Monday, October 26, 2009

Etsy's New Mission Statement

Being a forced observer in the Etsy forums gives me the opportunity to read threads in full, take in all points of view and ruminate on the many opinions.  Where I normally might have a knee-jerk reaction and respond one way, I now find that I often change my initial reaction because I've had time to consider.

Etsy's original mission statement was:

"Etsy is a marketplace for buying and selling all things handmade. Our mission is to enable people to make a living making things and to reconnect makers with buyers. Our vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice: Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade."

And with the emergence of the draft of the new Dos and Don'ts (Etsy's rules) an new mission statement has been made:

"Etsy is the world's most vibrant handmade marketplace. Etsy celebrates individual creativity in design, craftsmanship and the feel of hand by connecting unique people, stories and items in a playful and meaningful way."

I might note at this particular time, that there has been a lot of people demanding that Etsy change it's mission statement, mostly from the Vintage and Commercial Supply People because it doesn't reflect the fact that they are a part of the site.  People upset with the fact that resellers of imported merchandise are not being monitored  well, (if at all), and a place that touts itself as a place to buy all things handmade, it is a bit deceptive to potential customers who may not be aware that someone is reselling mass produced products. 

This is one of those, 'be careful what you wish for' Etsy moments.  You got the change alright, it just wasn't what you were expecting.   Reminds me of the pleas we used to make for an announcement section to keep abreast of all the goings on on the site.  There was really no place for them to disseminate any information except in random threads that had to be ferreted out and raised by the membership so that at least a smattering of people would see it at any given time.  WE waited, and pleaded and we were told that the 'new couch' was coming soon, and guess what?  We got the Storque!  Talk about killing an ant with an elephant gun.  Now they had the updates buried in all the other crap so you still had to search for it, and to let us know they made a new Storque post, they came to the forums and started a thread about it.  Only for it to get buried within a few hours.  And round and round we go.........................  So, 3 years and many headaches later, they broke down and gave us the announcement forum.

Anyway, so people are taking exception to the word 'playful' in the new statement.  And I will admit I did too, at first.  And it's easy to get caught up in the reasons people are against it and support it.  I am not on Etsy to play at selling, my items are not cute, kitschy, trendy, fun or playful.  But, is that really what they are trying to say?

There have been a couple of mall analogies presented, so I put on my buyer's hat and went to the mall.  The first mall I went to was just stores.  the center concourse was empty, except for the few mall walkers who came in every weekend to get their laps in.  This was once a pretty active mall, all the stores were full, the concourse had little kiosks, there was a foodcourt with a half dozen places to get food, a coffee place, a restaurant.  It regularly held events in their huge concourse, antique shows, craft shows, concerts, boat and car shows and one end held a small area with a merry-go-round and a popcorn vendor for the kids.  It was 'fun' to go there and spend the afternoon, shopping, window gazing, stopping for refreshment and just enjoying the outing.

When a venue makes your experience enjoyable, then you are going to spend more time and probably more money there.  You won't just walk straight to the one store on your list, get what you need and get out again.  You will meander around, wander into a couple extra stores and maybe make some small (or even big) impulse purchases.  you are more likely to stop for some sort of refreshment and after a brief rest (and if time allows) you may just go back to one of those stores you passed by the first time.

You don't do that at a barren mall.

That said, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with 'playful' as part of the mission statement. defines mission statement as follows:

Written declaration of a firm's core purpose and focus which normally remain unchanged, whereas business strategies and practices may frequently be altered to adapt to the changing circumstances. Properly crafted mission statements (1) serve as filters to separate what is important from what is not, (2) clearly state which markets will be served and how, and (3) communicate a sense of intended direction to the entire organization. A mission is different from a vision in that the former is the cause and the latter is the effect; a mission is something to be accomplished whereas a vision is something to be pursued for that accomplishment. Also called company mission, corporate mission, or corporate purpose.

This is their company's mission statement, not ours.  It's a reminder to their employees why they are in business, they are providing a fun and playful venue in which to shop.  It is no more a slap in the face to their vendors than the mall with the carousel in the concourse across from their front windows.  The shop knows the benefit of having entertainment for the children, moms can promise a ride on the horsey if junior behaves while she finds a pair of shoes, or dad can keep little princess occupied while mom shops for a dress unencumbered.

As the definition above shows, though, Etsy's mission statement is pretty clear in where they are putting their efforts.  They are still standing by the handmade initial vision, they developed a more 'free-spirit' approach to it and they've put emphasis on an aspect that has always been a part of Etsy and their vision, but now they are making it an official part of their mission.  As far as I can see, nothing has really changed.

I guess this is one bandwagon I'll watch, rather than ride on.


PussDaddy said...

Maybe that explains why nutbag is still there.


mizdarlin said...

It's interesting to watch all the flailing around to no purpose...I sell every week at a Farmer's Market, that also has craftspeople, in the main business area of a small but vibrant, centrally-located town.
After initial problems with those who thought that we were 'corrupting' the Market by selling non-edible goods, and a physical separation of the two to side-by-side venues out side the city core, all is well.
The town is redesigning the central street of the portion of the old town where we sell-and mostly for the Market, which has become the biggest on the Island I live on. Famous now, we attract business to the area-shopkeepers are in constant contact with the Market and any problems are quickly fact, we bring in business that would otherwise not come here, so we are considered a boon to all the town...tourists, locals everyone shops here...sound like a pipedream?
That street I was talking about, where we set up every Saturday? The town is turning it into a pedestrian-only further facilitate our Market.
If Etsy, AF or any of them would only realize that making it attractive to the public as well as comfortable to the sellers would mean more sales and a larger sales base, we all wouldn't have much to talk about...