Archive for the ‘Online Marketing’ Category

Where does Amazon collect sales tax? Why?

July 28, 2015

One of the things that I about Amazon was that my orders didn’t get dinged with sales taxes.

That was then, this is now.

In 2013, I was disappointed to see Amazon start collecting sales taxes in Virginia (my home state).

But, no collected sales tax in Maryland – next state over – where we have a summer vacation shack. shack and a branch of the family tree.

Hmmm …

The arbitrage opportunity evaporated in 2014 when Amazon started collecting sales tax in Maryland.




Some recent purchases sparked my curiosity .  What’s going on?  Are there still arbitrage opportunities?


What percentage of retail sales are done online?

July 17, 2015

Got to thinking about this since recently ….

Amazon Prime is pushing hard for sign-ups and online activity.

Conter-indicator: Recently, I’ve done more store-shopping than I have for a while.



Bought a TV from Best Buy online and satisfied my need for instant gratification by picking it up at a local store.

Glad I did, because the TV had an “issue” and needed to be replaced … a quick 2nd trip to the store got me up & running with virtually no hassle.

Bought a new boat motor at West Marine.

Shopped for one online, wanted to touch the real thing.

Glad that I did because I ended up having a seasoned pro salesman introduce me to a motor technology that I didn’t even knew existed – eco-friendly propane powered outboards.

Bought one.

That said, my 30-something kids scoff that they by everything online.

Sound familiar?

OK, so what’s the answer?

What percentage of retail sales are now being done online?


Remember when e-commerce was going to take over the planet?

August 26, 2014

From the HBR blog site: “The Myth of E-Commerce Domination” …

Forrester’s data on the top 30 product categories (which account for 97% of total e-commerce sales) indicates that e-commerce growth is clearly slowing overall:



If historical trends continue, e-commerce’s share of retail will rise from 11% today to about 18% in 2030, way below projections from a few years ago.

Of course, 18% isn’t shabby, but it’s not exactly world domination.

What’s going on?


USPS: When you absolutely, positively need it today … say, what?

February 13, 2013

It’s the internet’s fault that you may no longer be getting letters delivered on Saturdays anymore.

Yet, the internet could be the USPS’ salvation as Amazon and others look to offer same day delivery.



Here’s what’s happening …


Price War: Targeting online retailers

January 11, 2013

Target is sick & tiered of being “showroomed”.


According to USA Today


Wal-Mart to Amazon: BRING IT

October 16, 2012

Punch line: Wal-Mart is launching a new same-day delivery service to compete against this holiday season.  Wal-Mart boasts a huge network of stores to ship product from, but Amazon has effective operational efficiencies and loyal customers.  This season, who will win the holiday war?

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Excerpted from WSJ’s “Wal-Mart Delivery Service Says to Amazon: “Bring It.”

In its latest bid to take on Internet powerhouse this holiday season, Wal-Mart is promising same-day delivery in some cities for orders placed online.  The retailer began testing the new service in select cities last week and says it will cost $10 regardless of the size of the order.


Called Wal-Mart To Go, the products will be shipped from the company’s stores, not from a warehouse or distribution center.   Over the past several years, Wal-Mart has launched several attacks on its online rival, including a price war over best-selling books three years ago.

This time, Wal-Mart is betting that its network of thousands of stores … can help it compete head to head with Amazon, which has increasingly stressed fast, free or low-cost deliveries.

But shipping from stores, rather than from warehouses as Amazon does, is expensive, analysts said.  It can be three to four times the cost for the retailer to pick items and pack them from a store versus having a really efficient, automated process back in a distribution center.

Wal-Mart has been ramping up its e-commerce business, which employs 1,000 workers in San Bruno, Calif.  The retail giant has acquired nearly a dozen start-ups to help broaden its online presence and developed @Walmart Labs, its Silicon Valley tech shop that has revamped the website and mobile applications to make them more competitive with Amazon and other online retailers.

Wal-Mart also has been trying to compete with Amazon’s prices inside its stores. In some, it has quietly begun matching the online retailer’s prices when customers ask, a practice historically done only against local brick-and-mortar competitors.

