Etsy, the popular e-commerce website that features homemade products, is having an identity crisis. "While the site wants to remain an accessible entry point for newbies," writes Rob Walker in Wired, it also doesn’t want to alienate lucrative sellers who may leave their virtual storefronts to start "real businesses." Instead, Etsy aims to facilitate and encourage sellers’ branding and distribution, much to the chagrin of some DIY loyalists.
The site recently instated a series of policy shifts that are subtle in language but monumental in effect. For example: sellers can now "self-identify as 'designers' — meaning they can outsource some of their production work." Etsy also introduced enhanced payment methods, and is helping sellers get products in brick-and-mortar stores and catalogs.
But does it matter that your new scarf wasn't toiled over in someone's living room? CEO Chad Dickerson says that thinking big is the only way to "change the way retail works from the inside." It can’t be, paraphrases Walker, "a parallel universe where crafters quibble over what is truly handmade."
Klout, a website that measures and scores online influence, is described on its Wikipedia page as "evil" and was mocked in a recent New Yorker cartoon. It’s today’s social media punching bag. But while it’s easy to count the site out, lurking behind the rankings is a powerful phenomenon that businesses are very interested in: democratized digital influence. Who is talking about what, and how, will likely be measured in ways that go far beyond double-digits. And start-ups, predictably, are lining up for the challenge.
Late Johnson & Johnson CEO James Burke is remembered here for his response to one of the most terrifying events of the early 1980s: the cyanide poisoning of Tylenol that killed seven. Burke, spending millions to recall the product and relaunch it in tamper-proof packaging, recognized that being upfront was the only way to gain back customers’ trust and lost revenue. It worked. So instead of going on the defensive during a recall or crisis, respond quickly, cooperatively and without ego.