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July 30 2008

Online Shopping – It’s not scary!

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I recently had dinner with some friends and the conversation turned into a debate about the merits of shopping online. I was mentioning how I had just made a fabulous purchase on Zappos and not only was I extremely pleased with my new shoes; I was upgraded to overnight shipping at no additional cost to me! What could be better than that? Imagine my surprise to hear that not only do these particular friends never shop online, they said they would never consider it, insisting they feel they would not get what they ordered, it would not meet their expectations, it would take a long time to be shipped and unless they can actually see and touch what they are buying, they would not feel comfortable giving a credit card to an online retailer.

My argument was how easy, fast and reliable online shopping really and truly is, as well as the numerous discounts I have received (and continue to receive) almost every time I shop. I was flabbergasted by their stance on the matter and could not help but argue (all be it nicely) my point. All I could think about was how much time and money (not to mention gas) I have saved by shopping online.

Here are just a few of the many benefits of online shopping:

Free Shipping, Free or Easy Returns. Nowadays many online retailers waive shipping costs and make the return process seamless.

Fast Delivery. You can get what you are ordering the next day in many cases.

Special Online Deals. Many sites offer “online only” specials, discounts on future purchases, free gifts, repeat buyer/loyalty savings, last-minute promotions, rebates, etc.

Free Gift Wrap. If you’re buying a gift, many retailers offer free gift wrapping, as well as a card that is shipped with your order.

It’s not scary to shop online, nor should it be. Give it a whirl!

July 10 2008

Google Takes on Affiliate Marketing

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When Google officially bought DoubleClick on March 11, 2008, one could have seen this coming. In fact, many did; but were unsure what form it would take. Along with DoubleClick came their Affiliate network known as Performics; which is one of the oldest networks, started back in 1998.

In actuality, Google already owned one of the largest affiliate networks; Google Adsense. The only difference was that it operates on a cost-per-click basis. Traditionally, Affiliate Marketing is conducted on a cost-per-action or cost-per-lead basis.

Many people were unsure how Google would proceed with Performics. On June 30th, 2008, Google and DoubleClick made it official, releasing this statement:

“We are pleased to introduce Google Affiliate Network. Effective Monday, June 30, 2008, DoubleClick Performics Affiliate will operate as Google Affiliate Network. The integration with Google’s brand is a reflection on efforts to quickly assimilate our business and teams, as well as reinforce Google’s commitment to the Affiliate channel. Together with our new colleagues at Google we are creating new opportunities for monetization, expansion and innovation in Affiliate Marketing.”

So there it is. The Google Affiliate network has been born. Personally, I think this can be good for Affiliate Marketing as an industry. Along with Google comes credibility and recognition which can help to attract new advertisers and publishers to this channel. Performics has a history of attracting some big names and that shouldn’t change. With the potential influx of new merchants, there will be more choices for publishers. Advertisers will have to take their program t the next level to keep the affiliates they have and to attract new ones.

With that being said, you can probably expect the other affiliate networks to step up their game as well. One thing that this shows is that Affiliate Marketing is here to stay. So in order for other networks to compete and maintain their market share, expect improvements and innovation. Going up against the big G can be tough. Just ask MSN, Yahoo and the likes.

The changes to date have been minimal. The reps at Performics now have @google.com email extensions and the interface was given a face lift to reflect Google’s look and feel. Currently the platform will still be hosted on Connect Commerce, but will eventually be migrated to a google.com product url. Once that happens, you should be able to incorporate the Google Affiliate network into your current Google account.

In conclusion, this is an exciting time in the Affiliate Marketing industry. I think the majority are hoping that this brings new technologies, increased competition, improved service and more selection. Only time will tell…

May 13 2008

Making things harder online

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I’ve always believed that technology, like the web, should be an enabler. It should make things easier, not harder.

When I research and shop online, I have reasonable, but elevated, expectations. I expect that the process of learning about a product or service and making a purchase will be as easy as it is in person or over the phone. I place extra emphasis on this because I have two children and extra-curricular activities; so most of my online shopping takes place in the wee hours of the night.

As a teenager, I remember lining up for concert tickets the night before they went on sale. A lot of fun for a teenager, but I’m much happier to pick and choose my tickets online. Yet, because most ticket sales go through TicketMaster â„¢, or are self served via Tickets.com or other solutions, it’s usually is a disappointing experience.

Occasionally, my wife and I will make it to a concert, but mostly we purchase tickets to sporting events. Baseball, in particular, is an event where the guy sitting across the aisle from you could be paying $20 less per ticket. I only care about my view and like to compare many options, something that most ticket services make very difficult online.

For Example: Looking for tickets for my beloved Cubbies, seating options include only Best Available (Read: Most expensive.) or you can pick a section that has availability for your game of choice. After choosing a section and entering the security image code, your tickets are displayed and the problems begin:

  1. You are only shown one option in that section. Why not give 4-5 best options in the section that you selected? All seats in a section are not created equal!
  1. To request different seats you have to start over! You have to select a section, enter the security code again, etc. and when you get to the new ticket selection, your other options are gone. Why can’t you just click on the displayed seating chart? Why can’t they follow Amazon’s Lead by offering additional recommendations: “If you like Terrace Reserved, you may also like these wonderful bleacher seats?” Or better yet, multiple seats in every section — have everything available on one page!

What’s most frustrating to me is that if I was purchasing in person or over the phone, the rep would quickly offer many available options. Why would you want your website to make it harder for your customers to do business with you?

Enter StubHub. StubHub is a ticket reselling marketplace that was acquired by eBay last year. I had the pleasure of using StubHub to look for tickets to a sold out game that I wanted to attend.

StubHub is what online ticket buying should be:

Select the event, select buy or sell and all available tickets are displayed. Results are sortable by quantity, section, row and price. And perhaps the best innovation, an interactive seating chart. As you rollover sections at your venue, the number of tickets and price range are displayed for each section and you can even turn on and off individual sections on the map.

I hope that the entrenched players learn something from StubHub and make online ticket buying what it should be — Easy.

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