The “Toys R Us” Index

Every year on the last day of summer the folks at Toys R Us kick off the unofficial beginning of holiday gift shopping with their list of the hottest toys for the upcoming season. The top toys are fondly referred to as the Fabulous 15; and Toys R Us this year has expanded the list to include another 28 must-haves.

Here at ShopAdvisor, we watched ten toys from the 2011 edition of the Fabulous 15, and we saw a lot of price fluctuation throughout October-November-December. From the highs to the lows, we saw prices dip below their initial price when the Fab 15 list first appeared an aggregate of 18%. That means if you had been watching closely enough and had purchased all ten products at their nadir, you would have saved almost one-fifth on your holiday budget, spending $303 instead of $368. Rock Me Elmo was the biggest price-dropper, starting at $60 and regularly dropping for for twelve weeks until it dipped under $30. For Elmo, watching and waiting was the way to go.

Another toy on the Toys R Us Fabulous Fifteen list from 2011 was the Legos Ninjago Limited Edition Set Lightning Dragon Battle, whose price history chart tells an altogether different story. The best deal for this toy was in the mid-$60’s to mid-$70s for almost two months. Then, on the eve of Black Friday, its price path began to resemble that of a battle dragon bobbing and weaving.  It could be found for $60 for 2 days (Dec. 15-16), and reached as high as $110 twice (Nov. 30, and Dec. 8).

And, while it would have been nice to be the smart shopper who picked up the Dragon Battle for $60, the more frightful prospect was perhaps pulling the trigger at the heights of $110, overpaying by more than 50% the “regular” price of $72.

Overall, the $368 worth of items we tracked on the 2011 Toys R Us Fabulous 15 list spiked as high as $574 on their worst days, a full 56% over their initial price when the list was first announced.

Consumers differ: some are motivated by the thrill of a shopping victory of getting the right gift at the best price. Others shop in fear and loathing of not knowing if the price they are paying today is at a one-day all-time high. One source of comfort to those who bought the Ninjago Battle Dragon for $110: the price today is $169. Thrill-seekers and pain-avoiders alike use ShopAdvisor to help them get the right deal.

Now that summer 2012 has ended, we’ll be taking another look at the Toys R Us list this season and tracking its up and down path until the end of the year. Keep Watching.

 

The Seven Deadly Sins of “Buy Now!” Links: Sin #5 – Foolishness

I have a sin to confess. Sometimes I am guilty of driving well out of my way to buy gas at a station where the price is a few cents lower. When I compare the approximate $3 of savings per tank of gas against the ten minutes I spent to achieve that savings , I am faced with my own foolish math. The savings is wiped out by the cost of my time.

Some foolish logic prevails with Buy Now! links in product reviews.

Most review sites and blogs earn the lion’s share of their revenue from display ads, not from affiliate links. The key to optimizing display ad revenue is keeping a reader on your site, getting several or many pageviews per visit. If your review has managed to inspire the reader so much as to click on the Buy Now! link, you’ve just sent away one of your own best customers to another site. From a pure revenue-generation perspective, Buy Now links can be penny-wise but pound-foolish.

Redemption
ShopAdvisor understands that site traffic and pageviews are the big factors in a blog’s financial success, and that affiliate links should not compete against your other revenue generators. When a reader dog-ears one of your pages, ShopAdvisor keeps track of the reader’s intent to remember that item for later. A click on the ShopAdvisor watch button keeps the reader on your site, where he can spend a little more time and read a few more articles, earning you the ad revenue that keeps your site going.

Next: Inhospitality

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The Seven Deadly Sins of “Buy Now!” Links: Sin #4 – Violence

In this series of the Seven Deadly Sins of Buy Now! links, the first three — impatience, ignorance, and fatigue — make you think a little, but not gasp in horror.  Now, onto sin #4 — VIOLENCE!

There is something satisfying about completing an article with your final sentence. You’ve met the deadline, or the extension to the deadline, and perhaps its well after midnight, or the baby is about to wake from her nap. And, tthe thought of having to go back in and fiddle with HTML links and affiliate codes is sometimes just too tedious.

