Conference Notes from Spring NEMOA '08

I'm in Cambridge at the spring NEMOA conference. What great set of nice smart folks. Here are some quick notes:

  • Steve Spangler stole the show so far. Great talk about creating experiences to make marketing easier, complete with flying eggs, giant balloons, drywall-piercing potato bullets, video, and music. Steve's really smart and gifted -- beneath the showmanship and the patter and great timing, he's really a teacher, and gave everyone in the room an hands-on experience of the new marketing.
  • NEMOA ain't just New England anymore. Lots of West Coasters, and something like 37 states represented. Due to conference growth, after 20 (!!) loyal years of holding the event at Sonesta, NEMOA has to move the next event just because the show has grown.
  • Burpee: Review Ratings Uncorrelated With Sales. Don Zeidler shared an interesting story that products with customer reviews on sell far better than products w/o reviews, and that sales are uncorrelated with the number of stars. In fact, the best selling product on the site gets 3.5 stars (of 5), and one of their best selling tomatoes scores a 2.3 (of 5). Here's three reviews from that sales winner:
    I was very excited to try Red Lightening. I was very disappointed. I didn't get one decent tomato out of all the plants. The skins were very thick, and the taste was not one that I would recommend. They blighted very early too. -- TomatoBug
    Couldn't wait to try growing red lightening this past summer but it certainly won't be in my garden next summer. Purchased both plants and seeds. Tomatoes were small, tough-skinned and heavily seeded. Shelf life was also very short compared to other varieties. They were a complete disappointment. -- njgardener
    It's amazing. This tomato must have been bred with the idea of replicating the taste of a store bought tomato. It tastes mushy and flat. It also has a skin so tough you can drop it when picking and not worry about it breaking. -- gerry
    I asked Don why this could be the case -- why poorly reviewed products didn't suffer in sales -- and Don hypothesized that vegetable seed buyers (overwhelmingly men, he reports, women buy more flower seeds) figure that others gardeners got bad results due to how they planted them, and that "I can grow these better than that other guy, for sure."
  • Bob Allen got a lifetime NEMOA contribution award. Kudos, Bob. Well deserved.
  • Peter Kosciewicz, CMO at Eastwood, noted that his customers involved in site community are far more valuable. He didn't address if this was correlation or causation, but anyway:
    • Eastwood forum members buy 3.9 times more often than average
    • Eastwood forum members are less likely to be "one-and-done" buyers, with 70% having multiple purchases
    • Items w/ reviews convert 37% better than those which don't have reviews
    • Visitors who read reviews are 24% more likely to convert than average
    • Customers who view videos convert 35% better
    Peter shared a neat story: Eastwood puts up a video for a certain product. Passionate Eastwood fan (PEF) creates not one but two response videos on YouTube. PEF uses YouTube stats to A/B test video: video #2 with attractive woman in first scene outperforms video #1 with automotive tool in opener. Eastwood replaces Eastwood video on SKU with PEF video #2 and sales increase 42% (!) vs. their own video.
  • There was a bit of a heated exchange between a representative of Catalog Choice and a catalog retailer in a session Q&A, where the Catalog Choice person indicated they have good procedures in place to prevent fraud (scenario: bad retailer using Catalog Choice to damage competitor's housefile), and the catalog retailer person indicated she'd intentionally tested CC with many fake submissions and the site took them all, calling into question their anti-fraud procedures.
  • Interesting Q&A with Peter Grebus of Williams Sonoma -- cataloger in audience asked, "why did the opt-out file of 60K names from CC, of which only 50% matched against WS housefile names, contain a large number of active 12-month multibuyers? Does this indicate these folks want to buy and engage with WS but don't want books?" Answer: WS doing surveys to determine, no results to share yet, but also perhaps folks outside the industry are using CC to indicate "fewer catalogs please" not realizing it means "no catalogs ever again".
  • Here's the links page and pdf from my talk, if anyone interested.
  • Hamilton Davison is here, recruiting for the American Catalog Mailer's Association. If you mail catalogs, check them out.
  • My sense of the mood of the room from the social events is that many catalogers are already having an extremely rough time dealing with postage and fuel increases and web competition. I predict with sadness 2008 is going to hit the catalog industry very hard.

Kudos for a great show, NEMOA. I'm looking forward to the rest of the vent. Many neat speakers, great attendees, (but way too much rich food.) Tonight's networking dinner is at Fenway -- cool! fenway park boston

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