Remembering Learnings

This is a slightly longer post.

I’m sure you learn a new thing about your online business 2 or 3 times a week (if not more).  When that lesson happens what do you do?  Do you just internalize it or note it down?  If you note it down are you noting it in a format that an intern could easily read or grasp, or are you writing it down for just yourself?

The fact is that 90% of these daily lessons evaporate into nothingness, which is why I strongly recommend noting them down and making note in a language that someone totally inexperienced could read and make sense of.  I use a dead simple free site called http://30boxes.com/.  I’ve been using it since 2010.  The site has a very simple interface, it’s essentially a page with 30 boxes, one for each day of the month.  If you click a box a popup appears where you can type in your daily learning.  The lesson needs to be written in a summarized format (around 7 words).  You can use Bitly.com to add a short link to a Google Doc for lessons that are more detailed, but my advice is to keep things simple.

I make it a point to note one lesson a day.  It’s not always easy to do because some days I feel I didn’t learn anything new, but that’s not true.  I just need to think through my day and a lesson will pop.  If you want to keep your learnings private just mark them as ‘private’.  I personally don’t think this is needed because your calendar is only accessible via your login and password.

Every 30 days I have a calendar reminder to review daily learnings.  I randomly scroll back, select a month, and go over the lessons for that month.  It never takes more than 5 minutes and always ends up reminding me of a few forgotten lessons.  It’s also a great way to have a reality check.  Sometimes I just feel my mind isn’t learning anything new but when I go through daily learnings it immediately dispels that myth.  We ARE learning all the time, we’re just not cataloging it properly.

Another cool benefit is that if I vaguely remember a lesson but want more detail 30boxes.com has a search box where you can enter the name of the idea (for example “reactivation email”) and see every idea with the phrase “reactivation email” in it.

Anchor product

Most shoppers click in and out of search results quickly, making it a challenge for the e-tailer to tell their story.  We already know landing pages, content and site design play a role in slowing shoppers but I think retailers can do a better job using their anchor products.

An anchor product is a product that does a really good job grabbing the browser’s attention.  This is not to be confused with a top seller, which both grabs attention and gets purchased.  An anchor product is like a great assist, it lifts the team’s performance.  In Google Analytics terms an anchor product would be a product page that has a relatively low conversion rate with a relatively high $ Index.

Harry and David is famous for the distinctive way in which they cut their pears:

This would be their anchor product.

But even a site like umbrellasusa.com can use an anchor product:

PediPed Has Humanistic, Methodical and Competitive Shoppers Covered

The About Us page is where you tell the World why your store is THE place to buy.  PediPed is a manufacturer of children’s footwear and what I like about their About Us section is that it targets humanistic, methodical and competitive shoppers simultaneously:

pediped.com about us

The video story style appeals to humanistic shoppers, the chaptering format appeals to competitive shoppers and there is enough content here to answers all questions of methodical shoppers.

One Month Later

I can see why you love your online shop but what would happen if it vanished for 30 days?

Would customers bombard you with concerned emails?  Would they start “save the store” campaigns?  Or would they forget about you and find another site?

For many young Christians C28.com is THE place to buy clothes that celebrate their relationship with God.  It matters to them.  It is a part of their life.  It makes them happy.  If C2:8 went away for 30 days their customers would take significant action.  Would yours?

A Brief History Of Ecommerce

Stage 1: The big bang.  Somewhere in the early 90’s technology emerged which allowed people to inexpensively launch digital neon stores.

Stage 2: The long tail.  First shops to open for business catered to customers left out my mass retail.  There was now a place (2bigfeet.com) where men with extra large feet could shop in leisure.  Chris Anderson would later coin the term “The Long Tail” to describe this market.  And while online shopping was the biggest disruption in retailing in the last century only early adopters were using it at this point.

Stage 3: Rule of the technologists.  Shop owners quickly discovered a seductive equation; traffic = sales.  They hired geeks to device strategies to pull customers straight from search engines.  Geeks love boiling things down to a formula and naturally took to SEM and SEO.  But they aren’t marketers and the stores they created looked awful.  Luckily, shoppers were so glad to discover hard to find items they forgave woefully poor shopping experiences.  This is one reason stores with designs like this…

fabulousyarn.com

watchbandsonline.com category page

chagrinvalleysoapandcraft.com

…pulled in thousands of monthly hits.

Larger multi-channel retailers were still avoiding the web because they viewed it as cannibalization of their other channels.

