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Etsy Addresses Concerns over Significant Site Testing

Etsy apologized to the seller community for any angst and confusion that resulted from the tests the company has been running lately and explained it was running a “significant” number of tests to help make the site – and sellers’ businesses – better.

One test in particular had sellers greatly perturbed. On May 23rd, we reported on a test in which Etsy hid shipping costs on listing pages for some shoppers. The shopper would have to put an item in their shopping cart in order to see the shipping cost. But some sellers said shoppers might be uncomfortable clicking the “add to cart” button before they were ready to commit to a purchase, and some feared the practice made it appear they were trying to trick buyers by not displaying shipping costs in their listings.

Another test that had sellers upset was a Search Results images “experiment,” as Etsy calls its tests. An Etsy shop owner told EcommerceBytes, “I don’t know if you are aware that Etsy is running a test that blurs images in the search (results) except for those in Etsy’s paid ads. I would really hate to think that Etsy feels if customers can see only the paid ads clearly then they will only click on them and thus sellers will have to purchase ads to make sure their images appear clear in searches.”

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In response to a seller who thought the test might be a bug, an Etsy moderator responded, “This is a test to improve the performance of search pages. It affects a very small number of members.” But one skeptical seller responded in a different thread, “Only the paid ads have pictures that are clear and crisp on the search pages, everyone else’s pictures are blurry. Sounds like a test to improve paid ads, not to improve search.”

It was clear from the letters we received from Etsy sellers and from reading discussion threads on Etsy boards that frustration levels were high – one EcommerceBytes reader said, “It seems to me when I signed up on this site I did not agree to be their guinea pig and be in endless tests along with others that affect our stores and livelihood.”

But one Etsy seller responded to an article about the Etsy shipping-cost experiment to downplay sellers’ concerns. “There are also many that understand that Etsy is testing out different layouts and features. They have not rolled out these as changes. This is very common testing that those of us who stay informed by reading Etsy’s blog, attending their town hall and reading their announcements are well aware of and are fine with. It has NOT been detrimental to sales. At the very worst people are just annoyed because they don’t like change. There are many who embrace what Etsy is doing and appreciate that they are a site that does not remain stagnant and is always striving to make the site better and run more efficiently. There are many of us sellers who “get it.””

In an announcement on Friday, Eric Fixler, Director of Shipping Programs at Etsy, addressed sellers concerns and explained the reasoning behind the testing, in particular the decision to test how shoppers would respond to having to add items to their cart before they could see shipping costs. “Please know that we hear you, and that all of your concerns are being recorded and taken very seriously. I’m here to try and address at least some of these concerns and explain a bit about what we’re doing and why.”

Fixler said Etsy doesn’t like to run tests during, or in the run-up to, the winter holidays, and as a result, “the tests can cluster up because we’d prefer to get them done earlier in the year.”

“Still,” he continued, “we have probably been running too many of these types of tests simultaneously, and we understand that this, in and of itself, can be jarring. While we work to coordinate between the various teams running the tests, we know we need to coordinate even more carefully. I want to apologize to the seller community for any angst and confusion brought about by the amount of testing we’re doing. We’re working on being more thoughtful and considered about the pace of our testing efforts.”

And, he asked sellers to understand that the interests of Etsy admin are aligned with the interests of the community. “We want to make Etsy a better place for Etsy sellers to have and run businesses. That is the only reason we’re running these tests and evaluating their effectiveness.”

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Ina Steiner

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. Send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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