Tag Archives: Online shopping

Lost In The Flood

Today is Cyber Monday, which is, of course, another “Hallmark Holiday” – something made up by marketers to sell stuff. It’s the first Monday after Thanksgiving which, as we all know, exists only to let us know that Black Friday is the next day. That might even be a bit untrue since Black Friday now seems to start after lunch on Thursday.

In any event, there are lots of deals to be had (available while supplies last). I did a little counting and my inbox received 324 Black Friday emails announcing sales, deals, specials, and other marketing miracles. I’ve received 88 Cyber Monday emails promoting today’s deals but the day has barely begun so that number is low. My business account received far fewer which I guess means that neither day is as huge for B2B selling.

I don’t know about you, but I deleted the vast majority of these emails without even opening them. It wasn’t that they had crappy subject lines. They all just got lost in the flood created by the breaking of the holiday dam. Interestingly, Amazon, from whom I get a daily mail about something I might have been checking out in the last week, only sent a single missive for each sale day while several other retailers sent multiple emails every day.

What’s a marketer to do? The next month is a prime selling window for nearly every brand so sitting it out isn’t really an option. There needs to be a recognition, however, that the noise level is at jet-engine levels and something needs to help your marketing efforts get noticed. If you’re thinking that moving to social channels is the answer, it’s probably not. Sure, it might be easier to get in front of the customer but, as a McKinsey study stated:

E-mail remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media—nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined. That’s because 91 percent of all US consumers still use e-mail daily,1and the rate at which e-mails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17 percent higher.2

I’d suggest avoiding the flood as best you can. Start your holiday season in early November (or maybe even late October if you can avoid the Halloween noise) by teasing offers to come. Get your customers in the mood to buy. Who wouldn’t want to have their holiday shopping done early? Obviously, if you’re not checking your outbound mail across every platform to be sure it renders properly you’re committing marketing suicide. Responsive design is a must!

Finally, go local and get personal. Whatever you can do to tailor your messages to each location and/or each customer will greatly increase your conversion rates. I’m always surprised when I get what is obviously a generic email when even minimal segmentation would get me to read it. There are dozens of retargeting technologies out there. Speak as if you were at a cocktail party – one to one – and not with a bullhorn.

To paraphrase The Boss, have you thrown your marketing to the war, or did you lose it in the flood?

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Shopping Until You’re Dropping

Today’s screed is mostly about shopping (or selling, I suppose). I read some results from a research report and I think you’ll probably share my thinking about what the data shows: more of what we already know.

In a recent study UPS and ComScore released a U.S. study revealing changes in consumer shopping preferences and buying behavior. A total of 5,000 U.S. consumers were surveyed. The results indicate consumers plan to research and purchase more frequently using their mobile devices, they are influenced by social media, and free shipping continues to drive purchasing decisions.

No real shockers, but as with any study there are some nuances to the findings that are instructive. Nearly everyone (93%) shops at small retailers and 40% of them wanted to support the small business community by doing so. 49% couldn’t find what they needed from traditional stores so they turn to more niche retail outlets. Better prices (57%) and selection (49%) are the top reasons for purchasing online after researching an item in-store, which to me smells like an opportunity for bricks and mortar. After all, while there’s no doubt online sellers don’t have the same cost structure as offline, they have other challenges that can level the playing field.

One thing is returns. When a purchase is made online from a retailer that has an online and physical store, 39% of consumers who make returns prefer to ship the product back while 61% prefer to return the item to the store. When making an in-store return, 70% purchase an additional item compared to only 42% who make a new purchase while processing an online return. I suspect that this “ease of returns” is a selling point for pure physical retailers. According to the report, only 62% of consumers are satisfied with the online returns process: 67% review a retailer’s return policy before making a purchase, 66% want free return shipping, 58% want a hassle-free “no questions asked” return policy, and 47% want an easy-to-print return label.

