Sunday, July 17, 2011

Etsy Took a Wrong Turn Down the Wrong Road

Etsy in 2011 is a completely different company than it was in 2006. While it still touts “all things handmade” in its logo and mission statement, sellers who have been on Etsy since the first year know that in 2011 it’s not about handmade and for heaven’s sake it isn’t about selling a damn thing.

It’s about a popularity contest to be the next Admin darling amidst gobs of nonsensical, forced “social tools” that have nothing to do with selling and buying handmade online.

What Went Wrong?

All the recent press about Etsy including some precautionary quips about its financial future got me thinking about what went wrong at Etsy.

Despite public acknowledgements that “sellers are not happy with the changes”, don’t go to the restructured Forums for clues about what sellers really think.

Etsy has scoured the Forums to be a mere ghost of Etsy-past with even more aggressive censorship. Any and all posts are subject to immediate lock down and commenters are swiftly punished at a faster clip. In the past, Etsy showed how nervous it was about public criticism and reacted poorly - now they just cut it off at the knees and go on with their own agenda, damn the sellers’ questions and opinions.

Etsy has been known to blatantly ignore any and all sellers’ request for changes and improvements for years, so it’s not new that Etsy continues to take the site in a direction that is divorced from the real seller experience. Arguments that it meets the needs of its most successful sellers is not the real picture either since these sellers (few and far between) are treated to free editorial promotion on the site that all other sellers are not.

The Social Experiment That’s Failing

Before sellers were silenced even more than usual, they did make several issues crystal clear – they don’t understand, need, like, or use the new social tools, including Circles, making personal info public, joining Teams, Suggested Shops, Taste Tests, and Shopping Local. They aren’t happy with the weekly changes in Search that have made Search worse than ever before, if that was even possible ---- Etsy made sure that it was!

Sellers are also clear when they complain that all these social tools just click customers right out of their shops to shop elsewhere or completely off the site, so fed up are they with the convoluted, nonsensical, totally crappy navigation. Search for an item, are you kidding?

Etsy’s facebookization of the site has been one big dismal experiment, and you know why?

Etsy had its own social structure built up over years by sellers who had both a personal and business interest in the site, including an intense interest in the handmade product.

Instead of adapting those strengths, Etsy decided to IMPOSE ANOTHER SOCIAL STRUCTURE on the site that doesn’t fit its users or its users’ goals - which is to sell handmade products with the side benefit of a social structure that developed along with the needs of a growing seller membership.

The ecommerce mission of the site became subservient to the new mission to click, connect, and pick favorites for a popularity contest within the site that hasn’t improved traffic or real sales but has worked to send sellers and shoppers chasing their tails with a lot of forced navigation that never ends up in a shopping cart.

Etsy picked a bunch of tools they saw popularized on other social sites, gave them a zippy title and funny icon and foisted them week after week on sellers without working through one damn consequence which may well turn out to be less traffic and less real sales.

People don’t join Etsy, set up a store on Etsy, and shop on Etsy to run around socializing — they go there to SELL and SHOP.

Forcing the wrong social tools on Etsy has consistently pushed eyeballs away from selling and shopping to doing everything but ecommerce.

We need to only look at the growing pains of social networking sites that are adding ecommerce components to their sites. They were social first, so the ecommerce part makes little sense; it may catch on, it may not. But it is not their core strength.

Etsy was originally an ecommerce site that dumped that whole concept to jump on the social networking bandwagon without realizing what a bad fit it is.

Social and ecommerce is not an easy fit. Instead of building on the strengths of the social-Etsy that already existed before Etsy started throwing out the baby with the bathwater, Etsy dropped ecommerce for social.

No wonder sellers and shoppers are shocked and dismayed and going elsewhere fast.

Etsy got it wrong and gets it wrong with every new trick they force on the site. While outside critics and watchers may predict “slower revenue growth” for Etsy, how about no growth at all? Etsy is strangling the very foundation of their business which is to sell and buy handmade.

I’d take a much more critical look at the statements Etsy makes about its sales profits because it’s not the real story.

I’d take an even closer look at a business that forces new tools on its users without giving them a Scorecard (both internally and externally) about the results of those new tools. The least Etsy can do it to take a quantitative look at each change it makes — and if it doesn’t improve traffic and real sales, Etsy needs to admit it’s on the wrong path and drop the social tricks pronto.

