In Alex Rampell‘s guest post at TechCrunch entitled “Say Goodbye To The Long Tail Of Product Resellers, At Least On The Internet“, he insightfully points to five (5) variables that affect consumers traditional shop at Retailer A vs. Retailer B:
- Price (actual price to consumer + “friction” in ordering process)
- Geography (proximity to consumer)
- Selection (do they have X in my size, or sell rare item Y?)
- Service/Brand (do I trust/like them?)
- Experience (is it easy/designed to shop for X?)
I encourage you to go there to read it, because it’s a really good post about why it’s becoming more and more difficult to compete with the giants of the Internet (like Amazon) if you’re trying to compete on variables #1-#3. The opportunity, he suggests is in distinguishing oneself in variables #4 and #5, offering three ways one may be able to compete:
- Cultivate a better shopping experience
- De-Commoditize (adding some differentiator to a commodity)
- Distributed commerce: “Imagine a world of decentralized commerce — where you can shop at any number of manufacturers within the context of one meta-shopping cart or wallet.”
I think all of these converge in a software platform opportunity for affiliate marketing. I’m excited to say I have lined up the funding to create the prototype, hopefully by early 2012.
At the heart of it is a need to develop better content tools for affiliates. Affiliates are typically given links, pictures, and simple content about products that they arrange on their sites to sell to their audience. There are a lot of sophisticated tools for measuring and analyzing traffic and conversion, but the actual content provided is pretty simple. Affiliates make up the long tail of product marketing and sales. Successful ones have the ear of enough potential customers who would prefer to visit their sites than the those of the manufacturers or retailers. In other words, their visitors are coming already for the affiliate’s content and/or experience they provide, which would address the first two points if the affiliate can create a better shopping experience. The networks and manufacturers have a lot to do with how well an affiliate can create an experience, based on what info/materials they can provide, so I think that if the networks and manufacturers gave affiliates a tool that let them be more expressive, without having to learn HTML, Flash, etc., we would see some incredible experiences from affiliates. If you’ve been reading my blog, you will know I feel a big part of making a worthwhile experience is educating people about products, or making educational advertisements particularly using simulations that allow interactive exploration, to some degree.
Lastly, affiliates are poised to address Alex’s third suggestion regarding distributed commerce if there were a tool that could be used to create a unified shopping experience with products tied back to the manufacturers.