Swimming in Amazon Shopping — for the Exotic and Different

Amazon shopping is its own beast. When I moved to Brazil, any mention of “Amazon” immediately conjured up visions of this great river teeming with hungry piranhas, surrounded by nearly impenetrable jungle; one of the last truly wild places on Earth, a great place to visit. But, as the expression goes, you wouldn’t want to live there. That was 19 years ago.

Walking in the Amazon
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

Amazon shopping is its own beast. When I moved to Brazil, any mention of “Amazon” immediately conjured up visions of this great river teeming with hungry piranhas, surrounded by nearly impenetrable jungle; one of the last truly wild places on Earth, a great place to visit. But, as the expression goes, you wouldn’t want to live there. That was 19 years ago.

Say “Amazon” today and the 24-year-old behemoth that comes to mind is the largest online retailer in the world, a direct seller and digital marketplace with a piranha’s aggressive appetite. It is said to have chosen its name because the Amazon was “exotic” and “different.” It is both. This year, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and boss, reported that the company had achieved 100 million Amazon Prime subscribers, or 64% of households in the U.S. If any company can be said to have disrupted the retail landscape, Amazon is the one.

Swimming in Amazon
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

The unbroken growth of Amazon shopping worldwide demands the answer to the difficult question: which came first, a consumer desire to be able to conveniently purchase a wide range of goods with the convenience, price and choice offered online by Amazon and its principal competitors? Or Amazon’s brilliant marketing, which seduced the consumer away from brick-and-mortar retailers — even shopping malls — to the computer screen and convenient home delivery?

Amazon River
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

There is no doubt that sophisticated online shopping appeared at just the right moment in the digital revolution. Whether it will doom retail shopping is an open question.

A recent article in eMarketer Retail provides some clues to the direction where consumers are driving the online business model.

“According to ‘eMarketer’ forecasts, the gap between U.S. first-party sales on Amazon and third-party sales is widening. In 2017, direct sales grew 20.9% to reach $70.40 billion. By 2019, that total will climb to $95.08 billion. By comparison, marketplace sales jumped 41.4% to $129.45 billion last year. And marketplace sales are expected to log growth topping 30% this year and next. “

What is the “marketplace,” other than a digital shopping mall in your home or in your pocket? Why endure the traffic, parking problems, store clerks who frequently know less about the merchandise than you do and all of the bother that comes with it?

The answer would seem to be that consumers still find “shopping” fun, and welcome the live interaction with like humanoids. (What was that great one-liner? Christmas is the time people stop shopping and start buying things.) Last weekend, a visit to a nearby shopping mall found it teeming with happy families, kids and canines in tow, enjoying the experience.

But shouldn’t the generous loyalty programs offered by some online marketers overcome the temptation to go out and shop? It appears not always. Another recent article, also from eMarketer, said:

“Loyalty programs have a serious retention problem. Consumers are quick to sign up, but quick to forget about a loyalty program once they get their initial discount. Members, overloaded with points, miles and free shipping offers, are not necessarily consolidating purchases with one brand in order to accrue rewards.”

There is no simple answer, which is good news for resilient retailers. The many benefits of the Amazon marketplace model appear not to always outweigh the entertainment value of physical retail shopping. Social media is not really very social and you can’t buy the kids ice cream cones on your iPhone.

The piranhas may have to go hungry for a while longer.

humanoids on the Amazon
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

Google: The Elephant for Search Marketers

Pierre Trudeau, the former Canadian Prime Minister, once remarked about the United States: “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” Search marketers can say the same about Google. Every move that the search giant makes has some impact on the search marketplace. Google announces major algorithm changes as “weather reports” and indicates how Google expects the change to impact sites. These changes are usually couched in terms of what type of Web spam the search giant is attempting to reduce. Although designed to weed out poor quality sites or those that are gaming the system, these changes frequently catch many unwary sites in their net. In some instances, site owners may believe that they are following the rules.

Pierre Trudeau, the former Canadian Prime Minister, once remarked about the United States: “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Search marketers can say the same about Google. Every move that the search giant makes has some impact on the search marketplace. Google announces major algorithm changes as “weather reports” and indicates how Google expects the change to impact sites. These changes are usually couched in terms of what type of Web spam the search giant is attempting to reduce. Although designed to weed out poor quality sites or those that are gaming the system, these changes frequently catch many unwary sites in their net. In some instances, site owners may believe that they are following the rules.

Few online marketers have developed disaster plans for what to do in the event that their site takes a serious tumble in the search rankings. Many marketers focus huge efforts on improving their search positions, but few plan for sudden, precipitous drops in search traffic. It is incumbent upon all online marketers to build their own disaster plans so that they do not have to react in haste.

  • Do you have a plan for what you might do if you were to lose 30 percent to 50 percent of your search traffic?
  • Do you know the impact this might have on your bottom line?
  • How would you backfill the loss?
  • What other marketing channels could you use to drive sales?
  • Would a huge drop in search traffic cripple your business?