Wal-Mart also has been trying to use its stores to tap into millions of shoppers who either don’t have credit or debit cards or don’t feel comfortable disclosing their personal financial information online.  In April, the retailer began a program that allows customers to order merchandise online and pay for it at a store with cash.

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Gap’s integrated e-commerce sites lead to success

November 8, 2010

TakeAway: Many companies struggle to connect the e-commerce sites of their various brands, preferring a verticalization strategy instead.

Gap Inc. is an exception, having made it easy for customers to move between its various sites.

As a result, traffic for each site has increased, and so has sales.

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Excerpted from Advertising Age, “What Media Companies Can Learn From The Gap,” by Zuobin He, September 28, 2010

For the past three years, Gap’s online commerce has been thriving despite a deep worldwide recession. … Gap’s overall net sales fell 10% in this period, but its online store sales grew 33% … How’d they do it? Well, a superb web site that leverages multiple brands

In mid April of 2008, Gap’s e-commerce store changed its small font, simple linking header to an eye-catching, bold tab-shaped design. This change has enabled customers to navigate between brands with ease. … Prior to the change, only 25% of’s downstream traffic went to company’s other brands. … That percentage increased to 55% by the end of Aug. 2008.

…’s referral traffic from, its sister brand was only 12% with little or no traffic from the other brands prior to its redesign. The same traffic from jumped to 26%. … In the meantime, as a referral traffic source was down from 10.1% to 8.6% while its downstream traffic to was also down from 6% to 3%.’s reliance on Google decreased substantially. This means customers no longer use a “vehicle” to get to the Gap’s online store. In short, Gap’s smart design not only increased its sales, it also eased the burden on marketing staff’s acquisition and retention efforts because its number of visitors and the time those visitors spend have substantially increased since then. …

One major challenge … is finding ways to leverage their individual brand power and optimize the entire portfolio at the same time. Many executives and producers believe not every brand is created equal. Each has its own appeal to a specific customer base. For that reason, some have been employing a search engine friendly, SEO/SEM heavy “verticalization” strategy to extent its reach. There is nothing wrong with leveraging the power of search engines, but this strategy will only work if the Gap-like cross linking implementation is in place. Short of that, it can lead to brand isolation.

… from an analytic perspective, it is clear that every click is purpose-driven and consumers only reward those who understand their behavior, whether you are a commerce site, or a media-content site.

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Full Article

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Obama, Rush, sex … what’s the connection ?

May 20, 2010

Punch line: Online, article headlines have to be descriptive and direct when they show up in mobile and RSS feeds … and they have to contain key words that play to search engine algorithms.  It’s called ‘search engine optimization’.

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Excerpted from NYT: Taylor Momsen Did Not Write This Headline,  May 16, 2010

People who worry that Web headlines dumb down public discourse are probably right.

Headlines in newspapers and magazines were once written with readers in mind, to be clever or catchy or evocative.

Now headlines are just there to get the search engines to notice. It’s called SEO — search engine optimization.

A story about whether the president would play golf with Rush Limbaugh might be headlined: “Obama Rejects Rush Limbaugh Golf Match and Says ‘He Can Play With Himself.’ ”

It would be a digital mega-hit: two highly searched proper nouns followed by a smutty entendre, a headline that both the red and the blue may be compelled to click, and the readers of the site can have a laugh while the headline delivers great visibility out on the Web.

But the need to attract attention from computer-generated algorithms sometimes makes the headlines seem like a machine thought them up as well …  it leads to a sameness that can make all the information seem as if it were generated by the same traffic-loving robot.

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Google: potentially a great tactic, almost always a poor strategy

December 11, 2009

Key Takeaway: As a brand manager, your marketing mix will most always consist of an online strategy. A simple solution may be to maximize your brand’s visibility on Google.

While this may be a successful tactic, it should not represent the entire online strategy.

Remember to always focus on how your consumer gathers information about your product; this may lead you to further explore other online avenues.

Your online strategy should be a means for customers to further understand and interact with your brand, not simply a way for the masses to be bombarded with a link to its website.

