April 1, 2008 (Reuters): In a bold move designed to encourage multichannel shopping, Macy's announced today that it will ban prior e-commerce shoppers from purchasing merchandise online for an unspecified period of time.
"Findings from data mining projects made this decision an easy one for us." proclaimed Stacy Miller, Divisional Vice President of Customer Relationship Marketing at Macy's. "Multichannel customers are five times more valuable than single channel customers. From a marketing standpoint, it is critical that we encourage our e-commerce patrons to enjoy all that our stores have to offer."
Using a proprietary set of business rules developed by industry gurus James Taylor and Jim Novo, Macy's CRM division identified web visitors who only shop via the e-commerce channel and live within twenty-five miles of a Macy's store. These visitors are served a blank, white screen, commanding them to shop at a Macy's store. Visitors are automatically entered into a drawing to participate in a special meet and greet with Jessica Simpson, Martha Stewart, and Donald Trump at a Macy's store in Spokane, WA on April 22.
Industry experts appear to be almost universally against this strategy.
Diane Dilsworth, columnist at DMNews, noted that "... the strategy is a desperate attempt to prop up comp store sales in a difficult economic environment." Tim Parry at Multichannel Merchant suggested that Macy's "... focus on their core economic proposition of offering a wide array of brands coupled with enthusiastic and generous discounts and markdowns." Scott Silverman of Shop.org stated that the strategy "... flies in the face of all that is known about providing a true multichannel shopping experience.", theorizing that "... it is possible that Macy's is experiencing challenges serving millions of daily online visitors, using the marketing ploy as a tool to divert traffic away from a struggling website."
Consumers appear to be enthusiastic about the strategy.
Elle Parks, 29, of La Jolla, CA, thought nothing of getting in her car and sitting on a crowded freeway for ninety minutes just to purchase her favorite cosmetics products. "E-commerce is all about convenience, but there is something romantic about battling the crowds to get the best brands at the cheapest prices, followed by an enjoyable smoothie at Jamba Juice"
Felicity Crawford, 44, of White Plains, NY, was drawn to her nearest Macy's store because of the recent television advertising campaign. "Why shop online when it seems like Diddy likes to be in a Macy's store? I want to be where the stars are."
Though Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren would not comment on the record about the promotion, he did express satisfaction with the concept of increasing the value of individual consumers by forcing them to shop in the channel that the brand wanted the customer to shop in.
The marketing blogosphere expressed deep regret over this strategy.
Mack Collier of The Viral Garden Blog, a popular social media website, suggested that "... Macy's stop forcing customers to behave the way the brand wants the customer to behave." Collier believes that engaging in a conversation with consumers is a long-term approach to increased profitability. Jackie Huba at Church Of The Customer mentioned in a twit on Twitter that "... all of Macy's strategies are brand-oriented, seeking to benefit the brand and not the consumer. Consumers should be allowed to shop how they want, where they want, when they want. Nobody should force the consumer to do something that only serves the purpose of increasing shareholder value."
Still, Stacy Miller, DVP of CRM at Macy's, is undaunted in her approach. "We're told that multichannel customers are the best customers. We want as many best customers as possible. Shutting down a website is the easiest way to achieve our objectives while at the same time harvesting satisfied customers. You'd be a fool in April not to believe in such a simple yet elegant strategy."
Note: This post is a work of fiction, written in the spirit of April Fool's Day.