Archive for the ‘E-commerce’ Category

Milo Enters the Local Shopping Fray

October 17, 2009

Picture 66Though it launched late last year, I wasn’t aware of new local shopping engine Milo until someone made reference to it in a comment on this blog. I then contacted Milo and spoke with CEO Jack Abraham about the full range of questions that arise with a site trying to offer local inventory information: where the data come from, business model, syndication, mobile and so on.

I agreed not to share a chunk of what we discussed but here are some facts from the site and provided by Abraham: 

  • Milo has real-time local inventory for 1.45M products. Abraham says that by comparison Krillion has inventory data for 38,000 products. 
  • Milo covers most major retailers and features both hard goods and soft goods on the site.
  • Milo is venture and angel backed by some of the people behind Yelp, Topix, Trulia, Eventbrite, Facebook and YouTube among others.
  • As of  October 12, “we are on track to do 600k uniques a month, up from 300k on 10/2 and 100k just two months ago. The site is growing very, very fast.”

Milo appears to be a very serious contender in the local-inventory segment, especially as NearbyNow focuses increasingly on mobile and ShopLocal transitions to a marketing services platform for retailers. Krillion is still very much there. Channel Intelligence is too but on a limited basis. Not sure where Shopatron and Where2GetIt are in terms of their local inventory efforts. It’s been a little while since I’ve spoken to either. 

To test out the user experience on Milo — which I’m guessing comes from something like “fetch, Milo” — I performed a few searches for stereos and sandals, both of which I’m actually looking for:

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One additional feature of the site that is useful is the ability to search inventory by individual stores:

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Milo aspires to be a compelling shopping destination (rather than simply a data source) and has a mobile strategy lined up. The barriers to entry in the local inventory segment are considerable and greater than e-commerce by a mile — or “last mile,” as the case may be.

TheFind is a destination with local inventory information; however Abraham contends Milo has many more local products than TheFind. There’s also e-commerce on Milo; however that element is de-emphasized at the moment.

Overall the site offers a solid experience though it can evolve further to be sure. You should try it yourself and tell me what you think.

Amazon Gets Local with Same Day Delivery

October 16, 2009

Picture 57One characteristic that local shopping has over e-commerce is the idea that I can have the desired item today. Amazon is trying to remove that as an obstacle with same day delivery:

Amazon.com, Inc. today announced the launch of “Local Express Delivery,” a new shipping option giving customers same-day delivery in seven major cities including New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Seattle and Washington D.C. The service will be extended to Chicago, Indianapolis and Phoenix in the coming months.

Thousands of items are now available for Local Express Delivery. Amazon Prime* members pay just $5.99 per item for the service. Full details, including the rate card for all other customers, are available atwww.amazon.com/help/shipping.

Items ordered before the following local cut-off times will be delivered the same day:

  • New York City – Order as late as 10 a.m.
  • Philadelphia – Order as late as 10 a.m.
  • Boston – Order as late as 10:30 a.m.
  • Washington D.C. – Order as late as 10:30 a.m.
  • Baltimore – Order as late as 10:30 a.m.
  • Las Vegas – Order as late as 11 a.m.
  • Seattle – Order as late as 1 p.m.

Customers will find delivery cut-off times on each product’s detail page.

Another barrier for e-commerce is shipping costs, which this doesn’t address. But it’s a move to level the playing field with local shopping. Here’s some additional information from the NY Times

Would you use this service? Does this affect your opinion of Amazon or e-commerce more generally?

ShopLocal’s Data, Ads Showcased

August 10, 2009

ShopLocal has been busy with its dynamic search marketing product, pushing its data out to third parties and with new presentations of its circulars.

Here’s an example of “Circular Central” on the Gannet-owned IndyStar site (Gannett owns ShopLocal as well). While it’s been up for the past several months, I recently rediscovered it.

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Yahoo! features the same thing (see also coupons from ValPak).

The Circular Central site allows users to page through the circulars in the same way they would in the Sunday newspaper, complete with page turning simulation. It also provides a range of browse and search functions too. According to ShopLocal, users looking at multiple pages average 55 pages in their visits. The company also said that 14% of users look at 100 pages or more in these visits.

