Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Etsy: Oh the times, they are a changin'

I haven't blogged for some time, but I'm going to share my thoughts regarding today's Etsy podcast regarding the change in fee structure and introduction of tools sellers can pay for to improve their shops.

Today's podcast explained a lot of thinking behind the big issues of the Etsy day and I really appreciate Josh (CEO) and Kruti (General Manager of Seller Services) for taking the time to answer questions and explain Etsy's rationale for the upcoming changes.

(Read it here: Etsy Seller Handbook)

(Listen to it here: iTunes podcast)

I really had a hard time understanding the whole transaction-fee-on-shipping thing because I felt it would simply exacerbate the issue, leading sellers to react with the knee-jerk reaction to raise product or shipping prices to maintain their (small) revenues and profit margins as it is. Based on Josh's comment that he was surprised how many sellers did not even understand the current transaction fee structure, I would suggest that unless sellers listen to the part of the podcast regarding reviewing pricing structure overall, this reaction is likely to occur in many shops worsening the very problem Etsy is trying to solve.

I expected the podcast to be Etsy rhetoric, as I have found many Etsy podcasts or announcements to be, but this one did get onto a few of really helpful ways to look at our businesses and I am glad I gave it a really good listen.

But then it really fell apart for me (emotionally) and showed me how far we have moved away from the origins of Etsy and how much more profit-driven Etsy now is, especially as a publicly traded business entity.

In the podcast, Josh gave tremendous acquiescence to buyer habits that Etsy researched as the reason for many of the changes. WAIT! I'm not saying buyer isn't significant here. Our business should be all about wanting buyers, wanting to attract buyers, wanting to find our tribe of buyers, and wanting to provide them with great buying experiences. But what surprised me - and then didn't - was the whitewashing of the fact that Etsy is SUPPOSED to be a different kind of marketplace, one in which buyers DO understand they are shopping at a place wholly and entirely NOT Wayfair, Target, West Elm, Amazon, eBay.

The statements regarding the fact that buyers simply wouldn't want to come back if their shopping experiences on Etsy were not exactly like other online venues so we should design ourselves to be just like other marketplaces is a now vocalized shift in ethos of the Etsy marketplace. No longer are we providing an entirely unique place, in practice, a marketplace that by its nature is UNLIKE every other online venue because it's not actually a singular venue, but several million non-mass-production venues - each one its own handmade personal business with its own policies and qualities and stories. 

No, we are responding to buyers' desires for unique handmade goods but having to be exactly like everyone else selling mass-produced goods while we do it.

Etsy seems to have abandoned the movement to promote this alternative kind of marketplace, to provide the ground for it, promote it as that, and continue to stand behind educating buyers (who value products that are unique, personal, handmade by real people with real lives, real costs of small business) regarding shopping small and handmade. Buyers used to respect that Etsy was actually NOT like every other marketplace online and Etsy helped them learn why that was a good thing. Not anymore.

Josh is telling us that buyers, while they come to Etsy shops for handmade and unique items, want us to provide goods in exactly the same manner as other online venues. Okay, but why not just remain THE unique, single-handedly providing an alternative to all the other online venues and keep educating our unique customers??

Profit margins. Being a publicly traded corporation means you are no longer beholden to your customers in the same way that you are beholden to your investors. Profit drives Etsy now. And with almost all corporations, it's not even about profit, but MORE and ever increasing profit.

So it was a helpful podcast, but it was also the last nail in the coffin of old Etsy for me. Clearly, I will be making changes in line with the new tools and fee structure so my business can thrive. That's just good management of my own business. And some of the changes might well prove out to be very good changes, so thank you, Etsy.

But on the heart level, it's a bit like watching that last hippie die, leaving the earth with nothing but Gens X, Y, and Z. It's the end of an era. And the return of the rat race.

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