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Larry Chase's Web Digest For Marketers

Are you doing any of your holiday shopping online this year? Of course you are. Out of 215 sites, we handpicked the best ones for you below...

Coming Attractions: The next 3 issues of this newsletter cover...

  1. Top Tips to Increase Sales on Your Site
  2. Best Marketing Sites of '07
  3. Top Google Tools & Tips for Marketers

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Welcome to our 9th Annual Best of Online Holiday Shopping issue. It's one of our most popular issues each year. From what people tell me, they take both a personal and professional interest in the best and brightest shopping sites.

So enjoy this issue and pass it along to someone you think will find it valuable too. Happy shopping...

Now, without further ado, here's her majesty herself, Managing Editor Eileen Shulock, with the top 11 Online Holiday sites for 2007. Take it awaaaay, ES...

Regifting Online has a clever tagline: "Where gift cards meet their match." And that's exactly what happens here, as it is a virtual trading post for the ubiquitous gift cards that spawn under your holiday tree every year. At the time of writing, the giving of gift cards was poised as a more popular choice than ever, so what's a giftee to do? Here you have the choice to:

  1. Buy gift cards (at a discount, silly);
  2. Sell gift cards at a percentage of their original value to (they will give you 70% of the value for American Express, Home Depot, Mastercard or Visa gift cards or and for a plethora of other retailers);
  3. Sell gift cards on the open gift card market; or
  4. swap gift cards with another who desires your gift card and vice versa.

We love the ticker on the left hand side of the page, which lists the most active gift cards as those from (among about 2 dozen choices) Macy's, PetSmart, Barnes and Noble, AMC Theatres, Tiffany and the Apple Store. Take that, Mac users!

Best Online Holiday Shopping Deals

Black Friday Ads

While there are many Black Friday sites out there, we have chosen this one because they get right down to the nitty gritty -- they've developed a stripped down version of their site for mobile devices. Therefore, you can view and search Black Friday deals and edit your shopping list directly from your mobile device. As they say, "This may prove to be especially useful for many people on Black Friday." The site offers what appears to be every deal in the universe, including scanned advertisements from newspapers, numbers of deals by store and a hot list of deals newly added to the site. It also includes perks like store hours and an online shopping list, which becomes oh-so-handy when you shop from your mobile device. Using said device, you can view stores by item lists, filter by category and Early Bird items, search for specific items, view and edit your shopping list and check items off your list as they are purchased.

Keycode Coupons

You've got your Black Friday for the in-store shopper, and then you have your Cyber Monday for the "can't take my fingers off the keyboard" online shopper, who goes to work on the Monday after Thanksgiving, fires up the computer, takes a sip of coffee and then dives right into the online shopping fray. Here you will find your basics from all the major retailers, with the benefit (which is truly a benefit) that they are all consolidated in one place.

At the time of writing we had a $30 gift card offer from Coldwater Creek with your purchase of $100 or more and we had a 25% savings on a WeightWatchers online membership (if you're buying that for your spouse, we don't want to be in your house on Christmas morning). The deals (which continue through the holiday season) are organized by category, by deal "hotness", by merchant and more. The "and more" includes deals that are expiring soon, all deals that include fr** shipping (which is convenient for an online buyer) and all deals with keycodes that can be printed out from online and brought into the store for the savings.

Online Social Shopping

ThisNext is a social shopping site that offers the connection of the personal recommendation to shoppers who are looking for that perfect gift. To do so, they have elevated their most successful shopping contributors to the position of "Maven". Mavens are considered the influencers of the shopping world. Maven status is determined by a member dashboard that gives all contributors insight as to their "influence" based upon the feedback and ratings they receive from other members. Mavens may be assigned to a specific category, a specific city or the like, and their contributions are viewed by as many as 1 million consumers per month.

As a matter of fact, the company refers to their mavens as "mini Oprahs" because of the influence they have over the buying decisions of other consumers. At the time of writing you could go to the site and click on the Christmas Guide, which housed 360 recommendations from ThisNext contributors. Categories to explore included Gadgets, Green, Kids and Home. In exploring the "Green" category, this editor immediately found Envirosax Reusable Grocer Bags in pretty floral patterns. After all, not all that is environmentally sound needs to be made from hemp. Even though each shopper can view a slideshow of similar products, these babies are the perfect gift for her eco-sister, so off to shopping land she goes...

Social shopping gets useful at Pronto, which at the time of writing had just added Buying Guides. These shopping guides include reviews and unbiased advice from the shopping community both on products and where to find them, and category-specific facts on what to look for in a particular purchase. At the time of writing, categories included baby, home and garden, electronics and entertainment.

At the site you can find products in many ways, including a list of the top 100 "liked" products posted by members over the past few hours. You will find a list of top reviewers, including a little about them (remember, these are just normal people who shop a lot). You will find top brands and top stores. And then once you get down into the nitty gritty you will find one top recommended product per category, five key points to keep in mind when choosing your product and so on.

One of the benefits of these social shopping sites is that members have the pulse of what's hot, hot hot, and you will also come across products that you never knew existed, such as TheBacteriaKiller Cleaner For Cell Phones and Mobile Devices. Who knew? But it's probably a pretty useful stocking stuffer.

Comparison Shopping Engines

MSN Shopping

With more than 29 million products from more than 8000 stores to choose from, the MSN comparison shopping site better have a darn good way for you to make holiday shopping choices. That's why we like their ability to allow you to dig right down into things and see specific suggestions by category or personality/interest.

