Marketers Need to Rethink Strategies

CHICAGO -- Despite the fact that customers no longer view marketing messages in the same way they used to, too many marketers continue to stick with outdated marketing strategies, according to a featured speaker at the Search Engine Strategies 2007 Conference & Expo here on Monday. Today's consumers aren't sitting through marketing messages anymore: They fast-forward through them, block them, or otherwise ignore them, said Bryan Eisenberg, co-founder of Future Now, a firm that provides consulting for improving online conversion rates. In fact, he said, a recent Yahoo! study showed that 40 percent of people were sleeping while the television was on. "It's very hard to sell to that person," Eisenberg told the crowd, adding that many people today watch television with a computer close at hand. That's one of the reasons why the GoDaddy.com Super Bowl commercial two years ago was so successful, Eisenberg said: Those who saw the commercial could go right to the site. The commercials produced an 1,100 percent increase in traffic for GoDaddy.com, and a 35 percent increase in revenues. Yet, in Eisenberg's estimation, the company still left money on the table. The commercial itself focused on an attractive model, yet there was a different model depicted at the company's Web site -- and it took a couple of clicks to get to the page on which she appeared. GoDaddy.com's Super Bowl commercial the following year wasn't as well made, Eisenberg said -- echoing statements made at the time by GoDaddy.com Chief Executive Officer Bob Parsons. Yet there was better integration between the commercial and the company's Web page. As a result, traffic dropped 48 percent, but the conversion rate of visitors doubled. So even as companies move their marketing dollars from traditional mass media to the Web, they still have to go further in order to engage consumers, Eisenberg said: "Marketers have to work harder than ever before in order to sell." The best way to do that is to eliminate any "friction" in the communication with customers, Eisenberg told the audience. As proof that too many sites have too many impediments today, Eisenberg said that 80 percent of viewers have left a Web site before they click a fourth time. In a survey of more than 3,000 retailers looking at 69 different factors that Future Now considers critical for success, the average score was only 43 out of 100. A whopping 61 percent of sites had no information on whether a product was in stock. Companies also missed out on such obvious user-interface elements as permitting viewers to enlarge font sizes (38 percent) or enlarge images (24 percent); less than two-thirds of respondents (58 percent) could respond to customer emails within 24 hours. Such failure to give customers control over the marketing message is one of the main reasons why conversion rates have remained steady at about 2.5 percent for the last few years after hitting 3.2 percent in 2002, Eisenberg said. To counter the trend, he told the crowd, Web content must adhere to the following basic needs:
  • to include information customers will want (i.e., "new car" and "used car" links on the front of an auto sales Web site);
  • to have information that is easy to locate and comprehensive; and
  • to appear on a Web site that is easy to negotiate.
This is true whether the site is dedicated to online sales, offline sales (such as cars), or some mixture of the two. Many people who plan to buy at a brick-and-mortar location do their initial research online. [UPDATE: An earlier version of this article inaccurately reported the revenue increase seen by GoDaddy.com following its initial Super Bowl ad. The correct figure is 35 percent, and the article above has been changed to reflect that. DestinationCRM.com regrets the error.]

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