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How to Define Your Etsy Shop’s Lifestyle and Grow Your Sales

Matthew Deal

Knowing and understanding your shop’s “lifestyle” is the key to making sales happen.

It’s easy for me to talk about products in a funny detached sort of way; like a soulless robot with giant metal claws, only spewing out logistical features and facts when a certain mathematical condition is met.  But sometimes it’s necessary to shift gears and exercise the creative muscles of the right side of the brain.  So let’s get abstract and discuss the task of defining a lifestyle around your Etsy shop.

What Is a Lifestyle?

A lifestyle is the way someone lives.  It includes their manners, customs, preferences, taste, values, interests, and attitudes: all the things that make up our everyday life, and the choices we make about...pretty much everything.  It’s the difference between someone’s dream vacation being a rugged five week backpacking trip through the mountains, or a luxurious five-star, all-inclusive spa resort in some warm, exotic location.  Lifestyles aren’t better than any other, they’re just different -- just like how we’re different and unique as individuals -- and these differences play a big part in how we identify and represent ourselves.  

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Lifestyle is the sum of one’s culture, identity, and means and it plays a big role in why people want the things they want.  It can determine which type of beer someone drinks, their favorite ice cream flavor, or the kinds of restaurants they go to, down to the brands of clothing they wear, or the car they drive.  All these preferences can be shaped by someone’s lifestyle (or the lifestyle they wish to have).  

Because lifestyle incorporates someone’s values and aspirations, it is a very powerful tool for connecting with your customers in a way that resonates with who they are as people.

Why You Should Care About Your Audience’s Lifestyle

In the last several decades, numerous studies in neuroscience have shown how significant a role our emotions play in our decision-making. It’s a simple fact that people are attracted to things that reinforce their lifestyle or the lifestyle they want.  By being intentional in the representation of your brand’s lifestyle, you have the opportunity to create an emotional connection with your audience that transcends your individual products and encompasses the entire “vision” of your brand.  That translates into repeat customers, brand/shop loyalty, raving reviews, and authentic sharing (via social, or personal recommendation) from your customers to more potential customers.  

Start selling the experience, not just the items.

Start selling the experience, not just the items.

You are selling a vision of what it’s like to experience the items in your shop -- not just competing with other sellers on your product’s price, size, and general features. This difference resonates with people.  This becomes especially relevant when you sell something common on Etsy like...garden gnomes.  People will, and do, compare your ceramic gnomes to those sold by other shops.  If you’re in the Etsy marketplace solely trying to win the sale of these comparative shoppers based on price, size, shipping time, and so forth...you are relying on a lot of external factors that are pretty set in stone.  That’s not to say you won’t win a sale based on those elements, but what if you could add another element to stack the deck in your favor?  Portraying a lifestyle that matches the image of the shopper’s own lifestyle (or the one they want) could be the key to the emotional response that will push them over the edge to purchase your product instead of someone else’s.

Creating a strong and clear lifestyle around your products also makes it more likely that someone will purchase your product even if it’s more expensive or takes longer to ship than your competitors.  That’s because you’re not just selling a product anymore, you’re selling an intangible object: a better and happier life.  When you think beyond just selling a product, and instead think of it as sharing an experience with your audience, everybody wins: you come across as less “salesy” and more authentic, and the buyer gets an entire experience rather than just a product.  That’s a solid win-win.

How to Define the Lifestyle of Your Audience

Defining and figuring out the lifestyle of your audience is the starting point for recreating that lifestyle in your shop.  First, this process is inherently about generalizing groups of people and the things they like.  You’re not going to get it right all the time.  The point is, that this is something you can continue to tweak as you find new ways to find your shop’s community of people.  Luckily, there are tools to help you on this journey, and ways to measure and track your success along the way so you can remember what works.  

