Introducing ‘The Integrated Email’ Blog by Debra Ellis

Why is email marketing so effective? Is it the one-to-one communication, ability to connect with customers and prospects on the go, or the provision of instant gratification with one-click shopping? The answer depends on the company and the customer relationship, but there is one universal truth: The combination of interactive communication with self-service solutions makes email the most versatile tool in a marketing workshop.

Why is email marketing so effective? Is it the one-to-one communication, ability to connect with customers and prospects on the go, or the provision of instant gratification with one-click shopping? The answer depends on the company and the customer relationship, but there is one universal truth: The combination of interactive communication with self-service solutions makes email the most versatile tool in a marketing workshop.

My experience with email marketing began shortly after Hotmail launched the first Web-based email service in 1996. A client had compiled approximately 11,000 customer email addresses and wondered what we could do with them. Our first test was a 25 percent discount on any order placed that day. A text-only message was sent using the mail merge functionality in Excel and Outlook. It took over two hours to send all the emails.

Those two hours were quite exciting. We had two computers in close proximity so we could watch the progress of the outgoing emails and monitor sales on the website. Within minutes of starting the email transmissions, orders started flowing in. By the end of the day, more than 1900 orders were received. A handful of people asked to be excluded from future mailings. Over 200 people responded with personal notes. Some were grateful for the discount. Others apologized for not placing an order and asked to receive more emails.

Things are much different today. The novelty of receiving a personalized message from a company is long gone. Spam filters make getting emails delivered a near impossible mission. And the competition for recipients’ attention is at an all-time high. Even so, email marketing remains one of most effective marketing and service vehicles available.

The emails that deliver the best return on investment are the ones that are integrated with the other marketing channels to provide information and service to the recipients. They create a connection between company and customer that motivates people to respond. A successful email marketing strategy builds loyalty while increasing sales.

Many email campaigns today are little more than a systematic generation of one promotional email after another. Discount emails are relatively easy to create and deliver sales with each send, making them a quick way to inject some life into lagging sales. The simplicity of sale marketing combined with solid response rates creates an environment where marketers are reluctant to move beyond the easy, low-hanging fruit.

In addition to generating sales, discount marketing also trains people to always look for the best price before buying the company’s products and services. It is not a sustainable strategy because there will always be another company that can offer lower prices and lure customers away. A better plan is to develop an integrated email marketing strategy that educates and encourages people to develop a relationship with the company. This requires more effort, but it delivers loyalty and long-term results.

Every email that a customer or prospect receives is an opportunity for the company to establish itself as the best service provider and solidify the relationship. Best practices include:

  • Using a valid return email address so the recipient can respond with one click.
  • Sending branded emails that identify your company at first glance.
  • Mixing educational emails that provide “how to” information for products and services with new product launches and promotional messages.
  • Transactional emails that communicate shipping information and challenges so customers aren’t left wondering, “Where is my order?”
  • Highly targeted and personalized emails designed to engage customers and prospects at every point in their lifespan.

Finding the right combination of educational, event and promotional emails requires testing and measuring results for incremental improvements. The resources invested improve relationships, increase sales and create a sustainable marketing strategy.

Note: Over the next few months, we’ll feature winning and losing email marketing strategies and campaigns on this blog. If you would like to share your company’s killer emails, send them to Debra at dellis@wilsonellisconsulting.com.

6 Steps to Building the Perfect Landing Page

Today, I’ve decided to go back to basics. And in the world of direct response marketing, nothing is more basic than the landing page. Having worked in the industry for many years, I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that no campaign can succeed without a Landing Page that converts. This is an indisputable fact. Try launching an email or direct mail campaign with a kick-ass creative that sends people back to the homepage of your wesbsite and see what happens. Inevitably, almost all of your hard-fought leads will evaporate into cyberspace, lost forever, destroying any chance of achieving ROI.

Today I’ve decided to go back to basics. And in the world of direct response marketing, nothing is more basic than the landing page. Having worked in the industry for many years, I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that no campaign can succeed without a landing page that converts. This is an indisputable fact. Try launching an email or direct mail campaign with a kick-ass creative that sends people back to the homepage of your wesbsite and see what happens. Inevitably, almost all of your hard-fought leads will evaporate into cyberspace, lost forever, destroying any chance of achieving ROI.

