Thursday, March 06, 2008

Better e-commerce another way: invite related sites

Building on yesterday's post on e-commerce and making sites more effective, today's Wall Street Journal profiles, a selling site for handmade goods, and its embrace of independent related sites that connect users and allow them to share information (link to article - $$).

The article, by Raymund Flandez, puts a particular focus on We Love Etsy, a small social network of Etsy sellers. Through We Love Etsy, sellers share insights on how to use more effectively, highlight products they like, etc. The community helps otherwise lone sellers connect--a bit like an online Chamber of Commerce.

There's additional stickiness as well: if someone is a member of and We Love Etsy, she has that much more invested in the Etsy platform, and she'll be less likely to defect if another e-commerce site comes calling., for its part, approves of these independent sites (though they have begun to ask sites to request permission to use logos and trademarks). Rob Kalin, Etsy's founder, is quoted saying this:

"What it means for us is that we don't have to spend anywhere as much money on marketing because there are all of these avenues for people to spread the word and talk about what we do."

If there's a downside to these user-created sites, it's that their independence makes it difficult for Etsy to control their message. But by supporting a free exchange of information, Etsy retains a channel to the candid feelings of their sellers, and underscores its own authenticity.

Anyway, haven't we come to realize that controlling messages is at best twentieth-century marketing practice?

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