Direct-to-Customer Commerce


Strategic insights into the direct commerce industry, including ecommerce, direct marketing and related fields

Rationale v Emotion

You’ve probably read about the need to emphasize benefits rather than features in your advertising.

Another way of viewing that contrast is rationale v emotion.

Nearly everyone wants to think they make decisions rationally.  Just give me the facts.  I can assess them and come to the best decision for me, my family or my business.

The truth is not so black & white.

Sure everyone needs some facts.  But we look at those facts, so differently, from such different points of view, it’s almost impossible to predict, with accuracy, what the important facts are for every buyer.

You need to present enough facts so the prospective buyer can rationalize their decision.  But their decision is far more likely to be emotional — based upon perceptions, which you do not control.

So advertise using different themes to different markets.  Focus on different emotions.

You may even need to engage different members of your staff to lead these efforts, because even they are constrained by these different emotions and different perspectives.

Sometimes, marketers conclude they must select the single most effective strategy.

Maybe we need to select any, and every, marketing strategy that is profitable.


Filed under: Direct Commerce, Ideas, Opinion, , , , ,

You don’t have customer until the second purchase

When a customer buys from you the first time, it’s a test.  It’s a test of you and your business:

  • is the product what I expected?
  • was it easy to complete my purchase
  • did they treat me right?
  • did it arrive when and as expected?
  • if I have an issue, will they resolve it quickly and the way I want it resolved?

The answers to these questions will either increase or decrease the likelihood of a second purchase.  And if they do buy a second time, you probably really have a customer — good for you.

11 Personal Gestures to Turn Casual Buyers into Lifelong Customers  — this is a post from Practical Ecommerce that suggests additional things you can do to make a tentative Customer (that is, first-time buyer) into a Lifelong Customer.

Good points to consider for your business

Filed under: Direct Commerce, Ideas, Opinion, , , , , , ,

The Importance of Ecommerce Strategy

click here for a great post on this topic.

There is a persistent tension between deciding what to do and the actual doing of it.  That’s why companies have Chief Executive Officers and Chief Operating Officers.

This post reflects on how this applies even to a small-medium business.

The fact is, you have a strategy, whether you know it or not.  If you strategy is accidental or unintentional, then your business is not all it can be.

Filed under: Ideas, Opinion, , , , ,

The Impact of Omni-channel on Retail

The Wall Street Journal published a story this week about Macy’s, which focuses mostly only the perceived impact that an omni-channel strategy is having on their business, going forward.  It’s worth reading here. (subscription required)

What struck me in this story is the twist on the concept of localization.

Most of my conversations with ecommerce folks, in which “localization” comes up, the subject is a reference to localizing a web site to a country.  And, of course, the resulting need for translation, alternate payment processing methods, separating inventory, separating marketing campaigns.  All to be expected.

What Macy’s professes to recognizing is that a store in Fairfax, Virginia (where I live) may demand a different inventory and different marketing than a store in Dallas, Texas.

Now, we’ve all recognized those type of differences — up to a point.

But with the tools available to us now, we can buy uniquely for each store, vary marketing by micro-segment, and attempt to match available inventory (and by extension our merchandising & buying tactics) to these clearly identifiable segments.

But where is the balance … can we focus one segments that are so small, we cannot manage to them profitably? And if that’s true, then what is the smallest segment we should isolate to maximize profitability?

A whole new form of optimization!


Filed under: Direct Commerce, Ideas, multichannel commerce, Opinion, , , , , , , , , ,

Shipping Options for Residential Deliveries

UPS and FedEx are providing new options for residential deliveries.  Here’s the complete story in Multichannel Merchant.

The real news here is that UPS is offering it’s “Basic” service to a broader range of shippers, with much lower volumes.  Up until recently, UPS only offered this service to very large volume shippers, and as they usually do, offered only to clients who also had large volumes of commercial shipments as well.

This simply reinforces the conclusion that there is continuing pressure to find lower cost shipping solutions, especially in the face of increasing rates.  And, the USPS remains the lowest cost solution for “the last mile.”

For some time, it’s been the conventional wisdom that the USPS’ most profitable segment was parcel delivery, but the USPS does not seem to have been able to fully leverage that fact in their own marketing.  Thus, the recent USPS campaign around Priority Mail flat rate shipping.  Which is probably the most sensible advertising campaign the USPS has ever executed — good for them.

Good low cost shipping options remain an important component of direct commerce strategies — driven largely by the near universal attractiveness of free shipping offers.

Filed under: News, Opinion, , , , , , ,

What drives direct commerce?

This post is an exercise in reminding myself of the fundamentals.  And just like football, you’ve got to get the fundamentals right, before you move on to the more sophisticated permutations of the business.

The fundamentals of Direct Commerce are convenience, customer service and, sometimes, price.

The reasons the direct marketing channels exist, at all, is because they are more convenient than the brick-and-mortar retail channel.  What is it about convenience?  Could be any of several things — which varies by the individual customer:

  • saves the time to drive to and from the store
  • avoids having to “rummage” thru a store to find what you’re looking for
  • avoids having to deal with untrained, poorly trained or rude retail clerks
  • avoids having to find a parking space
  • avoids having to “lug” stuff to and from the car
  • avoids the crowds at the mall — especially at heavy shopping seasons, like Christmas or Back-to-School
  • allows me to shop from anywhere — work, hotel, and now, with a mobile device, even from my car
How can you provide additional convenience to your customers and, just as importantly, to your prospective customers?
Customer Service
Customer Services has several components.

Pre-sale contact, when a customer is trying to learn more about a product so they can make a decision whether or not to buy, whether or not the product meets their needs or satisfies their desires.

Post-sale contact, when a customer is trying to resolve some issue which has arisen after the purchase decision.  This might be an exchange, a return, a simple “where is my order?” inquiry or anyone of about 20 or so typical customer service inquiries.
Finally, reliability and trustworthiness, which at the end of the day, determines if a customer wants to do business with you again.  Your customers need to trust that you’ll treat them right and that you’re not afraid to actually talk to them on the phone.
Have you noticed how difficult it can be to actually get a customer service rep on the phone?  Or, even get a reasonably prompt answer to an email?
A lot of companies spent a lot of time and effort trying to avoid dealing directly with their customers.  Ever tried to call Amazon?  It’s almost impossible to find Amazons’ customer service phone number.
And I should emphasize that price is only sometimes a fundamental.   It seems to get more important as the product price points increase, but there is also a point at which price becomes irrelevant — either because the price is so high or the price is so low.
And the exact location of this price range varies by product category.
This is also why shipping cost is a factor.  My rule of thumb is that if shipping cost is more than 10 percent of merchandise cost, then the customer will at least “pause” to consider if it’s worth it.
So, be sure you spend a little time on the fundamentals each week — then move on the more esoteric stuff.

Filed under: Direct Commerce, Opinion, , , , , , , ,


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