The Absurdity of the Apple Watch Edition

The Absurdity of the Apple Watch Edition

Yesterday Apple announced the details around the Apple Watch. Tim Cook announced three different product lines; Sport, Watch and Edition. The first two tiers fall in line with what you’d expect ($349 and $549 respectively) for a product like this. It was the third line, Edition, that caused many to do a double-take. I understand why Apple did it – why wouldn’t they want to compete in the luxury watch market alongside the likes of Rolex, Panerai, Cartier and Patek Philippe? Watches from those brands easily command prices from the low thousands to almost a million dollars.

What Apple seems to be forgetting is that other luxury timepieces are investments that, with proper care and maintenance, will last you a lifetime. In fact, many of those watches are passed down from generation to generation. So, yes, $10,000 for a Rolex might seem steep, but when you consider it could be part of your family for 50-100 years, you can see the value. Watchmaking is an age-old craft that mixes artistry and science. The precision it takes to produce a proper mechanical timepiece is incredible. And, that technology hasn’t changed all that much since the 17th century.

Now let’s think about spending $10,000 – $17,000 on an Apple Watch Edition. That watch certainly won’t be something you’ll pass on to your children or grandchildren unless the thought of passing on a rotary phone or your old Sony Walkman sounds appealing to you. Try to think about the last electronic product you’ve owned and actively used on a regular basis for more than five or six years. Can you imagine still using the first or second generation iPhone, for example?

I would expect Apple to offer some sort of upgrade path for those that purchase the Edition. Whether it’s the ability to upgrade the software significantly from version to version or a guaranteed trade-in amount toward the purchase of a newer model, it feels like Apple should address this in some meaningful way.

Personally, I have an affinity for watches. And while I don’t have any in the $10,000+ range, I do have a great swiss timepiece from Baume & Mercier. It’s simple and elegant and something I hope to pass on someday. The Apple Watch is fun and seems like it would be quite useful for many things. But as an investment timepiece? That’s a bridge too far Apple.

For the record, I’ll almost certainly buy one – either the Sport or Watch – but, I’ll look at them as pieces of technology with planned obsolescence, like an iPhone.

What do you think? Will you be buying an Apple Watch? What tier are you looking at? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Building Relationships: Franco Uomo

Building Relationships: Franco Uomo

Those that know me understand my love of fashion. I’m obsessed with shoes, jackets, vintage rock tees, premium denim and bespoke dress shirts. Many of you also know that I spend a fair amount of time at the eBay Mothership in San Jose. When you combine the aforementioned two, it’s not hard to understand how I came to be a loyal Franco Uomo customer at his shop on Santana Row.

Franco has a personality that is larger than life. He’s animated, generous and has a spectacular eye for detail. When you buy something from him, it’ll be fairly expensive, but you know you’ve purchased the very best.

Franco and his staff have been very good to me over the last couple of years, but a week ago they went above and beyond what I could ever expect from any business relationship.

I realize that most businesses will never be in a position to do something like this for their customers. Beyond the fact that it’s the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack, it just doesn’t scale. However, I think there is something here for the rest of us. How can we pick up signals from our customers and act on them in a way that shows how much we value them, not just for their business, but as people? I’ve been swishing that question around in my tiny brain for over a week and I don’t have an answer. I’d love to know what you come up with…

Franco has always told me that relationships are the most important thing to him. Relationships should be at the heart of every business strategy. Are they the centerpiece of yours?

Holiday Update – Where Have I Been?

Holiday Update – Where Have I Been?

I know, I’ve been MIA here for a while. Instead of hashing it all out in a blog post, I thought I’d update you by video about my recent move to eBay and remind you that there’s lots of great library content here about Social Media, SEO, Video, Analytics and even a business lesson from Van Halen.

I hope you have a wonderful Holiday and an amazing New Year! See you in 2013!

