UPDATE: Blugrin’s access to the Etsy API was unexpectedly removed in March 2015, and their applications BETSI and Tools4Etsy are no longer available.
BETSI is used by tens of thousands of Etsy sellers, who use it to manage a staggering 45 million listings. Blugrin does a fantastic job handling that volume and supporting their users, with a perfect 5-star average rating. They also came fifth in EcommerceByte’s Seller’s Choice awards last year.
So who are Blugrin? Given that volume, you might expect an IT company with dozens of staff on hand. But actually they’re set up much like the Etsy sellers who use their software: they’re the husband-and-wife team of Graeme and Jacinta Grant, and are based in Sydney, Australia.
I spoke to Graeme and Jacinta to find out more about them and their software.
Andy: How did you get into making software for Etsy sellers?
Graeme: Jacinta started selling on eBay, just bits and pieces, then she got into the Murano beads craze. She’s a very crafty person, and started buying her own yarn and selling it online. That was way back around 2006. Then she found Etsy and started selling there in 2008.
Jacinta: I started to build up a fair amount of stock but it was frustrating how slow it was – four screens to create one listing. It was an arduous task. I said to Graeme, “Look, can you help me?”
So he put together some code and made an app for me! Later I was talking with my Etsy seller friends, because it’s a very tight community. They said they had the same frustrations and wanted to find an easier way as well. I told them about the app that Graeme made and they wanted to get hold of it. I said OK!
Graeme: We shaped it up a bit so other people could use it. They were really excited and started coming up with ideas, and asking to share it with other people. We told them to hang on because it wasn’t really ready for that. After three months of developments we had more features and tools, and finally launched it almost three years ago back in March 2012. It took off from there.
It helps sellers by letting them find listings, select them, make a change, apply, review, and send all in less than a minute. The heavy lifting process is how long it takes to send – one listing might take a few seconds but one thousand can take several minutes. That’s the limitation of the Etsy API. But sellers don’t have to sit and wait, they just push the change out and the application does all the work. You can save up to 90% of the time it would normally take.
So it’s a young business at under three years, but has much changed?
Graeme: The big difference is that to do it justice, we’ve both quit our jobs and are now full-time. I ran a commercial division at a multinational manufacturer, with a staff of 28. I was supporting them nationally and it was too much of a handful to do along with the Etsy software. It was taking off and we had quite a lot of users.
There were a lot of requests and I just couldn’t keep up with the workload, so I went full-time about a year ago. We also have two children under the age of two so it’s been a pretty trippy ride the last couple of years!
Jacinta: We’re a husband and wife team. We’re not a multinational, we’re not a large software company, we’re just a husband and wife team. Sometimes users picture us as a big business, but we always say we’re small.
So what’s the difference between BETSI and Tools4Etsy?
Tools4Etsy is a free product, and has always been that way. There’s not even any advertising on the website. It’s hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, so there is a cost to us but we don’t share that, we’re just giving back to the community basically. Tools4Etsy is a set of tools that helps sellers do common tasks, like researching buyer feedback and looking for ways to improve SEO both on Etsy and external search engines.
It’s got tools like WALL-E which is basically an acronym for “Where Are Listings Located on Etsy?” They can put in the shop name and keywords they want to target, and it will go off and say where it found them, who their competitors are, and what they’re using to rank where they are. There are other factors involved and we point that out in the help files. Etsy’s not a simple search engine – with over a million sellers, that’s pretty hard to do.
Jacinta: BETSI is about applying processes to make it simple to manage your listings. If a seller wants to run a price discount, they can select their listings and the discount and make the change. If they’re going on vacation and want to add a message that their shipping time is going to change, they just select all the listings and say, “Okay, add this to the top”. It’s very quick and easy. In the full version, they can also check if they are using their tags effectively and apply changes to those. There’s all sorts of functions that they can use to manage their listings and make changes very quickly.
You have a huge number of users and listings. How do you support them all?
Jacinta: Well, the program is quite simple to use. It’s a very simple process, and you can work it any way you want – you don’t have to go through a fixed set of steps. Most people get it very quickly, but some struggle. When they reach out for help we quickly point them to our videos. We use standard keyboard and mouse shortcuts, but if they’re not familiar with how to select more than one item, for instance, then we explain to them how that’s done.
