Marketing guru Seth Godin showcased Ibex as an example of what a good website should look like in his blog today.
Ibex is a Vermont, USA-based company that sells outdoor clothing. Their long sleeve tops for men average about USD100 each. Not exactly cheap, but not over-the-top expensive either. Seth Godin outlines five things that make Ibex successful online:
- They sell a product you can’t buy at the local store. This is easily overlooked and critically important. Because it’s unique, it’s worth seeking out and talking about. Just because you built a site doesn’t mean I care. At all. But if you build a product I love, I’ll help you.
- They understand that online pictures are free. Unlike a print catalog, extra pictures don’t cost much. Make them big. Let me see the nubbiness or the zipper or the way you make things.
- They use smart copy (but not too much).
- They are obsessed with permission. Once you sign up, you’ll get really good coupons and discounts by email. Not too often, but often enough that my guess is that they make most of their sales this way. 25% discount on a product just like a product you love–just before Valentine’s day? Sign me up.
- They aren’t afraid to post reviews. Even critical ones.
No doubt with the advent of online commerce anyone can sell anything online. As you go through the list, it’s apparent this is not rocket science. But it’s a wonder how few businesses get the basics right. This got me thinking about the missed potential for New Zealand firms. New Zealand is blessed with some of the most amazing natural resources in the world, superior products including honey, wool, seafood, dairy etc.
Almost all of the Ibex products I came across use the same raw ingredient: New Zealand merino wool.
A woolies zip t-neck (USD72) uses 18.5 micron New Zealand Merino lightweight rib; 150 g/m2. Not sure what the raw cost is, but probably not more than USD2 given the low price of raw processed wool. So basically of the USD72
retail price, maybe USD2 accrues to New Zealand wool producers and processors COMBINED, or 3% of the retail price.
OK, this may not be surprising to some people who already understand that it doesn’t matter if you have the best product in the world; if you can’t sell then you’re finished. However, my bet is the average New Zealander probably doesn’t realise the extent to which we’re “giving away” business. Coming back to the official website of New Zealand merino wool, the organisation tasked with marketing New Zealand merino wool globally. The homepage is not particularly impressive, and people clicking on the “customer gateway” (curious terminology-
maybe they asked the resident IT geek to write this) get this “under construction” message. I don’t get these messages. If you don’t have a website, just wait until you have one. Why put up an “under construction” message?
Seeing this is the top site that appears on Google whenever anyone searches for “NZ merino wool” I’m not sure it’s a good look for foreign visitors researching NZ merino wool.
The 1992 Arthur D Little (American management consultancy) report quoted on the “About Us” page says:
New Zealand merino is unequivocally the best in the world and needs to be taken to the market in a manner which is distinctly different from the rest of the clip.
Sounds good. Hope there has been some progress in the 19 years since that report was published.