For a pure-play e-commerce business, a serious fall-off in search traffic might spell doom.

Sites do recover, but there is no set time frame for recovery, and the recovery is usually gradual. Troubleshooting and fixing the problems is a time-consuming and costly effort, so it is important to have in place an alternative traffic plan—a search disaster plan. You may never need it, but given that you live next to an elephant with the capability of crushing you inadvertently, it is an excellent idea to have just such a plan in your back pocket.

Mobile Isn’t Just About Marketing

When we talk about mobile, it’s often about how we can leverage it to market offers that connect with our customers and drive engagement or sales. … You need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then see if mobile could help you achieve that goal. Mobile may not always be the answer. Yes, the mobile guy just said that mobile will not always be the answer.

When we talk about mobile, it’s often about how we can leverage it to market offers that connect with our customers and drive engagement or sales.

The other day, I had someone call me for advice and he was interested in leveraging mobile in his business-to-business-focused company that optimized shipping/boxing for small- to medium-sized companies.

He was unclear on how to use mobile to market to other businesses that might be interested in his company’s services and was sort of skeptical that mobile really could even work for B-to-B companies.

I asked him a simple question: “What problem are you trying to solve or are you using mobile for mobile’s sake?”

He was sort of confused for a second and asked if I could clarify. I explained that he gave off the impression that he didn’t really know why he was interested in using mobile in his business other than that people are talking about it.

You see, just like this gentleman, you need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then see if mobile could help you achieve that goal. Mobile may not always be the answer. Yes, the mobile guy just said that mobile will not always be the answer.

The most unique aspect of mobile is its utility. When it comes down to it, mobile can do, and be, a lot for your business that doesn’t involve marketing. You just have to approach it strategically and not tactically to start to see it this way.

Don’t jump to tactics. Trust me, you won’t find success that way.

The most successful uses of mobile are ones that are so seamless that your customers even forget they are using a mobile device.

Because mobile threads through all of our daily experiences, you should look to use mobile to help solve a business problem or eliminate inefficiencies.

I wanted to share three ways mobile can impact your business that aren’t directly tied to a marketing initiative.

Solve an Operational Problem

Not too long ago, I interviewed the head of mobile for Yamaha. We chatted about how they’ve slowly integrated mobile into their operations over the last two to five years. Yamaha originally thought it’d leverage mobile to connect with customers. But, little to their surprise, their dealers and dealer staff began leveraging the tablet application to sell on the floor.

Boats are expensive … As a dealer, you can’t afford to have every single model with every single feature on the showroom floor. So, Yamaha’s sales teams used the app to show customers what a specific product may look like or cost by using their consumer-facing tablet application.

Yamaha realized this was creating a more efficient system to deliver the latest and greatest content to the dealers and make sure everyone was showcasing the most up-to-date materials.

Shortly thereafter, they eliminated delivering printed materials for dealers and equipped them all with tablets and can now deliver the latest product information on the fly.

At the end of the day, the dealers were able to engage with customers and showcase products that would never have to be on the floor to help close deals and give the best customer experience. Oh, and they even saved money from their continual printing costs.

So, if you have a sales or business development team, think about leveraging mobile to enable them to do their job better, more efficiently and always be equipped with the knowledge they need out in the field.

Your Product or Service Can Be Mobile

Have you ever used the app Hotel Tonight or Uber? If you haven’t, you should check them out as both of these businesses rely on the mobile device to deliver amazing customer experiences. Their apps drive their business by delivering a utility to their customer.

Hotel Tonight lets you find last-minute specials on hotel rooms in the city you’re in. When you open the app, the latest room rates will display around midday and you can book for that evening.

They don’t let you book hotels in advance … only that day and that day alone.

Uber is an application that lets you request a private driver based on your location. You can order a taxi, a black car or even a nice SUV. When you need a ride, you open the app and you can see all the vehicles in your proximity. When you request a driver, the app notifies all drivers in the near proximity that you’d like a ride.

Shortly thereafter, you see which driver is coming to pick you up and the time it will take for them to get to your pick up destination. The whole business is powered via this app. Your credit card is on file, so you never even exchange any cash. The tip is included and you pay a slight premium for the service, but it’s amazing.

I was just in San Francisco for five days and used it frequently to get around. I never had to flag a cab on the corner—I just pulled out my phone and, in minutes, I was on my way.

You see, both Uber and Hotel Tonight generate business by offering their customers an easy-to-use tool right on their phones to accomplish tasks that were once a pain to complete.

These are two great examples of leveraging mobility AS your business.

Mobile Can Be a Training or Education Tool

I follow two online marketers and business owners who recently launched their own apps as a part of their overall business. Now, they didn’t just go and repurpose their content from their site and put it in an app.

They wanted to deliver tremendous value that helped their customers.

Ramit Sethi, a blogger and best-selling author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” teaches people how to earn money on the side and get their dream jobs.

Over the last few years of studies and research he was able to give his students word-for-word scripts to help them get a raise, get a job, work from home and much more.

