Dear Abby gone digital

12/09/2008 09:26:00 AM

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Where is Dear Abby when you need her most? Dear Abby, the ubiquitous advice column launched in 1956 and now published in over 1,400 newspapers, always has the right answer to life's most perplexing situations. Not sure how to deal with pushy in-laws? Wondering how to write a condolence letter? Dear Abby always has a simple, uncomplicated answer.

As retailers deal with one of the most challenging quarters in recent times, what might Dear Abby advise? Is there some simple, straightforward advice that might help all retailers navigate today’s challenges?

Dear Abby,

I am so confused by the sales on my website (which sells a unique assortment of this and that.) This quarter, everything seems to have stopped! Earlier this quarter, lots of shoppers were coming to the site, looking around, spending more time than ever…but just not buying. I have to admit my traffic and sales increased between Black Friday and Cyber Monday….but now I’m seeing a slowdown again.

My products haven’t changed. My marketing is the same. It all used to work so well! Why aren’t people buying these days? What is this nonsense of “trading down and across?” I’m so confused - should I quit spending on search and banners? Can I just turn off the site, bunker down at home and flip the switch on again next spring?



We believe that Dear Abby would offer some basic, no-nonsense recommendations that any retailer could follow.

Dear Perplexed – This is certainly not the time to shy away from the challenge! You need to maintain your focus and work through the remainder of this quarter. Your efforts today will not only help you weather today’s troubling economy, but will help build a stronger foundation for the future.

Want to continue to drive sales? This is the time to continually test and optimize. One of the benefits of digital marketing is the ability to test different messages quickly and relatively inexpensively. Consider A/B testing to find those tactics that lead to an online sale. Try offering free or reduced shipping to a select group of consumers and watch the impact on sales. Continually refine your offers, landing pages and promotions. Pay attention to what your consumers are reacting to – and stop wasting time (and money) on those that aren’t.

Ted Vaughan, from the Retail and Consumer Product Practice at BDO Seidman, reminded us in a recent article "the Internet makes it so easy to browse; they (consumers) will be able to find other products they may not have had in mind”

Greg Thomas, the Director of research and programs at The Emory Marketing Institute agrees, recently advising retailers to “…shift assortments and promotions toward a value focus.” So listen to these experts - be creative, suggest cross sells, accessories and upsells to your site visitors – make it easier for your consumers to find new and unexpected items to add to their shopping cart.

While you’re testing offers, don’t lose site of the value of your brand. Ensure consistency across your channels so that every touchpoint with the consumer works to reinforce your brand. Don’t confuse them with different colors or offers on your site. Snowflakes in your store? Then make sure they’re on the site. Circuit City’s “One Price Promise” is the latest example of brand consistency across channels…can you say the same about yours?

This is not the time to lose market share to your competitors. Although it’s tempting to reduce spend, the competition is still spending. Maintain those marketing expenses that provide the strongest return. Make sure you continue being top of mind and part of the consideration set for your existing customers. Those same messages reinforcing your brand to existing customers will introduce your brand to new customers, giving you an opportunity to increase your customer base for future growth.

The Internet may be an accepted channel for those of us in the business, but many Americans have yet to discover the convenience and ease of online shopping. Use this time to learn more about your customers, test your marketing and reinforce your brand so that you’re even stronger for future opportunities.

- Abby


shelley said...

I agree with Abby. I've been watching one website in particular and am impressed with what they show and what their pricing is:
Great selection, low prices - no wonder they're still in business after so many years. These guys have learned how to offer real value for your dollars. Other retailers should take a lesson from them.