August 1, 2001

  • Playing Whack-a-Mole with Online Ads

    This whole pop-under thing is getting ridiculous.

    I just went the New York Times site and watched as this pop-under loaded:

    Here we have the Grey Lady, the newspaper of record for the entire planet, resorting to sneaky ads that look like Windows systems messages. This can’t be good for the image of the NYT or for the concept of online advertising as something that people might actually want to look at. More and more online advertising is looking adversarial to consumers. This pop-under actually goes to the effort of trying to hide the window title by adding lots of spaces and dots so that it shows as a blank box on your toolbar rather than revealing itself as a browser window!

    I can’t believe this is going to do anything but harm in the long term.

    My suggestion is that all publishers immediately stop accepting anything that is designed to trick visitors into clicking. That includes fake error messages or non-functional interactivity that just causes you to go to the advertiser’s site.

    Now I’m off to play “whack a mole” with more pop-up ads.

  • Thought

    The AIMS event yesterday was well attended and I was happy to see that we had an active and vocal crowd.

    As moderator of the panel it was pretty hard for me to get an accurate read on the overall value of the session and I’d like some input on what we can do better for the next panel. If you have thoughts, please drop me a line.

    Thanks to Farhan, Kevin and Nancy Lee for making the panel a pleasurable experience for me.

July 20, 2001

  • Thought

    I’m looking forward to moderating the “Permission Panel” at the AIMS event on July 31st (if you’re an AIMS member you should have received your e-mail invite by now).

    The panel looks great:

    Nancy Lee Jobin

    President & Founder, Graffiti Direct & Interactive

    Kevin Krossing

    Managing Partner, Net Perceptions

    Farhan Merchant

    CEO, PointSite

    I’ve got a bunch of questions I want to ask, but if you’ve got some burning questions about permission-based marketing, personalization and building loyalty online, drop me an e-mail and I’ll try to get them to respond.

July 19, 2001

  • Thought

    Here’s Wired News’ wrap up of this year’s Webby Awards:

    Webby Winners Have Their Say

    I wish I’d been there simply to hear the acceptance speeches, which were wisely limit to five words. Yes, words, not minutes. Here’s my favorite speech — from travel site Travelocity.com — quoted in its entirety: “Thanks, now please go away.” Very clever.

    The article also includes a handy list of all the winners by category with links, so when you’re looking for inspiration, start clicking.

  • Thought

    PICTOPLASMA is a site that I’ve been meaning to mention here at imho*.

    The site is dedicated to illustrated characters and it is absolutely packed with some of the cleverest design you’ll see on the web. It’s great inspiration to do a bit more with design. Of course, the usability of Pictoplasma is atrocious as it is with most “arty” sites. Once you figure out how the site works I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll want on a T-Shirt. Hint: the Archives page you’ll want to hit first is NOT the yellowish ball marked “archive” but rather the yellowish ball ABOVE that yellowish ball.

    Here is a great example of what you’ll find there:

    Auflegen by Kabeljau_blum

  • Thought

    The Online Journalism Review has a great article on the effectiveness of online advertising. How refreshing.

    I particularly like this quote from a Pepsi exec…

    The advantage of advertising on the Web, DeCecco said, is that “you can’t get a database off a TV commercial.”

    We need more success stories! If you’ve got one, send it to me and I’ll post it for the world to enjoy.

July 18, 2001

  • Thought

    There isn’t much point in developing a web strategy and not knowing what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you will know that you did what you set out to do.

    Web Analysts can help decode the gems of knowledge in the flood of data that a typical web site generates in a day (look a TRIPLE mixed metaphor!).

    ZDNet: eWEEK: Analyzing a good Net career

July 17, 2001

  • Thought

    Another piece in the NYT worth checking out is “Virtual Revenge and the Decline of the Dot-Coms”.

    Here’s a quote from the article:

    “What most irks Tim Cavanaugh, the former editor of Suck, an online magazine that stopped publishing last month, is the sense that all that is good and successful about the Internet is being wrapped into the collective repudiation of it.”

    Just because some overzealous investors backed ideas that shouldn’t have got off the cocktail napkins they were written on doesn’t mean the entire Net was a figment of over-active, over-greedy minds.

  • Thought

    This New York Times Article (registration required) is interesting. It presents the case of the publisher of andrewsullian.com, one Andrew Sullivan and the commotion that was caused by him taking sponsorship dollars from a company in an industry he has spoken positively about. It seems that the separation of editorial and advertising church and state (already problematic online) are exaggerated beyond some people’s comfort zone when both are housed in one person.

