Etsy announced a new seller tool for running sales in your shop at the beginning of August. After some limited testing, it goes live to all buyers August 22. While some Etsy shop owners are excited about running sales from within the site instead of via outside tools such as Etsy on Sale, others are worried that these types of discounts cheapen handmade work in particular, and may create a buyer expectation of sale prices on Etsy. I think there are valid arguments on both sides, and the truth is, none of us can be sure how this will affect the marketplace in the long run. So I am going to skip most of the philosophy here, and only discuss how this affects Etsy search.
A Search Filter for Sale Items
When a seller chooses to run a sale in their shop, as of August 22 all listings included in the sale will show the sale price in green as either a strikethrough next to the new lower price, or as a percentage off the whole order if the sale applies to the entire shop. (See the screenshots above and below for examples.) The sale offer will also show on the listing page, above the item details on the right, with a link to all of the seller's other on-sale items. (NOTE: as of August 23, this link is not working, but Etsy is aware and is planning a fix.)
But this very visible discount signal is not the only way shoppers can find a deal. Anyone doing a search or browsing through categories will have the ability to filter the results to only include items on sale:
So if a shopper is bargain hunting and clicks the "on sale" filter, they will eliminate all articles that aren't discounted through an Etsy sale. They might end up missing very affordably-priced items, if a shop just has everyday low prices and does not use this new tool for markdowns. At the time I am writing this (August 21), most searches I sampled show 5-10% of listings offering an Etsy sale, so most buyers will have a decent number of choices available through this filter.
Note also that all of the promoted listings (aka search ads) on search pages are also sale items when the filter is activated. This is a change from the usual Etsy practice of showing somewhat irrelevant items when a filter is selected. At this time, filters such as colour are not reflected in the promoted listings, but this could be a sign that Etsy will be changing how promoted listings interact with filters in the future.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT SEARCH RANKINGS?
As always, it will be hard to evaluate this new part of search until it has been working for a while, at least a month in most cases. This one will be particularly difficult, because a shop would have to run sales then stop them at least a few times to compare whether or not it affects their search hits - and a lot of shops have zero interest in running any sales. (I took some of my clearance items and converted them to an Etsy sale to test the tool and filter, but Etsy sales can only run for 30 days, so this is not a good long-term option at the moment.) Those of us running sales will probably not be able to track how much effect the filter had on getting a search click, as the filter does not appear to show up in Google Analytics at this time. Any increased search clicks could potentially be from the sale price, the green sale indicators on the listing, or the filter. We won't have any way of knowing.
Clearly, if a lot of buyers use the filter, this could affect search views and overall sales for many shops. Traditionally, though, most customers do not use filters, and filters don't currently exist on Etsy's mobile format; mobile plus the app brought Etsy 65% of visits in the last quarter. Many people don't update apps very often, so even if Etsy adds the on-sale filter to the app immediately, it will take a long time to trickle down to most users. Also, you can't see filters on the app unless you click a link, which likely further reduces their use. Still, the green sale indication will be visible to everyone, and that alone could affect buyer behaviour when viewing search results.
Running a sale is not a factor in the search algorithm at this time, and I doubt they would add it overtly in the future. However, if more people click on, favourite and buy items on sale, with or without the filter, those items will usually rise in the search rankings. That can also affect impressions on promoted listings. Also, since promoted listings are included in the filter, some sellers may choose to run ads to promote their sales when they wouldn't otherwise pay for advertising. That would drive up competition for ad impressions.
Etsy will be promoting a Labour Day sale August 31 to September 4, with "a temporary shopping page displaying items discounted between 10% and 60% off. Buyers will be able to search and filter items on the shopping page by category and price point. We’ll be driving traffic to the page through marketing emails, site banners, social media, and Etsy’s homepage."
At this time, it is not clear how the special shopping page will work, or how many items will be featured, but this could clearly drive substantial traffic to any featured sellers. Often, these types of Etsy promotions have links to search results, potentially giving a greater number of shops some decent exposure. If this is anything other than a massive failure, I expect they will run similar sales for other events during the year, including Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
Again, this is all speculation right now. We know that some Etsy buyers are not there for the bargains, and they are not likely to be swayed by a 10% off sign. Anyone looking for something very specific will often need to look at the whole site to find it, and not just the small percentage of items on sale at any given time, so sellers who do not use this tool will still have lots of customers available. But shops in very competitive fields, and especially those selling substantially similar items (such as commercial supplies) will probably feel the impact, at least a bit.
Other Search Updates - still lots of testing
Since my last update, there haven't really been any permanent changes to Etsy search. There have been so many tests, most still ongoing, that it is impossible to update them all here; see my article from late June for more details. When any changes become permanent, I will post about them here on my blog, or on my Google + page in my SEO collection.
One potential change I am tracking involves some new additions to regionalization of search. Etsy has updated their search help page with the following info: "Many buyers from the EU, Australia, and Canada have told us that they like purchasing from sellers based in their own countries or neighboring countries." The "neighbouring countries" part is new, as is the general "EU" statement (as opposed to specific named countries). Right now, Etsy appears to be testing various versions of this update within EU countries, but with the numerous other search tests happening, I am having trouble separating out any potential permanent changes. Look for more info from me soon!
UPDATED August 23, 2017