optimising online revenue

No-hop shopping and insitement advertising - the future formats of online marketing?

March, 2009


You're at home, relaxing; it's been a long day. Suddenly, you remember you need to buy a birthday gift for a friend. There's a great store just a block away, but can you really be bothered to get up and go out?

Nope - a better idea. You grab your laptop, settle on the sofa and log in to your favorite gift-selling site. Next-day delivery guaranteed; it'll be with you just in time.

It's little wonder we love shopping online when it's just so convenient. And of course, it's not only purchasing that's easy. While you're comfortably sprawled on that sofa you can pay a few bills, check your balance, order a dvd, then, jobs done, connect to your favorite social networking site.

Which, in fact, has almost become a kind of home from home. A place to chat, relax, watch videos, have fun. Just like the best parts of your offline life.

The only thing you don't like are the ads. Click, and you're whisked away to some other site when you'd much rather stay where you are. It's a bit like being forced to take that shopping trip you decided against earlier. It's so irritating, in fact, that you gave up using ads long ago.


This isn't an isolated viewpoint. There's plenty to suggest that the web - or rather, the way it's used - is changing rapidly. It's almost as if we're entering the age of the hibernaut, a user who shuns random surfing to remain on safe, well-known territory - preferably within a community setting.

It's impossible to over-estimate the influence of the vast social networks on our online behavior. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter. Not so long ago the idea of real web community seemed frankly optimistic, but millions are now settled in their own little networking niche. Niches, of course, that advertisers are keener than ever to target; yet insist on dragging us away from, too.

In late January of last year (2008) Google reported a sharp decline in click rates, largely attributing the unexpected downturn to "the difficulty of making money from placing adverts on social networking sites" (Financial Times). In other words, social networkers are becoming increasingly immune to the lure of ads. Why?

It's literally a (multi)million dollar question, but of many possible answers, surely at least one lies in the click-through nature of traditional online advertising itself. After all, social networks aren't just a substitute for social activity, they are a social activity. And what kind of person chooses to switch site entirely if they're having fun right where they are?


In other words, online advertising is going to have to change its format and one-stop, no-hop ads seem like the logical direction for it to take. 'Insitement' advertising that enables users to view, buy, download or order directly from the comfort of their very OwnSpace.

Why isn't such a format being used already? The technology's no challenge, but advertisers have always been keen to transfer leads to their own place of business.

This makes sense from many marketing viewpoints, but if it's a tactic that's starting to dissuade consumers from clicking ads altogether, then a new one will have to take its place. And after all, isn't the stay-at-home habit one the web itself actually promotes? If we're increasingly offered the option to manage most tasks in one setting, how come we can't do the same where online advertising is concerned?

The ultimate 'insitement' scenario, of course, is the combination of established community with a perfectly-oiled selling machine. It's something that's yet to fully materialize, although not for lack of trying.

In 2006 WalMart launched 'The Hub', a MySpace-like clone aimed at teens and offering ample opportunity to purchase while socializing. This rather cynical attempt to engage its intended audience completely failed to do so, and closed after just 10 weeks.

WalMart's quest to target a new and difficult sector was clearly a major error; but had the company directed equivalent community-building strategies at its existing user base, a significant no-hop shopping community may well have emerged to be with us today.

In fact, the question arises as to whether any of the online retail giants ever properly understood the huge potential of social networking - and particularly, that its popularity would spread way beyond young early adopters to rapidly encompass all demographics.

Most are now attempting to regain lost ground by steadily enhancing communal features on their existing selling sites. But the point remains that, if major online communities are now established elsewhere, advertisers may simply have to revise their marketing to combat those stay-at-home, hibernaut habits.

And insitement advertising, with formats allowing on the spot, no-hop viewing and transaction, is the route it will need to take. A click in, rather than a clickthrough.

There's just no better way to press all the right mouse buttons.

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