I don’t think sellers who voice their concerns are on the wrong track – they suspect that the new social Etsy has stifled both traffic and real sales because that’s what their store stats tell them. Just because Etsy doesn’t admit its mistakes doesn’t mean they didn’t make them.

When the numbers start running in the negative direction, Etsy may pay attention. I’m with other sellers who have voiced their concerns over the last 3 years on Etsy and off — Etsy may admit its mistakes so late in the game that Etsy is no more.

29 Comments:

Handmade Artists' Forum said...

I agree with what you are saying, that is why we are ex-etsians if you will. We left not just because of all the social additions that were meaningless but also because of the mass of resellers that are constantly turning Etsy into a fleamarket. That is one reason why we choose to open the Handmade Artists' Shop. To keep out the resellers, vintage, and non-handmade supplies, you can get that stuff at a big box store. Handmade is hard enough to sell as it is without having to constantly lower your price to compete with the resellers. We also choose not to do hearts, circles, and even choose to keep the forum off the site and on a different domain completely. That way the site would not confused with a social community, it would be obvious to potential customers that they were in fact on a sales site. LOL
Thanks for your posts, I'm an avid reader, I should become an avid commentor as well.
Thanks,
Andrew
Handmade Artists' Shop

Evermore Organics said...

When their paychecks include less digits, maybe they will pay attention.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: how does taking away forums PROMOTE socialization among sellers? HOW?! Why did they think this was a good idea?

Eveline said...

Did you hear they are getting rid of chat? I don't think they even know what they're doing anymore.

rosemary said...

It seems this has to be the work of Venture Capitalists. Their voices count more over sellers' voices.

Etsy can't exist without sellers.

And if Etsy's financials are taking a downward trend, then they mute sellers who question or disagree with Etsy, hoping the negativity on Etsy will encourage more listing (therefore more money).

The Funny One said...

Less digits in their paychecks is a great idea, but don't try to explain the principles of productivity to Etsy, they don't even know how to write a clear sentence - the whole 200 of them.

Recent press interest is all about the millions in profits that Etsy reports every month without a public breakdown of what portion of that is listing fees and useless Showcase spots (the biggest scam going) - big dollar signs attract superficial attention.

Etsy runs on fees, not sales. What Etsy does not reveal is that the social crap may blow such a huge hole in sales that fees will no longer keep it in the black.

Since Etsy doesn't reveal these stats, the tipping point could be swift and dramatic if other legal issues don't start eating up the money that now goes to 200+ paid people writing a lot of really bad prose after eating free lunches (from locally sourced Bklyn rooftop farms) in the crocheted-bedecked funroom right next to the "we don't do customer service" Plushie Phone Room.

ByNanasHands said...

My views/traffic to my shop has dropped over 33% in the last 5 weeks.....33%! I'm just sick over it all....

As a long time member of the Etsy Angel's team our purpose is to raise money for worthy organizations. We lived in the "promotions" thread because that's what we do. Now we are pretty much promoting to each other in our "Team" thread....who else goes there! Sad....we were able to do so many good things and now we do pretty much nothing...and really, where else can you go?

We just dumped everything we had into a brick and mortar....wish us luck....

Miss the Etsy that Was said...

All this socialization has sucked the life out of my shop. I have been with Etsy for a little over four years. So I have seen the changes and with each change my shop suffered. It has been months since I sold to a first time buyer or had an international sale.

With the new Shop Stats on Etsy I took a serious look at my shop this past weekend.

My shop went from making $2000 my 2nd year on Etsy to $170 in the first seven months of this year.

While Etsy made changes, I followed along making my own changes trying desperately to stay in step with them. Nothing I have done has helped. My shop is nothing but a ghost of what it once was.

Reading in the forums this morning with the announcement that chat is gone as of Friday, it appears more sellers are jumping ship.

Truly sad... I remember the Etsy that was.

Cat Power said...

Well done! I agree with you wholeheartedly!

If only they bothered to pay attention. But that's not gonna happen any time soon.

AntiEm said...

"Forcing the wrong social tools on Etsy has consistently pushed eyeballs away from selling and shopping to doing everything but ecommerce."

