At the risk of verging into Fred Wilson territory here, you’ve got to love the new recommendations last.fm sent me today. First, the video last.fm recommended: “Title and Registration” by Death Cab for Cutie.
Ah, Death Cab’s stream of consciousness, heart-broken brilliance. If I could write songs like that, well, I’d still be writing songs. Anyhoo… regret is Ben Gibbard’s stock in trade, not mine. Here’s why last.fm’s recommendations work, and yours can, too:
Send recommendations at the right time. Saturdays are a good time to send people like me music videos. I don’t have a lot of leisure time during the week. Sending recommendations for music on Tuesday would go unnoticed. Sending recommendations for business books on Sundays, likewise. Match your offer to your customers’ lives.
Make sure they actually match your customers’ desires. Seriously. Amazon makes too many recommendations based on gifts I’ve bought. Oh sure. I could tell Amazon to ignore them for recommedations, but that drives me nuts when I send those packages to other addresses and get the damned things gift-wrapped. Maybe it’s just me.
Send them to me, particularly when I’ve been out of touch for a while. Last.fm has just started this new service, and it coincides with the fact I haven’t spent much time on last.fm lately (work has been particularly busy). Now, I’ve heard a great song I hadn’t heard in a while and find myself wanting to buy a bunch of music from Amazon’s new download service (giving associate props to last.fm, of course). Funny, how that works.
If you’re going to offer recommendations, take the time to do it well. And, as always, learn from the folks doing it well.
Many small businesses I talk to – those with limited e-commerce capabilities or services that don’t lend themselves to online purchasing – have the same worry: Am I spending too much on my website? Am I not spending enough? How much is the right amount?
Wouldn’t you like to know?
The right answer, as always, is that the amount depends entirely on the return you’re generating from your site. Avinash Kaushik refers to connecting your website and your business as “the nonline world.” I like using the “phone bill” model: If your website isn’t as valuable to your business as your phone, you’re probably not getting the right return yet. But don’t assume your phone is more valuable just because your customers call you. They may have gotten the phone number from your website. Or from Google, after it crawled your site. Your website and your phone complement one another, or should in a well-designed small business website.
So, how do you do determine whether your site is worth as much as your phone to your business? You need to measure. It only takes a small investment of time and, often, a smaller investment of money.
Here are four tactics for measuring the value your site provides:
Use promo codes or coupons. This isn’t about offering a lower price; it’s about tracking the sales generated online. Label each page on your site with a promo code and encourage consumers to reference this code when they call or visit your store. (Be environmentally friendly: don’t ask them to print anything if you can help it). You can offer a discount, but a value-add is often better for both of you.
Try different phone numbers. Use a different phone number or extension on your website than the one you publish in the yellow pages. if you want to get sophisticated, you can use different numbers (or extensions) for every section/product/service on your site. Even a company without a sophisticated phone system can simply have their customers ask for “extension 1″ or “extension 2″.
Identify service rep names. This is another variant on promo codes, but tell your customers to ask for a specific individual on the site. It works best if you’ve got different sales reps for different products or channels. Simply provide their names on the appropriate site sections. But even a one-person shop can do this. For instance, I could tell my customers to ask for “Tim,” “Timothy,” “Mr. Peter,” and even “Timmy” on the different sections of my site. (Though that last is not my favorite tactic – and not just because of “Timmy”).
Ask your customers. Survey your customers periodically and note whether they’re using your website to learn about your offering. Even simple “have you visited our website” and “did it help you decide to visit our store/call/what-have-you” questions can tell you a lot.
In any of these cases, you’ll need to record the information your customers provide you and tie that back to sales data. However, you should be pleasantly surprised by how valuable these techniques prove. Then the question won’t be if you’re spending enough money. It’ll be are you spending enough time to find out.
Let me hear from you in the comments. What other techniques are you using to determine the value of your site?
Not sure what they want, use search engine as a starting point.
Click through to some landing pages, still don’t find the right information.
Start asking friends, their local retailers, anyone who can’t point them in the right direction.
Read some magazine or newspaper articles, spot an advertisement, check out the website again.
Armed with some degree of information, eventually migrates into one of David’s funnels
The key distinction is whether the consumers – as David suggests – enjoys their journey. If this party has to hack through undergrowth, brave fire swamps and rodents of unusual size, they’re more likely to give up and use the channels they’re most familiar with – or no channel at all.
What steps are you taking to provide signposts and maps for these folks to find their way? Let me know in the comments.
I lived through the first go-round of mobile hype. In the late 90′s, my employer tasked a division within the company to enable mobile transactions. Needless to say, it didn’t take. Not near enough adoption of mobile in general within the market to make it fly. But, I remain convinced this time is different. Mobile, in myriad ways, is set to take off and influence how consumers interact with your brand down the road. Here’s why:
Improved form factors drive usability enhancements. Devices such as the iPhone will change consumers’ perception of what a mobile device should offer, thus driving demand for similar capabilities in other products (whether mobile phone, GPS, in-dash control panel, what-have-you).
Network capacity permits richer experiences. Probably more important than usability – at least at first. Just as increased deployment of broadband revitalized the PC-based web (where were AJAX or other RIA technologies prior?), increased mobile capacity will enable more useful experiences for consumers on mobile devices.
Generational shift. Nothing influences the future as much as kids growing up. Mobile may be farther out than we think – but may be all the larger for it once Junior demands broadband video, location-based services and network-oriented search (i.e., where my friends at?).
I still believe these changes will influence offline purchases more than online for some time (I mean, if I’m out and about on my phone anyway, why not swing by and pick up the gizmo-du-jour?). Still, this market is getting closer every day. What do you think? What factors am I missing in this race? Or am I completely off my nut here?
Clearly, the technology provides both tracking for offline media and enables mobile as a serious player on the web. People have asked for years why Japan is so far ahead of the US. A better and more relevant question is when does the US catch up? And is your business ready for it?