Artfire’s Bad Move

Let me begin by saying that I have been a member of Artfire since early 2009. I began with my first online account selling dog clothes and never sold a thing. I did not move to Etsy until 2010, nearly a year after being on Artfire. I have been with Zibbet almost since their inception. I have loved Artfire, heralding its benefits and supporting their artisans for the past couple of years. I was seriously disappointed when they stopped showing newly listed items on their front page, thereby decreasing potential views exponentially. They only show curated items that make it to their front page. That was their first strike.

I also began a group on Artfire to help promote listings. The groups are very ineffective and hard to manage because they tools are not there to stay in contact with the members. After a year of promising that they would work on the groups, Artfire decided they would work on other areas and the group upgrades were pushed under the rug. I finally turned the group over to another member and dismissed the stress it was causing me. Straw #2.

Yesterday (July 15) Artfire announced that they will be eliminating their basic seller accounts unless these accounts upgrade and go pro by August 15. They will lose over 42,000 accounts if these sellers decide not to upgrade. While the primary store that I have on Artfire is a Pro account and will not affect me greatly, I do not feel that this a good move by Artfire. The final straw.

All this said, Zibbet sent out a letter to all of their members today. Zibbet is in NO WAY trying to cast stones at Artfire – they would never do that. But they understand the frustration and value that Basic members can bring to their site. While I would also like to see Zibbet bring back their newly listed items on the front page (hint, hint), I would like to post this letter here on this blog for all to see. Zibbet has implied permission to do so in their letter, along with a warm welcome and a 45 day free Pro account for new members coming over from Artfire.

I love Zibbet. They community is warm and inviting, the administration (esp. Jonathan Peacock) are amazing and open, and the listings are simple to create. I don’t visit there as much as I should. However, because of Artfire’s bad move I am considering shutting down my Pro account there as well. Why would I stay somewhere that can barely get me any page views or sales? I got in on a $5.95 a month group deal, but it does very little for me at that price. I pay a nominal fee at Zibbet and get twice as much. So take it for what it is, like it or leave it, but I’m passing on my thoughts and Zibbet’s invitation to you!

Here is the letter:

Zibbet Newsletter

16th July, 2011

Artfire is Removing Their Free, Basic Accounts From Their Site – What Does Zibbet Think About That?

Firstly, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am not here to throw stones at Artfire. The purpose of this email is NOT to tell you that Artfire is doing the wrong thing – they are doing what they feel is necessary based on their unique situation.  The purpose of this email is to inform you about our reasons for keeping Basic accounts here at Zibbet.

In this email we’ll cover a few things (it will be a long email – read when you have time!):
1. The details
2. Why Zibbet won’t be getting rid of its free, Basic accounts
3. Are Basic Artfire sellers welcome on Zibbet?

For those that have never heard of Artfire or don’t have a clue what we’re talking about…

Artfire is another handmade venue, similar to Zibbet. They had a free, Basic account and an upgraded, paid account – again, similar to Zibbet. Yesterday they announced officially that their Basic Accounts would be shut down on August 15.

How many sellers will this effect?

Over 42,500 active Basic sellers will lose their shop (about 75% of their total sellers), at which point around 350,000 items will be unlisted from the site (about 25% of their total items).

Why have they made this decision?

You can read the full, official announcement here.
Zibbet and Artfire are two different venues, with two different leaders, with two different strategies for moving forward.  At Zibbet, we’re a metrics driven business, which means that we track LOTS of different things – the numbers don’t lie and we base our decisions on those metrics.  I want to share some of what we know with you, to help explain why having free, Basic accounts at Zibbet works well…for us.

SEO benefits
Firstly, I’ve harped on and on about this – the more active items we have on Zibbet, the more buyers we will have. Basic sellers list items, and those items help to bring in more buyer traffic – for everyone!  Basic sellers only account for 15% of the total sales on Artfire. They also only account for 25% of the active items – Do you think that would have something to do with their low sales percentage? You bet it does.  Less items, less traffic, less sales. Period.

On Zibbet, our Premium sellers make up 24% of our active sellers and account for around 70% of the sales. Our Premium sellers do get more site exposure, have better tools and features to help them sell more and have unlimited, non-expiring, listings. There’s no doubt that Premium is the way to go on Zibbet.

We know that Basics will upgrade to Premium when they see the value to do so (and we certainly hope they do), but even if they don’t that’s ok – because…

We make money off Basics too!
We have a couple of exciting partnerships launching in the future which will allow us to make a small cut off each sale that is transacted on Zibbet (Basic and Premium). This DOES NOT come out of your pocket – you are not charged a cent, nor will you even notice a difference to your service. These partnerships will be announced when we are ready to roll them out.  Basic sellers make sales too, therefore they will make us money. Just another reason why Basic sellers add value and are here to stay at Zibbet.

Basic sellers need time to upgrade
Our metrics tell us that Basic sellers need time to decide whether to upgrade or not and we’re willing to give them the time that they need. Some sellers will never ever upgrade, and that is something that we’re aware of and are fine with. Hosting costs are so low these days that these sellers are literally no burden on us financially.

