{Business Tips} Avatar – Simple Image, Complex Decisions

The avatar – 125 x 125 – a small square image.  This seemingly simple image has caused many shop owners hours of angst trying to determine what image is “right” for their shop.  The choices are straightforward – a personal photo, a product photo, the shop logo, or some combination of the three.  Yet, the decision becomes extremely complex for many artists.  There are pros and cons of each option and, in the end, none of those options have been proven to be better than the others.

When looking at the avatar in the context of the overall shop, there is a lot of rationale for selecting an image that is a compliment to the banner and product photos on the site.  However, as we all know, the avatar is your image that follows you in all your Etsy interactions outside of your shop.  When commenting in Etsy forums, treasuries, or even a one-on-one conversation with another seller, the avatar is the image that reflects who you are, what you do, and what you believe in.  That is a lot of work for a simple 125 x 125 image!

The Analysis

To prepare for this post, I did an audit of all the Team EcoEtsy avatars to determine the types of images used most frequently.  What I found is that the majority of the team uses a product photo – 51%.  The remaining images are split between logos (28%), personal photos (18%), and other unique combinations (3%).  After benchmarking the mix, I decided a good next step was to ask some of our team members why they selected the avatar that they did.  So, I went out to 20 members whose avatars I like and all using different approaches and asked “how did you select your avatar”?  Rather than summarizing their responses, I think it best that you hear straight from them.

Company Logo

The brand logo is used by nearly 30% of EcoEtsy team members.  The advantage of using your logo as your avatar is the consistency of your brand image both within Etsy as well as in your other spaces on and offline – website, blog, events, and more.  What this direction does not allow is the “face” behind the shop to be seen by your visitors.  Below are the thoughts from six EcoEtsy team members who have selected their logo as the perfect solution for their shop.

“My first avatar was a face from my art assemblage. When my shop began to grow and morph to an array of practical upcycled products, I contacted a graphic designer to design something I could use as my “tag” for my products.” – zJayne

 

“Our avatar is our logo. As we knew our business would be focused on sustainability and eco-consiousness, a variation on the Tree of Life seemed to be the most fitting logo we could imagine. I’ve read a bit about using your photo as your avatar to personalize your customer’s etsy experience, but I find that our tree helps us to stand out and we get frequent customer feedback saying they recognized our tree – in a shop, online, or at a show. I like to think that we are constantly building brand recognition by displaying our tree at every opportunity.” – BelleTerre

“We choose to have our logo as our avatar because in our case, we believe in a consistent branding, and would love people to be able to recognise our logo as a brand image – and of course, our logo and name have something in common (pooch). We use the same avatar for all our online and offline presence – Facebook Page, Flickr, Twitter, etc. business cards, and on some of our products that we are able to stamp on.” – NottyPooch

“I designed my avatar to be clear & simple. I wanted it to have a green element, so you know right away that you are dealing with eco-friendly products. I also wanted it to help my customers remember my name. To help with this, I also display the avatar on any DIY instructions or packing slip materials that go along with my products.” – TheWoodenBee

“My avatar was made by a friend, a professional artist. I wanted something easy to spot, and reflective of my shop/brand. I am a seamstress who makes childrens clothing and I often work with wool, hence the sheep with the needle and thread standing on spools. I’d like to work more with sheep in maybe fun postures with wool or yarn or sewing supplies for my banner as well.” – Picky

“My avatar is the creative genius of Amber Mabe (amber84, on Etsy).  I simply wanted to express visually the combination of my “green” beliefs and my company name. I think this avatar/logo does that!   I think my avatar emcompasses my company, my product and my “green” belief in a simple image.” – Uhreusable

Product Photo

Over half of the EcoEtsy team has chosen a product photo for their avatar.  The advantage with this direction is that when posting anywhere on Etsy shoppers have the opportunity to connect with the products that can be purchased in your shop.  Similar to the logo direction, the downside of this choice is that customers are unable to connect visually with the artist behind the work.  Here are six product avatars that I believe work very well at showcasing the products in the shop.  You’ll hear in their words why they made the product avatar decsion.

“When I first opened my shop on Etsy, I hung out in the forums a bit, and gathered the consensus that having an avatar of a product was the way to go. That it was important to have a delicious, enticing picture to get people interested in clicking on your shop to see more of that delicious, enticing product. After I decided to go with a product picture, the rest was easy. I knew I wanted it to be a picture of a purse made from and Irish Cable sweater, since these are always my favorites and continue to be best sellers. Then it was just a matter of finding one that looked good cropped square. I chose the pouch because I liked the way it fit into the square, and that the cables were on the diagonal to make it more visually interesting.” – KarenMeyers

“To be honest, I can’t remember why I chose that particular cozy photo to represent my shop as an avatar. What I can tell you is why I have stuck with it for a very long time since I chose it, and that is because I received a great response to it! In threads, conversations, etc, people would point out how cute it was and request that I recreate my avatar as a cozy for them. Before this avatar I’d go through avatars like crazy. I guess it was the great response I got from people with this one that had me sticking with it, and using it for all of my shop’s other online presences as well.” – KnitStorm

