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Web Strategy Case Studies

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This slide examines success and failure in Web strategy at Amazon.com and RealNetworks.

This slide examines success and failure in Web strategy at Amazon.com and RealNetworks.

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  • 1. Web Strategy Case Studies: Amazon.com & RealNetworks
  • 2. Preparing Content for the Web
    • There are consumption pattern differences among readers of print and Web media
    • Print readers tend to read in a linear fashion
    • Web surfers may interact with an article and read elements out of order
      • Non-linear
      • “Branching”
  • 3. Design Issues
    • Some content specialists argue that vital information should remain “above the scroll” on all pages
    • Thus, some suggest that you write in “chunks” delivered one page at a time
  • 4. “Chunks” Strategy
    • Repurpose print materials into “chunks” that each have a unique page
    • Add graphics and interactivity
    • Each “chunk” is usually fewer than 150 words
    • Text can be viewed on the screen without having to scroll
    • This is only one strategy – many sites do not use it!
  • 5. Examples of “Chunk” Style
    • McDonalds
    • Nike
    • Keebler
  • 6. Web Writing Tips
    • More casual than print
    • Use bullet-point lists
    • Minimize use of hypertext links
    • All links should be relevant
    • Provide feedback option for readers
  • 7. Building the Site
    • Ideally, the Web site team consists of:
      • Copywriter/editor
      • Graphic artist
      • Web programmer
    • A public relations professional who can do all three increases their odds of getting hired
  • 8. Usability Tests
    • Before publicly launching your site, it is not uncommon to conduct “usability tests” with a test audience to determine if the site is easy to navigate
  • 9. Overview of Web Strategies
    • Success Story at Amazon.com
      • Evolution of a Design
      • Personalization and Automation
    • Failure at RealNetworks
      • Communication is Content Development
      • Rolling Stone Radio project
  • 10. Success Story
    • Amazon.com is the world’s largest e-commerce site
    • During the dot-com “boom,” they hired aggressively as investor cash came in
    • “ Bloated” and inefficient site infrastructure
    • The site needed to streamline its content development strategy
      • This included a shift from an editor-created to a user-generated content model
  • 11.
    • Has over 35 e-commerce main product categories and hundreds of sub-categories
      • Each category has at least one full-time editor
        • Some have several editors
      • Each editor is responsible for maintaining front page of each “store” and sub-pages, including product detail pages
  • 12. Amazon.com Content Management
    • With millions of products, Amazon.com needs help from the public to keep the pages up-to-date and filled with useful information
    • “ User-generated Content”
  • 13. Amazon.com Content Features
    • Reviews
    • Listmania
    • “ How-to” and Buying Guides
    • Product manuals
    • Customer Images
    • Ref-tags
    • Discussion Forums
    • Wikis
  • 14. Listmania! Examples
    • Customers create their own lists to share with others
      • Each item in the list is linkable to a product
    • Examples:
      • Top 15 Movies of 2005 by fattyjoe37
      • The Best Albums of 2006 by volantsolo
      • “Awesome Books” by fantasyrules
  • 15. Guide Examples
    • Customers create their own guides to share their expertise with others
    • Examples:
      • How to set up a wireless home network
      • Taking a better picture with your digital camera
  • 16. Visitor Experience
    • Customers indicate that they enjoy the “community” aspect of shopping
    • They trust the collective opinions of other shoppers more than the manufacturers
    • The “Amazon Review” has become a very powerful force in the industry
      • Buying decisions are made for purchases both off- and on-line
  • 17. Customer Reviews
    • Amazon.com has thousands of unpaid writers voluntarily submit their reviews
      • Top reviewer Harriet Klausner has written over 12,000 reviews without pay for the site
  • 18. Personalization at Amazon.com
    • Amazon.com developed an infrastructure where each visitor page is personalized
    • The homepage displays items that Amazon.com thinks you are likely to buy
    • Visitors indicate that they like the personalization
  • 19. Amazon.com Personalization
    • Personalization technologies are also easy to manage and popular with visitors
      • Previous purchase data collected
      • Cross-referenced with other sales data
      • A “personalized” store homepage suggests products based on like-minded customers
        • Includes “recommendations” embedded into page
  • 20. Automation at Amazon.com
    • Data is king at Amazon
    • Many examples of data driven automation
      • Channel management
        • Web site real estate management system
        • Automated e-mail measurement and optimization
      • Merchandising
        • Customers who bought X also bought…
        • Recommendations
        • New releases, top sellers
        • Purchase Circles
      • Advertising
        • Automatic ad generation and bidding
  • 21. Example: The Amazon.com Homepage
    • Amazon’s home page is prime real-estate
      • The past:
        • Every category VP wanted top-center
        • Friday meetings about placements for next week were getting too long, too loud, and lacked performance data
