Online shopping never been easier.
People have so many options! On one side, there are giants like Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress, offering convenience, vast product selections and of course, speed.
Speed, in fact, seems to be number one priority.
Now, on the other side, there is the charming world of small businesses – often run by a single person, crafting in a cozy (and mostly messy!) corner of their homes.
I guess it’s impossible to outrun the giants.
However, it is essential for buyers to recognize the qualities and passion that fuels small businesses – often overlooked by the expectations set by the huge marketplaces.
The Impersonal vs. The Personal
In a huge marketplace shopping can often feel like a race against time and deals that will be gone if you don’t act fast.
Banners and pop-up messages with great discounts, coupons, countdowns, don’t miss this offer, buy now, job done.
The main focus is on speed and efficiency, and the personal touch gets lost somewhere in these heartless transactions – along with the pure joy of investing your hard-earned money into something special and meaningful.
Small businesses take a different approach. Each product is handmade with love and care, crafted by skilled hands of passionate, talented, yet ordinary people, who pour their hearts into their creations.
Shopping is way more than just a transaction; it is a meaningful connection with the human soul behind the artistry – and I strongly believe in this bond.
Here is a picture of one of my latest creations in my Etsy Shop:
This is a mini neck pouch. The idea behind it was to have a tiny necklace to store something small and valuable – maybe meds, or lucky stone/charm, even jewelry when hitting the gym and forgot to take them off.
Made of soft and lightweight suede, decorated with a laser engraved greek column, at a 5×8 (aprox) cm size, it is beautiful and convenient.
Now, here comes Chris.
Chris bought one of those pouches, shortly after publishing the new product. When he received it, he sent me an email. He wrote “Hi, Kate! I received the pouch and I love it, but… can you make something MUCH smaller?”
A small parenthesis here: Feedback like this one, is just priceless. I understand that many crafters are scared of the “buts” from their customers, and hear me out.
When you make something, and you sell it, and you get paid, and the buyer loves it, and leaves a 5-star review, everything is perfect, Yes.
But: This doesn’t mean a lot of things, also.
a) It doesn’t mean that your product is perfect for everyone.
b) It doesn’t help you improve the product – or at least create something new, that’s even better.
c) It doesn’t show you the other side, the “but… can you make something MUCH smaller?”
Yes, it is true that you cannot satisfy perfectly everyone and that is fine. But if you have the chance to satisfy one more person? Won’t you go for it? If you have the chance to improve, just by hearing out what your buyer has to say, won’t you go for it?
I guess you will.
So, I thanked Chris for his email and asked him what the “MUCH smaller” meant. I already thought that my pouch was as small as it needed. And here is the magic about making things with your own hands: You have an idea about something and you make it, and this is how far your judgement can go – but this doesn’t mean that it is as far as it can truly go. You need a Chris to point this out for you.
“Well, I’m climbing Everest soon and I have this tiny treasure…” Wait, what?? Someone, from the other side of the world, among thousands, if not millions of tiny neck pouches around internet, found mine, to join them into something THAT big? I am all ears! (Eyes, in this case.)
“…from my grandfather, and I want to carry it with me, securely around my neck, for luck and protection. It’s at least half the size of the pouch, maybe even smaller.”
Now that I knew what Chris needed the pouch for, it hit me. This pouch, is a treasure holder! I made this pouch initially, with the idea in mind to store something small and valuable, right? But this was just the broader approach. It was a good idea, yet too generic. A neck pouch, not too big to be uncomfortable, not too small either so it can carry a variety of things, small yes, but some smaller, some bigger, lacked of something important: A personality. And a deeper purpose.
And if I wanted to be completely honest with myself, the pouch wasn’t safe at all to carry someone’s treasure. It had just a flap closure, with a stud button, easy to open and close, tightening with a cord. Okay, you can store something. But, would you trust it to carry something THAT important, Kate?
I again thanked Chris for his valuable insight and asked him to give me a couple of days.
This is the new pouch I made for him:
Now, this new, updated mini pouch, is much smaller, much better, much more convenient, and MUCH safer to carry a treasure.
