Archives for category: Sales

The fantastic end-to-end experience we get when we shop at Amazon has serious repercussions for our experiences when we shop on other ecommerce sites. This is especially true for us in Ireland when we want to shop on Irish websites.

I was reminded of this recently when I was trying to buy two items on the Currys PC World website. I selected the two items and went to my basket to check out. The first item, incredibly, was not available for posting to me – WTF! – so it offered me click and collect. I selected my closest store and it said it was out of stock. Yes, I was at the checkout stage. The closest store was in Dublin, over 100 miles away. S0 that’s €30 on fuel and a full day to pick up an item that cost €30…

I moved down to the second item. This was not available for click and collect – why not? – but was available for online delivery. With me so far? I filled in my billing details and clicked ‘continue’. No good, WTF! 2. I had to go back up and delete the first item that was only available in practically the next time zone. When I deleted the top item the page refreshed and left the bottom item in the checkout but wiped all of my hitherto completed payment details – WTF! 3.

None of these WTF! moments would have occurred on the Amazon site. I left the Currys PC World site feeling that its experience is so excremental compared to Amazon. We become so conditioned to how good the Amazon buying experience is, and the experience itself, by which I mean the shopping process they take us though – that it negatively predisposes us against other vendors.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I do the vast bulk of my online shopping on Amazon and why they’re hoovering up business.


Blanket banner advertising

Online advertising is getting more and more targeted, as you’d expect. Companies and websites are getting better at collecting and mining customer information so that they can deliver more targeted ads which have a higher chance of converting, since in theory they resonate and are more relevant.

That doesn’t stop the odd bit of blanket advertising. Here’s one I got earlier in the year from M&S, promoting their Big & Tall range. I’m far from big and I’m far from tall. Surely if this is just a bulk buy from hotmail then it’s not appropriate for a section of the population in the high 90’s per cent?

I get lots of such ads to my hotmail account. I can tell you that they’re not remotely targeted. The only ones that are targeted are when I’ve abandoned a purchase on an ecommerce-savvy website like Amazon, and then it presents back to me the exact product I was either researching or declined to purchase.

To understand why companies still persist with untargeted ads and their microscopically small click-through rates, you have to put yourself in their shoes. Perhaps they don’t get the data from the owner of the space. Perhaps the click-through rates are still worth it. Perhaps the front-of-mind awareness, which has always been so hard to measure in the traditional offline world, is good enough for them.

Either way, it’s hard to believe that this form of untargeted online advertising has much of a shelf life.


We all feel the pinch from time to time and need to watch the pennies. At least some things are genuinely free, like air. That’s true in a narrow sense but many types and formats of air are not free. In some cases, the air we want to put into our vehicle tyres to keep them safe and economical is not free.

These days at fuel stations you tend to see large automated machines that provide you with air and water on payment of a coin, typically a euro or a pound. Other fuel stations have free air dispensers, but they don’t work much of the time, or the gauge is broken or illegible.

Air is part of the overall service that a fuel station provides, along with a host of other vehicle- and house-related items.

In my town there are 3 fuel stations. They have a tendency to converge on exactly the same price, even down to the tenth of a cent per litre, which is worth another post in itself. I have a policy, where prices in my locality are comparable, to buy my full tank of fuel – about €80 – at the station that has a free and regularly functioning air dispenser, so I can check my tyres too.

You reward the suppliers who have your long-term interests at heart and who try to provide a more rounded service, some elements of which may cost them money, but which they recoup in spades.

When I drink a pint of booze I often think about the effort that went in to getting it into my hands and to my lips. Someone had to grow the ingredients, then harvest them. Somebody had to take the ingredients, combine them with other ingredients that they didn’t have to grow but still acquire, and using skill, technology, equipment and time produce a barrel of beer.

Somebody then had to warehouse the barrel, schedule it for delivery and get someone to distribute it to a licensed place that served booze. Finally, somebody to had to set up the barrel, connect it to some pipes, pour the product into a glass and serve it to me in their furnished, heated, cleaned building.

A pint is generally 20% either side of €4.50. It lasts about 10 to 30 minutes, depending both on its number in a sequence of beers and my mood.

Does that not strike you as being ludicrously good value? The effort that’s gone into producing the lovely, creamy work of art that should be in front of me right now, as I write this on a Friday evening.

Whenever I want to pay for something, anything, that’s relatively small, I use the pint benchmark:

Is this item expensive compared to a pint? Does it provide comparable value to me?

Then I act on my decision accordingly.

A spent a few enjoyable hours the other day in the company of the excellently apostrophised and excellent Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2018. This weighty tome’s reputation precedes it, as you probably know, and justifiably so. This was my first owned copy and it is indeed an invaluable resource.

It’s true what they say, and it’s repeatedly endorsed by all the published authors who contribute guest articles: everything you need to know about publishing and getting published is in this book.

One thing that struck me though was this: is the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook for young people? You wouldn’t have thought so. In fact, the readership is probably on the older side. All those people who’ve promised themselves to be true to the notion that they’ve a novel in them, now with a little more time on their hands and a still-burning ambition.

My point is this: the book is over 800 pages long and packed with useful information. Packed being the operative word, since…

..the print is tiny, really hard to read, even with reading glasses on. It’s a book for young eyes. I know it’s not simply an option to raising the point size a couple of points and making the book 1,000 or 1,200 pages long, since that might price the book at the point where people are put off. It’s a good job, though, that the information is invaluable since the size of the type is a turn-off.

