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John T. Unger

More Thoughts on Blog Stores

John T. Unger April 11, 2006

JHill left a comment on my recent post So Who Wants Blog Stores, asking:

I'm not sure why it needs to be blog focused... There's some infrastructure that could be leveraged, but I think that Amazon/Ebay/Yahoo could probably acheive the same end results by more narrowly focusing a small part of their marketing. What advantages do you see with the stores being blog based?

Sometimes I really take too long to think through things. I forget that it's okay to write a quicker post that skims an issue, rather than deep think pieces. Here are some quick thoughts off the top of my head after stewing on this issue for months… They are in the order I thought of them, rather than trying to put them in order of importance:

  • Tags and categories are well integrated with blogs making it easier for people to find and share products. Look what flickr has done for photos via tags… that same mojo could be applied to selling items through blogs. Look at Stylehive, a new site which bills itself as "a collaborative shopping community.  It is a place where contributors can work together to share and discover the hottest stores, designers, trends, and must have products." Stylehive lets users tag and share products they dig. This kind of community powered network is perfect for blog stores, and will doubtfully be the last of it's type.
  • Blogs about products are one of the most popular forms of the medium. Whether an unusual item that shows up on boing boing, tech items on Gizmodo or recycled goods on treehugger, bloggers like to cover items that interest people. By writing compelling blog entries as part of your store, you can leverage this to get a great deal of publicity.
  • Google ranks blogs highly. This makes small business blog stores actually competitive with larger companies like amazon or target who can afford to *buy* googlejuice through ads and presence. My blogs frequently outperform websites with huge advertising budgets in search placement.
  • Being able to sell products without forcing your readers to leave your site encourages trust, furthers curiosity, entices them to return. I'm okay with leaving a site to use PayPal's secure servers for a transaction, but I like to be returned to the site when I'm done. I don't always feel comfortable with sites that send me elsewhere to buy, and provide no indication that I'm still dealing with the person I started out with.
  • The cost of running a blog store could be much lower than the cost of online storefronts. My TypePad Pro account runs me $150 a year. Yahoo stores can cost as much as $300 a month!
  • TypePad blogs offer better design control than most affordable online stores.
  • Most people find blogs easier to update, manage and use than writing code or FTPing files. This lowers the entry barrier in terms of learning to manage content. Because of this, many people who might not have seriously considered the learning curve of running an online store might be willing to try an easy blog version.
  • RSS makes it easy to stay in touch with customers so they know when there is new stuff they might want to buy. Because it's an opt-in subscription, they're more likely to appreciate being informed, rather than feeling spammed.
  • Blogs give more room to develop knowledge about products. Look at englishcut.com which has increased Thomas Mahon's bespoke suit business tenfold in only a year or two.
  • Blogs make it easier for customers to ask questions, leave comments and inform you of ways you can improve your product and services. Most online stores have feedback, but it tends to be slower, more frustrating and more demanding. I can think of six things I've changed in my product designs due to customer interaction on my blogs. It's like having an enormous global R+D lab couple with a focus group, for free.
  • Well written blogs remove many of the barriers to sales by providing qualities such as Authority, Integrity, Credibility, Familiarity, Involvement, Social Proof, and Honesty. Brian Clark has an excellent article at Copyblogger that covers this in more depth. I'll quote him on the basics, but I recommend reading the full article (and all the others, as well. Go subscribe).

    Selling with a blog is not about convincing someone to buy something that they don’t want or need. Rather, it’s about overcoming objections to buying from you.

    Here’s some of the ways your blog can set the stage for the perfect buying environment:

    • Authority - people respect others who are authorities on a certain subject, and are more likely to do business with them in that area.
    • Integrity - you have a forum to demonstrate your unwavering high standards.
    • Credibility - your posts are specific and believable, which helps win over wavering prospects.
    • Familiarity - over time, your readers will feel like they personally know you, and the decision to buy becomes easier.
    • Involvement - the interactive nature of blogs allows readers to participate and feel a sense of ownership which can be crucial to expanding the relationship.
    • Social Proof - comments to your posts and feed subscriber levels allow visitors to see others are reading, so maybe they should be too.
    • Honesty - this is the most crucial aspect of successful selling, and a blog allows you to demonstrate it.
  • I think of TypePad much more as a content management tool than as a journaling tool. I frequently update older entries, post things with older dates or schedule them for the future, etc. I find my TypePad blog to be much, much easier to maintain than my old static website (which I designed with maintenance in mind). If a TypePad store template separated elements of store items so that they could be easily changed, it would make some aspects of maintaining a store much easier. For instance, if I could easily paste a PayPal button into it's own field in the compose template, and change it at anytime without having to worry about messing up the code, that would be a significant improvement over using Dreamweaver.

I'm quite certain I'm missing some things here. Anyone else want to weigh in with thoughts, links, etc?

I'll add/expand to this as time permits.

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More Like This: Agenda: Analysis , Dialogue , TypePad Stores

Comments

Craig McGinty says:

It is the comments section at the foot of an item description that really excites me as it is a great way for customers to leave their own reviews and thoughts on the item.

Do you read the reviews at the end of an Amazon page?

Well comments will allow you to do the same and more, you can offer your own thoughts, expand further on a point raised, and so give your item description a life of its own - much better than the static, boring item details you see in many ecommerce shops.

This community element, alongside the other points about tags etc., opens up many new options for a small business owner.

john t unger says:

Yeah the comments are a great way to show how people feel about what you're selling. And even when they are *not* happy, it gives you a way to respond publicly right away and (hopefully) show that you can make things right.

Alan Gutierrez says:

This discussion transcents TypePad, you know. Developing a blog as a retail outlet is something we've discussed. This might be worthy of a new blog.

Certainly, it is worthy of a few new buzzawords.

john t unger says:

Alan,

Agreed that it transcends TypePad. That said, my hope is that TypePad will be first to market with a simple store template, because that's where my blogs live!

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