    Maybe part of the problem is the word “sponsor”. Would it be better if it was “patron”? Or does that imply even more control of the content? Anyone interested in being imho*’s first patron, please drop us a note.

July 13, 2001

  • Thought

    It’s just before lunch, so it’s time to check out one of my favourite personal sites zefrank.com. This guy seems to have more hours in the day than the rest of us.

    DO NOT visit this site if you have anything useful to do in the next two hours.

    FYI, my “Ride The Pony” T-Shirt should be here any day now! (check out “How To Dance” for an explanation)

July 12, 2001

  • Thought

    Kudos to the SiliconValley.com for running a positive story about e-commerce:

    Don’t cry for Webvan: E-commerce is thriving (7/11/2001)

    I’m becoming more and more interested in the “mini-web”. There are lots of companies collapsing today not because the ideas were bad but because investors and management insisted on “go big or go home”. These little guys are using the web in very efficient ways that allow them to be profitable almost from the start. Someone should have told Webvan to slow down!

July 10, 2001

  • Thought

    “My Mother”

    Whenever you need to test whether a data/trust/permission concept is okay, try substituting the words “my mother” for consumer or user.

    So instead of saying “Company X has revised their privacy policy to allow for third party access to consumer commerce data”, try saying “Company X will sell my mother’s shopping habits to anyone who wants them.” Feels a bit different.

    Note I said “my mother” not “my” to make it more real — marketers are generally more comfortable with giving data to try out services so don’t use yourself as an example of the average Jane or Joe.

    (Interestingly enough companyX.com is available! Maybe the “company changes” mentioned on their home page have something to do with the way they treated my mother!)

  • Thought

    Kozmo.com or Cosmo.com? (or Kosmo.com? Or Cozmo.com?)

    Okay, the example isn’t that great now that Kozmo is no more, but I was always struck by the poor choice of name for a netco.

    Online, puns and cute names are a hinderance. While every hairdresser in the world works on some cute pun, think about whether you could find your site if you heard about it on the radio.

  • Size Matters

    Most web developers have had the fact that images have to download fast drilled into them. But sometimes, consumers WANT huge files. If I’m about to buy a $600 couch, an $800 stereo or $25,000 car, I won’t mind waiting to get a REALLY big picture that shows lots of detail.

    I wanted to buy an a/v receiver recently and the remote control’s ergonomics were a major consideration. All the sites I visited had either no picture or a small picture of the remote. Before I would buy I needed to see DETAIL on the remote — a two-minute wait for a high-resolution large size image would have been quite justified.

    Of course, this isn’t supposed to give designers an excuse to put huge images all over commerce sites. Add a link beside your products, or features of products that allow for detailed images and note the file size and/or download time.

July 5, 2001

  • Every Cabbage Has Its Pimp

    Every once in a while you find a quote that seems to mean something totally different from what the author intended. Since the following quote is from Jean Giraudoux’s 1945 play “The Madwoman of Chaillot”…

    “I remember a time when a cabbage could sell itself by being a cabbage. Nowadays it’s no good being a cabbage — unless you have an agent and pay him a commission. Nothing is free anymore to sell itself or give itself away. These days, … every cabbage has its pimp.”

    For some reason this made me think of affiliate programs on the web. I have a strong preference for contextual links from content that allow you to find stuff or buy stuff. I guess sometimes a cabbage should just be left to be a cabbage though.

  • Thought

    Well, since this is imho* #1, it only seems fair to send a big virtual “thank you” to the first “blogger” I happened upon (in fact possibly the first blogger period). And that is Dave Winer. I became aware of Dave through his DaveNet e-mails and started to follow his daily musings. If you’re looking for inspiration for imho: look no further.

December 20, 1999

  • Photo

    I received the following message from a web site I signed up with probably six months ago:

    From: [email protected]
    Sent: December 11, 1999 12:18 PM
    To: [email protected]
    Subject: What’s in it for you this holiday season…

    Give a gift from ingredients.com IN the Saint Nick of time.

    Our scent-sational line of personal care products can lift your spirits, calm your soul, or take you wherever you want to go. And you won’t even have to use our products for them to work their magic on you. Just do your holiday shopping at ingredients.com. The sheer simplicity will give you peace of mind and the free gift-wrapping and shipping will give your body a break. Find out what’s in it for you and all your friends.

    ingredients.com. Your personal care e-source for peace of mind, body and holiday spirit.

