Tag Archives: direct marketing

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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Is Print Dead? Not According to These Magazines

With the proliferation of online information, Web sites, blogs, and ecommerce, it can be easy to underestimate the still powerful impact of the written word on paper. Far from being dead, print is re-emerging in new ways, new industries, and reaching select target markets. Some of the new magazines may surprise you. Companies that do business online are now using print publications to reach customers and explain their businesses, as well as entice customers to continue to buy from the online companies.

The companies producing these new magazines cover a number of area that may surprise you; lifestyle, pet care, travel, food, and more. Brands that have introduced new magazines include Bumble, Dollar Shave Club, Casper, and Airbnb. The publications are a way to expand the brand’s reach and retain customers’ interest. After all, when reading online, there are continual interruptions with pop-up ads, videos, and other digital noise. Compared to that, a print magazine seems like a soothing way to relax and explore new topics at our leisure.

The approach is not always an easy one for companies. According to Pew Research, roughly 93% of Americans not get some level of news online. However, this hasn’t stopped companies – in 2017 there were 134 new print magazines launched. These magazines tend to be focused on specific niches and target markets where consumers have focused queries and interests. Not everyone wants to read about puppies, or international travel, or music. But for the customers who do want that depth, magazines provide information and escape.

What do you want to read?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Who reads magazines? Which ones, and why?
  2. Show some of the new magazines available:

Bumble mag: https://bumble.com/the-buzz/introducing-bumble-mag

Away: https://www.awaytravel.com/here-magazine

Casper: https://casper.com/woolly-magazine/

DSC: https://www.dollarshaveclub.com/content/story/author/melmag

Airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/magazine

  1. Divide students into teams. Have each team examine a publication (online).
  2. Who is the target market?
  3. When do magazines make sense?
  4. Each team should next select a brand/company that might use a print magazine. For this company, have teams develop a magazine concept: Target market, editorial focus, possible articles, advertisers, etc.

Source: Jerde, S. (6 May 2019). Who said print was dead? What’s behind the proliferation of new titles. Advertising Age.

 

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Fund-Raising with Healthy Options

We can usually tell when it is fund-raising season for schools and sports. Kids stop by houses and businesses, selling chocolate bars and other items to help fund a variety of programs and causes. And, although we happily buy and eat the candy, there can be some regrets over the empty calories, and the lack of sales going to local businesses. Wouldn’t it be better to offer healthy alternatives, and support local businesses? Of course! Enter a new company: FarmRaiser – connects fundraising groups with local products and foods.

FarmRaiser was founded in Michigan with a mission to connect local farmers and food artisans with schools, athletic teams, bands, and other causes. Vendors must meet standards for sustainable practices, and artisan products that do NOT list sugar as the first ingredient are welcome. The company states that “if a product has more than five or six ingredients, and if any of them are ones your grandma wouldn’t recognize it doesn’t make the cut.”

Campaigns are customized by working with a FarmRaiser “cultivator” to help determine fund-raiser goals, local products, and vendors. Each campaign also gets its own Web page on FarmRaiser.com. The company estimates that 85% of funds raised stays in the community; the average profit margin is 53% for the groups. The process is straightforward: once the cause is registered, FarmRaiser helps create a custom online and mobile market. At the end of the sale period, students help distribute the produce and products to their customers. Groups can choose various products and goods from multiple regions. Try combining Michigan cherries, with Texas Salsa.

What sounds good to you?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the fundraising activities that students might have done. Discuss what was it about, proceeds, products, process, etc.
  2. Introduce the topic of changing the product mix and sales process.
  3. Show a video about the company: https://vimeo.com/147806697
  4. Show Web site: https://www.farmraiser.com/
  5. Divide students into team. Have each team select a cause and develop a product set.
  6. Set SMART objectives for the company.

Source: Rieth, D. (Summer 2018). Home field advantage. Edible Michiana.

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