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Fab.com Lets Social Marketing Work

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

On this cyber Monday, I thought I would take a moment to highlight the social marketing success of the ever-addictive shopping site, Fab.com.

From its inception, Fab.com has used social marketing tactics to build and develop a strong network of online members. By crowdsoucing the site connects shoppers with design products.  As described in a recent New York Times article, Fab.com established a strong “influencer base” through Facebook ads, soliciting those who “liked certain flash-sale sites, design magazines, design blogs or designers” to join, thus building a following before launching the company.

From there the ripple effect took off, acquiring new sellers and loyal buyers by allowing conversations to happen online and then capitalizing on the online observations.

The site is built to be an online discussion. Well-composed photos of household “conversation pieces”, collected and organized in easy ways to pin, post and share online. Plus the site rewards you for sharing and influencing in your own way through points.

Open about their heavy customer surveillance, Fab.com claims that those who use the site’s crowdsourcing features are more likely to make purchases than those who don’t. By attracting people to the site through design conversation pieces and then providing the vehicles to share and converse are fueling sales. Fab.com is projecting revenue near $140 million in 2013.

So, like good restaurants and books which can earn their way to fame through word of mouth, perhaps Fab.com has found the ecommerce version of word of mouth success.

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Ski the Web for your next Gear Purchase

November 11, 2012 Leave a comment

After watching a friend go through the shopping and ultimately purchasing process of a fairly big-ticket item, I was surprised that they finally decided to buy their new snowboard online. Online shopping, which is still mostly reserved for smaller risk purchases, in this case provided my friend with plenty of reviews and informative product videos to become an informed shopper. This coupled with the right pricing and selection of boards that their beloved neighborhood board shop couldn’t compete with, their online purchase was an easy one.

It wasn’t so much the dollar value spent online that surprised me, similar priced purchases are made online for airline tickets or vacations without hesitation. It was the purchase of a product, which so much satisfaction is based on feel and individual specs that surprised me. Looking to update my skis this year, I was curious how many people are really buying their skis online.

Online ski-gear sales for 2011 were estimated at $74 million. However only eight percent of the total industry sales for skis are online, a small percent compared to other industries.  As my friend experienced, availability and convenience are some of the biggest factors pushing ski sales online, but not necessary price. In a recent Ski Magazine article, Hud Knight director of merchandizing for Backcountry.com said, “We are held to stricter pricing parameters than brick and mortar stores.”  This makes customer service features like free shipping and generous return polices even more important.

Recognizing that regardless of if a customer makes a purchase online or in a store, a majority of the shopping process is done online. This presents ecommerce outlets with a greater opportunity. Ramping up informative videos, gear reviews and functional online media has given Skis.com an advantage. Brad Kopitz, Director of ecommerce marketing for Skis.com believes that, “Customers want easy to understand information that helps them find the right skis at the right price.” Assigning a three-man video production crew assigned to every product on their site is one way they develop content customers want.

Not all brands are sold on online ski sales. Ski brand marketers still need to get their product in front of customers. One way they are successfully able to do this is through free demos. There is also the brand integrity and satisfaction that some feel is better in-store. For example K2 does very little sales online preferring to support their retail locations. Which brings me back to my hesitation to buy something online that is focused on individual feel and set up.  The bindings and the boots need to be mounted, tuned and fitted to your skis. Tim Petrick, president of mountain gear and apparel brand, Rossignol North America, believes that the web isn’t the end-all, “ If specialty retail were to go away the sport would go away.”

As for this customer? I am still shopping.

 

Source: “Ski-Commerce”, By Paul Tolme Ski Magazine, Volume 77#1, 2012

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Hey, don’t take that! The basics of COPPA.

October 28, 2012 1 comment

Marketers and online communicators need to stay apprised of potential online privacy changes proposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Why? Because updated government, policies can change the marketing and communications industry just as thoroughly as online platforms and mobile apps have.

Over the next few weeks, keep an eye on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  COPPA is an attempt to update online rules with current technology advances. Specifically, the FTC outlines changes to the legal interpretation of a few key terms in the act:

  • “Operator” could be expanded to include third parties such as advertising networks, plug-ins, downloadable software or other services that collect personal information from visitors
  • “Personal Information” in the proposed changes would be considered anything that can be used to recognize a user over time “across different sites or services, where it is used for purposes other than support for internal operations”
  • “Support for Internal Operations”  will be expanded to list specific activities such as: “site maintenance and analysis, performing network communications, use of persistent identifiers for authenticating users, maintaining user preferences, serving contextual advertisements, and protecting against fraud and theft will not be considered collection of ‘personal information’ as long as the information collected is not used or disclosed to contact a specific individual, including through the use of behaviorally-targeted advertising”
  • “Website or Online Service Directed at Children” this asks operators to address the reality that some websites that contain child-oriented content, are often appealing to a larger audience, including parents. Under the current rules, these sites must treat all visitors as if they are under 13 years of age in terms of information collection

Many marketers have expressed that these changes could greatly lessen their offerings or even prevent them from providing sites to younger audiences.  In the past, website operators were only responsible for obtaining parental consent when collecting personal information or email addresses from children under the age of 13. One example would be an email address to receive an online birthday card.  Except now sites are more interactive. On HappyMeal.com you can upload your personal photo to be in a picture or dance video with Ronald McDonald.

The New York Times published in, “U.S. Is Tightening Web Privacy Rule to Shield Young”  that it is difficult to know what information that is being collected is being shared. However, a study of 54 websites popular with children found that many used tracking technologies extensively. This included audience segmenter, Quantcast, running on Nick.com and AudienceScience and analytic company running on a Disney game page.

Even fan sites need to be careful when a segment of their users are under the age of 13. Earlier in October, Natasha Singer of the New York Times, reported that, the FTC settled a case where,The operator of fan web sites for pop stars Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Rihanna and Demi Lovato agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty to settle federal charges that the sites illegally collected personal information about thousands of children.”

The industry association, Interactive Advertising Bureau, believes that the rule doesn’t need to be updated and the Digital Advertising Association is encouraging people to disable Microsoft’s “Do Not Track” function.

There are as many points of view on this subject as there are Bieber Fever fans. The stakes are high for anyone who does a vast amount of communicating with their customers online.  Although, the stakes are higher for those who don’t become and stay informed of the ever changing online market. I encourage you to read up on the issue for yourself. Think about what it means for your business and personal life. Then, think about getting creative. Changes to government regulations aren’t the end of online communications with younger demographics, just the platform for something new.

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