In an effort to compete with platforms like Amazon and eBay, crafting ecommerce site Etsy rolled out a new advertising policy. Known as Offsite Ads, it was billed as a risk-free way for merchants to gain more attention and traffic. There was just one caveat.
When the program rolls out in April, merchants will be automatically enrolled in it, and anyone who makes more than $10,000 annually will have no option to withdraw from the program.
Understandably, people are upset. Many sellers feel they’re gradually losing control over their store, and struggle to deal with fast-rising costs. As a result, they’re closing shop and leaving.
“It feels like [Etsy keeps] shooting themselves in the foot and driving people away, which then makes them scramble for more bad solutions, which makes even more people leave,” Ugne Nikitinaite, a stationary seller from England, told business publication Forbes. “Fee increase again? People leave. Offer free shipping or you’ll drop in search results? People leave. We will force you into a paid new feature? People leave.”
This isn’t the first time Etsy has done this, either. Over the past several years, owing perhaps to pressure from investors, the site has made multiple changes that diluted the core of its brand. Decisions which, while they may generate short-term profits, ultimately alienate Etsy’s core demographic.
This sort of thing happens far more often than it should. The most egregious example by far in recent memory involved social networking site Tumblr. We’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that, as reported by tech news site Ars Technica, it caused enough damage to the brand that WordPress creator Automattic purchased it from Yahoo late last year for less than $20 million.
Yahoo originally acquired it for $1.1 billion in 2013.
What we’re trying to say here is that you cannot afford to ignore your audience and their values, even if you think it will eventually be worth it. That sort of behavior can only lead to damaged, fragmented, or broken brands. People have long memories when it comes to brands they enjoy, but even longer memories with brands they feel have in some way wronged them.
You don’t want to be one of those brands.
First and foremost, you need to understand who your audience is and what they want. Why are they interested in your brand? What is it about your business that drew them in, and continues to compel them.
Start with an idea of what you believe your ideal customer to be, and build it out with data from both your website and social analytics. Interact with your audience and watch how they interact with others on channels like Facebook and Twitter. Distribute audience surveys, incentivizing people to complete them with freebies and special offers.
The more you know about your audience, the better.
Lastly and most importantly, pay attention to what people are saying about you. Use sentiment analysis around branded keywords and hashtags to help you keep track of your audience’s feelings. If they start trending towards negative, figure out why and fix it as soon as possible.
Be authentic. Be accountable. Remain consistent with your brand’s values and ideals.
Demonstrate to your audience that you care about them, and they’ll repay you in kind.