It’s In The Mail

18 11 2009

There are numerous impediments to folks buying things online (which we will discuss at great length in my undergrad Evolutionary Marketing course next semester). Ironically, these fears have remained fairly constant since the late-1990s. Among them are privacy fears (see yesterday’s blog), the inability to handle the product, the difficulty of making returns, and the time lag between ordering and receiving the product.

Oh yeah. And one more thing. The price of shipping all of that fine merchandise to your front porch.

But just the last two recession-laden Christmases, online retailers are stepping up to the counter and footing the bill for transportation. Heck, if it helps us click a little bit faster and judiciously, then so be it.

The only problem, though, is that when sales and promotions like this become predictable, consumers become…well, equally predictable. If you know that a free dinner is served at 6, why pay for snacks in the mean time?

Of course, it’s tough (if not impossible) for retailers to give away something forever. In fact, it defeats the central premise of a sales promotion (which is what this is): A short-term incentive to buy. The deep-seated hope is that once you taste and see that the vendor’s wares are good, you will want to continue as a regular customer.

And pay your own darn shipping, thank you very much.

It is a calculated risk. I can’t help but think of another shipping program offered by Amazon called AmazonPrime. For $79 a year I get unlimited 2-day shipping. Amazon is hoping that I either forget to buy things, or, better yet, lump them into bigger purchases. I, on the other hand, use this service to buy one thing at a time, which I sure drives them nuts. There’s labor charges to be incurred for each box or envelope packed,whether there’s 1 or 10 items inside.

So as the economy tries to pick up traction on the slippery surface of Recession Boulevard, the real issue at hand is whether retailers will forever condition shoppers to expect less…not more. Because if we all become conditioned, we’ll just wait for the dinner bell. It’s probably 6:00 somewhere anyway.

Dr “What Else Will You Give Me?” Gerlich


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