How did I end up here?
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Selling on Etsy is fairly difficult. If you manage to get some traction then you will find that more sales will likely follow. I started to sell a few things on Etsy to just try to understand the market and dip my toes into some ecommerce. It all started like all good things start… out shopping!
I was walking around Bangkok and figured to go into one of the shopping malls for the air conditioning and shelter from the sweltering weather. I didn’t really have any plans to buy anything and I think this frame of mind is very much the definition of mooching. I was mooching around and noticed there was a handicraft market going on in the middle of the shopping mall and decided to take a closer look.
Pretty standard stuff but one thing in particular caught my eye – a stall selling handmade natural wood business card holders. I always see these guys at networking events with these metal card holders so figured I could probably make use of one. Purchase made, I went home and decided to research the guys who made them. They had a whole line of products and some of them were pretty cool. I figured, I could probably sell the stuff on Etsy as it was handmade and just work as a middle man connecting the Thai seller with the European, US and Australian buyers. Fast forward 3 months, and the first sale happened.
That was cool! I can now see when an order comes in but I still need to manually go to Etsy, find out what it is and then message the guys to fulfill it. The deal I made was to not touch any goods, I hate the word but effectively dropship the items where I provide the item quantity and the address, they provide me the bill and everyone is happy.
Turns out even this takes more time than I wanted to spend… how do you automate this so that I can literally click a button and have it taken care of?
Email Parsing comes to the rescue!
An email parser is something that looks at your email and looks for patterns within it, it then will extract certain pieces of text / data which you can then feed into other applications you may want to use. I figured that the important bits of text from an Etsy order confirmation were the following;
Now I had all the fields I needed there was just one more problem. The makers of the products had somewhat standard names for them. I obviously had tried to make them sound more appealing playing on alliteration and other techniques. I couldn’t just send them the product name that I had and expect them to fulfill it. How would I go about fixing this? Time to get automatic. Let’s head to Zapier.
Automating the Data
Before creating a Zap (process in Zapier). I like to try and envisage it in my head and write it down if possible. What we want to be able to do here is the following;
- Only process on emails matching the Etsy confirmation style – easily achieved with a filter.
- Send the email to the parser – simple with the Parseur application.
- Take the parsed text and feed the product into a database to find the matching text – could use Google Sheets for this but I used Airtable.
- When the matching field is found, find the other field in the row which is the name the maker gave the product.
- Compose an email to the maker with the Order ID in the title and ‘New Order Received – ID’ in the subject and giving the order details in the body with the quantity.
- Compose an email to the buyer thanking them for the order and letting them know that we have many other products for sale and if they did want more they would save on shipping (the upsell).
- Add the customer email to a list – mailchimp or google sheet works here.
- Send a message in Slack to provide basic details on the price and items that have been ordered – this just ensures that I see it from the Slack command center.
Issues to overcome
Parseur which is the email parsing product I use have a table parsing feature. This will identify a table and parse all data within it. This means if someone orders 1 item, it will parse the information for the 1 item, if 2 or 3, you will still get the items parsed. The problem with this is that it is hard to feed it into Zapier with the lookup database workflow to get the real names if you don’t know how many items are going to appear each time. This led us to not using this feature in the parser. So how did we solve it?
Parseur doesn’t put a limit on the amount of email addresses you can use for parsing. I simply created an inbox for 1 item and an inbox for 2 items and so on. It is rare that someone orders more than 4 different items from us, so setting up these 4 inboxes covered 100% of the orders. Now this does mean that you actually have to set up individual zaps in Zapier for each of these to run correctly and you will need to manually trigger the process by looking in the email for how many items before sending it to the right inbox.. this is a small price to pay for the freedom it allows though!