Bad Grown-Ups Say Hallelujah

“I’m too hot.

Hot damn.

Girls hit your hallelujah.

Cause I’m going to funkngiveittoya.”

The ladies’ gasps were audible.

While he danced and sang like nobody was watching (ahhh, the delicious irony), the other mothers stood fast and united behind their little ticket-peddling card tables.  With their dropped jaws and Restaylned lips, you could see the word bubbles forming over their heads as they looked at 3.0 (my youngest nephew) in abject horror:

“YOUR GROWN-UP IS BAD.  She is a terrible, horrible, no good, VERY bad grown-up.”

Apparently, none of them have heard the Bruno Mars Uptown Funk that plays NONFLIPPINGSTOP on the radio and/or can extrapolate the fact that most 3 year olds aren’t the best enunciators and it was FUNK with an –n, not with a –c.

That’s what happens, you know.

When a wee one does something, er, unfavorable, all empathy goes out the window and the adults in the room immediately look around to see who the tiny human’s grown-up is so they can be immediately (and permanently) labeled:


Very often I’m THAT grown-up.

The bad one.

…The one who is so busy fiddling around with the parking meter that she has to chase the mighty minion into a SEX SHOP because he reads the word “toys” off the sandwich board in front of it.  (I’ll spare you the details of what happened when the little sociopath yelled “this doesn’t look like much fun” while holding up a very large, er, device!)

…The one who spends $11.89 on a single cup of yogurt at one of those choose-your-own-toppings places. (The shop was suspiciously out of small cups.  Plus, there was far too much time spent keeping grubby lil’ paws out of the Rolos and gummi sharks, and the whipped cream from being squirted directly into a frothing mouth.)

…The one who knocked over an entire aisle, yes aisle, of bikes at Toys R Us because she thought it’d be ok to let the mini-monster test-drive the little Jeep and missed that it was TIED DOWN.  (Why put a battery in something that’s bolted to the wall? I mean really.)

…The one who goes back into the children’s restaurant for the 3rd time to score a free balloon because she can’t properly tie a balloon to a wrist. Yes, the same one that also had to bribe the balloon-animal-guy to make extras because she inadvertently decapitates 1 out of every 3 animals in either the door or lockdown (aka the carseat.)

The thing is that (a) what other people think of me is really none of my business and (b) I don’t particularly give a flying funk anyway.

My motto: Keep your eyes on your own paper. (And yes, I’m aware of the incongruity of that particular statement considering I appear to be incapable of watching a 3 year old but WHATEVER.)

What on earth does any of this have to do with web/mobile marketing?

Glad you asked.

I was at a conference recently and session-after-session of speakers touting individual case studies reminded me how DANGEROUS it is to look at someone else’s test results and think you know anything about their success… their business…. the test results in general…

I get it.  As a consultant, it looks super sexy to present that you executed X test for your client and it had 3476% lift.  If you tell the story right, it looks like you found a cure for cancer, solved the AIDS epidemic, guaranteed net neutrality for life and figured out once-and-for-all whether orange is better than green in just one test.  (Incidentally, testing button color ad nauseam?  Lock those suckers up in the broom closet for LIFE!)

Regarding one test as the be-all-end-all of civilization – with one set of test “results” (word used very loosely) – when you don’t really know how it was executed or tracked?  ABSOLUTELY FLIPPING INSANE.  Keep in mind that I see thousands of tests a year and the MAJORITY of folks call the results too early and don’t ever back-test against the control.  Nor do most folks separate their customers – especially their email customers – when looking at the results, which depending on the business can have a huge impact.  In other words, I review way more invalid tests than valid ones.

Right now, the web-world is like it was in the mid-90s.  Mobile has arrived but it’s not really in full-force yet – it’s way more pre-tween than teen.  Search is changing – voice and visual are both on the horizon of good use/adoption — but it’s not really there either.  Text messaging, especially triggered texts, are in their infancy.  More sophisticated versions of chats are being tested but they have a ways to go.  I could go on but you get the drill…  There’s a lot to do – many, many things to do and test.

So, while it’s fun to choose Version B over Version A on the latest and greatest test at one of the many sites that rate your intelligence (cough, cough, choke) as a marketer….

….and it can certainly be good to get fresh, new ideas of what to test from an entertaining speaker…

In the end, you’re the one who knows what’s right (and what’s wrong) for your business… and your uptown funkin’ kid.


Questions & Answers from the VT/NH Direct Marketing Group Event

Last week, I spoke at a VT/NH Direct Marketing Group event along with Kevin Hillstrom of Mine That Data and Bill LaPierre of Datamann.

At the end of the day, we took about an hour to answer questions that were sent in before the conference as well as some “live” audience questions.  Frankly, I thought most people would bail before this session – it had already been a long day — filled with rapid-fire information and teensy spreadsheets — and the weather outside was, well, not delightful. (Datamann did a fantastic job of hosting the Show but they did absolutely nothing about fixing the below-zero weather outside. They’re topnotch at merge-purge so I guess they spend more time talking to the Data Gods than Mother Nature. We all have to pick our battles, eh?)  Interestingly enough, the majority of attendees stayed and we just couldn’t get to all the questions.*

Here are some of the web-related ones people came up to me afterwards and asked. Even if you didn’t attend the Show, I hope you’ll find them useful.

“Do you really think search is going to change all that much?  I don’t see it happening in the next 10 years. You think it’s already happening.”

Hello Frog, how do you like your cozy little frying pan?  Getting hotter, is it?

Search is changing rapidly. Do I think you should dump your wife, er, current plan of attack, and hook up solely with Siri, Cortana or Alexa?  Not. So. Much.  But you should pay attention to what’s happening in the search world, especially with the 3 V’s (visual, video and voice search.)  Analytics are a wondrous thing – and looking at (and acting on) what words/phrases people are using in AND outside of your site can dramatically change your business. This applies to looking at mobile search strings too – which, depending on your demographics, can be drastically shorter.

And yes, I know, there are a lot of articles that say that Google has trained us all to be such great searchers (now there’s a laugh) in the traditional (desktop) world that we speak to Siri the same way we’d type a search string into the computer.  If you buy that (you shouldn’t, but if you do…), try using one of the voice searches for a week (without using anything else) and afterward, send me a note about how accurate you think that sounds-good-in-theory-but-it’s-not-like-that-at-all-in-practice concept is.  In related news, I believe there are far too many people using bath salts other than prescribed these days.


“You said that you don’t think my email provider is good. Who is better?”

Yeah so, I didn’t say that any one email provider was better/worse than the other, I said that I think you should be careful about what you listen to when it comes to ANY email provider.

Here’s why.

A lot – and I mean almost all – email providers are constantly begging/blackmailing/bribing you to whittle down your list.  They want you to mail only the freshest and most active names.  Why? Because it benefits them.  (In fairness, it benefits you too – it can be better/easier/more immediately lucrative to target the people who have the best chance of buying but long-term, constantly pruning your list to the bare minimum to fit someone else’s cookie-cutter rules is a waste of dough. No pun intended.)