SEO Best Practices: Content and Link Auditing

SEO Best Practices: Content and Link Auditing

As a content creator I understand firsthand how easy it can be to lose yourself in the afterglow of impactful blog posts or well-produced video segments. I’ve often said that content is king and that should be enough to distinguish yourself from the pack. The unfortunate reality is that we have to give more than a passing thought to SEO and how search engines perceive our website. Since Google released their Panda and Penguin updates, they’ve turned the online world on its ear.

Recently I produced a video for eBay Partner Network’s ePN TV about the importance of content and link auditing on your website and the types of things that marketers needs to pay attention to.

In terms of qualifications, you don’t get any better than my friend, Jordan Koene, at eBay. He understands SEO on a level that most of us can’t comprehend. The good news is that he’s a very generous soul that doesn’t mind sharing his vast wealth of knowledge.

I’m curious to know how Panda and Penguin have affected your website or blog over the last several months? Have you been able to avoid getting clobbered in search rankings? I’d love to hear what you’ve done to address these updates in the comments below.

Tell Me Your Story

Tell Me Your Story

A few weeks ago I was in Austin, Texas on a corporate retreat with one of my clients when the subject of clothing and fashion came up. I had just returned from a pilgrimage to my favorite boot shop in town when my colleague, Peter, pointed out that I seemed to be drawn to bespoke clothing and brands. In the past we had chatted over drinks about my love of certain types of brands and products and he understood that to mean “custom” products. As I thought it about it more, I wasn’t necessarily drawn to custom products or even expensive brands, it was more about those that had an interesting story to tell.

I’m a fan of supporting small businesses – even more so when they have a compelling story about what led them down the road they’re traveling on. For example, I know that Jerry Ryan, owner of Heritage Boot in Austin, is from Ireland and had wanted to be a bootmaker in the United States since he was a kid. I know that Jack Sepetjian, and his family at Anto Distinctive Shirtmakers in Beverly Hills, have been making hand-measured custom shirts for clients like Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rourke, Tom Cruise and Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) for a more than half a century. I know that Mike and Brook Carhartt, of Carhartt Winery, crafts some of the finest Pinot Noir in the Santa Ynez Valley by lovingly tending to their family-owned 13 acre vineyard just north of Santa Barbara.

How do I know all this? They told me. They’ve made it a point to weave these stories into the fabric of their brand and that is a powerful thing.

Even today, I still speak to businesses that don’t see the value in sharing their stories with their customers. They feel like the conversation should ultimately be about low prices, volume and revenue. And while I agree that we’ve descended into a Walmart-centric culture where people want the absolute lowest prices for anything and everything, I believe that there are people like me that will seek out and pay more for quality items from a brand whose story we can identify with. I believe these people, like me, will not only pay more to support these brands, but they will also shout their loyalty from the rooftops. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Tweeted about my favorite pair of Heritage Boots, or talked my friends’ ears off about a delicious bottle of Carhartt wine. When I find something I like, I want to share it with those around me and I don’t believe I’m the only one that feels this way.

Interestingly, I didn’t discover any of the brands I’ve mentioned above on Twitter or Facebook. Instead, a conversation with a concierge here, and a sommelier there and I was on my way. But, just because I didn’t initially find these hidden gems online, I did research them there and it was then that I fell in love with their mission and commitment to their craft. For the record, there are lots  of other brands I dig that are heavily engaged online including; Ugmonk, Franco Uomo, Robert Graham and The Biltmore. They all deserve your attention.

Now let’s be clear – I didn’t write this post to show you how to tell your story – I’ve written many posts on how to use the web to build your brand. You can start HERE, HERE and HERE if you’re so inclined. Instead, I wanted to try and convince you that your story is worth telling. Passion is contagious. People respect those that are committed to doing things differently and driving their brand forward. They want to support those that are unique and passionate about taking the road less traveled.

I challenge you to craft your story: why do you do what you do? How did you get here? What does your brand mean to you? Start there and put it online. Then share it in person with your customers. Let me know how it goes.