Finally ShopLocal is one of the data providers in the novel but ultimately not-very-useful MasterCard-sponsored Priceless Picks iPhone app:

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GM-eBay: Buy Online, Pick Up at Dealer

August 10, 2009

eBay Motors is expanding to include new cars from GM in a trial to start in California tomorrow:

The trial is part of Detroit-based GM’s turnaround plan, making more official a practice some of its dealers had already participated in on their own. It expands an existing partnership covering GM certified used vehicles sold through eBay . . .

Starting Tuesday, eBay visitors will be able to visit Web pages like gm.ebay.com and chevy.ebay.com, where they can browse new 2008 and 2009 vehicles, ask dealers questions and figure out financing . . .

Car buyers will be able to choose between the two standard options currently offered on eBay Motors: Negotiating a price with a dealer through the site or purchasing right then at a fixed price. Cars will be picked up at the dealerships.

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This will likely work because cars are a commodity (literally) with only a few variables to select (sunroof, trim, etc). A test drive will probably still be required, but a buyer can do that anywhere and then buy the car online.

This scenario creates an interesting categorization challenge: Is this e-commerce or still a local purchase?

Zappos Deal: Amazon Gets a Steal

July 23, 2009

Picture 10So Amazon bought Zappos for $850 million or $920 million or whatever it turns out to be. This is a great move for Amazon, which is one of the few branded e-commerce shopping sites beyond retailers and OEMs. Most of online shopping and certainly shopping engines are a commoditized blur. But Zappos was different from conventional online retailers; it was a bona fide brand that was expanding into Amazon territory. Amazon launched shoe site Endless to imitate and compete with Zappos. But Zappos was moving beyond shoes to handbags, clothing and accessories. It could eventually have moved into housewares and beyond.

It could also have had a successful IPO. The company had impressive revenues and would have been able to go public. According to reports I’ve seen the company had revenues of $850 million in 2007 and had crossed the billion dollar threshold. Why did they sell then for 1X revenue (or perhaps less than 1X revenue)?

According to Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh:

We realized that Amazon’s resources, technology, and operational experience had the potential to greatly accelerate our growth so that we could grow the Zappos brand and culture even faster. On the flip side, through the process Amazon realized that it really was the case that our culture is the platform that enables us to deliver the Zappos experience to our customers. Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) made it clear that he had a great deal of respect for our culture and that Amazon would look to protect it.

We asked our board members what they thought of the opportunity. Michael Moritz, who represents Sequoia Capital (one of our investors and board members), wrote the following: “You now have the opportunity to accelerate Zappos’ progress and to make the name and the brand and everything associated with it an enduring, permanent part of peoples’ lives… You are now free to let your imagination roam – and to contemplate initiatives and undertakings that today, in our more constrained setting, we could not take on.”

Apparently the “real story” is that Sequoia wanted an exit now and forced it on the company. According to peHUB:

One of the sources says Zappos was financially strong enough to wait for the IPO market to recover, if it chose to go that route. The source, a Zappos shareholder who has seen the company’s income statement reports, said that the company did over $1 billion in gross revenue in 2008, $625 million in net revenue and had an EBITA greater than $40 million.

Zappos had raised $49.1 million from venture investors since its inception, most of it from Sequoia, according Thomson Reuters (publisher of PEHub.com). The Zappos shareholder, who says he has seen the company’s capitalization tables, says Sequoia had a 3x or 3.5x liquidity preference associated with the shares it purchased.

“When Mike [Moritz, a GP with Sequoia] came in, he came in at a high valuation, but he countered that with a very high liquidation preference,” the shareholder says. “It puts management on one side of the table and investors on the other. Then there’s always pressure to sell the company.”

At least two sources who do not hold board seats, but are directly involved with Zappos, indicated that Moritz and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh came into conflict about the company’s future. Moritz, the sources say, wanted Zappos to sell while Hsieh wanted to remain independent.

This outcome seems wrong for Zappos, though a smart move for Amazon — to take out a fast-growing potential long-term competitor. I’d say that Amazon got a great deal.

Apple Offers iPhone 3GS Inventory Tool

June 28, 2009

Apple has developed an inventory tool to allow people to check and see whether their local store has the new iPhone 3GS:

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This should be something of a model for other manufacturers to follow. Where2GetIt does some analogous things like this with some of its customers. See also Krillion’s recent widget moves with Shopping.com.