More and more I start out searching on Etsy but end up buying from another site entirely. Strangely more often I find myself looking on the hated Ebay first.
Lots of fun "boredom browsing" Etsy but when it comes down to actually buying, I'm more likely to do it where it's a direct route of find - click - buy.
And that's sad.

Jen said...

I totally agree! Ive been a seller on Etsy since 2006. When I first found Etsy it was a godsend! Finally a place that my art fit in, that other artists could sell ALL THINGS HANDMADE! I was so excited, I sold hundreds of items,but over the past 5 years it has went all downhill, including the customer service ( as a seller I AM A CUSTOMER) the site just started falling apart. Its no longer the PLACE TO FIND ALL THINGS HANDMADE. Its a place to find mainly antiques and the some mass produced crap,more reseller crap and maybe a cupcake with a mustache with the outside in foux wood grain, and then if your lucky some really unique art, once you've navigated the crappy search. Im heartbroken that the HAYDAY of Etsy is over, I put a TON of blood sweat and tears into that site!
All to be suspended for not refunding a non receipt, that sold 1 1/2 years ago. I wanted to remake, she wanted refund-after a year and a half but ETSY decided to suspend me until I bend.

George said...

I'm not sure what value the social media experiment has but almost all of my online sales are through Etsy. Even though I have two other venues Etsy remains my top productivity site. Maybe it's the eyeball count I have no clue and while I don't like fees I can't count on my non fee venues right now.
I also don't spend any time in forums or chats and I don't care about the other "features"

So I'm not unhappy w Etsy and I'd like to see Artfire & Zibbet gain more traction.

george

rosemary said...

George,

I agree that many sellers make more money from Etsy than other sites (now, but that may change -- probably will over time).

But a lot of the old socializing (via forums, chat, etc) was more effective in bringing in views, sales and networking than the new forms of socializing (teams that no one visits, circles and activity feeds which are annoying at best, listing of other shops via our bio pages which means that sellers are not actively promoting their shops outside of Etsy if their custiomers can just be whisked out of their shops so easily).

Etsy likes to talk good sales numbers, but they have been flat-lining for months now.

hodatrina said...

Absolutely... the site is run by techies, an egotistical con man with mental problems, and tech investors. They have no connection to crafters or artists.

Etsy doesn't seem to care or know how to help their customers' businesses be successful.

Etsy still works for people because of the momentum it had from a few years ago. Pretty much everything they have done since then has been a total waste, and it's wasted all of our potential too. Looking forward to their decline and eventual demise, I think it will be one of those 'Friendster' things where they get replaced and then get sold for like $10 million in a few years.

Cinders said...

I have other issues with Etsy, that people who know me are aware of. I am no longer a member (not by choice) but I have been keeping tabs on them. As far as I can see, the socialization and exposition of private account information has been nothing but a farce. And the muting has gotten totally out of hand. I guess they have to mute though, as they have done some pretty upsetting things and the forums would be pretty negative all around. I too will be very curious as to their actual sales figures, although we will probably never know unless they go public, as a private enterprise it is so easy to screw with the figures to present whatever you want the world to see.

KristiMcMurry said...

Very well stated! Once I run out of all the packing materials that already have my Etsy url on them, I'm going to close up shop. But let's face it, with my sales basically halted, I'll probably just linger there forever.

I don't know why they thought we needed to be social on Etsy. I get my fill of that on twitter and facebook.

Stifler's Mom said...

Since Etsy is gearing up for an eventual IPO, there is info out there regarding their income structure - it's not some big secret. What I have read is that 75% of their revenue comes from renewing, and the other 25% from the initial listing fees and commission.

In other words, they make more money if you DON'T sell your product and keep renewing it.

The Righteous One said...

For those trying to post rants about other venues - we're ETSY bitch, not Artfire bitch or Silkfair bitch or eBay bitch or any other combination - if you are just going to use our comments to rant about something else that does not tie in Etsy or the blog post, it won't be allowed through - noone likes spam. Start your own damn blog!

The Funny One said...

Etsy started from a non-handmade perspective, so the social crap is only the latest manifestation of an attitude that remains outside the handmade aesthetic including attention to quality and pricing.