 

Over-Sanitizing Your Content

Over-Sanitizing Your Content

Creating original content for your business is a great thing, but you’re not doing yourself any favors if you’re constantly scrubbing out all the dirt, bite and passion from your blog posts, tweets and videos. Sometimes getting a little grimy is good thing.

I speak with businesses every week that say they want to make their corporate communication channels compelling and engaging to their users, yet when it comes time to pull the trigger, they trim and cut out all the meat that made the content worth publishing in the first place.

Recently, Chris Brogan posted an article on his site about agencies discontinuing their blogs due to lack of engagement and readership. He believes, like I do, that if no one is reading your blog, it’s probably because it’s boring.

Businesses take risks every day. Some of them pay off and some don’t. Content creation is an investment – one that I believe is not only worthwhile, but essential to your business. If you’re going to spend the money and human capital to make a go of it, have the courage to push boundaries. Be bold. Speak your mind. Take a position on issues relevant to your industry. That’s what your users want to see and it’s what will help you build a passionate community around your offerings.

What do you think? Do you agree that we shouldn’t over-sanitize our corporate content, or is there more at play here? I’d love to get your comments below.

Taking Better Care of Our Customers

Taking Better Care of Our Customers

Recently I’ve had some shopping experiences online that have left a bad taste in my mouth. I figured that I had stewed over them long enough and wanted to jot some thoughts down on the blog and get your take. First off, let me say that in my opinion the gold standard in online shopping, shipping and customer service is Zappos – hands down. No one else even comes close. And while I don’t hold other companies to quite that high of a standard, they have set the benchmark and I’ve come to expect something in the same ballpark.

Rock n’ Roll Woes

Recently I bought some merchandise from a musician’s online store. I’ve been a fan of this particular guitar player for a long time and wanted to order a couple of t-shirts and a hoodie. I placed my order on a Thursday morning and waited. By the following Tuesday I still hadn’t received any sort of confirmation or shipping notification so I emailed the web shop. The first thing I did was respond to their initial “payment received” email. That bounced. Hmmm, why did that happen? Oh yeah, I see it here – the address in the reply field of their confirmation email was “sales@example.com.” Ok, so they never changed the template – sloppy. Undeterred, I went to their site and found a different contact email. That also bounced back with a “mailbox full” message. Finally, I found a .me address and sent an email there hoping for a miracle. Nothing. After two days I emailed again telling them that if I didn’t receive some sort of response that I would file a dispute with PayPal. I heard back within 5 minutes and they said my order would be shipping that day and that I’d receive confirmation within the hour. But, another day went by with no email. After emailing them again with no response, I finally filed a dispute with PayPal to get my money back. However, 10 minutes after I opened that dispute I got an automated email telling me my order had shipped – this was now a full two weeks after the order was placed. I noticed the order was being shipped from Las Vegas via USPS Priority Mail. I live in Santa Barbara – less than 400 miles from Las Vegas – meaning the package should have been there in 2-3 days. Yet, 6 days later, I still didn’t have my order. Finally, PayPal stepped in and reached out to the seller. Miraculously, two days later I received my package. Interestingly, it’s post-marked only two days earlier meaning it left their facility 6 days after they said it did.

Did you follow all that?

Post Mortem

Obviously this was a colossal screw-up for this business. They did make a half-assed attempt after I’d received delivery to make sure I had, in their words, “received my order and make sure everything was taken care of,” but there was no apology for the delay, deception and aggravation that I had gone through as a customer. There was no special coupon or credit offered. Honestly, it felt like their main focus was to make sure I closed the dispute and they got to keep their money.

A week later I ordered a watch from an online retailer, and while I won’t bore you with the play-by-play of that transaction, let’s just say that the combined frustration of these two back-to-back experiences inspired me to write this post.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Hard

If you’re selling products online you have to have a rigid set of standards for your entire sales process from order placement to customer delivery. That includes acknowledging a customer’s order, their payment and notification of shipment. If you want them to feel good about handing you their credit card information, you need to make sure to get the simple things right, and let them know you’re an organization that can be trusted. By not sending out even basic confirmations you can cause unnecessary panic and mistrust amongst your customers.

