When Shopping.com recently launched a product blog, Whatsinstoreblog.com it became apparent to me that blogs have a key merchandising role to play in online retail. It’s also apparent that this currently is an unfilled marketing niche for most merchants.
A quick round of online merchants reveals a surprising dearth of blogs, even among the typically most technically savvy of merchants such as Amazon (You might call Amazon Reviews a blogging platform) and Buy.com. My quick survey (consisting of me wandering over to the site and looking for a blog) shows that even savvy sites such as Thinkgeek (I guess slashdot is their blog) and Tigerdirect.com don’t have blogs. Everyone has multiple RSS feeds but actual product blogs seem missing from the mix.
Buy.com has a far more expensive and quite frankly far less effective Buy TV where two hosts (one male and one female who are very apparently from the very bottom of the acting pool in Orange County) interview product managers about various products. The current format isn’t informational dense and quite frankly most product managers are better suited for radio appearances.
Given that Buy.com’s customer base skews nearly 75% female you would be better off with two women hosts (Women also prefer women hosts – ever see The View?)
Blogs are a natural compliment to an ecommerce site, if only to build incoming links to deeper parts of the catalog. Given the importance of blogs in search engines, it seems like a strange omission. Furthermore given the success of sites like engadget.com, it seems a natural fit. My initial guess is that the honesty required in a product blog makes it hard for a retailer to blog about it. No manufacturer coop dollars are going to be spent on a site that doesn’t have a favorable review of a product.
On the other hand, it’s just more than likely they are just beginning to figure out how to use the media. Now doubt the medium sized merchants and catalogers are likely to be the first ones to effectively. Catalogers already have copywriters on staff so they should be able to quickly adapt to media. For those online merchants looking to get online with a product blog to support your catalog here’s a few hints on how to do it.
- Be honest and frank. Readers appreciate frankness in a blog. Remember this medium is more frank than a typical catalog.
- Give the blog it’s own space. While ostensibly it’s there to support your catalog, if the blog is going to develop organic links, it needs it’s own permanent URL and unique voice. Developing the voice for your product blog might take time.
- Look for help developing your blog. It’s not just a simple matter of setting up Movable Type and blogging. You need to spend a little time understanding social networks and the blogosphere before jumping in head first. That’s something I can help you with. Please feel free to contact me.
- Share the link love. You need to recognize that their already distinct voices that cover specific product niches out there. Make sure to include them in your blog roll.
- Highlight interesting products deep in your catalog. This helps your product blog in several ways. First it creates a deep link to a product that might not be getting a lot of coverage. Secondly it helps develop that unique voice for your product blog. No one needs to read another IPod review. An interesting accessory to the IPod your readers might not now about is the way to go.
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