Don’t believe me? Want to know how big of a difference a kick-ass landing page makes? Huge. Think about it like this. I’ve seen top-performing landing pages convert upwards of 10 percent to 20 percent of visitors into leads or sales. By contrast, a generic Contact Us page on a plain-vanilla website will typically convert anywhere from 1 percent to 3 percent. I’ll save you the time by doing the math for you: This means you’ll covert anywhere from three to 20 times more visitors. Do those numbers turn your head? If so, read on for some tips on how to build a landing page that kicks butt.

  1. KISS, or Keep It Simple Stupid—Generally, when it comes to landing pages less is more. Essentially, keeping visitors focused on the key message is the name of the game. This means eliminating all extraneous details not directly related to the campaign at hand. Links to other pages? Delete them. Fancy and distracting design. Change it. Lots of extra content about your firm? Gone.
  2. Headline—When visitors arrive on your landing page, you’ve got at most 15 seconds (and probably a lot less) to grab their attention. And nothing grabs someone’s attention better than a catchy and hard-hitting headline. According to Jeff Ginsberg (@mktgexperiments), landing page headlines should “emphasize what the customer gets rather than does and be customer-focused.” Couldn’t agree more. If you’re new to the headline game, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Check out successful campaigns and see what they used. Get a sense of what other marketers are doing, and remember that imitation is sometimes the sincerest form of flattery.
  3. Call-to-action—If you spent your hard-earned marketing bucks to drive someone to your landing page in the first place, bet your bottom dollar it’s because you want them to do something—express interest in your products or services by filling out a Web form, buy your product by whipping out a credit card and clicking submit on a shopping cart, etc. With that in mind, make sure your landing page contains a clear, concise and effective call-to-action that encourages the prospect to follow through and close the loop.
  4. Form—Unless you’re running a branding campaign—in which case you wouldn’t even need a landing page, right?—at the end of the user-engagement process you want to visitor to fill out some sort of Web form. Call it what you will—lead form, shopping cart and so on—but the act of filling out or not filling out this one vital page element is what will ultimately be used as a Key (if not the Key) Performance Indicator (KPI) that determines how well your campaign performed. When it comes to Web forms, the shorter the better. Fact is, nothing turns off or scares away Web visitors more than a long and imposing Web form. So make it short, sweet and to the point. Oh, and if possible, using technology such as Personalized URLs (PURLs) that pre-fills as many of the form fields as possible. Remember, the less there is to do, the greater the chance it gets filled out in the first place.
  5. Advertise security—Nobody likes to submit information on a website they don’t trust. In other words, flaunt your security credentials. If your page is secure and encrypted (SSL), make sure the security certificate is displayed prominently on the landing page. And if there are other security features your firm follows, darn right you should display them, too.
  6. Build credibility—Similarly to the last point, prospects fill out forms on landing pages because they trust the vendor. This means that it’s your job to tell your brand’s story in a clear, concise and compelling manner. The trick to this point is that because we’re talking about a landing page, you don’t have too much real estate in which to tell your story. In other words, talk about what make your firms and its products unique, but don’t waste too much space or verbiage doing so. If you want to tell a customer testimonial or testimonials, make them short and to the point.

Okay, I guess those are my best tips for landing pages. So go out and build some good ones. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Holiday Paid Search Analytics Reveal Insights Into Today’s Cross-Channel Shopper

When analyzing early holiday paid search data, it’s readily apparent that shopping is truly a cross-channel endeavor. For instance, the majority of this year’s Black Friday shopping occurred in-store, but consumers used search engines in droves before setting foot in a store. Search helped shoppers map out their in-store Black Friday strategies, informing them exactly where and when they could find the best deals on the products they wanted.

When analyzing early holiday paid search data, it’s readily apparent that shopping is truly a cross-channel endeavor. For instance, the majority of this year’s Black Friday shopping occurred in-store, but consumers used search engines in droves before setting foot in a store. Search helped shoppers map out their in-store Black Friday strategies, informing them exactly where and when they could find the best deals on the products they wanted.

Search played a major role in driving in-store traffic this Black Friday. Performics tracked a huge spike in Google paid search clicks for its clients on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Paid search clicks increased 87 percent year-over-year on Thanksgiving and 65 percent year-over-year on Black Friday. Additionally, this year saw the most mobile paid search clicks and impressions ever seen on Black Friday — 400 percent more than 2010.

