Another Friday means another check in from me, and also the last of our Virtual Market posts! (I know I know, its ok to cry.)
This week it is all about the makers and small business owners who have been taking part and selling at these online fairs. We’ve spoken to 4 of the UK’s best, about how they have found the move online.
First we have the lovely Emma (creative crochet extraordinaire), of Stitching Me Softly – who you may remember from a feature last month! (If you missed it, have a nosey here.)
Here’s what she told us:
“Overall my experience of Virtual Markets has been pretty hit and miss. As a market organiser myself, I am more than happy to pay to take part in virtual events, as even those take a great deal of time and effort to set up. So far I have taken part in 3 virtual markets, all based on Instagram and Facebook rather than a more technical online market platform. As a small business owner and parent of 3, I really like how simple the social media markets are to take part in. It only takes a few minutes to create a lovely graphic on ‘Canva’ to promote yourself on Instagram stories.”
So how did they compare to previous, physical creative events?
“Obviously virtual markets won’t be the same as in person events, and I think the thing we will all miss about shopping in person at markets this year is the opportunity to speak to customers about the benefits and features of what we sell. Customers really like these interactions and feed off our enthusiasm when we are talking about how much time and love has gone into creating our products. However they can be just as profitable if you are willing to put the effort in.”
That is very true – I completely agree how much we have all missed that interaction, and I’m sure it is far far easier to promote what you are selling by speaking face-to-face. However that is such a good point, I suppose if you treat an online event just as if it were the physical version, your selling skills could potentially still shine through!
So what exactly does that extra effort involve?
“The two markets that were the most successful for me were the ones that I engaged with the most. I took the time to record a few little videos of my products, and even some demos of how to use the kits and start making the items inside. I also made sure I had the time to be present on social media at the time the markets were being run, to answer customers questions and engage with other sellers by sharing their products and information on my page.”
Any advice for creatives looking to take part in a virtual event?
“My advice for anyone who is thinking of taking part in an online market, is to pick which one/s they want to take part in carefully. How many other businesses are taking part? Too few may mean that there won’t be enough of an audience, but too many may mean you get lost in a crowd. What are the organisers offering in return for your fee? How many of your posts/stories will they re-share? Is there a website to support the market with a link through to all the exhibitors own web pages? Will they be sending out marketing email/s to their audience?”
All such fab advice! And finally, would you say that these events have been successful for you and your business?
“For reference, this year a weekend virtual market I took part in generated the same profit for me as a 3 day in person selling event from last year. The revenue was less, but when you take into account the higher cost of in-person events and the money you should pay yourself for the time you spend selling at them, the total profit numbers can actually be better at well organized online events. “
Next up, is illustrator and print maker Christopher Hill, who gave us more of an idea of the advantages and disadvantages of selling at a virtual market:
“I would say that virtual markets do not give you a chance of face to face interaction and general networking in the same way a physical event would. Also weather could influence the participation of both styles of events. A wet weather day could reduce foot fall to a physical event. Whereas, when we experienced the nice summer weather on a weekend, it seemed to reduce participation of an online market I took part in. With online markets, you don’t have the same opportunity of general chatting with people attending the market. The amount of feedback on your stall could be reduced at an online market, as not as many people may message you as opposed to making a general or passing comment at a physical event.”
Good point – it is definitely more of an effort to go out of your way to send a message to a seller, whereas I completely agree that I would be way more likely to say something quick to someone in person, and that must be difficult in terms of feedback. I also hadn’t considered weather being something that would affect foot fall at a virtual event, but that is true – people are of course going to be less likely to be sat inside scrolling through the event if the sun is shining!
Brilliant Sinead over at Red Faces Prints, also shared her experiences:
“Virtual Markets are very different- it feels like you’re doing it blind as it’s really hard to get a feel for who’s watching/wanting to buy. On the other hand, it’s a lot easier not having to physically set out my stall and transport my wares across town!”
Please have a browse through all of Red Face Prints’ limited edition silk screen prints, and see if you can just choose one favourite! Find her at redfacesprints.com, on Etsy, or on the ‘gram @redfacesprints.
And lastly, fabulous Tessa: the creative brain, crocheter and colour lover behind The Squirrel Collective, who made an important point about the benefit of taking part in a virtual event as a maker, when it may be the only option:
“Virtual markets are a way for me to take part in the craft fair world when either my anxiety or circumstances mean I can’t attend them in person. Location is no barrier to me, being able to take part in an event with amazing artists from all over the country. It also opens you up to a huge audience. I’ve found so many indie businesses I love through attending online markets as a customer.”
It seems that most makers and small business owners are having similar experiences, with both advantages and disadvantages of selling through these online events. Maybe this is a good reason to, once it is an option, continue with these alongside the more traditional face-to-face market that we are so accustomed to?
We have loved talking all things Virtual Market this October, and hope you have enjoyed reading. If you missed the other posts, find them here:
Next week we are back to our Creative Q&As, & its a good-un – see you there!