Etsy flat out set its sights on pushing handmade into a "mass produced box" from the start evidenced by its blatant push of Faves and heavy handed editorial promotion of a few dozen stores they like each year. The list is very short.

Etsy also pushes a restricted "style" that props up their editing with a monthly Merch Report that reveals what they want sellers to list, which strips "handmade" from handmade. Etsy has been selecting these "products made to order" without ever paying for them up front since 2007.

The whole mess smacked me right in the nose with the unbelievable list of "product attributes" that Admin is blathering about as the "new way to search items" ---just read through that list. Etsy is stating loud and clear its years-old prejudice about what IT THINKS HANDMADE IS filtered through their own personal preferences.

A juried site would eliminate unwanted sellers --Etsy eliminates sellers by actively blocking them from selling AFTER ripping them off for fees for nothing.

Adding "attributes" to product listings is just another very prejudiced way Etsy tells sellers to list "products made to order" (that is, made because Etsy likes them) without paying up front.

Can someone explain to me what the hell any of this has to do with handmade?

trusk4u said...

I am letting my Etsy shop go slowly. I've moved things over to my HAFshop as they come close to expiring, and I am not listing anything new. There is no point because it never gets seen. I'm weary of the whole circle thing and all the other nonsense going on there. It's just sad.

Anonymous said...

looks like kalin just got pushed out of etsy.

for the hell of it said...

@ The Funny One,

I think that I can help you understand what attributes are and how they are properly worked with elsewhere. I also have shops on eCrater and Bonanza and both of these sites added the GOOGLE attributes a batch edit functions as early as 2009.

The google attributes are best described as being Google specific tags. They allow to really fine tune the given data going into the uploads into Google shopping.

Etsy has fouled this up from the start, and I don't foresee any discernable improvements

A couple of examples of attributes are as follows:

[[product_type:painting]]
[[made_in:country of choice]] There is an official listing of 2 letter codes to cover the world's countries
[[material: what the item is made of]]
[[color:what color is it]]
[[genre: allows you to add broad based key words describing things like music, R&B, Blues, etc]]
[[year: when was it made]]
[[upc: the number within a price or product code and needed for anyone selling modern day supplies or other post 1970's items]]
[[ISBN: the id number found on books]]
[[length: how big]]
[[width: how big]]
[[height:ditto]]
[[size: as in clothing]]
[[artist: seems like this could be useful]]
[[MPN: also for newer manufaCTURED GOODS]]
[[Style:]]
[[feature:]]
[[occasion:]]
[[age_range]]

I wrote out the attributes that I rmembered off the top of my head and used the punctuation that is worked with on Bonanza, who in turn kpt things very Google specific.

Etsy has Fucked this up, since day one, and Artfire isn't far behind.

When the sellers did their own uploads, Bonanza had already added the completely version of this to our batch editing functions, and I was able to do mini audits within the upload areas. Bonanza's feed out performed Etsy by a 6:1 margine.

I also made it a point to send info the the Etsy admin from wherever I could find it because it was obvious that they didn't have a clue. They still don't and personally I don't see it improving.

I feel that IF Etsy could bring themselves to do 1 FUCKING thing proprly, this would be a real good start.

I personally feel, that IF implemented properly, the attributes could be a very powerful tool in helping the public find handmade items within a sea of mass produced.

I sell vintage on Etsy and am personally sick over how thy've bastardised this now. Also in prma-mute and can't even attempt to say anything.

My bright note is that my views on Bonanza have begun to pull ahead of good old E.

The drop down choices that Etsy put are BULL!!!

They should be open ended, with the seller retaining the ability to make what h or she fls is the best choice. That's how it gets done on both eCrater and Bonanza.

I don't honestly know if what I wrote is understandable, because it does take time to figur them the F out.

Eureka!!! I found the link to an old Bonanza thread. It offers a good explanation about how to use them, and probably has links to other pertinant information.

:) What Etsy has begun is total CRAP, in my oppinion.

for the hell of it said...

:) On a lighter note, ...

The red headed rat is gone

Chad's been promoted.

missled said...