#INLINE-CHART#

For the second consecutive year, Black Friday clicks surpassed Cyber Monday clicks. The adjacent graph shows three primary spikes in 2010 and 2011 fourth quarter paid search clicks. Black Friday represents the biggest spike, with Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday (which were close to each other) following behind.

Cyber Monday has historically been the biggest online sales day of the year, not Black Friday. In terms of online sales, Black Friday historically ranks behind Cyber Monday, Green Monday (the second Monday in December) and Free Shipping Day. Black Friday drives the most clicks, but the fourth most online sales.

This indicates that consumers use search engines heavily on Black Friday to discover the best in-store deals. Post-recession shoppers are researching on their computers and mobile devices more than ever to find the right combination of quality and price. The rise of mobile, highlighted by the 400 percent year-over-year increase in Black Friday mobile clicks, is the biggest indicator of true cross-channel shopping.

Not only are on-the-go consumers searching for your store locations, but they’re also conducting competitive price searches and looking for product information on their phones/tablets while in your store. According to Performics’ 2011 Social Shopping Study, 62 percent of consumers perform competitive price searches on their mobile devices while in a retailer’s store and 41 percent look for product information.

To capitalize on this cross-channel shopping behavior during the holiday season and beyond, marketers should do the following:

  • integrate online and offline promotional planning;
  • create strong mobile websites;
  • use paid search extensions (e.g., addresses, phone numbers, click-to-call) to aid searchers looking for your store;
  • let searchers know that products are in stock in your stores;
  • ensure visibility in mobile search for keywords likely to be used by shoppers searching for your store while on the go or in-store; and
  • create comprehensive local paid and organic search campaigns.

Marketers should invest in analytics to understand exactly how search marketing affects offline sales. Uncovering insights through data will help you best allocate budgets and create marketing strategies to maximize cross-channel performance.

Mobile’s Role in the In-Store Shopping Experience Growing, Survey Finds

I came across a very interesting report this week from White Horse, a digital marketing agency based in Portland, Ore. The Future of In-Aisle Mobile: A Framework for Consumer-Centered Innovation found that 84 percent of smartphone users have engaged in some type of in-store mobile activity related to shopping.

I came across a very interesting report this week from White Horse, a digital marketing agency based in Portland, Ore. The Future of In-Aisle Mobile: A Framework for Consumer-Centered Innovation found that 84 percent of smartphone users have engaged in some type of in-store mobile activity related to shopping. I think this is a pretty high percentage.

The report examines how consumers use smartphones to supplement in-store shopping while also offering tips on how retailers can take advantage of this behavior. For the study, White Horse conducted 13 videotaped shop-along trips to retailers including Anne Taylor LOFT, Best Buy, Sephora and Bed Bath & Beyond. It then conducted a survey of 390 U.S.-based smartphone users to validate the field research.

The 16 percent of respondents who haven’t used their smartphone for shopping tasks in-store cited very consistent reasons for not doing so: most haven’t found a utility that allows them to shop and gather information in-aisle easily, and many want a speedy shopping experience, according to the report.

Electronics stores are where shoppers are most likely to use their smartphone to aid their purchase decision (79 percent), followed by discount retailers (67.5 percent), department stores (48.6 percent) and supermarkets (42.6 percent).

The report also found that while price-checking is the most common activity for mobile shoppers (72 percent of respondents report doing so), it’s by no means the dominant activity. Searches for product reviews and recommendations (67 percent), and seeking a retailer’s store information (61.1 percent) followed closely behind.

What do you think of these findings? Surprised by them at all? Please leave a comment below.

Which is Better for Mobile Shopping, Tablets or Smartphones?

Are you wondering whether it’s worth providing your online retail offering on tablets, particularly the iPad? Are you also facing the challenge of how to get your mobile strategy on track? Before you decide which course to follow, here’s some data to consider:

Are you wondering whether it’s worth providing your online retail offering on tablets, particularly the iPad? Are you also facing the challenge of how to get your mobile strategy on track? Before you decide which course to follow, here’s some data to consider:

Although only a small percentage of users, tablets are poised to more than double their U.S. installed base penetration in 2011 to 7.6 percent of the population, or 24 million devices, according to eMarketer. Two out of five consumers considering purchasing an iPad cited shopping on the device as a reason for their interest, according to research from Vision Critical in November of last year. This isn’t surprising since online shopping is a visual experience and tablets are content-consumption devices.