Here’s an example from one of our clients….

They sell B2B supplies, mostly consumable products.  In one of their segments (based on SIC), they sell x pallets of their product every 14 months.

They have a lot of names and are using one of the big name email providers.

This provider insisted that they should not mail anyone who had not clicked on their emails in the past 6 months because “those names don’t perform.”  When my client really begged, the provider relented to 12 months.


You don’t need to be a math genius to figure out that the ESP is basically DESTROYING the entire segment with their recommendation.

Before you say that you’re not a B2B company or you have a more frequent buying cycle or whatever, consider this…  Using frequency and segmentation would be a MUCH better choice for you than just killing xx% of your names every month because they haven’t clicked or opened.

I totally get that you shouldn’t mail to names that have been toe-tagged for ten years, but…

Think about how many emails you get in your own personal inbox.  Do you open every single one?  Do you open all the stuff Gmail buries in your promotions folder or trash?  Do you click through all the stuff that’s in your Outlook SPAM folder?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

If you’re a small office and only need a box of copy paper every other month, you may not want/need to open CopyPapersRUs emails every single day they blast you with them but that doesn’t mean that you will never want/need copy paper again.  I mean really.

Bottom line: Develop and work your preferences page.  Build a solid circulation plan complete with triggers and a traffic cop. Segment your list as if your life depends on it (it does.) Mail responsibly (which includes not taking two weeks to opt out.)   Most important, don’t let anyone else’s grubby little paws on your file.


“Do you really hate social as much as you alluded?  We’ve never been successful at it but we do throw quite a bit of money at it, mostly because my boss is a Facebook addict and thinks everyone else is the same.”

Yes. Probably moreso.  (And chances are your boss is a narcissist but that’s another story.)

With that said, there are a few (read: a handful) of companies whose social media campaigns or practices impress me.  For example, regardless of what you think of the books (inspired by vampire fan fiction, God help me now), The Vermont Teddy Bear Company did a killer job with their Fifty Shades of Gray campaign.  If everyone executed on that level, I’d have more good things to say about it.  (Hey, I like results and let them speak for themselves — if your result is  ”2300 Twitter followers, 50% of whom are bots and 0 of whom purchase, I’ll vote you off the island and into the shark-infested waters right where you belong.)


“Kevin said that you’ll typically get 20% of Amazon customers to transfer over to your brand. You said 30%. Who is right?”

Both of us.  If you don’t work at getting the customers, you’ll typically get 1 out of 5 (sometimes less.)  If you do work at it, then you should get around 30%.  If your stuff arrives in plain-Jane packaging material with no branding whatsoever and there’s a bunch of crap inside (read: your regular package insert program with no thought to it whatsoever) instead of a solid campaign, chances are you’re not going to WOW! a lot of people into checking you out.  Something to take into consideration when you’re planning ALL your third-party campaigns, I might add.  (Important note: Please check your Terms of Service on anything – and everything — you do with Amazon.)


“I got the message that all cooperative databases are evil. Is that true for the web stuff? What about B2B?”

First, Kevin penned a great article on the Co-ops a few days ago, definitely worth taking the time to read.  My experience is that B2B Co-ops and Consumer Co-Ops are not at all the same thing – the B2B ones are set up differently and they share way more information amongst their mailers.

Is the new web cooperative stuff evil?  A lot of it.  But that’s mostly because a lot of the bigger players get their names in ways your mom/kid/dog would definitely not approve of.  (And the fact that I’m saying this – as a person who often steps over the line in web marketing just to find out where the line is – should tell you something.)  However, there are some things that are coming soon that could have enormous potential.  I didn’t talk about them during my session because there are eleventy bazillion privacy complications associated with the ones I’m most intrigued by and I just didn’t have the time. If you want to know more about them, feel free to shoot me an email at


*Well, technically I suppose we could have but by 4:30 Bill was rambling on about 18 US Code 2340A and other torture codes. I think he felt that people – including he and Kevin — had been subjected to me for long enough.

The Unholy Trinity Unites for the Can’t-Miss-Event of the Year!*

On February 19, 2015 Bill LaPierre, Kevin Hillstrom and yours truly will be hosting a seminar entitled “Who’s Looking Out For Your Interests?” in Concord, NH.**  This info-packed, day-long seminar focuses on where the catalog and ecommerce industries are going and the impact the future will have on your business.  You will get a realistic view of how we got to where we are, and what you’ll need to do to push, pull and carry your company along to survive in the future.

If you read Bill’s blog or are on his email list, you’ve likely already heard him wax poetically about Kevin. (Or seen him effortlessly compare me to a ruthless serial killer.)  But here’s what you should REALLY know about the event.

  1. IT’S SUPER AFFORDABLE.  This event is priced under $200 for the full-day and that includes food.  Have you seen my day rate?  I mean really.  When I say this thing is a STEAL, it’s not hyperbole.  It really is a heist.
  2. You’ll leave with DOZENS OF IDEAS YOU CAN USE WHEN YOU GET BACK TO WORK.  Look, I’ve been to a lot of events in my career.  Most of them are all-hat-and-no-cowboy.  This event you get TWO COWBOYS and one intact BULL.   (I’ll let you decide who’s who.)  The rock-solid content is unique and power-packed.  My two hour presentation is scheduled right after lunch (hello, naptime) so I’ve got oodles of new stuff prepared.  (Plus, I’m bringing Taser wands, just in case I need to serve as a Wake-Up Fairy.)
  3. It’s an intimate affair. The attendees list is like a Who’s Who of the direct marketing companies doing things right.  The attendance is limited (hey, we’re meeting in Concord, NH, not exactly Vegas) and we’re being purposeful with our marketing.  We’re not forcing our vendors to attend.  We’re not giving sponsors paid commercials throughout the day. Yes, there will be a few consultants and vendors there but most of the room will be filled with CEOs, VPs, and other folks from the end-user side.  It’s a no-selling, no-pitch event.
  4. Bill and Kevin.  They’re two of the most respected guys in the industry.  Period.  Do I always agree with them?  Yeah, no.  Do I respect and learn from both of them?  100%.  (Wise. Salt of the earth. Refreshingly honest.  No baloney.  They’re both Amy-tested and approved, which considering how fussy I’ve become says a lot!)


  1. THE SMACKDOWN.  Ok, so Bill calls it an open forum “where attendees can share their concerns, beliefs and questions” but the guy would sell a cookie as an “unhealthy biscuit.”  His copy is not exactly infomercial material.  In other words, if you’re not in the kumbaya mood, you’re welcome to pit us against each other for excitement.  WWF-style.


Here’s where you register (I could go on and on that the attendance is fantastic – it is – and you’d better register today before it’s too late — it will be — but you’re a marketer, you know the drill – click here now:

See you soon!

P.S. I know. I know.  Blue moons come more frequently than I post and now, today, for my first post of the year, I am using the space to promote something.   You’re welcome to throw something (preferably feathers) at me February 19th.  And yes, for some of you, that’s PLENTY of incentive to show up!  Heh.


