I’ve been out of the email newsletter business for a while, so I don’t know current cost per thousand (CPM) ad rates, but I estimate that a targeted shopping newsletter emailed to a couple million people gets around a $5 CPM. With millions (or actually 10s of millions) of consumers visiting shopping comparison engines every month, there’s amazing potential to use email newsletters as a significant revenue generating tool.
Even if that wasn’t the case, email newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with consumers and notify them about special deals/promos, new items of interest, or advice on buying the latest and greatest red sweater. Newsletters can be all about selling, all about engaging, all about educating, or all about nothing (hey, it worked for Seinfeld). When done right, they encourage loyalty and therefore drive down acquisition costs and increase lifetime value.
Newsletters alone are great, and PriceGrabber and MySimon have two of the best shopping comparison engine newsletters out there…MySimon even puts a link to its newsletter on every page of its site. Smart.
In this day of that wacky thing called the world wide web, though, the shopping comparison engines are missing the boat on an incredible opportunity. Blogging. I know all the excuses for not blogging…blogs are only read by other bloggers…blogs are so cliche…blogs are so yesterday…we don’t have the time to blog…we’re a technology company, not a blogging company…email newsletters are good enough…
Enough negativity. Blogs are read by many people besides bloggers. Bloggers can be cliche, but if done correctly, they can be innovative and powerful. To start out, it will take 10 minutes a day to blog. You have time…and more importantly, blogs can pay for themselves (more in a bit). If you’re just a technology company, you could hire an editor (again, I’ll talk about the economics in a second). If email newsletters work for you, at least test out this additional acquisition channel.
-Quality blogs quickly and efficiently get picked up by search engines
If your SEO team hasn’t insisted on developing blogs, the whole team should be fired. Seriously. All the shopping comparison engines rely heavily on organic traffic from search engines. Type in any shopping term into Google or Yahoo! and you can see the shopping engines duking it out. And you’ll see listings for multiple engines owned by the same company…Dealtime is Shopping.com, Calibex is NexTag, etc. A blog will enable you to potentially get another listing high on the search engine.
-Blogs can drive sales.
I know you’re skeptical, so bear with me for a second. SparkleLikeTheStars, produced by Ice.com, is the best shopping blog on the web. The blog dishes celebrity fashion, style, and gossip along with a healthy dose of what Ice.com knows best, Jewelry. Each post takes a look at the jewelry a celebrity is wearing and recommends similar products sold by Ice.com so everyone can sparkle like the stars. And you know what? It drives sales. It was started on a whim, but soon turned into a real sales channel with a dedicated resource. I can’t remember the revenue figures Pinny Gniwish mentioned at Internet Retailer earlier this year, but we’re talking about serious dough. And combined with the boost in natural search traffic to Ice.com, SparkleLikeTheStars (along with Ice.com’s other blogs) is a success story.
Glam’s blog network is another great example. I don’t know about the overall business model of the company, but sites like What’s Haute and Getting Hitched could easily be duplicated by the shopping comparison engines…add a couple links to selected products as seen in SparkleLikeTheStars…and you’re off to the races.
Ok, I’m not saying this a full proof strategy or that blogging will be an overnight success, but at the very least, it’s worth a test. And this can be fun. Take a chance. Follow the lead of the Evogear which is testing out some blogs right now. Nathan Decker, Evogear’s Director of eCommerce explains:
I do have a couple of more “progressive” *blush* marketing initiatives in the works. I am developing a tributary content network designed to serve 3 purposes, 1) to communicate the flavor of our company (anti-notfunny component & authenticity / credibility) 2) to feed qualified traffic to evogear.com 3) to give various solid team members a side project to leverage creativity and talent.
Right now we have 2 live content nodes. Check out MugatuSays and Evo Update both managed by team members here at Evo. My only reservation about Mugatu is that it may violate our core value of Respect… its just so damn funny. We will see how that evolves moving forward. We have another content node in the works which will feature comprehensive reviews of products by our buying team who all have a tremendous amount of head knowledge but no mechanism to get it out there to the world as of yet.
Check out this MugatuSays post. Ok, I don’t expect every company to be willing to take blogging to this extreme, but at least listen to Nathan’s tip “to give various solid team members a side project to leverage creativity and talent.” Now, Evogear has a long way to go, but at least the company is testing.
1. Get a newsletter up and running immediately. 2 million subscribers at a $5 CPM can net over $100K a year.
2. At the very least, post your email newsletters on your website close to the root domain (don’t send people to mail.nameofemailprovider.com/email/nameofcompany, send them to http://www.nameofcompany.com/email) so it will get spidered by the search engines. Oh, and add a ‘subscribe to newsletter’ link to every page of your site. This is e-commerce 101.
3. Cross out #2 and post your emails as blog entries.
4. Hire (or poach) a blogger with a passion (toys, shoes, camcorders, blenders…it really doesn’t matter), pay them $40,000 base salary + a commission based on revenue attained through the blog.
5. Get every merchant account representative to blog about great deals, cool products, ugliest dresses, etc. This will not only create a network of blogs, but even more importantly, will create a more engaging and rewarding relationship with your merchants. Merchants will want to talk to their account reps to get highlighted in the blogs. Account reps will better understand the goals of their merchants. Win-win.
6. Be creative. SparkleLikeTheStars, What’s Haute, and Mugatu Says are the tip of the iceberg. Do a little research, sit down with the cooler kids at your company, check out MySpace groups, ask me for some ideas (but if you’re a comparison engine, don’t try to pay me). Read ComparisonEngines. Ok, I didn’t say it explicitly, but I’m still waiting for Shopzilla to start up a blog featuring comics and associated products from Peanuts, Dilbert, and Over The Hedge (yes, United Media, a Scripps company owns the right to the comic which the upcoming movie is based on). And where was the nice tie in with the Scripps National Spelling Bee/Akeelah and the Bee? (Sorry, David!)
7. Just test. We’re all busy. This is most likely a low priority, but it’s also low hanging fruit.