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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter

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May 29, 2013

Why Meta-search, Search, Social, Local, and Mobile Conspire to Kill Conversion Rates

May 29, 2013 | By | No Comments

What's happening to your conversion rate?Paid search. Organic search. Metasearch. Email marketing. Daily deals sites. Ratings and reviews. Social and local and mobile. How in the world is a poor travel marketer to navigate the myriad choices facing your customers today?

For that matter, how is your poor customer supposed to navigate that landscape?

Anyone familiar with “The Paradox of Choice” understands why this creates a challenging environment in which to try and sell travel.

It’s not all bad news, of course. Savvy travel marketers are using these very tools to engage their guests and get customers to tell stories on their behalf. But, there’s little doubt this “paradox of choice” environment will affect one part of your online marketing: your conversion rate. I explain why in more detail in my latest Travel Tuesday post on Tim Peter Thinks: “Kiss Your Current Conversion Rate Goodbye.”

And if you’re interested in learning more, egister to receive a free copy of my new special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

Oh, and, if that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of growing your conversions (and your conversion rate), including:

Tim Peter

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June 13, 2011

The real deal on deals sites

June 13, 2011 | By | No Comments

Are you using any deals sites? If so, Forbes magazine offers Interesting data suggesting those are Groupon’s customers, not yours. In assessing the data, the author, Chunka Mui, asks:

“Are merchants in sectors where Groupon develops critical mass essentially yielding their customer relationships to Groupon?”

I’d expand that to include all the deals sites. In my experience, deal seekers rarely exhibit brand loyalty. Instead, their loyalty is solely to their bottom line. Kevin Hillstrom covered this topic some time ago, noting, “Remember… they sell access to a list.”

Their list. Not yours.

Customers join these deals sites, whether it’s Groupon, Gilt Groupe, Google, etc., solely for the advertised benefit: to find great deals. If your brand offers the best deal that day, you’re in. If not, then they’ll keep looking.

A few years ago, a brand I knew offered a a huge discount through multiple channels as a promotion. It was incredibly successful at driving sales. At least, it was in the short term. Longer term, they found that almost none of the first-time customers who bought at the discounted price came back and bought at regular prices. Really. Almost none. After that, they began offering their best deals only to their best customers, increasing repeat sales. Not only that, but the brand succeeded in getting those customers to talk about the brand with their friends, driving new customer acquisition.

Now, that’s not to suggest that the lists these deals sites sell may not have value to your business. But don’t assume deals sites make for a great customer acquisition strategy—unless you make them one.



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Tim Peter

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March 4, 2008

What is e-commerce anyway? (Guide to Small Business E-commerce Strategy)

March 4, 2008 | By | No Comments

Defining E-commerce

The last several weeks, I’ve been discussing e-commerce – mostly from the standpoint of small business. But, I think I use that term somewhat idiosyncratically. That is, my career has been built around using the web to drive action, whether that action was to learn skills, reserve hotel rooms, research stocks or report revenues. While I’ve generated over $1 billion in revenue for my companies over the last 5 years, I’ve also delivered training, sales literature and customer service. Each has helped my companies succeed. To that end, e-commerce is any action that uses the web to generate revenues or grow the bottom line You need to look at the web’s value holistically. How do you know what’s appropriate for your e-commerce group to pursue? Like this:

  • E-commerce drives a purchase action. Ideally, for most companies, this involves revenue. But, getting people to download a white paper or refer to an FAQ can be an effective method of lead generation and customer service at a lower cost. That’s a Good Thing. And it works like just like an e-commerce transaction. Just evaluate the costs of each activity relative to its benefit and its customer value to prioritize your activities .
  • E-commerce allows for precise measurement. Or mostly precise. Or some kind of precise, dammit. Just don’t tell me it can’t be measured. And don’t confuse precision with accuracy. Yes, unique phone numbers and coupons have any number of flaws. They’re not completely accurate. Bummer. They’re more measurable than not using unique phone numbers or coupons. And for those of you in my past life (you know who you are): my objection to coupons was specific to that implementation, not to the concept in general. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. So don’t bother doing something you’re not bothering to measure.
  • E-commerce depends on marketing actions. Yes, email, print and search generally fall outside the scope of typical “e-commerce”. But the most successful campaigns I’ve ever run or been involved with were textbook examples of integrated marketing. Customers choose to interact with your brand in the way that meets their needs, not the way you want them to. That is, unless you ensure you want them to interact with your brand in the way that meets their needs. Failing to integrate your marketing and e-commerce activities (it happens, sadly) makes no sense. Or dollars.
  • E-commerce transactions can occur through any channel. “What?!? E-commerce only transacts on the web!” Nonsense. Foolish, really. So long as the cost of the sale through a channel is less than the revenues generated by that sale, all sales channels are useful channels. Assuming you can track that it worked, of course, and that your intent was to drive it through those channels. Sure, some channels are better than others. You can introduce friction into the process to route customers to your preferred channels. But, don’t disregard the value of using the web to drive sales in other channels, too.

