Tag Archives: direct marketing

Digital Commerce Continues to Grow

More than any single factor, the pandemic has impacted virtually all industries, but it has most impacted how consumers shop. Prior to 2020, consumers may have shopped online for many different products and services, but since mid-2020 buying habits have changed significantly. Consumers now feel more comfortable buying what were once in-person purchases such as cars, food, and medical or health care needs.

A recent survey by McKinsey & Co. highlighted that since the pandemic began, three out of four people have tried new shopping and delivery methods. More than half of the consumers surveyed intend to continue to use curbside pickup or delivery services after the pandemic ends. Roughly 70% of those consumers intend to keep buying online. Among the changes are increases in online streaming, grocery delivery, restaurant curbside pickup and delivery, and store curbside pickup. Consumers are going online not just for shopping; they now go online for medical appointments, fitness classes, tutoring, and more.

While these changes are good for digital commerce providers, they are not so good for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. This year will likely see a record of store closings, bankruptcies, and liquidations. And, retailers have had to shift how they deliver services, including more online experiences such as digital events, contactless payment methods, virtual online services, and curbside pickup.

Overall, ecommerce in the U.S. rose to 16.1% from 10.8% a year ago. New shopping habits also extend to a decline in cash and an increase in credit and debit card use.

To quote Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changing.”

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. As class begins, poll students about their shopping.
  2. What are the last three websites they visited? Did they buy anything? Why or why not?
  3. How have their shopping habits changed this year?
  4. Do they have new online shopping habits?
  5. Will they keep these new habits once the pandemic is contained?
  6. Show video about how pandemic has changed shopping habits: https://www.wsj.com/video/the-future-of-retail-how-will-the-pandemic-change-how-we-shop/526ADB88-F6D1-4B77-AA97-BAA323496D4D.html

Source:  Wall Street Journal

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Direct-to-Consumer Air Conditioner

It’s summer (finally)! People are leaving their houses and enjoying the warmer weather. Well, not everyone enjoys summer heat – many older apartments and houses lack central air conditioning and depend either on fans or in-window air conditioners. While many home technology devices are sleek looking and high-tech, the lowly room air conditioner has remained unchanged for decades, retaining its distinct lack of style.

July air conditioners aims to change that. The new direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand takes a fresh look at the design of in-window units and is positioning itself as a design item in addition to being an effective appliance. It’s struck a nerve with consumers; within the first five days of announcing a wait list for the product, there were more than 3,000 people waiting in (virtual) line. Early ordering also lowers the cost of the units by 25% and guarantees a summer delivery.

There are two units of power: 6,000 BTUs (cools up to 250 sq. ft.) is $349 and 8,000 BTUs (cools up to 350 sq. ft.) is $399. The unit is square, sleek and uses a simple installation process. The customer first inserts a frame to lock in the window, then slides in the unit until it clicks into place. The front of the unit is a solid panel that comes in white, light blue, gray, and ash wood that consumers can switch out and customize to match their decor. July can be controlled via WiFi and scheduled to turn on at a desired time as well as controlled with voice commands.

Ready for summer?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the importance of clearly defining a target market.
  2. Show July: https://july.ac/
  3. For the July Air Conditioner product, who is the target market?
  4. Divide students into teams and have each team develop a profile of a target market for July. Include demographics, psychographics, behaviors, values, attitudes, etc.
  5. Based on the target market profile, what makes this product unique for these customers?
  6. July is a DTC brand – meaning it is not sold in stores. What are the considerations for this brand as it works to reach prospective customers?
  7. How is July positioning its products compared to the standard in-window air conditioners?

Source: Ad Week; Fast Company; Gear Patrol

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Are You Being Manipulated by E-Commerce Sites?

As on-line shoppers we often depend on the reviews, comments, and purchases by other shoppers to help guide our decision-making. We see how many “likes” a product has received, and if it performed according to the promised description. We might even like to score a great deal on a hot trend that others are snapping up. What does Suzy from San Francisco know that I don’t know?

A common message on shopping sites is that “four other people are looking at this offer right now” or “Suzy from San Francisco just saved $202 on her order!” or “You just missed this great deal!” As it turns out, there often is no “Suzy from San Francisco” online scoping out the same deal as you. The messages are often fake; these are an example of something called “dark patterns,” which are online tactics that manipulate users into doing things that might not otherwise do.

These dark patterns directly benefit the company, not the consumer, and can be regarded by many people as fraud. (This happened to me recently when updating a standard software program – I kept clicking “next” without realizing that it was modifying my computer preferences!)

Lest we regard ourselves as lazy, consider that people do not read every word on every page all the time. We pick up on patterns and make assumptions. A “dark pattern” makes it difficult for the user to do something that does not benefit the company (such as cancelling an account). Companies can use color and design to mislead or trick users. A recent study from Princeton University used software to scan more than 10,000 sites. They found that more than 1,200 of the sites used tactics identified as “dark patterns.”

Here are some examples of dark patterns:

  • Sneak into basket – something is added to your basket because you didn’t opt-out
  • Roach motel – trying to get out of something such as a subscription service
  • Price comparison prevention – that makes it hard to compare the price of an item with another item
  • Disguised ads – that appear as content or navigation in order to gain clicks

Consumers need transparency from companies, not tricks to make us buy more.

Which dark pattern have you experienced?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students. Who checks review prior to buying something online?
  2. View video at Dark Patterns: https://www.darkpatterns.org/
  3. What have been the students’ experiences with dark patterns?
  4. Discuss the ethical considerations of marketing.
  5. Are dark patterns legal? Are dark patterns ethical?
  6. Divide students into teams. Have each team select an e-commerce site and review how to set up an account, cancel an account, and more.
  7. How many of the dark patterns can they find?

Source: Valentino-DeVries, J. (24 June 2019). How e-commerce sites manipulate you into buying things you may not want. New York Times.

 

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