(via CNET)

Krillion & Shopping.com Team for Widgets

June 26, 2009

Krillion and Shopping.com (eBay) have teamed up and created an online-offline shopping widget that goes on third party sites. It shows buyers where they can get products online or locally.

From the release:

Krillion, the company that connects online shoppers with local, in-stock product, has added product availability at leading online retailers to its category-leading product locator platform. Through a partnership with Shopping.com, the new Krillion 360 Product Locator™ enables manufacturers and web publishers to connect ready-to-buy shoppers with the products they are looking for — at all the local and online retailers that carry them.

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In the large majority of cases the local/offline product will win. But some consumers who are sending gifts or can wait (and get free shipping) will opt to buy online. It’s only a matter of time, however, before all the major shopping portals will need to integrate this local store inventory data to remain competitive.

Ironically, as I’ve said in the past, smartphone use in local stores could turn out to be a boon to e-commerce — as the person confirms the product she’s looking at is the desired one and then buys online from (probably) Amazon.

HourTown Rebrands, Now ‘BookFresh’

June 25, 2009

Picture 1Online SMB scheduling service HourTown, which launched in Q1 of 2008, has rebranded as “BookFresh” and entered into a partnership with free hosting/web-building site Webs.com to enable broader distribution of the service:

In addition to a fresh name and site, BookFresh has partnered with Webs.com to enable their more than 20 million site owners to seamlessly integrate online scheduling into existing or new sites via Webs’ social publishing platform. The partnership offers the 15 million small business owners that offer services for a living, a one-stop-shop to create an interactive online presence with the capabilities of translating visitors into customers.

Here’s CEO Ryan Donahue’s rationale for the name change:

As our business has developed and grown over the past year – we’ve increasingly been unhappy with the name HourTown and we had concerns about how it was going to grow with us. Yeah, we thought it was kind of cool and clever when we first started out, but quickly we began to realize that having an Internet brand and domain name that also happens to be a homophone (people hear “hour” and type in “our”) is not a good idea.

There are a range of direct and indirect competitors in the segment, including BookingAngel, which has been focused to date on restaurants, and GenBook. A couple of years ago now GenBook had a range of deals lined up with major local sites to provide “pay per booking” options to advertisers. It made lots of sense (like PPCall), but those implementations never really surfaced. In addition to those companies, there are several other competitors and startups (yet to emerge) trying to play in the online appointments space.

In contrast to the CPA pricing model of some of the other players, Donahue recognized that simplicity is key with the SMB crowd and offers very simple pricing:

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The premium services offer very obvious reasons to upgrade vs. the free service, including PayPal integration and mobile/SMS notifications of appointments. The challenge then is not so much proving the value of the paid version of the service but getting SMBs to adopt online scheduling and booking in the first place. That’s partly driving syndication with Webs.com. There are also APIs for third party developers.

Online scheduling is desirable for many consumers and the flat, subscription-based pricing avoids the problem of what to charge the business upon repeat bookings by existing clients. But SMBs themselves have to get over a hump in setting this up and getting used to managing their appointments online. Over time, more and more of them will.

Sprint Won’t Let Me Buy a Pre

June 23, 2009

How simple it would have been for Sprint to take online pre-orders (so to speak) for the Pre the first weekend (as the iPhone just did) and allow people to pick up the devices a day or two later in stores. But that’s not what happened.

In what can only be described as a naive and bone-headed PR move, the company wanted to claim a “sellout” on Monday and so rationed supplies. It “sold out” (100K units) to be sure but the device would’ve sold more had more inventory simply been available.

In addition, the company played games with the price advertising $199 but only after a $100 mail-in rebate (which Best Buy and Radio Shack waived). In most cases consumers fail to redeem rebates, which is why OEMs use them. The OEM gets to legally advertise a lower price and the consumer most-often pays a higher price, failing to mail in the rebate. I went to Best Buy to get a Pre because I didn’t want to deal with the rebate. (The local Sprint store I contacted opening weekend didn’t have any Pre phones at all.) But the Best Buy I went to told me they were only “getting 4 or 5 units at a time.” I became number 40 on a waiting list.