    This is the first time they’ve mailed anything to me. I took a look at this and thought that they had largely wasted a great opportunity to reach me during the pre-Xmas frenzy.

    I’d like to propose that we try and “fix” this message to make it an effective marketing tool. I’d like to hear your thoughts on what works and doesn’t work, what should have been included, and what should have been omitted.

    I’ll start off with three easy improvements:

    1. They didn’t put a link to their site! I can guess from the company name that I need to go to ingredients.com, but they most certainly should have given me a hot link.

    2. They didn’t remind me that I ASKED to be on this list. When I first looked at it I thought I was being spammed.

    3. They don’t follow basic privacy guidelines by giving me a simple way to get off the list with each mailing.

    I can think of about 10 more things they could have done to make this better, but before I ramble on, I’d like to see what everyone else comes up with. Let the games begin!

December 6, 1999

  • Why Post on ADL?

    I had a conversation with someone the other day about why people did or did not post to ADL. I thought that a lot of people might not understand the power of an ADL post, or may not think that they have much to contribute. He thought that we were all too wimpy to have an opinion.

    In the spirit of proving my friend wrong and showing that we as a group are not too wimpy to have an opinion, I offer a short list of “Reasons to Post on ADL”:

    1. Be Recognized for the Expert You Are: There are now over 800 people on the AIMS list. And this is not just any 800 people. These are all Canadian Internet Marketing and Sales professionals. If you wanted to show that you knew your stuff, what better place to do it?

    2. Give and Get: Most of use will read ADL far more often than we’ll post, but if we ALL take the attitude that it is a good read that doesn’t need our help, it won’t be much of a read at all!

    3. It’s good for business: If you are a consultant or writer, what better way to increase your profile than offering a few “freebie” bright ideas to the list. I know that I’ve already twigged to a few bright bulbs out there I hadn’t come across before ADL.

    4. Find Answers, Find People: Posting to ADL can put you in contact with other people who may have run into the same issues you’re facing. Why not learn from their experiences? And if you have an answer, share it so that others can benefit.

    How do you make yourself heard? Just look at any issue of ADL for convenient mailto’s between postings and at the bottom of each issue. Let’s show we’re not wimps without opinions! I’ve talked to a lot of you at AIMS After Parties, so I KNOW you have opinions!

December 1, 1999

  • Customer Experience

    In ADL-0033, Chris Anderson wrote:

    We spend all this money trying to get people to visit our site but we don’t offer them anything when they get there. The best website I have seen so far on the web is http://www.boo.com these people put a lot of imagination and work into this site, I am now their client because they gave me more than one reason to return.

    I fully agree that the key to online success is what you do with people once they get to your site. The statement SOUNDS obvious, but it seems that many people either don’t get what this means or they don’t truly believe it. It is quite common to see companies spending millions on advertising to get people to sites where search doesn’t work or the shopping cart function is intimidating. These same heavy advertisers baulk at the cost of doing usability analysis.

    I would STRONGLY urge everyone on the list to take time to get a copy of an outstanding report on the customer experience recently published by Mark Hurst at Creative Good in New York. Some of you may remember Mark as a speaker at the AIMS/CMA Interactive Conference last spring. Mark is quite an impassioned spokesperson for making sites work from the customer’s perspective.

    You can find the 78 page report, which gives analysis of usability problems at 10 major e-commerce sites, at: http://www.creativegood.com/holiday99/indexdd.html

    The report is incredibly popular right now, so you may have to suffer through long download delays, but it is worth it. Normally they charge a bundle for these reports, but this one is a freebie for the holidays.

    After you’ve downloaded the Creative Good report, click over to Jakob Nielsen’s site and sign-up for his bi-weekly mailing of usability insights at http://www.alertbox.com . For those of you not in the know, Nielsen is THE guru of usability and his comments are essential to understanding what works and doesn’t work on the web.

    I want to emphasize that EVERYONE should be looking at this stuff, not just those with a technical mandate. Your site is your customer experience and your customer experience is your brand – don’t blow it once you get them to your site – your company’s reputation is riding on it.

    BTW, I think that boo.com would fair rather poorly on the customer experience test. You like many of us on the list are most likely interested in technology and new web techniques, which makes boo.com’s gimmicks appealing, but consumers are turned off by ANYTHING that gets in the way of buying. It would be interesting to discuss boo.com in terms of the Creative Good report.

