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Checking out an online ad. Some replies.

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some replies
Some replies

The website looks ok ( HOWEVER - although they claim to be a Limited Company, there is no company number on the website (AFAICS) AND a quick search of the Companies House database using their WebCHeck facility ( does not find a company registered as Flamingo Electronics Limited, so I'd be suspicious.


The top picture on their info page does NOT look like it has any computers in the shop!

The company logo is different on the two shops.

Strange to just have one branch in South London and one in Milan.

If you download the second picture and enlarge it, it looks like the name has been Photoshopped.

That logo looks familiar too:­raphics/ash/FlamingoHilton.jpg

If they are in UK and Italy, then why are their prices in dollars?

Others pointed out that the mailing address is an “accomodation” address, and the fax number is also shared with somebody else, and they have a special escrow payment service (or take Western Union wire payments): all suspicious.

the last useful response
The last useful response

Domain Name.......... Creation Date........ 2004-09-26 Registration Date.... 2004-09-26 Expiry Date.......... 2005-09-26 Organisation Name.... Nicolette Maxwell Organisation Address. 1 Thorndale Court Organisation Address. Organisation Address. South Elgin Organisation Address. 60177 Organisation Address. IL Organisation Address. UNITED STATES

Doesn't match any of the names or addresses elsewhere and a quick Google doesn't come up with anything at that address, though the street exists.

You haven't given them any money, have you????????

(This was posted at 2:08 pm the same day, about 12 hours after the original request, and pretty much ended the discussion.)

customer demographics
Customer demographics

Understanding who buys a product.

Applies to both individuals and companies as customers.

Who; where; how much; why.

Much of this is learning from your own salespeople, who ought to be trading their experiences already

Called CRM (customer relationships management).

fewer middlemen today
Fewer middlemen today

Once upon a time, manufacturers sold to wholesalers who sold to retailers who sold to the public. So the original makers didn’t know much about who bought what; the retailers might, but wouldn’t tell them.

Direct mail was treasured by advertisers because you did get to learn the name of your customer.

Nowadays, the combination of catalogs, Internet mailings, and some stores that have efficiently kept data on their customers is transforming the marketing/selling arena.

what is a name worth
What is a name worth?

Once upon a time, this was buying mailing lists (UK example)

some other samples
Some other samples

Association of Planning Schools: $100 for 120 department chair addresses, $250 for 1400 faculty.

280,000 newlyweds, or 680,000 new parents: $95/thousand

Auto prospects: $130/thousand

I was told once that the most expensive mailing list was the list of people who had bought an ant farm.

nowadays it s keywords
Nowadays, it’s keywords

Search engines, particularly Google, are selling the ads that are tied to the words you type.

Overture makes public what the cost of a word is:

Honda: $1.03 (Carmax)

Rutabaga: 10 cents (eBay)

Cancer: $4 (Procrit)

the most expensive word
The most expensive word

Pretty depressing: it’s mesothelioma ($49). Other biggies are Vioxx and asbestos (both $16).

Happy is 20 cents, depressed is $3.36.

(By the way, you can of course see who bought each word; so you learn something about who is selling the relevant products.)

web tools targeting customers
Web tools targeting customers

Registration: name, email, zip code? Many (most) people walk away when asked to register.

Cookies: track repeat visits.

Watching queries, mouse clicks, and time spent on page.

Commissions: bonuses, or “affiliate fees” paid to those who route you traffic.

Something similar to “split run” newspaper ads: which images or words gain the most clicks and the most orders.

sample uses of cookies
Sample uses of cookies

Follow the dataOnce you’ve generated this log, entries are posted to it with every client request. You can track a great deal with such a log. Here are some possibilities:

Keep track of all users by frequency-of-visit, i.e., once a day, twice a week, etc.

Track all users by length-of-stay, i.e., how much time they spend on a Web site.

Match recent users against a list of all past users.

Track individual user activity by click activity, i.e., pages and links accessed (useful for Web site analysis).

Track individual user time spent on specific Web pages.