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Excerpted from ClickZ “Google is Not a Strategy” by Robin Neifeld, December 2, 2009

Google isn’t a strategy, or even an e-marketing strategy.

Google is a tremendously robust search partner for marketers, but it’s one partner in the tactical execution of search, where search may be one of the channels used in an overall e-marketing strategy.

If you’re ever tempted to believe that covering brand, product, category, long tail terms, or even the content network on Google means you’re effectively reaching the active Internet universe, you’re mistaken.

By limiting your reach to Google’s reach, you’re still neglecting more than you’re finding and missing whole aspects of the consumer — or B2B — experience online.

Some people are still attached to alternate engines or use some combination of engines. They also search in industry vertical engines, especially in a B2B environment.

A growing segment of the population shops online, and the number and diversity of comparison shopping engines have grown to meet their needs.

Nearly everyone searches, but not everyone uses Google, or uses Google exclusively. Even if you’re wed to search as a singular tactic, try to include more search partners.

…an electronics product decision maker might start with search, follow an ad or social media link, or they might visit retail sites to view options and pricing. Almost certainly a large portion of them will utilize consumer shopping engines to get deals, coupon sites to take advantage of promotions, and technology communities to get the insiders’ reviews and ratings. They might also utilize their own networks through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or other avenues to solicit advice from trusted sources. An effective strategy in this case would need to be broader than search and even shopping engines to include contextually relevant placements, a content strategy, and social media to make sure your product was in the considered set.

If your digital strategy is limited to those who already know to search for you in some form, then your strategy is limited in many ways. Smart marketers use search and a number of other avenues to supply their audiences with the answers to their stated or implied questions. It’s a grievous mistake to assume that all users are alike or that all users are in the same stage of their discovery or buying cycle.

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ESPN to sports fanatics: Get out your wallet … ESPN to advertisers: Get out your wallet, too.

June 24, 2009

Ken’s Take: It’s no secret that click through response rates to online ads) is miniscule.  A current hot topic is whether “engaged” or “attentive” site visitors are more ad responsive.  Conventional wisdom says ‘yes’.  If true, sites with engaged visitors should be able to command higher ad rates.

Couple that with longstanding wisdom that people take stuff more seriously when they pay for it. and you have a new formula for online profits: generate revenue by charging a subscription fee for site access, and sell advertisers on the notion that they should pay more for an engaged base of exposures.

Might work … if the content is powerful and the base of subscribers is big enough.

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Excerpted from Business Week, “ESPN Bets Sports Fanatics Will Pay for Online”, June 4, 2009

ESPN The Magazine, the decade-old print offshoot of Walt Disney (DIS)’s wildly successful cable sports network, is about to begin charging $6.95 a month for access to its Web site.

At a time when many media companies are merely jawboning about demanding fees from online users, this magazine is doubling down on it.

More broadly, such a move by a well-known name will plumb whether a paying customer equals a more enthralled customer—the term in the trade is “engaged”—and a more valuable target for advertisers as well.

ESPN The Magazine is well placed to test these waters. Rabid sports fans have bottomless appetites for sports info and the universe of data, jargon, and inside jokes surrounding it. 

“There is an audience that just loves games” and flits on and off sports sites only to grab scores, says Editor-in-Chief Rob King. But others “love the in-between stuff—the predictive stuff that helps them be smarter fans.” They’re the people the company is banking on. It also helps that many like to wager on sports, though ESPN doesn’t say so: When information can be translated into currency, people pay for it. Insider’s most popular features include data, tools, and deep-dig analyses geared to fantasy-league players and other stat geeks, and “Rumor Central,” which gathers and comments on sports tidbits from other media, such as newspapers and local call-in radio shows.

“Why is it, in this business, we are apologetic when asking [consumers] to pay for what we give them online?”

There is a a case that a subscribing customer is more “engaged” and thus more valuable to marketers than one who hops from one free site to another.

But, industry observers warn that it’s not a sure thing that an obsessive fan’s focus on ESPN Insider also means “there is more engagement with advertising.” That’s a debate that ESPN will presumably take up later, should it persuade more readers to pay up online.

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