Thursday, May 31, 2007

good-cause-bad-implimentation practice

I like to check out unusual domain name use in TV ads - which led me to type into my browser [which, by the way is on my 3 month old laptop, complete with Windows Vista - ie it is not an old machine running out of date software]. When the site opened I was presented with a page, the main part of which was:

Now here is the thing. The TV ad was part of a campaign for the children's charity the NSPCC - and part of the message was that help stop child cruelty we should report any that we come across with the web site being part of the communication options. I am a long time advocate of [a] not putting any barriers in the way of potential customers, [b] not using technology that isn't necessary, and [c] web designers showing off. Stopping customers buying something is bad, it costs the business money. Preventing someone aiding a charity - or a child - is not just incompetent, it might cost a child's life.

And without being too dramatic - and I know child abuse is not income specific - but what are the odds on an abused child not having the latest Flash installed when they finally pluck up the courage to go to that web site? If the odds are one percent - that is one percent too much.

Footnote: this annoyed me so much I figured it deserved a wider audience - so I sent it in the Keith Craggs to see if he would consider including it in his BC Tips. He did - see his comments in
NSPCC: Slowing down uptake.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

puzzling-[or stupid?] practice

Our washing machine bit the dust last weekend. After wandering around the shops I hit the web to check out some prices [hmmm, I'm an e-marketer, wasn't that the wrong way round?]. Wifey liked one in particular - the Indesit Moon - so I put the name into Google. The return is shown below.

You will note that had paid for a top listing in the sponsored links. Thing is ... when I clicked on the link to the site I found that Sainsburys Kitchen Appliances don't sell, or even list, that product. Take gun [A], take foot [B] - and pay to shoot [B] with [A].

bad content-and-online-reputation-management practice

I am signed up to the Bowen Craggs best practice newsletter [you should be too] - and I came across this article last week. I'll not repeat it all - that is not the reason for me covering it here - but essentially it identifies poor content management on P & G's. My point - and I have waited a full week - is that the errors are still on the site. Yep, that's a company recognized as one of the best at marketing in the world and not only do they not get their web site content right in the first place, but they're not running any kind of online reputation management software that would have picked up the Bowen Craggs article. I'll go a stage further, why isn't someone at P & G subscribed to the newsletter just in case one of their [many] sites appears in it?

Friday, May 18, 2007

good taxing practice

The UK govt has been very proactive in its EU-driven 'e-government' initiative - and overall its has done a good job. An example is the way UK car-owners can renew their car tax online. The web site is an excellent example of online usability. For example, the first page [below] includes an image that makes clear that the user it starting off on a five stage process and that they are on stage one - that a car is used to indicate this is a nice touch. It also makes clear where users can find the essential reference number on the form that have received through the post.
I also liked the prominent message [below] that warns users about not using their browsers 'back' button. The same message advises on how to change any of the details you have entered. I find both of these issues to be problematic when completing online forms - this spells out both issues clearly and succinctly early on in the process [even if starting again after an error might be a pain, at least you know what the score is].

Friday, May 4, 2007

good [but could be better] practice

OK, so it's Friday and I'm being a bit picky, but this would take someone only minutes to sort out [I think], so file it under 'in the great scheme of things it doesn't really matter, but why not get it right anyway?'

I use my bank's online facility all the time - and generally it is very good. However, one thing just bugs me. As with most similar online applications its forms have predictive text, which is good. Type in 'C' and it predicts 'Charlesworth' and saves me having to type the whole word [excellent for us folk that can't type]. That's the good bit. The 'could be better'?

When completing the 'pay someone' function the sysyem also predicts numbers, so when you come to enter the year [remember bank instructions cannot be retrospective] you type in '2' .... and are offered '2005', '2006' and '2007'.

Hello bank - even if I wanted to pay someone last year - or the year before - you wouldn't let me. Take the year options away - preferably on the first of January each year [Oh, OK - the second, the first is a bank holiday] so that the predictive text offers only the current year.

[maybe] poor-journalistic practice

OK, so this isn't strictly speaking an e-marketing issue, but it is about e-commerce and it is something that bugs me - and my students might learn from this.

In an article about online sales in the Sunday Times on April 29th its author, The first-ever online transaction was a CD sale in America in August 1994.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

another bait-and-switch practice

In the words of one [in] famous England football manager - did I not like this one.

One of the great benefits the web has brought to the consumer is the ability to search for the best price for a product. This is particularly true if the there are 'shopping-comparison' sites for that product - where you enter your requirements and the site then searches the web and gives you results from multiple vendors. One industry well covered by this practice is that of car insurance. And my wife's car needed insuring. One of the sites I used was After putting in the details of the car, my wife and me this is the 'quote' that was listed:

Onequotedirect was the best price I came across, so I followed the 'buy online' link. I then had to either confirm or re-enter details I had put into I changed nothing, the details were the same, and at the end got this:

Yep - the quote had suddenly gone from £238.35 to £428.21. A hardly noticable 80% increase.

My first reaction was to phone them up demand an explanation. But I had a meeting to go to. And I calmed down a little. So I did what all consumers should do when faced with an issue like this. I took my business elsewhere - it was only slightly more than the original £238.35 anyway.

Sadly, for most businesses this could be [is?] happening every day. I have to suspect they don't care, because they do little about it. The web logs at should raise the issue because I abandoned the 'purchase' right at the end of the process - I wonder if they will follow it up? Similarly, should care - they are losing both income [from click-through commission] and brand value.

If either are switched on companies they will be running some kind of reputation management software that picks up their name in blogs - in which case I'll let you know if they get in touch with me after reading this.

