There is a new player in the online marketplace - ArtFire. Founded in 2008, it offers an alternative to eBay, Etsy and Ruby Lane for buying and selling handmade items designed by artisans from around the globe. The low cost to join the community is remarkable.
2012 Update:From the ArtFire website - "Try us now for free and pay nothing for 14 days. Your rate is a just $12.95 a month after that for unlimited listings and complete control of your custom store." Plus no fees or commissions!
John Jacobs, CEO of ArtFire.com, was nice to enough to take the time to answer a few questions about ArtFire.
How long have you been in business?Artfire was founded in July of 2008 and went live in open beta testing in November, 2008. We are, above all else, committed to being honest, accessible, responsive and accountable to our artisan business partners who make up the ArtFire.com community.
Very interesting concept for the Basic account free service. I see that each shop can have up to 12 free listings. Is there a limit to how many images are allowed for the Basic service? Do many Basic members convert to the Verified plan?
Basic members may submit up to four images for each of their products, verified members may show ten. Our conversion rate is continually increasing as we are able to add more and more functionality that we can only offer to verified members. While many crafters do choose to become verified once they have tested out the waters and seen the benefits of becoming verified, we still have many basic users who are happy to list 12 products at a time and never pay a single fee. Basic members can list and sell as many products as they like, 12 is just the maximum they can have listed at one time.
I see there is a Forge and Shop Section - What's the difference between the two?
The "Shop" section of the site is where most of the browsing and purchasing takes place. Buyers can shop by category, trend, or by using our on-site search. The Forge is a special section where customers will be able to request custom orders from Artisans. Once the forge is complete,(it is still in development) Artisans will be able to place bids on customers' custom orders.
I also see there is an option for a custom fusion studio. What is this and what's the difference between the Basic custom fusion studio and the Full custom fusion studio?
A fusion studio is a customizable storefront available to our members. Artisans can completely customize their online brand and studio appearance without any coding skills via the Fusion Studios. They can choose preferred color schemes, layouts, shop banner (multiple sizes) and avatar, as well as displaying custom widgets.
Fusion studios go beyond just letting someone sell their creations, it gives members an online presence. With the ArtFire Market Hub Artisans can link together everywhere they maintain a presence, including their Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Etsy shop. Artfire doesn't stop you from linking out of your studio. You can link anywhere even competing marketplaces and have control of your studio space.
Basic accounts have some restrictions placed on the customization control of their fusion studio. There are a limited number of color schemes available to basic members, and they are not allowed to add widgets. In the near future, it is likely that basic accounts will also have some advertisements displayed on their item pages as well.
I've seen a wide variety of arts and crafts merchandise prices. Any info about what particular price point seems to do the best on your site?
Artisan products with good stories, value propositions, clean and bright pictures and high quality workmanship sell for more. However, the economy affects all sales. We recommend having a range of price points in your studio form under $10 to several hundred or higher for the best of the best items.
How do the artists and crafters get paid by their customers? Does each vendor have their own shopping cart and payment processing preferences or is it done through ArtFire? Are merchants required to ship the product within a certain time frame?
Our artisans are allowed to set up their own shop policies that any prospective buyer can read. This includes payment preferences and estimated shipping time/cost. Each Artisan controls the preferences and payment methods for their shopping cart, but the carts, tracking, sales management, communication and currency conversion are provided by ArtFire.
How do your Verified shop owners pay your monthly fee?
Payments can be made via any major credit card, or by PayPal. Payments are automatically deducted upon signing up for a verified account and deducted each month as a recurring subscription.
What about merchant/customer disputes - does ArtFire get involved?
We attempt to offer every possible means for a buyer and seller or seller and seller to work out their disputes. In the case of blatant or repeat offenders, we may get involved. However, our role is primarily to provide the marketplace space and supporting technical tools for commerce.
Care to reveal your membership numbers?
We have more than 30,000 total members of ArtFire.com currently including buyers, basic sellers and verified. Our exact ratios are not public, but we can tell you that with our non-account checkout fewer buyer members have signed up in the past 3-4 months as they do not have to get an account to purchase form our Artisans.
Any other info that you care to add?
ArtFire has several innovative Best in Class Artisan tools that have never been seen before. These include MarketHub, RapidCart, Fusion Studios (with link outs), server side studio statistics (not just Google Analytics), Direct additions to votehandmade.com, auto filling tweet this with custom messaging, I-promote advertising generators, blind feedback system with feedback extortion protection in the karma/kudos feedback and world class supplier partnerships.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share all this info about your ArtFire site.