Early results show that targeting tablet owners rather than smartphone users may be the wise choice, according to the e-tailing group. One in 10 tablet owners used their device to browse or buy online every day versus 6 percent of smartphone owners. The research also shows that once owners start buying via a tablet, they return. Nearly 25 percent of tablet owners made at least six purchases during the past six months, compared to 15 percent of smartphone users who did the same.

Furthermore, tablet owners tend to be gadget-buying early adopters. iPad owners tend to be young, educated and affluent, an ideal target market, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Forrester Research.

Due to the tablet’s larger screen and better user functionality for browsing, consumers preferred the tablet shopping experience (88 percent thought it was satisfactory or very satisfactory) to that of a smartphone (73 percent thought it was satisfactory or very satisfactory).

While smartphones are great for shopping in-store or gathering information on the go, they’re not user friendly for extended research activities. In part, this is attributable to the fact that less than 5 percent of retailers have a mobile site, according to October 2010 research from Brand Anywhere and Luth Research.

Here are three tips to consider when planning your company’s mobile strategy:

  1. Take advantage of the tablet’s visual presentation (but avoid using Flash).
  2. Check how your content is formatted and renders on different tablets.
  3. Make sure that shoppers can easily purchase once they’ve seen enough.

Now is a good time to start testing tablets to enhance your customers’ shopping experience, especially if your products are highly visual in nature or need to be seen in the environment in which they’ll be used. Bear in mind that tablets and smartphones fulfill different shopping needs for consumers, therefore you shouldn’t choose one option over the other.

Forecasting a Cheery 2010 Holiday Shopping Season for Paid Search Campaigns

With the holidays fast approaching, news and economic trends relevant to this year’s holiday shopping season have been mixed, though generally favorable. A recent study by ChannelAdvisor revealed that 81 percent of shoppers plan to spend the same or more on holiday gifts this year. The study also found that more of that shopping will be conducted online.

With the holidays fast approaching, news and economic trends relevant to this year’s holiday shopping season have been mixed, though generally favorable. A recent study by ChannelAdvisor revealed that 81 percent of shoppers plan to spend the same or more on holiday gifts this year. The study also found that more of that shopping will be conducted online.

From a performance perspective, actively managed holiday paid search campaigns delivered impressive results during the 2009 holiday shopping season in comparison to the rest of the year. In 2010, these campaigns have already achieved strong year-to-date (YTD) growth. This strong YTD growth will likely continue into the fourth quarter, and Performics predicts this will net out to 15 percent year-over-year (YOY) growth for actively managed holiday paid search campaigns. The results could be even stronger for search advertisers who are able to make Q4 outshine the rest of the year like they did in 2009.

Either way, all signs point to growth for these campaigns, and marketers should keep the following opportunities in mind:

Continued emphasis on value. Free shipping and discounts have become standard as retailers continue to vie for cost-conscious consumers. Average order value is down 9 percent YTD according to a Performics Holiday Retail Group report, and this trend will likely continue into Q4. Providing offers on upsell or cross-sell products can help boost order totals and offset free shipping and other discounts merchants offer.

Delayed shopping as savvy consumers research and wait for late sales. The first two weeks in December 2009 saw sales increase by 27 percent compared to 2008, while Black Friday sales decreased 17 percent YOY. Sales during the last week of free standard shipping prior to Christmas also increased significantly in 2009. However, numbers may shift this year if consumers feel more confident with compelling sales already underway. The recently released Compete Holiday Insights survey found that 50 percent of consumers have already started holiday shopping.

Shoppers are reaching for their phones. Nearly half of adult smartphone owners younger than 25 will use their smartphones to shop this holiday season, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation and BIGresearch. An increasing share of overall clicks are coming from mobile — 6.7 percent in September, and projected to be greater than 10 percent within 12 months.

Improved efficiency of last-minute shopping. Consumer spending and cost per clicks dropped dramatically following the last week of free standard shipping prior to Christmas 2009. Active paid search advertisers can do more for less after Dec. 17.

