Etsy Upgrades Search to Free Buyers From ‘Tyranny of Choice’


Etsy has been investing in upgrades to its search functions to relieve its customers of what CEO Josh Silverman calls “our tyranny of choice.”

Speaking to investors on a third-quarter earnings call Wednesday (Nov. 2), Silverman described feedback he’d seen from a shopper who passed on his purchase after his search for lamps yielded 400,000 results.

“That’s why it’s so important that we narrow search results and get you to the good stuff fast, especially challenging since each person has their own idea of what the good stuff is,” he said. “We need world-class search technology married with world-class personalization.”

To streamline the search process, Etsy began to put signals in its search engine tied to quality, things like price, seller reviews, on-time shipping, and customer responsiveness.

“In this way, we don’t simply prioritize items that match your search query, but rather items that are the most likely to result in a delightful purchase experience,” Silverman said.

This quarter saw the company add videos to its search results. The CEO said Etsy can now offer buyers “highly differentiated information” directly on the search result page without them having to click through to the listing.

More recently, Etsy has launched a new capability for iOS shoppers that lets them take or upload a picture of an item on the site to find products that are visually similar, an offering Silverman said is designed for “buyers who may have trouble finding the right words to describe an item.”

Earlier this year, Etsy said it was focusing on improving engagement and conversion to reactivate some its 100 million “lapsed buyers,” or customers who haven’t purchased anything from the marketplace in at least a year.

Silverman said in May that the company was applying increased personalization to in-session browsing behavior in the U.S. by capturing and surfacing users’ short-term search interests — three-quarters of whom hadn’t shopped with Etsy before when they arrive or are logged out.

This week also saw Google unveil a new set of features designed to add value to shopping-related searches.

Writing on the company blog Tuesday (Nov. 1), Google VP/GM of Consumer Shopping Shashi Thakur noted that “among Americans planning to shop for the holidays, 43% are planning to look for deals and sales more than last year,” and revealed a few features designed to make that simpler, such as promo codes and price comparisons.

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