November 29, 1999

  • Novelty and the Future of Online Marketing

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how the Internet confuses novelty with effectiveness. Let me explain.

    Back in 1994, when I worked at Sony Music, we did an online chat with Our Lady Peace on our BBS (yes, this was before the commercial web even existed in any real sense – people had to dial in using their modem, not the Net). At that time we put out a press release and we ended up on the nightly news and the New Music talking about the chat. These days there are hundreds of chats every day and almost none of them get any press coverage. The effectiveness of chats didn’t come from the 100 hard-core fans that figured out the software to type with the band but from the media coverage.

    When banners were first introduced years ago on the HotWired site, the clickthrough rate was incredible. Everyone was talking about the Zima ads and most people I knew in the industry had gone to the site and clicked on the ad just to see how it worked. Over time the effectiveness (measured in clickthroughs) decreased precipitously. The effectiveness of banners in the early days was largely a function of people thinking they were cool (or not even realizing that they were ads!). Now, no one really talks about banners they’ve seen or gets media attention for running an ad. And consumers have actually learned to not even SEE anything that resembles a traditional banner.

    So we now look to three new trends as being the “Future of Net Marketing”. The first is Rich Media ads, followed by Email Marketing, and finally (how ironic) Offline Advertising. Each of these are now being touted as a way to cut through the clutter, usually with examples of how Company X or Site Y managed a coup by using a cursor to run an ad, or bought 30 seconds of Super Bowl ad time, or got a 30 percent response rate to some house mailing.

    My guess is that once EVERYONE starts using these techniques (“hey, this looks good, let’s spend some money on flavor of the month here>”), the techniques will lose their effectiveness as well.

    Look at Super Bowl ads as an example. When Monster Board and Hot Jobs ran ads during last year’s game they managed to get weeks worth of free publicity. This year there are many companies following their lead and blowing half their annual ad budget on one or two 30 second spots. How effective do you think these ads will be? I don’t think anyone will get a big hit from the ads, and next year the effect will be minimal. What really made those ads effective was the novelty of dotcoms running ads during the Super Bowl, not the ads themselves. I mean look at this posting – we’re STILL talking about Zima and HotJobs.

    Lessons learned? When looking at marketing techniques that worked for others, subtract the novelty factor before proceeding. How much of the lift came from the actual campaign and how much came from the buzz around the campaign. And how long will the novelty last before effectiveness starts to slip?

October 22, 1999

  • Security Issues

    Glad to see the list is now percolating quite nicely.

    In ADL-0017 Marlene Kohn wrote:

    A client of mine purchased some inexpensive computer accessories from an on-line company in Texas and found $3000 worth of charges on his next credit card statement. The purchases were from a variety of stores in the Texas region.

    While I empathize with your client, I really don’t see this as an “Internet Security” issue. I don’t see any technological way to have prevented what happened to your client as it was in all likelihood a disreputable firm, rather than some underlying flaw in Internet security that allowed this to occur. Even crooks can use SSL.

    This does however bring up the issue of how consumers know who to trust online. In the “real world” you have brands you trust. A friend’s recommendation will often carry greater weight than advertising. And for brick and mortar retailers you at least have some sense of who you are dealing with when you go into a store. The simple fact that the store is there, and was there yesterday is enough for most people to assume that a company is legit.

    Online, these assurances don’t come as easily.

    One attempt at building consumers’ trust in online retailers is the use of “trustmarks” like TRUSTe. TRUSTe in particular seems to be gaining ground. In fact NetRatings just announced that almost a quarter of a billion TRUSTe logos were viewed last week.

    That means that one-seventh of the online audience was exposed to TRUSTe’s logo.

    While I like the concept behind TRUSTe, I wonder how many of the people who saw their logo really understood what it meant? It also gets me to thinking about other things sites might do to increase consumer trust.

    Here are a few quick thoughts:

    1. Use credit card “accepted here” logos.

    2. Post a plain English privacy policy in an obvious place.

    3. Include third party endorsements and customer satisfaction affidavits.

    Any other suggestions of things you’ve used to increase trust or that have caused you to trust a site you’ve never visited before?

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:

    http://www.thestandard.com/metrics/display/0,1283,988,00.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. http://www.forrester.com 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 (http:www.postmasterdirect.com) 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

  • Retail.ca

    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: http://www.globetechnology.com/e-shopping/

    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?