I was speaking to one influential blogger who has a strong opinion about adding Buy Now! links to her posts. She explained in an almost eerily calm and serious tone: “I’d rather shoot myself than spend another minute looking up and adding another link.”  It’s a shame that Buy Now! links can bring an otherwise gentle blogger to the brink of self-destruction.

Redemption
ShopAdvisor has millions of products in its catalog, constantly updated from thousands of online and local retailers. When you’re done writing a product review, you’re done. ShopAdvisor automatically reads your article and recognizes the product by name. A team of ShopAdvisor product curators checks for accuracy, and the ShopAdvisor watch button appears automatically as part of your review. No need for violence. :-)

Next: Foolishness

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The Seven Deadly Sins of “Buy Now!” Links: Sin #3 – Fatigue

So far in this series of the seven deadly sins of Buy Now! links, I’ve focused on how un-ready most readers are to make a purchase after they’ve just been introduced to a product for the first time in your review. Buy Now links jump the gun a little in pushing the reader to the checkout line, and they don’t provide much space in which a reader can gain more knowledge and think about the product before deciding to purchase it.

Now, when 1% of your readers actually do click the link in your article to an ecommerce site, nine times out of ten they don’t even put it in the cart. Instead, they have come to the site to get basic information, such as the price; and from their they often leave the ecommerce site to do some Internet price comparison, and the connection between your article and any eventual purchase has been lost.

Some review sites have taken steps to pre-empt that price-shopping click away from their pages by including the current price at one or more online stores. Some of those Learn More clicks are really the start of a price comparison search. Some review sites try to pre-empt a jump to a comparison shopping site by including a selection of Buy Now! links, each one with the price of the item displayed.

Now, when you think about it, very few readers actually want to see all of these deals. Instead, they want to know the basic price of the product (“does this air conditioner go for $200? $500? or $1,000?”) to see if it is within their range. And they also want to know the lowest price currently available. And, while it may be useful once in a while to see just how many sites are selling the item, the result of including all that data is a seemingly information rich page — which comes at the cost of site design.

Button fatigue plagues so many sites. There is already a bevy of social network buttons in most blog posts and reviews. And, no matter how neatly Buy Now! buttons can be arranged, many readers would quickly consider them distractions. Your content begins to shrink in size relative to Buy Now! links and buttons that threaten to clutter your site and steal from the value of the reviews themselves. That may be a high price to pay just to capture 1% of your readers.

Redemption
ShopAdvisor recognizes the difference between informing a reader of the lowest current price and leading the reader to the checkout line. When a reader clicks the ShopAdvisor watch button, he sees the current lowest price, and can decide to dog-ear the product review for later consideration. The quick price check lets the reader know if the product is in his budget range. When he’s ready to give it more thought, or when the price drops, ShopAdvisor notifies the reader — and remembers that the lead came from your site.

Next: Violence

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The Seven Deadly Sins of “Buy Now!” Links: Sin #2 – Ignorance

So, you’ve got a pretty good blog with well-written, informed reviews of outdoor gear, or cookware, or large kitchen appliances. The editorial takes work, but it’s a labor of love; and if all goes well, the reviews might put some cash in your pocket.

But, maybe not so much.

Those Buy Now! links in your article — they sometimes assume a little bit too much knowledge on the part of your readers. Most people still need to educate themselves a bit more before they are in buying mode, no matter how enthusiastically you may have honestly praised the product you’ve reviewed.

On a very good day, your article leads some 1% of readers to actually click a link and go to the ecommerce site where they can buy the product. But, your commission isn’t secured. Not yet. There’s a great yawning gap between going to a store and buying a product. Studies show that in the brick-and-mortar world, fully 72% of shoppers who go to a store for a specific product leave the store without buying it[i]. In the online world, it’s even harsher, where a mere 10% of visitors put your reviewed item in the shopping cart, and only 3% actually make the purchase.[ii]

The problem is actually very easy to understand.  You have caught your readers in the early portion of the consideration process, maybe even at the very beginning. They started out ignorant of the product, and your article for sure has made them less ignorant. But, most people take a little time before they pull the trigger, especially on a high-ticket item. Your “Buy Now!” link is actually a Learn More link. So, you’re looking at a 3% conversion rate of the 1% who clicked on the link in your review. That’s cutting it pretty thin.