“The reason my avatar is a white simple bird is because that is what I create and want my shop and blog to feel like that..simple and minimal ..quiet and calm…this is what fills my heart and i want to pass a bit of that on to anyone that pops by my shop.” – RedorGrayArt

“The item in my avatar is my best seller, and also consistently gets a lot of views and hearts. Also, I believe this item reflects the vibrant and contemporary ambiance of my store.” – HippieKingdom

 

“I chose to use a product photo because I want to capture every possible chance to get folks to my shop (convos, Storque comments, favorites, etc.). Also, when I used to frequent the forums, I always liked when other people had product photo avatars, so I knew if I “needed” to check out their shops.” – Mandinka

“I chose my avatar for a few reasons…I was inspired by the vibrant and colourful array of spice bags on display at markets in India. As a textile artist with a love for markets, colour and food, I decided to combine these ideas into a punchy image showing exactly what Kootsac bags are used for.” – Kootsac

Personal Photo

Just under 20% of the EcoEtsy team has selected a personal photo for their avatar.  The primary advantage of this selection is the ability for shoppers to make a visual connection with the artist behind the work.  You’ll read in the descriptions below that these team members enjoy seeing the photos of other artists when they shop and want others to connect in that personal way.  The downside is the potential to miss the opportunity to “catch someone’s eye” with a logo or product image when making comments in forums, treasuries, and more.  I’ve included four different photos here – each with their own unique personality shining through.

“I use a personal photo because when I first started selling online (oh goodness… 9? years ago?) it was to people I knew through the club scene here, and I wanted them to make the connection with my screen name and who I was in real life. Over the years I’ve kept the personal photos going because even though most of my customers now are people I’ll probably never actually meet, I still like having that connection and reminder that I am a real person. I think when someone is buying handmade, they like seeing who made it.” – Lorigami

“I chose my photo because I wanted to give shoppers an idea who they are buying from. They can already see what I make in my shop, so it felt redundant to use one of my design photos as my avatar. I really like seeing the ‘face behind the shop’ when I shop on etsy.” – Peacesofindigo

“It’s kind of funny about my avatar. I just changed it maybe a week ago, to a personal photo. I was convinced after reading the new category on the EcoEtsy Blog “Thoughts on Shops”. It made sense to me that everyone likes to put a face to a product. It has been mentioned more than once and I started to pay attention to what I liked in other sellers shops. I started to notice that I remember a picture of a person before I remember anything else. It goes back to that “recognizing a face before a name”. I even looked through my favorite shops and found that I felt more trust from the shops that had a personal picture. It’s not to say they don’t have a great product, great customer service and are very trustworthy, it was just a first reaction that I noted in myself. It could be that the artist shows pride in their work by showing their face. So, I made the small change in my avatar from a product picture to a personal picture. Besides, what is more unique than a face?” – FeltSassy

“I went through several avatars, each of them, I thought represented me or my idea of me, I loved each and every one. Then I was told, several times, that people wanted to see who they were buying from. So I took this into consideration and found one of the few pictures of me ( I’m the family photographer :) My avatar is a picture of me and my youngest on her first Christmas. This means a lot to me too.  After a lot of deliberation, I think my profile picture really represents who I am at this moment.” -ReMaineWicked

Combinations and Other Choices

There are four of the EcoEtsy shops that I felt created a unique avatar either through a combination of images or another connection with the essence of their brand.  Betsy & Bess combines a logo and product image.  Posh Pads evokes emotion with the connection between mother, child and nature.  Sewn Natural features a product, but adds a human connection to their work.  And, RusticCarvings is a personal photo with a connection to the product in her shop.  Here is how the each of these shops came to choose the avatar they use today.

“I really wanted my avatar to reflect my shop but not be too literal. I didn’t want it to just scream “Hey! I sell bags!” but also “I am interesting! I am bright and fun! You want to know more about me!” So I decided to move the shot of the bag to the left, making room for the logo. I am happy with the more visually interesting, modern look of my new avatar.” – Betsy & Bess

“We are devoted to the education and support needed for mothers/babies in their journey to nourish/breastfeed. We also are really big on lessening the effect disposables have on the earth. Our babies need the earth for a healthy future.  So, when we started our company we wanted something that not only showed the beautiful relationship between a mother/child, but that showed it to be natural and comforting. It also needed to be able to embrace mother earth…..Our avatar I feel comes full circle….A mother nursing her baby in a wheat field……Its beautiful and embraces the natural bond of mother and baby and earth! “Where beauty, function and the love for our babies and environment come together.” -PoshPads

“In choosing our avatar, we wanted something that connected with people, that was as personal as possible and reflected our brand. So we thought of some key words to describe ourselves – upbeat, modern, kids-oriented, eco friendly, handmade, original – and looked through images to see if any fit. Our avatar has both a product photo (i.e. something we actually sell in the shop) and a photo of a (peeking, happy) child in it, so we tried to accomplish both of those things.” - SewnNatural

