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Fri May 17 2019 12:17:09

Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

By: Ina Steiner

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A third of all searches on Etsy generate over 10,000 items each, but over 80% of purchases via search come from the first page of results. (Not surprising, since what shopper is going to wade through 10,000 items?!) That's a problem for sellers whose items don't make it to the top of search, and it's also a challenge for Etsy, which uses algorithms to influence which items appear highest in search results.

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said he's making a change to his site's approach to its search algorithm, calling it a "cushion-to-couch" strategy.

Should Etsy give more weight to lower-priced goods (the "cushion"), since that would boost conversion rates?

Or should it give more weight to higher-priced goods (the "couch"), since that would boost gross sales? In other words, more shoppers buy cushions than couches, but it takes a lot fewer sales of couches to generate the same amount of sales dollars than couch cushions would.

Etsy had been doing the former, as the CEO explained during a conference call with analysts last week, but is in the process of moving to the second approach:

"Our search engine has historically used conversion rate as its objective function. Meaning when you type in a search query, it's trying to show you the top 50 things that it thinks you're most likely to buy. There's an inherent bias to low priced items then because you're much more likely to buy a $20 item than a $200 item.

"So if you were to use GMS (Gross Merchandise Sales) as the objective function instead of conversion rate, you might buy fewer things but of higher value, resulting in higher GMS. We talk about this as the cushion-to-couch strategy inside the company. People right now buy cushions, how do we get them to not only buy cushions, but also buy the couch,... And there's actually some inherent bias built into our search algorithms driving them to lower priced items."

Some readers might ask, why not show cushions when a person searches for cushions, and show couches when a person searches for couches? It may not be quite as simple as that for certain search queries, but on the other hand, marketplaces often get it wrong when they think they know what shoppers want. The law of unintended consequences rules when it comes to algorithms, as sellers on eBay know all too well - just ask them about "Best Match."

But Etsy is going all in - Silverman said its Google cloud migration is enabling Etsy to leverage more sophisticated algorithms thanks to "elastic compute power."

Etsy is also embracing machine learning and personalization with the help of Google technology - "With our cloud capacity kicking in, we are now beginning to enrich recommendations on listing and landing pages by incorporating more information and leveraging more detail about buyers' previous purchases, item views, and items they've added to their carts," Silverman said.

Sellers may be skeptical about any kind of search manipulation. After all, sellers pay the same listing fee for a cushion as a couch, yet the marketplace has not been giving them equal exposure in search results.

But a move to show more higher-priced goods in search could help sellers of quality goods compete with low-priced imports. One question is whether Etsy will swing too far in the other direction.

It's also interesting that Silverman framed the algorithm in terms of Etsy's bottom line (conversion rate vs gross merchandise sales) instead of framing it around shopper satisfaction.



Comments (15) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Fri May 17 12:58:37 2019

GAME OF MARKETPLACES "Ebay II Is Coming"

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Fri May 17 13:05:46 2019

Etsy can never have top notch search results no matter how they adjust their algorithms.  

The biggest problem with Etsy search is key word abuse in tags and titles by the sellers.  When I search for something, I often get no more than 15 pages of results -- and you can browse over that many thumbnails quickly.  But more than half of the items shown have nothing whatsoever to do with my search term(s),  It's not Etsy's code that is showing me irrelevant items.  Some sellers have actually used most of their tags for words unrelated to the item in the listing.  

This is the legacy of a suggestion made by Etsy staff at the beginning of this decade, called "Tag-O-Rama".  It involved inserting similar items from your handmade shop into as many categories as you could think of where shoppers might buy your item if they saw it.  Even if (especially if?) that isn't what they were searching for.  

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Fri May 17 17:12:41 2019

HAND-MADENESS.
That's what the scuttle butt is wherever I go.
I strike up conversations with total strangers about their opinion of Etsy.
Now, it's the same thing , over and over :
"I bought junk on Etsy",
"They used to have ALL hand made things....."
"How do you know it's really hand made in America ? "
"It was a piece of Chinese junk."

BOTTOM LINE :
NEW FILTERS :
(Etsy Certified) Made in America.
No Certificate, NO SHOP.
Made by the Shop Owner / Artist.

