At a recent conference, the presenter asked how many attendees displayed a shopping cart at the upper right hand portion of the screen, a cart that displayed how many items were in the cart? Maybe five out of fifty attendees raised their hands.
The presenter blasted the other forty-five attendees for not following "best practices", then suggested that the attendees would "soon be dead" if they didn't follow this "best practice".
The e-mail marketing, online marketing, and web analytics communities are sometimes obsessed with best practices. Maybe we're obsessed because so many of us are ignorant of simple changes that could improve performance.
We need to be mindful of best practices. But we need to also get away from best practices. Take a look at the e-mail marketing campaigns you receive. Take a look at the websites you visit. They're all practically the same! We're just a bunch of marketers basking in our own self-perceived best practice marketing brilliance --- all doing the exact same thing to a thoroughly bored customer.
Marketing and merchandising innovation are what matter. Recall my Nordstrom experience, where we killed a catalog in 2005, in stark contrast to the best practices of the punditocracy who demand a seamless multichannel experience featuring a viable selling catalog? Heck, I believed the punditocracy, strenuously demanding the seamless multichannel experience that included a viable catalog marketing program. Yet somehow, over eighteen months, we increased our sales and profit in the direct-to-consumer channel by doing the exact opposite of what pundits suggested we do.
Would Apple be successful if they followed best practices?
Starbucks broke every retail real estate best practice by over-saturating the market at levels never seen before.
Zappos broke every shipping and handling best practice by offering free shipping and free returns and by getting merchandise to you in a day (by the way, if you live in Germany, Otto Versand will deliver product to your home faster than Zappos delivers product to your home).
Best practices have their place, increasing sales and profit today. Merchandising and marketing innovation drive sales and profit increases tomorrow.
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