Stage 4: Unchecked growth.  Once you reduce something to a reusable formula someone is bound to exploit it.  We now had enterprising companies like CSN Stores which were running hundreds of specialty stores.  Each had a finely crafted exterior but ran on the same engine.

Stage 5: March of the elephants and birth of peer to peer review networks.  Eventually the Best Buys of the world started investing serious money online and brought in their product photographers, brand marketers and catalog circulation specialists who helped convert the first wave of mass consumers.  Mass consumers had a totally different value system, they came looking for recognizable brands, expected great service and shopped around like crazy.  The adage “bring them in, the sale will happen” no longer applied.  Many ecommerce pioneers adapted to the new environment but most stubbornly held on to old ways.  Market movements are inefficient and the old venus fly trap still lured enough to keep the old model alive.  But, for the most part, tables had turned and veterans with their SEO/SEM automating technologists where finding it hard to pull in mass consumers.  Don’t get me wrong, they were still making serious money, it’s just that they were used to so much more.

During this time another event took place that exacerbated the pain of the veterans; peer to peer review networks.  You see, mass consumers want to know what other mass consumers are doing and services like Yelp!, BBB.org and epinions.com allowed them to share experiences.  The veterans who had invested so heavily on bringing people in now had another fire to deal with.  Back in the day power of word of mouth (WOM) was faint so poor service didn’t have any real downside.  But WOM magnifying networks have shifted power to the customer.

Stage 6: Contraction.  This is happening at the present time.  Here in the US we have twice as many retail stores as are needed by the population of the country.  I believe the number is even more skewed online.  As a result there are fewer consumer dollars per etailer to go around.  On the flip side inexpensive automating strategies have been exploited fully and the only way to generate disruptive growth now is by investing money on specialists.  Etailers are so used to the idea of clear ROI that hiring an expert who charges $150/hr but does not give explicit guarantees makes them nauseous.  Like I mentioned in an earlier post many etailers are addicted to the unsustainable 200% growth story.  I predict a big contraction is on its way and 30% of online stores in business this morning will cease to exist two years from now.

Stage 7: The NumeratiStephen Baker’s book with the same title dives deep into the subject but the summary is that the Numerati is a select group of people with equal skills in mathematics, psychology and marketing.  These super crunchers are redefining traditional customer segmentation models and designing new ones that better define consumers.  The future belongs to agile companies that are constantly testing assumptions about customer behavior and have structural flexibility to adapt to new discoveries.

The Trouble With $3 Jamba Juice Smoothies

Retailers are working extra hard these days.  On my afternoon walk I saw two guys standing near the station selling $3 Jamba Juice smoothies out of a white box.  I know Jamba Juice wants to drive sales but I think this is a penny wise pound foolish strategy for three principle reasons:

Brand dilution: I thought the unique selling proposition of Jamba Juice was that one could walk up to the counter, order a smoothie and have the juice expert prepare it right in front of us?

Authenticity: How do I even know if this is a legit setup? The guys were wearing Jamba Juice tee-shirts but there was no specific branding on the box itself.

Price point: Is $3.00 for a Jamba Juice smoothie too high or too low? The only people who could really answer this are Jamba Juice regulars.  So, in effect, this promoted price means little to non-customers.  The whole idea of setting up a stand on the street is to get non-customers to try your product once.

Here is what I would have done:

— I would have made a nice little Jamba Juice banner, slapped Jamba Juice stickers on the box, slapped another sticker on the smoothie itself and given customers an authentic proof of purchase receipt.

— Instead of saying “$3 Jamba Juice Smoothies” I’d say “Pedestrian Special 25% discounted Jamba Juice Smoothies for only $3.00

Is The Recession Zappos’s Achilles Heel?

zappos-logo1Zappos.com loves selling all kinds of heels, and with two way free shipping customers love buying them.  But two way shipping is only free for the customer, for Zappos it means they lose money every time a return is made.  And it hurts.  Somewhere within Zappos’s corporate office there exists a black book and in this book there are two columns.  On the left are customers that actually buy more because of the free shipping carrot.  On the right are the habitual returners.  So far it’s all good because the money making column is significantly longer.  So far.

With the reality of slowing consumer spending it’s obvious the left hand column is shrinking but my hunch is recession has little affect on habitual returners because they have no disincentive.  I would argue the habitual returner list has not contracted much.  This recession is hurting Zappos more than it’s hurting retailers that charge for shipping.  The question is how long can Zappos hold its breath under water.  Zappos is one of the smartest retailers in the world so if anyone can come out of this it’s them.