Managing an Etsy Shop - Part 3 - The Magic of Managing Inventory Online

running at etsy shop clothes rack

Hello, dear readers:  Emily here. Melissa has handed off the Vintanthromodern Vintage "business behind-the-scenes" post series to me to write about how the shop inventory goes from racks in Melissa's house and loads of shared photos to actual listings on Etsy. Managing inventory online is as important as managing the 'warehouse' inventory, but it comes with its own set of challenges! So without further ado ...

Listing new items

Etsy has a template for item listings. The template includes a place for photos, a listing title, a description, listing tags, categories, and price. All of this information needs to be entered for each item. Since Melissa opened her shop last summer, between the two of us we have made almost 1000 listings. That's a lot of information we've input! Luckily, Etsy lets you copy draft or active listings, but except for copying Etsy item categories and shipping information, this isn't very useful for listing our variety of vintage. Each item is unique and requires different tags, descriptions, and titles.

How do we get all of that work done between two people?

As you know from Melissa's posts, she maintains the inventory in her home and photographs items as she can. Once items are photographed, the process is handed off to me. Melissa provides me with the photos and I set to work from there. Before we began doing collections, I would simply list items as they came to me. Now that we've added the extra curatorial step, my process has changed some and I've settled on a very assembly-line listing method. It goes like this:

1. I make draft listings with all of the new item photos. When I make the listings initially, I copy from a listing that has all of its major entry fields nearly blank. Deleting old tags from a copied listing, for example, is really f*ing annoying. At this stage, I simply add the photos to the listing and move on. Now that Melissa and I have gotten down a consistent photographic style, it is fairly easy to pick the "lead" photo for the listing which will appear in the shop and in Etsy search results. That this photo shows off the item  and looks great is really important. Etsy shoppers and community members click on an item listing because of the photo. Moreover, when Etsyians make treasury lists -- special curated collections of 16 items from across Etsy, created around a certain theme -- they focus on the listing photo. Treasuries are a unique sort of social advertising, and getting "treasured" is great exposure for the shop. In the past, we've had a few items make front page appearances on Etsy in a featured treasury list which drives a lot of traffic into the shop.

2. Once the listings are made, I can comb through the draft listings to create a collection. Our collections and mini-collections come out once a week, and I try to plan potential collections a couple weeks in advance. Each tells a story and creates a distinctive mood. Melissa gravitates towards certain styles and decades, so putting cohesive collections together is a pretty simply process. Once I have some collection ideas down, I go into the relevant listings and edit the title to include the name of the collection.

3. Next comes the process of actually adding content to the listings. That Etsy allows you to save drafts is a great bit of functionality; my job would be much harder if it wasn't there! With a collection picked out, I go back to each draft listing in that collection and add a title, categories, a description, tags, and price. Since Etsy added relevancy to its search function last year, the importance of good titles and good items tags has increased substantially. If someone is searching for "70s prairie dresses" and you're listing a 70s prairie dress, you want to make sure that the item listing has all of those key words packed into it. It is one thing to have great items, but it is another to have great items that customers are actually seeing (and, you know, buying). The most important content to get into the listing -- repeatedly -- for vintage clothing and accessories is a) the decade, b) the type of item and all relevant name variations (for example, "pants" are also "trousers," "pant," "slacks," "bottoms," etc.), c) the size, d) the color or colors, e) the season, f) the style, and g) the occasion, if appropriate, such as "wedding" or "party" or "formal."  To fill out the listing title and tags, I also add other relevant adjectives, like "feminine" or "tough" or "sophisticated" or "classic," as well as the names of style icons who are associated with a particular look, such as Marilyn Monroe, Stevie Nicks, Cyndi Lauper, or Pam Grier.

4. Once all of the collection listings are completed, the collection is ready to launch! I launch collections on Wednesday mornings. A collection launch means a new post on this blog, an announcement or two on Twitter, status updates on our business and personal Facebook pages, and a revision of the "shop announcement" on Etsy. Whether it is 12 items or 24 items, getting a collection launched is really exciting.

However ... managing the online inventory doesn't end when the listings go live. Listings expire on Etsy after 3 months, so I have to be on top of expiring listings. After listings expire, we have to reassess the items. Why hasn't this sold in three months? Is something wrong with the item? Is something wrong with the listing? If something is wrong with the listing -- like bad tags -- or bad photographs -- fixing the listing is easy. If we fix the listing and it still isn't selling, we then move the item off to clearance. Our clearance sections are the last stop for items in our shop. Not every item we list will eventually go to clearance, but the sections are a good way to get rid of our less desirable inventory that we've already given our best shot at selling in the Etsy market at regular prices. As our most recent listings are more carefully curated, when our older items, rather hodge-podge as a whole, are cleared out, our clearance sections will evolve.

We also have to work to manage inventory while listings are live. We currently have 260 active listings (down from a high of over 400), and that's a big inventory for an Etsy vintage shop. A great tool we use to do so is, which allows us to mass-edit Etsy listings. Etsy itself doesn't have this functionality, and it can be a real downer. Craftopolis is especially useful for changing prices and titles. We recently revamped our whole pricing system through Craftopolis and made a minor change to all of our listing titles. Without Craftopolis, I would have had to go back and edit every single listing on Etsy separately. Yuck!

While individual listings are, of course, important, keeping the look and feel of the shop as a whole consistent is important, too. When customers make it to our shop page, they see the banner and they see the first couple of rows of item listings. Those listings sell the shop to potential customers, just like the window displays or central merchandise displays sell a brick-and-mortar shop. The visual information has to be exciting, professional, and just a bit comforting. We save our cheeky humor and silliness for the listing descriptions and for this blog. Ha!

This whole process has gone through countless revisions since I started working with Melissa. Through lots of brainstorming, lots of trial-and-error, and lots of headaches, though, I've settled on a process for listing items and managing the shop inventory online that seems to work. I need to be efficient making the listings, but they also need to be accurate and of high quality. Despite the fact that Vintanthromodern Vintage is Melissa's shop, I feel a bit like it's my little online baby, too. While I of course want Melissa to be a happy shop owner and boss, I want the shop to be awesome just because. I'm proud that together we're continuing to evolve and improve!