Save Etsy! (part two)

May 19, 2012 at 11:18 am (Uncategorized)

I thought this was really interesting. This morning, this is what was on the treasury on Etsy’s front page:

Ok. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

I was thinking that all my moaning and groaning about Etsy losing touch with its roots really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if the stuff that’s featured on the front page is really what’s bringing in sales. Etsy is in business to make money; if people are buying expensive retro furniture from the site, it’s reasonable to expect that the site would in turn support those sellers and promote them. Obviously, Etsy wants to keep the people who are actually selling around, and keep them happy.

So I did a  little web sleuthing and came across a site that ranks the top sellers. Below is a screenshot of their list from this morning:

First off, right away, I noticed that based purely on amount of sales, the top handmade seller out sells the top vintage seller 3:1. If you dismiss the top handmade seller as an anomaly (because they sell lots of inexpensive things in volume), even the #2 handmade seller outsells the top vintage seller 2:1. That’s interesting to me, since so much of the front page treasuries have been so obsessed with vintage stuff. If the treasuries reflected what people are actually buying on Etsy, there’d be a lot less vintage up there.

But, whatever. It doesn’t make too much sense to dwell on these numbers. What’s more interesting is to look at the type of merchandise that does well.

Winds up, when it comes to handmade, the top selling items are… exactly what’s synonymous with Etsy. You know, funny pins, silkscreened dinosaur t-shirts, and collages starring cats. Here’s an example:

(click on the picture to go to the listing. all of these are awesome and i highly encourage you to buy from these people.)

Go over to the top daily sales, and you’ll see that only one is a vintage seller (#10):

…and there’s a lot of really interesting stuff selling that isn’t exactly being reflected by the front page:

Remember: All of these pictures are from the most popular, top-selling stores on Etsy. They are the bread-and-butter of the site, what keeps it in business, what people come to Etsy to buy. And yet, when was the last time you saw a treasury that included anything that looked like this?

It’s as if what actually sells on Etsy and what Etsy wants you to think sells (or at least, represents them the best) exist in totally different realities.

I understand it behooves the site to put the most beautiful pieces up front, so as to encourage clicks and traffic. But while they’re hyping a $2,700 Mid-Century Danish bed, they’re essentially snubbing the very sellers that are keeping them in business. And the truth is, if you want a dinosaur t-shirt, you go to Etsy – that’s a built in market that Etsy has already cornered and can look to gently expand upon… which is very different than pushing merchandise that is radically different from what the market already wants.

Also, am I so insane and out of touch that I think buying a nearly $3,000 bed sight unseen is the kind of purchase very few people would make, but buying a $20 t-shirt is the kind of thing that can be done in volume, thus generating lots of listing fees for Etsy?

Why is the site so scared of what makes them different, interesting, unique, and well, great? Why are they running from the very stuff (and the very sellers) that makes them popular? It makes me feel like the site is ashamed of exactly what they built their reputation on, and there’s no reason for that. All of the above merchandise is totally fine, but I feel like it’s being tucked away, like it’s Etsy dirty little secret. And there’s no need for that.

Ok, I’ll stop now.



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