And it’s about as far from high-tech as you can get: Handmade at Amazon is an online platform for artisans to sell their handcrafted goods.
“We are focused on genuinely handmade products. … The handmade experience we’ve created is unique with the Amazon feel customers know and love,” says Amazon spokesperson Erik Farleigh.
If you’re an artisan who wants to reach the masses, you’re probably wondering if Handmade at Amazon is worth your time. Who’s eligible? How is it different than Etsy? What’s the application process like?
We talked to three Handmade vendors to get the scoop on the new platform:
Can You Sell on Handmade at Amazon?
First, it’s worth figuring out whether you’re even eligible to sell on Handmade.
Your products must be “made entirely by hand, hand-altered, or hand assembled (not from a kit)” and “handmade by you (the artisan), by one of your employees (if your company has 20 or fewer employees), or a member of your collective with less than 100 people,” according to Amazon.
Wondering why this is spelled out so clearly? Perhaps so Handmade can differentiate itself from reigning handicraft empire Etsy, which recently came under fire for letting vendors outsource their manufacturing.
In addition to being completely handmade, your products also must fall under one of the following categories: jewelry, home products, party supplies or stationery.
Tim Strayer owns Locust & Plum, which specializes in industrial decor. He opened his Etsy story in February 2015 and was invited via mass email to join Handmade this summer. In his opinion, the odds of your application being accepted are good.
“I believe, as long as you are selling something that fits within their current handmade categories, they will green light you,” he says. “I’ve heard of several shops not getting in and each time it was because their category was not available yet.”
Amazon’s Farleigh declined to say when Handmade would add new categories, but you can fill out this form to get an alert when your category opens.
What’s the Handmade at Amazon Application Process Like?
The application is fairly straightforward: Besides basic information and multiple choice questions about your production practices, you must answer three essay-type questions in 500 characters or less (about five sentences).
These longer questions are: “What makes your product unique?,” “Describe your production process in detail” and “How did you get started?”
Once you submit your responses, “Each application is reviewed by a member of our team to ensure that the artisan and their items meet our definition of handmade,” Farleigh says.
All the vendors said the application took less than 30 minutes to complete, but they emphasized the importance of professionalism and quality.
“Take your time on the application; make sure you submit really great product photos,” suggests Courtenay Madsen, a creator of hand-stamped jewelry. “Do it right the first time.”
It took four to six weeks for the vendors to hear back from Handmade after submitting their applications, but that timeframe may be different now that the platform is up and running.
Should You Apply for Handmade at Amazon?
If you already have your own website or Etsy store, is it worth applying for Amazon Handmade?
After all, Handmade’s fees are higher than Etsy’s: It charges a 12% commission, while Etsy charges a 20-cent item listing fee and 3.5% commission. Starting in August 2016, Handmade will also charge vendors $39.99 per month just to remain on the platform.
Other issues include the inability to see analytics for your store.
“There’s no way to see how many people are actually viewing [your] item,” Strayer says. That’s been frustrating for him, since he’s used to Etsy, which “gives you all kinds of information” so you can “tailor your listings.”
He also wishes Handmade products would show up in Amazon’s main search engine.
“You have to specifically select Handmade to even look for [our] stuff,” he says. “If somebody doesn’t know anything about Handmade at Amazon, then they’re not going to even bother looking for [it].”
At this point, though, Strayer is willing to “play it by ear.” He says you might as well get on “as many platforms as possible, just so you can get as many views as you can.” And other vendors seem to agree.
Madsen sold her jewelry on Etsy for three years. A year and a half ago, she closed shop because she was tired of spending nearly $1,000 per month to rank in Etsy’s searches.
She’s had luck focusing on her own site since then, but she joined Handmade because she “thought it would be nice to be back on a larger platform.”
She’s happy to be an early adopter. “You’re the first to get people’s feedback ratings, their sales, that kind of thing,” she says. “Eventually there’ll be more competition, but I feel like by [that time] … I’m hoping to be more established.”
Tiffany Bobb, who designs jewelry made with semi-precious healing gemstones, says she joined Handmade “to reach a wider base of customers” and to take advantage of Fulfillment by Amazon, which handles her product distribution.
In the few weeks since the marketplace opened, Bobb has already sold 10 pieces ranging from $35 to $95.
Click here to visit Handmade at Amazon and fill out an application.
Your Turn: Are you interested in applying for Handmade at Amazon? Why or why not?
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Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.