Secondly, there is the societal concern that generalizing people and placing them into groups, automatically makes you a bigot or a racist, and so you shouldn’t do that at all.  It goes without saying: don’t be an awful person.  It also is worth noting that you, as a consumer, are already plugged into a data-centric algorithm that tracks everything you like and every interest you have.  Your interests on Facebook are mined for ad targeting.  Your Gmail account shows ads based on the subject line you’re looking at.  To the faceless machine of the marketing gods, you are another thing to be categorized in a...well...category - which makes it easy for sales to happen based on spreadsheets.  There’s no reason you shouldn’t be doing the same thing.  And no reason why you can’t be doing the same thing ethically and without being an awful person.

It’s also important to note that your products do not need to fit every lifestyle.  In fact, if it does, you are probably losing potential buyers who are not feeling that emotional response from your shop because your vision isn’t clear enough.  In addition to this, you’re not gaining any new customers whose lifestyle doesn’t match your brand anyway.  So instead of this potential lose-lose situation, you could be converting more shoppers, increasing returning customers, and creating an entire culture around your shop by constructing a very clear image of your shop’s lifestyle.

There are different approaches for defining audiences, but my process loosely goes something like this:

What awful assumptions I’ve made.  Who’s to say that anyone likes “pumpkins” based on their love of PSL’s? Or that these people also happen to like fall?  It is important to not get too carried away with the “leaps” we make when guessing what people like.  Fortunately, there are some tools we can use to instead make educated guesses about the interests of our audience.

How to Make Educated Guesses (a.k.a. How to Think Like Your Audience)

Sometimes you have a hunch about a group of people: perhaps you are a member of that group.  It’s common to create the kinds of products that you use yourself, so it might be easier for you to understand the interests of similar people who might use your product.  However, this isn’t always the case.  And even if you do have a pretty good idea of your audience’s lifestyle, you may find a wider audience you never knew about with some investigating.  Here are some of my favorite tools and methods for getting started:

1. Social Mining

Mining social channels for data isn’t new, but consider it for some competitive analysis on a shop you like.  Pop onto Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest and look at the users who are engaging with that brand.  Chances are, you’ll discover a commonality between visitors on both the sites they like and follow, and the brands they love. Another great way to find an audience who might be interested in your shop and its lifestyle is to use hashtags.  For example, you can search a hashtag that correlates to your shop’s lifestyle and see which users are using that hashtag as a way to express their own lifestyle.  On platforms like Instagram, you can also follow hashtags directly so that new trending content is automatically placed in your feed.  

2. BuzzSumo

Content is a proxy for interest.  BuzzSumo allows you to search for content and see the number of shares associated with it, while also suggesting related keywords and topics.  This is a great starting point to gain insight into the types of content your audience likes and engages with.

BuzzSumo is a great way to get in your audience’s mind.
 

BuzzSumo is a great way to get in your audience’s mind.

You can also search for top influencers in your lifestyle space to see who your audience is currently watching and responding to. The free version of BuzzSumo allows for a limited number of searches per month, which works well if you’re just checking in seasonally to keep a pulse on your marketing space.

3. Think With Google Tools

Google’s tools in Think With Google can be used to gain further insights about your audience and their lifestyle.  The Find My Audience tool goes beyond demographics to give you detailed profiles of the kinds of consumers within your lifestyle circle, what they are most interested in buying, what influencers they follow, and more.  

Google’s tools are excellent ways to research new product ideas.
 

Google’s tools are excellent ways to research new product ideas.

With Google Trends, you can view the volume of searches per a specific keyword.  This is a great way to identify how large your potential audience is, and where they are located geographically.

4. Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads Tools are another great place to learn the associated interests of your audience.  By using Facebook’s Audience Insights, you can see the demographics, page likes, location, activities, and other details for your defined audience.  You can gain a clear picture of who your audience is and what their lifestyle is like by looking at the pages they like and how often the audience is engaged with these pages (affinity ranking).  Luckily, Facebook consolidates all this data for you and delivers it in one customizable platform.

5. Answer the Public

Answer the Public is a keyword planner that shows you keyword suggestions in the form of a word map, which they call a “search cloud.”  With just one search of the word, “terrarium,” I’m given an elaborate visual map that shows me the context of what people are searching for when they’re researching anything about terrariums.