We also monitor what they’re doing, and if we see that they’re struggling we’ll reach out to them and say, “Hey, listen, we noticed you’re experiencing some difficulty, here’s a few suggestions on how to do it more efficiently.”
Graeme: We find that email is unreliable so we use Etsy’s Conversations system. I have some canned responses because there’s some things that we see on a regular basis. For others, I tailor the responses to their specific needs. The monitoring software also alerts me and I respond to it. But with that many users, support is actually quite simple. It doesn’t take longer than about an hour a day to support users. The program’s quite stable.
We’re doing a major rework, and we’re going to put that out in beta when it’s ready and get some feedback from people. Our user base is very supportive and very passionate at what they do, and they want to improve what they’re doing and how they do it. The software has some limitations and we want to knock down those barriers and make it even easier for them.
There’s multichannel management software out there that supports Etsy along with other marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. How do you differentiate yourself from other providers?
Graeme: We’re not focused on the inventory side of things, we’re more on the management of the listings and making that process simple. We actually complement the larger multichannel applications, because we do things that a lot of those applications don’t do.
We have sellers who use multiple platforms, like Dave who’s a vintage seller. He’s managing 1,200 products on Etsy, plus he sells on eBay and uses a different tool for that. We’ve got all sorts of users, from start-ups to large sellers, and they sell handbags, diamonds, iPhone cases, jewelry, supplies, and knitting for instance. I lose track of all the categories that people use our software for.
There are key things that we do that others don’t do, for instance, the listing cards are context-aware. If you’re working on a particular area of the listing, the listing cards will change. The pricing tool shows information related to pricing and it’s also got the fees in there, so you can see how much you’re making on each product. We work out all the fees including listing, selling, and PayPal or your own direct checkout.
You can organize your items into sections, select all those items, then hover over the selected counter to calculate the total value and fees of those items. Everything that BETSI does is in real time. So when you are filtering and finding listings it’ll instantly update, no matter how many listings you’ve got. There’s no paging, everything just filters as you type. If you want to select everything you don’t have to do it one page at a time.
How have you grown so big so quickly?
Jacinta: We’ve been proactive with our users. We’ve got a passionate user base and they all talk. When you look through the Etsy forums we’re top of mind at the moment. If someone says, “I want to run a sale.” There’s two companies that come up – us and one other. Or if someone says, “Look, I need to put a message on my listings to say that I’m going to be away for a week”, we’re number one.
Graeme: We’re old fashioned in the way we do things. We believe customer service is key, and we kill our customers with kindness. We’re always out there, looking, monitoring and talking with them. I think that’s lost in today’s society. Everyone has focused on fast, and forgets the customer is human. They don’t always know what they’re doing and they need help. We’re more than happy to jump in and get involved.
Are there any kind of Etsy sellers who your software isn’t right for?
Jacinta: Well, we can’t satisfy everyone, we’d love to, but we can’t. There are some very large sellers out there who we’re just not a good fit for. They’ve got specific needs that we can’t address. We’re not one solution for everyone, but we’re definitely a piece of a solution that people want and that’s where we focus.
We don’t do inventory management, we manage listings. Currently we don’t create listings and we don’t transfer listings around. But more listing features will be in the next major release. The easiest way to look at it is we deliver what Etsy doesn’t as far as the listing management’s concerned.
Are there any other new features coming soon?
Graeme: We’re rebuilding the engine so that it’s not tied specifically to one commerce platform and it’s not tied to one shop. It’s a very open framework that we’re putting in place which allows us to build and expand in multiple directions, yet trying to keep the essence of the original application and the simplicity of use. That’s a very complex task and we’re working our way through it.
Etsy’s not going to be our only platform in the future. We’ve been approached by other platforms, and we’re looking into that.
If someone is interested in the paid version of BETSI, is there a trial or some other way for them to check it out?
Jacinta: BETSI has a Lite version. They can use that and it doesn’t cost them anything. It gives them some basic features and information, and they can move to the full version if they need the extra features. We do trade-offs between the two versions and the features that we give. Both work exactly the same so they can switch between the two, one just has more features than the other.
It’s been great talking to you both and I wish you the very best for the future!
Any comments? Let us know just below.