Why handmade goods still sell (very well)

Four dish scrubbies made of various colors
Dish scrubbies made by Designs by Darci. Click on the image to visit her website!

Christoph Fuchs, Martin Schreier, and Stijn M.J. van Osselaer were interested in a unique phenomenon; with the ability to machine-make everything, why is the market for handmade goods still thriving through sites like Etsy?

They conducted a series of 4 studies, which published in the March 15 edition of the Journal of Marketing. Their results shed some light as we continue to seek to understand the draw to handmade goods.

  • Products labeled as hand-made are evaluated more positively by consumers than those labeled machine-made or with no indication of the production method.
  • If a consumer is buying a gift for a person they have a close relationship with, handmade goods are more attractive. For distant relationships, handmade goods are not as attractive.
  • If the goal of gift giving is to convey love, consumers strongly prefer items labeled as handmade.
  • In their study comparing willingness to pay for a bar of French soap, consumers were willing to pay 17% more when it was labeled as handmade vs. machine-made.

What does this mean for those marketing handmade goods?

  • Be sure to convey that your goods are handmade. You could do this in a variety of ways. You could include handmade in the description, show the process of making the product, feature the “maker” of the product, etc.
  • Although the studies showed that consumers associate handmade with “made with love,” the authors also found that direct love cues such as copy that reads “made with love” for handmade products did not increase or reduce attractiveness of the good. So, don’t use this as a shortcut to the above strategy.
  • Focus your handmade marketing efforts on consumers who are buying for a close relationship (love interest, mom, dad, child, grandchild, etc.). There is a variety of ways you could do this including marketing around sentimental holidays (as suggested by the authors), suggesting a close relationship that the good would be a great gift for, including cues in your gifts (i.e. a onesie that says “Grandma’s angel”), in your marketing copy, etc.
  • Review your pricing strategy to see how you compare to machine-made and other handmade goods and make adjustments. For example, although I wouldn’t suggest basing your prices off of just this one study, if you are charging 70% more than machine-made versions of your goods, that could be a reason for lost sales.

Photo: Handmade “scrubbies” by Designs by Darci

Article: Christoph Fuchs, Martin Schreier, and Stijn M.J. van Osselaer (2015) The Handmade Effect: What’s Love Got to Do with It?. Journal of Marketing: March 2015, Vol. 79, No. 2, pp. 98-110.

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