Shopping Online – the death of or dearth of, the small trader?
Only slightly off topic this one – stick with me for a few moments, it is about software.
In theory, the online shopping revolution gives the small specialist trader equal billing with the big online retail brands – in practice it is surprisingly difficult to buy anything from most smaller online traders.
Case in point – I just did a search for a particular kind of liquor chocolate that my wife is very partial to. The Google listing came up with two “paid for” search results that headed the list. I knew that one of them did not stock what I wanted, so tried the other. None of the links from the main landing page would work. This retailer had paid for what looked like an expensive design job – paid for near top Google ranking but could not sell me any chocolate. They have thrown all that money away.
I was using MS Internet Explorer 6 by the way – I know not to go looking for specialist items using a browser as exotic as FireFox.
Every year I always buy a side of hot smoked salmon for Christmas. If you have never tried this product by the way – take time out to give it a whirl – it is fantastic and nothing like the clammy insipid stuff that is most smoked salmon. I did my usual online round of the UK based suppliers – and they are collectively dreadful web sites – seemingly designed to ensure that you can’t locate the products you are looking for. Information – forget it. In the end I plumped for the Salar Smokehouse on South Uist
because I know their product is usually superb – even if their web site misses the mark.
Everywhere you look, you find poorly designed web sites that require near fanatical perseverance on the user’s part to navigate to a successful purchase. Keyword searches that fail – mostly because there is no sensible content to search. There perhaps is the rub – instead of the web presence being central to the business it must be that it is perceived as “extra” or peripheral – bringing in additional (possibly marginal) sales.
Then there is the brief given to those responsible for building a given web site. As a favour, one of my colleagues reviewed a customer’s web site recently as it was failing one of the key metrics, as perceived by that customer. It was pretty obvious why it was failing and I don’t suppose it was the fault of the shop that built the web site – they were just given the wrong brief. Quite a lot of cash has already been spent on this web site but it has largely been wasted. There was no clear marketing idea behind it – well not one that was expressed in terms that the designers understood anyway. In this case completely the wrong site got built.
The hot smoked salmon thing got me thinking about small business online marketing as well. I seem to only buy this splendid food at Christmas – but I might well buy it at other times of the year (fantastic for a summer lunchtime garden party) if only I remembered it was there. So where are the “get 10% off and free shipping” offers through the rest of the year? They have my email address and postal address but you get the feeling they can’t be bothered – and that’s a shame. Smokehouses operate in a seasonal business climate – but they make so little effort to build a continuous trade – which is why so many fail at regular intervals.
Proper targeted, occasional emails that make relevant offers to people you know already buy your product is not spam – come on guys – let’s sell some product!
So if you are unsure about your software business web marketing then make a new year’s resolution to take a good long look at Eric Sink’s web site
where there is masses of sound marketing advice and downloadable ebooks. All free stuff to get you thinking clearly about the subject. Then resolve to track Seth Godin’s blog
to keep you thinking.Seth posted today
to point out that a very popular Reebok advertisement series running over at YouTube ends with a splash page sending viewers to a web page – which 404s. It’s the same with Vista – the OS screens have lots of links to Microsoft sites but each one I clicked ended up with a “Your page was not found” message. If the people who maintain the Microsoft web sites can’t be bothered to keep a list of the direct links from the company’s flagship product (whatever you might think of it) then what hope is there?
Well I got my fish but can’t find the chocolates. Santa’s sack is going to be light this year.