Track collective user activity by clicks for specific time periods, i.e., which links/buttons/features received the most use in a given day, week, etc.

Track collective user activity by page access, i.e., which Web pages were viewed most often—and for average length of time—in a given period.

cookie issues
Cookie issues

Should a user search result be changed depending on prior searches?

Should a user see ads based on prior words searched?

Should a user not see the same ad too often (“banner burnout”)?

What about “cross-selling” in which company A and company B trade cookie access so that if you buy a book from company A, company B offers to sell you a DVD on the same subject?

What’s customer service, and what’s offensive marketing?


The traditional marketer had to design the product once, for all customers. (Some exceptions: best selling paperbacks sometimes come in multiple cover designs).

But now, if somebody thinks you buy more often when the website has a red background, there’s no problem showing you a red background every time you visit the site.

Or, you can get special prices, or extra features. (Just as I sometimes wonder if any oriental rug has ever been sold at list price, I don’t think there are any days in the year that some software vendors haven’t extended a limited time offer to me).

rights management run amok
Rights management run amok

DRM 03 (Digital Rights Management) conference, ACM (Washington, DC). This paper is alternately hilarious and frightening.

what did the authors do
What did the authors do?

They signed up for the legitimate music and video download services. Not Grokster or Kazaa; Pressplay, MusicNet, Rhapsody, MusicNow, MovieLink, and CinemaNow.

They then actually read all the EULAs (end user license agreements) and privacy policies.

Better yet, they installed a packet logger to see what was being transmitted from their machine to the services.

Then they discussed whether you might expect to happen, compared with what does happen.

what did they find
What did they find?

The services routinely read and transmit to their servers the files that record your website visits (to all websites, not just theirs).

They record exact details on how many times you access each of their items, and how you listen/view it (e.g. whether you fast forward or back up).

Although they carefully encrypt the data they are copying away about your browsing habits, one of them didn’t bother to encrypt your name and password as it logs you in.

They don’t allow such “fair use” as capturing an excerpt, or transferring a copy to another machine you own.

cinemanow most obnoxious 1
CinemaNow most obnoxious (1)

If you've tried to watch one of our free movies you realized that we asked you some questions. If you haven't signed up yet to watch a free movie, here's the info that we're going to ask: your user name, e-mail address, and password. For the pay-per- view and premium movies we're going to ask for some credit card information. The standard stuff such as full name, billing address, credit card number, expiration date and your e-mail again. And that's all that we ask you to tell us about you (that wasn't too bad, was it?). However, to be honest we do obtain a bit more info about you. For instance, we keep track of what films you watch. We do this so that we can send you information about other films that we think you would enjoy (after all, it's all about you, isn't it?). We also keep track of how much time you spend on our site (but we promise not to tell your boss), what parts of our site you visit, where you came from (as in what site you were at before coming to CinemaNow) and what site you go to when you leave CinemaNow (though we can't imagine why anyone would ever want to leave CinemaNow). We also know what kind of a browser you use, what type of an operating system your computer uses and other nifty computer info.

Excerpt from their privacy policy; compare with their terms of use, next slide.

cinemanow most obnoxious 2
CinemaNow most obnoxious (2)

Limited use of the Site is offered to you by CinemaNow subject to, and conditioned upon your acceptance of, these Terms of Use. Your use of the Site constitutes your legally binding acceptance of and agreement to these Terms of Use. Under these Terms of Use only, CinemaNow grants you a license to view and use the interactive features of this Site. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, you are not an authorized user and should discontinue any use of the Site.

CinemaNow reserves the right to change or modify these Terms of Use at any time without notice to you. Please read these Terms of Use carefully, as you are bound to comply with the provisions herein.