I understand that problems happen sometimes. There will occasionally be times when an item is out of stock, or shipping is delayed. Instead of staying silent, be upfront and accountable to your customer. A personalized email goes a long way to smooth over any initial frustration and most will find it refreshing that a business took the time to explain the issue.

When you make a mistake, offer compensation. Offer to upgrade shipping, or email them a coupon for 20% off their next order. Not only will you smooth over any ruffled feathers, but you’ll be building goodwill towards your brand for future purchases.

These all seem like no-brainers to me, but clearly that’s not the case with a lot of online businesses today. When people make a purchase from your website, many are first-time customers. If you want them to come back, it is paramount that you provide a stellar shopping experience by keeping them informed, acknowledging those rare mistakes and compensating them for any hassle.

Does This Resonate?

Do you run an online web store? What is your philosophy on customer service? How do you ensure that your customers receive a great experience? What hard lessons have you learned along the way?

As an online shopper what are your pet-peeves? What companies do you buy from that provide stellar online service?

Converse Embraces Their Rock N’ Roll Status

Converse Embraces Their Rock N’ Roll Status

Converse All-Stars have long been the footwear of choice for rockers of all genres, ages and styles. From the Ramones to Joan Jett to Billie Joe Armstrong to Slash, Converse have dominated the rock n’ roll uniform for decades. In fact, in full disclosure, I own about 10 different pairs of “Chucks” in various styles and colors and wear them just about every day. To me, the word “iconic” doesn’t begin to do this brand justice.

Today, I saw that Converse is giving back to the music community that’s been so good to them by opening a recording studio in Brooklyn, NY that caters to up-and-coming talent. The best part for bands? If you’re selected you get recording time free of charge. You also get Converse’s considerable promotional muscle working to help you find a larger audience for your work.

As Converse’s CMO, Geoff Cottrill, says “we are absolutely in the business of selling footwear and apparel. This is an opportunity for us to say thank you to lots of people who are already wearing our footwear and apparel.”

Obviously, Converse is spending a significant amount of money to fund this studio in the hopes that the investment keeps them relevant in the hearts and minds of rockers throughout the world. Is it a good plan? I think so. Rock n’ roll has arguably kept this brand hip and timeless in a way that few others have been able to pull off. This project allows Converse to talk about the support they offer to the music community, while hopefully capitalizing on the goodwill and hype of the social media community.

What do you think? Is this a quick ploy by Converse or a real chance for struggling musicians to get their music heard in a way not possible before? I’d love to get your comments below.

Meet Me at Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas

Meet Me at Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas

On Saturday I’ll be heading to Las Vegas to attend Affiliate Summit West at Caesar’s Palace. I always look forward to this event, not only to catch up with friends in the online marketing industry, but also to see what people are excited about for the coming year. Because this show butts right up against CES there is always spillover between the consumer electronics and affiliate worlds – a nice convergence indeed.

I will be there representing eBay Partner Network – eBay’s in-house affiliate program. I’ll be there to chat with publishers and capture the vibe for a short video documentary about Affiliate Summit. I’d love the chance to chat with you about your experiences in the online marketing space. What are you excited about this year? What will everyone be talking about at the show?

If you’re going to be at #ASW12, reach out to me by either leaving a comment here or via Twitter (@scottparent). I look forward to catching up on the expo floor or over drinks in Vegas!

Happy New Year

I’m sitting in bed at my Mom’s house in NH as I write this. It’s two days after Christmas and I’ve got a head cold / stomach bug. As I’m propped up, sniffling, catching up on email and surfing the web for the news of the day, I’m reminded of how much goes on in the world outside our tiny tech / social media / marketing bubble. When you look at all the events and occurrences that have unfolded this year throughout the world, it really puts day-to-day life in perspective. So, with that in mind, I wanted to take a moment and wish all of you a happy and safe new year.