“My avatar is actually a photo from my honeymoon. We went to a little museum to find out about the local forest. Outside of the museum were these two incredible bears carved out of wood. I couldn’t help petting the little one. What you can’t see it Mama behind me “rawring” away. ;)  I used this as my avatar because I’m a wood worker by trade, specifically carvings, so I thought it was cool that the picture have a wooden carving in it. I didn’t want to put my shop name in my avatar, because it almost always appears somewhere else when I converse in Etsy. So, I thought about using my logo, but…. What I wanted most was something my logo couldn’t portray – the chick behind all the sawdust and items listed in the shop, and for people to see how “into this” I really am. It’s important to me to build relationships with my clients, and for them to know who they are talking to, because I’m almost always creating something of sentimental value for them. And, this picture….it has great sentimental value for me. So, it seemed to me, the stars just aligned for its use as my avatar.” – RusticCarvings

Summary

The feedback from all the shop owners was extremely interesting – some comments I expected, others really surprised me.  Overall, they confirmed that there is no “right answer” or magic formula for the Etsy avatar.  In the absence of that magic formula, there are a few guidelines that stood out to me that I would recommend:

  1. Pick an image you believe in and love it
  2. Ensure the image you choose fits the words you use to describe your shop
  3. Stick with it.  The image will begin to gain awareness and interest in your shop.  Changing it frequently won’t allow shoppers to easily remember who you are and what you stand for.

 

Comments

  1. This team is so great. There are so many knowledgeable business tippers here. I am soaking it all up!

  2. I thought this was another great ecoetsy article. I have changed my avatar three times since opening my shop and I am about to one more time as I have changed the looks of my shop
    quite a bit in the last two months. I plan for this to be the last change and so I will be spending
    a bit of thought about it. Thanks for this post, a lot of good food for thought on this issue!

  3. Mine was completely random. I had taken a picture of some sweaters I just got in, to email to a customer to preview. When I started my blog, I didn’t want to leave the avatar blank, so I stuck that picture there temporarily, as a placeholder. After a while, it had grown on me, and represents what I do well, so I just left it! Now it’s my avatar everywhere.

  4. My Avatar is the same at many different websites. I like to keep it the same for recognition. My avatar is one of my charcoal drawings and is therefor unique. I don’t believe I have been mistaken for anyone else and I have not seen many avatars like it. One of the best pieces of advice I have received in business is to make yourself unforgettable! On the internet….no matter if you are on FB, twitter, or some other site you have to find a way to make yourself unforgettable and recognizable.

  5. What a great post. It’s interesting how everyone has a different reason for using a particular avatar. I personally have a photo of myself as my avatar because I want prospects and customers to be able to make a connection between my products, me and themselves. I’m not a big corporate entity without a face and will give my customers personalized service.

  6. I did try different things – now I show myself.
    I am happy with the photo as it shows me laughing (something I do a lot). I do enjoy seeing the person behind the shop it makes it much more personal.
    the article is interesting and might give some “searchers” for the right avatar for them the missing hint. thanks a lot! martina

  7. Great article!

    There was once when I had doubt and actually changed our avatar to product photo, but I couldn’t find the connection and feel I would love to have. So we have decided to stick with our logo – and love it. :)

  8. wow ..i so enjoyed this post , so much fun seeing all the avatars from the shops and reading about them !

  9. Wonderful article! And, I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. ;)

    It was very cool reading about why other people chose what they did. Interesting. Great job!

  10. What a great article! Thank you so much for such thorough research. Avatar is like a little billboard that we carry with us every where we go on the web so it IS complex.

    To take avatar’s concept one step further, is the concept of gravatars – a unique avatars that show up when we leave comments on blogs and articles on the web (like my mugshot on the right—>) It’s a way to connect your shop’s avatar to a link you can leave with the comment. You can create it on http://en.gravatar.com/

    Thanks for a great article!!

    • Thanks for the Gravatar tip Karen! I’ve been wondering where/how to change the image that used to pop up for me. Now, I have it switched to my Etsy avatar!

  11. What a fantastic article! That statistic is actually very surprising, I thought the percentage of sellers using a logo would be much higher. This has reminded me that although (like you suggest) I do love my avatar, on Etsy its not exactly the same as the one I use everywhere else. I had a graphic artist put together a “fan deck” (since I’m a faux finisher it seemed appropriate) of my work and include my logo. That’s what I use on FB, twitter, LinkedIn, blogger, etc. but on Etsy I just use the logo. Think maybe I should change that after reading this article!

    • I was surprised by the stats too! I actually thought the product number would be lower and both logo and photos would be higher. It’s interesting that you mention a different avatar in other places – my Facebook and Twitter images are not the same as my Etsy image either.

  12. Awesome article! I really enjoyed hearing everyone’s story on how they chose their avatar. You have done some great research here and we all benefit from it, thanks!

  13. Great information and helpful – like sitting around and sharing so you can take it all in and learn there’s more than one way to look at them.

    I’m still in awe that the word Avatar is part of my vocabulary.