        • Today: automation replaces intuitions
    • Home page is made up of slots
      • Anyone can submit content for a slot
      • Content is chosen based on real-time experimentation
  • 22. E-Commerce Staff Structure
    • Organized for execution
      • How it used to be
      • This works rather better
        • Small, cross-functional teams
        • Able to execute end-to-end
        • Self directed
        • Established group goals and measure progress
    Technology People Business People “Dumb idea!” “Do this!”
  • 23. Electronic Media and E-Commerce
    • What makes the site attractive to consumers?
      • Strong reputation for good customer service
      • Secure from “hackers”
      • Large selection of products
      • Easy navigation
        • Clean Web design that maximizes click-throughs and/or sales
  • 24. Amazon.com Design Evolution
    • Started with a few “tabs” representing each store
    • But Amazon.com was expanding…
    • More products = More “tabs”
    • Should the “tabs” go?
  • 25. Amazon.com Design Evolution
    • A new design was needed
    • Lack of action could mean a mountain of “tabs”
      • NOT A GOOD
      • DESIGN
  • 26. Design Evolution
    • Initial redesigns focused on an index directory in the style of Yahoo!
    • This resulted in reduced sales
  • 27. Design Evolution
    • More redesigns in the index style
    • Sales still declined
    • Customers wanted the “tabs” back
  • 28. Return of the “Tabs”
    • Now only three tabs
      • “ See all 35 Product Categories”
        • Roll-over with mouse brings up the index of all stores
      • “ Your Store”
        • Personalized store with recommendations
      • Logo tab
        • Default to front page
  • 29. Lessons Learned
    • Use focus groups and user surveys to test out a design before it launches widely
    • Design can play a key role in how a site is perceived by its public
    • “Above the scroll” real estate is valuable so don’t waste it!
      • A user should be able to navigate successfully through the site without having the scroll the screen
  • 30. Lessons Learned
    • Be aware of the bandwidth of your average user
      • U.S. has shifted from a dial-up to broadband environment
        • Multimedia-intensive designs and sites are only now gaining traction
        • Your design strategy will depend on who your typical visitor is
        • Consider how minimal Google.com is
        • Compare this to YouTube.com
  • 31. Cost Efficiency
    • Advertise your site using viral and cheap techniques
      • Amazon.com has stopped buying ads on mainstream TV, radio and print in favor on online referral programs
      • Media advertising did not bring in enough revenue to justify the cost
      • The site uses promotions with other sites and “street” advertising to get word on in the influential communities
  • 32. Communication is Critical
    • If there is a dependency on technology developers, then the content experts must communicate early…and often
    • A good project can fail due to poor communication
  • 33. Anatomy of a Failed Project
    • Example: RealNetworks’ Rolling Stone Radio
    • Goal was to promote new “G2” technology
      • A new version of RealPlayer with optimized streaming media playback
  • 34. RealNetworks
    • RealNetworks asked me to create a G2-exclusive Internet radio service
    • A business deal with Rolling Stone magazine was created
    • Rolling Stone Radio was born
  • 35. Content Development
    • My background is in editorial development and the music industry
    • I led the creative team
      • Design of the player
      • Partnerships with music industry
    • Another team was responsible for the technical infrastructure and development of the software code
  • 36. Rolling Stone Radio
    • Rolling Stone Radio was the first “mainstream” Internet music service
    • Introduced in 1999
    • Co-owned by RealNetworks and Rolling Stone
    • Multiple channels of music
    • Interactive voting
  • 37. Rolling Stone Radio
    • Featured celebrity deejays
      • David Bowie had his own 24-hour channel
    • Lots of “hype” from the media
  • 38. So Why Failure?
    • Rolling Stone Radio had all the ingredients for success…yet it failed.
    • Why?
  • 39. Communication Crunch
    • There was too little communication in the production team
    • The decision-making process was too decentralized
      • Internal disagreements and chaos
      • Technology team and content team clashed
      • New technology changes were implemented without informing the content team
    • Media blitz preceded the actual launch
      • Several delays in the launch
      • Release was late, product was ‘buggy’
  • 40. Business Model, Anyone?
    • “Too much, too soon”
      • Broadband wasn’t widely available yet
      • Bandwidth was expensive
        • Customers enjoyed the site, but the cost of hosting the streaming media increased as more people “tuned in”
    • The project did not make money
      • Streaming media is bandwidth-intensive
      • Who is paying for the media servers?
    • Advertising revenue was not large enough to support the costs
  • 41. Lessons Learned
    • Solid business model is necessary
    • “Cutting edge” = “Bleeding edge”
      • Being first may not translate to success
    • Key stakeholders in the content development teams must meet and agree to “milestones”
      • Each “milestone” is a mutually-agreed “deliverable” in the product development cycle
      • Deviation from the agreed-upon development is discouraged