Marketers looking to capitalize on these opportunities and improve holiday performance should consider the following recommendations:

  • follow best practices to actively manage campaigns and effectively respond to market forces;
  • offer aggressive promotions early to capture shoppers;
  • actively participate in the last week of free standard shipping prior to Christmas;
  • embrace mobile to ensure the channel’s increasing user base can find you when searching; and
  • continue active management of paid search beyond Dec. 17 to further boost efficiency.

By following shoppers’ changing behaviors this holiday season — and planning and executing campaigns accordingly — marketers can boost their odds of a jolly holiday.

Showdown of the Holiday Gadget Wish List: Man vs. Marketer

The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and it’s make-or-break time for the hottest category this time of year — consumer electronics. As always, there will be no shortage of choices. Store aisles will be jam-packed with bright, shiny contenders, all competing for a place in your shopping cart.

The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and it’s make-or-break time for the hottest category this time of year — consumer electronics. As always, there will be no shortage of choices. Store aisles will be jam-packed with bright, shiny contenders, all competing for a place in your shopping cart.

I decided to field a survey to find out which gadgets will earn a much-coveted spot in all those stockings hung by the chimney with care. To put a twist on things, I wanted to compare the responses of average consumers versus marketing professionals. Survey respondents included 100 consumers randomly selected from a survey panel and 100 traditional and digital marketing peers.

Most coveted gadgets: the winners
Want to know what to get your favorite marketer this year? The iPad was the hands-down winner among marketers, chosen by one in five respondents. But the iPad isn’t getting the same amount of consumer love — it ranked seventh in a list of 10 items we asked about, with only 8 percent of consumers including it on their wish lists.

What’s on top of consumers’ lists? Flat-screen TVs rule. Maybe those savvy consumers smell a deal? Last year wasn’t a banner year for TV sales, and the inventory glut is leading to heavy price reductions. According to CNN, the average price for a 32-inch LCD TV is just $374. Quite the bargain when compared inch-for-inch against the 9.7-inch iPad screen.

Life beyond Android and iPhone: the surprises
With all the talk about convergence devices that do it all, I didn’t expect to see a decidedly old-school, not-so-one-stop-shop entry in the top three of both the consumer and marketer list — digital cameras. It’s a reminder that there’s still a lot of demand for specialized, single-use devices.

When it comes to mobile, the iPhone was the most mentioned smartphone for both marketers and consumers, fueled by its heavily anticipated arrival at Verizon. Android phones were rock bottom on the list among nonmarketers, with a mere 2 percent hoping for one this holiday. Smartphones (non-Android or iPhone) made a surprisingly strong showing among consumers, tying for third place with the iPhone. In the iPhone- and Android-obsessed world of marketers, it’s easy to forget that there’s a lot of other options out there.

We’re not our target customers: the not so surprising
Over 90 percent of the marketers surveyed labeled one or more of the items they were asked about as a must-have for their holiday wish lists. One in 10 even included additional candidates, including GoogleTV, Xbox with Kinect, Roku and the latest iPod. But the average consumer is definitely less smitten by gizmos and gadgets — over 50 percent said none of the items we asked about will make it onto their holiday wish lists.

The reluctance among consumers to indulge in pricey electronic goodies is consistent with the grim predictions of 2010 holiday spending, such as the recent finding from the NPD Group that “consumers who were considering just cutting back on [consumer electronics] purchases are now not planning to buy anything at all.”

Holiday 2010: the takeaways
While 2011 is shaping up to be the year the iPhone hits mass adoption, there are a lot of other smartphone choices out there. This doesn’t make things any easier for app-slinging marketers, who will have to prioritize the platforms they want to serve.

iPad envy aside, there’s a lot in common between marketers and consumers. For now, most of us are favoring the familiar over the newer-to-market indulgences. Emerging technologies such as 3-D TVs, tablets and e-readers may dominate headlines, but it’s the established devices such as digital cameras and flat-screen TVs that will continue to capture wallet share this holiday season.

As for my list, I’m hoping to get something (or someone) to help carry around all the gadgets I already own. What’s on your wish list?

Young Affluents Love to Go Social Shopping

Many young affluents are using a social networking niche — social shopping sites — at least according to a new report from Unity Marketing.

Many young affluents are using a social networking niche — social shopping sites — at least according to a new report from Unity Marketing.

