Monday, November 20, 2017

Who is in the driver's seat?

What is up with Etsy's search?

Etsy's search algorithm has changed
Hold on tight!

Reports vary... some shops are doing all right and some are not: theories abound.

Things have changed with Etsy's search. That is a fact. As one seller put it,"relevancy is no longer relevant on Etsy."

This may sound radical, but it is time to reassess everything that what we think we know about how search works. Everything. The entire ball game has changed.

Why are sellers holding their breath?

Artificial Intelligence is now in the driver's seat of Etsy search. 

Etsy feels a bit like driverless car... No one, not even the programmers, know exactly where the search "vehicle" is headed with the new "recommendation technology." Sellers will have to be patient. "Machine learning" has to do its thing. It will be seeking connections between searches and purchases. Its goal is to figure out what searchers want to see, what motivates them to buy.

Artificial intelligence at work
Analyzing data takes time
It takes time to examine millions of pieces of data. The algorithm will be looking for connections, called "context-specific results." This new technology will be seeking common factors between millions of buyer search queries and actual sales. It will be connecting the dots.

Add to that personalization of results. Everyone will see something different.

Etsy's search has become more complicated than any human can understand... "machine learning." That is why no one can even begin to predict search results at this point.

The thought is that search will change all the time for a year or two. Search results may at times be bad due to the learning curve. Of course, sales can suffer in the short term.

This "deep learning" technology is calculated to "deliver even more relevant search results and a shopping experience that can be even more tailored to individual buyers." Ultimately, things should improve.

Google's driverless car goes places... It is basically doing what it has been "trained" to do. Eventually Etsy's search will get there.

Can Etsy's machine learning figure out vintage?

Vintage is vulnerable at Etsy. It seems like the proverbial red-headed step-child. Etsy is stressing its "made by someone" mystique, which is not vintage.

Etsy stressing creative goods
Etsy is stressing handmade in this sale banner from late 2017
Being in on the ground floor of a revolutionary new search experience has its pros and cons. Etsy sellers are about to find out the good, the bad and the ugly.

What can be done now?

Until more information is provided, making major changes would just be a shot in the dark. Let common sense prevail.

For now, the rules appear to be the same as always... When listing, accurately describe your item. Use understandable and descriptive language. Carefully word your titles and tags. Fill out any slots for attributes. (Those are material, size and other search factors that are different for each type of item). Use great photos.

Etsy's instructions have not changed. Yet at least. (Please let me know if you see that they have.)

Hang on tight, though. It could be a rough ride when machine learning is driving search.

Want to know more? Here is some more in-depth information about recent changes in Etsy search.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On machine learning and other Etsy search changes...

Navigating Etsy's sea of changes
Hold on tight... Etsy is a sea of changes
Sometimes it feels like there is a sea of change at Etsy. I know that I felt that way earlier this year. Since then, there have been further transformations afoot.

For one thing, Etsy stated that they are doing even more testing than in the past. They use the term "experiment velocity."

Etsy has not announced these changes per se. But they are happening.

Etsy has added many new search features:

  • Item attributes can now be searched in some cases. (Make sure yours are all filled out.)
  • Badges may appear for things like "best seller" and what they call a "scarcity".
  • Guided search, which are orange-toned buttons that appear at the top of some broad searches.

Etsy guided search
Some changes to Etsy search

  • Shop feedback (star ratings) now display in search results.
  • Similar items buttons are under search results (only show up if your cursor is over that item).

Artificial intelligence & search

Etsy has begun to use machine learning technology ("artificial intelligence"). That is why Etsy purchased the company Blackbird Technologies last year.

No one knows Etsy's algorithm
What is Etsy's algorithm?
The goal is to determine the intent of a buyer when making a search. (Here is more about the related "Context Specific Search Ranking.")

In the past, search results were returned to shoppers that best matched their exact phrases in tags and titles. And the best "quality scores." 

Items used to be shown one per page per shop as per the "fairness" part of the old algorithm.... but that has changed...

Some things have been removed

Gone is the "shop diversity" element. There is no longer a limit of one item per shop per page of search results. "Clumping" is now the norm. This is a big change for some shops.