He knows a lot of the situations he trains his students for don’t happen at home … they happen while they are out and about nowhere near a computer to refer to these resources.

So what did Ramit do?

He built an app called Negotiate It that includes scripts to help you negotiate just about anything. You can open the app and find scripts to use to lower your credit rate, lower your credit bill, get a raise at your job and a ton of other common situations. He even charged about $4 and turned it into a revenue-generating product that was solving a super-specific need for his students.

Then there is Grant Cardone. He is an amazing salesman and businessperson. He frequently trains people about how to better sell and sell “the right” way that can actually impact your business.

He decided to create a mobile app called CloseTheSale, which offered scripts of closing techniques for just about every single scenario you can think of. They all have clever names and you can refer to the app whenever you’re preparing for a big sales meeting or you want a quick selling strategy to learn.

Both of these guys realized that creating an app would allow them to put so many valuable lessons in the palm of their customers’ hands to help them reach their own goals. Very specific use cases, but both demonstrate how mobile can be a training or educating tool for your customers.

As you can see, mobile doesn’t have to be a marketing tool. In some ways, these three examples indirectly affect your marketing. But their main purpose stems from something entirely different …

So, I challenge you to first ask yourself if you’re just doing mobile for mobile’s sake. If you are, you need to re-evaluate your “why” immediately.

If you’re about to get started using mobile in your business, be sure to have a problem you’re trying to solve, a process you’re trying to optimize or a product or service that could best be used by a consumer’s mobile device.

What are some non-marketing use cases you’ve seen with mobile?

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Two Signs That ‘Traditional’ and ‘Social’ Online Marketing Are Becoming One

Two announcements were made this week that in my eyes signify a true integration of traditional and social marketing.

Two announcements were made this week that in my eyes signify a true integration of traditional and social marketing.

The first was the announcement that Omniture and Facebook have joined forces to provide online marketers with solutions to optimize Facebook as a marketing channel. The partnership builds on the Facebook analytics and Facebook application analytics capabilities Omniture announced last year.

This alliance is designed to help companies integrate Facebook as a marketing channel and connect to relevant conversations with the site’s 400 million active users.

Initially, “the two companies will focus on the most fundamental needs of online marketers today: the ability to automate Facebook media buying and access analytics that measure customer engagement on Facebook,” according to an Omniture press release.

The solution, for example, will enable advertisers to buy media and track media on Facebook through Omniture tools such as SearchCenter Plus. It will also enable them to generate reports designed to understand ad effectiveness of Facebook pages and other Facebook applications.

The two companies will continue to expand their partnership as marketers increasingly use Facebook to optimize visitor acquisition, conversion and retention, Omniture said.

The next announcement came from email marketing provider ExactTarget, which announced this week that it has acquired CoTweet, a web-based collaboration platform that allows companies to manage multiple Twitter accounts from a single dashboard, support multiple editors, track conversations, assign roles and create follow-up tasks.

The acquisition will enable ExactTarget to offer marketers a solution for managing communications across all interactive marketing channels, including social media, email and mobile.

A key reason for the acquisition was because ExactTarget was finding that while “organizations are moving quickly to try to capture the potential of social, they’re also discovering that it’s siloed and not integrated effectively with other forms of digital communications,” said Scott Dorsey, ExactTarget co-founder and chief executive officer, in a press release. “By combining the power of ExactTarget and CoTweet, we can provide businesses with a complete solution to tie together all forms of interactive communications and drive deeper customer engagement online.”

I’ll bet there’ll be more announcements like these to come in 2010, as digital marketing software and service providers really begin to understand the impact social media is having on consumers and marketers alike.

Google Analytics Gets More Robust

Last month, many online marketers got just what they were waiting for: news that new functionalities representing a major upgrade to Google Analytics were coming.

Last month, many online marketers got just what they were waiting for: news that new functionalities representing a major upgrade to Google Analytics were coming.

In an Oct. 22 blog post, Google said it has been speaking with its customers, Web analytics experts and customers of other analytics tools about additional functionality they’d all like added to Google Analytics. The company said it wanted to make Google Analytics “as powerful, flexible, and useful as a Web analytics tool can be.”

The new features include advanced segmentation, custom reports, a data export application programming interface, integrated reporting for AdSense publishers, multi-dimensional data visualizations and an updated user and administrative interface. Some of these features are still in beta test mode.

While all of this functionality is good news to Google Analytics users, the big news here is the application programming interface, says Jim Sterne, president of Target Marketing, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Internet marketing strategy consultancy. He’s also the founding director and president of the Web Analytics Association.

“The major complaint about Google Analytics was that the data were inaccessible,” Sterne says. “Now, with the API, people can download their data and slice and dice it all they want with whatever tools they like. This is a big step forward. Google Analytics was a wonderful tool for the price — now it’s an astonishing tool.”

In effect, Google has created a more robust Web analytics tool that will undoubtedly help online marketers improve their competitive edges and marketing optimization programs.