As I talk with a business owners of all sizes, and they explain how their hands are tied in moving forward with an internet strategy. They believe they are doing the best they can under the circumstances, of course, but really there are departments in their organization that need to be protected, prices that need to be kept, sacred cows that can’t be touched. “After all,” they argue, “why should I wipe out my current business just to succeed online?”
This dogged thinking is great, unless your competition decides differently.
When you have someone who is willing to accomplish THIS without worrying about THUS and SO, they will likely defeat you. Online, this happens fast, since there are organizations that are willing to grow at the expense of revenue, ethics or reputation. In your short term, being focused may be a real advantage. Sometimes, focusing on accomplishing just one thing (whatever it is) pushes a business through this recession or that far-ahead pothole. But at what expense? The competition makes a ton of money and you’ve lost forever.
Retailers, vendors, suppliers, factory branded stores, chains, regional players, local independents, Top 100’s, Mom-n-Pop’s and every other nook and cranny of retail need to think hard about this before it’s too late.
“Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”
Your customer – let’s call her Ms. Jones – might pull out this Joe Friday line when she’s shopping. Even if she falls head over heels in love with a sexy sofa or a sweet-smelling new car, she’s going to have to justify her financial investment with some cold, hard facts.
Look at the following areas where Ms. Jones might find information about your product. Rate them for accuracy, and then rate them for influence:
1. A recommendation from a friend
2. The internet
3. A store visit
Now rate your store in these same areas, accuracy and influence. How does your word of mouth rate? Have you irritated your customer base to the point that your name is dragged through the mud more often than it’s recommended? Do you have a website? Is it fresh and relevant? Do you have product information in your store she can take home with her? Does your entire staff know your policies? Are your people well trained? Be honest!
Once Ms. Jones is in the information gathering stage, she has already decided that she’s going to buy. The only question is, from whom?
Recently I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with several retailers. We talk at ease about television and radio and newspaper, but I’m often met with blank stares when I bring up the subject of online strategy, ecommerce, SEO, PPC, email marketing and other non-traditional media.
Many store owners tell me they still spend the majority of their advertising dollars on newspaper and other print media. In a recent report, stores categorized as LOW PROFIT businesses continue to spend 34.3% of their marketing in print. These same companies are spending under .05% on all things web!?
Retooling is coming to a newspaper near you in the near future. The newspaper industry is in a free fall in every measurable category: 24 of the top 25 papers in North America declined in circulation in the last 15 months. The average decline in circulation is 20%. Advertising spending has dropped 7.5% overall, but the first quarter of 2009 saw a decline of 28.3% in advertising spending. There is a plunging reduction of $2.6 billion from just a year earlier. Scripps, Gannet, McClatchy, and the New York Times have all watched their stock price go to zero in 2009.They are bankrupt!
In the new book, The Chaos Scenario, Bob Garfield writes in Chapter 1, page 33; “Both print and broadcast — burdened with unwieldy, archaic and crushingly expensive means of distribution — are experiencing the disintegration of the audience critical mass they require to operate profitably. Moreover, they are losing that audience to the infinitely fragmented digital media, which have near-zero distribution costs and are overwhelmingly free of charge to the user. Free is a tough price to compete with. As documented by Woodward and Bernstein, Deep Throat’s advice to unraveling Watergate was to ‘Follow the money.’ To understand the current predicament, you must follow the no-money.”
Safeguarded opinion established in days gone by can cause you real problems in the days ahead. Ask yourself these questions from Garfield’s Chaos group:
- Consider your own habits. Do you read newspapers as frequently as you once did, or do you get your news online?
- Discuss the impact of Craigslist, Monster.com, and eHarmony on newspaper classified advertising.
- If newspaper and magazine display advertising disappear, what alternatives will connect that audience to your brand?
- If media institutions as large as the Tribune Company (Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times) are in bankruptcy, is any mass media outlet safe?
- How has the Internet changed the availability of content?
- How did you get your news ten years ago? How do you get it today?
- How much time do you spend connecting with your friends vs. consuming media? How has that ratio changed in the last ten years?
- If you could no longer buy advertising on mass media, how would you connect with your customers?
- Can you name any businesses that succeeded in stopping cultural shifts?
- Can you name any businesses that successfully adapted to cultural shifts?
- Is your company organized/equipped to effectively listen to its customers? What should you change or implement in order to hear them?
- What are your customers trying to tell you? What are you doing about it?
Empowered business owners get to decide what they believe. Documented changes in business should not be avoided. Entrenched thinking might be more comfortable than the alternative, but without a planned strategy your future is bleak. When the newspapers themselves fail in your marketplace, how will you deliver your story?
Your customer is most anxious on your website when she’s reviewing her cart. The cart page shows the cart total for the items added and the basic price – but often doesn’t show the tax or shipping charges – thus begins the fear of the unknown.
Aside from price, the customer wants assurance that she’s getting what she wanted. For furniture, this is usually size and color, material, or wood finish at the very least.
Bad cart summary pages don’t provide enough detail:
The customer is interested in a lot more information about the product.
Do not be vague. Without a thumbnail image it’s near impossible to figure out what type of bed and which finish she is going to receive if she makes the purchase.
Excellent cart pages show the sku, color, large thumbnail images, availability, tax and include a shipping calculator pre-checkout.
Reduce her anxiety on the cart page, and you’ll reduce cart abandonment.