The study provides insight to help retailers increase sales. 48% of online shoppers said they ship items to the store, with 45% of those saying they made additional purchases when picking up their orders. Free shipping remains the most important option during checkout according to 77% of online shoppers. More than half (60%) have added items to their cart to qualify for free shipping.

Most of the above seems fairly intuitive, but it never hurts to have our own intuition supported by facts, does it?

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Woe-Mart

Today’s rant tale of business woe comes to us courtesy of the Wal-Mart folks. While I’m not usually surprised at the silliness that is foisted upon the customer from any business entity, this was a new low, at least in my experience.

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was helping to cook for a party this weekend and part of the menu was fried turkey. I went to my usual source of peanut oil on Tuesday (my preferred frying lipid) and discovered that there was none to be had. I get that – why stock an item that’s not in demand until late November. I checked several outlets online and Wal-Mart had what I wanted at a reasonable price. They could also deliver it by Friday – Saturday was the cooking day. I placed the order and got my confirmation. So far, so good.

Two days later, I get an email from Wal-Mart – “Unfortunately, one or more of the items in your order have been delayed.” Oh oh.  The email won’t allow you to cancel to order electronically (fail #1) but does give you a number to call to do so.  I speak with a very nice rep who assures me the order is cancelled and I should see a credit within 48 hours.  I then spent some time frantically searching various sources in the area (online ordering is now not going to happen – overnight shipping costs for 6 gallons of oil are seriously expensive).  I finally give up and buy several gallon jugs of soybean oil which I lug home.  By the way, good luck finding a whole, fresh turkey in July.  Even frozen ones aren’t readily available.

If this is where the tale ended, you wouldn’t be reading this post.  Stuff happens – maybe their inventory system didn’t update the online store quickly enough – I can handle that.  Late Thursday evening (like 10pm) I get another email from Wal-Mart – your order has shipped!  It will arrive by 10am Friday (which is what I was told Tuesday when I placed the order).  Here’s a tracking number.  Sure enough, Friday morning I have peanut oil and well of 6 gallons of soybean oil I know have to return to the store.

Wal-Mart was trying to do a good thing.  They got out in front of a potential problem by notifying me that I might not receive my order as promised.  I dealt with it.  Obviously, however, the order was neither cancelled nor delayed.  Whatever triggered the “it’s delayed” mail was wrong.  Whoever said the order was cancelled was wrong.  Putting aside the unnecessary concern they caused me and the time it took to find replacement oil (and to return it), do you think there is a chance in hell I will ever order from this three-ring circus again?

We can’t pull the fire alarm on our customers unless we know there is something ablaze, even with the best of intentions.  Wal-Mart has an issue with their inventory management and maybe with customer service too.  The systems problems they have and the short term issues those problems caused me  has resulted in a long-term issue for them – the lack of a customer.  Moreover, this customer is telling all of you.  Thoughts?

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Small Guys, Big Voices

I spent part of the weekend getting caught up on everything going on across the various social networks to which I belong.

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s an impossible task, by the way.  It’s really the epitome of living in the moment because one can’t ever really get “caught up” – a post from a week ago is so…last week, I guess.  In any event, it got me thinking about how social media keeps changing and how what I tell clients about optimizing their use of that channel needs to change as well.

Sometimes I think the Internet should be called “The Great Equalizer,” since it puts the small guys on an even footing with the big guys.  It may seem to you as if every company/brand/retailer you know is on Facebook and you’re right: 92% of them use it.  The majority of them are on YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and publish some sort of blog.  Unlike regular advertising, a bigger budget doesn’t assure you of bigger visibility.  If as a smaller business you’re going to be good at social media and conduct what some term “social commerce” it’s pretty obvious that you can’t outspend the big guys in your category.  You need to outsmart them with great content, and make wise choices about where to devote resources, both human and financial.

