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At Web expo: Solid Advice, Little One-to-One Hype

SEATTLE–As marketing phrases go, “one-to-one” could just as easily have been “pie-in-the-sky” to the 350 online business executives and entrepreneurs who attended the Web Marketing ’98 conference here.

Eschewing theory, they converged on the Seattle Westin hotel last week to hear a dozen Web-marketing practitioners, consultants and authors share some roll-up-your-sleeves advice on how to make Web advertising pay off.

For instance, Omar Ahmad, Webmaster for Netscape Communications, Mountain View, CA, during a dynamic no-nonsense talk on analyzing data called “targeting” the Internet buzzword of the minute. He said the Internet's redundant design makes it difficult to get and interpret data.

“You can probably find left-handed vegetarian Muslims, but if you want to build the database to do that, you're brave,” Ahmad said. Of the third-party site traffic auditing firms, Ahmad said, “guys, they're guessing. You can guess just as well.”

Among Ahmad’s most telling statements: “Six minutes is all you get,” he said in reference to the amount of time the average Web-site visit lasts. Consequently, sites with pages that take 30 seconds to load will get an average of 12-page views per visit and sites with pages that take a minute will get six, and designers should work accordingly.

While the conference overall received high marks, some thought the content was skewed a little heavily toward the technologically oriented.

“Some of the presentations seemed geared more toward technology people looking for marketing know-how as opposed to marketing people looking for Web know-how,” said Rebecca Milner, a marketing manager with seminar-marketing firm the American Management Association, New York. Still, Milner said, “overall I got a lot out of it.”

Of the speakers, Bud Smith, co-author of Marketing Online for Dummies, told the crowd, “Study project management, not technology.” Another speaker spent quite a bit of time explaining that click-through rates — the number of people who click on an Internet ad — are meaningless without tracking conversion rates.

Other highlights: Steven Klebe, vice president, business development, payment protection services and systems for online credit-card-fraud detection firm CyberSource Corp., San Jose, CA, put e-commerce into perspective when he said as big as it's becoming, “it still isn't even a rounding error in the world of credit-card processing.”

Former Wunderman Cato Johnson chairman Lester Wunderman was the sole speaker who went beyond applications. During his keynote address, he said that with the downsizing era over, disintermediation has emerged as the dominant business trend of the information age.

“Disintermediation is the process of eliminating redundant layers of distribution and communications left over from the first and second industrial revolutions,” Wunderman said. “Today's Internet is just the beginning of a disintermediated communications revolution.”

He said that the first industrial revolution created distribution and communication intermediaries while the second created white collar workers and hierarchical layers of management.

“Both resulted in the loss of information, service, relevance and dialogue,” Wunderman said. “Disintermediation is already happening. Converting homes into workplaces and shopping centers are surely ideas whose time has come, even if the technology is still a work in progress.”

On one-to-one marketing, he said, “the false prophets of language have to give way to the real creators of profits on balance sheets. …Somebody has to do the dirty work of making changes, but for that there have been too few volunteers or expert guides. Companies and industries that have chosen to play at the direct marketing table have increased their odds for success because direct marketing has become and will remain the advertising and marketing expression of the information age.”

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