I just came back to Etsy two weeks ago and wow have things changed in six months. The CEO just stepped down yesterday and the entire site was hacked. Many stores were deleted with a "custom" message sent to these sellers stating they were deleted due to Etsy violations. However Etsy issued a statement letting everyone know this was a "glitch" and were working to fix it. There were also issues with pages disappearing and reappearing all day and stats kept changing. Many of us awoke this morning to find all of our banners missing from the top of our shop pages. The whole site is a joke and I will be closing my shop as soon as my website is up.

Riley said...

FYI, yall, Rob's out as CEO.

http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2011/07/21/etsy-ceo-kalin-out-as-start-up-faces-growing-pains/

The Funny One said...

Thanks for the details on attributes "for the hell of it" but I stand by my point that Etsy's list published in their own Announcement still shows how Etsy labels and ranks its "preferred products" - sellers immeditaly reacted with lists of "missing attributes" that were so obvious, it only underlined Etsy's bias.

Every tweak Etsy makes is IN FAVOR OF and TO PROMOTE their faves. They are so biased towards promoting these few sellers and product types that each tweak actually PREVENTS most other sellers from selling who do not list Etsy-favored products.

We do need to lower ourselves to the level of Etsy's one-track, simplistic mindset - Etsy prefers a world where everyone is a Cowl Queen and mimics her store, down to the self-annointed, self-involved hipster photography.

And Chad is even more self-involved than Rokali. The numbers may be tanking at Etsy but the attitude is worse than ever.

Forum commenters beware, those perky girls are on a rampage!

for the hell of it said...

@The Funny One, trust me, it was more than apparent that the "few" that got added by these dweebs, wasn't going to be helpful.

Add that to my crash and burning sales, and I KNOW that it's time to move one.

I noticed that I forgot to leave the Bonanza forum thread link in my previous post.

Here it is:

http://www.bonanza.com/forums/9/topics/38373

eCrater also has them as a batch editing function, and over there, they've been simplified into a gridded out chart like form, so the sellers don't have to worry about getting the punctuation marks prfect. Over there, you write out the given attribute in the first box and then you can add your given descriptives in the box next to the first, separated by commas.

AND both eCrater and Bonanza have traffic ranks similar to Artfire. eCrater is completly free and Bonz can be free to list with a reasonable FVF.

Etsy has always and will probably continue to runs its site from a strictly "Window Dressing" approach.

I foresee NO improvements with Chad's tenure because he joined Etsy not that long after the "Frake's" left Yahoo, Evidently there was a yahoo "upheaval cleansing" in 2008. AND, ... it does seem to me that if Chad was truly as skilled in tech as they'd lead us to believe, that Etsy would function better. Plus, if "normal" methodology had been applied, it seems to me that Sean11 should have been the one moved up.

The "shirts" are just reacting to the less than stellar write up from the Wall Street consulting firm, and ridding themselves of baggage. Had any of them been truly concerned about quality within Etsy, they would have responded to the numerous complaints PRIOR to the valuations write.

IF anything, conditions within Etsy will probably decline at an accelerated pace. AND heaven forbid that they do get their IPO. Then the shareholder will need to be impressed with numbers, making Etsy even more desparate to show presentable numbers. God only knows what slop work, cut corner policies will be implemented then.

Sam said...

We hope the restructuring at the top of etsy will help get things back to their former glory.

Either way, we at Shoply.com are here to offer sellers an new, viable online marketplace to sell on.

We work super hard to drive you sales and customers and will listen to your suggestions and complaints with open ears

Join us.....

xtine312 said...

Tell me about it. If I see one more of the same damn sellers on the front page or members of these teams (EliteSixteen, ProjectT (which peach tree is a well known admin member....puhhhhlease), DreamTeam, 16findsteam, teamextreme, or any new ones they've concocted recently) I will vomit on my screen.

Etsy is one big H.S. clique and NOT promoting all its members. Only a select popular handful and it's disgusting.

I vomit on you Etsy.

Christine
MTheory Clothing
Elysian Organics

ElysianOrganics said...

Not to mention, I recently discovered that someone is messing with Etsy's search engine, as Etsy is so stupid to leave it open with all the apps they allow to run on Etsy....so, I have discovered that one of the popular Etsy Tee sellers has had someone alter their search engine and suddenly our Tees don't appear in Etsy's searches....could this also be after I have given Etsy total crap about their FP preferential treatment to all their little popular friends...I think not.