Sprint also miscalculated about the fact that when the iPhone 3Gs was announced the following Monday (June 8th) after the Pre launch that all the attention would shift back to Apple. In fact that’s what has happened — although it was largely predictable. The iPhone 3GS sold 1 million units apparently, which now make the Pre’s 100K (or fewer) unit sales seem quite weak by comparison — “sellout” PR value gone.

It’s now been almost three weeks since I put my name on the list at Best Buy (I’ve checked back a few times since then) and still no Pre. You still can’t buy it online, although that’s apparently coming “soon.”

Yesterday I got a call from Best Buy asking me to come in and put a deposit down to continue to hold my place in line. I said “can’t I just give you a credit card and buy it for later pick up.” No, I was told.

I asked the woman who called me roughly how many people were on the list, she said about 80 originally at that store, although the staff had eliminated more than half of them buy being unable to reach them or because the prospective buyer was no longer interested. What this says to me is that there was a great deal of unfulfilled interest that has now waned on the part of many customers.

How many more Pre phones might Sprint have sold if they had simply made them available online or given stores more units: 30% more, 50% more? I would certainly have bought one immediately and it would now be in my hand and I could be providing good WOM for Sprint. Instead I’m thrashing them and discussing what a blown opportunity the Pre launch was.

If I were the CMO at Sprint I would have wanted to get as many phones into as many people’s hands as fast as I could before the new iPhone hit. More phones in the market means more developer interest and more apps. Fewer phones mean fewer apps and a smaller developer ecosystem. One of the areas in which the Pre is regularly critiqued is the paucity of apps. Their short-sighted launch strategy may in fact have ensured that will continue. We can assume that once Verizon gets the phone in 2010 that might change. But we won’t know until then.

In the meantime I’ll be waiting for Best Buy’s call to tell me they’ve received their allotment of 5 phones and my name has come up on the list. “How long do you think it’ll be?” I asked the woman on the phone. “Another couple of weeks probably,” she replied.

Thanks Sprint. You blew it in a big way.

Google to Show ‘Product Ads’ (Local Inventory?)

June 20, 2009

Picture 3Google is testing a new type of “product ad” that will appear in Google.com results. Here’s an overview from the WSJ, Google Blogoscoped and SEL. As the Journal describes them:

Unlike text ads, product ads will “feature product specific information directly in the ad such as price and product image,” according to the email Google sent some advertisers inviting them to try out the ads this week. Google said that it would continue to work on the most effective format for the ads and that the ads would “complement standard text ads on Google.com” . . .

With the new ads, Google is mixing up its pricing model as well. Unlike Google’s standard search ads, where advertisers generally pay every time users click on their ads, Google will charge advertisers for product ads only when a user makes a purchase. Advertisers set the commission they are willing to pay, and Google decides which products ads to display based on the commission, how well the ad matches a query, and how often people click on the ads, among other things.

The pricing then is CPA (based on a purchase or perhaps other definition of “conversion”) and the submission process involves Google Base. In the same way that Android Market’s requirement that consumers use Google Checkout to buy paid apps, this program potentially gives new vitality to a service that has underperformed for Google: Google Base.

Google has experimented with display, video and product images in ads in Google.com search results in the past. So this isn’t as much of a departure as it might appear out of context. The CPA pricing is interesting and perhaps designed to generate more participation and enthusiasm from e-commerce sellers. (The WSJ speculates that “product ads” are partly a response to Bing and the “cashback” program.)

The question I have is will local inventory data from Krillion, NearbyNow or others be included? If so that would make the CPA billing problematic unless conversions can be defined in more than one way here. But consumers would certainly respond to the program.

As you may recall Google had “local shopping” in Maps early on, allowing users to find products in their area by filtering search results with a check box. The data then came from StepUp and ShopLocal. StepUp is now part of Intuit. The program was discontinued as far as I know. But now with more inventory data available others (e.g., TheFind and YP publishers) are offering it. Google can’t/shouldn’t be far behind.

Here’s some additional information from MediaPost.

comScore: Online Sales Softened in May

June 16, 2009

According to comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni: “comScore data shows that online sales softened in May: down 4% versus year ago.”

The recession is of course the answer to that question — in part. But let’s not forget, US consumers are not using the Internet less (vs. other media except maybe TV). They’re just not buying online. What are they doing? They’re shopping online (to the extent they’re shopping at all) and buying offline.