Even better, they offer "hot lists" by personality for those who want only what's hot off the presses. For example, the hot list for the electronics and gadgets guru (and how many of you Internet marketers out there can make that claim?) we've got the Zune 2nd Generation 80GB Media Player, which rings in (at the time of writing) for the best price of $249.99 at Circuit City. And who can live without the iHome Shower Station and Dock for iPod to start your day? While you're on the phone discussing important Internet marketing things, the incredibly handy Grill Alert Talking Remote Meat Thermometer will save the day. You get the picture.

Best Online Stores

There are few Blackberry users who can actually separate their hand from their "crackberry", so what could make a better gift than the latest model or accessory? That's why we head over to this site for everything BlackBerry. There's the BlackBerry Pearl and the BlackBerry Curve, which inspire moments of awe for owners. There are BlackBerry accessories such as wireless headsets, signal boosters and GPS navigators. There are forums where you can discuss your BlackBerry loves and issues (from your BlackBerry, of course). There are BlackBerry tutorials for those who need to catch up. There are games, there's software... and should the worst happen, there's even a recovery service. Now that's a great gift!

Urban Basket Case

When a gift basket full of apples and second-rate chocolates just doesn't cut it, you might turn to a personalized gift basket. Urban Basket Case combines off-the-wall products with viral marketing techniques as an alternative to the traditional ho-hum gift basket. While they target to urbanites, just about anyone could enjoy these "out of the box" ideas.

In terms of viral marketing, site visitors can view hilarious videos with wacky characters making gift suggestions by personality and pass those videos along to friends or family. In terms of gift baskets, visitors can select pre-made baskets by personality such as Grrl Power, Don Juan or the gift basket for tortured artists called Art Basquet, which includes such goodies as a Van Gogh Action Figure complete with a severed ear and Understand Modern Art Breath Spray. Visitors can also create their own baskets for that special someone. And as the piece de resistance, there is a sister site called ReGift It where (you guessed it) you can barter gifts at any time and get something more to your liking -- or do all your holiday shopping by giving away those gifts that you never wanted in exchange for gifts on your to-do list.

Circuit City

Circuit City has gone social for the holidays with the integration of its CityCenter community, which is a place where people can share their questions, photos, ideas and preferences on home entertainment and electronic products, including computers. The sharing places include ratings, reviews and discussion forums, blogs and personal profiles. Visitors have the option of interacting directly with one another and with Circuit City employees for advice and feedback.

At the time of writing there were more than 13,000 unedited reviews and comments. These thoughts can be accessed directly through CityCenter land, or as you look at a product. For example, this editor thought the pink Sony VAIO VGN-CR220E/P 14.1" Widescreen Entertainment Laptop might be for her. In addition to all those bland product specs, we can choose from many user comments, such as this helpful advice from a woman in Florida:

"Overall I am impressed with its speed, nice bright lcd widescreen and the functionality of the keyboard (I make less typo errors with this particular type of keyboard). I would recommend purchasing the higher capacity battery, which I did and am really happy that I made that purchase..."

On the marketing side, Circuit City uses the site to monitor customer demand, discover product issues and so on.

smart USA

smart is a member of the Mercedes Car Group, which sells their smart vehicles in 36 countries, where it's the "it" car of choice; it's also on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Over 750,000 "fortwo" vehicles have been sold since their introduction. At the time of writing you could reserve your very own fortwo vehicle for $99 in preparation for its US debut... what a great holiday gift idea.

Not only is it tiny (8.8 feet long and 5.1 feet wide) and gorgeously designed in your choice of color combos; it is made from recyclable materials and is extremely fuel efficient. The models that will be available in the US are:

  • The smart fortwo pure (entry-level, starting at $11,590);
  • The smart fortwo passion coupe (well-equipped, starting at $13,590); and
  • The smart fortwo passion cabriolet (well-equipped convertible, starting at $16,590).

The $99 online reservation will secure your place in line while a dealer network is established.

Holiday Shopping Research

To Click or Not to Click?

In many cases it's never too late to make a few changes to your website or marketing plans in order to better drive sales. What's worth making changes for? According to a study from GSI Commerce (a leading e-commerce platform), the first thing online marketers need to do is understand the generational gap between Internet users.

For example, 42% of younger adults (18-34) were willing to consider alternative forms of payment such as Bill Me Later, Google Checkout or Paypal, versus 29% of those 55+. And all marketers should know that 21% of the younger generation rated professional site design as very important as compared to 8% of the older set. Forty percent of all respondents reported that a convenient return policy was a very important feature; in terms of gender difference, 46% of women versus 34% of men considered the return policy to be of major importance. Guess who's generally in charge of holiday returns? Women. ;) The study was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of GSI.

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* Social Shopping
* Regifting Ideas
* Holiday Deals &
* Van Gogh Action
* Internet Direct
   Marketing Tip
   of the Week
* And More...

Internet Direct Marketing Tip of the Week

Are You on Your Reader's Wavelength?

Do your ads use the same language your audience would use if they were talking about the subject of your ad? If you're speaking another language, or "missing the mark" with the approach you're employing, you're leaving money on the table.

PPC copy does well when it mimics the words used by the person conducting a search. Solo email subject lines need to resonate with the recipient or it's delete city for that solo email. The same is true in all media. It's just online, you see the results right away. That's a good thing because then you can instantly adjust until you hit your mark. LC

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