I’ll admit to have hardly ever clicked on an ad on a social site.  I do, however, read posts from brands all the time and once in a while I’ll click-through those to find something that’s piqued my interest.  I’ve even bought something as a result.  I’m not alone.  According to Internet Retailer 2014 Social Media 500, which ranks online merchants on the percentage of site traffic they receive from social networks:

  • Monthly referral traffic to e-commerce sites from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube increased 42% in 2013 to 51.5 million monthly unique visitors from 36.3 million.
  • Social commerce sales retailers raked in, that is, revenue derived from those visitors, jumped nearly 63% to $2.69 billion from $1.65 billion.
  • Spending on social ads by 40 retailers that supplied data increased 400% from 2012 to 2013.

It’s the small guys driving those numbers.  The challenge for them – and maybe for you – is to overcome the clutter in every user’s social landscape. That clutter in not the only issue. The fact that only a tiny fraction of what you post appears in your fans’ news feeds means that you must get the user to seek you out and to do so often enough that the algorithms see you as a close enough “friend” to put your news in those “top news” feeds.  You up to the task?

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Most Read Posts Of 2013 – Part 3

Continuing to reblog the posts that got the most readership this past year, we come upon a post from just a month ago.  This one concerned the retailers who fined  a customer over a negative review.  Genius!  In the month since this was written, things have continued to slide downhill for the KlearGear folks, with lawsuits being the least of their worries.  Tens of thousands of negative articles have been written about this mess and it remains a fantastic lesson is what NOT to do in resolving customer complaints.

The holiday shopping season has begun in earnest and so today let’s remind ourselves about how some online businesses deserve the equivalent of a Darwin Award for killing themselves as this big opportunity arises.

Stupid IV

(Photo credit: LauraLewis23)

You might have heard about KlearGear.com, a $47million online retailer of what they call geek toys and goodies.  They deserve the aforementioned Darwin Award for resolving a dispute with a customer in a manner that will, in my opinion, destroy their business.  Let’s see what you think.

A customer ordered something from the company way back in 2008 which didn’t arrive.  The customer then posted a negative review on the web.  Nothing very unusual about this so far, I know.  What happened next is.  Some genius at KlearGear decided it would be a good idea to “fine” the customer $3,500 for disparaging the company, citing a clause in their site’s Terms Of Service that wasn’t even in those terms in 2008.  When the customer didn’t pay, they reported the $3,500 as a bad debt to credit reporting agencies, trashing the customer’s credit rating.  You can read the gory details here.

Unfortunately for the retailer, the customer fought back and looks set to win a $75,000 judgement against the company.  Frankly, that’s the least of the retailer’s worries.  The torrent of negative commentary on social media has prompted the company to hide its Twitter account and to close off other social points of contact because of the overwhelming response.  Of course, by going into hiding the company has pretty much destroyed its own reputation on the web.  My guess is that the rest of the business will follow.

This began with a $20 item.  Instead of accepting that there was a problem – perhaps even one of the customer’s own making (which it wasn’t) – and apologizing, KlearGear escalated the problem.  The lost $20 sale is now a potential $75,000 liability which pales by comparison to the millions of dollars of negative coverage they’re receiving.  As we’ve said before, when you’re doing business the right way, the need to moderate or control customer feedback doesn’t exist.  If your product or service is great, so too will be the general commentary about you on the web and social.  We’ve also talked about how it’s easier and more profitable to sell to repeat customers than to find new ones.  That’s a huge reason why the best retailers go out of their way to minimize (or get rid of!)  bad customer experiences.

This is a textbook case on how not to handle customer service or bad reviews.  It’s about as bad as it gets and reached new depths of business stupidity.  You agree?

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Klearly Stupid

The holiday shopping season has begun in earnest and so today let’s remind ourselves about how some online businesses deserve the equivalent of a Darwin Award for killing themselves as this big opportunity arises.

Stupid IV

(Photo credit: LauraLewis23)

You might have heard about KlearGear.com, a $47million online retailer of what they call geek toys and goodies.  They deserve the aforementioned Darwin Award for resolving a dispute with a customer in a manner that will, in my opinion, destroy their business.  Let’s see what you think.