What are social shopping sites? They’re sites like Woot.com, Gilt.com, HauteLook and Rue La La that offer “in-the-know-shoppers” deals on cool merchandise. Woot.com, for example, has one product for sale daily until it’s sold out or the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. CST, when it’s replaced by the next day’s item.

Rue La La, on the other hand, is an invitation-only social shopping site, which means you have to be invited by an existing member to enjoy its benefits. Exclusivity adds to the interest factor in this site. It also features premium designer clothes and accessories in private-sale boutiques that are only open for a limited time.

The report, How the Affluent Luxury Consumer Uses the Internet and Social Media: An In-Depth Profile, found that one in three affluents surveyed have visited a social shopping site in the past three months. Social shopping sites are most popular among young affluent consumers under the age of 45. In fact, 43 percent of these young affluents use social shopping sites versus 33 percent of affluents as a whole, the report found. What’s more, affluent consumers’ use of social shopping rose from only 3 percent in 2007 to a whopping 33 percent this year.

“Social shopping sites are going to continue to grow in popularity among the affluent market, especially among young affluents,” said Pam Danzinger, president of Unity Marketing, in a press release about the report. “They offer young affluents shopping experiences they enjoy: quick action, limited access and value pricing. For luxury marketers targeting young affluents, these are the places to be.”

For the study, 1,614 affluent consumers with incomes of $100,000 or more and who bought luxury goods or services in the fourth quarter were surveyed from Jan. 8 to Jan. 27. The average age of respondents was 45.9, and the average household income was $239,300.

Almost 20 percent of those surveyed were classified as “ultra-affluents,” or those at the top 2 percent of U.S. households with incomes of $250,000. Virtually all respondents use the internet for personal uses, including shopping, and nearly 80 percent are social media users.

So if you target affluents (and who doesn’t?), examine the sales models of these sites to see if you can emulate anything like them on your site. Can you offer your customers or subscribers a “special, one-day only” promotion or the like? Or try selling a different, cool or unusual item each day? I bet this approach will keep your customers coming back to your site each day. I mean, everyone wants to be “in-the-know,” right?

Have you ever tried social shopping techniques? Have they worked? Do tell by leaving a comment here or sending a message to me at mcampanelli@napco.com.

Social Networking, Meet 3-D Shopping

Something passed my desk today that caught my attention: a press release about a virtual shopping mall called VirtualEShopping.com.

While I’m usually skeptical about these newfangled tools, I did check this one out … and it was pretty cool.

Something passed my desk today that caught my attention: a press release about a virtual shopping mall called VirtualEShopping.com.

While I’m usually skeptical about these newfangled tools, I did check this one out … and it was pretty cool.

Here’s how it works: After going to the site and downloading the free mall software that’s required, you enter a virtual 3-D shopping mall that looks very realistic. Once in the mall, you can create avatars or personas to represent yourself, interact with other shoppers and view storefronts.

Here’s what really got my attention: Some big retailers are partnering with the site. A quick look at the website’s advertiser directory shows hundreds of retailers — from familiar ones like Apple, Best Buy and Foot Locker to less well-known online retailers such as PrankPlace, Preschoolians and ShopIrish — advertising their wares on the site.

The website offers retailers a number of ways to woo customers to shop, including the following:
∗ offer coupons;
∗ salesbots (or pop-up ads) and virtual salespeople in front of their stores promoting merchandise and specials; and
∗ storefront signage, mall carts, billboards and information kiosks promoting the same.

Special events like seminars, concerts, guest appearances and contests are held on the main stage in the mall atrium.

VirtualEShopping.com also offers social networking features. An “I Want It/I Got It” section allows shoppers to share images and links of their favorite items with friends. Other features include a special dates section that makes it easier for friends to remember gift-giving occasions; a shopping tips chat function; and a section to share favorite stores. The site also grabs a snapshot of a shopper’s mall persona to represent each user in the social networking section. Registered users can invite friends to meet them in the mall at a prearranged day and time.

VirtualEShopping.com appeals to many demographics: Gen Xers who like to socialize in malls; moms with young children who can’t shop during store hours but who like to shop with friends; and even tech-types who prefer a more robust interface.

Hey, maybe I’m partial to these virtual worlds since we’ve had some very successful virtual trade shows here at eM+C. (In fact, to register for the on-demand version of our most recent, All About eMail, click here. It’ll be up and running until Feb. 16.) But really, VirtualEShopping.com is cool. Check it out.