What's Not Working On Etsy?

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


Etsy seller MagicalMomentsShoppe sparked a lengthy and revealing conversation this week in the community forums with one simple question - what's not working on Etsy?

What’s not working on Etsy for us as sellers (and for buyers as well)?
I may have an opportunity to advocate for Etsy sellers - and in doing so, hopefully help to promote a return to something closer to what Etsy used to be – a fabulous place for sellers, buyers, and Etsy itself (as a unique, fun, and EASY place to shop). The purpose is not to tear down the platform…

I may have an opportunity to advocate for Etsy sellers - and in doing so, hopefully help to promote a return to something closer to what Etsy used to be – a fabulous place for sellers, buyers, and Etsy itself (as a unique, fun, and EASY place to shop).

The purpose is not to tear down the platform but to make it better.

I can’t say anything more than that at this early stage. But I want to make sure I don’t forget anything - so I could really use your help.

What are the problems you have run into that you feel have really been hurting sales for you as an Etsy seller … as well as the ability of shoppers to find and purchase what they’re looking for?

Many thanks for your help!

With over 400 responses so far, Etsy has plenty of feedback to draw from...should they choose to take it to heart.

Resellers and Dropshippers

Etsy has been increasingly under fire for the sheer volume of counterfeit, IP infringing and not really handmade items on the platform, revealing a troubling lack of policy enforcement that has serious brand damaging consequences.

Etsy Under Fire For Fake Handmade Items, Could It Be Opportunity For eBay?
Etsy faces brand damage as many “handmade” items are really mass produced goods dropshipped from big retailers.

Here are a few thoughts sellers had about the problems posed by resellers and dropshippers on the platform:

Get rid of print on demand and resellers. That should trim of a few milliuon shops.

Get rid of the jewellery drop shippers who never touch, design or have any part of a product. They take the sale and send it off elsewhere - i can't see how it's etsy legal.

As others have said, allowing new, mass-produced items (outside of crafting supplies) to be sold here. I know Etsy will never go back to its original purpose, to be a place solely for handmade and vintage goods, as they make a good chunk of change on the mass-produced junk. But at least require honesty in listings by adding a third designation, say, "Brand new," and require sellers to list them as such. (And allow those items to be filtered in the search.)

Reseller, resellers, resellers. For every product that is hand made here, there are 10 product that are simply bought from Alibaba and Temu etc.

A simple Google search can weed these out in an instant. I wish they would have an application process where Etsy actually checks this in the first month of a store opening.

Testing and Technical Issues

Etsy has been testing new features and design changes at breakneck speed recently, such as diverting buyers from listing to "related items", changing image ratios to square instead of rectangle, and moving descriptions further down the page where they are less likely to be seen by buyers.

Sellers Struggle As Etsy Testing Moves Descriptions, Cuts Off Titles
Etsy sellers are reaching a breaking point as continued testing interferes with sales & support is nowhere to be found.

Sellers had a lot to say about these tests and the technical problems that often accompany them.

The constant testing and algorithm shifting that has no rhyme or reason is killing successful shops. So many people are so fed up with Etsy's volatility, lack of consistency and inability to assist shops in maintaining organic growth and flow in sales.

It's utterly maddening when we work so hard to keep our shops in excellent standing, to have Etsy ruin it overnight because they don't seem to know what they are doing, and make some ad hoc algorithm shift that sends our traffic plummeting. And we should not be experiments for their ineffectual AI programs.

Just put the description back where it was. I shouldn't have to hunt for it. Buyers aren't 2 year olds looking at shiny things, they want and NEED to know what they're buying.

Stop carrying out Tests in the live shop environment which cause confusion disruption to sellers an fills up 75% of this forum. Use a test environment, Before carrying out changes why not ask for sellers for their input and test before rolling out. Replace the app with one that works as it should. Remove shop caps on earnings, stop hiding listings and make shops visible in all countries they sell in. Use Ai correctly to block and remove spam messages etc

If Etsy wants to implement any significant changes (e.g., changing photos from rectangular to square), it would be good to first get feedback from sellers. The question shouldn't be: 'What do you think about this?' but rather: 'What problems could this change potentially cause?'

A well-posed question elicits a specific answer and it may turn out that changing anything is not such a brilliant idea after all.

Fix search. If I search for a vintage sterling thimble, I am searching for a vintage sterling thimble NOT sewing machines or scissors or swimming suits or underwear.

It would be great of the search could be sorted out so it actually shows you what you want to see. I know Etsy are working on this, but the search really is appalling at present. The algorithms do not appear to be learning!

it's my theory that etsy's crap search is deliberate. Many people say they get frustrated and search on Google instead.

Offsite Ad Fees, anyone?