It is still made of soft and lightweight suede, but the leather stripe goes all the way around, hand stitched and attached all the way around the pouch, giving it a slightly box-shape instead of a bag. I also replaced the stud button with a snap button. And, I reduced around 3cm from each side.
I sent him the picture and he was super excited about it, which made my day even more, and then asked me how to pay for it.
I said “No, you are not going to pay for it, I am shipping it out right away, and THANK YOU, for opening my eyes, and helping me find this cutie’s true purpose.”
I made a whole collection of the new, improved mini neck pouches, in a variety of colors and designs, and I had the chance to present the true treasure holder, that many people after Chris now cherish and trust to hold their precious little things.
This was a huge lesson for me and such an inspiring, and fun experience!
This, is something that a big marketplace full of mass-produced stuff and stressed sellers cannot give:
The power and the importance of letting a buyer add their own little mark on a product you make for them, is HUGE. This is something truly magical about shopping from a small business.
The Specific Requirements
In the vastness of large marketplaces, what you see is what you get (usually, hopefully) and that’s it. But small businesses hold the key to unlocking a world of possibilities: With a flexible spirit and the advantage of hand crafting everything from scratch, small business owners can embrace specific customer requirements.
I cannot tell you how many times I have altered my designs according to my customers needs and desires – and every single time the results were awesome. Even when I was trying to picture their idea in my mind, and what I was seeing made me frown uncertain for the outcome, I was proved wrong.
Every – single – time.
“Hi, Kate! I love the Wolf bracelet, but I’m not sure if I like these matte black beads, is it possible to replace them?“
“Hi, Kate! I want to buy the Forest Fox Cuff for my sis, but she loves black, is there a chance to make it black instead of brown?“
This is how “my lady of the night” was born.
“Hi, Kate! I like the Lion Cuff and I was wondering if you can put the Bear pendant on it.“
“Hi, Kate! I love the Cactus Cuff, could you please add my name on it?“
My answers are always a big YES.
The results are always amazing.
My customers are always happy.
This makes me happy, too.
Since I make everything from scratch, alternating and customizing has become my middle name. It doesn’t make any difference for me to begin working on a black sheet of leather instead of brown, or stitch with a blue thread instead of red, or attach this pendant instead of that – and so on.
Yes, it is true that with some of my best-selling designs I can work on auto-pilot (I have made them so many times) and alternating stuff makes me work more time to bring them into life. And yes, I understand that many people will say “my time is not free”. However, I always enjoy the new possibilities that every customer’s idea gives me – I see things from a different angle, my mind is filled with new ideas, I make new designs, I enrich my little store. All from a short message “Hi, Kate! Could you…”
Oh, yes I can.
Mistakes and the Human Touch
Even in the realm of digital wonders mistakes are inevitable. I understand that most people buy from large and well established marketplaces because they feel safer to buy from – they know they will get their money back if something goes wrong.
And small business owners also approach these moments with grace and empathy.
Most small business owners are genuinely interested to know any issues that may arise. They take responsibility, offering their heartfelt apologies and creative solutions.
Many times mistakes are made by buyers – and still, sellers will go above and beyond to fix them.
This human connection transforms missteps into opportunities to build trust and foster lasting relationships.
Afterall, small businesses make their most profit from returning customers than new ones.
Did I ever make a mistake? Yes. Have my buyers made a mistake? Yes.
I once made a bracelet and punched a hole bigger than it should be for the closure. I never noticed it. I shipped the order and couple of weeks later the customer messaged me about it, sending me a picture. The hole was too big to keep the stud button in place, so the bracelet kept falling off their wrist.
It was my mistake and I never denied it. I apologized and sent a replacement.
Did I lose money from this mistake? Well, yeah! But that’s okay. This mistake made me be more careful. It nailed in my mind the warning “don’t work only with your hands, your brain must be here, too.“
Sometimes, customers might get annoyed when things go wrong with their order. And I totally understand that. I am an online shopper too and I know that online shopping can include hiccups – late delivery, lost package, damaged product, wrong size, faulty craftmanship.
