So through this whole Etsy debacle I’ve been thinking a lot about
what I want out of a selling website. I went through this with eBay. I was with
eBay early in its creation. I like to be on the ground floor of something.
Every website goes through some growing pains as it grows and brings in new
customers and stretches its base audience from a few die hard users to a more
casual set of users. If Etsy were truly shifting itself from the standard
business base model of bottom line growth they would not do this. But let’s
face it Etsy is a business as much as eBay it. The issue with its growth is
that it’s a community of sellers administrated by a hierarchy. The problem is
that the community sees themselves as independent and needn’t answer to a
hierarchy. The issue with any business is that for it to run smoothly it must
have a leader, and that means a hierarchy. Here we have the fundamental issue
with the Etsy system: a hierarchy over independents. It’s the same issue that
eBay had as it grew. The larger the system the more control the hierarchy needs
over its system. When you’ve built that system over independents it’s hard to
Let’s face it Etsy did a crap job of it and has across the
years. One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve worked in the retail world as a
grunt, a supervisor and now from the HR side of things is that there are styles
of leadership. There is the do-as-I-say where the leader barks out orders and
the grunts follow them and if they don’t they are disciplined back into order.
Here the grunts are miserable and have little investment. The other style of
leadership that is applicable to this discussion is where the leader discusses
the orders and listens to the grunts. The leader says “here is what I want done”
and leaves it to the grunts as to how it gets done. Grunts love this style, it
invests them in the outcome and allows them freedom to think. You can tell a
new leader because they all start out as “do-as-I-say” types, barking orders
and having employee issues. After awhile someone tells them about the
communication approach and they see it works.
As I see things I think this is where Etsy went wrong, as a
young leader they don’t inform the grunts of changes in advance, they make them
and don’t bother telling the grunts. If they told their sellers of changes in
advance most of us would have rode the wave out and seen what happened on the other
end. They could have had more useful and meaningful conversations with the
sellers over issues they were having by opening a thread in the forums titled “what
have you noticed since the SEO changes happened?” They would have had thousands
of unpaid watchful eyes taking note of changes. This data could have been
invaluable. Instead Etsy left it to the sellers to discover the issue and post
rants and raves in the forums. So rather than having an intelligent discussion
on the issue, we were left with angry forum posts full of piss and vinegar.
I’ve seen the young leader approach a dozen times before,
when questioned they invariably come back at you with “I know best.” Sadly it’s
not always the case. Opening up a dialog with the sellers opens up a lot of
information and it’s too bad Etsy didn’t go that route.
The thing is that I need that form a sales location. I need
open and honest communication. I’ve rarely seen a successful leader that hasn’t
employed open and honest communication. It goes with the territory. I’m not
saying that Etsy HQ need to post to the blog or forums every time they get a
new desk or chair but when something comes through that they think MIGHT have
an effect on their sellers they should open up a discussion or send a
conversation to us, or put something up in the heading on the sellers page.
I would love to see Etsy increase its customer base, believe
me I love that they are interested in growing their sales, I know they don’t
care who gets those sales, the bottom line dollars are bottom line dollars.
Funneling buyers through the hard to use search ont eh front page isn’t going
to help. It’s going to lose them. The search function works marginally better
than it used to but it’s still rough and makes me unhappy. As a seller I need a
search function that works and the best way for them to fix that is to take
some of those millions they are grossing (what are Etsy’s net profits anyway?)
and hire a team of tag investigators that do nothing but investigate miss
tagged items as reported by the sellers and buyers. I’m sick and tired of
miss-tagged items on Etsy. It drives me insane.
So my needs from a sales site are as follows:
- Open and honest communication about changes in
- A fix on the search function
- Miss Tagged items taken care of, in a timely
- A more democratic front page
For the record I’d still be with eBay if it wasn’t skewed
for the big sellers and resellers of stuff. In the end after eBay and PayPal
fees I ended up giving up something like 15% of my item price to eBay.
Currently Etsy fees are about 6% on a $9.99 item (not including paypal fees).
ArtFire is a flat rate for a month the more sales the less it will be
percentage-wise for me.
I hope Etsy uses this to wake up and move from the do-as-I-say
leader model to the communicative mature leader model it’s time for Etsy to be
grown up and learn top down decisions with independent sellers don’t pan out
well for them.
I meant for this post to be more about Etsyhacks.com I don’t
have the money to support them right now but once I start selling again I will.
They have some greasemonkey scripts for FireFox that make using Etsy so much
easier and enjoyable. Head over and check it out.