Etsy is constantly trying to get sellers to do certain things based on their research into marketing (i.e free shipping, tracked labels, etc.) but sometimes these efforts fall flat.
The latest effort is the Etsy Star Seller program, which was introduced as active shop badges in September of 2021. This is, according to Etsy, an aspirational program that will encourage sellers to do their best to provide good customer service.
That’s not what the majority of Etsy sellers I’ve spoken to think about it, though. I did an informal survey in my Facebook groups to ask sellers for their opinions about the program, and they had some strong feelings.
This article was updated on May 31 2022 to reflect changes in the Star Seller criteria.
Table of Contents
- What is the Etsy Star Seller Program?
- How are the Star Seller ratings calculated?
- Message response time
- Review ratings
- Shipping metrics.
- Sales goals.
How is this affecting sellers?
- However, what I’m seeing as someone who tries to help other Etsy sellers is that this program is taking a toll on sellers who are trying to do their best anyway.
- I’m actually worried about a lot of the people who post about this because it’s clear that it’s something that’s causing a lot of stress when it really shouldn’t.
- Suggestions for Etsy to improve the program.
What is the Etsy Star Seller Program?
According to Etsy, the Star Seller program is “a way to recognize and reward Etsy sellers who consistently provide an excellent customer experience.” To determine whether a seller qualifies as a Star Seller each month, Etsy looks at the previous three months to determine message response times, review ratings, shipping speed and tracking, and sales numbers. If a seller meets the standards for each category for the previous three months, they will be awarded the Star Seller badge, which is a purple star on their homepage and listings.
While these all sound like reasonable metrics to use, there are flaws in the system that end up making many sellers miss the mark from no fault of their own.
One of the problems is that many of the categories that Etsy is using aren’t being measured correctly as of December 2021. When Etsy rolled this program out they gave sellers the month of August to see their ratings, ahead of the September launch.
During that month, the Etsy forums were full of people reporting errors in how the categories were being measured, resulting in many people who should have had the star not receiving it.
It was obvious that Etsy was using the month of August to try to work out bugs in the program by launching it in what was basically the beta form. They provided a form to fill out with comments, which was clearly there to collect data about how it wasn’t working, not how it was working.
This made sellers immediately hate the program, because we were being graded on things that were being measured incorrectly. It wasn’t a good introduction.
As I write this, there are still problems that Etsy seems to have not fixed yet, or things that were fixed but that have now come unfixed. It’s frustrating, but it also emphasizes the point about the program really not meaning much in the long-term.
I find that it is a red herring. As a customer, I don’t trust badges like that, and as a seller, I find that it puts undue stress without adding any benefit. Shops that are already doing well already implement the quick communication, quick shipping, and good reviews. Shops that aren’t doing that don’t care about the badge anyway.-An Etsy seller
How are the Star Seller ratings calculated?
Etsy calculates the Star Seller ratings with a few data points:
- It requires that 95% of messages from customers need to be answered within 24 hours.
- 95% of packages need to be shipped on time and with tracking included.
- The average of all reviews in the previous 3 months must be 4.8 or above.
- The shop needs to have made 5 sales in the previous 3 months.
- The sales in the previous 3 months need to be $300 USD or over.
None of these criteria sound unreasonable on the surface, but when you look closer there are problematic pieces in each.
I don’t like the stringent criteria they use and I hope they consider revising it.-An Etsy seller
Message response time
A 24 hour message response time is fine, but does that mean that people should never take a day off? Etsy has said that using the autoresponder to reply to messages when you’ll be away from your shop will count toward the message response time, but many sellers don’t know that and have been marked down for missing messages.
Not only that, but even though Etsy says that you only have to respond to the first message to have it count, that’s not what some people are still seeing two months after the program was rolled out. Some sellers say that they’ve been penalized for not being the last person in a conversation who sends the message, so it’s confusing and annoying.
One seller said “I missed it first time around due to not answering a few spam messages.” This was another issue that sellers weren’t warned about.
If you receive unsolicited messages from other sellers or from Etsy itself, (which I find pretty funny, actually,) you need to mark them as spam messages or you’ll be penalized.
I find it frustrating that I’m now being badgered by Etsy on how to improve my star seller rating because I got a 3 star review. The review was good but the customer hadn’t read the dimensions and stated it was smaller than they thought. I’m glad it doesn’t affect search just yet. If it did I’d feel I was being unfairly penalised because people don’t read descriptions or pay attention to sizes on variations when purchasing.-An Etsy seller
This section has changed as of May 31, 2022– The new requirement is that the average star rating of the reviews in the last 3 months has to be 4.8 or above.
This is an improvement from the original rule about 5 stars being the only “good” review, and 4 stars being a bad review, but then Etsy mentions something else…
In the post about the Star Seller program updates, Etsy mentions that 85% of sellers who received reviews have a 4.8 or higher rating. So does that mean that 85% of sellers have the potential to get the star seller badge?
The earnings criteria still have to come into it, but let’s assume that 85% of people who have a review are also potentially Star Sellers.
Does that mean that the Star Seller badge is really rating much as far as excellence goes? I don’t think so.
That kind of turns it into an “everyone gets a trophy” situation.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s the right thing to do to use an average, and it’s one of the things that I mentioned in the suggestions at the bottom of this article to begin with.
But this also points to the fact that this badge doesn’t actually rate anything meaningful as far as which sellers are good or bad, if it’s allowing 85% of sellers with at least 1 review in.
