Etsy Weddings Marks New Emphasis on Commerce + Content

By Erin Griffith , written on April 30, 2012

From The News Desk

It's an Etsy kind of day here at PandoDaily. While silent protesters are blocking access to their stores for a day (not actually protesting in person, as I originally noted), everything is wine and roses in a different section of the site. The company this week launched Etsy Weddings.

A key criticism of Etsy's site is that the shopping experience isn't ideal. Right now, shopping on Etsy is slightly akin to browsing a giant flea market. Some people, including yours truly, consider that activity something of a sport, but it's less fun online than it is in person. Etsy is home to some amazing finds, but unless you heard about it on a blog or in a magazine, you have to dig.

And any healthy marketplace needs happy shoppers.

The company is thinking about how to move away from search-driven commerce -- the Amazon model -- and into more of a shopping experience. OpenSky has taken this idea to the extreme, eliminating the search bar altogether. Earlier this year, Etsy made a smaller change, switching its search results from most recent to most relevant.

This weekend it rolled out another improvement to the shopping experience. The company is creating stronger categories within its site in the hope that they'll be more browsable than a basic search bar. The first out the door is a natural one for crafters: Etsy Weddings.

The sub-site features big images reminiscent of the bazillions of twee wedding blogs out there. The editorial look distinguishes it from the marketplace look-feel of Etsy's homepage, featuring a trove of professional, browse-able content related to planning, inspiration, real weddings, and how-to's. The company kicked off the category with a sold out 1000-person showcase event in New York.

It's part of a larger trend of ecommerce companies looking more like content companies. EBay did it last year with the addition of Lucky Creative Director Andrew Linett to the eBay fashion team. Jetsetter makes its emails so inspiring you have to open them. Modcloth has a robust blog program and editorial team. One Kings Lane, Kate Spade and Joyus invest heavily in editorial content. Apparel companies from Coach to Ann Taylor Loft routinely pay prominent bloggers to pimp their brands. The whole editorial recommendations thing is OpenSky's entire business model.

The advantage held by these companies, as well as Etsy, is that they have already-vibrant commerce businesses. Having established that base, Etsy is now in the position to use editorial to enhance a shopping experience that plenty of users already know and love. The idea is that by refining the shopping experience, Etsy will boost repeat buys and basket sizes.

The inverse situation -- editorial companies using commerce to enhance their content experiences -- rarely works as well. Magazines have yet to cross that editorial line. It's no different on social networks: Facebook's commerce program has thus far been a bust. Pinterest might increase sales with clicks, but it doesn't seem likely to start selling items on the site. Content and commerce are more intertwined than ever, but the success stories only go in one direction.