Studio Musings

Monday, December 23, 2013

Coffee Shop Meetup with an Etsy Admin

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend an Etsy Meetup with Melinda, a Project Manager from Etsy.  Part of their 'Home for the Holidays' program, Etsy apparently invites and encourages their employees who are traveling for the holidays to set up local meetings with Etsy sellers.  It was a fun chance to peak 'behind the curtains', even just in listening to Melinda's response to the community's comments.

After starting us off with a round of introductions, she asked us to go around and share something we particularly liked about Etsy.  Since I found this interesting, I thought I'd summarize some of the highlights:

Getting Started
  • It's an easy intro to the online marketplace.  You don't need a website, or a shopping cart, don't need to know HTML.
  • Easiest no maintenance shopping cart.  (I agree!  I once took an entire quarter-long course at a local community college on designing a shopping cart using wireframes, HTML and PHP).
  • Clean, elegant design - very professional.  
  • The ability to copy a current listing and make just a few changes to set up new listings.
  • You can start without a lot of inventory (I can attest to this as my shop opened with exactly one item!).  
  • You can play around and experiment with inventory and ideas.  (though I'll add a warning here - this can be an INCREDIBLE time sink!)
  • Information and Statistics - Etsy provides metrics on numbers of visits and which of your pages are most popular, also info on which of your keywords are most popular.
 The Marketplace
  • Etsy is the 900lb gorilla in the market - if you want an online shop Etsy has presence it's hard to beat
  • One of my favorite comments was from a woman who mentioned that she mostly did fairs & shows, but her show customers kept asking if she had an online store.  So she finally opened one so she could say "Yes".  And then suddenly people were buying her jewelry who were 'not her customers.  People from France and Nebraska!'.  Places she'd never been.  I've seen this in my own store, and it's AMAZINGINGLY WONDERFUL
  • A 'certain type of person' comes to Etsy.  This was stated repeatedly; that people had wonderful experiences with Etsy customers.  I'd have to agree. 
  • One seller apparently started her store back in 2008 and left it for years.  When she came back to it last year 'it was all still there' (no active listings, but all of her data had been saved).  Once you open a store, it's yours.  
  • Community - many of the local sellers had made close friends through local meetups
  • A number of Etsy sellers also buy supplies on Etsy.

Then Melinda asked the question that let the genie out of the bottle - what fix/changes would you like to see on Etsy?

The conversation quickly became embroiled in the issue of resellers who sold extremely inexpensive factory knock-offs of finished items, jewelry in particular.  This was a real hot button for a lot of people, and I can see why.  Apparently there's a whole team in Etsy that searches for and researches these issues, banning sellers who don't meet Etsy's guidelines.  Reporting a store helps point this team in the right direction (and does NOT get you in trouble with anyone at Etsy - a side question that came up).  But Etsy is a smaller company than I'd realized - about 400 people total, according to Melinda's guesstimate, with many teams working evenings and weekends to try to keep up with work.

Me being the slightly pushy person I can be when I have a goal in mind, finally broke into and hijacked the conversation with my own wish list (it took three tries to hijack the conversation, but with each attempt I gained a little more traction).  My requests:
  • How to enroll my store to include shipping upgrades options in individual listings?  I've seen other sellers that had this option, but couldn't figure out how they did it.  Turns out there's a Beta Team you simply need to sign up for here and waalaa, it's available to you!  Score!  
  • Allow sellers to type in their own keyword pairs for Search Ads.  I recently tried out their version of 'ad words' with very little success because the only keywords I could use were the one's they provided/suggested.  The term I most wanted to optimize for, "freeform peyote" wasn't even offered as a possibility.
Then others jumped in with some fantastic suggestions including such things as
  • Allowing sellers more than ten categories to organize their inventory (having recently had to search through one of the larger Etsy stores looking for a particular item, I have to agree!).
  • Change Vacation Mode, so shoppers can still look at your catalog, viewing items (and prices), they just can't make purchases until the seller returns and turns off vacation mode.  This would be fabulous!  Right now, vacation mode vanishes your entire store, which isn't good for continuity. 
  • Combined Shopping Cart - where you can add multiple items from multiple stores and check out all at once.  This is the holy grail for Etsy, but complicated by the fact that they allow individual stores to accept so many different forms of payment.  But there is apparently a team trying to get some version of this functional for stores (and shoppers) willing to use Etsy's in-house payment system (rather than Paypal for instance).  

 In the little time remaining, Melinda shared a bit more about Etsy and their corporate culture.  According to her, they look for people who are interested in and passionate about craftsmanship as well as technology. Because of the nature and fusion of their business, Etsy has a much higher female/male ratio than most US tech companies, with some departments like editorial and marketing which are almost entirely female. 

We met at the original Cherry Street Coffee in Pioneer Square, one of my personal favorite places that fits well with the Etsy theme as the coffee shop is also a small, independent.  A big thank you to Melinda to take the time out from her holidays to come meet with all of us!


  1. So interesting. Thanks so for posting this!!

  2. Very good to hear how committed Etsy management seem, to dealing with the biggest crisis they have faced as a company. I am sitting on the sidelines (named a shop but haven't continued) until it becomes clear to me whether Etsy will emerge from the "re-seller mess" on the right side of the line.

    Thanks for sharing the conversation, and hope your Holiday Season is filled with Peace and Joy, Karen!

  3. Lucky you!! Thank you so much for sharing this info, Karen -- I'm a longtime fan of ETSY and am thrilled to see how they continue to work hard to improve their little empire that benefits so many. Taking time to personally meet with ETSY sellers says a lot about their management style -- and I look forward to seeing what changes they have planned for 2014.

  4. Thanks, Karen, for giving us a virtual seat at the table with you. Opening an online store is #1 on my list of Things to Accomplish in 2014, and you have me considering Etsy again! The happiest of holidays to you!