Also, I have a suggestion for improving this esteemed organ. Why not have a section listing the literary agents by genre? There is a section doing the same with publishers. It should be relatively easy to do, and stops the reader having to wade through every single agent blurb to get to the nub: do they specialise in my area? This might also stop the majority of agents from the lazy, don’t-want-to-miss-the-next-big-thing catch-all of listing that they cater to ‘all’ fiction and non-fiction genres, all of whom I ignored.

I wrote recently about how many of us are in front of a device keyboard all day and manage to get by with 2 or 4-finger typing, rather than potentially the 10 digits at our disposal. When was the last time you saw a job ad for an predominantly office-based role that wasn’t for a PA or secretary that said ‘since the majority of your time is desk-bound, you must be able to type 50 words a minute or more to apply’?

When I had a few months off between jobs about 15 years ago, I went to a typing course. I didn’t last more than a couple of weeks. Even though I wasn’t working, I couldn’t spare the lost productivity while my typing speed was cut into a quarter of ‘slow’. I didn’t have the time to engrain the behaviours to see the long term benefit.

Because I’ve probably typed a million words since then, I’ve improved my typing ‘organically’. I’ve made it up as I go along. My organic typing is now a flurry of activity as hands cross over each other and fingers overlap. I look like a piano player when I type, and it’s hardly a virtuoso performance.

Interestingly, one of my brothers can type properly, and he’s had some issues with RSI – repetitive strain injury. I wonder if the act of anchoring your wrists down more and being more regimented with the spaces your fingers occupy makes you more prone to these injuries of ‘isolation’ compared to the organic way of letting the fingers go where they want to and damn the downturn in efficiency.

How many of us spend large amounts of time at a computer, device, smartphone or other digital device? What do we do on them? Well, principally we’re typing our part of some dialogue.

Isn’t it amazing that computers have formed the central role in our working and playing lives yet so few of us can type properly? What a bonus it would be to type as fast as we can talk, as fast as we can think even. How much more productive could we be?

Many of us continue to get by on 2-finger typing. I’ve graduated to 4-finger typing, with the occasional thumb for the space bar and the pinkie for the return key, when I don’t use the dictate function on my mac. It’s still painfully slow, but it’s progress of a kind I suppose.

I find it flabbergasting that the primary and secondary schools my kids go to don’t get typing and keyboarding lessons. Boys and girls both need it; it’s an essential skill for the modern world, even if we never type anything during our working day.

We’re all looking at the keyboard, when we should be looking at the screen. There’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere.

It’s a bit of a mouthful, this blog post title, but stay with me for a minute or two please.

I fell between the consumer cracks the other day. I needed a product immediately, and I don’t live in a big metropolis where I can get something delivered to me within an hour of an online submission, nor would I take that route for one item.

I needed some fresh sour cream for a taco dinner with the family. It was the only ingredient I didn’t have. I needed it within the half hour. It’s safe to say that it’s a fairly long tail item, even within the realm of fast moving consumer goods, or FMCG. There is one large supermarket, one medium-sized supermarket, one small supermarket and one corner store within a few minutes’ drive.

I went to the large supermarket, my regular place, first, where I normally get said ingredient. They were out, and there was none in the back, as the manufacturer fulfils them directly onto the shelves in the morning. The corner shop didn’t stock sour cream. The medium sized supermarket was closed (it was 6:45pm). My last resort, the small supermarket, didn’t stock sour cream any more because it was an item they never sold much of and went off quite quickly.

Boom, no sour cream for dinner. No-one to blame here, except me for leaving it too late. No criticism of the retail outlets; why they should go the extra distance for the chance of making a buck or 2 on an obscure item?

Just one ticked off consumer, a casualty of what sometimes happens with in-store long tail FMCG goods.

Do you subscribe to a lot of email newsletters? I do, partly because I’m interested in the content but also because some of what I do touches on the design and production of them. I almost never unsubscribe to them either. I prefer to scan the subject line, give them 2 seconds and delete, rather than missing out on some nuggets.

So it’s fair to say, then, that I’m a fairly experienced writer and consumer of them, in both B2C and B2B environments. I have read up a fair amount on best practices for getting people to open them and beyond.

Here’s my most obvious tip. Don’t title them This Month’s Newsletter. It just doesn’t cut it, especially to a sophisticated reader who gets a lot of them.

Putting that in the subject line offers nothing to the reader and pretty much guarantees a rubbish open rate. There’s no indication of the subject matter lying within which might be of interest, so readers can self-select. There’s no call to action or invitation. This Month’s Newsletter is focused on the sender of the newsletter, not its intended recipients.

This Month’s Newsletter…who cares?

Time flies when you’re having fun. It drags horribly if you’re bored.

Sometimes you need more time and it seems to slip away quickly. Paradoxically, I’ve found that the harder you work, the slower the time seems to go past. Let me offer an analogy.

When you’re running on a treadmill, and you’re jogging or running more slowly – perhaps in your recovery phase – the time seems to gallop past. When you run faster and really work on the treadmill, the time seems to crawl past.

When I’m up against a deadline I find that if I work harder it has the effect of slowing down the time. Now, of course, you could argue that the harder you work the more you can get done in the same time – just as you can cover more distance in the same time on the treadmill – but the point is you feel more in control of the time rather than it being in control of you. This approach also works if you’re bored.

So there you go, work harder to slow down time if you’re busy, and work harder to speed up time if you’re bored. You heard it here first. Or maybe you knew it already.