Archive | June, 2009

ShoppeSimple – Building a New Shopping Experience

30 Jun

No one likes being interrupted, so few people will admit that they like advertising.  It is, by it’s nature, interruptive.  Even in search, you get those annoying “Sponsored Links” running up and down the screen.

But we like brands the brands we like.  We feel a connection with them. We want to know what they’re up to, what they have to say and what they have to offer. And then we’re not being interrupted — we’re interested. We’re paying attention.

I’m working with a client called ShoppeSimple that takes this as its starting point — that advertising works best when people are paying attention.  Today, brands have chosen to put the ShoppeSimple icon on their site.  It sends users to a hub, where they can choose to get offers and updates from their brand in a reader, or to check out deals now and buy.

That’s the starting point. Where is it going? The opportunity we see is to reverse the consumer sales information distribution process — instead of users having to search for a new size 5 summer dress, the brands and product choices come to them, when they decide they want them, and where they want to see them.

The technology core is what we’re calling TransactionalRSS, or TRSS — using RSS to create a new and better shopping experience. What matters here isn’t the technology…it’s the capabilities and experience being created around it.

I’m blogging about about this for the company at shoppesimple.wordpress.com.  I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think.

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How to Be the Media

22 Jun

“We are the media” is a common Web 2.0 rallying cry. The upshot — every business needs to think about itself as if it were a multimedia producer with a goal of generating attention, awareness, interest and action — or sales for the business.

Adam Singer talks about this on the Top Rank Blog in the context of an organization’s agility.  His point is that it’s vital to find ways to keep contributing fresh content to the web — it impacts search engine results, improves digital PR, meets growing consumer demands and has a host of other benefits.

But what does it mean to think like the media? Or, to put it another way, how do the media think, and how can thinking like the media improve marketing and corporate positioning?

Here’s my list, and I’d welcome input from actual media folks:

1. Find stories and tell stories. The hallmark of journalism is the ability of reporters to observe, ask questions and bring people’s stories to life.  I’ve had the opportunity to play reporter for a client’s internal newsletter, and the results have been rewarding — I talk to their people and let them tell their stories — about successes and challenges and their own interests and concerns. The results are rich stories that inspire other employees to learn, strive, collaborate, innovate and sell.  These stories may well find their well to external audiences and I hope they do — there’s value in these stories — in themselves and in the conversations and ideas they can generate for the company.

2.  They generate attention. Being the media isn’t “art for art’s sake” — tbey want people to read, and view and interact with them.  From a business standpoint, we’re talking about creating content that will interest and excite your constituents — customers, prospects, partners, investors, employees, and community. Perhaps more importantly, it will encourage them to generate conversation…to whit…

3. They spur conversation..and word of mouth…and keep it going. The media want to make a difference in the lives of their audience.  And, besides the satisfaction they get form this, they want more people to consume what it creates, so that they get more subscribers, can charge more for ads and make more money.  So when The Atlantic comes out with a new cover story on “what makes people happy”, they get that story out influencers, they blog about it and they do everything they can to make sure people know that they have something exclusive, unique and special.

4. They plan ahead. The trade media are good at this.  They create ‘editorial calendars’ each year.  They lay out milestones — trade shows, seasonal events, conferences, special issues.  Then they tell people what’s coming, so advertisers can advertise and companies can participate. Can businesses to the same?  Sure — there are a lot of company events you can plan for — product launches, prime selling seasons, key trade shows, quarterly earnings — and have a content strategy for each.

5.  They listen…and react. Or at least they should be.  New media companies do. They are watching web analytics to see what stories are doing well … they’re even promoting stories by showing their site users what articles are most popular and most emailed, and offering them tools for sharing stories. They are opening their content to conversation — sometimes moderating, sometimes not — and participating in ways that keep it going. And they’re scanning the rest of the web to create links and to be sure they know where their story is going, so they can react quickly to changes.

This discipline is particularly critical in a crisis.  The question:  are you listening, and do you have the tools and skills necessary to react…quickly…in a crisis.

6. They meet their customers where they are. You want to roll your eyes when you see your daily newspaper editors talking about Twitter — it sounds like Grandpa talking about “the hippety hop music”.  But the truth is that it’s a sign that they’re paying attention to where their audience is — or is going.  Are you?

7. They think about their audience constantly, and communicate every day. Here’s where daily media and new media are strongest. Every morning, your daily newspaper or TV news organziation holds a meeting. They talk about what they’re seeing out in the world…what’s happening…what’s interesting…what’s news.  Do you do that for your organization?  Every day, every minute your online presence is saying something to your constituents.  Is what you said yesterday relevant today?  Is what you’re saying today moving people?  Are you getting the reaction you want?

The tools are there — from blogs to Twitter to YouTube to Flickr to iTunes your own website and email lists.  What’s on your channel today?

Any media folks want to add a comment…What can we learn from you?

User Experience

18 Jun

I’ve been working with a startup that has a platform for creating RSS subscribers and turning them into buyers (more on this soon).  The website for accomplishing this has gone through an evolution that is telling and probably typical. We began feeling the need to explain the business and tell a story the moment a site visitor rolled a cursor over the logo on a client site.

We realized that the widget was making an offer, and then throwing up barriers to anyone who might want to take us up on the offer. Now, it’s simply “click here” and get what you want. The results have been dramatic — one site nearly doubling subscriptions in the first day.

There is, as was pointed out to me coincidentally by user experience consultant Bill Dorman, a difference between a website “user” and the site’s “audience.” The user wants what they want on a website and needs a straight, unobstructed path to fulfill that want. They don’t want storytelling, they don’t want excess information.

The audience, on the other hand, wants your story. They want to “get” the brand and discover more about you and your world.  What the startup realized was that at this stage, we don’t need an audience, we need users.

The first challenge is to serve the user what they need, and facilitate the conversation with the audience.  The real trick is to turn your audience into users, and to bring your users into the conversation.

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