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Etsy CEO: Machine Learning is Opening Up a Whole New Opportunity

Posted On November 9, 2018 at 2:00 am by / No Comments

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman says that “machine learning is opening up a whole new opportunity” for the company to organize 50 million items into a discovery platform that makes buying an enjoyable experience and also is profitable for sellers.

Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy, recently talked about their much-improved business and why it is working so well with Jim Cramer on CNBC:

Our Mission is Keeping Commerce Human

Our mission is keeping commerce human. It’s really about in a world where automation is changing the nature of work and we’re all buying more and more commoditized things from the same few fulfillment centers. Allowing someone to harness their creative energy and turn that creativity into a business and then connect with someone in the other part of the country or in another part of the world, that’s really special. We think there’s an ever-increasing need for that in this world.

It’s about value. We’ve been really focused on delivering more value for our makers. Etsy really is a platform that brings buyers to sellers and that’s very valuable. We raised our commission from 3.5 to 5 percent commission which was I think is fair value for our sellers, particularly because we’re reinvesting 80 percent of that into the growth of the platform.

Free shipping is pretty much table stakes today. Yet only about 20 percent of items have free shipping. About half of all the items on Etsy buyers say have shipping prices that are too high and yet we grew GMS at 20 percent last quarter.

Machine Learning is Opening Up a Whole New Opportunity

Machine learning is opening up a whole new opportunity for us to take 50 million items from two million makers and make sense of that for people. We have 37 million active buyers now and many of them come just for discovery, just to see what they can find, and that is exactly the right thing for someone out there. Our job is to create that love connection. Etsy over the past 14 years, with a large team effort, has I think done a great job.

One thing I want to emphasize is the quality and the craftsmanship with so many of the products on Etsy. That’s something that has been such a delight for me. People like Kringle Workshops that make these incredible products. What we have been doing a better job and need to continue to do a better job of really surfacing the beautiful artisanally crafted products that are available at a really fair price. You’re not having to pay for warehousing, you’re not having to pay for all the other things that mass-produce things have to pay for, you’re buying directly from the person who made it. So it can be both beautiful, handcrafted, and well priced.

There are 2 million sellers, 87 percent of them are women, over 90 percent are working from home or are businesses of one, who can create a global business from their garage or their living room. Etsy does provide a real sense of community for them and that’s really powerful.

Amazon May Open New HQ in Queens Near Etsy

We feel great about our employee value proposition and come what may. Here’s what we have going for us. We think we’ve got the best team, certainly in tech companies on the eastern seaboard. We think ours is the best and we continue to attract great talent. The reason is, first and foremost, our mission is really a meaningful important mission and that matters. Great people want to work in a place with a great mission.

Second, our technology challenges are interesting. For example, search and using machine learning to make sense of 50 million items that don’t map to a catalog. Third, our culture is really special. We have been a company that’s authentically cared about diversity from the beginning. Over 50 percent of our executive staff are women, we have a balanced board, 50 percent male and female, and 32 percent of our engineers are female, which is twice the industry average. People who care about diversity and inclusion really want to come to work at Etsy. All of that is going for us and we’re happy to compete with whoever we need to.

Earnings Call Comments by Etsy CEO:

Active Buyers Grew 17 Percent

Etsy’s growth accelerated again in the third quarter to nearly 21% on a constant-currency basis. Revenue growth exceeded 41%, fueled by the launch of our new pricing structure, and our adjusted EBITDA margins grew to nearly 23%, while we also increased our investments in the business.

Active buyers grew 17% to 37 million worldwide. This is the fourth consecutive quarter that GMS has grown faster than active buyers, evidence that we are seeing increased buyer activity on the platform, which is a key proxy for improvement in frequency. We grew the number of active sellers by 8% and GMS per active seller is also increasing.

Two principal levers contributed to our progress this past quarter. The first is our continued product investment, focused on improving the shopping experience on Etsy. By making it easier to find and buy the great products available for sale on Etsy, we’re doing a better job converting visits into purchases. The second lever was our new pricing structure, which enabled us to ramp up investments in marketing, shipping improvements and customer support.

Successful Cloud Migration

We achieved a significant milestone in our cloud migration this quarter, successfully migrating our marketplace, Etsy.com, and our mobile applications to the Google Cloud with minimal disruption to buyers and sellers. This increases our confidence that the migration will be complete by the end of 2019.

Once fully migrated, we expect to dramatically increase the velocity of experiments and product development to iterate faster and leverage more complex search and machine learning models with the goal of rapidly innovating, improving search and ultimately driving GMS growth.

In fact, we’re beginning to see some of those benefits today based on the systems we’ve already migrated. I’d like to thank our engineering team for their incredible work to get this – get us to this point.

 

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