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Thu Sept 6 2012 10:54:21

Etsy CEO's Forum Chat: Opportunity for Marketplace Morale?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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Although the questions were flying much faster than Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson could answer them in his recent forum chat with Etsy users (the thread is now closed), and many Etsy sellers were clearly frustrated, most of them acknowledged it was gutsy of him to make himself open to questioning in this manner. Dickerson pledged to do more of these in the future -- "As we head into the all-important fall and holidays season...I know it’s important that we communicate with you better in the coming months and I’m recommitting to improving," he wrote in a recent "Notes from Chad" blog post.

As covered in this recent article by Ina, Dickerson did address some of the most pressing issues that were on sellers' minds:

 - The status of the Art category on the front page ("We're testing various category structures, so nothing is being eliminated at this point. I'm going to take a closer look at how the testing may affect the Art category based on your feedback.").

- Taking "vintage" out of the search drop-down menu: "We rolled that out site-wide because after extensive testing, it caused vintage sales to go *up*.

- Phone support:  "We're actively looking into providing more support options, like phone support, but I don't have specific info yet on when something like this might be available to everyone." (He noted email response support improved from taking days to "usually within a day now").

But he did not evidently have time to get to other concerns, such as not truncating listing descriptions, not linking "suggested" shops to buyers on a seller's given page; adding the ability to manage multiple accounts from a single account; making search ads relevant to the search; "fix[ing] the broken feedback system"; using "the blog and other "help" tools to educate shop owners about copyright and trademark infringement"; adding a shipping calculator; guest checkout; and more.

Several sellers suggested that it would have made sense for him or one of his staff to read through all the feedback and suggestions that were already posted to the forums before coming into that forum to answer the questions as they were typed during his communication session.

"I bet this showed him that the forum thread format is not so great for this type of discussion. Next tme, let's revisit this idea and plan for a more efficient approach," suggested one seller named Sandra.

"Sandra, I will reach out to you and we'll talk about better ways to address these questions. Expect to hear from me shortly!" Chad responded to her.

While this particular forum chat did not seem to generate warm fuzzies for many of the Etsy sellers who attended it, and the answers came slowly (one wondered "Has Chad left the building? I know it is overwhelming but we look forward to your responses on these subjects"), just the fact that he gave the chat, and closed with a pledge to do more communication, is a good sign, in my opinion.

Not many CEO's make themselves directly available in this manner to customers, and when they do, although their answers may not satisfy everyone, their very presence can make users -- Etsy sellers in this case -- feel listened to (or at least more listened to than before).

Dickerson closed with that the chat was "just a start. I wanted to hear from you directly and respond to you directly. I know I wasn't able to answer all of the specific questions in this session. Thanks to those of you who participated, even with criticism. I appreciate all of your time!"

Now he has the opportunity to do as some sellers suggested, and take the whole list of sellers' questions and concerns, and address them in some other format, be it blog post, forum  post, seller email, or other. Many of the sellers also asked for a heads-up before any site changes were made (shades of eBay..this has been an ongoing issue for sellers there).

He also suggested early in the chat that Etsy might start a weekly personalized email for sellers, and asked, "What would you include in it? Your stats, information on site changes, Etsy news, tips for sellers? I'd love your feedback on that." This would be another way for Etsy sellers (and hey, even third party developers, as one of them was in attendance in the chat) to stay informed.

And this would be a way for this growing marketplace, one of the most successful "alternative to eBay" sites, to help maintain the edge that makes it special. (As Dickerson noted in a blog post, Etsy passed $500 million in sales already as of August 2012, already almost as much as it did in the entire year of 2011).

What do you think? Was the forum chat a good start, and a good sign? What kind of communication and inclusion from top executives at marketplaces is best? If you sell on Etsy, what do you think are the most important issues that need addressing going forward? Post a comment here!

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Thu Sep 6 14:34:30 2012

That's encouraging. It looks like he's perhaps taking a page from the guys over at ArtFire, who regularly post and discuss issues in the forums there. There's no better way to find out what users need or want than to simply ask them. Their perspective is far different from those building the systems or managing the company.

As a software developer, this is one lesson I learned early on. What I think works well from my own perspective is not necessarily the case for users of what I build. I might find a certain web page layout easy and intuitive, but others without my background in technology might view things completely differently. It's why more and more companies have specialists in things like user interface design and not just programmers who can cobble something together. People like me can build it but those with the design training know what actually works best from the user perspective.

I like that Dickerson took the initiative and hope he continues to do so and actually listens to what the buyers are saying. I'd hate to see Etsy become too much like eBay.

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by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Sep 6 15:11:05 2012

I don't see vintage or handmade.
But well done!
Etsy are certainly making some serious sales.
They obviously don't need to change much.

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by: summer in the city This user has validated their user name.

Fri Sep 7 19:25:18 2012

A bit of advice for Chad, before Etsy toally screws the pooch:

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