MasonJars.com last week upended its business model, turning what was a niche e-retailer into a selective online marketplace for “makers” that design and sell their own goods online.
The e-commerce site had been a place to buy only Mason jars and related accessories—mostly lids that allow the jars to be used as pourable containers and pump bottles—offered by Mason Jars Co. Now called Mason Jars Makerplace, the new site launched last week with the products from Mason Jars, along with five additional sellers.
“I wanted to help others get to where I am now more quickly,” says founder Karen Rzepecki. Opening her site up to others was a quick way to do that, while also potentially increasing sales for everybody.
By selling on the site, the other makers get access to the network of retail customers and wholesale buyers Mason Jars has built up over time, Rzepecki says. The transition also puts the Mason jar-related products alongside other home-related goods like marble cheese boards, kitchen towels, rolling pins and coasters. The new site has around 600 SKUs, about four times the former site’s nearly 150 SKUs, Rzepecki says.
Rzepecki decided to keep “Mason jars” in the name and URL in part to provide consistency for existing customers. Now, she says, those words are both a reference to some of the products sold on the site as well as suggestive of the types of products that consumers use for craft products at home.
Increasing the number of products sold on the website has the potential to increase web traffic by making it a more appealing destination for existing retail and wholesale customers—and makes it easier for new customers to find it via organic search and social media, Rzepecki says. She says search engine optimization will be a big priority for the new marketplace, but the plan is to eventually buy digital ads.
The site plans to add more sellers, Rzepecki says, but intentionally decided to start small and ensure the new site works well before adding a lot of new brands. Potential new sellers will be vetted, she says, to make sure they are “makers” and their products fit in with the rest of the offerings on the site.
“Since we just launched, we want to ensure the current makers’ experience is good before onboarding more sellers,” Rzepecki says. “But we will be ready to do that by July, and there are many original makers looking for good marketplaces in which to sell. We are vetting the ones that make the most sense for our customers—which means they have quality products that solve a problem.”
Rzepecki says she wants to keep the website content-rich, including a lot of video. Like The Grommet, a maker marketplace acquired last fall by Ace Hardware Corp., Mason Jars provides information about the story behind each of its marketplace sellers. Product pages on MasonJars.com include links to the makers’ profile pages—some of which include videos—along with a box featuring rotating links to each seller’s profile. Sellers also will be featured on Mason Jars’ social media accounts and email campaigns, Rzepecki says.
The site also has videos and other content about topics like meal preparation, fermentation, outdoor and garden tips and projects for kids. These informational pages include links that allow users to add the featured products to their carts, so they can replicate the recipe or project at home. Registered website users also have the chance to tell their own stories, upload photos of their creations and share their recipes, do-it-yourself project ideas and YouTube videos in an online community.
Despite a few technical glitches, Rzepecki says the launch has gone smoothly. “It is a soft launch, meaning that we are only communicating and promoting to our current customers. The feedback from them is overwhelmingly positive,” she says.