1.1. Ownership. CinemaNow is the exclusive owner and proprietor of the Site. The Site Content and Site Code as they exist on the Site are offered to you by CinemaNow for limited use pursuant to these Terms and Use. "Site Content" means any and all human readable audio and/or visual elements of the Site, including without limitation, any text, graphics, images, illustrations, photographs animation, video/audio or audiovisual works, designs or logos, information, and other content made available through the Site. "Site Code" means any and all underlying elements of this Site, including without limitation source code, script, object code, software, computer programs, and other sets of statements or instructions contained in or underlying the Site. Site Content and Site Code may sometimes be collectively referred to herein as the "Materials."

choosing customers
Choosing customers

Best Buy's angels are customers who boost profits at the consumer-electronics giant by snapping up high-definition televisions, portable electronics, and newly released DVDs without waiting for markdowns or rebates.

The devils are its worst customers. They buy products, apply for rebates, return the purchases, then buy them back at returned-merchandise discounts. They load up on "loss leaders," severely discounted merchandise designed to boost store traffic, then flip the goods at a profit on eBay. They slap down rock-bottom price quotes from Web sites and demand that Best Buy make good on its lowest-price pledge.

"They can wreak enormous economic havoc," says Mr. Anderson.

Best Buy estimates that as many as 100 million of its 500 million customer visits each year are undesirable. And the 54-year-old chief executive wants to be rid of these customers.

(Wall Street Journal, Nov 8, 2004)

customers used to self select
Customers used to self-select

Once upon a time, people who weren’t going to buy things didn’t go into stores. Nowadays, with so much “push” marketing, how do you stop wasting time going after people who won’t buy your product? First of all, can you even find them?

Lots of effort is now spent on collecting and monitoring customers: “surveys”, registration, warranties, rebates, and so on. The goal is to get names for repeat sales.

Nowadays, when you call a customer service line, the agent brings up your account, and typically knows whether the business considers you a good or bad customer.

predicting why you called
Predicting why you called

The instant the last digit is punched, high-speed computers swing into action. Loaded with background information on one in seven U.S. households and with exhaustive data about how the company's millions of cu stomers behave, the computers identify who is calling and predict the reason for the call. After reviewing 50 options for whom to notify, the computers pick the best option for each situation. The computers also pull and pass along about two dozen pieces of information about the person who is calling. They even predict what the caller might want to buy -- even though he or she isn't calling to buy anything -- and then they prepare the customer-service rep to sell that item, once the original reason for the call has been addressed. (Fast Company, 1999, “This is a marketing revolution”)

marketing coupons
Marketing coupons

As you know, nowadays if you buy one brand of paper towels you get a coupon to buy a different brand. We’re not quite at the stage where they give you a coupon on a fire extinguisher if you buy matches, but it’s close.

So far, supermarkets have been relatively inefficient at using the information they have on your purchases. I look forward to messages of the form “you have bought 25,000 calories, 500 grams of fat, 20 daily allowances of vitamin A, your diet is low in B vitamins, next time get more broccoli”

electronic customer management
Electronic customer management

Call centers are giving way to online services (think airlines)

support software
Support software

Plenty of vendors sell systems to manage customer interactions, at typically $1,000-$3,000 per seat.

CRM applications software is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 7% from $3.4 billion in 2003 to $4.8 billion in 2008 according to Gartner.

reverse collaborative filtering
Reverse collaborative filtering

Collaborative filtering is the idea “other people who bought this book also bought…” viewed from the standpoint of helping customers find other things they will want.

The exact same process can be described as helping the vendor find other things the customer will buy.

The technology is quite effective if you have the data. It originated, as far as I know, at Bellcore in the early 1990s with Jim Hollan, George Furnas, and Will Hill.

collaborative filtering
Collaborative filtering

Movie browser: asked people to rate films.

observe don t question
Observe, don’t question
  • If you can, observing people may be better than giving them surveys.
  • People may not fill out the survey
  • They may give answers that they think make them look better, or that they think are “wanted”
  • They may simply treat the whole thing frivolously.
  • Watching website visits, which items are clicked on, and especially what is bought is more realistic data.

Understanding who might buy a product is a big part of marketing.

Nowadays, there is more and more effort to target the right customers.

Information is gathered by a wide variety of methods, and the fastest growing one is web site monitoring.