"Handmade" is one of the most effective descriptors to help emphasize the quality and uniqueness of a product. Like any other word, though, it comes with baggage and must be used with care. Understanding what "handmade" actually means and how it can be applied is necessary to using it safely.

Defining the terms

Webster's Dictionary defines handmade as an item made by hand or by a hand process. It was first used in the early seventeenth century. Other definitions include the aspect of craftsmanship and imply that a handmade item is typically of higher quality than one mass produced by a machine. Because humans are not machines, many retailers remind customers that handmade products may feature inconsistencies or slight flaws. Those are signs that the product wasn't mass produced.

Some online communities state that the terms "hand-assembled," "handcrafted" and "hand-altered" are acceptable and synonymous with handmade. Those words insinuate that though the fundamental materials weren't built from scratch, the seller has added his or her own twist to the product. Other sites prefer the term "designer-maker." This is applied to ecommerce retailers and artists who are integral to or solely responsible for both the design of an item and its creation.

"Shoppers value honesty and creativity; they do not like to be led astray."

The grey area

The recurring issue with the term "handmade" is that some crafts incorporate both hands and machinery during crafting. For example, a garment made with store-bought fabric and sewn on a sewing machine might be considered handmade by some, but not others. Woodworking is a very hands-on process, though it typically includes a variety of tools that make the final products possible. Since consumers are more willing to pay top dollar for handcrafted goods, it might be tempting for an ecommerce retailer to toss that label onto items, especially if there is no one monitoring the actual production. This is unethical and can damage a retailer's reputation. Many business owners are trying to maintain an ethical relationship with both the online community and their customers.

Ecommerce businesses must be transparent when writing product descriptions that feature the term handmade. To avoid chargebacks or returns, it is wise to provide as many details as possible about handmade items. Shoppers value honesty and creativity; they do not like to be led astray. Knowing how a product was built or assembled gives buyers a better idea of the quality they are purchasing.

When it comes to craftsmanship and online shopping, the process can be considered almost as important as the final product.

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