Lock Down Web Site Security
December 1, 2005

The ongoing threats of spam, identity theft and data security breaches hang heavily in the air at the close of 2005. Headlines detailing these dangers have made sure your customers are more aware than ever of the perils of buying online. In fact, 48 percent of Americans avoid making purchases on the Internet because they’re afraid their financial information may be stolen, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by the Cyber Security Industry Alliance. So what’s a responsible online merchant to do? Following are tips to not only ensure your Web site adequately handles customers’ data, but also make it undeniably

E-commerce: Provide Positive Online Customer Service
October 4, 2005

As a cataloger, you’re used to fielding customers’ questions when they call your contact center, but how do you address the growing number of customers who make their purchases online? Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg, authors of “Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results” (Wizard Academy Press, 2005. $25.95), say there are four basic rules to follow in providing great online customer service. 1. Provide simple Web site navigation that makes it easy for online visitors to find what they’re looking for quickly, write the Eisenbergs. Examples include a search box on every page, and links to related products on individual product pages. 2. Your

When You Need More Than Clickstream Data
October 1, 2005

“Data, data everywhere” could be the cry of the merchant who selects a Web Analytics solution without understanding the commitment it requires from technical, marketing, merchandising and other staff. The same lament might come from selecting a solution that’s not optimized for e-commerce or for a user’s special needs related to Web site optimization. In the long run, it’s better to have realistic expectations of what you want to use a Web Analytics solution for. Like many companies, Gardener’s Supply tried several Web Analytics solutions before settling on its current application: Omniture. But the merchant’s experience taught it to be realistic about how

Special Report: Affiliate Marketing
October 1, 2005

Sitting in packed sessions at trade shows devoted to the discussion of affiliate marketing, one gets the sense that the catalogers in the room are either experts or novices in this growing channel. This special report is meant to serve both groups: It’ll explore what you should know before you start an affiliate program, as well as strategies to make your existing program better. Affiliate marketing is the process by which third parties, often Web sites, advocate your products or services in exchange for a commission. A commission is paid every time the affiliate sends a sale to you, or in exchange for

The Coming Web Revolution
October 1, 2005

Big changes are afoot online. It’s still early, but I see two trends that will impact online marketing: 1) the sharing of content and 2) the sharing of applications. These two trends haven’t fully arrived, and so they don’t have well-established names yet. But their early glimmers are visible today in the growth of really simple syndication (RSS) and the growing popularity of Web service application programming interfaces (APIs). These trends — let’s call them “open content” and “open apps” — are coming fast. During the next few years they’ll revolutionize the Web, and in doing so, revolutionize online marketing. This article

E-commerce: Sell by Collections
September 27, 2005

Thumbnails are out. Collections are in. That was the mantra offered by Ken Burke, president and CEO of MarketLive, an e-commerce development and technology company, during his talk “Innovate or Stagnate” held during the New England Mail Order Association’s fall conference in Groton, Conn., last week Collection selling for an apparel merchant would include offering entire outfits on one screen on your Web site, similar to what you do in your catalog, said Burke. He suggested that catalogers try sorting merchandise in new and innovative ways. For example, let customers shop by: ¥ activity (sport or hobby); ¥ event (work apparel or evening wear); ¥ theme (movies from the

E-commerce: Use Your Web Site to Improve the Customer Experience Across Channels
September 13, 2005

Your Web site plays a crucial role in tying together all of your marketing channels. In fact, consumers cite company Web sites and third-party retail sites as being the most influential factor in seven out of 10 product categories as a source of further learning in their decision-making processes leading to purchase, according to a recent survey by DoubleClick. What are some ways you can leverage your Web site to increase conversions both online and off? Chris Shimojima, vice president of customer marketing at Sears Direct, shared some of his strategies on integrating the Web with your other channels in his session “Creating a Best-in-Class

E-commerce: Get in the Book
September 6, 2005

Always ask to be added to your customers’ online address books to help ensure that your e-mail campaigns are delivered, note the authors of the white paper “Authentication, Accreditation tion — for Marketers!” Use registration pages on your Web site and in all e-mail communications to remind consumers to add your URL and e-mail address(es) to their address books. By being “white listed” in this way, you could realize several benefits: full image content and links will be rendered as you intend them to be; your e-mails will bypass personal adaptive filters; and you’re guaranteed placement in customers’ e-mail folders, according to the white

By the Stats: Online Sales Growth
September 6, 2005

¥ 39.5 million U.S. households shopped online in 2004, up from 36 million in 2003. ¥ 70 percent of online consumers say they research their purchases on the Internet before making a purchase. ¥ 29 percent of North American households used broadband connections to link to the Internet in 2004, up from 19 percent in 2003. Source:”Forrester Research: The State of Consumer Technology Adoption,” released Aug. 2, 2005

10 Tactics for Online Testing
September 1, 2005

Almost any question can be answered cheaply, quickly and finally by a test campaign. And that’s the way to answer them — not by arguments around a table. Go to the court of last resort — the buyers of your product. —Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising, 1923 Savvy catalogers have long used testing to improve their mail businesses. And as the Web matures, catalogers are bringing the same discipline to their online marketing efforts. This article offers 10 tips for running direct marketing tests in the online world. The first seven are common to online and offline. The last three are unique