Selling from Slovenija, they cannot track Slovenia Post tracking, so I have to choose “Other” and then “USPS”, Or “La Poste” and if I write the name wrongly like “French post” instead of “La Poste”, than the tracking doesn’t work and I get “not tracked”. If I notice this soon enough I can correct it, but I have orders form September, when “other” worked for anything, and now it’s not tracked and I fell from 100% to 94%.-An Etsy seller
It’s puts an unfair disadvantage on shops in countries like Canada where there is a huge price difference between small, lightweight untracked lettermail and tracked shipping options.-An Etsy seller
The shipping metrics of the Star seller program are also problematic because of the multiple different postal systems that Etsy sellers have to deal with. Some countries don’t offer tracking as an included service, and the cost to add it is prohibitive for customers.
I have no problem with requiring sellers to ship things on time, that just makes sense.
However, there are enough situations around the world that make the tracking ratings unattainable for a lot of people, even if they’re shipping everything on time.
It’s also “interesting” that one way that Etsy has offered to let people bypass tracking is to buy their shipping labels from Etsy’s system directly. That means that if you purchase your labels at a local post office you’re not eligible for the way to bypass the system.
Unrealistic sales totals I have no control over to reach. Scoring highly on all other categories consistently but can’t get star seller as not got near the total they made up.-An Etsy seller
The sales goals for the Star Seller program as of May 31, 2022, are 5 sales in the previous 3 months, AND at least a value of $300 USD. There are different metrics in different countries, but we’ll stick with the $300 here for argument’s sake.
Let’s say that I make custom wedding dresses. I might sell one a month and earn a tidy sum for it, but that won’t get me the Star Seller badge.
I understand that there has to be a line drawn somewhere if you’re using revenue as a metric, but why use revenue as a metric? It doesn’t make sense to me personally.
Last month in my vintage shop I happened to list some vintage chess sets that were in like-new condition, and they were priced on the higher end. They sold quickly, and that put me over the Star Seller wall for December.
I doubt that I’ll keep that up every month, though, so if I don’t get the star in an upcoming month because of that, does it mean I’m a worse Etsy seller? Clearly not.
And that leads me to the biggest problem that I have with the whole thing, which is that this is seen as a punishment by most sellers I hear from, not as something to aspire to.
Even though I’ve always met these new requirements without being told to, I now feel a new level of anxiety about ship dates, messages, and reviews.-An Etsy seller
How is this affecting sellers?
I personally don’t worry too much about the Star Seller program because there are no real benefits from it at this point. However, I know that for the people who care about customer service, it’s difficult to be told that your service isn’t up to a standard even if that standard isn’t reasonable, or being measured accurately.
Some sellers do say that the program has motivated people to do better:
“I’m a star seller. I think it can be a good thing because it can motivate buyers.”
“While it doesn’t seem to be a popular concept for most, as a new Etsy seller and small business owner, having some additional KPIs (key performance indicators) to keep an eye on has been helpful in shifting to a more entrepreneurial mindset. They aren’t my main KPIs but the more the merrier in my book. It surely needs to be fleshed out more but it doesn’t bother me.”
“I find it to be very motivating. I don’t think it matters now, but I do think it will matter to our sales this year when Etsy changes the algorithm again. I look at it as practice for what I need to do to stay successful.”
However, what I’m seeing as someone who tries to help other Etsy sellers is that this program is taking a toll on sellers who are trying to do their best anyway.
These are some statements from people in my group when I asked them about it:
“It’s very clever, as it is, in effect, ruling by fear – fear of missing out, fear of getting it wrong, fear of the impact it will have in the future.”
“Probably meaningless, but feels good.”
“I think it’s a ruse that only benefits large sellers and Etsy and it hurts more sellers than it helps. I’ve never had a bad review, I have all 5 star ratings and most of my sales are done in person so if a buyer comes across my page I’m deemed ‘less than’ because I’m not a “star”.
“Made no difference to my sales, stressed me out till I stopped caring.”
“Manipulates buyers into thinking something is wrong with those who aren’t star sellers and gives wrong impression of the whole system.”
“I faithfully do my best, can’t do much more!”
“Another demoralizing hoop to have to jump through.”
I’m actually worried about a lot of the people who post about this because it’s clear that it’s something that’s causing a lot of stress when it really shouldn’t.
I’ve been telling people that it doesn’t matter, to just do their jobs and do their best, and that’s really all you can do.
However, the prevailing sentiment from people who want to do a good job is summed up by this seller:
“I don’t want to care but I do because I’m hardwired to.”
My advice would be what I said before. Don’t worry about it (or try not to, there are too many things out of our control about it.) Just keep providing great service and let your reviews show that.
Most customers look at those before buying, so even if you’re off by one 4 star review and you don’t get Star Seller, people will still see that you do a good job.
Suggestions for Etsy to improve the program.
I don’t want to just complain and not offer constructive suggestions, so here are some ideas. I have no doubt that Etsy isn’t going to listen to me, but if I was going to change the program in any way I would do these things:
- Change the review ratings to an average of something that’s high but doesn’t eliminate people for getting a 4-star review, which is still a good review. Maybe an average rating of 4.7 or above would do. (Check this one off, they lowered it to a 4.8 average as of May 31, 2022.)
- Change the tracking requirement to only include countries that offer tracking along with the regular price of postage, not as an upsell to the customer.
- Maintain the on-time shipping requirement, that makes total sense.
- Get rid of the dollar amount needed to get the badge. The ten sales in three months is a reasonable minimum, but if a seller has low-cost items they might not make that revenue threshold. (They updated this in the opposite way on May 31, 2022, they changed it to 5 sales but still a $300 minimum.)
- Make the Etsy seller required response time within 1 business day, not including weekends.
- Make sure that if a seller is being measured on a data point, that data point is being tracked correctly on Etsy’s end. If there are technical issues, all the data for that time period should be thrown out and not included in that month’s ratings.
If you want to leave your thoughts, join my public Facebook group for Etsy sellers here, and make sure to answer all of the questions! https://www.facebook.com/groups/HomeBasedBusinessAndEtsyTips
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