September 2, 2008
It Takes More than a One-Trick Pony
For the first time in a decade, catalogue/Internet retailers have seen their first decline in Internet sales as a percentage of total direct sales. Speculation is that the decline is caused by reducing the number of catalogues mailed to customers who primarily buy over the Internet.(That reduction is a result of ever-increasing costs in postage.)
Without the support of direct mail, Internet sales declined. Makes sense, when you think about the value of multiple ways of communicating with a customer in multiple ways.
But the seduction of Internet communications (especially seductive because they can be so targeted and so measurable) risks blinding us to the value of a multi-channel approach.
There's been some experimentation recently with introducing the personal touch to online selling by analyzing online visitors in to hot and cold leads and then making personal contact via online chat with the "hotties." It's a complex slice and dice of prospects, but by adding the personal dimension to just the right targets, it's already proving to improve conversion rates by 15% or more.
All of this points to the need to continuosly improve and refine our marketing processes, never depending upon a single medium to carry the day. Furthermore, the selective infusion of personal contact in the Web-based sales process takes us back to the fundamentals of marketing and communications...building a bond with the customer, a bond that is customized and personalized.
The Lands End folks get it, as they spend time talking on the phone with customers talking about lots more than the company's products. And Piggly Wiggly gets it, empowering Smile Managers not only to solve people's problems but also simply to treat people as people. These companies most definitely have genuine relationships with their customers...building loyalty and trust and confidence. And, even in a tough economy, that'll beat "price and item every day."
It takes an optimal blend of channels, a strong dose of personal touch, and the ability to listen.
And Speaking of Listening...
I liked Geoff Livingston's book Now is Gone which has been making the rounds in our office. A couple of quotes worth noting:
"Participation affects all marketing. Fewer and fewer companies are able to retain the public's trust as faith shifts to the peer space. Today's customers expect to be listened to and understood. By being involved in social networks, a company can be in tune with what their customers' wants and needs are, and can apply what they've heard to their traditional and new media marketing programs.
"I talk about brand, and people think you are talking about a trademark of a logo, but the brand itself is the way the consumer reacts when they hear your company name or see your logo or a product of yours on store shelves. That is all based on their experience and the one way, top down , pushed advertising and marketing is only part of that experience." [my italics]