Category Archives: Web Marketing

Top 10 Retail Websites by Conversion (Dec. 2007)

Visiting MarketingCharts.com to find data on one specific area can be as deadly as opening a bag of Ruffles with the intention of just eating one chip: before you know it, it’s an hour later and the whole bag is empty.

In my most recent visit to the buffet, I came across their chart for the Top 10 Online Retailers by Conversion Rate. Conversion is what it’s all about, which makes this list extra special. Here is the list of companies, with my admittedly first glance reaction to why and how they made the list.

  1. The Popcorn Factory: They’ve done a great job of making popcorn a popular gift (especially if it’s sugary or cheesy), and it’s become a favorite corporate gift (just think of how many tubs of popcorn you see around the office come Christmas-time). Plus, just based on their current site, they have clear and urgent calls to action.
  2. L.L. Bean: The crowning jewel of catalog marketing, it’s apparently translated well into online sales. No doubt that a majority of the shopping is still done via printed catalog, and orders are then placed online, which might explain for the high conversion.
  3. Abebooks: I must admit that abebooks.com has been virgin territory for me until this chart prompted me to check it out. It seems to be a great site for buying and selling books, with its M.O. being that you get access to what 13,500 booksellers are peddling – Abebooks just handles the order. It appears that the cash cow for them is textbook selling, as their traffic and obviously conversion rise and fall with the beginning and ends of semesters.
  4. Hollister Co.: This is what you might call the Abercrombie of the web. Surfer clothes and hip jeans abound on this college-targeted site.
  5. Amazon.com: Hey, it’s Amazon. What more do you have to say?
  6. Land’s End: I like this site’s design. Clean and clear, people know what they’re going to Land’s End for. Again, another direct/catalog-driven business model.
  7. Coldwater Creek: Clothing for women, which is code for I really have no authority to even attempt a description. Except they, too, appear to be catalog driven.
  8. QVC: The darling of the home shopping world, QVC sells anything, but they appear to thrive in fashion, beauty and clothing. Their business model drives sales via 6-minute infomercials all day long, driving people to the phones and to the web. Through some of my own experiences with them, their minimum goal is for each segment to drive $50k in sales. Now that starts adding up.
  9. Cabela’s: The world’s foremost outfitter is also one of the foremost drivers in website conversions. Originally driven by one store in Colorado (or was it Nebraska . . . ) and catalogs, they’ve expanded their retail outlets and are going head to head with Bass Pro Shops. Their traffic charts show a huge spike in December, translating into it becoming a new no-brainer gift haven for Dad come Christmas, as well as the online favorite over Bass Pro.
  10. Gymboree: I’m not sure exactly how they drive traffic, but my guess is via gift registry for new babies. The web has definitely made “shower-shopping” a much more pleasant event.

A few overall observations:

  • Looking at the types of companies in the top 10, I don’t think there’s any question that communication tools outside of the web such as catalogs and TV shows are making web sales easier. Which makes sense, considering that these people are visiting your site with the purpose to purchase, not to shop. The catalog has already convinced them of what they need, so now they prefer the simplicity of the web to seal the deal.
  • Knowing that visitors are coming to the site with a clear purpose in mind (e.g., “I want that dang fishing pole”), the up-sell/cross-sell potential on these site must be huge . . . if it can be made seamless.
  • Traffic varies on these sites, from the Popcorn Factory logging in just over 50k visitors in December, to Amazon racking up more than 60 million. At a 17.6% conversion rate, that means Amazon got a minimum of 10.5 million orders in December alone!

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Video Advertising is Not TV Advertising on the Web

Just read an article by Rory J. Thompson on advertising during online video content in BrandWeek discussing how video content is “expected to grow the fastest in 2008, according to eMarketer, New York.”

Makes sense, but this quote by Kris Oser, direcotr of strategic communications at eMarketer, doesn’t:

Mainstream advertisers are more comfortable with traditional ads, but they know eyeballs are moving online. Creating commercials is something they understand. Now they can just do them online.”

What we marketers often misunderstand is that a new medium (in this case, the web, and specifically social media/web video) doesn’t just give you a new joint to post your product, but it also requires a whole new approach, and maybe a whole new product.

FDR’s fireside chats were revolutionary because it was a new thing optimized for the medium (the radio).

JFK’s TV debate with Nixon was revolutionary because it was a new approach to campaigning that fit the medium (TV).

The only Ron Paul is still involved in the current presidential race is because of how his revolutionist message fits his revolutionist audience who can easily find him on the new medium (the web).

Seth Godin is appropriately calling this misunderstanding a Meatball Sundae these days, which feels about right (it’s a pretty good book – give it a read/listen).

You can’t just throw traditional commercials online and wait for them to work. There’s a reason we fast-forward through them on TV now – we don’t want to watch them.

You need a new approach to how you make commercials specifically for the web.

Web Views and Traffic Mean Nothing

Just because something is easy to measure doesn’t make it the most important thing to measure.

Both Ron and Fleet Street PR have interesting rants on the overreaction to views of viral video campaigns, questioning if the views really mean that much. And if they don’t, what does?

