Big Data, Big Changes: Data-Driven Product Development at Etsy

Data Science
Location: Room 1-6 Level: Non-technical
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(3.67, 3 ratings)

Late last summer, Etsy made a seemingly innocuous change to its search engine that had far reaching impact. Historically, when a user came to the marketplace and issued a search, the default sort order ranked items by listing date with most recently listed items first. While users could easily switch to other sort options, e.g. sorted by price or sorted by relevancy, the default behavior was one sorted by recency. On August 9 of last year, Etsy changed the default sort order of the marketplace from recency to relevancy. While at a technical level this change involved only a single line of code and a few altered pixels on the site, it introduced a fundamental shift in the dynamics of the marketplace.

Fundamentally, the switch to search relevancy is a story of launching successful big data products: (1) Shop Stats, an analytics system for our sellers, (2) Search Ads, a performance based keyword advertising product, and (3) Search Relevancy and improvements to our search algorithms. This talk covers not only the big data and algorithms behind these systems, but also addresses issues outside of technology. We will discuss our general approach to product development in building simple, easy to use products designed for use by small business owners. We will also consider how big data can fundamentally alter marketplace dynamics, and our approaches in understanding these changes, from side-by-side testing to A/B testing.

Jason Davis


Dr. Jason Davis is an engineering director at He currently leads several efforts including search, browse, advertising, recommender systems, analytics, and data infrastructure. Prior to Etsy, Dr. Davis founded Adtuitive, a venture-backed startup that provided advertising services to small online retailers. Adtuitive was acquired by Etsy in December, 2009. Dr. Davis holds a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin and a BS in computer science from Cornell University.

Dr. Davis blogs at


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