Also gone is the opportunity to test search to see how your items place. Why? As mentioned above, your search results are becoming contextualized and personalized. Results are different for each buyer. 

As artificial intelligence is self-learning, the personalization is still developing. It is learning to make connections between the terms that searchers use and what their real intent is. (For example, when someone types in a word, what is it that they eventually buy?) Etsy stated that factors include search history, user data and "as a first step" sales data. It is far from perfect, but you can expect it to get better with time.

Any improvement in Etsy search is good news, right?

What is next at Etsy?

We do not know. And there is no recommendation to make any major changes to titles or tags. As always, use a variety of long-tail keywords. Use accurate titles and tags. Those are the best ways to capture different queries that buyers might make. And ultimately sell your items.

(And, of course, offer cool stuff.)

Etsy is working on more interesting ("revolutionary") discovery tools... So plan on more changes!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Etsy quick trick: convert listings to free shipping

Are you offering free shipping? I am. In fact, I decided to permanently convert many of my listings to free shipping.
Help to sell vintage on Etsy
Quickly convert individual items to free shipping

I went into each one and manually made the change. It took some time.

The back story is this: we moved recently. That is something that can be difficult for those of us who sell vintage. Why? Our buying far outpaced our selling.

We collected too much stuff. Moving and organizing it is a lot of work. Especially with a roomful if extra items laying around, mixed in.

I lost a couple of orders. Yikes. We decided to do a full inventory, pulling every item and checking it off a list. This was helpful, identifying some errors.
Inventorying books for sale
Inventorying stock

As we inventoried, I realized that I could convert many listings over to free shipping right then. I just needed to do it quickly... keeping up with the inventory process (my husband checking off items on a big Excel chart).

Etsy sale items section
This method means no sale section
Eventually I was able to simplify the steps to make listings free shipping. There is a secret.

Set up a FREE shipping profile 

Set up a "free shipping" profile from within "Listings." Then it is easy to convert individual listings. Open it and then one click. Even easier, use the "Quick Edit" feature from within Listings.

Etsy quick edit feature for free listings
Switching is easy-peasy. Use the "Quick Edit" screen
For each item I ask myself, “is it under a pound?” If so, I add a little to the price. (I generally use price points.) Click the “FREE” shipping button. Done.

Doing it this way makes the change a permanent thing, not a limited-time promotion. Note that Etsy will not set up a separate “sale” section to your shop. For some that is a disadvantage. Others prefer to have no added shop section.

There, that was easy, right? Have a great selling day!

(More details in the screen shots below about how to set up a free shipping profile.)

Setting up new Etsy shipping profile
Setting up a Free Shipping profile
Etsy seller screen: using Free shipping profile
Using your new Free Shipping profile from an open listing

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Etsy search: clumping is the new normal?

Etsy seller help manual quote
Shop diversity is no longer a part of Etsy search
For a long time, when buyers searched for items on Etsy, they saw a predictable mix. One item from a variety of shops on page 1, 2 and so on...

As usual, changes are afoot.

The “shop diversity” part of Etsy's search algorithm is no longer in place. We know that because the wording about it has been removed from Etsy’s seller help manual.

Etsy has been testing this for the past two months or so. Complaints of “clumping” have been made.

What is clumping?

Clumping is when you see a page of search results with the same shop repeated over and over. Certain shops seem to dominate search results for some searches.
clumping packaging lamps mushroom
What is clumping, anyway?

Why is Etsy allowing it?

Ultimately it comes down to making money. If items are not selling, then Etsy is not making money. Etsy's search results will favor what makes the most money for Etsy. End of story.

As mentioned, sellers had become accustomed to “fairness” or “diversity” in search results. That was when you saw one item displayed from each seller, especially on the first few pages.

Some sellers got used to having their items consistently on page one of search results. It is easy to feel that if your item placed highly for a year or two, then you are set for life. That is not the case. Etsy's search changes constantly. This might be a case for the expression: “adapt or die.”

How can I be the shop that shows multiple results?

There are many steps you can take.

