A look into an illustrator’s world on Etsy

Through several months of becoming a shop owner on the Etsy platform, my eyes were opened to a whole new e-commerce world. In several aspects such as finances, business, community, algorithms, and website interfaces, Etsy operates to bring together hundreds of thousands of small business owners in a world where e-commerce is becoming increasingly relevant and essential to the economy. The ability to support creation of goods such as arts and crafts, home essentials, and much more, the possibilities prove to be endless. Making the decision to make a full dive into the Etsy platform was one both gratifying, but also overwhelming at times. With an attempt to break it down into the online history of Etsy, it’s function in the e-commerce world, and the technicalities behind it, this page will aim to explore more in depth these following categories: representation, identity, consumption, regulation, and production.


With a closer look at Etsy, representation is one of the most significant aspects of the site for all users. There are two main categories of users that are represented through Etsy. Store owners and customers. For store owners, it is a place to represent one’s own creative work, one’s business, and one’s storefront. Through personal experience in my own etsy store, there are several features available to store owners as shown in the picture on the left. This feature of tabs is available on what is called, the shop manager, a whole different site and feature available to store owners. Through dashboard, the store owner is able to see how many page views per day and per month, how many orders per month, and any alerts or notifications. Going down, the listings page allows shop owners to put up their product, and in my case, physical art and stationery items. The messages page allows store owners to directly converse with their customers, regarding any concerns or questions. Orders and shipping allows store owners to keep track of current and past transactions. Each of these tabs on the left give store owners quite a bit of control over their store, a tremendous feature that Etsy provides for a store owner to be able to represent and maintain their business. 

Customer representation is also significant for Etsy’s functions. The customer is able to create their own account, keep track of which items or shops they like, and have their own personal algorithm based on liked items. Through the account page, the customer is able to message shop owners, leave reviews on purchased items, and personalize their settings. The customer is essential to the function of Etsy in representation, especially in the aspect of reviews. The number of reviews left on items and stores allows Etsy to present that store more frequently on other buyer’s recommendations. Through this essential function, the customer is valuable to Etsy’s overall algorithm as well, especially with the sheer number of users on the site. 

Identity: Buyers and Sellers

From its founding in 2005 by Brooklyn based creators Rob Kalin, Chris Maguire, and Haim Schoppik, Etsy began as a hipster marketplace for arts and craft goods, developing into a public online e-commerce world for a community reaching millions. To date, there are around 1.5 active sellers, and around 22.6 million buyers. This relationship of buyers and sellers became essential to the growth and boom of Etsy as a public marketplace. From 2005 to 2020, the growth of Etsy’s marketplace community grew exponentially. The incredible truth behind this fact is that each seller and buyer is able to network with each other, but also with countless others through the site. This also includes third party websites, that act as messengers or links to shops and storefronts. One example of this connection is through YouTube, where artists can promote their shop and goods and link their Etsy shop to gain direct customers. Etsy also is able to track the source of customers to the shop, a tremendous feature in aiding shop owners to understand the direct source of customers. 

Consumption: Evolution of Etsy

Etsy depends on consumer relationships unique to both the sellers and the buyers. While the sellers are consumers of Etsy and it’s commerce tools, the buyers in turn are consumers of the products that sellers make available. The evolution of Etsy as a marketplace was essential to the growth of Etsy as a large scale e-commerce company that now caters to millions of consumers. in 2005, Etsy was founded by Rob Kalin, Chris Maguire, and Haim Schoppik in their small Brooklyn apartment. By 2007, Etsy amassed 450,000 registered sellers and around $26 million in sales. In 2012, Etsy became a B corporation and gained $40 million in funding. By 2015, Etsy filed for $100 million IPO and went public for stock shares valued at $1.8 billion. As of today and growing, Etsy has 22 million buyers and 1.5 million active sellers.

Regulation: Etsy ads and analytics

There are two different ways that Etsy regulates sales and restrictions for sellers on their platform. For sellers, there are several hidden fees and regulations for sellers. This includes a listing fee, out of pocket shipping costs, and many payment fees. This amounts to taking about 20% of the overall profit the sellers make for that month. Etsy ads are like a subscription service that Etsy provides to sellers to in turn gain more exposure for their site. If sellers pay a certain amount each month for Etsy ads, Etsy posts listings and exposure for that store more frequently. This brings the topic of analytics, which also regulate the traffic of buyers on the site looking for marketplace goods. The way that Etsy analytics work, is that the buyers are mostly responsible for bringing buyers to their shop. On main search pages, buyers require thousands of reviews and likes on their page to be viewed.

Production: Third Parties

Etsy’s form of production is ironically heavily reliant on its users. Etsy acts mainly as a platform for sellers to create commerce pages and shops using tools, therefore depending the sellers to act as the sole producers for the website. Third party websites also aid in Etsy’s own exposure, such as google search, YouTube, and instagram. This is where the seller’s role becomes increasingly significant. The sellers have the ability to post and promote their goods on these third party websites, producing more traffic and overall consumer base for Etsy as a whole.