Etsy is rolling out a change to search this week – a sentence that can strike fear into the heart of an online seller. But it will only impact search results when shoppers enter very broad search terms – “owl,” “shoes,” or “romantic gift,” for example.
Currently entering a search for “coastal” will bring up a gallery of items in order of relevance. With the new change to search, the same broad search for “coastal” will insert a section above the results containing what Etsy’s algorithms find to be the top five categories most relevant to the query.
In an example of the new search shown to EcommerceBytes, the top categories for “Coastal” were Art & Collectibles; Home & Living; Weddings; Paper & Party Supplies; and Craft Supplies & Tools.
Jaime DeLanghe, the senior product manager overseeing this project, said the new search gives shoppers a feel for what’s available. Etsy has over 30 million items, many of them one-of-a-kind. And as most ecommerce marketplaces rely on standardized product data like SKUs (“product identifiers in eBay parlance), Etsy does not.
You might think Etsy would choose to display the five categories with the most “coastal” listings, but that’s not the case, though the count is a factor. Etsy uses a programmatic approach using algorithms. (We asked if it took into account user behavior – DeLanghe said no.) It looks at the relationship between the query and the category. “How likely is the item for this category to appear in this query,” DeLanghe said.
It’s easier to understand the logic of certain types of broad searches – putting in a search term like “shoes,” for example, will display subcategories in the Top Category section, such as Women’s Shoes, Girls’ Shoes, Boys’ Shoes, Men’s Shoes,..
The experience is different in mobile. On desktop, a list of categories containing the search term continues to appear on the left side of the page. On mobile, there’s no category list on the left – users must scroll down to see all the categories. DeLanghe said mobile users are willing to scroll, where desktop users are less willing to do so.
If the new search sounds familiar, that’s because we wrote about it as Etsy was testing it in the spring. DeLanghe said testing showed an increase in search engagement metrics by more than 10%, with a more pronounced effect on mobile web.
For those concerned that their listings may not appear in the “top 5 category” sections, she said it’s a helpful tool, but Etsy found shoppers do move down the page. And the new approach only affects broad search terms – regular searches won’t be impacted (“shoes” is clearly a broad search, but a search for a specific shoe would not).
DeLanghe had some advice on how sellers could benefit from broad search results:
1) Make sure your item is in the right category; in February, Etsy rolled out new categories and it automatically placed some seller listings into new categories. It’s important for sellers to make sure their listings are in the correct category, she said. Sellers can edit categories using bulk edit in the new listing manager.
There are actually some special cases where Etsy put items in more than one category. For example, it placed wedding dresses in both Dresses and Wedding.
2) Make sure you use tags and titles and are not overly reliant on one specific query to get found. “Try to diversify tags and titles,” she said.
The new search will first roll out on desktop and mobile web this week, and Etsy plans to bring the new search to its mobile app in the near future.
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