Error - human or technical - or deliberate bait and switch strategy? I do not know. Was the error with or I do not know. As a consumer, I do not care about either. I am now the satisfied customer at another insurer, accessed through a different comparison site. Ho hum.

excellent joined-up-thinking marketing practice

This one is from an unexpected source – recruitment ads for the British Army.

The campaign starts on TV, with a series of ads which feature hand-held-camera 'action' videos which stop at a critical moment – eg a bomb going off. Viewers are then directed to the web site to see how the event turns out.

On the web site the potential recruit [customer] can watch the full version of the videos which show subsequent events after the TV ad stopped.

Although I could be picky with the web site [I think it may be a bit technology-heavy and dependent on a fast broadband connection] it is the integrated marketing that is impressive. This is an excellent example of what the web can brings to strategic marketing – if its done properly.

Update Jan 08 - I came across this review of the same campaign : Army marketing tactics on Digg & TV

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

putting-your-foot-in-it practice

This has been an issue with me for some time - I must write something more substantial about it some time - and I noticed it again when writing the previous entry to this blog. I'm talking about email footers - hence the poor play on words in the title of this entry.

The email from Tesco had, after the message, the following [and remember this was generated by an auto-responder]

Points to note:

(i) "Confidential" - you mean I cannot tell my wife. Oops, maybe I'm not supposed to be telling you?

(ii) "Monitor and record ..." - no great problem with that, it might even work in my favour.

(iii) "Views expressed ..." I'm sorry, the email's 'from' box says 'Tesco Customer Service'. Looks like Tesco is the sender to me, and as in the point I make in my previous 'practice' entry [good - but impersonal - practice] - the message is signed 'Tesco Customer Service' - and not by an individual who might be expressing their views.

Oh I know its all a legal thing - and it might be good legal practice. But it is bad marketing practice.

The aforementioned article I must get round to writing is on that subject - the message element of an email might be trying to foster a [business] relationship with me, then the 'legal' footer makes me feel most unwelcome.

Sorry businesses - you can't have both.

Sorry Tesco - I'm not picking on you, you were just handy at the time - most organizations have these footers.

good-but-impersonal practice

I sent a query about my Tesco Clubcard points [some were missing] using their online form. Within seconds I got an email which included the following:

This is good. It means I'm not wondering if they got the message or whether it disappeared into that great email black hole in the sky.

Shame they couldn't be a bit more personable, however. The form asks for my name - so why not use it in the greeting? [though there is the issue of 'Mr
Charlesworth' or simply 'Alan']. The message is then presented in the first person - which I like, but it is signed 'Tesco Customer Service' - which I don't like.

OK, I know its an old trick, but if necessary make up a name [or names, rotate them on these auto-response messages] .

The message would have been so much more friendly if it was signed [something like] Dave in the
Tesco Customer Service team. Technology would make it relatively easy to prompt whoever replies to my enquiry to start by saying - "Dave passed your message on to me ... ".

This auto-response is all part of an online
CRM initiative strategy - why not try to develop that relationship you are trying to manage?

FOOTNOTE I : Tesco Customer Service actually replied to my enquiry the next day - and the email was signed off by a person's name [I'll assume Jeff exists]. Better still, my missing points are on my next statement. So rather than being picky about being impersonal, perhaps I should just applaud the excellent service.

FOOTNOTE II : ... and ten you had to go and spoil it all by ... [thank you Frank & Nancy]. After reading the reply featured in
FOOTNOTE I I fired off an email saying simply, "excellent, thanks for your help" [what a nice chap I am]. And received ... the same automated reply as shown above.

[a] take foot [b] take gun [c] shoot [a] with [b].

bad bait-and-switch practice

I remember the time before the Internet when bargain holiday hunters would spend hours staring at a TV screen as teletext [or similar] worked its way through all the pages of holidays from various holiday companies. Without fail, when you rang the listed phone number the 'from' price was not available - but we all knew that, it was a mild form of 'bait and switch'.

The web was supposed to have changed that - and I've ranted about this before [see 'bait and switch - opodo] but here's another example.

Still looking for a cheap holiday [see entry below] I completed the relevant details on the form and hit 'search'. This is part of what I got:

This is only the top part of the page. In total, there were ten entries on the page that were 'subject to availability'. And there were ten on the next page. And the next. And the next. And on the next.

And guess what, despite my putting in the dates on which I could travel, non of the
'subject to availability' holidays were available on the dates I could travel.

GGRRRRRRRRR. What a complete and utter waste of time for everybody involved.

Can you imagine going into a shoe shop and saying you want a pair of size ten shoes, only for the assistant to show you a whole range of shoes that she did not have in size ten?

Or going into a car dealership, saying you want a vehicle to carry two adults and four children and being shown a sports car?

Or sitting in front of a real person in a travel agent, telling her the date you want to travel, and then have her read out a whole load of holidays for different dates. Hmmm, that sound familiar.

Come on deckchair, this is simply shoddy sales/marketing - if you don't have any cheap holidays for the dates I want to travel say so - or better still, use the technology to refine the search or offer me something - anything - on those dates.

Do I need to add that I have deleted from my 'travel' bookmarks?

good but-lost-opportunity practice

As I ate my lunchtime sandwich today, I was surfing around looking for a cheap summer break [hey - I'm a lecturer, we may get long holidays, but we don't get paid that much]. As is common practice with such companies, the Thomson Holidays web site includes short videos of the hotel - a kind of moving brochure. This is fine as far as it goes, but that it is simply a moving brochure means an opportunity is being lost.

Why not have the manager/owner/staff member/company rep take me on a short guided tour? Or even simply replace the traditional Greek music soundtrack with a voice-over describing what I'm seeing on my screen?

You could even emphasize selling points in 'real time', for example, if the beach is 'on the doorstep' of the hotel, show someone walking from the reception to the beach - the voice-over can be covering other issues in the minute of so that it takes.