Redemption
ShopAdvisor recognizes that many shoppers — the majority — will need to do a little more research before they decide to make a purchase. When readers of your site dog-ear one of your pages using ShopAdvisor, they are writing a note to themselves to take a deeper look later on. ShopAdvisor provides your readers with more information about the product to move them more confidently through their consideration. And everything ShopAdvisor does includes a link back to your site, so your part in the eventual purchase is not not lost.
Next: Fatigue

[i] 2010 Retail Holiday Study, Motorola Business and Market Intelligence

The Seven Deadly Sins of “Buy Now!” Links: Sin #1 – Impatience

There are some 50,000 bloggers today doing product reviews, from camera review sites to gamer blogs to technology gadgets to mom-tested-and-approved reviews. Good bloggers are highly prized by brands and retailers, and a well-crafted product review by a blogger is a coveted marketing win. There’s $180 billion of media-influenced ecommerce, and blogs and reviews sites are an essential part of that ecosystem.

Almost all product reviews include a link to a retailer that brings a reader to an ecommerce site where the reviewed product can be bought. It’s a good service to the reader, and it’s a nice monetary reward for the blogger who influenced the purchase.

Or is it?

What looks like a sure-thing way to leverage an honest and labored-over product review is often more work than it’s worth. Buy Now!! links may seem to wear an angel’s halo, but they actually commit quite a few sins.

Sin #1: Impatience
You’ve written a review about a home appliance, or a computer accessory, or a new fashion item, and your readers love the information they get. They eat it up. They get jazzed by your keen eye for what’s new and your discerning sense of what’s worthwhile. Your product review has stimulated the buying urge. In marketing terms, you have moved your readers through the sales funnel – from Awareness, to Interest, and maybe even to Desire. Chances are, though, you haven’t moved them all the way to Buy. So, that Buy Now! link at the end of your article isn’t likely to get clicked. Not today. “Buy Now!” buttons try to do too much, too soon.

Industry statistics vary for the clickthru rate on ads and links, but all of them usually begin with the number zero followed by a decimal point. As in 0.1%, or 0.5%. At that rate, you will need a lot of readers – a lot – to make that less-than-one-percent become a money maker for you.

Redemption
ShopAdvisor was designed with the understanding that most of the time shoppers — and blog readers — are not ready to Buy Now! The ShopAdvisor watch button lets readers dog-ear your page and save it for later, when the time is right.

NEXT: Ignorance

 

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Tool-Rank.com finds the tools; lets you watch them

There are two types of readers of Tool-Rank.com  One type comes to the site as a result of a search while looking for advice on a new worm drive circular saw, where he or she will learn the “many professionals consider the Bosch 1677M Worm Drive 7-1/4″ Circular Saw to be a good upgrade from the classic Skil 77 Worm Drive and is comparable to the Skil Mag77.”  That’s awesome.

The other type of reader is a lover or tools, and simply enjoys the prose of a true professional talking tools. Tool-Rank.com editor Chris Rodenius is a finish carpenter from Southern California with over 10 years of experience in the trade. He has done work at some of the top resorts in the state, where absolute perfection is a must. When you are working in such detail, you need tools that will match. Chris’s experiences in working with poorly designed tools on the job lead him to start Tool-Rank.com, a tool community where everyone can voice their opinions about the tools they own, and rank them accordingly.

Chris keeps a fascinated eye on new tool upgrades and introductions, and shares his finds with his avid readership. Within just the past month Chris has focused his attention and shared his opinion on a Kreg multi-purpose layout tool, the Mini-Ductor II (loosens up seized bolts by heating them), how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse with a WORX JawSaw, and how to repurpose a kitchen cake mixer lift into a tool lift. He also sniffs out rumors about forthcoming designs based on patent submissions and other industry chatter.