Here’s my take: Views mean something only in that they are a prerequisite to what you’re really wanting. That might seem like an overly simple statement, but it’s true. It’s a step in the right direction, but in and of itself, views and traffic mean nothing.

Exposure can only expose. It’s what’s revealed thereafter that prompts a response.

The thing to measure is what people do with that view. Do they click for more info? Do they make a purchase? Do they email it on to friends? Do they post it on a blog? Do the people they share it with seem like likely candidates to purchase? Do they leave a comment proclaiming how much they disliked it? Do they watch the whole video, or do they close it down 7 seconds into it?
All of that is a lot harder and more tedious to track than views. That’s probably why it doesn’t happen much. But it’s not impossible. Drill down into your analytics and see what you can figure out.

More importantly, figure out what really determines success to begin with. Popularity meant something in high school; it means a lot less in business. What’s going to actually make a difference for your business? Referrals? Purchases? Comments? Then measure that. Too often, those involved don’t remember what it is that matters; they just start making a big deal out of what is happening (like high traffic) and start talking up its importance. Bad move.

Quality will always outperform quantity. Always. Which means you’ve got a lot more to measure than traffic. Start asking if it’s the right traffic. Then ask if you’re getting the right reactions. And when you’re not, do something about it other than just getting more traffic.

“Coming Soon” = Not Our Specialty

I stumbled across this New Jersey marketing company’s website as I was surfing tonight. I think it is a pretty informative site that explains the company well until I clicked on this link about PR.

In case you didn’t click it, it just says “coming soon.”

Coming SoonEvery other menu item contains a full description on the area of marketing expertise the company provides. Market research. Strategic Planning. Even Commercial Printing.

But not Public Relations.

So, do you hesitate at all in trusting these guys with your PR needs? I do. If anything, the “coming soon” tells me that PR is what they are the weakest at. In fact, my guess is they’ve just thrown it in there because it rounds out their services; it’s expected of a “full-service” marketing company.

My advice: Write something about how you approach PR fast (I mean, isn’t this kind of a PR opportunity for your company?) or don’t build the webpage.

Better advice: Just drop it altogether. If it’s not your area of expertise, let it go. My impression is you’re really good at the other stuff, so leave it at that. Find someone to refer your clients to. It will actually make you more valuable to them, not less. Providing services that you’re not an expert in is what lowers your value.

Related posts on Brett’s Blog

  1. Getting Away From Your Bread and Butter
  2. Battle of the Grocery Store Websites

What’sInAName.com?

Thanks to Seth for the reference to this post by Aaron. He’s got some great tips on the do’s and don’ts of choosing a URL.

Here are my pet peeves to URL naming (most of which Aaron covers on his blog):

  1. No dashes, underscores, hyphens, or anything else that has to be explained. There’s nothing worse than someone telling you to enter a symbol into the URL. It’s often too confusing, definitely too hard to remember when you’re just hearing it, and it’s aesthetically short of optimal.
  2. Don’t make it hard to spell. You might have a really cool domain name, but if I have to ask you how to spell it, you might want to think twice. No offense, Seth, but I have this problem with Squidoo.com. Every time I suggest it to someone, they always ask me to spell it. However, you’ve obviously overcome that (it’s a great site).
  3. Use capital letters at the beginning of each new word. Thisistoohardtoread.com. ThisIsALittleEasier.com.
  4. Keep it simple. Yes, most of your traffic will come via links, so some of this doesn’t even matter. But, if you want people to talk about it, write about it, etc., keep the name simple. For example, I’m dying to get my hands on Brett.net. Unfortunately, someone’s already got it (although they’re not using it), and I’m not yet willing to pony up for it. But it’s simple, it’s easy to remember, it’s specific to me  – what more can you want?

Trial and Error

There is no greater teacher than experience.

This is especially true as you try to get your mind around all the new vehicles and tactics available to us as marketers. You can read about something, learn about something, get blown away by something, but you won’t ever really get it until you try it, screw it up, and then fix it.

That’s why this post over at Buzz Machine is so spot-on. Be sure to hit all the links, but the knockout punch of the whole post is the quote by Richard Sambrook:

There’s no better way to understand the huge changes sweeping the media than getting your hands dirty online. It’s fallen to us to reinvent the industry and we won’t do it with heads in either the sand or the clouds…

The Vodoo That You Do So Well

NintendoI read this post by David and it got me thinking:

It’s too dang hard to keep up the Joneses of marketing and business.

Every time I turn around, there’s a new tactic, tool, software, myth – SOMETHING that’s better than anything else before it. It’s happening at almost a daily rate.

And it makes me want to not do anything, cuz I know there will be a better (or more popular) way to do it tomorrow.

I confess, I have no idea how to use Twitter for business. Or Facebook. I’m sure I could figure it out, but I just haven’t. And that goes for just about anything else.

It doesn’t mean they don’t work. It means they won’t work for me, because I’ll never bother to use them.

So what do you do? You accept that maybe you won’t use the Silver Bullet of the week and stick with the method that you’re confident in and comfortable with. It’s better to use something that’s not the latest than to not use something that is.