*Well, technically you can miss it but frankly if you’re a cataloger, you’d be an idiot to skip it.  No, neither Bill nor Kevin would approve of me saying that but whatever.  I’m the bully-meanie-witch-bitch-Fuhrer-etc.-etc. of us three.  And to think, I’ve mellowed GREATLY over the past five years.  Oy vey.

**If you’re thinking WTFWITHTHELOCATION, I am TOTALLY with you.  Apparently this is Bill’s idea of a (rather unscientific) test to see whether or not people really do like us.



Duct Tape and Spit: Ideas To Improve Your Holiday Season Without Breaking the Bank, Part 1

For the past month or so, I’ve been getting a lot of emails from folks who are worried about the upcoming Holiday season.  Most of them are on “lockdown” (meaning no new projects till after Christmas) and are concerned that their plans aren’t enough.  Sales were soft for a lot of companies in August and September so I understand the anxiety – although the whole “IT gets  a three month vacation” baloney?  Not. A. Fan.  But I digress.

If you’re staying up at night wondering if your company’s Christmas business is going to be a hit or a miss this year or if you’re just someone who wants to improve their sales but doesn’t have a lot of time, resources or money, here are some tried-and-true Duct Tape and Spit ideas you can consider.

EMAIL ALL OUTSTANDING CARTS.  It blows my mind (and not in a good way) how many companies send their users a couple abandoned cart emails and then just delete them/leave them to rot.  Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before: diminishing returns blah blah blah.  Putting that argument aside for right now (since it’s mostly based on vendor propaganda), let’s agree that the majority of people who put stuff in their baskets have propensity to buy it.  (This is NOT like 1995 where people were enchanted they could SHOP NAKED but didn’t have the cubes to lay their credit card numbers bare on that mysterious information super highway.)

Let’s also acknowledge that those people – who put your products in their baskets – may not have been ready to purchase it within YOUR cycle of abandoned cart emails – ESPECIALLY if it was a holiday item/gift – and that they may be susceptible to another gentle reminder.   Yes?  Fair?

If you agree (and you really should because this program works like gangbusters for most folks), consider taking all your outstanding abandoned carts who’ve gone through your current abandoned cart series and emailing them a solid “I was going through my records and noticed you still have stuff in your cart” email.  If you want to include an offer, that’s fantastic.  If you don’t, that’s okay, but please add a deadline to the email anyway  – deadlines create urgency and cause people to focus, which is extra important this time of year.

How far can you go back?  As long as you have the carts.  (And if you’re NOT keeping carts open indefinitely, you should be.  Yes, even if you have limited inventory.)

How far back is profitable?  You have to mail to figure that out.  It varies depending on the type of item(s) you’re selling and how comprehensive your contact plan is.   My experience is that if your creative is good (meaning the story about why you’re writing is tight and compelling) you can mail for as far back as you have carts.  However, if you’re feeling conservative or just want to put your toe in the water on this, mail the most recent outstanding carts first.

WORK YOUR REMARKETING FOR THE HOLIDAYS.   The Amy Africa Voodoo Doll has lost at least one limb – maybe two – solely from my oh-so-bullish stance on remarketing.  I get the vitriol – I personally hate remarketing too but that doesn’t change the fact that it works.  More importantly, it works even better if you work it.

There are lots of different types of remarketing (my personal favorite is competitive retargeting) but for now, while you’re trying to get the biggest bang for your buck, look closely at your existing program –  there are usually some simple tweaks you can do to maximize its efficiency.

The three things you should look at first are: your frequency (there is a magic formula for frequency and a lot of folks tank their programs because they overmarket in too short of a window/time period); your creative (creative makes a HUGE difference in remarketing success and most companies don’t test enough creative versions) and your timing.  The timing thing can be a big play at the holidays.  You might want to market more aggressively faster OR you might want to market longer.  (It doesn’t take long to test both and it’s definitely worthwhile.)

Best of all, like the abandoned cart email idea above, you can also test pulling from older universes (especially carts and searches.)  Using specific banners to feature HOT products and bestsellers that you want to promote also can work really well too.  However, if you can only choose a couple things to focus on, look at the carts (abandoned and adopted), searches and people who spent a boatload of time and/or looked at a bunch of pages on your site.  (Mileage may vary on the latter – if you’re confused as to where to start, look at people who stay 1.5x your average user session or look at 2x the average number of pages.)

CHANGE YOUR MOBILE SITES TO GET MORE PEOPLE TO CALL.  Look, chances are you’re like everyone else, and your mobile site leaves a little-something-something to be desired.   It’s a mistake but with all the other stuff you’ve got going on, these things happen.  Don’t beat yourself up about it. (Do put it on the plan for next year though – Mobile is NOT, I repeat NOT, a division of ecommerce, it’s a whole different beast and needs to be treated accordingly.)  Instead, do the best you can with what you have – and for a lot of you that means putting click-to-call buttons and phone numbers all over the place (read: every view.)  Will this save the world?  No.  Statistically though, if you’re uber-aggressive about getting people on the phone, you’ll capture about a third of them which is about THIRTY TIMES MORE than the 0-1% you are currently getting, right?

What else can you do with a little elbow grease when it comes to mobile?  Work your entry page(s).  It/they should be short, fast loading and have the essentials.  You don’t need 4 buttons for customer service and you certainly don’t need to spend half a screen asking the people who come from your emails to sign up for your emails.

Once you’re finished, streamlining your entry page(s), look at the next 5-10 most popular pages on your site and work on those.   It’s way easier – and more effective – if you break it down into small, bite-sized chunks.

Oh, and don’t forget to separate your tablet traffic from your phone traffic this Fall.  Chances are they’re going to be different and even though you may not be able to impact your phone sales that much, you’ll surely be able to improve your tablet conversion just by paying attention to the differences.

Have an idea you’d like to add?  Email it to and you might just see it in Part II of this article.

The Biggest Mistakes Catalogers Make When It Comes to eCommerce… Part 1

Catalogers and other offline marketers have many advantages when it comes to eCommerce.  Unfortunately, most of them don’t leverage their benefits.  What’s even more demoralizing? They often turn their positives into BIG negatives.

No, I’m not being a Negative Nelly here.  Ass-y Amy? Perhaps. That’s always a fair assumption.

But I digress…

I started my direct marketing career in the mail order world and I will always have a soft-spot for catalog and two-step companies.  There was nothing like opening an envelope filled with cash – yes, cash — from some little old lady 38 states away wanting a pack of greeting cards and a refrigerator magnet from the stationery company I worked for at the time.

So yes, despite the somewhat obnoxious, linkbait-y title, if you’re a cataloger – or any legacy company, for that matter — here are some of the biggest mistakes I see AND more important, tried-and-true ways/solutions for you to fix them.*

Mistake #1: Underestimating the value of direct/no referrer/branded traffic.

