Monday, February 28, 2011

Etsy's Rob Kalin speaks!

Rob Kalin, aka Rokali, spoke up in the Forums last week to address the Etsy community's concerns about recent changes.
Rob is the current CEO of Etsy.
He explained that the words in the header had been replaced with icons to facilitate a more international market, and to make the shopping cart more visible.
He said that the icons were handmade, "pixel by pixel."
He said that he appreciates all of the "negativity" and "criticism" in the forums, because they are more interesting and instructive than compliments.
He said that, "Over $1000.00 per minute is sold on Etsy," and they're monitoring how the changes affect sellers.
So far, so good.
On Etsy's new social networking focus:
"Shopping is itself a unique social experience. This is what we're designing for."
I would argue that online shopping is not a social experience. It's me being able to find what I want, at the price I want to pay, quickly and efficiently. A better search is more important than a social experience. If I want to browse, I will take the time to browse, and enjoy what I come across. I don't often involve anyone else in this process. Maybe I am abnormal.
On Etsy's new homepage:
"Etsy's curated spaces are going away. . . Instead of an admin deciding that every single visitor to Etsy should see a particular Treasury on the homepage, the homepage will be personalized."
I'm not sure how to translate this. On a positive note, we can hope that this will give a wider selection of Etsy sellers more exposure. On a negative note, I have to wonder how they will choose what will pop up on your homepage. Will these be treasuries curated from your teams, those in your circle, those with shops Etsy would suggest?
On finding friends on Etsy, or sending them to Etsy:
"For the 90% of people here on Etsy who don't have shops, we're seeing that finding people they know on Etsy has a huge impact on getting them to register, buy stuff, and stick around. . . we're building tools that ultimately help customers find you, which can be quite different than the tools that help you find customers."
I don't believe this theory, but then I don't buy into the entire "social commerce" vision. I'm not approaching this as a buyer only, though. I'm approaching it as a seller/buyer. Everyone I know also has heard about Etsy, through me. As a buyer, I shop a site and buy what I want to buy. If I enjoy a shopping experience, I will tell others about it. I would never use a "find your friends" function on a site as a buyer. Would you?
On improving sales numbers:
"The total $ value of sales on Etsy is up, so the changes we're making are improving the commerce side of this marketplace."
Actual January numbers showed that growth is slowing. Many of the changes Rob Kalin is discussing have been in place for less than a month. The figures for February have not been published yet.
On "Forum Migration":
"Our old forums ran on an outmoded infrastructure, one that we're not supporting anymore. The teams codebase was the future, and we migrated forums to teams."
I don't believe this one. The public forums that Etsy kept were converted to public teams. Others were killed off. Why? Teams (1) require more clicks to navigate, and (2) are not immediately visible to the ninety percent of Etsians who are buyers only. All forums could have been migrated to public teams, and the community would have been kept intact.
On continuity:
"If someone left Etsy in let's say 2006, and came back today in 2011, my hunch is that it'd still feel like the same place."
No. There are still people signing in, asking where the forums are. There are regulars who are confused about the new layout, and convinced that the changes in layout, forum structure, alchemy's "rest" and search have negatively impacted their businesses. If someone took a break around Thanksgiving last year and returned now, it would not feel like the same place.
In response to a seller saying they just want to sell their stuff, and have no interest in circles:
"What you're saying is you don't want to help yourself."
No, what the seller is saying is that they don't believe in your vision that circles will sell their stuff.
On how people buy online by searching, not by looking at favorites, either their own or others:
"That is how commerce currently works. . . we here at Etsy are not trying to uphold the status quo. . . I hope we discover much more, because that is the future I wish to invent."
Here we're getting down to the nitty gritty. Please, Etsy, uphold the status quo while it is still the status quo. I can appreciate wanting to predict the future and adapt to that, but I can also appreciate that people shop most of the time by searching for what they want to buy. Do you look at other people's favorite items in order to buy something 99% of the time?
Also, they're working on the search, tripling the content team which takes care of resellers et al, and working on a new listing process.
Sean11 goes on to explain how Circles and other networking are just extensions of the word of mouth advertising that has helped Etsy achieve the success it has seen thus far--word of mouth that was done by those of us who have been on Etsy for awhile. If you're favorited by someone with a "high circle count," this gets you seen by more potential buyers. Also, clicks on the Circle icon are growing by leaps and bounds.
Again, I can only speak for myself. I have quit using Circles pretty much completely. I'm just not interested in them. I don't spend nearly the time on Etsy that I used to a couple of months ago. I can't imagine most of the buyers I know personally using circles the way these guys think Circles will be used.
What do you think? This is a lot of information to process. What is it saying? And are you buying it?


