How to use market websites

 29 September 2011

Market websites are an increasingly popular outlet for artists and designer-makers. Find out the process and benefits of selling your creative products via a third-party.

artgallery.co.uk has 2,000 artists exhibiting their work at any one time.
artgallery.co.uk has 2,000 artists exhibiting their work at any one time.

Award-winning designer Bronagh Kennedy, from Modica Jewellery, and Aileen Mitchell from www.artgallery.co.uk discuss the advantages of selling products using online market sites.

4 advantages to selling online

Since setting up her own business in 2008, Bronagh has used various market websites to sell her jewellery. For her, the ‘Not on the High Street’ website, selling handmade and unique items, has been the most successful.

“Selling my work online has brought several advantages:

  1. Cost
    "Using your own website to actually sell your products via e-commerce is expensive. Market websites take care of all the credit card payments which also removes any worry for the maker – there are lots of fraudulent credit card transactions on the internet
  2. Marketing
    Marketing and advertising is taken care of. Market websites usually spend a lot of money on advertising, thereby maximising sales.
  3. Payment
    With a well-established market site, payment is always prompt
  4. Stock control
    Managing stock is straightforward and you can indicate an item is out of stock if needed.”

Understanding fees and commission rates

Check the website's number of sellers, as this can affect your sales.

If you plan to use market websites it is essential to check out the small print as they operate in different ways.

Some charge for lifelong membership, whilst others require a monthly fee. Monthly fees might seem more affordable but can soon add up to a much higher total amount if you stay with that site.

On top of these fees you will also have to pay commission. This can vary, but is often between 10 and 25 percent. Bronagh explains the importance of negotiating commission rates:

“The commission rates for market websites are usually much lower than galleries, who may take as much as 65 percent of your selling price as their fee. It is always worth negotiating, both for the initial fee and the commission rate. I have saved lots of money in this way.”

Choosing the right market site

Jewellery is a highly competitive part of the craft sector. It is really important that you choose your site carefully, and see how many other jewellers are also selling their products alongside yours. 

Bronagh explains the importance of checking the size of the website in terms of the number of sellers, as this can ultimately affect your sales:

“Large sites have one main drawback – there is usually so much competition that it can be difficult to get noticed. This is particularly so with jewellery.”

Presenting your creative product

Spend time preparing high-quality images, as well as detailed supporting information.

According to Aileen Mitchell from www.artgallery.co.uk, the most important thing to consider when selling online is the customer experience:

“Making sure our customers have a quality product which meets or exceeds their expectations and is delivered on time is essential.

"When artists apply to us to sell their work, I advise them to spend time preparing high-quality photographic images, as well as detailed supporting information, including a personal profile.

"Each artist effectively has their own online gallery and this is an opportunity for them to bring their work to the wider audience that we can provide. Effective communication, in this case with the customer, can make all the difference.

“We try to support people who are starting out. We invest in ongoing improvements to support the customer buying experience, and this allows the artist to concentrate on their creative talents.”

Marketing for artists and designer-makers

If you decide to sell your work online it is important to find out what sort of promotion the site will be doing on your behalf. This could include national and local press advertisements as well as Google, MSN and Yahoo advertising.

"We have about 2,000 artists exhibiting their work at any one time, providing the customer with lots of choice and variety, far more than any high street gallery," Aileen explains. "Visitors to our site experience the sense of being in an art gallery, and we have a feature whereby customers can see how art will look when it is hanging on their wall at home.

“Applications are made online and we ask people to submit images of three original pieces of work. We hand-pick artists based on the quality of their work and their focus on customer service. If the artist then takes time to prepare their gallery, both in terms of images and description, they increase the chances of customers finding their work.

"We have about 3,000 online visitors each day, providing our artists with a much higher degree of exposure than they could realistically achieve."


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