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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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.

This is a selfmade image from the english wiki...

(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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