Etsy, the popular online marketplace for handmade items, is updating its search to help consumers find what they’re looking for, by categorizing search results into recognizable buckets.
That means that when customers search for ‘jewelry,’ for example, they’ll now be presented with a list of top categories like rings, bracelets, necklaces, anklets, and earrings. The change in search will roll out across desktop and mobile today and could help aid product discovery within the marketplace.
The average Etsy customer doesn’t come to the platform knowing what they’re going to buy, Etsy senior product manager Jaime DeLanghe told me. “They’re not looking for something super specific. They’re looking for the site to help them discover something they didn’t even know that they were looking for,” she said.
As a result, roughly a third of all search queries on Etsy fall into broad topics like “jewelry,” “boxes,” or “pineapple.” Under Etsy’s old search framework, a search for ‘jewelry’ would have yielded 9 million results, and users would have had no way to parse through them all.
So a year and a half ago, Etsy started to refine its search process. It began by creating categories designed to break up broader product types into more consumable chunks. But in doing so, the company ended up creating too many product categories, including some that were not easy for consumers to understand. For instance, a search for ‘knitting’ might have been divided up into ‘hats,’ ‘crochet,’ and ‘crafts’ among other sections.
Shoppers weren’t responding in the right way, so Etsy decided to hire a taxonomist to help it break down merchandise in a way that consumers could understand.
“Rather than consolidating by craft type or time period or how it was made or what style it was, we have a place for our categories,” said DeLanghe. Now when customers search for ‘shoes,’ for example, they’ll have the option to look at ‘men’s shoes,’ ‘women’s shoes,’ ‘girl’s shoes,’ and ‘boy’s shoes.’ Categories that speak to shoppers then overly specific categories, like shoe style and brand.
Most of all, DeLanghe says that Etsy is trying to make its search experience into more of a conversation between the user and the marketplace, leading to a ranking of products that better answer a query. The hope is that a conversational approach to search will offer customers better results, or at the very least, help them discover more relevant products on Etsy.