Saturday, February 14, 2009

Online Shopping Trends, Service Rants, Cool Sites and More!

ShopWorthy Water Cooler

How Much Does Social Media Influence Your Buying Decisions?

Hey, I hate to talk out of school about some of the crowd we hang with, but if you listen to all to all the Internet Marketers, social networking for business is akin to the Second Coming.

Here's an article by Sarah Perez on ReadWriteWeb (which is actually a very cool blog and rated "top 20" by Technorati) that talks about the growing link between social media and shopping.

Our question for you, gentle readers, and especially any of you who may be "Gen Y", is this: "What influences your buying decisions?" Here's what Sarah has to say...

Sarah says: "Want To Market To Gen Y? Get on Facebook"

"According to research from shopping comparison site PriceGrabber. Some 85% of Gen Y respondents said they participated in social networking, and 57% reported involvement with blogs. In order to market to Gen Y, web retailers are now starting to use social media to do so. According to an August 2008 survey by Internet Retailer, 39.3% of retail respondents use social networks for marketing purposes, 32% have a page on Facebook, 27% are on MySpace, and 26% are on YouTube."

"...There are now more ways than ever for customers to share their experiences with others online. A 2008 study conducted by the Society for New Communications Research for Nuance Communications found nearly three-quarters choose retailers and products based on others' customer care experiences shared online. In addition to word-of-mouth and other trusted sources like Consumer Reports, respondents found information about others' customer care experiences online in the following ways:" (see graphic)

So, back to our question, shopping lovers, what influences your decision to buy or not buy? Does social media matter? Is it Web 2.0 functionality, like's product ratings?

Which of the things on this list ring your bell? And by that, we mean, what influences your buying decisions?

We would love to hear some feedback about this via a comment or an email to us at Mail @

The train has indeed left the station, but as far as we can tell, it's still moving pretty slowly, perhaps picking up steam gradually (like most "trends"). Here is an article from PRoactive, Sally Falkow's blog on PR trends. It's about Social Media Shopping on FaceBook. Note the date - November 05, 2007, well over a year ago.

In part, Sarah writes: "When Facebook members buy something at a commerce site, they can let those in their Facebook networks know about the purchase, passing along information on the item as well as a discount or coupon. The service will bring a sort of easily tracked viral element to online shopping. Two other people described it as part of a larger plan by Facebook that will allow data about Facebookers' online transactions and interactions to circulate within their social graphs."

Has anyone actually seen someone on Facebook sharing a purchase with their network? How often do you see it happen?

To us, social media is a great branding opportunity, as well as a customer service and customer retention strategy. But on our side of the fence as e-tailers, if you subtract all the hype, I think we're all still figuring out whether it will lead to increased sales or not. Again, we would love to hear some thoughtful arguments about this - especially from any online shoppers. (A notable possible exception may be Twitter - PRoactive's 2/9/09 headline on Twitter challenging Google is an interesting side note, as is the fact that Twitter has raised another $35 million.)

And by the way, follow us on
Twitter at


Well, Here's a Good Slap in the Face for Ya

According to BBB statistics and reported by our friends at the Wall Street Journal, here are the most complained-about industries of 2008. How sad to see "Internet Shopping" at number 4 on the list. Ouch.

1. Cellular phones, service & equipment

2. Auto dealers — new cars
3. Banks

4. Internet shopping!! (Ouch again)
5. Television — cable, CATV & satellite

6. Collection agencies
7. Auto dealers — used cars

8. Furniture — retail
9. Telephone companies
10. Satellite equipment & supplies

11. Internet services
12. Auto repair & service
13. Financial services
14. Computers — dealers
15. Credit cards & plans

This reminds me of a company I once worked for. We surveyed our customers and asked them what they looked for in a sales/service rep who was handling their account. The number one answer? "Someone who returns our phone calls." That always blew my mind. But as I look at this list, and think about my service experiences over the past year, I can tell damning service stories about a cellular phone company, a furniture retailer, an auto dealer, our Internet service, a big-box computer reseller, a bank and a credit card company. And sadly, we do have an online shopping blunder to whine about - caused by the disconnect between the online arm and the brick and mortar arm of an electronics giant. (Left hand, meet right hand.) It worked out, thanks to a good local manager, but it almost created a really sticky Christmas problem.

Service Interruptus

I guess this isn't any major revelation, but this subject always gets me going. What's happened to service?!

We recently learned that a customer's Valentine's order wasn't likely to arrive by Valentine's Day, due to a miscommunication between one of our suppliers and UPS. We felt sick when we saw the update on UPS's site, showing that the package would arrive after the special day. Then, after endless conversations with multiple people at our supplier and at UPS, none of whom really seemed to care, we paid to have UPS reroute the current shipment back to us, and reshipped the order using rush shipping, to get it there on time for certain. In the end, when you do the math, I doubt there was much profit in that order for us, and frankly, I don't care. Disappointing a customer would have been so much worse.

So, dear readers, we'd like to hear about one of two things from you on this:
  • Tell us a horror story about online-shopping-gone-wrong
  • Tell us an online-shopping service-recovery story, where someone went above and beyond to help you or make things right
I sure hope there are more of the latter.

I Can Tell You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Oops, sorry. This story isn't THAT kind of "classified." Apparently, again according to the happy writers at the Tech desk at the WSJ,"Internet auctioneer eBay Inc. is looking to expand its global classified-ad business by taking advantage of an economic slowdown to buy promising private companies with low valuations." Or, eBay plans to buy some online classified ad companies. This is somewhat old news, I suppose, but gears grind slowly so it's still going on.

