Click Frenzy, in spite of the massive failure it was an unprecedented success!

Sneeze and you may have missed it.

The Click Frenzy frenzy came and went in a matter of days, yet in that time it managed to reach the consciousness of some 20% of online Australians! That’s quite an achievement.

Their PR machine had triggered something in Australia’s uber-price-sensitive media which led to an incredible amount of coverage in the days leading up to the sale – it really did become a frenzy.

Even before the site ran into capacity issues on their woefully inadequate servers, their business model meant they would only ever make moderate returns. Choosing an all-up-front fixed-fee suggested they doubted the results they could yield for their retail partners preferring instead to cover their costs and hope for a modest return.

All in all, they clearly had no idea how ready the Australian market was for Click Frenzy!

Click Frenzy founder Grant Arnott explained in a rare and touching mia culpa that 300k visitors was their top traffic estimate, so the 1.6m visitors they actually saw blew their infrastructure wide open. To be fair, I think only a handful of sites around the world would cope gracefully with 1.6m concurrent users! The fact is the 7pm launch time was a big part of the problem, internet infrastructure hates concurrency!

Aside from the access issues suffered by many hundreds of thousands of bargain hungry shoppers, many found their way to the registered retailers and boy did they spend!

One retailer example I was shown paid less than $3,000 to participate but yielded over $80,000 in sales. An equivalent Group Buying offer would have cost the business $24 – 30k in commissions! A pretty good outcome for the retailer!

The chart below from Quantium shows the direct impact on participating retailers versus non-participating retailers.

160 retailers of varying sizes participated, and Click Frenzy probably netted an average of 3 – 5k upfront from each, meaning 480 – 800k in Gross Revenue. Not bad, however had they chosen to take a booking fee plus a moderate trailing commission, they would have netted anywhere from $800k ($1k upfront, 5% commission on $80k Average) to $2.4m ($1k upfront, 15% commission on $100k average)!

All credit is due to the Click Frenzy team, they were swept along by a frenzy of their own making albeit they we flattened in the stampede. Better luck next year.

Group Buying fortunes on the up?

After bottoming out during the past few months, the fortunes of some Group Buying businesses seem to be on the up, albeit a significant number have collapsed or been acquired in the past six months and the outlook remains grave for many more!

The fact that the sector’s nose is slightly up is in part due to the weeding out of weaker and often less scrupulous competitors who often served only to undermine the reputation of the sector as a whole.

In fact out of the 50 largest Group Buying businesses assessed in April, only 29 remain intact just 6 months on. And given only 10% (5) of those businesses were acquired that supports the view that smaller Group Buying businesses are of limited real value. In such a crowded and undifferentiated market lifesaving investment is tricky too given a lack of brand equity, good will or asset strength (off the shelf web sites are common and subscriber base overlap with top-tier competitors is often well over 70%) resulting in the collapse of underperforming and debt laden Group Buying businesses.

A quick browse through the sites of the 29 still standing uncovered indicators of pending doom for some.

Here are the choking canaries of the Group Buying world:

  • A high degree of niche product deals, such as robotic vacuum cleaners or iPad accessories
  • No sign of “number purchased”, an essential component of Group Buying that is quickly discarded when numbers are low
  • Extended Deal deadlines, this industry was founded on deal a day for good reason!
  • A smorgasbord of deals on one page, suggesting desperate recycling of old offers

Group Buying remains a $1bn future industry in Australia, regardless if that industry seemed to lose its way and stall when it was only half way there. Regaining lost momentum will be down to the leading players showing the way once again with a combination of brilliant marketing and a commitment to helping consumers discover great business products.

The strongest already have their playbook (Living Social, Cudo and Ourdeal) and will extend their positions in the coming 6 months through a focus on back-to-basics Group Buying offers like quality restaurants, high value vacation offers and utility products such as Cudo’s Meat Merchant.

Although I suspect another 15 from April’s top 50 will be gone by April 2013, leaving only a dozen or so standing, I think I already know who they are, I wonder if they do?

Good commercial sense underpins sustainable philanthropy

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In 1999 the ever cheery Brits (of which I’m one) were flabbergasted when their #1 Son Richard Branson lost a bid for the National Lottery. His manifesto for the People’s Lottery was based on it being run as a Not for Profit meaning that profits would be provided as donations to the lottery commission over and above the standard fun-raising efforts of the National Lottery. Even though these additional donations would exceed $1bn each year the Lottery Commission said no, instead they chose Camelot who had no such altruism in mind.

