heartsy: coup for handmade or discount disaster

It seems I’ve been living under a rock and missed the launch of Heartsy a few weeks ago.

Heartsy is a Groupon-type site for makers & artists. There are a few deals per day – which range from 50-90% off retail prices. I have to say, despite my pleas for spending more on your stuff, I love this (in theory). I love the exposure it could create for makers, the new hearts it could expose to handmade goods, the opportunities to “try” before you invest, and the word-of-mouth that could be generated.

When I shared my opinion on Twitter, people were taken off guard. How could I be into this?

In the video above, I share my big reason:

There’s a difference between a discount and discount culture.

Namely, discount culture – as espoused by Walmart and other big box retailers – hurts every one in the supply chain from the makers to the shippers to the retail workers to the shoppers. A discount, when used strategically, can be a great way to build cash flow and introduce new customers to your product.

Although my product base is quite different, I use discounting for exactly that reason and it works well for me.

I also share my (perhaps somewhat unique) experience of really using Groupon to try out new things at a discount and then coming back for more & more at full price. I might be an exception but I’m the kind of exception you really want in your customer base. And I have a feeling there are more of me than you might think.

So what other reasons are there to like this crazy discount idea?

  • Advertising is expensive and doesn’t always convert.
  • Getting your product into people’s hands means more people offline can see it.
  • Goods should be priced for profit at wholesale, not retail, so any loss is minimal at worst.
  • Makers can build lists of qualified buyers who can then be up sold to easily in the future.

I have more. Ask Megan.


Sure, there are plenty of ways this whole scheme could go horribly, horribly wrong.
There will be a lot of people who get burned. But I don’t see that as Heartsy’s fault.

While some may use the site get a cheap handmade thrill, it’s unfair to assume that shoppers can’t discern the difference between a one time deal and the value of the goods they’re consuming. Shoppers are getting over discount culture but that doesn’t mean they grab a discount!

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the makers & artists who use the site as a marketing vehicle to develop great relationships with their buyers. It is the makers’ responsibility to celebrate maker culture as opposed to discount culture.

Heartsy should be used from a place of power, for both buyers & makers, not a place of desperation.

So, what do you think? Can makers who price properly benefit from this type of discount exposure?

Also recently wrote about the trouble of underselling (or why “discomfort” is a terrible pricing strategy) on Oh My Handmade.

19 thoughts on “heartsy: coup for handmade or discount disaster

  1. Very interesting. I didn’t have a gut reaction saying “NO!” to Heartsy, but neither have I found discounts to be particularly effective for my marketing before. I think the follow-up must be important for this, and perhaps I will try Heartsy out as a marketing options.

  2. Tara, I think your distinction between ‘discounts’ and ‘discount culture’ is an important one.

    I do use deals and discounts sometimes to both reward loyal customers and entice new customers – and I have found them to be effective if marketed well… but there is the risk of overdoing such things, especially when people are desperate for a sale.

    I think this: “Heartsy should be used from a place of power, for both buyers & makers, not a place of desperation” is something anyone who wants to use heartsy and other sites needs to take into account…

  3. After visiting Heartsy for the first time my reaction was a saddened “oh…no”
    I clicked around a few of the deals and visited the shops. I could see how it would work for some, others not so sure of.
    The discount might work to get someone in your shop. I’m sure you’d get lots of visits but knowing the time and effort that goes into all these handmade lovelies it did sadden my heart a little to think it’s come to “discount”.
    Thanks for your input. And good luck to all those on Heartsy!

  4. Agree with PaperFlora,
    i’m happy to buy with reasonable discounts, up to 30%, but 60%? – I would feel like stealing from the artist. But that’s probably because i’m an artist too :)

  5. Yeah, I had the initial involuntary gag reaction to Heartsy, and I am still not sure where I stand on it. I like the points that you made, especially that if you are going to use it, do so from a place of power and not desperation. Part of me still feels like it is a way for the handmade community to get taken and sort of cheesed out. Some of the draw to this online handmade community for me was that people were valuing themselves and standing strong and firm in the worth of what they were making and it was the first time I really saw makers pricing things in a way that would allow them to make a real living and real business as a creative. This seems like a way to kind of fold over and, yes, I am tempted to use the “s” word here, but I won’t do it because I hate it when people throw that word around! :)

    Thanks for starting this discussion! I am looking forward to hearing what others have to say and I appreciate your thoughts on this.
    Kristen

  6. Continuing the Twitter conversation, I finally had a chance to watch the video, only having read the text before, and I do agree with most of what you’re saying. But, I still feel sad about this site concept and what I think it says about how we do/ don’t value the handmade market. Not from the marketing perspective (although I agree with Victoria on the size of discount required here), but from the cultural perspective. I think your discount/ discount culture distinction is right on but for me Heartsy slides over into discount culture and then associates it with handmade goods.

  7. Very thought provoking! I like the distinction between a discount and a discount culture. I tend to see this as a neat way for more people to become more aware. Once one starts to buy handmade how can we go back to anything else?! The door to the handmade community is opened thru these discounts to people who may never have thought to walk thru this door! I hope it enhances the artists’ buyer’s circle and creates a new awareness for the customers!

  8. Thank you for this perspective on Heartsy-I have had to read it a couple of times! While I think I understand it still doesn’t feel right for me personally. Which is interesting because I am in such utter agreement with your underselling post. I think sales/discounts/specials can be wonderful tools to market your business and offer a gift to existing customers while bringing in new ones. But sites like Heartsy create a convenient way to allow discount culture into the handmade community.