According to author Scott Morrison, "EBay, based in San Jose, Calif., in 2004 and 2005 spent hundreds of millions of dollars to buy about 25% of Craigslist, North America's top online classifieds site, as well Germany's, Marktplaats of the Netherlands and Spain's Loquo. It also launched Kijiji, a classifieds site available in more than 20 countries."

You can check out the article in detail here.

Interesting to read that experts estimate the offline and online classified industry to be worth $100 billion (with a "b"). I guess eBay should be rethinking something, because the long slide (to right) started well before the recent economic pressures started pushing it down.

Compare to Amazon (below) who felt the pain but has bounced back.

Seems like the fixed-price format may be winning out over the auction craze. An eBay story on MarketWatch this week seems to confirm this, with retailers looking to hold onto more of their already slim margins (which both eBay and their partner PayPal, eat into).

Another MarketWatch article from January lays out additional eBay and auction model struggles.

So it seems, shoppers, that you prefer the "deal with the discount" over the "bid for the buck." It will be interesting to see this play out, for sure.

Shameless Self Promotion: Refer-A-Friend & Save from 25-40%!

Okay, we really try hard not to do this on our blog, but we need to break protocol for this one. We've teamed up with to create a cool promotion that we are excited about. Our
DreamWorthy Gifts' Refer-A-Friend & Save program will save shoppers from 25-40% with a “Pay It Forward” referral campaign that creates a Circle of Savings among friends.

See our press release on PRlog at for more details, but here's how it works:
Shoppers can refer friends through a special Refer-A-Friend banner on our home page, and friends will receive a coupon for 25% off. When friends buy, referrers receive a coupon for 40% off their next order. Friends can refer their friends, and the circle of savings continues. There is no limit to the number of friends someone can refer, or the number of 40% off coupons one can collect. It’s the only way to shop!

Okay, propoganda over. It's safe to go back in the water

Savvy Shopper

Budget Well, So You Can Shop More

Hey savvy shoppers, we know that many of you are very budget-conscious, so we thought of you when we ran across these sites. They're not shopping specific, but hey, budgeting is
budgeting. Or is it? You'll need to decide, but here are some sites that can help.

According to the fresh folks over at, they offer easy setup, easy budgeting, and best of all, it’s free. You can find ways to save, reduce your debt, see where you spend, uncover hidden fees, and track your investments. Mint offers 24/7 protection, with an emphasis on safety and security. You can get timely alerts, see helpful graphs, and get mobile access including Mint on your iPhone. has been named the best online personal finance tool by Money Magazine, PC Magazine, and is PC World’s Editor’s Choice. Good for you, Mint.

Read more About Mint and check out the rest of their site, if interested.

In case you've been living in a cave in Barbados since 1984 or on an island with Jack, Kate, Sawyer and John, you'll recognize Quicken as a budgeting resource.
You can read more about Quicken here but they have been around a long time, are also free, and have a lot of cool services as well. They're cool enough to have a Facebook account. You can follow them on Twitter or follow their blog.

says they are "part money management tool, part community." They go on to say, "We believe that one person's good financial decision can be leveraged to an entire community. Experts call this collective intelligence. And we have a whole community of people reaping the rewards of it every day. Find solutions to your money problems… you're not alone in wanting a better financial life."

Wesabe is part financial software, part community. With Wesabe, you can see all your bank accounts and credit cards in one place, categorize your transactions how you want, see spending and earning summaries, discuss things with other interested people, and receive tips for saving money based on your spending. The heavy community focus makes them interesting - check out the FAQ and About pages for more info, and of course, check out their blog.

And Now For Advice From a REEEEAAAAAALLLLY SMART Person

A new Twitter friend, Jim, writes a blog called Bargaineering - Engineering a Richer Life. We're poking fun with the above title, as usual, so we want to be clear that we think Jim really is a sharp young man, we're fans of Jim's blog, and - of course, we particularly love this post - titled: 8 Reasons To Do All Your Shopping Online.

We encourage you to read his full article, but here are the eight reasons:
  • Reason 1: Better Prices
  • Reason 2: Price Matching
  • Reason 3: No Sales Tax Collected
  • Reason 4: It’s In Stock
  • Reason 5: No Driving, Less Gas
  • Reason 6: Historical Order Record
  • Reason 7: Special Offers and Coupons
  • Reason 8: More and Longer Online Sales
We love you, Jim. In the most appropriate, platonic way, of course.

I had an urge to reverse that list, add a drum roll, and do a Letterman-like Top 8 count-down, but I fought it off. I know you are now silently thanking me for my restraint.)

Slick Willy Had Nothing on These Guys is, well, pretty slick. In their own words, "Founded in 1999, is a free, user-driven deal sharing site with a mission to provide consumers an avenue to collaborate and share information in order to make the best shopping decisions. Slickdeals achieves this by providing its users a forum for communication and various shopping tools. prides itself on being user and community focused, never allowing paid placement for frontpage deal listings."

Slickdeals includes everything from tech gadgets to running shoes. On the site, you can see:
  • Frontpage Deals
  • Hot Topics - popular items by ratings
  • Up and Coming Topics - popular items by activity level
  • They also offer a massive number of Coupons that you can use at your favorite stores, Forums for sharing deals, freebies, coupons, contests and more, a Blog at and a Tools section where you can do some deal and shopping research.
  • Keeping up with our need for instant gratification, they offer RSS feeds, deal alerts, and support m-commerce through Slickdeals for mobile phones.
Read more About them and check out their site.

And with that said, we'll wrap up our ShopWorthy post for now. Thanks for reading, and as always, happy shopping!

Until next time,

Your friends and Shopping Advisors at DreamWorthy Gifts

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