Surely something’s afoot, why would the Purpose driven Lottery Commission choose greedy toes Camelot over goody two shoes Branson? Isn’t that Greed before Good?

Not that simple.

The Lottery Commission figured that without the benefit of a Profit Engine behind Lottery Ticket sales, they’d be worse off taking the $1bn contribution from the Virgin effort. That their interests would be misaligned and the overall donation pool would be smaller as a result. A decision that has since been vindicated several times over.

If the collective interests are balanced, doing good doesn’t have to be unprofitable.

Recently I co-founded a business called BeyondCover. On one hand BeyondCover is an Insurance reseller for Global Underwriter QBE, selling CTP (The mandatory Motor cover in Australia), General Motor and Travel Insurance, on the other hand it raises money for causes by rewarding Cause partners when they introduce a new Insurance Customer.

The key to having the right incentives in place lies within the nature of Philanthropists. People who regularly support Good Causes are good people, they take fewer risks, cause fewer accidents and pay their bills on time. They make pretty good Insurance customers too!

Big companies can’t win, time to get down and dirty!

Reinvention is bloody hard, rarely has a big business managed to pivot wholesale to a new them without causing a catastrophic collapse of their core along the way. History is littered by once great corporations hollowed by their failure to recognise the need for reinvention.

But this isn’t a cautionary tale featuring Kodak and their resistance to the Digital age, although that is a good story! This cautionary tale concerns those businesses that recognise the need for change but fail, fail because their big company DNA rejects the wide eyed organism growing within.

Clayton Christiansen describes the issue as the Innovators Dilemma. The central theme of his argument is that big businesses innovate within the constraints of their own expectations. Big business’ expectations demand an aggressive and predictable return on capital as well as a degree of polish that small businesses and startup entrepreneurs happily live without.

Those expectations limit their ability to innovate to the Sustaining kind only, meaning incremental improvements that result in incremental bottom line impacts. The new breed of competitor, i.e. startups, don’t live with those constraints and can therefore galvanise their new business around an untested way forward.

Innovation favours the brave and startups are certainly brave. Entrepreneurs often leave themselves with little to lose and can afford to turn existing models on their head in a effort to break through. And breakthrough they do.

In the past big corporate goliaths still won though, regardless how stilted their innovation; barriers to entry and scale benefits afforded them a dependable lead against newer foes. But today’s David is better equipped. They have the triple whammy benefits of low cost of capital, cheap scalable technology and affordable access to a large audience; also, this new wave of Disruptive Innovation is easily embraced by customers so should be feared by slow to move businesses and their shareholders alike. Boardrooms have too much as stake to stay ignorant to the Breakthrough Innovation occuring around them, so breaking through the innovators dilemma will have to happen eventually. But there is a great risk of too little too late.

Corporate leaders have to do more to embrace breakthrough thinking and create structures to do so. Establishing a mini startup fund and incubator for internal entrepreneurs and staff incentives to encourage broader thinking are essential steps. Communicating to the broader business the importance of supporting those innovations by accepting the quick and dirty necessity of breakthrough thinking is also essential if rejection of the new organism is to be avoided.

Is your business gearing up for in-car Internet?

ABI Research are forecasting a significant growth in Internet Enabled cars, with 50m vehicles sold by 2017 with native Internet connectivity.

In car connectivity is already broadly available with smartphone-dependent products like HondaLink available in most markets today. However like any new technology, the real breakthrough comes when new applications are developed by a broader ecosystem, which, as far as we can tell, is yet to happen.

It’s quite possible that 30 – 40% of new cars sold in Australia will be Internet Enabled with 5 years, yet few business have connected cars in their 3 year plan.

Is Privacy dead, or just too hard?

Lorrie Faith Cranor and Aleecia McDonald from Carnegie Mellon conducted a study recently which repositioned the lack of online privacy as a time issue.

They reported “To read every [online] privacy policy you encountered in a single year would take 76 work days……”

So we all want our time online to be a more private affair, but find it impossible to wade through the policies and figure out what’s what? Further, even if you had the time to read them, would anyone but a Privacy Specialist understand them, and worse, be willing to forgo the benefits brought by Facebook and Google in an effort to maintain some sort of online anonymity? I suspect not in each case.

It’s hard to see how to solve this issue.