How long have I been beating this horse? A long time.

Local is the last mile. Location is the thing that connects the digital and the real worlds — the search to the sale . . .

TheYard: Amazon Meets Craigslist

June 12, 2009

Thanks to David Mihm for pointing out The Yard, a new e-commerce/local marketplace from the Tribune Company:

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Not much there yet, but it’s a creative move for the publisher.

Sears Takes a Page from ServiceMagic

March 2, 2009

After to what appears to be a several month contractor-enrollment period, Sears has launched ServiceLive:

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It basically takes the lead-gen model of ServiceMagic or a Matchpoint and adds a reverse auction element. Local contractors are “pre-screened” (criminal, civil and vehicle background checks). 

ServiceLive envisions that eventually contractors will have rich profile pages that look something like this. I looked and there are very few completed profiles on the site. However there’s lots of potential detail there and it appears several ways to search for service providers (including by spoken languages). 

A few comments: 

  • In a troubled economy any additional help for contractors isn’t a bad thing
  • However another site fragments the market further (YP, local sites, verticals, search)
  • The reverse auction is a potential differentiator but may create problems (often a visit is required before a job can be estimated)  

Another interesting element is what the site calls a “ServiceLive Wallet.” Consumers are asked to transfer money or use a credit card to deposit funds with the site prior to the initiation of the job. After the job is completed funds are transferred to the contractor. There must be a contemplated revenue stream in this feature. It’s also probably positioned as a competitive differentiator to contractors (i.e., “we ensure you get paid.”)

For better or worse Sears branding is nowhere on the site. In this case, the Sears brand might give the site more credibility and drive near-term word of mouth. Given the absence of the branding I wonder if Sears is going to use its stores or other marketing channels to promote the site.

ServiceLive offers an introductory and explanatory video featuring HGTV home improvement show host Carter Oosterhouse.

I haven’t spoken to anyone from ServiceLive but one question that comes to mind is motivation. Why exactly is Sears doing this? Is for revenue? Is it to extend the Sears brand somehow? (though the brand is absent) ServiceMagic makes good money but it would take years for ServiceLive to reach those numbers. 

The question therefore arises: does Sears have the stomach to further invest in this, promote it, fix and refine it? It would take such a commitment over a period of years for this to really succeed.

ETail Opens Up to Local

February 24, 2009

Krillion announced that it’s chairing a track on multi-channel marketing at eTail 2009. While online retailing events have always discussed multi-channel marketing, this, in a way, represents the mainstreaming of the local shopping — an acknowledgment that the dominant consumer paradigm is “research onlne and by offline.”

Ecommerce, though significant, when seen in the context of the totality of US retail is essentially a fly on the posterior of an elephant. That elephant is Internet-influenced offline buying. As Nielsen discovered last year in one of its consumer surveys:

“If you were only able to use one source of information to support your next consumer electronics purchase, which would you choose?”

  • Internet – 58%
  • Visit to local stores – 25%
  • Reviews in newspapers/magazines – 8%
  • Friends and family – 8%
  • Other – 1%

Despite this, less than 4% of US retail happens online.

TheFind Debuts ‘TheFind 100′

February 10, 2009

picture-16Awards are almost always about promoting the entity giving out the award as much or more than the recipients. But everyone seems to love awards and rankings — so it’s smart marketing.

TheFind, which offers both mobile and local shopping search in addition to more traditional online shopping, has created an award it’s calling “TheFind 100.” The company’s announcement says the list recognizes “the best 100 online stores in sixteen shopping categories.”

What’s nice about this is that many of these stores, if not all of them, are independent. It would be interesting to know how many sell exclusively online and how many have an offline business as well. I would imagine that a majority do fall into the latter category.

ShopLocal Makes Retailer Data More ‘Searchable’

February 9, 2009

sl-logojpgShopLocal has introduced a new way to distribute retailer content: search. Wait, haven’t retailers have been advertising in search for several years? Yes, but ShopLocal’s new “SmartDelivery” capability takes retailer data and offers and turns that content into dynamically generated search ads. Compare a hypothetical current retailer ad on the left with what ShopLocal is now capable of:

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Anecdotal and empirical evidence shows that the specificity of the ad on the right (sale data, location, date) will generate much higher response. The ads also click through to specialized landing pages that correspond to the content of the ads, rather than a “generic” retailer home page.

