Annoying For Engagement

Engagement Hacking Can, and Will, Backfire

I bought something on Etsy recently. A seller was discontinuing an item I had had my eye on for a while and unfortunately their own website is a convoluted mess, so I figured the annoyances that come with purchases on Etsy would be less frustrating on the whole.

In the weeks since purchase, I’ve received nine emails mentioning the purchase. Nothing exceptional happened, there was nothing out of the ordinary, it’s just, Etsy likes to be annoying.

Thu Oct 12Etsy TransactionsYour Etsy Purchase from $seller ($orderno)
Fri Oct 13Etsy Shipping NotificationsYour Etsy Order Shipped (Receipt $orderno)
Fri Oct 13EtsyAnd it’s off! USPS has your order 🚚
Sun Oct 15EtsyYour order = WA! 🚚
Mon Oct 16Etsy Shipping NotificationsDing dong! Your special delivery is on the way ✨
Mon Oct 16Etsy Shipping NotificationsIt’s here! Your order from $seller has been delivered.
Mon Oct 16Etsy TransactionsMatthew, You have a new item to review.
Tue Oct 17Etsy TransactionsMatthew, Your $seller wants your feedback
Wed Oct 20Etsy TransactionsMatthew, let $seller know how they’re doing

I hadn’t even gotten around to opening the package until Thursday the 21st. I’m also the sort that likes to take my time with things in order to give thoughtful feedback; the nature of the item I purchased isn’t something where I can open it, look it over for a minute, and immediately say yes this is perfect or well it’s not perfect but. Etsy’s demand for immediate feedback – voiced to make it sound like the seller is an active participant in the harassment – is then also tempered by both their request to upload photos and write at least five words. I still haven’t left a review because I’m not sure what to say other than great item, thanks! which is too short. But the feedback requests are only 1/3rd of this traffic.

Five – over half the messages – are about shipping progress. In some ways, I’m sympathetic – between sellers who might not be very prompt, mail delays, and so forth, I’m sure there’s no small amount of support resources dedicated to the shipping process. But on the other hand, really? FIVE emails in four days? With the apparent rise of porch pirates, I can see a reasonable case for emails about packages out for delivery or being delivered, but what’s the point of sending me two emails stating my package has shipped? What’s the point of letting me know it’s close? Is this some attempt to generate hype? It’s backfiring.

I’d love to unsubscribe from these emails, but Etsy doesn’t provide an option for that. Their email settings offer the ability to unsubscribe from Share feedback and help us improve your Etsy experience through occasional marketing surveys or interviews, but disabling that doesn’t stop the prompts for feedback. They don’t offer any option that looks related to shipping.

The variety of envelope sender identities make me think this is a designed by committee messaging strategy – or more likely, designed by committees, plural, and that no one who has enough influence there to meaningfully change things actually buys anything through their site, no one who understands their entire buyer purchase engagement lifecycle, no one responsible for making sure the entire experience is cohesive; just a bunch of individual teams following a mandate to create engagement and excitement with no insight into the whole picture.

I get it, we all live in the Attention economy now, and in many ways, this post is no exception. If you believe that we who work in techology work to create the world we want to live in, as a person with ADHD, I’d like the technology I interact with to respect my attention instead of flooding my inbox with meaningless annoyances. I’d like to trust that someone is looking at the larger picture, and I’d love to believe my participation in a transaction is more than just some blip on a daily active users chart. I don’t live in that world, but I’d like to.