A customer ordered something from the company way back in 2008 which didn’t arrive.  The customer then posted a negative review on the web.  Nothing very unusual about this so far, I know.  What happened next is.  Some genius at KlearGear decided it would be a good idea to “fine” the customer $3,500 for disparaging the company, citing a clause in their site’s Terms Of Service that wasn’t even in those terms in 2008.  When the customer didn’t pay, they reported the $3,500 as a bad debt to credit reporting agencies, trashing the customer’s credit rating.  You can read the gory details here.

Unfortunately for the retailer, the customer fought back and looks set to win a $75,000 judgement against the company.  Frankly, that’s the least of the retailer’s worries.  The torrent of negative commentary on social media has prompted the company to hide its Twitter account and to close off other social points of contact because of the overwhelming response.  Of course, by going into hiding the company has pretty much destroyed its own reputation on the web.  My guess is that the rest of the business will follow.

This began with a $20 item.  Instead of accepting that there was a problem – perhaps even one of the customer’s own making (which it wasn’t) – and apologizing, KlearGear escalated the problem.  The lost $20 sale is now a potential $75,000 liability which pales by comparison to the millions of dollars of negative coverage they’re receiving.  As we’ve said before, when you’re doing business the right way, the need to moderate or control customer feedback doesn’t exist.  If your product or service is great, so too will be the general commentary about you on the web and social.  We’ve also talked about how it’s easier and more profitable to sell to repeat customers than to find new ones.  That’s a huge reason why the best retailers go out of their way to minimize (or get rid of!)  bad customer experiences.

This is a textbook case on how not to handle customer service or bad reviews.  It’s about as bad as it gets and reached new depths of business stupidity.  You agree?

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Non-virtual Commerce Portals

I do most of my non-food shopping online and I think I might have made a mistake that’s all too common among business folks:  I assumed I was just mirroring that habits of the public at large.  I also figured that shopping malls would be on their last legs.  After all, if you never have to leave your house to go shopping or stand in a checkout line while some whiny baby serenades you, why wouldn’t you choose to do that?

Shopping mall

(Photo credit: pix.plz)

Not only am I way off base, but there is research that shows just how far wrong I am.  Despite some fairly big gains with respect to share of market by online merchants, 95% or shopping still occurs offline. According to a recent Nielsen report, in the fourth quarter of 2012, 5.4% of retail sales came from online channels, up from 3.6% in Q1 2008.  Big gains, a lot of dollars, but still a fraction of the retail world.  Why do I think this might be of interest to you?

Other than media, there is no other sector of business so dramatically affected by the grown of digital than bricks and mortar retail.  Since shopping malls have replaced the “downtown” in most places outside of major cities, they are sort of ground zero to feel the impact of this change.  Yet although many of them are suffering through high vacancy rates and others (as shown in this Dead Mall site) are dead and gone, something else is happening that is instructive.  As Nielsen found:

Malls are changing their focus and aren’t just places to buy things. They’re social centers, places for entertainment and employment hubs. They’re also transforming what consumers can expect from a shopping experience.  The line between shopping, entertainment, and community building has blurred. This blending of experiences has created an opportunity for retail to strengthen social ties within communities looking for communal experiences.

In other words, “Malls” are now non-virtual commerce portals.  I think they can go further.  Imagine a “guy” mall, for example.  Instead of Macy’s or Target as an anchor tenant, maybe it’s an indoor driving range, a shooting range, a bowling alley and a sports bar, surrounded by men’s shops, hardware stores, etc.  Why not stretch the thinking a bit and develop that property next to one that’s female oriented.   Combine each with an active social presence (Instagram and Pinterest will be very helpful here) and you’ve transformed the “mall” experience into something more akin to how people shop online.

We all need to think out of the box before they put our business in one to bury it.  You with me?

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