Check out this graph which shows historically how long it takes for our Basic sellers to upgrade to Premium. Most upgrade within the first couple of weeks (as you can see below), but there are still sellers upgrading every day in the 365 day period shown. This means that the Basic account is serving its purpose as a ‘taste-tester’ that compels sellers to upgrade over time – which puts money in our pockets to keep making Zibbet better and better…

The graph below is a little more crazy and complex, but I’ll try to explain. We track your activity (sales, upgrades, downgrades, etc) based on the month and year you signed up to become a member of Zibbet. We call this your ‘cohort’, which is the group we associate you with for the life of your account. This allows us to find ‘trends’, which is why I say that we’re a data driven company – the numbers don’t lie, and they help us to base all our major decisions on.  This graph shows the percentage of seller registrations that go Premium. And as you can see, over time a greater and increasing percentage of sellers will upgrade to Premium over time. The higher lines, representing a greater percentage of sellers that have gone Premium, belong to earlier cohorts. You can see that from the February, 2010 cohort, 20.85% of the seller registrations we received that month have upgraded to Premium.  Therefore, we can again conclude that over extended periods of time, more and more sellers will see the benefits of being Premium, and upgrade.

Yes!  We welcome them with open arms, all 42,500 of them can make their home at Zibbet and they can bring all 350,000 items with them (and hopefully list 50 items each to make over 2 million items!).  This would bring huge SEO benefits to Zibbet and will increase the sales of all our sellers.  If you love Zibbet and you love sales, you should be telling Basic Artfire sellers to join us.

To help make spreading the word even easier, I’ve created a special coupon code that will give them a free 45 day trial of our Premium Account (monthly or yearly). The code is: WELCOME

This offer is valid until August 15.  Or, they can just sign up for a free, Basic account and upgrade when they are good and ready (or not).

We also have an Artfire Importer, so setup will be quick and painless!  They can import all their items in with a few clicks of the mouse!

If you have bothered to read this far, thank you!  I hope that what I have said makes sense and you can clearly see why Basic accounts are valuable to us at Zibbet and our reasons for keeping them around – for good!  If you’re from Artfire and you’re reading this, we welcome you to give Zibbet a try. You’ll love what we’re doing here and the community is super friendly!

Have a great day and please feel free to post this entire email where you feel is necessary to inform all handmade sellers.


Jonathan Peacock

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. smallangels
    Jul 16, 2011 @ 23:36:17

    Thank you for posting, I feel the same. I feel that Artfire will only lose more members by this action. I have been there almost a year and only 1 sale. One thing I hate is looking for my items, and there is 3 pages for one person til you get to anyone else's site. I am not sure how they figure out who to promote, but it is still a complete waste.


  2. Tammy
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 12:16:00

    Thanks, smallangels. I agree. The search is frustrating, which is one of the ways that I shop. You are right that sometimes 3 pages of one person's products will appear. I was SO LOYAL to Artfire, setting up groups to promote it and much more. But all good things must end, I suppose.


  3. ArtFairly Aware
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 15:32:31

    so, what kind of accounts do you have on Etsy and Zibbet? I've been thinking about opening another shop somewhere just for more exposure. I've been on Artfire for a year and have only 6 sales–and only 1 of those is from someone I don't know! I've heard that Etsy is overflooded. What about yardseller? I'm looking for something cheap–I know I can list for free on Zibbet and Yardseller but I don't want to waste my time either….


  4. Tracy's Designs 1
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 16:14:52

    I disagree. I think doing away with the free shops will make Artfire a better site. There are a lot (although diffently not all by any means) of stores where seller have listed only a few items many months ago or even a year ago and then don't come back to “check in”. When buyers come to Artfire and see what looks like many “abandoned shops” or practically empty shops it puts a bad impression on artfire as a whole and all artfire shops.

    I've sold on ebay for many years and tried esty and I can tell you that $9.95 or even the new $11.95 is not a bad price. Plus, if you think about what it would cost to rent or buy a local store building to start your business, plus electic bills, gas bills, property tax (if you buy the building), liability insurance, etc., $11.95 a month doesn't look to bad. Then consider with a local store building you are mainly getting local people to stop in (maybe an occassional visitor to your area) while online you have the possibility of being seen by the world.

    Plus, Tony and all the others that work at Artfire put in a LOT of time and work and I think it's unfair that they should be expected to do this for free. The seller with free accounts are wanting to make money (otherwise they wouldn't be listing things, they would just give them away to a charity), so why expect artfire employees to work for free?

    On the other hand, I don't blame anyone who decides to leave when the free accounts end. Each business needs to do what works best for their business plans and needs. I have a friend who does awesome on Etsy, and couldn't seem to get any sales on Ebay, while it was just the opposite for me. So, each business needs to find thier own niche.


  5. Tammy
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 17:12:31

    Artfairly, I list on Zibbet, but again I am a pro member. Bonanza is also picking up speed. It really depends on where you find your best area! I can honestly say I've never heard of Yardsaler, so I can't give you a good opinion on that one. I also have to say that I love Handmade Artist's Shop. They recently redid their entire listing and seller's area, so it is pretty friendly. I think it's still about 5.00 a month there.

    Tracey, I don't think the prices on Artfire are out of control. As far as checking in, I've seen Pro shops do the same, so we can't really list that as a reason to get rid of the Basic accounts. Let me reiterate that I was a Pro member on AF, but without the traffic what is the sense in paying? I'd rather pay more somewhere else than not get the traffic and pay less. I'm not telling anyone what to do, and it's fine with me if AF wants to drop their Basic accounts – but I still think it's a bad move on their part. To each their own opinion, though. And you make a legitimate point that each seller needs to find their niche. AF wasn't mine, apparently!


  6. Tammy
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 17:14:17

    I also wanted to add that Artfire has been promising for 2 years to do something to make the guilds friendlier to use. People try to use them and they pay Pro fees to use them, but they don't work. AF puts it on the back burner and the guilds don't work. Another reason to pay for promises not kept?


  7. Tracy's Designs 1
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 17:19:01

    Hi Tammy,
    Yes, I agree that there are also Pro accounts who don't check-in regularly. And hopefully with all the changes they are making, they will do more about that.

    I hope you find the niche that works well for you, and that your business flurishes!!


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