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What Do Retailers Really Want? One zulily Craft Buyer Tells Us How to Stand Out

by Hanna Brooks Olsen
craft & maker, featured

zulily craft buyer

This week, Megan Auman is showing our craft audience how to sell their products to retailers – a crucial step for any small business. Curious about the process, we decided to talk to a craft buyer to find out what she looks for  and how handmade business owners can get their goods in front of more people.

In addition to being a mom and a business owner, Madison Eckendorf is a full-time craft & DIY buyer for zulily, a Seattle-based retailer website that offers deals on products for moms – many of which are sourced from small, independent craft and maker businesses. Here’s a Q&A we recently did with Madison:

Madison Eckendorf 2–Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do. 

I’m a mom of a 1 year old girl, own a small local tavern in Seattle, and work for zulily as a full-time craft & DIY buyer. I started at zulily three years ago, and prior to that, I was at at Costco on the online jewelry and furniture merchandising team. Currently, I’m focused on buying stationary, DIY and special occasion party supplies.

–Why zulily?

I was looking for a fun and thriving work environment where I had the opportunity to grow with the business and zulily has offered just that!

–What do you look for as a buyer? What catches your eye?

Uniqueness! I look for a product that looks high in quality, well-made and crafted and encompasses key and current trends. It’s very important that a product and brand not feel like a copycat. The product needs to feel like it’s the buyer’s own creation. Also, I look for vendors who have branded themselves well on their website or in store and who share customer and product reviews. The ability for a vendor to market and talk about their product is critical.

–What can crafters and people starting their own businesses do to be more successful?

Branding and marketing. It’s all in the fine details in how you write your brand and product copy. Take the time to write your bio to give the market and your customers a sense of who you and your business are. Your copy should be concise, clear and detailed. Avoid too lengthy of copy. You want to ensure viewers take the time to read it and don’t feel overwhelmed.

If you sell or are looking to sell online, your first priority should be photography! Great photography ensures your product is represented in its best light and will capture the quality of your product. Online, you have only a mere second to capture your customer’s attention and if you miss them, your sale is gone.

–What do you wish the people you worked with knew?

Often I have to educate vendors on their pricing structure for a retail market versus a craft specific market. If you’re looking to expand beyond, for example, an Etsy market – do your research! Look at online retailers with similar product to yours. What is their pricing? What is their quality compared to your product? And reference multiple retailers to get a true sense of what your product value could be in the retail market.

–How important is marketing for small business owners looking to expand their reach?  What’s the best marketing?

Again, it comes down to the details on presenting your product and business. And the great news is, this is free. All it requires is your time and spellcheck!

Partnering with companies like zulily to market and sell your product to millions of customers is a great way to increase not only your sales, but also brand awareness. Additionally, zulily offers resources like custom copywriting and photography to bring your product and brand story to life.

Etsy allows your product and brand exposure to increase on their site through assortment refresh and active engagement. So keep evolving your assortments and stay engaged!

–Anything else we should know? 

When you’re looking to partner with companies and retailers like zulily, do some research to understand the company and its environment before committing to working together. Not all companies will be a good fit for your business and your goals. Also, don’t overextend yourself on orders and commitments you cannot fill. You don’t want to provide a negative experience for your customers and business partners. An open and honest relationship with your business partners will ensure you’re both set for success!

Want to find out more about how to get your products sold in online and in stores? Catch Megan’s class this week, live on CreativeLive. And if you’d like to check out the bunting featured in the image for this post, you can visit Starlit Nest Gifts. And if you’re going to be in Seattle, come to our event!

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Hanna Brooks Olsen

Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. @mshannabrooks