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Etsy Answers Questions from Sellers about Storefront Tests

Connecting one’s technology customers with new features presents a balancing act for such companies. Many factors associated with testing and delivering may present issues at other points in a service’s lifecycle, something vintage/handmade storefront firm Etsy found out in a most public way.

“Earlier today we accidentally released a test view of the shop pages that featured a large banner created from one of your listing images to a small percentage of buyers,” Etsy’s Jaime DeLanghe posted today. “That test is now turned off.”

Application developers would likely be curious about the additional details DeLanghe provided, noting that Etsy has been unable to “test new features…as part of an experiment.” While it’s virtually certain Etsy has development and live environments for testing and publishing features, that statement suggests difficulty in segmenting testing on the live side to limited sets of users.

To its credit, Etsy invited and participated in commentary about its storefront tests at Etsy’s discussion forums on Wednesday afternoon. The company’s Robert Brunson acknowledged how thousands “have offered caring and constructive comments” about the issue.

However there have been complaints as sellers whose storefronts participate in Etsy’s storefront tests found less control over their presence than they are used to having. One of the reasons for this has been Etsy’s efforts at making sellers look good on mobile devices as well as conventional web browsers.

May 2014 reporting from comScore said US retail m-commerce spending via smartphones and tablets reached $7.3 billion in the first quarter of 2014, out of total ecommerce spending of $63.4 billion for the quarter. That spending over mobiles represented a 23 percent increase year over year according to comScore.

One seller, Mimi from CreekLife Treasures, expressed concern about the time frame for the tests “so we can “learn” how to navigate our storefront and Etsy once again, before the holiday shopping season.” Etsy’s Ilana Keane responded that Etsy won’t do testing during the holidays, and said the tests would end soon.

Others made additional complaints, with one citing low sales and blaming the ongoing tests, while another lamented the “generic look you are trying to give us all.” Regarding the latter problem, other sellers noted how most buyers are seeing test shops as they normally appear, as only test participants see the new appearance.

Here are a couple of answers to some of the questions that came from Etsy sellers during Wednesday’s Q&A session.

Question: Could you please let us know when testing will be done. Also if we will have banners and announcements back. Thanks!

Etsy’s Giovanni Fernandez-Kincade: We are currently working with a small group of sellers in a prototype group to test banners. Banners will almost certainly be part of the final design, we’re just working on the exact format and the tools right now.

Announcements are tough. There is a ton of different content that ends up in announcements, like shipping delays, coupon codes, biographies, etc. A lot of this information may be critical to a shopper’s decision to purchase, but in user testing we’ve seen most users skipping over it. Probably because it’s so hard to extract the important bits from a giant block of text. In the near future, we hope to break up the announcement into it’s most important components so those can be more easily communicated to buyers at the most relevant moment. Imagine a little notice right by the “Add to Cart” button that lets buyers know about a coupon code. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

Question: Why does the number of Admirers and favorite box have priority to the number of items in a shop?

Etsy’s Jeff Conkey: One of the big goals of the new storefront is to highlight sellers and increase new buyer trust by more easily allowing for more of a connection. In our user testing, buyers were drawn to learning more about sellers themselves before digging into their listings. Because of this behavior, we wanted to display more information about the shop / store owner when a buyer is first getting to know you. Once they move off the storefront, they enter shopping mode, so we still do show the number of listings available on the all items page, as well as each listing page in the upper right corner.

See the full thread on the Etsy discussion board.

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.