Welcome to the latest installment of Talking Product. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these posts, they are part of a regular series from my colleagues and me. Our CEO, Maria, started this series last year with her Talking Shop posts. In 2009, we’ve offered more posts by disciplines: Talking Product, Talking Marketing and Talking Tech. In June, all of us got together for a talkfest that we offered up as an audio podcast to more personally communicate with all of you about what’s happening at Etsy.
I am excited to offer you this latest update that covers the last few months. It also presents an overview of our priorities for the remainder of this year and into early next year, as well as a few general Product Team updates.
As a reminder from my previous updates, our first and foremost priority in recent months has been improving the shopping experience. We believe that among the most valuable things Etsy can do for sellers is attract buyers to the site, get them shopping and keep them coming back. While there is much work ahead and this will be a constant focus for us, we’re excited about some of the changes we’ve made so far and about the upcoming features we have in the queue.
So, what we have been up to lately?
As I’ve indicated in past updates, improving the search and discovery experience on Etsy has been our top priority. We’ve made important strides in our efforts to improve Etsy’s searching and shopping experience. Here are a few highlights:
- Now when you perform a search on Etsy, you will often see links for recent popular related searches above your results. These related searches are actual searches recently performed by Etsy shoppers. They serve as suggestions for shoppers to refine their initial search or to stimulate ideas for successful similar searches. Related searches also offer sellers ideas to effectively tag items.
- We made improvements to the way subcategories are suggested during the item listing process. Now, only those subcategories relevant to an item’s top-level Category are suggested as item tags. This adjustment is helping to make the Category browsing experience more relevant.
- We gave shoppers the ability to filter their search results by Category. This new feature provides shoppers a quick and easy way to narrow and refine their search results. Many Etsians tell us that this enhancement makes finding just the right item on Etsy easier and faster.
We continued to work on making Checkout as smooth as possible, especially for new buyers. Our A/B testing framework allows us to test Checkout changes with a small percentage of shoppers, to make sure the changes will be understood and actually improve the user experience, before rolling the changes out to all shoppers.
- We enabled new buyers to register on Etsy as a part of the regular Checkout flow. This was an important change since previously new buyers were required to leave Etsy.com in the middle of the Checkout flow in order to complete registration. The old process often resulted in buyer confusion.
- We’re currently A/B testing removing non-essential elements from the header of Checkout pages to focus shoppers on completing the Checkout process.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
In the last couple of months, we’ve devoted a fair amount of attention to SEO. With the help of our friends at SEOmoz, Etsy developed a stronger SEO strategy and implementation plan. The most significant changes of the last few months are:
- Giving sellers more control over your shop page title, Item listing page titles, and Section page titles
- Canonical tags for improved search engine ranking for these pages
- Updating shop URLs to be more search-engine friendly as well as changing to 301 redirects
We focused on shop and item listing page SEO and launched improvements, including tools to help sellers preview how their shop home pages and item listings will appear in Google search results. We believe that these changes are, in part, responsible for the continued strong traffic to Etsy.com. In partnership with SEOmoz, Etsy also created the Etsy Guide to SEO.
SEO is an ongoing effort, and we’ll continue to make improvements. We are grateful to Etsy sellers who actively participated in our Virtual Labs sessions on this topic and to those who are diligently using the guide to improve traffic to their Etsy shops.
We recently launched a redesign of the Community Hub. The goal with this redesign was to provide clear, more immediate access to information for the Etsy community about important news, events and activities occurring on Etsy.
Many of you have asked us to communicate frequently and with as much relevant information as we can. Prior to the launch of the new Community Hub, Etsy had only one blog, The Storque. To date, The Storque has served as a resource for Etsy buyers, sellers, staff, and the general public. It showcases a lot of terrific content and information, but the content that’s most relevant to Etsy sellers is not always easily accessible. The Community Hub is a step in the direction of focusing our communications on distinct audiences. We appreciate your patience and your feedback along the way and hope that you find the new Community Hub useful.
What is in store for the remainder of 2009 and early 2010?
