September 24, 1999

  • Where Shopping Trips Start

    In ADL-0007 Brian Bimm asked: “Has anyone seen any research on where consumers begin their online shopping trips?”

    My favorite Net mag, The Industry Standard, published some interesting metrics a few days ago that start to answer this question.

    The article gives lots of information on the effectiveness of portal deals. In short, only about half of e-commerce site referrals are from portals – the rest being from “other”.

    Here’s a quote from the article:

    “In the future, marketers will rely less on the major portals and more on vertical portals,” says Peggy O’Neill, director of analytical services at Nielsen NetRatings. For specialized products like golf clubs, for instance, marketers will be more interested in hooking up with a golfing portal than a general-interest portal. O’Neill says that big-name portals currently rule simply because there aren’t enough vertical portals to compete with, yet.

    And people’s use of the web changes as they move beyond being newbies. In some categories the shift in people bypassing portals is incredible. For example people online for one year or less only bypass portals 34% of the time when looking for investment and trading resources. But by the time they’ve been online two years, that number increases to over 60%.

    You can find the complete article, including some pretty graphs at:,1283,988,00.html

    (And sorry Brian they didn’t mention microwaves once!)

September 21, 1999

  • Email Sponsorship Rates

    In ADL-0005, Tiffany Welch said: “I am looking for information on what fee sites are charging advertisers for highly targeted email sponsorship.”

    I’m glad that Tiffany raised the question of email marketing. While the buzz about email as the “next big thing” has already begun (how ironic), I don’t think we’re going to stop hearing about its effectiveness as a communications vehicle in the near future.

    There are four ways to use email as a marketing tool:

    1. Mail to your current customers and prospects. These are usually people who have “raised their hands” at your website by giving you their email address or by buying something.

    Forrester Research released two reports in the last six months that have really highlighted the value of an effective email strategy for websites. (For Forrester junkies, the reports are “Driving Site Traffic” in April and “Opt-In E-mail Gets Personal” in March). Both of these reports are worth tracking down. Forrester suggests that the two best ways to drive traffic to your site are to start an affiliate program and to start emailing current customers and prospects.
    They also found that 70% of sites rated email as either important or very important to their online initiatives.

    2. Marketing to Opt-in email lists from third parties.
    This entails “renting” names from a company that provides consumers with the option of receiving email. This is not spam because people have consciously decided to be on the list.

    PostmasterDirect ( says that they get response rates “as high as 5 to 15%” and that they will email to their 100% opt-in list for “as little as 10 cents (US) a person”. That’s about a C$150 CPM if my calculator is working correctly.

    3. Ads on newsletters. Most of us subscribe to a bunch of editorial or discussion email lists that provide regular news and opinions. Marketers can (obviously) buy ad space on these lists to reach their targeted audience.

    As for ad rates on third-party lists (which I think is what Tiffany was looking for), the market doesn’t seem to be solidifying around newsletter ad rates or standards the way it has for banners. I’ve seen other lists discussing the potential for IAB-like standards for email ads, but my gut reaction is that this is wrong-headed. The overabundance of generic size banners in “standard” places on web pages is one reason for declining response rates. Putting the same kind of uniformity in place for email newsletters could kill the effectiveness of that medium as well.

    4. Spam people. I can’t believe that some marketers still think this is an option, but I get email from people who should know better more often than I’d like to admit. I think the fundamental problem here is that the marketers don’t understand the medium and they genuinely think that THEIR message isn’t spam because it is a good/interesting/ relevant offer. Sorry folks, spam is in the eye of the beholder (a bad metaphor that one), and the fact that you think it is interesting doesn’t mean I want to get it.

September 17, 1999


    Hi all,

    I’m not sure if everyone saw the extensive article in the Thursday Globe and Mail Technology section, but it was a very good overview of some of the issues we’ve been addressing regarding the relationship between online shopping in Canada and the US.

    The GlobeTechnology site has a special section on the topic with extra information:

    I’d recommend you take a trip to the site and check it out. This may also be a good starting point for intelligent discussion about this topic on ADL. We need to move beyond “amazon-envy” and start talking about what it will take to kick start commerce in Canada.

September 10, 1999

  • Service Failure Recovery

    Great to see ADL finally taking off after about a year of planning. I hope everyone works to make this the great resource it most certainly can be. And hats off to June for taking on the challenge of herding cats!

    In Issue 1, Tim Silk wrote:

    “My Question: I would like to know of any companies that currently use their website for dealing with service failures and what the response has been from customers. Any measures of volume and frequency of service failure in comparison to customer retention or repeat customers would also be helpful.”

    One example I recently found that relates to customer service online is the way Barnes and Noble in the US handle returns on items. When I received a book I ordered recently, the invoice included a peel-off sticker with a bar-code that could be attached to the box for return. This identifies the package for B&N to allow them to track the return and provides the consumer with the return address and a feeling that it is “okay” to return something.

    I think a few other firms are even including return courier waybills that the consumer can use for no charge returns.

    I bring this example up primarily because it is pre-emptive in that it assumes that problems arise, rather than treating them as an afterthought.

    Anyone else have a particularly good example of e-commerce return strategies? Any horror stories?