Fill out all of your attributes. These are the new fields where you tell buyers the color, size and perhaps style of an item (as well as other attributes depending on the category). Search results are now being weighted with this information. Don’t get left behind.

Make sure your item categories are drilled down as far as possible.

Use all of your tags. Fill as many of the 20 characters in each tag as you can. For vintage items, be sure to use the word “vintage” in one of your tags. Try to use a variety of natural search phrases for “broader search presence.”

Do not obsess about getting found on a one- or two-word general search. Focus on niche searches (AKA “long-tail searches”). By focusing on improving your items' rank in these specific multiple-word searches, your items gain ground in the more generic searches.

Put the most searchable words at the beginning of your titles. The first few words (Etsy Admin keeps saying three) have the most weight. Pay particular attention to the beginning of your titles. If you have more than one similar item, change up your wording (of both titles and tags). That way, your items may get found with a variety of search terms.

Have the lowest possible conversion rate.

Have the lowest possible conversion rate
A lower conversion rate is better.

Raise your listing quality. Have 10 great photos

Ship quickly. Provide excellent customer service. Have minimal cases.

Etsy free shipping search results
Offering free shipping could place your shop front and center

Renew items often. List a new item or two every day.

Offer more items. Larger shops seem to do better in searches these days. It also increases the odds that you will have something that someone wants to buy.

Give the market what it wants. Figure out what is selling. If what you are offering does not move well, try something else.

Try different price points. If it seems that cheaper is selling better, then offer lower priced items.

Try a sale or free shipping. Your shop can be front and center if a buyer clicks a check box and applies the filter.

factors in etsy's search algorithm

The algorithm

There are a number of factors that determine where our items land in search. (One informed seller says dozens of factors.) No one (outside Etsy programmers) knows what those factors are. Or how each is weighted. 

They change all the time. The above factors ("steps you can take") are some educated guesses.

We can get an idea of the factors by testing. Here is how to do that. Start by doing test searches regularly just to see where your shop is positioned in search.

How is your shop faring? How are you coping?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Etsy now announcing some tests

Etsy now announcing some tests
A step forward in transparency
Oh no, another test... Have you ever complained about it? I know I have. It can be hard to navigate a site that constantly changes. It is especially difficult for those of use at a certain (ahem) age...

Etsy is now announcing some tests! That is happy news. Transparency is good.

Here is the page where you can find out what is going on. (You may wish to bookmark it.) Not all tests will be announced this way.

After all of the complaints by sellers I think that this is an improvement. If we see something unusual, there is an official place to go and check.

That is better than reporting something as a bug just to find out it is a test. It is more accurate than just asking around.

😎 Happy Etsy selling. 🍂

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Will you offer free shipping on Etsy?

Etsy is phasing in free shipping. It is optional for sellers. Buyers will start to be able to see free shipping on listings starting on October 9th.

Buyers will see a badge on individual listings. They will also be able to filter listings when performing a search.

offering free shipping on Etsy
Free shipping is not free for sellers
As with everything else, Etsy sellers have mixed opinions about participating. Some studies suggest that the conversion rate improves 90% when free shipping is offered. Etsy stated: "More than half of the buyers we surveyed in August said free shipping is a very important factor in their decision to purchase an item."

Free shipping can certainly be a powerful marketing tool. Do you shop on Amazon, using Amazon Prime? Or Wal-mart? Or eBay? Free shipping is not new.

Increased sales and a modest increase in fees are the up side for Etsy. (It will only be available in the USA.)

Free shipping affects the bottom line
Does free shipping improve your placement in search results? "Offering free shipping doesn’t change where your listings rank in search results... buyers will have the option to filter search results for listings offering free shipping."

Should I offer free shipping?

Of course, this is a business decision. Every seller needs to make an analysis of the benefits versus the cost of offering free shipping. It comes down to one thing: can your business still make money if you offer it?

How can you decide? Try testing out whether it works by offering it on some items and not offering it on similar items. See which items sell better. Analyze your profit margin, how much money you are making.

Do returns increase? Some sellers say that they do...

Offering free shipping is a business decision
Is the increase in sales enough to keep your shop making money? Making enough money?