And, Chris has a fine appreciation for a deal, spotting good discounts and somewhat rare sales events. As part of that commitment to helping his fellow handymen (and women) keep track of tools they’d like to get someday, and at a time when the deal is right, Tool-Rank.com has incorporated the ShopAdvisor watch button. Tool fans now can spend a quick coffee break reading up on the latest tool find by Chris or a member of the Tool-Rank community and simply click the ShopAdvisor watch button, ensuring themselves a timely reminder without having to leave the comfort of the Tool-Rank.com website.

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Cheapism Uses ShopAdvisor To Watch the Best Cheap Products

One of our favorite experts for product advice is Cheapism, whose mission is “We find the best cheap products out there and tell you what they are.” I have kept Cheapism on my short list of review sites for a wide variety of products — from refrigerators to exercise bikes to living room furniture to pots and pans. And they know their audience: “many people these days are looking for inexpensive products but want to buy the best available products in the budget price range.”

There’s no better place for the ShopAdvisor watch button than a site where consumers go to learn more about high-consideration items. People don’t always move fast when they are in the market for the best and cheapest item. Time may be the enemy of all deals from a retailers perspective, but watching and waiting often works best for the consumer.

Cheapism helps consumers find the right product in the right price range, and ShopAdvisor keeps an eye on it to remind the consumer when the price has dropped or when the time has come to make the decision.

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Laptopmag.com: Watching the Pulse of Mobile Tech

Laptopmag.com is one of the most respected and trusted brands in mobile technology, providing executive decision makers, IT professionals, and tech enthusiasts with product reviews, news and tips, trusted buying advice, and helpful how-to information. The site’s 2.7 million monthly visitors are interested in smart phones, tablets, eReaders, notebooks, and generally all things new and innovative. Laptopmag.com offers daily commentary and insight into the breaking mobile tech news of the day for the informed and engaged tech shopper and owner.

Laptopmag.com recently added the ShopAdvisor watch button to its product reviews, adding deferred purchases as a valuable new aspect to the buying process for the research-intensive products its readers love.

 

As summer wanes and college and high school students (or their parents) begin to think about the return to school in the fall, Laptopmag.com is featuring 5 of the top tablets for the season. “A number of textbooks are available in interactive, digital versions, which will save room in your backpack. And, with a plethora of advanced apps now available for students, a tablet could be your ultimate study companion.” As parents and students alike seek to make their school dollars go far, it pays to “watch” these tablets during the dog days of summer. ShopAdvisor will wake you from your hammock when the price is right.

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Photo.net uses ShopAdvisor to watch cameras

Photo.net is an online community with hundreds of thousands of active members and many more casual viewers visiting daily. Since 1993 they  have made it their mission to be the best peer-to-peer educational system for people who wish to become better photographers. Their audience consists of photography enthusiasts ranging from newcomers to experienced, successful professionals; and includes includes anyone interested in becoming a better photographer, plus many folks who show up just looking for great images.

Purchasing a high-consideration item like a camera is not something most people — beginners or professionals — rush into. They typically do some research, look at different models of cameras, lenses and accessories, and talk with other knowledgeable (or more knowledgeable) photographers. Photo.net’s peer forums are a great place for newbies and experts to find each other and help each other out.

Photo.net recently added one more service — the ShopAdvisor watch button — to its site to help its community find the right product at the right time. Now, with each camera review, visitors can watch an item and be reminded of it later — when the price goes down, when they think they might have the cash-flow to make a purchase, or when they’ve gathered enough research. ShopAdvisor keeps track of the items for them, reminding them at a later date, or when there is a price shift.

You can check out how Photo.net uses the watch button in a recent roundup review of ten top waterproof cameras for underwater use. The ShopAdvisor watch button accompanies each review, and provides the reader with the current lowest price, the price history for the preceding 3-9 months, and the ability to ask for a price alert or for a reminder at a specific date in the future.