Content and commerce: is Etsy an outlier?

Etsy is best known as an online marketplace for artsy people, but the seven year old company also publishes a popular blog about the pretty things that appear in its store and elsewhere. It’s one of the rare companies that is good at both commerce and content — but can its playbook work for others?

Speaking at a Q&A in New York this week, editor-in-chief Alison Feldmann explained that the main goal of the blog is not to attract new customers but instead to boost engagement with Etsy’s existing fans. It appears to be working. Feldmann said many blogs posts attract more than 100 comments, nearly all of them friendly and positive (if only it were the same for those who write in the tech trenches).

The Etsy blog posts themselves, which offer pretty pictures and tales from artisans (not to be confused with Regretsy), do indeed drive sales but it’s hard to say how many. Feldmann says Etsy has only anecdotal evidence at the moment will soon use data to quantify the relationship between the store and the blog. But even without data, it’s fair to say Etsy has created a virtuous loop between content and buying — one that will hold up on mobile devices, which Feldmann says account for one fifth of sales.

Etsy’s success with content, and that of other retail sites like Birchbox and Thrillist, may tempt more retailers to hire editors of their own. For those who do, Feldmann has some advice.

“Identify what the brand stands for and build out that tone,” she said. “No one wants to read too much about [your brand] … The goal is to take it to a more human level.”

Unfortunately, it may not be that easy. Craft sites like Etsy may be outliers because they offer myriad unique products, most of which come with a personal story that the buyer wants to hear about. Most merchants aren’t in the same position since they offer more commoditized, corporate-produced goods. Event host Erin Griffith of Pando Daily warned that using content can even backfire for some brands — leading them to end up on the Condescending Corporate Brand Page.

Feldmann spoke at Content Conversations, an ongoing series hosted by content discovery platform, Outbrain.

(Image by Karen Nicol via Etsy)