Offsite Ads

Get rid of predatory offsite ad fees. The fact that there is no opt out is illegal in some countries. You can either price items higher IN CASE they’re purchased through an offsite ad fee and get no sales because of the high price or price fairly and lose money because of the exorbitant fees.

For shops that don’t need help with sales (products that are priced fairly and sell themselves). It forces me to possibly cancel a sale with free shipping because of the offsite add fees. I sell a piece that’s $125, fees are over $30, I am now left with no profit on my end and a giant waste of time.

Seller Support

One of the main things I have personally had a problem with is that when you contact customer service you can not get past the customer service. You get spun in a circle. If something is not going to get fixed or you are in a test after you continually try to deal with a problem you should be informed properly.

Etsy needs a partner program and manage professional sellers.

Once you hit a threshold of revenue you need a direct contact at Etsy who can manage and be a live real person. It is crazy for shops to have 6 figure yearly sales and have to be in the same queue asking for help with sellers who cant figure out how to make their first listing.

Because of this lack of partnership it allows Etsy to be a major target for scammers since sellers cant effectively communicate to Etsy to stop malicious actions they flourish. Etsy also is a horrible company to communicate with in any capacity, from just ignoring requests outright to sending canned messages that do not pertain to the issue...

Bring back etsy support that people can talk to that can actually do things. I've been going back and forth with their level 1 technicians (the only ones you can talk to btw) for a week now about trying to get my shop back up and they have been no help.

All I get is "that's not our department" followed by "they'll send you an email." I'm still waiting on my first email for why my shop closed a week ago.

Several sellers in the thread expressed skepticism that Etsy would even read their feedback, let alone care or act on it.

Others pointed out that just because Etsy may not engage directly, their feedback may still spur important change if seen by external stakeholders and commentators.

I totally agree. It's highly unlikely that anyone with influence at Etsy Corp will be directly aware of this thread.

However, threads such as this can be more than just a useful vehicle for venting sellers' frustrations.

External commentators often read these threads too (etsy shareholders, market analysts, ecommerce commentators such as 'ecommercebytes', policy makers etc) - in order to gain an alternative perspective on the company's long term strategic/commercial decisions. And it is these external commentators who often bring pressure to bear on etsy, albeit indirectly (rather than sellers) - particularly if poor decisions are likely to affect the company's bottom line.

I recall an occasion several years ago when a report was commissioned by a group of etsy shareholders (which was highly critical of etsy's conscious decision to NOT show potential buyers the items in search results that they were most likely to purchase!!). I think it was referred to as the 'Black and White' report or something similar...and the author of that report had clearly scrutinised these seller forums in great detail, providing direct quotes from disgruntled etsy sellers.

I know that several sellers were also directly contacted by US market analysts to request permission to quote from their forum posts in articles they had written for potential market investors.

So, although etsy may not be reading our comments directly, these forum threads CAN have an impact - very much so. And even more so at a time when stock prices are falling.

Etsy is also very conscious and protective of its public image (even if it doesn't always chime with what goes on behind the scenes) and is very sensitive to adverse press from influential external critics who may be reading these forum threads. Case in point: etsy recently rolled back on its plans to increase the amount held in reserve on individual seller accounts following adverse publicity in the UK (on the BBC, Guardian newspaper etc) and the direct intervention of the UK Small Business Commissioner.

Etsy may ignore our comments in the forums but we never know who else may be silently watching and taking stock. So it's never a 'futile' activity to 'vent' here.

Public scrutiny is a powerful tool indeed.

Last year's Etsy Seller Strike, gained significant media attention which focused scrutiny on fee increases and other issues at the company.

Is The Etsy Strike Really Having An Impact?
Etsy Seller Strike kicked off yesterday with a whirlwind of media attention, but can it have an impact for the long haul?

The Etsy Seller Strike effort has now evolved into the Indie Sellers Guild which continues to advocate on behalf of handmade sellers and independent artists.

Major media coverage of Etsy's Payment Reserve policies forced the company to reconsider aspects of the policy, reducing the amount of money being held and promising more transparency for sellers who have funds held.

Etsy Bows To Pressure On Payment Reserves Ahead Of Earnings
Etsy makes last ditch effort to head off Payment Reserve scrutiny ahead of Q2 2023 earnings call.

And Etsy coach and influencer Starla Moore recently promoted the hashtag #KeepEtsyHuman to advocate for change on the platform around payment reserves, controversial Make An Offer feature, automated bot takedowns of legitimate goods, unrealistic Star Seller standards, and more, saying Etsy has lost the human touch on which the brand was supposedly built.

Sellers Rally To “Keep Etsy Human” Social Media Campaign
Sellers are rallying to “Keep Etsy Human”, sharing stories of payment reserves, lack of support & more across social media.

What do you think about "what's not working on Etsy?" Is there more you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

EtsySeller Spotlight

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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!

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