In-store Column, published by Promotions and Incentives Magazine

In the hustle and bustle of online entertainment retailing, Amazon has led the way since it was launched in 1994. The store has constantly innovated with Web 2.0 applications like customer reviews which are rated by others. They have also lead the way with Web 3.0 “Symantic Web” features in the way the site uses browsing patterns to make recommendations for things you never knew you were looking for but are just what you want now.

Amazon’s diversification strategy has included Movies, Music, Games, to Electronics and Computers  which arguably is something of a decent fit. But in its mission to increase share of consumer spend, Amazon is now seeking to dominate Home and Garden, Grocery, Toys, Kids and Baby, Lifestyle Shopping, Health and Beauty and Sports and Outdoors.

As a result the whole experience is becoming bloated, overwhelming and built around the need for profit growth rather than the needs of the punter. Order journeys can go on and on, when they should be getting back to basics. It’s become all too easy to get lost in the jungle…

The one thing that something that really matters is to be able to Log Out easily – Amazon make it very hard I think  but allows for a quick escape so the consumer can make a quick purchase. The site is also up front with its price promotions which work better with the entertainment sector than Amazon’s range-first approach. are also ahead in areas like Digital Rights Management free audio files  again, a completely customer centric approach  ie do what you want with the music you buy. They’re also now diversifying into clothing, but extending their same “free delivery” proposition there. I do hope they keep to their essence as they develop the business.

This is where the likes of are making a massive headway. A “simplicity first” site which offers a straightforward (ie not clever) experience, presenting me with cheap, popular items in a linear (Web 1.0) way, but concentrating on free delivery at the centre of a promotional strategy, and a customer experience which built around (very) short user

OK, so sources grey imports and ship from the Channel Islands, but isn’t that just playing markets effectively? And the margins it creates mean it avoids the consumer having to build large shopping baskets in order to get free delivery  so I can go there, see what I want and buy it.

How to have a relevant conversation with people who don’t respond to your Emails, published by DMA’s Email Marketing Council

Some people view your emails, a proportion click the links, a number of those look round your site and a subset of the rest buy your product. Each time the recipient is telling you something more about their interests. Retargeting is a way of using this information for subsequent communication.

Any email database will have some degree of segmentation based on declared preferences – for instance at registration e.g. an interest in Iceland.

This information can be supplemented with observed behaviour – which emails they viewed, which links they clicked, what pages on your site the viewed and what they bought (looked at weekend breaks but didn’t purchase?).

This information can then be used to determine the nature and content of follow up messages to retarget customers (weekend breaks in Iceland?).

The possibilities are endless, and the deeper you track behaviour, the more engaged you can make the conversation – offering dozens of unique offers to different customers (a weekend break at the Ice Hotel in Reykjavik? With an option for car hire?). It can all happen in real time, with systems which flow content dynamically into templates for follow up emails and ad servers which select banners dynamically based on your criteria.

Subsequent communications can reflect prospect’s interests, based on which pages they viewed while on your site the first time. Another option is to follow prospects who abandon a shopping cart with a particular product in it – when they see the retargeted message, it can be geared directly at the product that they almost bought.

The underlying technology is driven by cookies and embedded pixels logging opens and views placed in emails, on ads and on the around the client’s website

Specifics of how consumers buy a particular product can also get in the way, it works best for products with a longer buying cycle which people might research, but not work so well for products with a shorter buying cycle.

For retargeting to really work, the approach needs to encompass all of your digital communications in an integrated way, using the same methodology and tools to track and control email, banner, search, affiliate and website traffic.

Retargeting also requires bigger campaigns to generate a critical mass of traffic –as leads are better qualified over time, the volumes reduce – it can use a lot of coverage on ad networks and so it may not work with smaller clients.