Sure-Fix #1: The people who know you – the ones who are typing in your company name or branded keywords – are more valuable than the ones who aren’t.  Period.   The direct/no referrer/branded folks have the highest propensity to act.  Granted, sometimes the actions are customer service-related (tracking an order, for example) but still… The people who know you?  They’re your gold. The center of your bullseye.

Put them in their own bucket.  Study them.  See where they are exiting.  (Remember, people typically choose to exit within 3 pages BEFORE they actually exit.)  Look at what they’re searching for.  Find out what they’re doing.  What they’re using.  What they’re not.  If you’re like most companies, you should develop an entry page specifically for the direct/no referrer/branded folks.

I know.  I know.  This tip sounds easy but less than 1 out of every 10 companies I visit actually does this.

The interesting thing is that when you do it (separate them into the proper buckets), you’ll see a lot of trends.  You’ll find those are the folks who do things like type in item numbers, use your recommendation engine or go into their order history trying to find a quick and easy way to reorder.  You may also find that they’re the ones who are likely to use the phone as the ultimate ordering channel – they come from a catalog, snoop around for the best deals/promo codes, look at your new stuff and then call in and place their order.  If this happens with your business, make sure you put your phone number all over the place – especially the cart/checkout and search functions.  As always, I recommend using special 1800# numbers for this kind of stuff – they’re inexpensive and not only are they good for your tracking but they’re good at getting your customers to the right place faster.


Mistake #2: Basing your navigational structure around your catalog categories.

Sure-Fire Fix #2: Just today, I’ve seen first aid kids under “Children” (should I alert CPS?); socks under “Novelties” (from an apparel company that puts scarves and mittens under “Accessories” but socks elsewhere);  vibrators under “intimate solutions” (which, incidentally, was buried under Health and Beauty); candles under Outdoor (even though they only sell indoor candles, not a citronella in sight); and Jams under Preserves, which was under Favorites but not Food even though Jellies was under Food, not Favorites.  (Heaven knows where the marmalades are — I couldn’t find them and they are one of that particular store’s most popular items.)

Here’s the thing.  Users don’t want to search for anything.  THEY WANT TO FIND SOMETHING.  I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, navigation (including your text search function) is one of THE biggest determinants of your online success.  Sure, you can say that nobody cares about navigation and everybody uses the text search – but you’ll be sorely mistaken.  In usability, you find that unless users know precisely what they are searching for and/or are sophisticated users, they’ll try using the navigation first ESPECIALLY if they are browsing/shopping or have had a bad experience with your search function or any of the half dozen or so they’ve used before it.  (Research shows that the site(s) immediately before the user came to yours has/have a direct impact on your success.)

My recommendation to you? Work your navigation but work it as if your sole goal was to sell the products and not to just put the catalog/offline products on the web.  Name the products what people are searching for – if they’re calling it a raincoat, don’t call it a poncho.  If they’re calling it a shirt, don’t call it a blouse.  If it’s a bestseller, don’t bury it under some innocuous category like “accoutrements” or “selected features.”  Also, be sure to make the categories indicative of what people are looking for – if you’re only selling PATIO FURNITURE, you needn’t bury it under GARAGE/OUTDOOR.  Be clear. Be specific.


Mistake #3: Not offering “Ordering from a Catalog?” tools.

Sure-Fix #3: Most companies do two things incorrectly when it comes to this valuable section.  First, they’ll call it QUICK SHOPPE or something equally useless when they should be showing a picture of their current catalog cover and saying “ORDERING FROM A CATALOG?”  Second, and even worse, they’ll take the whole section off the site altogether because “we tested it in 1998 and it didn’t work.”  Newsflash: 1998 was SIXTEEN YEARS ago, things are just a little different now.  Not to mention, your ORDERING FROM A CATALOG? section won’t work on all your traffic – it will ONLY work on potential catalog traffic.  So, if you know I’m coming in from a referral link on one of your affiliate sites, chances are you don’t need to show it.  For the record, your email sign-up should function the same way.  If you have my email address, you really don’t need to push a pop-up in my face asking for it again – you can use that space for something more valuable.


Mistake #4: Dumping all your new products on the web at the exact same time.

Sure-Fix #4: Yeah. I get it.  You put your new items in your new books x times a year in one big batch.  That’s cool.  FOR. THE. CATALOG.  But let’s be honest here, it’s a lot easier to promote stuff in a new book than it is on the web, right?  You give the item you want to bet your house on, the front cover; the item you’ll bet your car on, the back; maybe your smartphone (your kids?) on the inside front; and so on.  The web is different though – chances are, you’re more socialist on the web and probably a little lazier too – all the new stuff gets dumped in one fell swoop in a New section or put in your regular categories with dinky NEW bursts.  (The only thing more predictable than that particular pattern is the one where the majority of the products move directly from NEW to Clearance, eh?)

In a perfect world, you’ll use your web/email efforts to test new products and categories before they make it into your books.

In the not-perfect-but-still-great world, you’ll introduce the products to the web in small batches with precision.  The best products will get carousel frames and/or home page features; they’ll be shown in a thrust (batch-and-blast) email or two; and they’ll be introduced in your triggers; especially your Sneak Peeks, EBOPPs (Emails Based on Past Purchases) and EBOSIs (Emails Based on Selected Interest.)  The new products will get the time – and the space – they deserve.


Questions?  Comments?  An issue you’d like to see here?  Write me at


*(In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote all the sure-fire tips I could think of for catalogers and it turned out to be over 23,000 words, so I’m breaking the “mini book” up into smaller segments.  This is part 1 of the series.)

3 of Your Most Pressing eCommerce Questions… Answered!

Last week, I asked on Twitter if you had any eCommerce questions that I could answer.  I was inundated with email replies. Here are the first three:

Jessa from Austin asks: “I walked in late at a speech you were giving in Chicago and heard you scold someone on your panel about remarketing but I didn’t understand why. Are you not a fan of remarketing? We’re making about $35k a month from it which is a lot for our company.”

Short answer: I am a fan of remarketing as long as the costs are attributed appropriately.

Long answer: I LOVE Remarketing.  Ok, that’s a lie.  Personally, I despise it. (One glance at my search history and you’d understand why. Ha!)  Professionally, I think it’s fantastic.  HOWEVER, what I do NOT love is that most marketers grossly overestimate the “profit” of their remarketing efforts. For example, many folks will wax poetically about how lucrative their abandoned cart remarketing program is but they’ll only take out the ad cost/agency fees and they’ll completely ignore the original source cost.  Newsflash: those abandoned carts had to come from somewhere and that “somewhere” cost something.

I realize that many remarketing agencies and consultants disagree with my logic – they want their numbers to be as BIG and juicy as possible. The challenge is that there comes a point where it’s difficult to just “do more remarketing” without increasing the original sources/leads/starters.  More important, triggered emails are often A LOT less expensive – and frankly, boatloads more effective – when it comes to retargeting.  (Yes, the combination of email and banners/ads does work best.)  Bottom line: Do it but do it wisely.


Kyle from Delray Beach asks: “I heard you on a mobile webinar recently and you said to capture mobile numbers even though you may not use them. We’d have to pay about $2k for this field to be added to our system, is it really worth it?”