  1. Kalin's comments re "the status quo" is most revealing because it restates the Etsy policy since 2007 to promote select sellers and goods that FIT the Etsy mold of what to list and how to price (forget handmade, it's gone). Circles, selected items and shops just UNDERLINES this selective policy.
    Circles and Find Friends is also a repeat of this same policy; sellers who play this game are the very same sellers who are Etsy picks because they list Etsy-themed products at mostly below cost prices.
    "Social selling" on Etsy = selling for those select Etsy sellers who are promoted for free by several highly paid Etsy employees 24/7 since 2007. It's a very small number of sellers and product types. They are the only sellers who will benefit from all these new accoutrements because Etsy has DESIGNED them to support only those sellers.
    Etsy is also convinced that sellers who buy from other sellers (99% of actual sales) will continue without end - therefore, they are redesigning the site so that this incestous group gets more involved with each other (to the intentional exclusion of most other sellers)and will continue to feed off of each other with the complicity & blatant encouragement of Etsy's paid employees. It's a closed sytem, a rigged system, and based entirely on exclusion.
    It's just a high school clique that's gotten more clique-y than anything anyone has ever experienced in the history of clique-dom.
    The problem is that most shoppers are fully aware Etsy is a stale, boring, closed shop that isn't interesting enough to shop on in 2011.

  2. I take everything this guy says with a grain of salt, Cheeky.

    He's a con artist with no business background, who thinks that the tried and true methods of building and sustaining an online marketplace art 'boring'.

    This is someone who openly bashed Amazon as not being 'fun' to shop on, and thinks that being 'fun' with 'word of mouth' advertising is the way to go.

    He has stated several times in several interviews that he doesn't want Etsy to be 'boring' like Amazon. What he fails to see is that other sites, like Amazon, kick his butt in the sales area for the users.

    I'd LOVE for Etsy to be boring and functional like Amazon. And, don't forget, this guy has been promising improvements which never see the light of day for years now.

    One thing that stuck out for me tho, is when Kalin talked about search. It's constantly being tweaked, it's going to have a major makeover, it's so much work, and only five people are doing all of it. FIVE PEOPLE?????? All those techs and only FIVE PEOPLE are assigned to search? And they've been working on it a year?

    How about pulling some of those doing useless things and reasigning them? It shouldn't take a year to make search functional. This just shows me where Kalin's priorities lie. Fun = good. Work, well, not so much.

  3. Great comments, guys. We have gotten a lot of changes that have made our shops easier to manage, including being able to edit, etc., from the item page, coupon codes, and other things I can't think of right now.

    The point is, if no one can find us, we aren't going to sell. The search is important. I just don't believe that people are going to find me through circles. People are clicking circles to make the Activity Feed number go away. Buyers are not going to use Circles. I just don't buy it. They aren't going to want to use this kind of commerce site to socialize.

    This lends credulity to the "incestuous seller" theory, now doesn't it? I love to shop Etsy, but I'm not doing it nearly as much as I did last year. It's not working for this buyer/seller.

  4. Amazon is a great place to shop and a lot easier to sell on than Etsy.

  5. They've been working on Search since day one. Chad Dickerson has been there as the CTO for 3 years now. Search works exactly the way they want it to work.

  6. I don't even understand what the heck he is talking about. I have a sneaky suspicion he doesn't either. Etsy is turning into a cliquey craphole, and it makes me sad.

  7. If he values criticism more highly than sycophantic bootlicking, why are all the critics muted and the sycophantic bootlickers have total immunity from punishment?

  8. Not to be contrarian or anything here, but I definitely like to look at what my friends are buying and Circles gets me that. I go to Etsy to find unique items that I can't pick up at Target. It is rare that I know exactly what I want when I am looking for a funky unique gift for someone.

  9. bottom line for me is that I used to sell..often to overseas buyers..selling nothing now..and I am sure it is because no one can find what I is useless and no one listens to our suggestions..No One!!

  10. Gobbeldy Gook for the original jerkoff liar.


Dish the dirt here.