See what questions your audience has.

See what questions your audience has.

I can use this information to create content that answers questions asked in these searches; or find helpful shopping keywords for my products to rank higher on search results; or be inspired with new ideas of how I might present photos of my products that will speak to the people most interested in my product (in this case, terrariums).  All of this information is insight into creating a multi-dimensional vision of the lifestyle of my ideal audience.

How to Manifest the “Lifestyle” of Your Etsy Shop

Now that you know who your audience is, what their lifestyle includes, and why all of this is important, you might be wondering how to actually do a lifestyle change in your Etsy shop.  I have a few big suggestions:

Photos

Photos are the heart and soul of any shop, and on a platform where customers can only interact with your shop based on what is online, photos are the first (and sometimes only) impression you get.  Rather than walking into a boutique and receiving a warm welcome from the cashier, seeing products displayed together like they exist in a magazine, with scents of candles or soaps in the air...the customer enters a virtual and solely visual boutique several dimensions fewer than that boutique experience.  

Your photos are the most direct way to portray your shop’s lifestyle, and the goal should be to include, or imbue, as much of a multi-dimensional experience as possible.  

For example, here is a terrarium photographed well with professional lighting - your basic, simple product photo.  No one is arguing that this is a bad photo. Clear, well-lit photos are essential for product listings, but in a sea of terrariums in the Etsy marketplace, it’s probably going to take more than this photo to get me to actually buy it.  I’m not seeing anything that relates to a lifestyle, or anything other than just the product’s features to help me make a decision of whether or not to buy this, or where it fits into my lifestyle.

Now, this photo is showing me a lifestyle I could have with this terrarium, even more so than the product. Here’s what runs through my mind when I look at this photo: urban, trendy, brick, natural, authentic, glass, wood, plants, cool, unique.  This photo matches the expectations I have for my lifestyle.  It’s not just a photo of a terrarium, it’s a view of a lifestyle and a feeling that I could have with this product.  It conveys an idea, a place, an experience.  Every choice about this photo (the brick wall, the natural wood table, the reflection of natural lighting, the rustic hint-of-vintage photo editing style) is tailored to a particular audience that likes all of those things.  Even if their home doesn’t look like this photo, this terrarium could get them that much closer to having a home that does look like that.  It’s playing toward aspiration, and allowing the audience to envision what this terrarium could add to their lifestyle.

Photos are the easiest way to manifest lifestyle and imbue in them emotions and feelings that words often fail to do.  The goal is to make people visualize your item in their life, and to say “this item is going to help me build the life I want.”

Copy

Copy - the words or text on your page - matters.  Remember our earlier example of walking in a boutique and having a full multi-dimensional experience? Well, copy is the conversation you get to have with your browsing shopper while they decide if they’re going to buy anything.  Sure, you can type out your product specs and features in a dry, robotic description.  It will technically (and I mean that, literally) do the job.  But try taking your copy further: let your audience get to see your shop’s personality. If you sell fun, whimsical accessories, your copy should sound fun and whimsical.  If you sell rugged outdoor tools for hunters and hikers, maybe your copy is a little more direct and to the point, with vivid descriptions of the kinds of adventurous journeys your tools can go.

If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to insert your brand’s lifestyle into your writing, try visiting specialized online stores, or reading the product round-ups in magazines your audience might read.  There, you can get some ideas of the kinds of descriptions and tone that your audience is used to reading.

Shop Design & Info

When you have an Etsy shop, your shop design is operating within the web design of Etsy.com.  There are, however, ways that you can customize your shop and communicate to your shop visitors the kind of lifestyle your shop represents.  If your logo looks like you made it (and not in a good way), your products will inherently look like they are of lower quality.  Consumers are skeptics looking for any evidence that says they are not getting the highest quality, the best value, for their money.  

Of course, “good” design is very much defined by what your audience deems “good” or “bad.”  The Etsy shop, KayaSoaps, makes natural soaps, and skincare products.  Their logo portrays a clean, minimalist aesthetic that is also represented in their stylized photo banner image.  It isn’t too busy, and its simple design allows any shop visitor to instantly “get it” and understand what they do before even seeing their full line of products.

