In my most recent blog, Internet Retail and MAP (Minimum Advertised Pricing), I concluded my post with a simple statement of experience, “If anything, the aggressiveness of MAP policies has heightened.” I thought I might note a few of the most recently communicated MAP requirements. Not only are these mutually exclusive and/or misguided attempts to improve individual brand positioning, but more importantly they create a poor customer experience. The very thing MAP policies are traditionally communicated to improve.
- Homepage Logo – While it makes for a positive speaking point, every brand image can’t be on the homepage. For one, a cluttered homepage is unprofessional, and in actuality the homepage has little real relevance to most customers. The retailer’s goal is to land the inbound customer on a page much more relevant to their search. This request generally comes from a traditional understanding of showroom brand positioning. With limited retail shelf space there is an innate value to insuring a given brand is represented up front. This is, of course, not the case online. Most customers don’t enter through the “front door”, or homepage, as the entry point, search terms, refinements, and navigation are much more critical. For examples, look to e-commerce leaders like Amazon and Zappos who do not present logos on their homepage.
- Product List and Search Manipulation – Again, everyone can’t be on the first page of search or navigation based product results. While merchandising is a key component of a successful retailer strategy, there is also significant importance given to the purity of search results. For long term success it is critical that a retailer maintain focus on showing customers the most relevant results as they search and navigate, rather than artificially favoring any one brand or product. Google has set the standard in terms of purity of search, and their organic search results cannot easily be manipulated by paying. That concept needs to translate to search within the retailer’s property as well.
- Customer Service Days and Hours – In the same way a manufacturer would not burden themselves with managing a showroom’s business details, it makes little sense to involve themselves in the management of the same for an internet retailer. At the heart of the issue is customer service. Thankfully, in the online arena, there are several 3rd party means of measurement. Those include services like BizRate, LivePerson Rating, and the BBB. A Quality Internet Retailer will subject themselves to these rating services.
- Compliance With a MAPP That Is Not Effectively Policed – When a MAPP is not effectively implemented or consistently policed over time, the brand, as well as its Quality Internet Retailers, takes the hit. For the brand, the market becomes cluttered with poor quality, fly-by-night sites and listings that degrade their reputation with the customer. For the retailer, the inability to compete makes investing in the brand a tough proposition. Ultimately, in this scenario, only the poor retailer benefits, and only in the short run. Allowing the Quality Internet Retailers to compete is likely the best way to drown out the noise and bring the brand position back to the level of quality expected.