Tips for Increasing Retailing Results

As I mentioned earlier in the week, MarketLive released a very interesting white paper at Internet Retailer 2007 about how you can generate more orders from your traffic. Normally, we would refer to this effort as working on improving your conversion rate. However, the MarketLive position is that monitoring the conversion rate is of little value because it is so broad. Instead, they recommend focusing on small pieces of the shopping experience by themselves.

There is a lot of information in the report and I recommend that you download it and study it. However, here are some tips that I found interesting:

Viral Marketing vs Idiot Marketing Experts

I just heard a great presentation from Tom Dickson, CEO of Blendtec. Blendtec is the company responsible for the “Will it Blend?” videos on YouTube in which Tom blends everything from garden rakes to cell phones. You can see some of them here. There have been close to 36 million views of these videos, and Dickson shared exactly how this viral campaign has helped his brand.

In addition to incredible media opportunities (including the Today Show and Jay Leno), online sales of the home blender have jumped by a factor of five times, and in-store sales have increased as well. Not bad results from a $50 investment…

More Thoughts from Internet Retailer 2007

It is very clear to me that the biggest innovation in e-tailing in the next year will be in improving the customer experience. The Exhibit Hall here is full of companies that sell solutions to help customers navigate e-commerce sites more effectively. Software such as AJAX is driving this innovation.

The good news is that many of these concepts are very slick and change the shopping experience in a dramatic way. The bad news is that these solutions are expensive–often out of reach for small and medium sized businesses.

Here are some specific things you can expect to see on more retail websites over the next year:

Internet Retailer 2007 Thoughts From First Day

I am at the Internet Retailer Conference in San Jose, CA this week along with 4,000 other e-tailers. Here are some thoughts from the first day.

Jim McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-Flowers, gave the keynote address. Closing in on $1 billion in annual sales, 1-800-Flowers has aggressively acquired other companies in past years and expanded far outside flowers into other gift products such as candy and wine. According to Internet Retailer, that growth has been expensive, and all is not good within the company. I find that easy to believe. McCann filled his 30 minutes with bad jokes and very little substance. He was either trying very hard to keep the company strategy under wraps or he does not have a company strategy. I suspect the latter. He ended his talk with a rather bizarre plea for help from the audience. No thank you–if I figure out a better way to sell flowers online, I do not feel like sharing it with Jim McCann. I would rather start a flower company.

Two Simple Ways to Increase Email Deliverability

Email continues to be a great source of revenue for Internet retailers, but deliverability is still a challenge. Many retailers avoid certain words in emails in a hope of getting them past spam filters. However, according to a recent study from Lyris, tweaking the content of your emails will likely make little impact on your deliverability rate.

On the other hand, making two simple changes can greatly improve your chance of getting your email in front of your customer.
1) Avoid excessive images. Not only do images trigger spam filters, but more and more email clients are blocking images anyway.
2) Avoid using a “From Name” that contains letters and symbols rather than an actual name.

Blue Nile to Hit $1 Billion in Internet Sales Within 7 Years?

In a conversation with Internet Retailer, CEO Mark Vadon claims that Blue Nile could hit $1 billion in annual internet sales within seven years. Blue Nile had just over $250 million in sales during 2006.

The secret to Blue Nile’s success is pretty simple. They have a very specific niche and they do what they do very, very well.

Blue Nile’s niche is men looking for expensive jewelry–especially engagement rings. The average shopper on Blue Nile spends over $1,500, and the average spent on an engagement ring is $5,500–close to double the industry average.

The Death of the Small Guy

There is a powerful process at work in internet retailing that I call normalization. By this, I am referring to the tendency of markets to gravitate to a state where the profits go to the companies that deserve them while inferior companies fail.

This is not a popular subject and most of the online “gurus” deny this phenomenon. After all, they have to sell their marketing courses to people that believe they can start a website and get wealthy overnight.

I am asked constantly by friends what they can sell on the Internet. I always want to ask them why they think that I would share potential goldmines. My company has a software platform and system that can launch a sophisticated retail website within a few days. If I think of a good product to sell, I can be selling it by next week. The fact is that it is not so easy to come up with new products to retail online these days.