bean

Doggone good business: How video turns buyers and sellers into a community

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If you’re fighting crowds in a chain-store parking lot or mindlessly clicking through screen after screen on an e-commerce site, the thought’s surely struck you: Is this all there is?

Shopping’s supposed to be about an exchange between humans. Or, sometimes, a Boston Terrier.

A new video tells the story of Bean. Bean’s a photogenic Boston Terrier with a sartorial statement to make, and he inspired his owner, Anne, to open her own Etsy shop selling Bean-sized sweaters.

Etsy may have expanded past its roots in handicrafts, but it’s still about products that have a human touch. (Or a canine one.) For the past two years, Etsy’s been posting videos in its Handmade Portraits series on Vimeo, hiring independent filmmakers to show the human side of Etsy stores.

According to Etsy’s Vimeo account, Handmade Portraits began as a quarterly project. Now, a new feature comes out every few weeks.

A week before Bean’s video, Etsy commissioned a documentarian to film Yevgeniya Kilupe, a Latvian Holocaust survivor, as she made paper masks for her shop.

A different videographer creates each episode. Each filmmaker is local to the Etsy shop he or she films. For example, a Kansas City filmmaker documented Anne, a Nebraskan, and Bean; a Latvian filmmaker worked with Yevgeniya.

Though most buyers don’t live anywhere near these sellers, the films allow them to meet the person behind the online storefront.

Etsy’s not the only marketplace that’s trying to humanize e-commerce through videos. Abe’s Market, for example, has an active YouTube channel highlighting its sellers. Gilt Groupe, a luxury site offering short-term “flash” sales, is also on Vimeo.

But none of them have quite the charm of Etsy’s profiles.

And in a time when we so rarely know who’s selling us something, let alone who actually made it, it’s nice to know the story of Bean—and all the other characters behind the crafts.