Once, I got a 1-star review in my Etsy shop by an angry customer. His bracelet “broke apart within two weeks” were his words. It was my first 1-star review and while it felt like a stab in my heart when I read it, I ignored my urge to reply and went to sleep. I dealt with it next morning and it took me a couple of weeks to solve it. I offered solutions and he accepted the replacement. The customer later changed their review to 5 stars and explained their experience. And I was in tears by their response.
I never asked them to change their feedback. I never expected something to change in my then small and growing rows of reviews. I only wanted to make things right. This 1-star review made me a star seller ever since.
Mistakes can happen. Embrace them! Every mistake is a priceless lesson to learn – it shapes sellers and improves them. Mistakes are those little helpers that will offer better customer service, better shopping experience – and in the long run, a solid, growing business.
Even when customers make mistakes, we can learn from them.
For example, I ship orders worldwide. Addresses can be much different from I’m used to see from country to country. Once, a customer forgot to add something in their address. It was incomplete and it was impossible for me to know it – unless, of course, I googled it, which I didn’t. It didn’t even cross my mind that someone would miss writing down their address correctly.
But hey, we are all humans, alright? If I can make a mistake under clear instructions – black leather, black stitching – while I made black leather, brown stitching, why a customer can’t make a mistake, too?
The package returned back to me and I got in touch with them about it. They happily paid the re-shipping fees and provived the correct address.
Since then, I learned to be more careful with my customers addresses. In the re-shipping fees listing, I encourage buyers to double check their info, trying to help them avoid having to pay for it. When something feels off, I google it. And I get in touch with them if needed. It happened at least twice more to have a wrong/incomplete address, and we managed to save the day prior shipping, along with my customers. Time saved, money saved, trouble saved.
Passion Over Profit
In the world of huge marketplaces, numbers may matter the most, but in the heart of small businesses, passion is the driving force.
Each creation is nurtured with joy and dedication. This enthusiasm radiates in every customer interaction, turning the shopping experience into a journey of shared excitement and true connection.
Some times mistakes happen and some times we, small business owners lose profit from them. However, what we learn and earn is priceless: Earning our customers trust is the greatest victory that outruns every profit.
I am an online shopper too. I have saved my favorite shops and sellers and order from them with my eyes closed. I know that everything will go well in the end, even if mistakes are made and hiccups occure.
I have dealt with issues as a customer. I also have seen both sides of the same coin – the good and bad. I have huge understanding of mistakes and issues and I very well know that once a package leaves seller’s hands, it is totally out of their control. Still, sellers have to pay for these issues. They are the ones who have to fix mistakes that are not their own.
My experiences as an online customer, made me a better online seller.
The Power of Gratitude
Small businesses remind us of the beauty of genuine appreciation. Handwritten thank-you notes and personalized messages extend a heartfelt embrace, making each customer feel seen, valued, and cherished. And this is something that more than often we get back: Joyful messages from happy people enjoying their purchase, the one we made for them with our heart. These moments are another reason I strive for the better and try to improve as much as I can.
Small businesses know very well that they are swimming in a dark ocean against the flow and they put their heart and soul to keep going – they will show their appreciation in every possible way, often including little surprise gifts in their packages.
And yes, many customers don’t care the least about those – some can be also annoyed. I have seen this before in several forums, where customers say it’s just another waste to throw away.
Somewhere among all these people, some times, there is someone who could use a kind word or two.
“Being a reason someone smiles today” is a great value in life.
And just once if I become the reason someone smiles, it is more than enough for me.
Isn’t it magic?
Let us not overlook the treasure trove of small businesses.
By supporting these dreamers and creators, we become a part of something extraordinary – a community of great people sharing their passion and love with each other. We need this.
Let your next online shopping adventure be a journey of heartfelt connections. Celebrate the magic of small businesses, embrace their delightful madness, where passion and gratitude enrich every purchase.
Embrace the heartwarming experiences that await you, and may each transaction be a celebration of art, love, and the joy of supporting dreams.
And when you come accross an issue, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your seller. They will be forever grateful for letting them know what went wrong, so can they can fix it. Moreover, they will be grateful for giving them the chance to make things right.