good experience when they come to a shop that is out-of-stock. So moving forward, all shops that are out-of-stock will show recently listed items and also items from the current featured seller. This will hopefully encourage designer makers to keep their shop stocked (or to cancel their shop) rather than leave it empty.

This is a first release  and we’ll be making further releases based on feedback and use

Having our cake and eating it

Can we harness the economy and scale of a marketplace whilst also providing some of the merits of a publishing platform, like greater control over look and feel? Possibly. This first release is just a tentative step in that direction as the look and feel isn’t that distinct from the rest of Folksy; it doesn’t jar. I’d imagine it might if you enabled a kind of geocities approach! It isn’t perfect, but we believe it is considerably better and we’ll be listening to your feedback to see how we could make it better still.

Assumptions we’re testing

Asking people and researching the desires of designer makers doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve translated that into the right feature. We’re testing the assumptions underpinning the work in the best way possible, by how it is used, namely:

  • More control leads designer-makers to spend more time and effort curating the look of the shop.
  • More control and personalisation leads to more referral traffic, as designer-makers take ownership of their shop space and want to share it.
  • Buyers are more likely to buy from a item seen on a new shop page than an old shop page (or at least it is not negatively affected).

Testing these assumptions at once isn’t straightforward, ideally we’d have released each feature in a phased approach but as it involved a change to the architecture of the shop (it’s built in a new app), that wasn’t possible.

Where is my new shop?

The new shops are being released to designer-makers in batches. We’ve approached a small number of people to test them for us and we’ll be iterating on the feedback they provide. Thereafter the new shops will be available to Plus sellers in early Oct and will then be released to everyone by the middle of October.

The process for publishing your new shop works like this:

  1. You’ll be notified in your Folksy dashboard when you can enable the new shop
  2. Enable the new shop. This let’s you create and edit the shop as you want it.
  3. Until you activate the new shop, your old shop will still be shown publicly
  4. When you’re happy with your new shop activate it and it will go public
  5. All visits to your old shop will be redirected to the new shop (your old shop will not be visible and is effectively retired

Don’t want it?

We’ve learnt the hard way not to make significant changes close to Christmas. So you can choose not to switch to the new shop until after Christmas (though if you choose to move to the new shop you won’t be able to move back). From mid January we’ll be sunsetting the old shop and moving everyone to the new shops.

That’s it. Look out for the notification letting you know the new shop has been enabled for you.

Best,

James and the Folksy team

UPDATE: 5th Oct 2013

We’ve worked through the feedback from Beta testers and fixed all the bugs we could replicate. There were some requests for other features and we’ll be looking to improve the new shops over time.

The new shops are now being rolled out to all Folksy sellers, starting with Plus Accounts. Check your dashboard over the next week for notification that your account has been enabled. Thanks :)

 

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5 Comments

  • September 25, 2013

    Hazel Rayfield

    Sounds great, I look forward to being able to try this out and create a great new shop for my Art In Wax :-)

    How long before I can try this out

    Hazel

  • September 25, 2013

    James

    Update: 25/09/2013 The first test group were brilliant and highlighted some image and ordering bugs (a particular problem with Firefox) which we’ve now fixed. We’ll be testing with another, larger test group in the next 24 hours.

  • September 26, 2013

    Hazel Rayfield

    That’s great James, As a web developer for my day job (Artist @ Folksy) I would love to be part of the testing team, if you need more people / shops let me know.

    Hazel

    http://folksy.com/shops/HazelRayfield

  • September 27, 2013

    Weeknote #269

    […] week we released the New Shops to some initial beta testers and we’ve been busy iterating on that feedback and releasing […]

  • October 4, 2013

    Jane Cameron

    This looks really exciting – looking forward to trying it out!