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Even if you never send out a text message in your life (which you will, and before you say you won’t, remember in 1993, nobody thought they’d send out emails either), mobile numbers are amazing for profiling.  They can also be very useful when you’re doing ECOA (Email Change of Address) and e-Append (both things I recommend.)

Please remember: if you are collecting mobile numbers, you need to tell the user that message and data rates may apply.  (Yes, you need to do this now, just in case.) I also recommend you list approximately how many messages you send a month along with a Text STOP message.  (A link to your Terms and Conditions won’t hurt either.)


Ruth from Seattle asks: “We implemented a carthopper at your recommendation and it’s working like crazy for the people whose email addresses we don’t have but it’s a waste of space for people we do.  How do we fix this?”

Short answer: Have more than one carthopper.

Long answer: Carthoppers are the catfishes that crawl along the bottom of your screen.  (Some people call them bottom pops.)  They’re designed for people who return to your site who have items in their basket from the last time they were there. (You can also test taking people who have active carts directly to the View Cart page.)  If you don’t have the user’s email address, the carthopper should remind them that they have items in their basket and ask them to give you their email address so you can send them their cart.  (Read: put them in your trigger series immediately!)  If you already have their email address, don’t waste the space and ask for it again.  Instead, show them a special TODAY ONLY offer and then send them directly to the cart with a big RETURN TO CART NOW button.  (If you don’t offer financial incentives/promotional codes, you can feature a new or bestselling product instead.)

5 of the BIGGEST Lies Conversion Consultants Are Telling You Right Now!

Lie #1: “Improving conversion starts with color testing your buttons. Button testing is THE most important thing because red/orange/green/rainbow/polka-dotted/zebra-spotted buttons perform x times better than any other color buttons.” You know what? Red/orange/green/rainbow/polka-dotted/zebra-spotted buttons can perform x times better than any other color buttons and in the big scheme of things, there are hundreds (yes, hundreds) of tests that you could be doing that are more fruitful. You can test the size of the buttons (the bigger the better), the number of buttons (the more the merrier) and the language on the buttons – they’ll all make a difference.  But is that your biggest swing?  If you want to hit it out of the park, is an orange button versus a red button really going to do it?  Probably not.  You’d be better served by testing new product(s) OR a new offer OR something – anything — else that makes you feel queasy in your tummy (keeping-you-up-at-night-worried-you-might-not-have-enough-stock-to-support-it uneasy.)

Truth #1: GO BIG OR GO HOME. You’ve got limited time. No, I’m not predicting your eventual death (I have a 900 # for that.) What I am saying is that you need to identify the home runs and swing for the fences when it comes to web testing. These teensy things that “improve conversion 613%” but result in only a handful of orders?  Not impressive.  And probably not worth your time either.

Lie #2:  “When you buy a good search package, you can just set it and forget it.”  Things like “good search package” and “responsive design” are completely overrated. Yes, they can both be fabulous but neither of them will solve all your problems overnight. (Adding an outside search package is a big expense for a lot of folks and with spending a significant amount of money comes a tendency to think that all your issues will magically disappear. Sadly, that doesn’t happen.)

Truth #2: You’ve got to work your search. Start by looking at the top 10% of your products and services.  Are they well represented?  Is the copy useful and compelling?  Does it tell a story?  Does it have all the information/details your users need to make a purchase?  Is your copy friendly for online users or did you just plunk in your catalog/offline copy? (Incidentally, that’s one of the biggest mistakes legacy marketers make.)

You’ll also want to look at what people are searching for – start with the top 100 searches to make it manageable.  Look at what they’re finding – what they’re not – and what they’re clicking on.  Tweaking/working those will all help you make your search better. For example, a client of ours noticed a bunch of their major competitor’s item numbers over and over in their unsuccessful searches.  Their “learning” search tool had redirected a couple (of the many) searches to similar products but not the ones that the client would have chosen.  Also, the search package was showing “no results” for most of the items. To fix it?  They added the culprit item numbers to the “right” product pages (with solid success, I might add.)

Lie #3: “_________________ works because so-and-so tested it x years ago and the results were posted {here.}”  Look, I’m all for best practices – I know some people hate them but I think they’re useful. However, one poorly executed test to a market that is NOT yours to a sample size that is NOT significant?  Yeah, I’m not a fan. Not. At. All.

Truth #3: You’ve got to figure out what works best for you and your company.  Best practices are good places to start.  Make sure they are practiceS, with an S, however.  Not one company doing one thing that may or may not have been executed properly.

Lie #4: “It doesn’t matter what kind of user testing you do, as long as you do it.”  I’ve made more mistakes than the average bear when it comes to user testing. Like eleventy bazillion times more. One of the biggest mistakes?  Thinking some random ass tester from East Podunk, Mississippi who knows nothing about my product, nothing about my market, and nothing about what I’m trying to do, would solve my site’s problems.

Yes, I have used several of the remote testing sites.  Yes, I like some of them more than others.  Yes, I think they can be useful.  And yes, I think that a lot of times it’s like giving a lollipop to a child who just fell from the top of a jungle gym TO THE ASPHALT.  It may stop their crying but it may not prevent them from having a concussion.

Truth #4: If you’re using folks to test your site, use a good balance of prospects, customers, competitors’ customers AND people who don’t know you from Adam.  You should NOT use only people you’ve found on the street, your kid’s preschool, or from your great grandmother’s senior home.  Yes, you can use some but people who actually have propensity to buy your product will behave differently and their needs should be represented.

Lie #5:  All mobile transactions are created equal.  This comes up a lot at mobile conferences.  I know because I am often the morning keynote and then, for the rest of the day, speaker after speaker who follows me, wastes 5-10 of their allotted minutes, pleading their case about why I’m wrong and/or an evil demon spawn. (There are many reasons, this is NOT one of them.)

I get it.  I really do.  Mobile conversion sucks – and I mean REALLY sucks, and if you separate the tablet traffic from the phone traffic, it’s even more demoralizing.  So, the easiest way to make it look better/sexier than it really is, is to say “oh, who can define what a phone is?  Is a Nexus 7 a phone or a tablet?” and then greedily rub your hands together like that Mr. Burns guy from the Simpsons as you watch the attendees nod like bobbleheads.  Newsflash Mobile Speakers of the Planet: if it’s not the primary device you hold up to your ear as you take or make calls, we can safely call it a tablet at this point.

Truth #5: It’s smart business to separate your phone traffic from your tablet traffic.  Why?  Because it’s likely that your tablet conversion is fantastic (it’s often 2-3x desktop conversion these days) and your phone traffic is pitiful.   That’s not what’s important though.  What’s important is that you get an honest idea of what’s working in each medium so you can make the appropriate tweaks/fixes/overhauls.

Have something you’d like to add?  Send it to or tweet it to @amyafrica.  If it’s good, I’ll include it in one of my next posts.


