Mar 31, 2010

Crowdsourcing turns 10

Threadless is one of many online retail success stories.  While there's stacks of Tshirt etailers, these guys have distinguished themselves by being the best example of community sourcing or 'crowdsourcing' when it comes to ideas for a new designs.

The idea is simple, ask customers to submit a design idea, put the design to a vote and make the best ones.  You kill two birds with one stone - the users do all your design work and, cause they all voted for the best one, they'll then buy it from you. Brilliant.

They've done a fantastic job of building a community around their product.  You can recommend or advertise your new purchases to your friends via Facebook Connect, go Threadspotting where you can submit photos of designs spotted 'in the wild', speak to the designers, watch Threadless TV or simply interact in the forum.

These guys started up 10 years ago this year and have been going strong ever since.  They are now a multi-million dollar business and have started to spread their wings into other areas including thongs (flip-flops for your northern hemispherians) and even wall decals.

Aside from the business model, one of the main things about Threadless that I've always admired is their clean and powerful user interface.  This is no wonder considering that they were originally a web design company that started to make the odd in-joke and industry related Tshirt.  They make great use of the latest web technologies to give a really tidy experience.

My favourite is not only being told how many items of a specific size are still available, but also getting email alerts when something in my shopping basket is about to run out of stock.  Why don't more retailers do this??

Good work Threadless.  May you keep me clothed for many years to come :)

Oh, btw, check out the book if you want to read more about the Threadless story: Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World's Most Inspiring Online Design Community

Mar 30, 2010

Inbox Roundup: To test or not to test?

Clearly, as an email marketer for 7 years, I firmly believe in the medium.  Email is the epitome of direct marketing - incredibly customisable, timely and measurable.  And it's also incredibly simple to execute.

This power and simplicity is obviously a recipe for disaster.  In a matter of seconds, you can not only make your brand look silly, but also cause PR nightmares (or dreams, depending on how you spin it).

I think there's really no reason to send your email campaign without testing it - aside from laziness.  Maybe when people think email testing, they think about the more complicated optimisation excercises such as A/B split and multivariate testing etc and their eyes glaze over.

But here all I'm going to focus on is something far more fundamental and simpler to understand.  The layout and design.

With the plethora of tools available online such as, Litmus and Return Path, to name a few, it's a wonder that things like this from Wotif can still make it through to my Inbox.

Clearly someone hasn't bothered to take a look at this in Gmail and see that it's all over the place.  A quick look points to the fact that someone wacked in a extra vertical blue border to the right of the banner which has blown everything else out.

Using one of the tools above would have identified this very quickly and not made the Wotif people look silly.

To test or not to test?  Is that really a question?

Mar 22, 2010

See all evil

Web Seer is a funky little app that compares Google results for two search terms and shows where they overlap.

Hours of fun, here's one to get you started :)

The Internet Vs Television

Mar 18, 2010


good work Nandos

Dear F@$*face

A while ago I was working with a client who had an issue with their data capture process.  The problem wasn't exactly with how the data was captured but what type of data they were collecting.

They specifically had a problem with the fact that there was no obscenity filter applied to some of the fields.  They thought it a problem that if someone signed up and called themselves "fuckface" for instance, that they would take issue when they received an email addressed to Dear Fuckface.

This raised a discussion around what's deemed offensive and to whom and whether a name such as this would cause damage to the brand.  Well that's a whole other discussion.

We finally installed an obscenity filter, which we advised wouldn't be the best solution due to false positives.  What if Dick Chaney wanted to sign up to their list?  Sorry Dick, no offers for you, you're name is too, well... dicky.  The only real solution would be to use a combination of the automated filtering and human checking - which is what they settled on.

So the reason for this post is that during this exercise, I decided to sign up to a bunch of newsletters using offensive names.  Only 1 out of 10 retailer newsletters rejected my offensive name.

I'm still getting regular emails from the others without alteration.  I wonder if they know and don't care or if they're oblivious to this?  In any case, it's something worth thinking about next time you look at your subscription process.

the campaign is dead?

Discussions at Ad:tech Sydney yesterday turned to the subject of stand alone campaigns and how they fit into the overall conversation that a brand has with its audience.

Doesn't it make perfect sense that once you engage someone and lure them into your circle, you need to have a plan for them?  Marketers too often have an extremely short-sighted view in their marketing timelines.  Is this because their performance reviews are quarterly?  Is it because they really just don't care about the bigger picture?

In any case, hopefully more marketers will slowly start to get the fact that firstly, all marketing is direct and the second you stop the conversation, be prepared to lose customers.

Put it into a face to face real world scenario.  You wouldn't start talking to someone if you're just going to walk away mid-conversation would you?

Would you?

More over at Mumbrella

Mar 17, 2010

Inbox roundup: Empty promises?

It brings a tear to the eye when you get an email like this one from the gang at Cameras Direct.
It's not exactly setting the email marketing world alight for a few reasons.  Firstly, it features a pretty redundant subject line - Camerasdirect - New Canon 550D.

Remember kids, there's no point mentioning your brand in the subject line when it's sitting in the 'from' field just a few pixels away.

BUT this is completely forgiven by the fact that they seem to know this and want to fix it.  Check this out

Just the promise of wanting to know more about me and using this in the future is good enough for me.  So on I go to fill in their preferences form by clicking on the link and I get a nice and simple pre-populated form to complete and send.

Thanks CamerasDirect for taking the time time to put together a simple and effective data enrichment program.  Now here's hoping you'll actually use this next time you speak to me :)

For more great ideas on improving your email marketing, check out The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing

Mar 16, 2010

ad:tech Sydney

If you're in Sydney this week and have any interest in marketing whatsoever, then you're probably already going to Ad:Tech.

If you're not going, you can follow the action over at Mumbrella.