As the year winds down our main focus is on keeping the site stable for holiday shoppers. Starting mid-November and going through December, we will go into a bit of a code lockdown so as not to disrupt the buying and selling experience on Etsy. During this period we will only release changes that will not risk the performance and user experience of the site. This is a common practice for most ecommerce sites and one that we believe is critical. With that in mind, some of the updates below will launch before this lockdown while others will launch early next year. Also, some of the changes might only launch to a small subset of users, and then over time we’ll expand to all users. We’ll provide updates on the specific timing and plans for each of these items via the Forums, Community Hub, and The Storque as we get closer to each launch.
Search and Discovery
Many shoppers, especially those new to Etsy, don’t know what they’re looking for when they arrive at the site. Maybe they are searching for a gift, or they know they’re going to find something they love at Etsy, but they’re not sure what. In addition, some Etsy shoppers describe their search experience on the site as “overwhelming” while others describe it as “addictive.” We’re looking to convert those who may feel overwhelmed into addicts. We believe a key to that lies in enabling shoppers to refine search results in various ways.
To that end, many of the features currently in development will be designed to give visitors a better view into the kinds of unique items available on Etsy and help them more easily refine the results displayed. We know that shoppers who perform a search on Etsy are significantly more likely to buy something than those who do not use the search function.
One feature in development is what we call Search Suggestions. This means that we’ll suggest relevant search queries as site visitors begin to type a query into the search bar. These suggestions will be specific to Handmade, Vintage, Supplies, All Items or the Category page from which you search. The suggestions will be derived from Etsy’s search logs and will be displayed in a dropdown box as is the practice on many heavily trafficked ecommerce sites. We believe this functionality will help shoppers more quickly and easily discover items of interest on Etsy. We’re also dedicated to improving the overall search experience by focusing on improved handling of misspelled search terms, the page shoppers see when they perform a search with no results, and more.
We remain focused on making Checkout as easy as possible for all Etsy buyers, especially new buyers. We’re working on a project we call Guest Checkout, which will enable new buyers to check out on Etsy without first choosing a username and registering on the site. This type of functionality exists on many ecommerce sites and is generally an expected option for shoppers. By introducing it on Etsy, we intend to remove hurdles in the Etsy Checkout process.
Many buyers and sellers have asked for an easier way to communicate prices in currencies other than U.S. dollars. We plan to introduce a currency calculator on item pages so that shoppers can quickly (and without leaving the page) calculate prices in currencies other than U.S. dollars. The actual transactions will still occur in U.S. dollars.
Google Product Search
Many Etsy sellers use their Etsy shop RSS feed to schedule uploads of their items to Google Merchant Center, for placement in Google Product Search.
Later this year, Google is changing how sellers on marketplaces like Etsy upload items for placement in Google Product Search, and we’re working with Google on a solution that will allow Etsy to automatically upload items from your shops into Google Base if you choose to opt in to the program. This functionality will be launched in beta form to a small group of sellers and will gradually roll out to the entire Etsy seller community. More details on this initiative will be announced soon.
As mentioned in my last update, we have been working to launch a new Help site to make it easier for our members to find information more quickly along with a new set of internal tools for Etsy’s Support Team. We’re pleased to report that this is about ready to launch. Please stay tuned to Etsy’s blog, The Storque, the new Community Hub, and to the Forums for further details.
Updates From the Etsy Product Team
We’re delighted to welcome Michael Craig to the team. Michael joins us as our design director focusing on user experience design. Among other things, he will focus on creating design standards for the site. Welcome, Michael, a.k.a. mcraig71!
We’re also thrilled to welcome two new babies to the team. Congrats to Beth, a.k.a. bethela, on the birth of her very cute son, Rowan! (MCR, who heads up Etsy’s Sys Ops Team, and his wife also had a boy!)
We love to hear from you. You can find the Product Team on Etsy:
Lastly, but most importantly, we appreciate all of your input that you provide in the Forums, Storque blog comments, and in emails to Etsy’s Support Team regarding improvements and suggestions for the site. We take the suggestions from our community as one of the greatest considerations in determining our product roadmap, and we’re personally committed to make progress against them. We understand that it may seem that many long-requested features have not been prioritized, but we want to stress that we are listening, we appreciate your suggestions, and we are making progress.
There’s more ahead so please stay tuned. I’ll be back at the beginning of the year with another Talking Product post that provides an overview of our priorities for 2010. As always, your feedback is important, so I look forward to a continued dialogue around our priorities. Thanks!