Etsy’s international vice-president Nicole Vanderbilt said its platform provides a “low-risk way” for retail entrepreneurs to expand.

Speaking at Retail Week Live, Vanderbilt said the online marketplace, which has 1.6 million active sellers, provided an alternative route to market for retail entrepreneurs.

Nicole Vanderbilt at Retail Week Live

“Our merchants worldwide are predominantly women and 86% of our sellers in the UK are female,” said Vanderbilt.

She said that Etsy provided sellers with “a very low risk way to start a business” by allowing UK users to list items on its platform for as little as 14p and ensuring that over 90% of the revenue goes back to sellers.

“Our sellers are motivated by success on their own terms and over 30% of them consider selling through our platform their full-time job,” said Vanderbilt.

She maintained that Etsy provided an alternative to the “homogeneity and dehumanised transaction” that is commonplace for a lot of online retailers.

When asked about the difference between Etsy and rival Amazon Handmade, which launched last year, Vanderbilt was positive.

“I think the biggest difference in what we offer is community – we’ve been listening to our suppliers and building relationships with their customers for 10 years” said Vanderbilt.

She added that the platform was looking at giving its sellers “alternative routes to market” following its pop-up trial with Selfridges last year.

The greatest challenge facing the online marketplace now is adapting the scale of its platform while keeping a personalised browsing experience.

Etsy has 32 million products on its website and Vanderbilt said the platform was using personalisation to streamline its offers to users by giving shoppers search results based on their location.

However, Vanderbilt was quick to add that since over 90% of Etsy’s shoppers came to the online marketplace to buy products they couldn’t find anywhere else, providing a space for merchants to sell unique items would continue to be its main priority.

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