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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 3139 - August 27, 2013 - ISSN 1539-5065    2 of 4

Sellers See Stars as Etsy Moves Closer to eBay Style Feedback

By Ina Steiner
EcommerceBytes.com
August 27, 2013




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Etsy formally announced on Monday what sellers have been buzzing about for days - it is overhauling its feedback system. Among the biggest concerns for sellers is that they'll no longer be able to leave feedback for buyers, fearing that, as on eBay, it would lead to bad-buyer behavior.

However, Etsy says reviewing buyers was not an effective way of protection against unfair reviews. Buyer feedback scores were rarely checked, and many didn't realize they were being reviewed. Etsy also says it found sellers considered reviewing buyers a tedious task, with little return.

"My overarching concern," wrote one Etsy seller over the weekend, "and the reason I am choosing to speak out now, is that Etsy seems to be becoming more and more like eBay with each incremental change. Adding a star rating to feedback and moving the ability for sellers to leave feedback would be two more steps down the road to an eBay-like community. These days, the selling climate on eBay is hostile and the rules/regulations/fee structure is byzantine. I hate to see Etsy morph into an eBay clone."

The need for insight into buyers' past behavior is especially acute for Etsy's handmade sellers. "Have to agree that I'd like to be able to see buyer ratings - especially when dealing with custom orders," said one seller - if a sale for a custom or personalized order falls through, sellers may be stuck with a product that no other shopper will want.

One seller bemoaned the fact that Etsy doesn't allow sellers to block buyers. Another seller said eBay's feedback system made the buyer-seller relationship adversarial and feared the same would happen on Etsy.

Etsy is also launching a new five-star review system. Some sellers said it was confusing to shoppers and said many people never give the highest rating on principle.

Heather Burkman, Product Marketing Manager, worked on the Feedback product update and said, "As added accountability, a buyer's avatar and public profile name will be displayed publicly next to their reviews going forward. We believe this will encourage honesty in reviews. Etsy will continue to take action on buyers who are in violation of our policies. If we see buyers who show patterns in non-payment or in leaving violating reviews, their accounts will be closed."

Burkman told EcommerceBytes the feedback system on Etsy has long remained the same and was one of the most requested feature changes received from members of the Etsy community. "We received a lot of valuable feedback from the community and we feel the new approach provides a stronger platform for reviewing items and experiences that are unique to our marketplace."

Among the changes coming, paraphrased from Etsy's announcement and responses to questions:

  • Buyers will no longer be rated in the new feedback system.

  • Etsy is moving to a 5-star rating system in order to make reviews more shopper-friendly, saying stars were more favorable toward sellers than the old, rigid percentage ratings, which will migrate over to stars.

  • Buyers can edit their reviews providing a window for the buyer and seller to communicate and resolve issues directly.

  • To prevent premature reviews, Etsy is tying in processing and shipment information, so that an item can only be reviewed once Etsy believe it's arrived.

  • The buyer's profile name will be publicly displayed on the sellers review and listing pages, but their purchase information will still remain private to them on their profile page.

  • Previously, a shop's feedback score included the ratings the owner received as a buyer - which was misleading for prospective shoppers, Etsy said. Now a shop's overall rating will reflect only reviews left by buyers in the last year, sharing the shop's current reputation with shoppers.

One seller wrote:

"I am so incredibly disappointed with the "Reviews" system. I'm amazed that THIS Is what Etsy came up with after all the time and feedback from sellers.

"One of the most consistent complaints that sellers gave you was that the feedback system was too far skewed in the buyers direction since they could publically review sellers, but buyers feedback was hidden. I can not believe that your answer is to take away all feedback for the buyer so the seller has NO way at all to respond.

"I can't believe you're now encouraging buyers to leave less positive feedback if they only "like" a product rather than love it. And your new system doesn't encourage feedback on customer service, etc.

"Sellers found leaving feedback for buyers to be tedious because your system was totally tedious. It wasn't that we didn't want to leave it - we wanted you to make the system smarter.

"I'm really totally appalled."

But not all users reacted negatively - one user wrote:

"I love it! As well as looking far more appealing the new system seems more efficient, effective and relevant. The new star rating is great and I love that you have removed the anonimity element. As ever, thank you to everyone for all your hard work!"

Also of concern to sellers is the timing of the rollout. Sellers detest changes during the holiday shopping season, and Etsy told users to expect the changes to roll out in the coming weeks.

Etsy's Burkman said, "The major holiday shopping season doesn't pick up for a month or more, so this timing provides a window for the community to learn about the new system. Unlike some other launches, there isn't anything the community needs to do as a result of the new reviews - the old system has migrated right into the new."

Has Etsy increased the number of staff handling seller reports about problem buyers? A spokesperson said Etsy's Trust and Safety team has increased 450% in the last 4 years. "We continue to hire to meet the needs of our growing community. In addition to dedicated staff, we are constantly updating our proprietary tools to help us better address more inquiries and disputes."

Read more on the Etsy blog.

And let us know what you think - leave a comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

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