May 17 2009
As a digital marketing guy who was responsible for getting people into an online store, I also led a team that tried to "remarket" to those potential customers who came, looked, and left without purchasing. The remarketing concept reminds me of a shopkeeper who keeps an eye on a customer perusing the goods on his store's shelves, watches them leave the store without buying, and then follows them out the door onto the sidewalk to say, "Hey! Hey! Come back!"
It's creepy, but theoretically, if the ecommerce operator is willing to do something dynamic – like lower the price, extend the warranty, sweeten the deal – the benefits can be compelling: close the sale, gain a customer who can be retained into a repeat customer, and keep the virtual cash register ringing.
From the article: "When asked about possibly alienating prospective customers with overzealous remarketing, Mr. Nicholls said: "Tone and manner are important. The message should be something like, 'Oops, was there a problem? Can we help?,' versus an out-and-out hard sell, which will just wind everyone up."
I think the reality is far different and requires a telepathic connection between the vendor and the customer that simply doesn't exist. The first contradictory behavior in the ideal world where all-clicks-convert-to-a-sale is virtual comparison shopping where the customer fills a cart and configures it with goods, accessories, and services to simply build a price model for comparison to others. Pricing "homework" is a key behavior on my part – where I take the time to seek out the possible pricing permutations of a car or durable good before arriving at a dealer or brick and mortar store for a face-to-face negotiation with a salesperson. Many ecommerce sites, in my opinion, are research tools, not a means to an end, and as such as not going to be converting every customer every time, no matter what incentives are placed before.
The creepiest thing in Stross' piece, is the disclosure that sites can now capture keystrokes typed into an input filed with relying on a "submit" button. That's going to bring the FTC down like an avalanche of bricks and is evil. SeeWhy is not going to implement dynamic keystroke capture as a default. This is the technology that lets Google guess ahead on search queries (a good thing).
Ecommerce, in general, is a tired paradigm that needs to be blown up. Think about it. What was the latest significantly new online shopping experience you've seen? For me it has to be the Kindle – the ultimate in instant gratification – but on the whole, the cart metaphor is dead and needs to evolve to something different and built around empathy, not the finality of buying and the regrets of the merchant chasing their customer down the sidewalk shouting, "Wait! Wait! Can we talk?"