Additionally, sellers should consider "the cost of offering free shipping as the cost of acquiring a new customer or retaining a loyal follower." There is some value to that, but how much?

Sellers can set a minimum order dollar value. They can also specify a minimum number of items in order to qualify for free shipping.

Etsy says that sellers can combine free shipping with another promotion (sale or coupon). "Eligible buyers will see both the free shipping and the other sale or coupon discount."

The best items for this type of promotion would be items with a relatively low shipping cost, of course.

Do you want to try it on some of your items?

A short how-to:

1.) To create a free shipping sale or coupon, go to Shop Manager > Marketing > Sales and coupons and click "New special offer."

2.) Specify which discount you would like to offer by selecting "Run a sale."

3.) Select "Free shipping" from the dropdown menu, fill out the rest of the details about your sale and click "next."

4.) Choose the listings you would like to include in the offer.

There. All done!
(Another way is to go to each listing and change it manually. Change the shipping method to "manual." Then, reduce the shipping to $0. In my case, I added most of the cost back on. However, I stuck to some price points... I was not rigid across the board with how I handled repricing.)

Here is a quick trick I discovered.

Here are more strategies from Etsy for offering free shipping.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fun market research to improve your vintage online selling

Cuddle up with your computer
Cozy up with your favorite device
Many of us realize that we need to do market research in order to improve our business. Yet, how exactly is it done?

There is an easy way. It is as simple as taking your favorite device and browsing the internet. Sound fun? It is! Why not give it a try?

(First, make a cup of your favorite beverage. Sit back and relax.)

fun market research
Choose an item for sale
1. Choose an item that is currently in your shop, available for sale. Look over your product. Think about its overall use and who you think would be the person to purchase it. (No stress - this is just to get your mind warmed up.) Linger a bit, noting the color, size, texture, where it is to be used, how it might be displayed.

2. Next, go online, using Google, Bing and even other search engines. Search for a similar product as a shopper would. (No, you are not looking for yours. However you may very well find it during this process.)

Your goal is to see all the places, the venues, that show up for similar products. Example: you are selling a vintage fish brooch. Search for "fish brooch." Observe the array of ads, shops, pictures and locations. Enjoy the process... browse. Click some sites that look interesting.

3. Next search images. What appears? Select the links and observe how similar products are being sold. Read the product descriptions. Look at the pictures. How are the items being used? How are the similar items staged in their photos?

researching your market for vintage items
Who is your target market?
4. Find blogs that feature similar items. Read the posts (and even comments).

5. Browse Pinterest. Find some magazines. Locate similar products that are pinned and featured. What is being said? How is it being said?

6. Sip some beverage. Mull over your observations.

**There, that was fun!**

From all this shopping (I mean research) you should be able to identify some patterns about buyers:
who is your target audience?

  • approximate age
  • gender
  • occupation
  • home or office styles
  • trends (like colors, textures and patterns)
  • related products of interest
  • location (USA, Europe, etc.)
  • income level
  • families? individuals?
  • even personality, attitudes, behavior

Now you can see who your customer is. 

What else do they love, use or collect? (What other items could you be selling to them?)

Note any clues for improving your listings. What terms are used that could help sell your items? What vocabulary style(s) do you see?

(Perhaps your research will even reveal a new selling venue to try.)
market research on pricing
How is your pricing?

Think about the photos you have viewed that show a similar item in use. Can you show your product in the same setting?

Do you see room for improvement in your product (if you make it)? How about your photography? Staging? Item descriptions? Pricing? Title and tag keyword phrases?

Use the information you have gleaned. Select a listing that is not performing well in your shop. Make some changes based on your new observations. It could lead to sales!

This fun process can be repeated of course. The more different kinds of items you offer for sale, the more types of items you should check in this way.

Research one item. Meditate on your findings. Make some changes. Evaluate the results. Lather, rinse repeat for more items in your shop. Your sales should improve.

Go ahead, try it. You might like it.

Thanks for joining me in the online selling journey.

Who is in the driver's seat?

What is up with Etsy's search? Hold on tight! Reports vary... some shops are doing all right and some are not: theories abound....