Despite a lot of shaky news around Etsy this year, the beleaguered marketplace has continued to focus on improving user experiences and search.
To recap, earlier in the year the company booted many top executives and reduced operational staffing by over 22%. Most of the changes came from a behind the scenes push by activist investment firm Black-and-White Capital LP to streamline the company to “Wall Street” norms.
Historically, Etsy has been a bit quirky and embraced social conscious business ideas that often are not well received on Wall Street. If a company is making money and provides a good return on investment for shareholders, very few people on Wall Street take a second look at corporate social responsibility.
But when the company ignores key aspects of the business (product search) and barely shows a profit, then shareholders take notice. Essentially this is what happened with Etsy earlier in 2017.
VISIBLE CHANGES ARE HAPPENING IN KEY PLATFORM AREAS
One of the main issues highlighted in the executive shake up was the lack of progress by Etsy to keep up its search functions. In comparison to other marketplaces, it was dubbed “horrendous”.
Search for a marketplace includes technology for better categorization, presentation, and machine learning. In other words, make the user experience easy and friendly.
Yesterday, the company hired Mike Fisher as its new CTO (Chief Technology Office). Fisher starts immediately and his mission is to work out a forward thinking technology strategy and bring more machine learning innovation to the platform.
Fisher is familiar with Etsy from his previous position as a managing partner of consulting firm AKF Partners, where he advised Etsy on several projects.
REAL WORLD TESTING ALREADY ON THE PLATFORM
In a separate blog post, Etsy announced on their blog that they are testing visible changes on the platform to highlight products to shoppers.
Primarily this includes a popularity rank on products. Best selling items will receive boosts in search results and also receive a new Best Seller Badge.
Scarcity is another feature that Etsy will finally incorporate into their platform. Now shoppers will see if an item is about to sell out with multi-quantity listings receiving “3 left in stock,” “2 left in stock,” or “1 left in stock” treatment.
Etsy states these are tests and not permanent changes (yet). And the company will update sellers on the progress of the trials.
But it is hard to believe they would not include those permanently, unless there is a major technical issue. In reality, these are standard features on eBay and Amazon.
The features are hardly innovative and only bring the platform closer to modern shopping. Compare these “improvements” to the announcement by eBay last week to add image search and one can see how much catch-up they need to do.
STEPS IN RIGHT DIRECTION
The hiring of a new CTO and making improvements are all steps in the right direction. These developments still do not rule out that Etsy may be up for sale.
In the long run, the company may be a better fit with another platform. But in the meantime, it is investing in the core shortfalls of its technology.