HIRE PEOPLE TO YANK THE FRAUDSTERS.
Did you know : It's O.K. to be a Purely American Venue.
American Pride is American Prosperity.
And people can also shop world wide IF they want to.

Try it, you'll like it   :o)

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Fri May 17 20:53:40 2019

The End sez:  "(Etsy Certified) Made in America.
No Certificate, NO SHOP."

Most resellers on Etsy are located in the USA, with the UK a distant second. If 100K shops on Etsy are resellers (and really it's way more than that). It's far easier to remove 100K obvious resellers than to certify over 1 million shops.

Etsy had the opportunity over a decade ago to start using code to identify products that were not allowed for sale on the site.  But their metrics told them that their best sellers were mostly designed and manufactured in Asia, and simply purchased wholesale by Etsy shop owners.  Money talks, and you-know-what walks.  

Artists, artisans and vintage dealers who have open Etsy shops are there because it makes them money.  The overwhelming presence of resellers on the site, and the sales the resellers make, help lower the costs of the authentic Etsy shops.  Etsy needs the authentic handmade and vintage sellers as window dressing for investors.  So discussing issues that matter to them, like search, is throwing them a little bone.

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Fri May 17 22:28:19 2019

And that's NOT O.K.

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

by: Sierra This user has validated their user name.

Sun May 19 08:59:25 2019

As a long-time Etsy seller with too much underpriced competition, I like this new search strategy!

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Sun May 19 11:29:18 2019

It would be great for Etsy's bottom line if sellers would raise their prices to compete for placement in search results.  

Etsy already has pictures frames and toilet seats listed as couches.  So the cushions could be listed -- and priced -- as couches as well.

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Sun May 19 11:56:27 2019

Etsy just keeps on picking winners and losers.  Sellers don't have a chance.

80% of searches come from the first page.  That's all you need to know.

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

by: rover This user has validated their user name.

Mon May 20 04:38:41 2019

Buy American. USA certified.

And sod the rest of the world.

There are honest and authentic hand makers and vintage sellers outside the US you know.

Boy, you can see the corrupt Trump propaganda coming through.

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

by: hawk This user has validated their user name.

Mon May 20 04:45:25 2019

sounds like a large brick under the cushion for sellers to stumble over and loose sales.

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

by: JoeysZoo This user has validated their user name.

Mon May 20 09:23:28 2019

@life hit the nail on the head.  The first thing they must do is eliminate the keyword spamming.  I sell on Etsy exclusively but don’t shop because search is so frustrating between the ads for items in categories unrelated to what I’m looking for and the results with spammed tags I give up.  

While I always worry when they manipulate search, he is right with the cushions/couches idea.  I have a couple Etsy shops.  One has cushions and another couches.  Couches is the one with the most sales by far.  


Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

by: Garcia This user has validated their user name.

Mon May 20 09:32:37 2019

I have always found that anything under $20 sells on Etsy and that includes imported junk.  The best way to solve that problem is to filter out the items that are not handmade, but that is where Etsy' money is and that is never going to happen.

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

by: JohnGermaine This user has validated their user name.

Mon May 20 10:55:29 2019

Was wondering what happened to my Etsy sales. they have been pretty non-existent for the last 2 months. Rigged results, just like eBay.    And it's going to get worse. Results should ALWAYS come up as "about to expire" first so that items don't get missed. Instead, it's being rigged like eBay. Why do these companies NOT see that WE are their customers?????

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

by: BargainzBabylon This user has validated their user name.

Mon May 20 14:43:59 2019

@the End - Etsy is a global site - 30% of their sales come from global sellers, speculated to rise to 50%. I have more international sales on Etsy than anywhere else. "Building the wall" against our fellow global sellers does nothing.

It's mass manufacturing that's the problem.  

Perminate Link for Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch   Etsy Shifts Search Strategy from Cushion to Couch

by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 21 14:27:45 2019

@rover

buy american isnt trump propoganda.

etsy is an american company, who went global yes, so you can say buy uk! its alright to want your nation to prosper and have economic growth!

The thing is, if uk wants to buy american, they shoudl go to ecrater.com, if they want to buy uk, ecrater.uk, china..ecrater.cn

same with americans. If I want to buy uk, ill go to ecrater.uk.

this is how it should be, not one big glob of nations all on the american servers, its not fair at all to anyone.



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