Crisis at Christmas: How to avoid an e-tail disaster

By the time the stockings are up over the fireplace, some of your retailing clients may well have thousands of unhappy e-customers up and down the country.

Having ordered products online for the first time, they will be disappointed by non-existent customer service and late deliveries.

In the mad panic to get online shopping carts rolling, too little attention has been paid to the basics.

And on top of all this, millions of pounds will have been spent on dot-com advertising and most of it wasted.

One online retailer can be sure to have done well – Amazon. Amazon has built up the most loyal customer base of any e-commerce company. If your clients, many of whom will be champing at the bit to get into e-commerce, want to know why Amazon is the best in the business, in a nutshell here’s what they offer:

1. Truly excellent customer service

2. Carefully planned and executed logistics

3. Near monopolisation of the best online advertising opportunities

Getting points one and two right takes a lot of time, effort and expertise.Getting the marketing right is no easier, and requires substantial investment in advertising spend to make any difference. But just throwing money at the problem doesn’t solve it.

This season’s e-retailers mostly opted for the offline route – Prime-time TV campaigns at huge expense and with questionable results. But switching adspend to banner advertising on the web won’t solve the problem either.

It iswell known that response to banner campaigns is falling, and in the UK, a shortage of good sites for advertising on has also meant that the media are able to keep advertising prices high.

What your clients need to do is to plan integrated campaigns that make use of the best features of offline and online media. Offline media like TV can provide a big boost to brand awareness, while online media like banner advertising gives immediate response and tight control over placement and creativeness. Planning such a campaign is no easy task.

It involves a knowledge of the best sites for advertising, an ability to negotiate best prices, and the experience to put together campaigns that produce a guaranteed return on investment.

If your client doesn’t have such experience, then find someone who does. There are several specialists in this area now, including eyeconomy.

For anyone getting into online advertising the biggest mistake would be to leave it until next November before making a move.

The message to your clients wanting a piece of the online retail action for Christmas 2000 is they should start working on it now.

eyeconomy is a specialist independent interactive advertising and media agency

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