First what sets Etsy apart is it appears to understand that shopping isn’t just about getting what you want – it’s about the experience you have as you identify what you want. Like the hunter gathers we once were it’s about exploration, discovery, and surprise of finding something you weren’t expecting.
Etsy plays on these experiences by providing a number of innovative ways to display crafts. My favorite is the time machine which spirals images of items outwards in a random and un-ending stream. Simply clicking on an item takes you to it for a detailed look. They also do categories by broad characteristics – like search by color – which can display everything from jewelry and clothes to household goods as long as they are the same color.
The fun of shopping is not buying – its finding. Make finding fun and buying will follow.
So that’s one part of the shopping experience – the other – is that shopping is very social – at least in the physical world. It’s talking about shared experience, discussing what you’ve found with others. Even I ,who mostly shops by alone, can’t go to a store without engaging people’s opinion about what I’m buying (have they used something similar, did it work for them) or to ask them about them (what are you going to do with that salmon). For some demographics shopping doesn’t occur unless there’s a group to share the experience.
To me it seems natural that adding voice (conferencing) to the online shopping experience moves it from expedient buying into a pastime and in so doing opens the door to a massive shift in consumer behavior, and increase in online revenues.
Friends can meet and shop without being in the same place, chance meetings can occur if people on the same page can signal their interest in conversation.
What’s also interesting is that this suggests that online community doesn’t just have to be about blog’s – it can be about extending ones current community online through shared experience.