Etsy has come a long way since its debut in 2005 as a US-based marketplace for vintage and handmade products - a sort of boutique version of eBay. Today it serves 800,000 sellers in 150 countries.
Until now, Etsy's marketing had been built predominantly on word of mouth. However, this month the brand announced plans to double its UK turnover and is putting significant investment into a major marketing push and recruitment drive.
As part of this strategy, Etsy recently appointed former Mydeco chief executive Nicole Vanderbilt as UK country manager, and is using a $40m (£24.9m) investment to back its aggressive expansion plans. Vanderbilt, who has worked as a marketer for Bebo, Google and American Express, among others, says she wants to increase Etsy's 2m-strong base of unique users in the UK.
'Etsy, by its very nature, is a global marketplace, but we want to take the Etsy brand to the audience that is not aware of it yet,' she adds.
The funding will also enable Etsy to expand its UK team from its current headcount of three, as well as fund the development of website tools, including updates to its iPhone app.
Although Etsy's ambitions appear to belie a comment made by co-founder and former chief executive Rob Kalin, who said he views it more as an 'art project' than a business, Vanderbilt insists that Etsy will remain true to its artisan heritage.
For many smaller brands and designers, Etsy has proved a powerful base from which to build a following. Can its multimillion-pound investment act as an equally successful launchpad for its own aspirations? We asked Paul Evans, head of media at Xbox EMEA, and Simon Darling, former eBay marketing director and managing director of customer data agency Jack & Anna.
800,000 - The website's number of sellers, spanning 150 countries
The company is using a £24.9m investment to back its expansion plans in the UK
Brand Builder - DIAGNOSIS
PAUL EVANS, HEAD OF MEDIA, XBOX EMEA
Etsy is 'the world's handmade marketplace'.
This mission statement hints at what it offers: an ecommerce destination rich with authenticity, provenance, style and strong visual appeal. There are three ways it can keep pace with rivals.
- Celebrate craft through personal stories. Its present positioning is one of niche appeal arts and crafts, but also highly ethical, honest and trustworthy. While maintaining these latter values, it should work to build incredible storytelling around the people and personalities that make Etsy so special.
- Optimise for mobile. Surprisingly, Etsy is not optimised for either phone or tablet, and the highly visual experience on the PC is lost through 'pinch and zoom'.
- Personalise the Etsy experience. The web is being rebuilt around people, but at present, the site is structured in a pretty typical way around categories and content.
Through the identification of preferences on Pinterest etc, Etsy can easily create smart gift-buying suggestions for friends and family.
SIMON DARLING, MANAGING DIRECTOR, JACK & ANNA (former marketing director at eBay)
Etsy is in a strong position because it is specifically tailored to crafts, while eBay serves myriad categories.
Etsy's big challenge is building awareness and a great first-time-user buying experience. It also needs to expand its UK seller base.
It must also ensure there aren't scam artists ruining it for everyone - eBay invests a fortune in that.
- As the 'new' kid on the block, Etsy has a huge opportunity to milk the PR machine. One trick I was taught at eBay was preparing a regular flow of case studies from the user community. So push examples of people who have used Etsy to decorate their home; celebrities 'caught' using it and so on. Cherie Blair used eBay and it worked PR wonders for the brand.
- Invest in a community manager and build conversations. Hold events, encourage members to share tweets and things that community members have discovered.
- Low-cost TV ads can be a shot in the arm for acquisition. However, you have to be selective about media and it needs to be quirky and fun.