Case study: Small business boosts online revenue with Etsy

Last fall I met with Margaret Phillips, the owner of Vintage Passementerie, a business sourcing antique millinery and vintage ribbons and trims from around the world, and selling them at Monticello Antiques in SE Portland, and through various online channels.

A graduate of the City & Guilds of London Institute, with a diploma in Design and Embroidery and a certificate in Textile Design, Margaret’s stated goal is:

“to share these beautiful finds with textile artists, designers, costumers, textile conservators and those interested in fine quality from the past.”

The Challenge.

In late 2012 she inquired if she could use my professional services to solve her online sales dilemma. For several years she’d had robust sales at her mall space and through Ebay, yet her Etsy sales remained flat. Being a savvy businesswoman, she knew she was missing out on social media opportunities, and figured Etsy provided the chance to diversify her revenue stream. I agreed to help because I felt I had a unique insight to her specific situation. In April and May of 2012 I accompanied Margaret through flea markets in Paris and old musty shops ran by ornery German octogenarian mercers in Bath, England – all to gain a better understanding of her unique selling proposition.

Oh, and did I mention Margaret is my mother?


Sandy Row Belfast

My Mom, at the entrance to Sandy Row in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

I should note that my trip to peruse antique ribbon galleries and vintage fabric depots wasn’t purely altruistic … the visits came during a family jaunt in which I traded time, minute for minute, in exchange for dragging her through the doldrums of Northern Ireland’s sectarian violence.

I digress …


We started with a question: How can we boost her Etsy sales? Upon logging into her Etsy account, the first thing I noticed is that Etsy has tools to help vendors understand the origin of their web traffic, allowing them to see the specific items and keywords that are drawing consumers to their Etsy shop. So, much like the tools we use in our practice at AM:PM PR, I was excited to learn I can use Etsy’s tools to determine which posts and keyword choices are bringing customers to her Etsy account.


We started our work in late October 2012, and after a week of meddling around, it had already become her highest traffic month to date with 200 shop views, 323 listing views, but 0 orders. Despite the lack of sales, we felt encouraged by the dramatic uptick in traffic.

Etsy chart 1

Together we performed a communication audit for her Etsy shop-profile and determined which items, images and words were drawing the most consumer traffic to her shop. We then altered the language of her Etsy shop to include more of the most popular keywords. Using the Google Keywords tool, we contrasted and tested high volume search terms and included those words in her Etsy profile as well.  The results were immediate and gratifying.

This is her web traffic for all of 2012. You can see the dramatic doubling in web traffic to her shop, and quadrupling of traffic to her listings, beginning with our revived efforts in October 2012.

Etsy chart 2

Social Media.

Ahh, “social media.”  Are there any two words in the English language responsible for driving more disdain and nausea into the hearts and minds of the Baby Boomer generation? Just the mention of these two words cause many boomers to cringe like Dracula to a cross. In fairness, who wants to spend the afternoon sitting in front of a computer typing gibberish into the blackhole of the interwebs? Or so the thinking often goes. But when we discovered Etsy has unique social media capabilities, Margaret was thrilled … to have me look into it for her.

The first thing we noticed – Etsy allows consumers to “like” items in a given Etsy shop without actually buying them – as a way of bookmarking them. As a shop owner, you receive notifications allowing you to see who “likes” your shop, or items in your shop, and you reciprocate by “following” these profiles, presuming that most people will in turn follow you back. If they liked your items, why wouldn’t they want to be your friend?

This act of reciprocal following may seem social and friendly, but it serves a greater marketing purpose as well – alerting your followers every time you upload a new item onto your Etsy account.

After training Margaret to update posts/items regularly and follow “likers” often (two tasks that require steadfast vigilance) we got to work creating a schedule for updating her Facebook page, which I linked to a dummy Twitter account that automatically updates every time she posts to Facebook. I admit the Twitter account has been a bit of a killjoy in terms of results, but considering she spends 0% energy on Twitter, it’s merely another search engine optimized baited-hook dangling out in the ocean, waiting for an antique ribbon-loving fish to swim by and bite. Similarly, with each new Tweet, we are continually linking potential customers back to her shop and as a result we’re seeing that her small business boosts online revenue.


Another important step has involved the increase in listings, and the updating or reposting of old listings. As she gains more followers, each new item she posts goes directly into the newsfeeds of these new followers, many of whom are likely to see what would be considered “old” items for the first time.

How effective is this effort?

The following is our results from the past two and a half months alone.


  • 8,551 Shop Visits (vs. 4,176 in all of 2012)
  • 863 visits resulting from Direct Traffic (those who bookmarked/liked the shop). This is over 10% of all visits.
  • 165 visits originating from her newly redesigned website
  • Direct Traffic From Facebook has increased by 50% during the past month
  • Google search engines from Korea, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and more are directing people to her Etsy site

The most dramatic results come from comparing sales and traffic results from all of 2012 with the first 45 days of 2013.

  • Sales have tripled
  • Site visits have doubled

Further, with 1/4 of the month left to go (at the time of this writing) we have more site visits this month than we had all of last month.

The other beautiful thing about her results is that they are measurable. The practices I used are the same public relations practices we use at AM:PM PR to spread brand awareness and drive web traffic for our bigger customers.

Stats for 2012:

Etsy Stats 1

Stats for 2013:

Etsy Stats 2

Or, if you are a more visual person:

Etsy chart 3