Never Befriend A Man Named Hussein

Please note: this is not a post about Obama.  I’ve already addressed how my brother saved his life once and I’m not going down that rabbit hole again.  Ever.  Too many full-tilt crazy people and LRAs on my list.

You ever get introduced to someone and the minute you hear their name, your brain kicks in and says “I knew it!  This guy? Definitely a jackass!”

There’s a scientific reason for that feeling – and you know you’ve had it — but this is an ecommerce post so I won’t go into the details here.  (Jump to the end if you want to know how you can find out the brain explanation.)

One of my closest friends has this hate-them-in-your-tummy feeling about girls named Amy.  He despises them all.  Well, except me and that’s because I frequently remind him that my touchy-feely-hippy-crunchy-love-light-and-joy mother wanted to name me Star so Amy is really just a placeholder for the poledancer/stripper name I should have had.  Star Africa?  Please.

But I digress…

According to my personal email address book, I know 17 Husseins (of various spellings.)  Sadly, I don’t have contact information for the one I’d have married (you know, the guy who’d 100% be on my soulmate list) but I have a dozen and a half others – first and last name Husseins.

In my experience, Husseins are some of the sweetest people on the planet.

Till they’re not.

They’re all warm and cuddly and then you say something innocuous that sets them off, and they become a donkey on the edge with a dragon to prove it.  (Hello, SEO traffic from random quotes.)

Bottom line: Husseins (which incidentally means blessed) are the scorpion to my frog.  (#Measure people please note: sample size is too small and I know you have 111 ways to tell me my conclusion is not statistically significant.  Feel free to move on and spare me the Excel spreadsheets that come whenever I post.)

So, the question becomes are all Husseins like this or am I making statements that purposely alter their action(s) so that my theory becomes true?

In other words, how Oedipal am I?

With or without the Oracle of Delphi’s help, we create self-fulfilling prophecies all the time ESPECIALLY on the web.

Navigation is likely the best example.  You get what I give you.  If I don’t give it to you, you don’t get it.

Navigation accounts for 40-60% of your success online.  Over 80% on a mobile device.

People are going to do what you give them to do.  If they want to buy a rake and you force them to figure out whether they should click on gardening tools OR gardening supplies OR outdoor gear OR outdoor living, it’s your own damn fault when they bounce or attempt to use your crackerjacked internal text search and fail.

Users are going to click on the things you tell them to click.  If you don’t tell them to click, they aren’t going to click.

Your navigation controls their fate.  It’s that simple.

What other predicted-behavior things are there web-wise?  Here are six of the ones I see the most.

Low Adoption To Cart (ATC) Rate – These days, marketers are so caught up in the social proof, big data and omnichannel BS that they often miss the big picture.  You know, like the fact that the majority of websites have plenty of traffic but they just don’t know how to effectively convert it.  If you don’t have action directives on every view, you aren’t going to get the ATC rate that you should.  This isn’t about having orange buttons or using Hevetica instead of Arial, it’s about having BIG, BOLD, IN-YOUR-FACE buttons that tell the user to add-to-cart or buy now all over the place.  It’s about having more than one perpetual cart per page so that the user is constantly reminded they’re supposed to place an order.  It’s about not having dead ends, creating urgency and causing people to act.  It’s about asking for an order.  Over and over and over.  Till you get it.  Period. (This works the same if you’re in lead generation.)

High Abandoned Cart Rate – Distracting links/navigation in your cart?  A survey pop-up that asks the user to rate your order process before they’ve completed checkout (my personal pet peeve)?  No ordering alternatives (meaning no phone number or other contact information?)  Lots of rude error warnings?  Address correction things that take you to sites that aren’t secure?  Irrelevant questions?  Too many steps?  Exorbitant – and unexpected – shipping/delivery fees?  All of those things – and dozens more – make your users jump ship.  “Experts” tell you that people leave because they are searching for a discount/coupon – yes, that’s definitely a SMALL percentage of your folks – but it’s not the biggest reason people abandon.  (Giving them large discounts is often the easiest way to convert them but it’s not why they leave you at the altar.)

High Bounce Rate – Let’s face it.  If you’re like most, you deserve the traffic you get.  Take it from someone who is recklessly using Shrek quotes (as seen above) just for the traffic/comic amusement.  Link farming? SEO black-gray-ish tactics? Posting on random blogs and/or unmanaged comparison shopping/affiliate sites?  Remarketing programs run amok?  They’re all going to get you garbage traffic which is then going to get you a high bounce rate.  It doesn’t matter how kinky I am, if I’m coming from an adult “finder” message board and you’re selling property management supplies, I have to be really creative to figure out how to make your leasing rental forms suit my needs (unless I have some sort of paper cut fetish, I suppose.)

Truncated Strategy – I see this more and more as of late, especially when it comes to mobile.  Folks will tell me that they don’t need – or can’t afford – a mobile strategy in the same breath that they say they are increasing their email frequency but aren’t seeing the results they used to.  Um, yeah.  So over a third of your users are reading your emails on their smartphones.  When they’re interested in a product/service they see, they click on the link – you know, the one YOU put in the email.  If you don’t have a mobile site – or at the bare minimum a page that gives your phone number and a click-to-call button – you shouldn’t be shocked when you see a decrease in email orders as you’ve effectively terminated their path and given them nowhere to order.

Weak/Non-Existent Transfer – This is in the same vein as truncated strategy.  We know that over 90% of carts and lead forms are abandoned on mobile devices.  In time, that will get better but it’s not going to improve this season that’s for sure.  If someone adds something to their mobile cart (or they start the inquiry process), and they subsequently abandon, you should transfer them to a CSR (best choice for phones, doesn’t work well for tablets) AND you should mimic their cart on your traditional (desktop) site.  The whole “mobile department is different from our web department” schtick is as exasperating as the “web department is different from our catalog department” baloney.  In the end, nobody should care where you get the order as long as you get it.  Not sharing your riches with your other departments/colleagues just ends you all up in the poorhouse.

Email Deliverability Issues – I don’t know who the idiot consultant(s) is/are that are telling companies that they should email all of their old hard bounces and opt-outs (“as long as they are over 18 months old”) but I’d like to use them for target practice.  Apparently there are more meth addicts in web consulting than I previously imagined as this is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.  First, hard bounces are labeled as such because they are PERMANENTLY UNDELIVERABLE.  Second, even though you may get some of your users back in the fold, mixing a bunch of crappy names into your file of good names  is NOT good for deliverability.  We spend boatloads of time on email creative when the majority of success happens outside the envelope – a big part of that success comes from getting your email delivered.

Have other things you think I missed?  Give me a shout.  I’m @amyafrica on Twitter.   Why Twitter? I need to improve my Klout score to get more business SAID ME NEVER.

Oh, about that brain thing.  In the next few months, I am starting a newsletter specifically about brain stuff.  I am doing an email – not a blog – so I can write whatever I want without impunity – you know, like how I may or may not have found myself spread-eagled on a highway beside my car with a cop pointing a gun at me a couple weeks ago.  If you want “in” on the list, send me an email to  If I like you, you will be added.  If not, sorry about your luck.  It’s probably your name.  As you’ve probably heard, I’m fussy.


