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Etsy Makes More Changes to Search

Is it fair for online marketplaces to give higher rankings in search results to listings from sellers located in the country in which the shopper resides? Or should buyers have the ability to control geographic search preferences themselves?

That’s at the heart of a controversy on Etsy when it made such a change in two markets last October. This week, it announced it’s expanding the practice to two additional markets. And it also announced it was running more tests involving search.

In October, Etsy made a change to its search algorithm in which it began using seller location in search ranking in the UK and Australia. At the time, it explained, “In order to create a better local shopping experience, we’ve been testing an updated search ranking to make locally-made items for buyers in the United Kingdom and Australia more prominent.”

Naturally sellers outside of those two markets weren’t happy, and users in those countries were also concerned they’d see less relevant products “just because they are located in our country.”

While you might think international sellers would be in favor of such a change, some were concerned that Etsy would eventually roll out the changes in the US, which is a major source of sales for international sellers.

This week, Etsy announced it was are adding shop location as a factor in search for buyers in both France and Germany.

Etsy’s CEO Chad Dickerson had told Wall Street analysts in February that the marketplace favors local listings in search results in key international markets because buyers often prefer local merchandise – for example, UK buyers prefer merchandise from UK sellers. But he also noted a benefit to the company’s bottom line, noting that the approach helped insulate Etsy in the long term from currency fluctuations.

Etsy also announced this week some additional testing to search in international markets:

“Over the next few months, we plan to introduce a number of tests on various parts of the search experience for members, especially members located outside the United States. These tests are part of an effort to make it easier for buyers to find the items they’re looking for from shops in their home countries and across the globe.

“For example, we may test different ways to highlight the location items ship from in search. We may also test other improvements to how we match search terms in one language with listings in another language.

“We won’t be testing all of these changes at once.”

You can find the full post on the Etsy website.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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.