September 23, 2009

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Two New Important eCommerce Factors Revealed On the cusp of the Shop.org meeting, with ten weeks to go until the annual “Black Friday-Cyber Monday” holiday sales kick-off, new research-driven insights into cross-channel shopping and shopping cart abandonment could impact recession-affected eCommerce sales. Lauren Freedman’s 5th Annual Cross-Channel Shopping Study reveals a drop-off in in-store pick-up, which could potentially depress sales and disrespect a primo audience—multi-channel shoppers. By looking carefully at 40 websites and mystery-shopping 77 retail stores, Lauren and the E-Tailing Group discovered “many merchants are not taking advantage of opportunities to sell and service the cross-channel customer.” Multi-channel shoppers, according to IDC’s Global Retail Insight survey spend 15-30 percent more than single-channel shoppers and they do it more frequently. Those who shop multiple channels simultaneously spend 15-30 percent more than less hyper multi-channel shoppers. So if you ignore, disenfranchise or piss off these guys you are disconnecting a mighty purchase stream. Over the last year same day and in-store pick-up of merchandise purchased online has fallen off. Availability of in-store pick-up fell from 54% of surveyed merchants in 2008 to just 39% this year. And the training, signage and dedicated effort to facilitate easy offline pick-ups have degraded as well. Only about ¼ of merchants have web access to shoppers should something be wrong or an instant validation be required. The ability to whiz through the store and collect your eCommerce goods has also fallen off significantly. In 2008 26% of merchants required no additional check out but this year only 4% offered this express “grab-and-go” option. As you might imagine customers madly buying from catalogs, using iPhones, shopping at websites, clicking on e-mails or dialing 1-800 numbers want their stuff quickly. The key to multi-channel satisfaction is near-immediate gratification. Maybe this fall off in customer focus and service reflects the reaction of notoriously cheap retailers to the pressures of the recession. Or maybe they’ve just taken their eye off the ball. Either way, ignoring a critical sales driving segment doesn’t bode well for the immediate future. If under serving key customers doesn’t get your attention, maybe new purchasing patterns will. According to a new study by McAfee, 65 percent of all online shoppers sleep on their purchases. The Digital Window Shopping study, which tracked 163 million online purchases, found that 2 out of 3 online shoppers wait an average of 33 hours and 54 minutes before completing a purchase. Evidently what we’ve been scoring as cart abandonment seems to be a recession-driven “mulling over period” that, according to McAfee, can be influenced by displaying trust marks or security policy. This is a ready-made case for deploying a robust persistent shopping cart and/or using triggered e-mail messages to nurture and close more sales. After ten years of robust holiday eCommerce we are still learning new tricks and understanding the nuances of online merchandising. These new data points remind us that retail is dynamic and that by measuring the use of technology we can consistently improve our customer support and sales performance.
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Brain Science Validates Advertising Assumptions It’s always heart-warming when science validates the assumptions that underlie our thinking about messaging and media. For years advertising agencies have been advising clients that disruptive or unexpected imagery seen, scanned or read with some frequency builds brand impressions. And that these impressions turn into awareness, preference, and purchases over time. Freud inferred that the unconscious mind picked up and processed as many signals as the conscious mind and on this basis the advertising industry developed rules of thumb about how, when and how often to intercept consumers and present brand messages. Now brain researchers at Tel Aviv University have conducted experiments to prove this point. Professors Moti Salti, Dominique Lamy and Yair Ben-Haim documented that unconscious perception exists. A far cry from Freud’s postulates about repressed trauma and childhood angst, the data suggests that our brains take in signals and process messages on several simultaneous levels of consciousness. Perhaps this explains why even those who skip the commercials and flip past the ads can recall brand logos and key copy points. According to Professor Salti, “You walk around and are exposed to many stimuli from all directions but are aware of very few.” The tests exposed participants to a square on their computer screen. By hooking these subjects to an electroencephalograph, they charted brain activity to document how and when they were conscious of seeing the square. In 50 percent of the cases they could pinpoint the exact location of the square, even if when questioned about seeing a square, they could recall nothing. The complete scientific results are being published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. The implications for marketers seem to be … Don’t focus as much on engagement as on exposure. Carpet bombing might work better than we thought especially if the brain is your ally in reaching individuals who aren’t formally paying attention. Frequency works. The more unconscious exposures, the more likely that the target customer will “absorb” your message regardless of his or her intention or viewing and reading habits. Create scan-able messages. Don’t assume ads will be read or watched. Approach traditional advertising creative like online creative; assume things will get a quick glance at best. Then purposefully create a stimulus that is distinct and different from what is expected and what is popular and you gain a nanosecond or two of extra attention, enough to score that unconscious comprehension. Messages Don’t Need to be Linear. It’s possible that those ads you see and scratch your head about, thinking “what were they thinking” may be scoring more points that we thought. Subliminal advertising might exist and work.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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