When I first encountered ShopLocal, the company was putting newspaper circulars — as they appeared in print  — online. (It still does that but has “diversified” greatly.) ShopLocal became  a shopping comparison engine and online shopping destination. More recently the company has integrated more deeply with PointRoll (also owned by Gannett) to feed its retailer data and offers into graphical ad units from PointRoll that appear on third party sites and portals.

ShopLocal is also working with Yahoo! to deliver different versions of retailer content to users based on Yahoo!’s targeting capabilities.

In some ways, this new offering is the most compelling. Search is used very heavily throughout the consumer product research process. Yet there’s a disconnect between consumer and advertiser behavior. Etailers are aggressive search marketers, but consumers primarily buy things offline. And traditional retailers are not well represented in search results. If they’re there it’s generally in some more “generic” form, as the ad on the upper left indicates.

On an example search for, say, “plasma TV” only Sears (second position, right column) is present among traditional retailers:

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The Sears ad copy reads: “Save on Plasma Televisions and More Online Now at Sears.com.” In ShopLocal’s SmartDelivery ads offering that ad could show specific deals on flat panel TVs and be geotargeted. The greater effectiveness of this is almost self-evident. This would also likely be true for product-category searches (as above) as well as specific brand/product searches (e.g., 42″ Sony flat panel TV).

Using that specific example, we again see relatively generic ads and only one more traditional retailer (Target), though 80%+ of TVs will be researched online and 98% of TV purchases will be made offline.

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The greater specificity of the ShopLocal ads (deals + local) and the fact that they’re more aligned with actual consumer behavior (research online, buy offline) should make those ads much more effective than any/all of the e-commerce vendors that right now dominate product query advertising in search results.

The Evolution of YouTube

January 22, 2009

picture-33TechCrunch reports that Google is going to allow media companies to sell their own ads against their own content distributed via YouTube. The post takes the position that this will help generate greater revenues on the site.

While that’s certainly true, I believe the real ambition of such a program is to encourage more media companies to put their content on the site legally. YouTube has always been about “the head” as well as so-called tail content (user-generated). If there were no “professional content” on the site it would lose value and interest over time. Indeed, Google has watched Hulu’s rise and seen that it must be able to offer more than lip sync videos and children being silly (etc.) — to oversimplify. People are curious and interested in that content of course, but they also want  the higher quality professionally produced content. 

In my mind this move is partly about appeasement, but it’s also about YouTube’s evolution into a more full-blown and complete video service that offers movies and TV shows, as well as other types of premium content (and video downloads). And the migration of YouTube to the living room (via set-top boxes and direct integration into TVs) is consistent with what I believe to be that longer-term strategy. Consider YouTube as a potential substitute for cable TV. While that will likely never happen it’s not entirely far-fetched. 

Another part of YouTube’s long-term strategy may be to simultaneously evolve the site into a broad-based search engine that offers video content instead of text — again in anticipation of “the Internet in the living room.”  It’s already the second biggest search engine in the US after Google itself, in terms of query volume. Along those lines, YouTube is reportedly expanding its e-commerce “click to buy” program. Certainly this is about revenue as well. But again I believe it’s about broadening YouTube’s content and utility.  

YouTube now offers lots of information and videos about products, service businesses/SMBs and other “commercial” content that people generally don’t think about when they’re on YouTube. This is why I’ve argued that 10,000 SMB videos on YouTube doesn’t make lots of difference right now for AT&T or for YouTube. People typically aren’t doing yellow pages searches on YouTube — but one day they may be. They may also be searching for products, product reviews or travel options, etc. That becomes even more compelling if you’re watching YouTube on a TV screen in your living room. 

The move to HD on YouTube also anticipates that day as well.

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Related: The WSJ reports on a collective agency/media company effort to test and optimize online video-ad formats:

The recession is making for some strange ad fellows. Media companies including Microsoft,YahooCBS‘s CBS Interactive and Hulu.com are joining forces to attract more money to the fledgling online-video advertising marketplace by testing ad formats.

