Internet Related Issues for Retailers and Brands to Think About

I wouldn’t quite characterize this as an article as much as random musing about some internet experiences I’ve had.  I can’t wait to see what I write.

My microwave broke.  Not so much broke.  The door wouldn’t latch so I couldn’t use it unless I stood there and held the door closed.  Not particularly practical.  I thought to myself, “Damn, it’s either a $150 service call or a new microwave.”

But for some reason, I went to YouTube and searched under “microwave door won’t close.”  And the very first video that popped up was exactly that for my model.  Literally 15 minutes later, I’d taken out a screw, popped part of the door away from the gasket, reinserted the stupid spring that had come lose (probably from the kid slamming the door too hard- unless it was his father who was doing it) and it was fixed.

I’ve done the same thing for my car- for the cabin air filter, the engine air filter, and for testing my brake fluid to see if I actually needed to replace it (I didn’t).  Recently, I found the video that told me how to replace the roller assembly on my upper dishwasher rack.  I’ve also replaced a part on my refrigerator following YouTube video instructions.

I imagine most of you have done the same thing.  So far, I’d estimate that with the repairs I’ve mentioned I’ve not spent $600 to $800 dollars with local retailers.  Maybe more.

It’s not like I hadn’t browsed YouTube long ago and found the videos on fixing the crotch in your snowboard pants, repairing a ding in your surfboard (learned that a long time ago without the internet, thank you.  Way too much acetone inhaled), repairing your skate shoes and various other ways to extend the life of product.

But it was my microwave that gave me my “Oh shit!” moment- no idea why.  Not only doesn’t the customer have to buy new product as often, but she doesn’t even have to come into the store to figure out what to do.

I hope not too many of these videos are sponsored by stores or brands.  It’s quite a dilemma, isn’t it?  In this economy, our customers are going to try and extend the life of their products.  It’s just a guess, but I’m pretty sure you these videos are going to keep being posted.  What’s a retailer to do?

I think you should embrace it.  Not necessarily by putting up your own videos, but by acknowledging that customers are going to try and lengthen the life of their products and help them do it.  Perhaps when you sell a pair of skate shoes you tell them, “Hey, when you see the shoe starting to break down a bit, bring them back in and we’ll put some super glue on the seams and try to get them to last longer.  Sell them the super glue.  Or whatever.  Sign them up for email reminders.  Run a contest and give a prize for the most repaired product in a category (reaching out to your customers with information on how they did it).

I’m no expertise on these kinds of repairs, but if it’s happening anyway, maybe you need to use it and get the customer back in the store.  Customer service, connection to the community, more knowledge- that’s how specialty retailers differentiate themselves, right?

I haven’t seen anybody else write about this.  I can’t be the first one thinking about it.  Please?

And then there are ad blockers.  I was having a terrible time with a site I visited regularly a few months ago and got one.  It seemed to solve the slow loading problem.  Meanwhile, a copy of Inside Outdoor magazine has come across my desk.  In their section called Data Points they note, “Turns out millennials are just as annoyed as older folks by online ads that block content.  According to a recent Anatomy Media survey, two out of three U.S. millennials use an ad blocker on a desktop or mobile device.”  Then they add, accurately, but somewhat self-serving, “Oh, by the way, you can’t block magazine ads.”

I suspect that many of you consider millennials an important customer group. It appears two thirds of them don’t want to hear from you via ads.  My personal approach is to allow ads on sites I rely on but don’t pay for UNLESS they have one of those exceptionally annoying auto run videos with sound that’s hard to turn off.  Then I’m ruthless.

My interpretation of that statistic is that two thirds are using an ad blocker and the other one third just hasn’t gotten around to it.  How much focus (and expense) do you have on internet ads?  As I understand it, you don’t pay for an ad unless there’s a click through, and that doesn’t happen when an internet blocker is enabled.  Guess I should stop here and acknowledge that I don’t have intimate knowledge of when a cost is incurred and a payment made for ads on the internet.

But really, this is just the other side of a coin we are all familiar with.  Your customers are getting their brand and product information from social media and their online community.  They may not mind being entertained by clever ads, but ads continue to be a declining part of their purchase decision.

Are you getting customers with online ads or wasting your time and money and, even worse, pissing them off?  Why do you believe they care about your ads?  How do you know you’re getting an ROI for your ads?  Or are you just continuing a habit of long standing?  I’m not suggesting you stop cold turkey.

There has always been an apparently endless stream of worthy ways to spend marketing money.  What I’ve discovered is that there’s always some part of that to be cut or reduced and nobody notices.  Certainly, people with ad blockers won’t notice.

9 replies
  1. Knut
    Knut says:

    Quick fix videos, review videos, and product research – its what everybody does on Youtube. Its important for retailers and brands to embrace this information research platform and create their own communities through this.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi Knut,
      Yes, I think that’s what I said. That goes way past just putting it out there.
      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Andre Niemeyer
    Andre Niemeyer says:

    Yes, online ad buys can show positive ROI on e-com sales and a bit more loosely on offline sales. Though in my experience, most companies fail to properly setup their analytics to have these insights. So we’re back to a more sophisticated version of pray and spray. That is, till companies setup their marketing loops properly. Thanks for the article Jeff.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Andre, I love the term “pray and spray.” Write the article on setting up the analytics correctly! It can be done right, but there’s a required level of effort that, as you say, a lot of people don’t want to undertake. Hmmm… It occurs to me that I’m one of those people.

      Thanks for the comment,

  3. Matthew Sper
    Matthew Sper says:

    Jeff, our family over the holiday just had this same discussion about going to YouTube and searching by Model # or Serial # for quick ‘fixes’. Replacing the motherboard on the refrigerator, seems like we all did it. But as you like to say does that build brand loyalty? I don’t know to be honest. You are having to fix a ‘broken’ product you paid for. Will you buy again from that company when you need to? As you say having the manufacturer out in front providing the fix might be the ticket to keeping them loyal the next time they need to purchase. For soft goods, I think it’s more about product exclusivity (which you have written about), but that’s for another discussion.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi Matthew,
      Clearly, shoes or clothing are not the same as a dishwasher. But I hypothesize that people, in general, have less of the blind brand loyalty than they used to have. Probably the inevitable result of a tough economy and transparent product information and pricing. The other thing that reduces brand loyalty is that products are increasingly seen as “disposable” or at least not meant to last a long time. Remember when appliance warranties were five years? Now you pay less initially, but end up spending more in repairs (I think) and the product doesn’t last longer. Why a brand that creates a less reliable product would expect brand loyalty is beyond me.

      Thanks for commenting,

      • Matthew Sperr
        Matthew Sperr says:

        Totally agree with this “Why a brand that creates a less reliable product would expect brand loyalty is beyond me.”, however I don’t think brands go out of their way to build a less reliable product. Or at least I hope they wouldn’t. I think we agree that when the brand realizes there is an issue they admit it, provide a solution, and help the consumer. If the brand provides solutions (rather than John Doe) via YouTube, Twitter, any social media platform I’m betting that builds brand loyalty even if the original product was sub-par to the consumers expectations. Thanks, enjoy all your articles and great early insight on Go-Pro. Cheers.

        • jeff
          jeff says:

          Hi Matthew,
          I don’t think they try to build less reliable products, but I believe they try (and should try) to take cost out at every opportunity. In appliances, that has certainly led to a decline in quality, or we’d still five year warranties. Certainly the “fast fashion” movement was all about reducing cost with a resulting reduction in quality. There is a balance between cost and quality and companies (not just in our industry) make market based decisions every day about how much longevity and quality to build in, or not build in, to their products.

          Thanks for the comment.

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