January 27, 2013

Frontgate = A Jennifer-Centric Email And Omnichannel Case Study

Let's walk you through the story of Sunday, January 27, 2013, in the Hillstrom household.

An email campaign from Frontgate's Preferred Email Registry arrives.  The subject line, like most out there, is not merchandise-centric, rather, it's discount-centric.

Save up to 60% - Today Only.  Wow.  Better act now.  Take a look at the bottom of the campaign ... there's a portable iPod speaker.  I like speakers!

You can see it down there on the bottom, on the left.  NOW - $199.  I click through the message to the website.

$199, of course, is only 20% off, not 60% off, but it is up to 60% off, so at least the semantics of the subject line please the folks in the legal department.

Here's the problem with Jennifer's generation.  She doesn't trust marketers.  At all.  And I'm a charter member of Jennifer's generation, so I have some concept of her thought process.

What would Jennifer do, when presented with a discount-oriented solution like this?

She'd head out to Google and key in the phrase "frontgate iBlock" and see what happens.  Let's see what happens.

Look at the purple link ... that's the one I clicked on ... the item is available on Amazon.

Let's visit Amazon.

Wait ... what?  $149.00?  And it ships from and is sold by Frontgate?  The same Frontgate that sent a valued member of Frontgate's Preferred Email Registry an opportunity to buy the item for $199.00?

A random non-buyer, an Amazon customer no less, stumbles across the item by accident and enjoys the low price of $149?

Now, if you click through the Amazon link, you are taken to Frontgate, where the item is offered at $199.  What?  How is that fair to the Amazon customer?

I know.  I know.  Somebody is going to say that this isn't anybody's fault, it's just an error in a data feed.  But this still suggests that somebody pays $249, somebody pays $199, and somebody pays $149, at some point ... right?  Why so many games?  Imagine sitting in your office, with a person across from your desk radiating heat off of her face because she feels like she got ripped off at $249 when somebody on Amazon obviously, recently, paid $149 for the same item?  Answer her tough questions.  Have fun.

This is what Jennifer experiences.  $249 becomes $199 becomes $149 becomes $199.  Her whole commerce career is one of mistrust, of dodging land mines in an endless quest to find a fair price.  She's so sick and tired of this that she pre-pays the only e-commerce brand she trusts, Amazon, $79 for shipping and handling expenses that she may never recoup.  We fight back by offering a dizzying array of confusing discounts and promotions.

You don't solve this problem via omnichannel solutions ... by tearing down silos, by linking devices and crossing privacy boundaries, by retargeting, by offering CRM-centric pricing tiers based on statistically derived segments, by opening stores, by teaching every employee to join the conversation on Twitter, by focusing on surprising and delighting best customers, by offering prospects 20% off if they like us on Facebook, by having an app for Android devices, by utilizing responsive website design.  These are all distractions that benefit vendors, consultants, and trade journalists.

We solve problems with fairness, honesty, and integrity.  Why not just offer all customers a fair price?  Why not cut out all of the nonsense?  


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