The project, dubbed “the Pool,” is the brainchild of Publicis Groupe’s Starcom MediaVest, which buys roughly $16 billion in U.S. ad time and space annually for big advertisers likeProcter & Gamble.

Starcom MediaVest and sister agency VivaKi say they are trying to create standards in the online-video market, which is popular with consumers but hasn’t turned into a serious money maker.

Of course these video formats and interactive ads will all be on “TV” one day as well.

E-Commerce: Just a Few Brands Will Remain

January 21, 2009

A blog post by Compete about Amazon and the competitive impact of its “free shipping” Amazon Prime service got me thinking again.

The top “e-commerce” sites list in the US is already dominated by the online destinations of major retail brands:

  • Wal-Mart
  • Sears
  • BestBuy
  • Target
  • Etc.

This is likely equally true in Europe.

But you say: there are high-profile online only sites such as Zappos, NewEgg, Overstock and others, including and especially Amazon. Many of these sites have considerable loyalty.

I say that’s true but the day of millions of no-name e-tailers being able to compete for online transactions is probably done for the foreseeable future — the victim of a bad economy, consumer loyalty to a few retail brands and the growth “local product inventory infrastructure” (“where can I buy it now/today in my area?”).

Putting aside Travel, which is a different case, product-based retail e-commerce will continue its incremental growth but a diminished universe of “online brands,” such as Amazon or unique sites such as Etsy, will prevail while large numbers of other pure-play e-commerce sites will fail. What remains will largely involve multi-channel efforts by established offline brands.

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Related: Here’s something I hadn’t thought about from Mary-Jo Foley: the CircuitCity liquidation removes one of the principle distribution points for Windows PCs:

(Circuit City was one of the main venues Microsoft was planning to place its “Gurus,” by the way. And the online buying guide still doesn’t address the “kick the tires” aspect of PC shopping I’m wondering about….)

How do you compare PCs these days? Where do you go to evaluate real — not virtual — new Windows machines?

While you can still go to places like BestBuy, Office Depot and several others, CC was a high profile venue for the PC that will very soon be gone.

Topix & Krillion in Local Product Deals Deal

January 14, 2009

News and local community site Topix and Krillion have announced a partnership that shows Krillion partner product inventory data on various Topix pages and in forums. Inventory will be generated from retailers such as Home Depot, Sears, Target , Wal-Mart, among others, that Krillion works with.

The intention is that the ads/inventory presented will be geographically and potentially contextually relevant to the specific areas of the site in which they’re shown. All the data reflect inventory actually in stores in those local markets.

Here’s an example of the way this is presented in the Tech section:

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And in one of the forums (scroll right column):

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Clicking on the product link takes users directly to the retailer’s product page, in this case Sears:

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Although the implementation isn’t great in this particular case (Sears), at the top of the page Search offers “buy online pick up in store”:

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My memory is that Topix and Krillion split part of the CPA revenue that Krillion gets from its partners when an actual transaction occurs. These aren’t “search” ads, there’s more of a  newspaper circular analogy in this particular presentation of the data. However, they should be fairly effective for all involved, given their local-contextual matching.

This is another syndication deal that Krillion has done. Others include Superpages, Yellowpages.com, PriceGrabber/ConsumerReports and a range of others that haven’t been announced.

In addition to Krillion, NearbyNow, Shaptron, Where2GetIt, Channel Intelligence and ShopLocal are all (to varying degrees) bringing local product inventory data quickly online and to mobile devices by extension.

Free Shipping and Online vs. Offline Shopping

January 12, 2009

Research firm, ForeSee Results, which tracks online consumer satisfaction, put out some additional findings from its holiday shopping survey of “more than 9,000 responses collected from December 1, 2008 through December 18, 2008 from shoppers who had visited the Top 40 retail websites at any point within the prior 14 days.” Here’s the part of interest to me:

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According to the data, “when they choose to shop on a retailer’s website instead of in the store, 33% said that the availability of free shipping encouraged them to decide to buy online.”

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In order of preference then:

  1. Convenience
  2. Price
  3. Free shipping 

 . . .  motivated people to buy online vs. in stores. What this means is that free shipping and lower margins will be required for most “e-tailers” to remain competitive. Amazon and trusted retail brands may be the exception.


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