February 22, 2007

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Whatís for sale today?
One geeky item per day ó for cheap
By John ďjaQĒ Andrews† jandrews@hippopress.com

In a world of instant comparisons and price-matching policies, online retailers are finding it pretty tough to sell things without having the absolute lowest price in the world.

All the friendly customer service reps and fast shipping options donít mean a whit to the person cruising around the Internet looking for fab deals.

So an increasing number of businesses have cropped up targeting a very vulnerable demographic: the impulse shopper.

The urge to acquire is a very deep-seated one in the American psyche, and whether itís a candy bar at the cash register or yet another USB flash drive for 39 cents after rebate, sometimes we just canít pass up a bargain. Some of us are so into bargain-hunting that weíll actively seek out good deals ó not necessarily on anything weíre looking for already, but on anything. Thatís what these deal-of-the-day sites are banking on.

Itís hard to mark one site as the first to adopt this strategy, but Woot.com has certainly been on the forefront. It started, they claim, as ďan employee-store slash market-testing type of place for an electronics distributor.Ē Basically, they put one item on their front page at midnight every day and sell it until their stock is depleted or 24 hours goes by. After that, itís a new item.

What happens if one dayís item is really popular and it sells out within a couple hours? Well, the order-taking server gets the rest of the day off. It may seem odd for an e-commerce site to lie basically dormant for the better part of a day, but the business has plenty to do fulfilling all those orders. The one-item-a-day format keeps curious customers coming back once a day, every day, and thatís a lot more valuable in the long run than confusing people with schedules and putting them off your store.

Thatís not to say Woot doesnít mix it up from time to time; every few weeks, they put remainder stock on sale until it clears out and then immediately offer another item. But thatís a special event.

Other sites to mimic the deal-of-the-day format include GoingToday.com, DailySaleItem.com, ChickChock.com, Shnoop.com and StrongIdea.com. The exact rules vary ó some sites will let you purchase deals from previous days if they didnít sell out, for example ó but the idea is the same: make sure customers stop by once a day, every day. Not only will that increase the possibility of sales, but itíll guarantee eyeballs on your ads.

Oh, did I not mention ads? Those things that drive the Internet economy? Yeah.

Some regular Web stores have started offering one special deal every day too, hoping to cash in on the trend. So many sites have popped up, in fact, that meta-sites listing all the deals-of-the-day have also emerged. My personal favorite is DODTracker.com; it separates the deals into categories (although theyíre mostly electronics) and also provides one big list with prices, pictures and time left on the deal. Sites like this might cut into the eyeballs each individual site gets, but those individual sites canít very well afford to not be listed, so they survive quite well.

They also display their own ads. But you knew that.



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