So, that if that sounds a lot like marketing to you, I’d agree. But there’s one crucial part of marketing where e-commerce plays a limited role:

  • E-commerce is not the product. Well, maybe it is for Amazon. But for most companies, e-commerce is a process to get people to the product (and vice-versa). The deepest, most meaningful brand experience a customer can have is when using your product. Unless your product is the content and forms on your website, then e-commerce is only three of the four P’s of marketing (Place, Price, Promotion). Product is altogether different. The job of e-commerce strategy is to convey the benefits of that product and collect the cash. You definitely want your customers’ experience to be integrated between product and its delivery channels. But focus on your product first. Lipstick on a pig can only do so much on its own.

As we continue to look at e-commerce in these terms, I’ll be referencing items in this post as well as point you to useful resources to help with each step in the process.

Does this definition of e-commerce work for you? Let me know in the comments.

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Tim Peter

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February 19, 2008

What sales channels matter most? (Guide to Small Business E-Commerce Strategy)

February 19, 2008 | By | No Comments

We’re continuing our look at Small Business E-commerce Strategy today. Last time, we looked at “Why Splash Pages Suck”. Today we’ll take a look at channel management.

Not all e-commerce channels work as well as others. When most folks think of e-commerce, they think only of their own website. Having your own website for your business is critical. But it’s not the only place to sell as part of a well defined e-commerce strategy. Let’s take a look at the three types of e-commerce channels and how you can decide which ones work best for you.

Three key e-commerce channels

Sales of your product can occur in up to three key channels. These are:

channel-graphic.png

  1. Your website
  2. Partner sites
  3. Voice-assisted web

Your website is the most important of these, by far, followed by customers starting on the web and calling you. But partners matter, too. Partners include sites like Ebay, Amazon and Etsy for retailers and manufacturers; travel agency websites for hotels; directories for service providers; and affiliate sites for most business types.

Depending on your business type, you should measure how effectively these channels work for you and tailor your e-commerce strategies around their benefit. How do you do that? By measuring the cost of each channel, the volume of sales and the amount of revenue received from each. The will tell you your profitability per channel, which you should always look at in terms of dollars, not margin. As Alan Rimm-Kaufman said over at Mike Moran’s Biznology recently, “Too many retailers focus on profit margin (a percentage) instead margin dollars (real money)…At day’s end, you don’t deposit percentages, you deposit dollars.”

Cost of channel

Every channel has a cost. Typically these include things like commissions paid to affiliates or fees paid to retail sites (think Ebay/Amazon). Some of these costs will be fixed (monthly recurring fees, for instance), while some will vary according to the amount you sell. Make sure to include your time and the time of your staff as one of those costs. For a typical business owner, divide your annual salary by 2080 (40 hours/week times 52 weeks. I know you work more than 40 hours a week, but dividing by the actual hours you work would probably just depress you. Stick with 2080. Plus, you can use the same number for you and your team).

Volume of sales

Volume of sales is pretty basic. How many sales do you receive from each channel? Most third-party partners will provide you this information readily. Phone tends to be one of the harder channels to track this for, but you can use these tips to come up with some measures.

What about the volume of traffic? Don’t assume that just because a site gets lots of traffic that your listings automatically will. You might, but you’ll need to check to see if that’s true. By focusing on sales, you’re tracking the actual value of that site to your business.

Revenue per sale

The number of sales may not matter as much as how much revenue you make from each. Here’s one place where voice-assisted web sales often show their stuff as many companies do a better job upselling and cross-selling on the phone.

Profit per sale

Finally, you can use the numbers you’ve gathered above to determine the profit from each channel, which should represent its value to your business. However, even if your own website produces a lower profit than partners, don’t surrender all sales to a partner channel. In the long run, your business depends upon your own, thriving web presence. Your own website builds a stronger brand, represents your company most effectively and isn’t subject to the whims of a third party such as raising prices or limiting selection.