At a minimum it would seem appropriate to provide a simplified privacy policy, which would at least encourage consumers to become familiar with the terms they are signing up to. Controlling what your cookies are used for may also be key, Personalisation, yes, targeted advertising, no.

Over time I worry that the role of government will be to reign in on the issue if left unsolved, which would be a bad outcome for all.

Google Analytics – Top 3 Features for Ecommerce; A Digest

This post was written by Boris Gefter – freelance Acquisition Guru and consultant to 57 Signals.

Google analytics (GA) is rubbished more often than not by Omniture diehards and hardcore data analysts. They bleat persistently about their inability to feed GA with non-standard data (outside the scope of what the javascript captures) and readily extract the data (in the way you can with a data cube). But these guys are locked in time, probably still awaiting the arrival of the iPhone 3!GA has evolved in a fantastic way over the past 3 years! In its evolution it has made available rich data to those that care to harness it. But what is more impressive, is how easy and intuitive it is to use the interface and find answers to questions a sophisticated online store owner may ask. But, let me curb my Google appraisals for the time being, lest this blog post be censored by the powers that be. 😉

Jumping right in, here are my three favourite GA features (and there are many!)

1. Google URL Builder.

A humble servant of GA’s ability to capture and store url parameters. It is surprising how many people do not know that this functionality exists! The standard user will be used to viewing the “Traffic Sources Overview” report, but when you want to know what campaign, keyword, ad or placement on which network and partner has resulted in a sale, coding your own unique URLs could not be easier. Then, when it comes to retrieving this information, you can rely on your friend ‘Custom Reporting’….

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2. Custom Reporting:

The humble tab that sits atop the interface is the key to unlocking analytics glory. For those that know and love pivot tables and data cubes, GA has a gift for you. For those that are new to looking at dimensions and metrics, they key is not to be intimidated by the blank canvas. Start playing around, adding metrics (things that are measurable) such as time on page or conversion rate (if you have ecommerce tracking enabled) is really easy. Dimensions (what describes the data) can be configured to retrieve information that you coded into the Google URL builder in step two, by adding “Source” and “medium” alongside the metrics you are interested in.

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As an example, say you wanted to find out how successful your google adwords campaigns are (which you had already coded with the url tool, as seen above), you can simply add source as one of your dimensions and the relevant metrics such as visits and number of transactions as shown in this example. Then, you can filter by the source code which you coded in your URL tool.

The key, is figuring out what question you want to answer first, and then what sort of information will help you answer that question, then validating any data using common sense!

3. Conversion Segments/The Repunzel Report:

What if I told you that you were potentially losing out on more than 50% of your revenue by under-investing in a particular form of advertising. Wouldn’t that be valuable? This is where the “Conversion Segments” or “The Repunzel Report” as I have dubbed it (due to the fact that it is hidden in the top left corner of the analytics tower) becomes extremely valuable.

First let me assist the budding princes willing to use this report. You need to have ecommerce tracking enabled and implemented correctly on your site, then you can make your way into the conversions tab>multi-channel funnels>top conversion paths, then navigate to the top left section of the page to find conversion segments. Simple, right?

Now that you have found it, you can filter the potential traffic sources by first and last interaction. Whilst, the philosophy of attribution can be a prickly one, I like to refer to reports such as these to understand where advertising money is going and how much impact it is having.

What you can see from the example below is that paid advertising on a “last touch” basis, is reporting $140k+ worth of revenue, whereas on a “first touch” basis (where the value of the transaction is attributed to the first channel that brought the customer to the site in a default 30 day window) there is over $220K+ worth of revenue to be had. Now imagine that you are only spending $100K on advertising, thinking that it is only bringing in $140K, when, if you look at your conversions through the “first touch” lens, you can see that there is potentially more value to be had from your advertising dollar!

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I often like using first touch attribution to model the efficacy of acquisition channels because it is simple, and usually rather effective. This model can become complicated by things like remarketing and more diverse marketing channel portfolios. But, hopefully, this report will, at the very least get you thinking about the complexity of multichannel advertising interactions and spark a discussion about what is the right approach for your company in modelling and tracking conversions.

As much as I love diving into data and exploring new features of GA, I am always weary of tempering my enthusiasm to extract findings with solid statistics, common sense and other analytics tools (where possible). Having noted this, it is very easy to become intimidated with analytics tools and software. Which is why, often there is no substitute for simply getting your hands dirty with what tools like GA have to offer. I hope this post helps to make some of the less accessible features of GA more manageable.