Monday, 24 December 2012

Season's Greetings!

Just getting everything ready for Christmas . . . which means cleaning the house from top to bottom (almost done), wrapping the presents (done), decorating the tree (done), making the puddings (done several weeks ago), icing the cake . . . oops, I knew there was something I still had to do!

So, I'd like to send best wishes to all of you and say thank you for reading my blog over the past year. 

Photo © Martinased | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Festive Spirit - a Personal View

Christmas is just two weeks off . . . although the shops have been displaying Christmas goods since September (and, in some cases, August).  Christmas lights have been switched on - and in one English town, at least, there were complaints at the poor quality of the display.  One of our local superstores has already run out of Christmas trees.  People are replenishing their drinks cupboards, parents are spending huge sums on whatever the latest craze is that the kids are demanding, and numerous presents are being bought  that, once Christmas is over, will be consigned to the bottom of a drawer or advertised for sale in the local paper.

Now, I am not a Christian, so I'm not coming at this from a faith-based angle.  But, even so, I find all the commercialism of Christmas rather sad.  Yes, it's great to buy presents for those you love . . . but somehow each year there seems to be a compulsion to spend more and more.  And giving things isn't the only way to show love.

Because, as a non-Christian, I believe that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of someone whose mission was to bring more love into the world.  I'm a great admirer of the Salvation Army whose idea of a good Christmas is to ensure that lonely elderly people and homeless people have a hot Christmas dinner and a happy day, feeling wanted and cared for.

And I'm also a great admirer of the entrepreneur Andrew Reynolds.  Not because he's a self-made multi-millionaire (although that, in itself, is admirable) and not just because of his enthusiasm in encouraging others to follow in his footsteps.  But simply because he is a great philanthropist and works tirelessly for charities including Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Make A Wish Foundation and has helped many people in South Africa to achieve a better standard of life that, without his help, would have been unattainable.

But there is no doubt in my mind that internet marketing can encourage greed . . . think of the marketers who sell worthless packages, or who don't offer a money-back guarantee, and the retail companies and eBay sellers who sell substandard goods.  There are so many people trying to make a living through the internet, there is so much competition, that I feel that it's very easy to lose sight of what it's all about.  Because, as one of my other marketing 'favourites', Armand Morin, always stresses, it's not just about making money, it's about providing value.

And so, when I'm feeling jaded about the internet, it's good to be reminded of how it can bring people together and make life easier.  And when that reminder has a Christmas theme, so much the better.  I first saw this YouTube video last Christmas and loved it then.  Not everyone does, and if you don't like it, then I apologise.  But if you haven't seen it, please have a look at the Digital Story of the Nativity.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

A Cautionary Tale - or How Not to Set Up a Website

I have just spent an hour ordering some wine as a Christmas gift.  Not different bottles going to different people.  I wasn't even choosing individual bottles.  Just sending a case of six wines that I should have been able to order and pay for in a few minutes.

I had browsed a couple of websites and discovered that Wines Direct was offering a £30 off voucher for new customers at Laithwaites which meant that I could send something really nice rather than just quite nice.  So I clicked on the case I wanted, filled in my details and clicked the big red button saying 'continue'.  Which brought me back to the main page.  Eventually, after doing this a few times, and realising that 'continue' really meant 'discontinue'  I discovered three links at the top of the page for 'delivery', 'summary' and 'payment'. 

I clicked 'delivery', filled in the details of the recipient, and clicked 'payment'. I put in my card details and my billing address plus the voucher code and clicked ‘make purchase’. A message came up to the effect that the recipient’s name and address were missing. I backtracked and put them in again (and this also required putting in my card details again). The same thing happened.  I tried it a third time and, yes, you’ve guessed it . . . it didn’t work.

Finally I gave up and rang the company.  The girl I spoke to was helpful but knew nothing about the vouchers on the Wines Direct website and I spent ages hanging on while she asked her colleagues about it.  She said it must be a Virgin Wines voucher.  I read out to her what it said on the Wines Direct website and told her that clicking on the voucher code brought one to the Laithwaites - not Virgin - website.  I gave her the url of the voucher offer.  The only thing that stopped me giving up and starting again . . . with Virgin Wines or another website . . . was the fact that, with £30 off, this case of wine was very good value.

Eventually we got it sorted and I paid for my wine.  I put a little message in with it . . . it had to be little because Laithwaites allows only a measly 70 characters (including spaces) - half the length of a Tweet!

So I think this is a lesson to anyone who has a direct sales website, especially at Christmas when you sell products that might be sent as presents.  Your website has got to work.  I wonder how long it is since any Laithwaite employee has checked out the website and tried ordering something to make sure that it's possible without the customer tearing his or her hair.  I wonder why the customer service staff on the 'phones don't know about all the voucher codes available - surely someone could print up a list for them.  I wonder why they are so mean about the size of the message . . . surely a few more characters would cost them nothing.  And I wonder how many customers they lose simply because of the inefficiency of their website.