    I have faith that handmade artists can price their work based on an equation that accounts for making a profit. I am also sure that they could use a system like Heartsy to get new customers and make the deal work for them with careful planning.

    But I wonder if all the time they spend making & packing the orders they sold at 1/2 price in order to engage one or two exceptional customers might be better spent building their networks in other ways.

    The one thing that I really did take away from this post was the idea that a first time ever buyer who might be having their first introduction to handmade would buy it because it is a risk free way to check it out. I get that. But it still makes me uncomfortable so I am going to keep thinking on it!

  9. Thank you for this perspective on Heartsy-I have had to read it a couple of times! While I think I understand it still doesn’t feel right for me personally. Which is interesting because I am in such utter agreement with your underselling post. I think sales/discounts/specials can be wonderful tools to market your business and offer a gift to existing customers while bringing in new ones. But similar to what Zoe wrote I feel sites like Heartsy create a convenient way to allow discount culture into the handmade community.

    I have faith that handmade artists can price their work based on an equation that accounts for making a profit. I am also sure that they could use a system like Heartsy to get new customers and make the deal work for them with careful planning. But I wonder if all the time spent making & packing the orders they sold at 1/2 price in order to engage one or two exceptional customers might be better spent building their networks in other ways.

    The one thing that I really did take away from this post was the idea that a first time ever buyer who might be having their first introduction to handmade would buy it because it is a risk free way to check it out. I get that. But it still makes me uncomfortable so I am going to keep thinking on it!

  10. I too was new to the Heartsy party – never heard of it before today. I actually like the idea, in spite of the fact that I’m an artist myself. Right now my shop isn’t big enough to offer the kind of discount featured on Heartsy, but in the future I might be willing to give it a try.

    The reason I like the idea is that there are still so many people out there who don’t buy handmade. My husband is one. He is a Walmart shopper, and when I show him a hat or a scarf that I like, and then tell him the price, he gets loud. I don’t know that my husband will ever be a convert to the handmade lifestyle, but I think a lot of people might be – if they have an opportunity to buy something they like at a price that seems more reasonable to them at that time, and then find out that the handmade product really is better, cooler, more meaningful than what they can buy at the mall.

  11. Wow wee. What a waste of time. My work qualifies and is being reviewed. However, you can review the overall ratings of your offer on your account. There are 5 categories where people can vote on whether they would purchase your product:
    Yes
    Definitely
    Probably
    Maybe
    I Don’t Think So
    Definitely Not.

    I was horrified at the amount of Definitely Not responses. It proved my theory. Hearsty is risky business for the artist who work from the soul. “Definitely Not” is so harsh! Jeez. I would have preferred the snarky “I Don’t Think So” any day.

    Also important to note, Heartsy is not affiliated with Etsy, but encourages the cheapening of products on Etsy. This excellent article on Handmadeology shows how participating in these discount efforts can actually put sellers in the red. Yes, perhaps you will draw new customers to your shop, but if they are only looking for freebies, they might not be the kind of customers you would want in the first place.

  12. Is it only for etsy shops? (Wasn’t clear to me when looking at the site)

    If it was something open to all artists/shops I could see it really drawing in customers, and there would be less an issue with etsy=cheapening the market (since everyone has a chance).

    Very important consideration for artists would be if they will make money on a deal- especially if/when the site does start taking a cut, which it seems like it would eventually. Many artists are not priced for wholesale, and large discounts (plus time packaging each small order) could be very time intensive compared to the $$ a person would make.

  13. I’ve just come from the Etsy forums and this Heartsy issue is causing a firestorm over there. I can see both sides of the argument but I am concerned that this type of thing will devalue the work of artisans in the long run.

  14. I just participated in a Hearty promotion as a seller.

    Gosh, I just got a bunch of advertising for free!

    I’m not comfortable marketing and promoting myself, but I am comfortable making the things I make, so in the end I got to do what I like to do while someone else did the task I dislike. At the end of the day there was a chunk of cash waiting for me and now I’ve got orders. I’m pretty excited about it!

  15. We’ve tried 3 times to get accepted to heartsy. So far it’s been a no go. I was wondering is there another website similar to heartsy?
    Kind regards,
    Kim

  16. Hello! I think what you said was really thoughtful, and made me think about Heartsy a bit more. I am writing actually, because I was put on Heartsy without my consent, and they generated a bit of cash for me in one sale. I didn’t realize at the time what they were about, but now I see that they kind of mis-represented what my company is, but I still made some money from it. I am not an Etsy vendor, but I am a handmade candy company.

    I am pretty conflicted about this, because they took my photos without permission, and “created” a web page on their site with the photos, and sold the candies. But then again, they sold product, I made some money, and if you search for my business, Heartsy’s page is ranked at about #5 on the results page on Google. It’s free advertising, I guess, but I have a bit of a problem with the fact that I decided a while back not to do any Groupon-like promotions, yet here I am having been kind of forced into it without my knowledge. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Also, is it a good thing or a bad thing that they have put up a vendor, me, who is NOT an Etsy vendor (but they basically made it look like I was)? It’s a complex question with a complex answer, I’m sure. And I know I’m not the only vendor that they have used like this.

    P.S. I feel bad for the person who said they had tried three times to get into Heartsy with no success, yet here I stand having been part of a sale from them that I didn’t approve.

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