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Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson ventured into Etsy's discussion boards last week as a follow-up to his blog post on Tuesday in which he said Etsy saw better growth rate in July 2012 than in July 2011 when he took over from founder Rob Kalin.
As with other marketplaces, most notably eBay, the CEO had to field questions from sellers who were not afraid to ask the tough questions or be critical of the site - and the CEO. He spent over an hour on the boards answering users' questions.
The thread, now closed, begins on this page - Dickerson's posts can be found at the beginning of the thread (Etsy generally pulls admin notes to the beginning of threads to make it easier for users to find and read them).
Unlike Kalin, who was working on social features and policies right before his ouster, Dickerson has been focusing on changes to search and browse on Etsy, which may reflect his background - he initially joined Etsy as its Chief Technology Officer from Yahoo.
Dickerson said he wanted to communicate with users better in the coming months as the holiday season approaches.
Some questions from users centered around site testing. He said he had not made any final decisions about category changes, which Etsy is testing. "As was referenced in the weddings update, we've been looking at our category experience and it doesn't have as much impact as other areas of the site, so our goal is to improve the experience for buyers." However, he added, "We're not going to change anything that doesn't improve the overall experience and we measure it like crazy (something we weren't able to do a couple of years ago because we didn't have the ability)."
What is "category experience"? He said, "I really mean the experience of browsing on Etsy (as opposed to search)," he said.
Dickerson said one change that has been controversial was taking "vintage" out of the search drop-down menu (see Etsy Reassures Vintage Sellers after Major Changes to Search). He said Etsy had tested it before rolling out to everyone, and wrote, "We rolled that out site-wide because after extensive testing, it caused vintage sales to go up. I know this is surprising to some members of the community, but that change actually made the category stronger overall. That's the way we think about testing and site features."
Other questions from users about the impact of testing included the following:
He also reassured users that Etsy halts major changes before the holiday season kicks into high gear "to make sure you don't have to deal with any disruption for the big season."
Etsy is actively looking into providing more support options, such as phone support, and he said he knew it had been promised "a number of times before I was CEO, and I know that is frustrating." But, he said, "Just over a year ago, it could take days to get responses from email support, and we've turned that around (usually within a day now)."
Many users' questions centered around marketplace integrity, an area Dickerson said Etsy is always working on. "Our efforts to keep the marketplace clean are a little like police work. There will always be a certain amount of "crime" in any community (real or virtual) but our job is to keep it as low as possible. Last I checked, a small fraction of 1 percent of Etsy listings are flagged."
He also said enforcement is improving. "It used to take weeks to review flags, and now we review them in about 24 hours (or less). It took adding a lot of people and smart software (we call it SCRAM, as you might know) to the mix. We have a team that works on that constantly as their only job. Like crime, the problem will never completely go away, but we will always minimize it."
Dickerson responded to a user who asked why Etsy was eliminating Art as a category on the front page. She asked, "For many of us who are buyers, Fine Art is what defined Etsy as a cool place to shop."
He responded, "Right now, we're testing various category structures, so nothing is being eliminated at this point. Overall, the category (or browse) experience isn't as successful as other areas of the sites, so any changes are intended to make things work better. I'm going to take a closer look at how the testing may affect the Art category based on your feedback."