3 posts categorized "Shopping"

12/05/2011 Social Gift Shopping

Every year, we are continually challenged to find good gifts for our spouses/kids/parents/friends for the December holidays. I had one friend who kept a running list of things she wanted throughout the year. Every time she went shopping she made sure to add one or two things to her list. Whenever someone asked her what she wanted for Christmas/birthday/anniversary, she had a good answer! Most of us, unfortunately, aren’t like that. 

So I was interested to check out some of the new social gift finders this year, in the hope that they would make my life easier over the next few weeks. The two that caught my attention were Etsy's and Amazon’s Facebook integrated gift finders.

Both tap into your Facebook profile with the (as yet unmet) promise that they will scan your friends’ profiles and come up with unique gifts for them. Of the two, Etsy does a better job, since it looks like it’s more focused on keywords than actual products.

Etsy though looks at what you’ve said you’re interested in, rather than what you’re actually talking about on Facebook. So if you’ve loaded up your profile with lots of things you identify with, Etsy will search its catalogue for those keywords. Sometimes it gets a little funny. 

My wife Bella, for example, has only chose Sweden as a topic of interest. So when the Etsy gift finder cranks out its suggestion, guess what I get? Lots of Swedish, not much else.


Another friend, for some reason, has indicated she’s a fan of Red Bull (maybe because her two little boys are wearing her out). So the only thing she gets are Etsy products tagged with Red Bull!


I have to admit that while neither of the recommendations are perfect nor even close to being personal, the gift selection is certainly odd and entertaining, which is not always a bad thing when giving gifts. 

Amazon, on the other hand, looks to see what type of media you’ve liked in your profile, such as records, movies or books. It also searches its own site to see if you have a wish list. 

Unfortunately, it only works if you’re talking about specific titles. Which most of my family is not. It’s why the results can be somewhat absurd, since the last thing my wife would want for Christmas is the Steve Jobs book. 


One thing Amazon does have going for it is that it focuses primarily on birthdays! I’ve never understood why Facebook hasn’t trie to monetize this feature more. I think it’s the single most valuable tool Facebook (or any other social network, for that matter) offers. Remembering birthdays is something that Facebook has moved from my memory to its Web pages, a vast improvement. All they need to implement now is a one-click purchasing option.


While these are pretty good, they’re not perfect. I’ve created interactive gift finders for clients as well and all of these seem to make the mistake of looking for gifts based on expected or canned criteria. I’d like to see a more intelligent social tool that analyzes what you talk about with the most passion, in order to recommend GREAT presents. Maybe we’ll get there.

Or maybe that’s my next project. Happy Holidays.

UPDATE 12:30 PM:
Apparently I missed Shopycat, a gift finder created by Walmart Labs. It's actually be worse than the other two for personalized gifts. As for non-personalized, it suggested the George Foreman Grill to everyone (who wouldn't like that, right?).  While the app says it scans your updates, it's apparent from the list that it doesn't. And as for the suggestions for Bella? I think I'll stick with Etsy.

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12/01/2009 Are You a Responsible Marketer?

I read an article this weekend by Paco Underhill, author of "Why We Buy" and "Call of the Mall" in which he wrote about our (U.S.) changing retail culture. I'm a big fan of Paco's and I used to buy his "Why We Buy" book for all of my colleagues. I think it's one of the very best books aimed at understanding consumers.

In his article Underhill points out two somewhat distressing trends. The first is that our past culture of vehement consumer spending is over and that our addiction to retail is going through a painful withdrawal and treatment phase. That habit will not come back soon. The second is that the decline in spending combined with the bonanza of online information means that stores need fewer and fewer sales people. Why talk to someone when you can look up 3rd party reviews in an instant on your phone? Of course fewer jobs mean even less spending power, etc., etc.


All this got me thinking: What responsibilities do we marketers have in all of this? You'd think that with fewer goods sold, we'd have fewer marketers but the opposite seems to be true. There seems to be more marketers than ever right now, thanks to the digital revolution. Do more marketers actually make the system more efficient, rather than relying on fewer more expensive options?

The bigger question, though, is if people spend less, and there are fewer of them who even have money to spend, does that impact what we marketers do, which is in essence try to increase sales? One way to answer this is that the plethora of marketers now aims to make sales costs more efficient through targeted digital media. I don't know if that's completely true, but it could be.

Do we ever accept the fact that people will buy less and encourage them to do so? The only time I remember doing this was when I did work for the utility Green Mountain Power. We built some very good interactive tools to help people lower their electric bills. You'd think that would mean less money for the utility, but the reality was that if they could keep peak energy use down, they'd be more profitable, not less.

I'm sure not many of us are having this conversation with our clients, though. And if we did, what would we say? If we say, "You have to market to lower profits," our clients might simply show us the door.

Efficiency, especially around digital, is a great place to start. It will hurt the marketing big guys and help the marketing people taking risks.  But it doesn't answer the question of how what we do digitally may, in and of itself, be part of the job-loss problem.
02/24/2009 How Do You Buy?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what is it that influences me to purchase something. Right away, I wouldn’t classify myself as typical anything or a model for a certain type of purchasing behavior. This is just one person’s experience. I am, though, interested in what others would say.

Consumer electronics and travel make up some of the latest major purposes for our household: new video camera, iPhone, and vacation plans. Thinking of what influenced me made me realize that I followed the same pattern for the last car we bought, new household appliances and even birthday presents.

Television and print have almost no impact on those decisions. In fact, with the exception of the iPhone, I can’t even remember seeing an ad for the items I’ve purchased.


My pattern is pretty standard and predictable: I go to Google and search. Then I read reviews, lots of them, from pros and consumers. Then I Google some more to find the best price. I mix that up with some consumer focused sites, like TripAdvisor.com or ConsumerReports.org.  I look for advice online and use Google to help me find that advice.

The iPhone experience was different. Mass media and TV played a much bigger role in creating the “want.” I didn’t need any reviews, I just needed to see it and then go try it. However, for iPhone apps, Twitter is the place where I find new apps through people recommending and linking to various sites.

There’s a huge exception to this in my household: My kids. When they watch Sponge Bob et al on Nick, they find the TV ads just as engaging as the shows. They never DVR through commercials. My six-year old son is constantly yelling to us “I want that!” when he sees a cool toy. Both kids memorize URLs from the ads and go to different sites, whether it’s HotWheels.com or ICarly.com. Once in a while they’ll see something that they think my wife and I should get and we’ll get a “yell.”

But back to my pattern: Is this typical? How do you shop? What communications influence your buying patterns? Does traditional media start your process and reinforce it? Or do you bypass it? Does it change depending on what your buying?

One thing seems clear, though: the quicker we can get people to share the experiences of others, the greater the chance for conversions.

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