In my last post, I talked about a few reasons why Etsy is a good option for selling digital products online. But what’s the number one reason people shy away from selling on Etsy (at least from my unofficial research)? I’ve noticed that most people who are hesitant about selling on Etsy are worried that their product, whether physical or digital, will get lost in the shuffle. And by shuffle, I mean the literally millions of other product listings on the site, thousands of which show up every time a customer types something into that search bar.
Yes, Etsy is massive. As of today, their platform boasts over 35 million products for sale among 1.6 million active shops. Thaaaaat’s a lot.
I totally understand the daunting feeling you get when you see just how much is already on Etsy. I get asked a lot – “I want to sell XYZ product, but it looks like there are already a ton of those on Etsy. Is it worth it, or should I sell something else?”
While there are definitely a lot of the same products on Etsy, I always think there's room for everyone – as long as there's something to make yours different than all the rest.
That's what helped me to stand out – I designed my printable planners in a very different design aesthetic than what was already on Etsy. I’ll be honest, when I first sat down to design my first printable kit, I caught myself designing it to look like ones I’d already seen on Etsy. I was frustrated because it wasn’t turning out how I wanted – probably because that’s not even my style! After fiddling with it for awhile, I selected everything on the page, deleted it, and started over. I looked back at Etsy search results, and asked myself, “What’s missing?” Then I started designing again, but this time in a style that was true to me and different than what I was seeing – more gender-neutral and minimal, I focused on the function of the page and not clipart, and I threw in a little humor to make the titles stand out, making the whole act of organization + planning a little more inviting.
This style was new to Etsy in that specific industry, and it sold like crazy. When you searched for a printable planner on Etsy, my listings stuck out like a sore thumb on the page – which is exactly what I wanted! Today, more shops are picking up that style and it's making it more difficult to stand out. Because of this, I have to constantly be coming up with new ways to market + present my products so they continue to stand out. I'm always brainstorming new ideas, and even completely re-designed every single mockup image for every single listing, at one point, because so many other thumbnails were starting to look eerily similar to mine. To stay ahead of the curve, I did a huge overhaul, and thankfully it kept my shop's momentum going. And honestly, I'll probably have to do that again in the near future for the same reasons.
Moral of the story – I stuck to my instincts and my own personal style to create a product that was different, when everyone else was just doing more of the same. Making your products unique from all the rest will be the key to getting them noticed in a search results page, and not getting lost in the shuffle.
So yes, I definitely think there's room for all of us, but I DO think you have to be a little more strategic + creative in saturated markets and platforms, like Etsy.
So how do you make yours different? Good question 😃 Take a look at what types of products (or what elements of the products that are already out there) are missing and find gaps in the market that you can fill. If you’ve already proven that a product is in demand, how can you create something similar BUT different enough to stand out in the search results? Again, be very mindful of inspiration vs. plagiarism at this point, and make sure you don’t make the same mistake I did of trying to emulate what’s already being done. Do not copy the hard work of others.
There are many different ways you can differentiate your product, no matter your type of market. Here are six common ones, with examples:
design style / aesthetic
Think about appealing to different genders, age groups, geographical regions or popular design styles (example: offering styled stock photos that are less of the popular florals + feminine details, and more gender-neutral or include career-specific elements)
Think about different ways your customer might use your product and formats you could offer that are missing from the shops you’re researching (example: offering a printable budget planner that’s an Excel file or Google spreadsheet, rather than a PDF)
size / dimensions
Think about gaps in the market in terms of size or dimensions, again considering the environment in which your customer will actually use your product (example: offering smaller printable art that could hang on a mirror, in a car, or be used as a gift tag, rather than the typical size that is intended to hang on a wall)
Think about the products you’ve found in other shops and what those would look like if they were intended for a completely different audience (example: offering PDF sewing patterns for kids rather than adults; another popular example that’s trending right now would be adult coloring books – a common children’s product that’s been around forever, but is now being marketed to a completely different audience)
tone / voice
If your product involves a lot of copywriting, think about the voice and tone in which you’re delivering it and how you could make yours stand out (example: writing a super complex e-book topic in a comical and approachable tone, rather than technical jargon)
quality / premium vs. budget-friendly
If you notice a lot of lower priced products in your research, can you create a more premium option that includes more features at a higher price point? Or if most of the products you find are higher priced, can you offer a simplified, budget-friendly version? (example: a premium website template that includes premium options that other shops aren’t offering vs. a DIY website template that’s more basic and shows the customer how to do most of the legwork themselves)
To recap, the best way to stand out on Etsy when everyone seems to be doing more of the same is to be different. My personal business motto rings true here: look at what everyone else is doing, and do it differently. Go against the flow, get creative, think outside the box, and put your own twist on a product that the Etsy world won’t be able to resist.
Want to learn more about selling on Etsy?
My quick-start guide, Etsy on Autopilot, is your beginner’s step-by-step plan to turning your passion and skill set into a profitable, automated online shop, harnessing the existing audience on Etsy. Whether you’re new to Etsy or new to digital products, Etsy on Autopilot gives you the tools, resources, and know-how to confidently create + sell a digital product that your audience can’t help but love and buy – on a platform they already trust.
If you're curious about selling digital products on Etsy, this PDF guide is your ticket to getting there. It’s normally $79, but I’d love to send you all of Lesson 1 for FREE (12 pages), is that cool? It gives you good an introduction to selling digital products in general (including a list of 50 digital product ideas!), as well as an introduction and tour of the Etsy platform.