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Friday, July 16, 2004

Why Amazon Got the Sale, and FogDog Didn't

I wanted to send a gift to a friend. Football jersey. A guy thing.

I didn't think it would be too difficult to pay a major US-based apparel retailer with a credit card online, since the item was being shipped to a friend who lives within the US. I happen to live in Canada, as does the Bank of Montreal that issued the Mastercard.

The first problem was that the item was "out of stock" in several popular online stores. Since the item is in stock *generally*, it makes no sense that a particular outlet, like the online proshop of a major-league team, would allow itself to be out of stock. (Whatever that even means.) The "stock" thing is the first reason Amazon's kicking everyone's butt, including your local bookstore.

Amazingly, the website at Fogdog, which did have the item, wouldn't allow me to enter the country for my billing address, nor a Canadian province, even though the field was labelled "state or province."

So I called the 800 number hoping to place the order over the phone. I got a lovely woman named Sarah, who informed me (in a British accent) that she's afraid they cannot accept "international credit cards." Now hang on a cotton-pickin' minute. I've been reading my card number over the phone to stores like J.Crew for like the past 15 years. At wine.com, it's not a problem for anyone from any country to ship wine within the US as a gift (to the states that allow it). "International credit card," indeed. The irony is, nice support rep Sarah is probably working out of a call center in New Brunswick.

In online retail at this scale, you're basically an order taker. One of the few things you can add to the process, as Jeff Bezos believed from Day One, is to build a checkout process that works! Designing a form that doesn't break, or understanding that users need to be flexible with payment, billing, and shipping options, is vitally important work that becomes incredibly scalable once it's done. And compared to building malls, ditches, and skyscrapers, or sewing shirts for that matter, it ain't all that hard to do. What is FogDog or any other big-name retailer doing not being able to accept various payment methods, using broken online forms that would be inexcusable today even at mom & pop storefronts?

Like, duh.

Amazon sells the jersey for $7 cheaper than anyone else, too.

Advantage, Amazon.com.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Thursday, July 15, 2004

Text Listings Boost Brand Impact

Buying or optimizing for prominent text listings on search results pages in the hopes of increasing brand impact isn't a fool's errand, concludes an IAB-commissioned study.

It's always been a bit too pat to equate PPC advertising and SEO to direct marketing. There are similarities, but that's not all it is. Are billboards direct marketing? No.

Search combines the prominence of a billboard with ultra-targeting and uber-trackability. It's only a matter of time before the big guys figure it out.

Did somebody say McDonald's?

Someday, you'll see the suddenly-successful purveyor of healthy drive-thru salads' ad when you type the phrase "salads" or "supersize me." But as Zentropy Partners media director Joe Germscheid pointed out in the ClickZ article on this subject, "until the measurement catches up with the marketplace, search may remain a direct-marketer-controlled strategy."

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Monday, July 12, 2004

Edmunds.com Taking PPC Seriously

This excellent case study by MarketingSherpa describes how Edmunds, the automotive info site, built its Overture and Google AdWords keyword advertising campaigns to a level where they're spending $400,000+ per month.

The VP responsible for the project notes that the initiative has had a multimillion dollar impact on their business and that they wish they'd started sooner.

This seems to be a trend. I've run across businesses that would have to be counted as amongst the elite of advertisers who are already "fanatical" about pay-per-click... only to find that shortly thereafter that they have grown from relative obscurity to become industry leaders (or going from industry leader to true powerhouse). Coincidence?

Companies that are making heavy use of pay-per-click today are creating the kind of top-line revenue growth and bottom-line profitability that makes investors sit up and take notice. By adding paid search to their marketing mix, companies are accelerating their growth curves, landing venture funding, achieving favorable buyout terms, and even going public. As a privately-held company with well-connected investors, news of an Edmunds.com IPO wouldn't come as a shock.

Now as long as no one tells my car that I was lurking on this page doing research for this comment, we won't have a messy situation on our hands.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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