The shop banner and logo are the most obvious ways to incorporate a lifestyle into the image of your shop to visitors, but here are some other sections you might also want to include:

  • Shop Announcement: This is important for...well, announcements, but consider our notes on copy, and the option to add in emojis, as well, and you can pack in a lot of character in just a few lines.
  • About Your Shop/Shop Members: Here is a space where you can tell the story behind your shop and its members (you!).  You can paint an image of the lifestyle that inspired your Etsy shop journey, and possibly create a deeper connection with your shoppers.
  • Videos & Photos: Etsy gives you the option to add in video to your shop’s story, as well as photos of the shop and its members to give buyers a behind-the-scenes / what-goes-into-making-your-products view.

Your Online Presence

By now, you’ve probably realized how all-encompassing your Etsy shop’s lifestyle can be and how it can be inserted into pretty much every representation of your brand. One of the best ways to manifest your shop’s lifestyle is through your online presence.  This includes social media: a direct way to engage with your audience through conversations on Twitter or Facebook Groups, lifestyle photos and stories on Instagram, or helpful videos on YouTube.  Long gone are the days of using social media as a one-way platform to alert the masses about a sale or new product.  Think of social media as a great opportunity to be in front of your shoppers every day, showing them the lifestyle they can have with your brand and products. 

In addition to social media, your website, blog, or guest/product features also contribute to the overall image of your lifestyle online.  Another way to think of this is to run a Google search on your shop and look through the results as a potential customer.  Does each image and entry show one cohesive brand identity and lifestyle?  

Here are some ideas on manifesting your lifestyle in your online presence:

  • Pinterest: Create boards that imbue the lifestyle of your shop and create a broader understanding of that lifestyle.  This allows you to use (pin/repin) content from other sources, so you can create a clear image of your lifestyle without creating all the images yourself.
  • Instagram: Use consistent photo editing techniques or filters so your profile looks like one singular brand.  Show-off the shop’s lifestyle with content that goes beyond product photos.
  • Brand Your Graphics: Using free tools like Canva, you can streamline your photo editing and social media content creation by using templates, creating brand folders with saved colors and fonts, and keep all your graphic files in one place accessible on your phone or computer.  From Instagram posts, to lifestyle photos, to blog posts or guest features, using consistent fonts and colors can help your audience recognize your content right away.  This makes the vision of your shop’s lifestyle even more clear.
  • Choose Guest Blogs/Features Mindfully: It can do wonders for your shop and your product to be featured on a blog or another website.  Keep in mind that these websites will also be associated with your brand and lifestyle in an auxiliary way.  If you are doing outreach looking for places to feature you, seek out platforms that align with your shop’s lifestyle, and filter out any websites or platforms that might confuse the image of your shop’s lifestyle.  For example, if you sell luxury soaps, getting featured on a blog or website that also imbues a lifestyle of luxury will help strengthen the vision of your lifestyle, while having a guest interview on how you make your luxury soap on a budget-conscious podcast doesn’t entirely align with your ideal audience’s lifestyle - an audience who probably doesn’t think very much about budget or making their own soap.

The Bits and Bobs

Finally, we have all the bits and bobs -- the last bits of things that make for a unique customer experience when someone receives their item: the packaging, a thank you note or a small card with a coupon code...each small detail helps reinforce the experience they had online with what they have in person.  People appreciate the personal look and feel of handcrafted - that’s part of the draw to Etsy.  They also like a well-designed and professional presentation upon delivery.  The combination and ratio of these elements is up to you and your brand.

Putting It All Together

Lifestyles are a powerful marketing tool to connect with your audience and build your brand.  Learning and finding your audience is a dynamic process that will continue to change as you see what works and what doesn’t, but the ultimate goal is to craft a true and authentic experience for your customer beyond the transaction of buying and selling.  The things you do to create that experience...well, that’s your lifestyle.

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