P.S. My friend, JoAnna Brandi, says I use hostile language to get people to react.  Clearly she hasn’t seen my in-box because I don’t need any more hate mail than I already get.  She is right in one regard though – I do like to bat the beehive.  Why?  Because I genuinely like to remind people that you can change any/all of the self-fulfilling prophecies you have about your business…. your life…. your relationship(s)…  your fate…  The points above?  You can fix all of them.


8 Things That Drive Your Users Bat-Sh*t Crazy

“I saw you in the gym. You’re very strong.”  He said.  “Especially for a girl.”

It was 6:11 am and the silver-haired gentleman standing outside my door was wearing a burgundy-colored, Hugh Hefner-style robe and bright white tube socks.

I made a mental note to myself that I should start staying at Hampton Inns instead of luxury hotels.  Not only is the wireless FREE — not $29.95 per flipping day — but Hampton Inns have far fewer crazy-ass people.  (They probably don’t lock their fire doors either.)

Before I could reply, he continued.  “That’s why I need you to open my ketchup.”

For the love of all things holy.

Before I could conclude if that was the worst pick-up line EVER, he thrust a teensy bottle of Heinz from his right pocket.

“I can’t get it open.”  He stammered.  “I knew you were up because I saw you walk by when they were delivering my eggs.  You really should wear shoes in public places. The world is very dirty.”

The world is very dirty said the man propositioning me to take the clear security stuff off his ketchup.  (Incidentally, what exactly do the room service guys do with those little bottles of ketchup for it to require such protective plastic?  I mean really.)

I thought about explaining (sarcastically) to him that his socks weren’t going to protect him from all the communicable carpet diseases you could get from the Mandarin Oriental but I didn’t want to give ole’ Hugh a heart attack so I just smiled and replied: “I hate those little bottles of ketchup too.  Those safety seals are impossible to open, even with a knife.  Let me show you my trick…”

Then I went to get a pen.

I took off the protective seal for him and handed him back the bottle.  “Enjoy your breakfast!”

“Thank you,” he said.  “Thank you very much.  You can always count on women to know such things.”

Great.  It’s amazing to be a girl.  If things don’t work in internet marketing for me, I can always stalk the room service staff at ritzy hotels offering to open old geezers’ ketchup.  Just call me the Condiment Prostitute.

He left and I went back to work.

Six minutes later, he was back.

“I can’t get it out.  The ketchup.  I can’t get it out of the bottle.  Can you help me?” He asked as he handed the bottle back to me.  He continued: “The knife.  It doesn’t fit in the bottle.  I tried the fork and the spoon too.  I thought about using my pen but…”

“Of course” I replied not wanting to know what kind of killer viruses pens have (they must be far worse than carpets).  I grabbed my key and headed out the door and across the hall to his room without even thinking.  (Hey, Dexter this guy was not.  Plus, didn’t you know?  I’m strong… ESPECIALLY for a girl.)

I showed him precisely how to tilt the bottle and then smack it hard on the bottom to get the ketchup out.  (Yes, I am aware that this whole story sounds like a giant euphemism – let me assure you it was not.  If I was interested in magazine publisher look-alikes, Rupert Murdoch is far more my type.)

And then I left. (Well, after we had a lengthy discussion about the Presidential Debate but that’s all together a different topic.)

That morning I told the story to the crowd at my speech.  There were about 800 people in the room and there were a lot of nods.  Perhaps the nods were the nice nods we give to people who are clearly one French Fry short of a Happy Meal but if I had to bet it’s because most of us have our very own ketchup story.  (Not a story about where we knock on random doors in our tighty-whiteys but where we can’t do something simple – like open a bottle of Heinz for our hashbrowns.)

Our websites are chock-full of things that appear super simple yet are annoying, impossible or annoyingly impossible.  Here are the top 8 that I see most often as well as ideas on how you can fix them.

Poor navigation.  This is BY FAR the biggest for users.  I’ve written about it ad nauseam.  The rule of thumb is to remember that navigation is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You get what I give you.  If I don’t give it to you, you don’t get it and you are forced to use the text search which brings me to…

Bad text search.  Look, even Google and Bing don’t get text search right.  If they did, they wouldn’t need to show you over 70,000,000 results for women’s shirts. The key with text search is to remember that the presentation of the results is more important than the results themselves.  Make sure that you’d bet your house on the first result the user sees.  You should be able to bet your car on the second.  Your phone on your third.  (Okay, for most of you reading this blog the order is likely phone, house, car.  Or maybe just first phone, second phone, tablet.)

Impossible Capchas.  The person who invented these little suckers should be known as the Modern Day Stalin and executed like Mussolini.  My feeling is that if you use these, you are lazy and need to be subjected to 24 hours of Oogielove.  (I saw it once – ironically for love of the terrorists-in-training — and I will never be the same.)  If you employ capchas it means that your IT department wants the user to solve your technical issues.  (Clue: there’s a reason why IT guys aren’t in charge of marketing.)

Useless double opt-ins.  See capchas above and multiply the number of bullets and hours used before the kill shot by six.  You know who uses the most double opt-ins?  Spammers, mailers who get high SPAM complaints and the services who attract spammers and those who get high SPAM complaints.  If you’re a legit mailer, send out a series of introductory welcome emails (with a clear way to unsubscribe) instead.  While you’re at it, develop a solid preferences center.  They are worth their weight in gold.

Slow sites.  I know.  I know. People are tired of hearing me talk about speed even more so now that your SEO says that speed doesn’t matter to Google.  Speed matters to users most in the cart, the checkout, and the search function.  It also matters a lot in chat (live and instigated), video, and mobile.  Especially mobile.

Having to search for the Buy Now/Add To Cart/Sign-Up Now buttons.  Rule of thumb: at least one BIG, BOLD, in-your-face action directive on every view.  At least two perpetual carts – preferably three – on every website page.

Hiding the D&A information.  Delivery and Availability (D&A) information should be near the pricing.  Headline, subhead, reviews, in-stock information and the pricing?  They should all be together in one neat little package.

Improper use of cookies.  Look folks, when someone puts something in their shopping cart on your site (or starts to fill out a lead form if you’re not an ecommerce site) and they come back in two hours, two days, two weeks, two months – it should still be there.  If the product is out-of-stock, use the opportunity to sell something else but whatever you do, don’t clear the carts.  The information is valuable for profiling and for sales.

Have other things you’d like to add?  Send me an email to and I’ll add it to the follow-up list of things that stress folks out in my next newsletter.  Right now, I clearly need to find someone to open my Xanax.


UPDATE: My buddy, Debra Ellis, added this one which is too appropriate to wait for the newsletter.  She says ”I would add ‘having to search for contact information’. People make it hard to find the contact information because they mistakenly think that customers want to talk to them and will make random calls or spam them with email. You and I know that customers want to place their orders and solve their problems as quickly as possible. If the site is set up to do this, few will call. If not, the calls help identify the problems.”  True that.



