Category Archives: eCommerce

‘Tis the Season

Coincidence or synchronicity?  Less than an hour after I published the previous post, I received Internet Retailer’s email newsletter that included an article on Holiday eCommerce .

“For many larger retailers, Black Friday—the traditional start to holiday shopping on the day after Thanksgiving—is beginning to stretch into a full week with preliminary promotions…” 

If you’re interested in the industry’s analysis, it’s definitely worth the few minutes it takes to read the full article.

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Bah, Humbug!

I can’t believe I’m writing this post before Thanksgiving!  I already have a monumental case of holiday email marketing fatigue.

My inbox is already so crowded with Black Friday promotions, it takes me twice as long to get through it. Lord only knows what I’ll face over the weekend, when companies ramp up with Cyber Monday offers.

And I’m just talking email. Mobile alerts? I’m going to need a flak jacket.

The conundrum
On one hand, real-time offers are great. On the other hand, way too many businesses still don’t do enough segmentation (matching specific offers to specific recipients) or any at all – so the relevancy of those real-time offers can be pretty low.

According to Pew Research, as of May 2010,  94% of all internet users sent or read email online and 72% bought products online. So far this season, some companies are already behaving as if capturing the sales of the 22% that forms the gap is life or death. With the economy hurting, companies desperate for revenue are already in bombardment mode. Sophisticated, pretty spam; cheap to send and worth it to them if they just hook a few consumer fish.

We’re all becoming pretty adept at scanning through our inboxes to find the things that matter – one person’s prize is another one’s poison – but it still irks me.

What do you think?

I may already be tired of the onslaught, but what about you?

Do you appreciate a deluge of real-time offers? And even more important, do these offers prompt you to buy? Or has your delete button become a constant, somewhat annoying best friend? What is your experience?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Learning from Robocalls

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Last night, when the number of political robocalls reached 6 in the space of an hour, we stopped answering our phone. Tomorrow is election day, so we won’t answer our phone tonight, either: the “do not call” list doesn’t apply to political campaigns.
I may not be thrilled when a call from a live campaign volunteer interrupts my dinner, but I’m positively turned off by robocalls. At least when I get a call from a live person, I know that someone cares enough about an issue to volunteer his or her time. It’s part of the democratic process. (Full disclosure: I have been that volunteer in the past.) Volunteer calls at least are a dialogue. But robocalls are just annoying, auditory, time-wasting spam. 
Doing a bit of quick research, I found Politics Magazine’s Political Telemarketing Guide and Local Victory Political Robocalls: Dos and Don’ts. They  resemble CAN-SPAM guidelines and the early email marketing rubric. My favorite paragraph in the Do’s and Don’ts begins:
“Watch out though, some voters get turned off by too many robocalls.  Even if your campaign only does one or two rounds of calls, if your opponents have been bombarding the phone lines with calls, the voters may penalize you when they hear your call.”

Bingo! And this sort of fatigue resonates with what happens when those in the broader world lose sight of the basics: the proverbial blizzard of round after round after round of holiday and annual appeals is right around the corner. Oh, boy!

When companies and organizations stray, their efforts just add to the general noise that leads to overall viewer disaffection. How many times has your company or organization gotten so carried away with an internal viewpoint or become enamored with a technology that the effort ceased to really focus on the audience? Missing the mark on the basics costs time and money, but rarely achieves desired results.

So if you’re turned off by a robocalls or campaign email and literature, take a look at your company’s or organization’s efforts through that same critical lens. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same

It’s CyberTuesday and the results are in. I did as quick survey of colleagues and connections:  eCommerce-wise, Black Friday and Cyber Monday volume is up from last year, but average order value is generally down all over the map.

Consumers may have held off as long as possible making do with previous purchases, but their posessions have frayed, aged, or otherwise are in need of replacement. Shoppers are shopping again, so 2009 should be better than 2008.

But with acquisitiveness just plain old out of fashion, is there new hook for getting consumers to consume? Price – diva of the recession – seems to have lost her luster as the ultimate decider. Folks who have held on to their dollars want to spend them wisely if they are going to spend them at all. Product quality and better-than-average customer service are coming back into vogue.

What’s old is new again

The “new” hook was there all along: customer experience. On hiatus while Price had her unchallenged 15 minutes of fame, Experience is back as a strong decision influence. And since there is so much low-price parity, it’s Experience with a capital “E”, from online marketing and email efforts, to website experience, to customer service, both in-store and online, to shipping and return policies and performance – you name it.

Customers are savvier than ever – and I think that’s a good thing. It will be interesting to see which retailers “got the memo” and which still think customers are willing to overlook a world of hassle just to get the best price.  Stay tuned.