Amazon Just Tried to Out-Etsy Etsy With Their New Site — And It Just Might Work

Amazon

As of Thursday, Amazon has entered the race to out-Etsy Etsy. Handmade at Amazon, a new handcrafted goods marketplace, launched by the e-commerce giant, is effectively taking aim at Etsy's target audience by peddling original work created by artisans.

Take one look at what Handmade and it isn't hard to deduce what the target audience is: millennials. Advertised home decor includes wall banners and kitschy pillows, and a majority of the highlighted artwork are small posters with dainty illustrations. Rings, cufflinks, tables, stationary and bedding can be found at the few clicks of a mouse. 

It's like Amazon took an arrow from its quiver, shot and hit the bullseye of twee, lusted-over handmade objects ready-made for Instagram. 

Source: Amazon.com
Source: Leah Duncan/Amazon

How does it stack up? Amazon's new site distances itself from Etsy in more ways than one. Firstly, Amazon is strict about maintaining authenticity; when it comes to "handmade," it wants the items sold to truly be 100% made by hand. According to the New York Times, Amazon "is carefully vetting seller applications to determine whether their wares are strictly handmade." 

The company is reportedly asking artisans who want to sell on their marketplace to "give details of their manufacturing process, including what tools and machines they rely on." And unlike on Etsy, outsourcing manufacturing is strictly banned. 

To decide what Handmade should sell, Amazon looked at what the most common product searches from its customers had been.

"When we looked at what to start with, we really looked at the top product searches, which were thousands and thousands of searches for things like handmade jewelry, home décor, art supplies and stationary," Amazon spokesman Erik Fairleigh told Mic. "And that's how you see the site divided today."

Putting a personal face to products: Amazon also offers within Handmade a cool filter feature that speaks to its mission to make this kind of online shopping more personal than buying yet another phone charger or old-school DVD.

On the lefthand side of the search page, where shoppers can filter by price, there's also an option to limit results by "artisan location," giving shoppers the chance to shop local or find specific artists. There are also features dotted throughout the marketplace that highlight specific artisans:

Source: Amazon

The great news is that Amazon appears to have an eye on diversity, featuring artisans from New York, Oregon, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Canada, the United Kingdom and Uganda (with more on the way, surely). 

"[Sellers] wanted a place that was strict with the rules," Fairleigh said. "They wanted to make sure they felt they were amongst their peers. They wanted to make sure that there was a certain level of craftsmanship."

Moreover, in contrast to Etsy, Amazon's store pages are set up to focus on the seller. The store BeadforLife, which sells recycled paper jewelry from Uganda, puts its seller at the very top, with images of products below. Amazon clearly wants buyers to feel a personal connection (or awareness, at the very least) of who they're buying from. 

It's a very "now" way of thinking, as consumers become more and more concerned with where their accessories and wares are actually coming from. 

The filter issue: But when it comes to filtering by other things, moving around the site proves problematic. For instance, when you type in the sacred words "Angela Lansbury" into Etsy, you get what you'd expect Etsy to deliver you: a pretty amazing "Angela Lansbury is my spirit animal" T-shirt and even a Murder, She Wrote board game

But when you type that grand dame's name into Amazon Handmade, you get DVDs of every season of Murder, She Wrote. As Mic discovered, you can only really search Handmade if your term turns up direct product results, (like if you search for "table"). If it doesn't, Amazon searches "all departments."

Upon trying to search for "bacon" within the marketplace, we got no results, even though there are cutesy bacon greeting cards in there.

Handmade's search feature obviously needs some work, whereas Etsy's search function is arranged so that finding any products having to do with bacon — or Ms. Lansbury —  is  simple.

"We believe we are the best platform for creative entrepreneurs, empowering them to succeed on their own terms," Chad Dickerson, the CEO of Etsy, said in a statement. "Etsy has a decade of experience understanding the needs of artists and sellers and supporting them in ways that no other marketplace can."

A selection of Handmade at Amazon's "stationary."  Amazon

The big Amazon (dis)advantage: The filter to search just within Handmade might not be great, but Amazon logic highlights one glaring difference between Handmade and Etsy: What Amazon has successfully done is edit, and edit smartly, around some of the more difficult aspects of Etsy, aka its endless expanse of diverse, strange and charming stores.

But isn't that what's fun about Etsy? That you could be looking for the chunkiest infinity scarf that has ever been knit and, off to the side, see that you can buy a rainbow crocheted bodysuit? With these handmade stores, the awkward mingles among the alluring.

Amazon does away with that. Blame it on the Internet and technology's obsessions with being streamlined, but Amazon has cut out the wacky and made room for the strictly well-done. 

"There isn't that worry that you're getting something inauthentic," Fairleigh said.

That rigor is rewarded with a huge audience, which sellers will find an advantage over Etsy: According to the New York Times, Amazon has 285 million active user accounts, while Etsy has a mere 22 million. 

In addition, Amazon's new marketplace launched with 80,000 items, and more than 600 of the products are Prime eligible. Being more easily accessible and more streamlined can only help Amazon.

The increased audience means that sellers are more willing to offer Amazon a bigger cut of their sales as well. Etsy charges a 20-cent fee for each item a seller lists on its site and takes a 3.5% cut on each item sold. Currently, Amazon charges no listing fee but will "take 12% of sales, which it says covers all costs, including payment processing, marketing and fraud protection," according to the New York Times.

Depending on what you're looking to buy or sell, there are pros and cons to both sites. What we know for sure is that Amazon is muscling into Etsy's market with a new streamlined approach — and the allure of Prime.

Now it's Etsy's turn to distinguish itself and keep customers coming back again and again for another Angela Lansbury T-shirt. 

October 8, 3:38 p.m.: This article has been updated.