My Brother Saved Obama’s Life…

So, the other day Obama did something that completely sent me over the edge.

And frankly, it made me want to kill the guy.

This isn’t a political blog and before you start yapping about whatever devil candidate you believe in, let me be clear that the party or the person isn’t the issue here – at one time or another I’ve wanted to murder people from both parties. Hell, I’ve even wanted to off people without a party. I guess you could say I’m an equal opportunity assassin. Well, potential assassin anyway. I’m still hoping to find a Slovenian to do my wet work for me.

As I went over the strategy in my head to rid the world of Evil, I thought of how I’d do it and what my defense would be. If you’ve spent more than 30 minutes with me, you probably know I have a foolproof strategy AND that unlike I’m-A-Dinner-Jacket (aka President of Iran) and his idle threats against America, my plan would work.

Then, I thought of the tiny terrorists.

The fact that the little monsters share my last name, which in cases like these is unfortunately not Smith or Brown, means their lives would be terribly impacted by a crazy auntie* who {somehow murdered} the President of the United States. So as much as, in that moment, I wanted to kill the guy, I knew I couldn’t do it because of them, which effectively means by having children who share the same last name as I do…

My brother saved Obama’s life.

Do you agree with that statement?

Yes or no?

Or do you think who/what really saved Obama’s life was…

The Secret Service? (Newsflash: they’re too busy with Colombian hookers.)

The thought of imprisonment. (I promise you flying 500,000+ miles a year, private or not, is worse than a SuperMax prison .)

Conscience? (Robert Hare’s bestseller is based on my personality type. Hint: The word “without” is in front of conscience in the title.)

Something else?

As you are contemplate your navel about the above, you’ll probably ask yourself: “What exactly is the point of all this yammering?”

Best Buy.

More irritating than Obama’s latest constitutional breach is all this talk about how Amazon is putting Best Buy out of business. Allegedly (cough, choke, cough) folks are getting in their cars and driving to Best Buy in record numbers (cough, choke, cough) only to find what they want and then come home and buy it on the internet.

We can go through all the reasons why this logic is about as likely as Biden taking a bullet for Obama (unless it’s to put it into his own gun) but suffice it to say:

The only thing putting Best Buy out of business is Best Buy.

I don’t profess to be a retail expert nor do I play one on TV so, I’m not going to wax eloquently as to why a better, more aggressive salesforce (or maybe just one that doesn’t bolt in the other direction when you walk up) would change the shape of Best Buy’s business. (Incidentally, Amazon has grown sales by 41%, 40% and 28% the past years. Best Buy’s fiscal sales growth rates have been 2%, 0% and 10%.)

What I will say is that the Best Buy website is circa 2005. (Yes, I’m being generous.)

And there are a lot (a lot a lot) of ways that it could be improved. (As an aside, this year, Best Buy hopes to grow online revenue by 15% whereas Wall Street expects Amazon to grow 30%.)

For example:

More robust entry pages. My mother, whom I’m convinced is having a torrid affair with her Geek Squad guy, gets the same entry page as I do. (To put this into perspective, my mother thinks you need scissors to cut and paste something on the computer.) Even though neither of us are gamers we both got an entry page with Max Payne today. If Best Buy was using their data (including our respective Rewards programs) they’d know exactly what to show us. Hint: it would not be Max Payne.

Better use of email, especially triggers. It’s no secret that Amazon has a VERY successful email program. Granted, they have one of the lamest abandoned cart emails I’ve ever seen but at least they mail something consistently. Instead of depending on random thrust (aka batch and blast) emails Best Buy could have an arsenal of serial triggers: EBOPP’s (emails based on past purchases), EBOSI’s (emails based on selected interest), and so on. Best Buy has all sorts of interesting information, they should do a better job of using it. It’d also be nice if they actually collected email sign-ups but that’s likely far too “aggressive” for a company that’s shutting down stores and impacting thousands.

More aggressive use of mobile. When I use the store locator on my mobile device, send (SMS/email) me coupons I can use on my next visit. The coupons should have deadlines as deadlines create urgency and cause people to focus.

Emphasize urgency. One of the BIGGEST and best advantages that a retail store has is that you can walk away with the product that very minute. You can touch it, feel it, sniff it, steal it. You don’t have to wait a day, two, or even ten. You leave with it that VERY SAME DAY. Best Buy handles the whole delivery issue in a somewhat dicey way. They are very clear – in red text (oy!) of all things – when SHIPPING IS NOT AVAILABLE. They also show you what stores have the product (great) but they’re not clickable so if you don’t actually know where the store is or it doesn’t make sense (i.e. Southcenter in Tukwila, WA doesn’t have the product I want but Tukwila, WA does – WTF?), you can’t look it up.

Be clear that users are easily confused. You know what Best Buy does when all the appropriate information hasn’t been filled in? They fade out the button. Yeah. Brilliant idea that is, she said sarcastically. Look at their mobile phone pages and figure out how you’d buy. Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’re a marketer, which means you have a way bigger advantage over this stuff than the average bear. Can you imagine how someone who doesn’t shop online maneuvers this minefield? Me neither.

If you offer live chat, be speedy, direct and above all, collect email addresses. The only thing urgent about Best Buy’s chat now button, is the word “now” in the button itself. Plus, don’t ask me why when you click on the button (on a traditional computer) you get MOBILE CHAT but it’s sort of interesting that they only collect first name, last name and phone number. They also offer the chat button when their chat is closed. (Frustrating at best from a user perspective.)

Work your search. Search for “handheld” on the Best Buy site. Is that what you expected? A wireless internet ratio with an alarm clock? It says there are (2) handheld things on the left but there are 335 things listed at the top. Hmmmm…. How exactly does that work? In any case, I’m clear that’s probably not one of their more popular searches but go on, look up stuff on the Best Buy site. I’ll wait. You’ll find that the search results are inconsistent and often seem to lack any sort of logical prioritization. Their navigation forces you to use the text search (it’s not complete enough to find much, if anything) so the things it returns had better be good. Sadly, they’re not.

I could go on and on about things they should change but the point is that I realize that it’s sexier for folks to blame Amazon for stealing Best Buy’s business. Just like “my brother saved Obama’s life” is way more of an interesting headline than “7 things Best Buy can do to improve their business.”

The bottom line is that Best Buy really is the only thing that can save Best Buy’s business.

Blaming Amazon won’t save Best Buy’s business.

With the amount The First Lady likes to shop, it could very well be the death of Obama however.

And therein, you know part of my plan.

*I mean, according to She Who Must Not Be Named (aka my sister-in-law) their lives ARE constantly being endangered by her husband’s wackass sister, but I’ll save those stories for my personal blog.

Note: I realize that there are real people with real feelings behind Best Buy’s site. I’ve met several of them and there are a couple I’d help find jobs for tomorrow if they asked. From my perspective, the downfalls of this site are a management issue. You go to eMetrics and you see them yapping away about how good their analytics system is. Data means jack if you don’t use it to better your business.