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Oh, the things you can buy

November 30, 2011


Did you know you could buy paper towels on Bottled water? Laundry detergent? I do now. My sister showed me the mom’s club, where you can subscribe for automatic replenishment to get discounts on things like diapers or laundry detergent. She buys everything online- diapers, cleaning products, hair products- the works. And with free shipping, why not save the trip?

subscriptions for savings

Subscribe to the mom's club on for savings on replenishment products

Until now, I haven’t had much interest in buying groceries online. I dabbled with it during the initial launch of all the online grocer sites, years ago. I couldn’t stand the waste involved with all of the packaging: the laundry detergent came wrapped tightly in cellophane, sunk into a huge box four times it’s size, with loads of those foam peanuts. I ordered two grocery bags worth of stuff, and had enough recycling and garbage to make the garage look like the week after Christmas. Not to mention the size issue. I had never paid much attention to the number of ounces in the average cereal or cracker box- so I ended up with sizes ranging from Brooklyn-corner-store-tiny, to Costco sized gigantic, feed-a-family-of-eight sizes.

But now that I’m commuting again, leaving at 7 and returning after 7, online shopping has a much bigger appeal. I just don’t have enough time to do it all on the weekend.

Last weekend, my sister introduced me to,– and its associated sites, including Four sites, with a shared cart. Lots of introductory offers, and premium, free 2-day shipping for first time orders. Yesterday I ordered a 35 pound bag of dog food, a 25 pound box of cat litter, a mega-12-pack of paper towels, various organic food items and method soaps, paid nothing for shipping, and it’s all coming tomorrow. Saving the rush trips to store before the weekend is like a gift. Amazon actually owns those sites, too-having acquired the parent company, Quidsi, Inc, for $500 million back in March, but keeps the branding unique and the web design is beautiful. The sites are clean, elegant, and shopper friendly. homepage with recent orders remembers what I ordered, and makes it easy to re-order- right from the homepage.

I never thought I’d want to buy paper towels on Amazon. But times have changed. I need easy, now. And getting big, heavy things I need delivered to my door is very, very easy. I’m a convert.

Are you shopping for groceries online? Let me know where you shop, and what you think about the experience.

Worth the read.

November 19, 2011


Retail has become very messy.

It has become a myriad of discounts and ‘exclusive’ events, like the Friends and Family sale, flash sales, sales upon sales, upon sales. I’ve actually started to unsubscribe. The clutter is getting overwhelming, even for me- an inveterate web shopper.

Shoppers are having a field day, now that the entire universe of retail is like one big one-day sale. Want a new pair of pants? There’s a sale for that. New shoes? Wait for the sale. New camera or TV? Just wait for the deals. No one has to pay full price for anything anymore (except maybe orthodontia).

Which is why it is such a delight to see messages from retailers that actually say something. Some good old-fashioned, cogent brand-advertising; something that is actually worth the read. I got one of these today.

It’s an email from Brooks Brothers. What I like about it is that it’s not an in-your-face ‘buy our cashmere because it’s great quality’- pretty much what everyone says. Yes, of course, the ad explains why the cashmere is wonderful. But it draws you in with such a surprising headline, that you actually want to read on. The headline reads:

“The secret to your favorite cashmere sweater and your favorite scotch is the same. It’s in the water.”

It goes on to say,

“What will make our cashmere sweater your favorite? There’s no magic about it– it merely took generations of families on a special riverbank hundreds of years to perfect.”

Oh, is that all. Now they have me engaged. Generations of families?¬†Hundreds of years? A riverbank? It’s starting to sound like an interesting story. Read on- I’ve included the entire email below. Let me know what you think.

Brooks Brothers email 11.19.11

Email from Brooks Brothers. Gets your attention in a way most don't anymore.

Deliver great service. It’s that simple. And it’s that hard.

November 6, 2011


Is great service a part of your brand?

Every contact counts.

Ever found yourself standing in line at a bank or store watching the people behind the counter chatting to each other about their social lives, previous customers, or completing a task…while you stand there waiting to be acknowledged? Ever have a problem with an account, and have the person on the phone tell you you must have done something wrong? Ever spend what seems like endless minutes working through a voice-response-unit trying to find the option to speak to a human?

Could your brand have any of these moments for your customers? Better find out. Undercover boss has the right idea- go in, and experience what’s really happening. Do it often. You’ll learn not only what is going wrong for your customers, but what obstacles may exist for the staff. Talk to your sales staff and customer service people. Listen in on the phones and observe experiences. Beyond that, you should actually be asking your customers- do the Net Promoter Survey and see if you’re where you want to be. Do some quick user testing and see what customers say about your site experience- you can do it in just a few minutes on, and have results within hours.

It’s about making every moment count- top to bottom. If your brand and executives believe in great service, but your front-line customer service or sales people do not enthusiastically support and believe in it, it will not happen consistently and brilliantly. Customers need to feel acknowledged, heard, and understood. Your staff also wants to feel acknowledged, heard and understood. It takes empathy, engagement, and sensitivity, to deliver this in both directions. In his book, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, Danny Meyer sums it up nicely:¬†¬†“Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard”.

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