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Amazon's MyHabit Launches with "Exclusive Membership" Gimmick. Except for Amazon Users (eg everyone).

Remember when Gilt Group and Rue La La first launched and you had to be "invited"? It was a genius marketing effort that established a brand of high-end exclusivity. It also was important in jump-starting the early viral channels (referrals and rewards). Of course, if you didn't know a registered user, you could "request membership" and, within a day or two, your invite would arrive. It was great positioning and marketing. This week Amazon entered the flash sale space with MyHabit. It is very much like Gilt and Rue La La, etc (and, for what it's worth, is very much unlike how I think they should play in the space).

To position themselves as Gilt and Rue did at launch, they too ask users to register and "request membership". The word "request" obviously suggests membership is selective and not instant (despite the headline "become a member instantly"). There is your exclusive, premium positioning.

But that is entirely pointless because anyone with an Amazon account already has an account: "hint: if you already have an account, you may use that to sign in." And of course anyone visiting MyHabit has an Amazon account.

This makes the marketing / positioning effort insincere and beyond gimmicky (since its an extension of a proven gimmick). Just put a big sign-on button and optimize the hell out of it. Then focus on the products and the experience. That's worked for Groupon and LivingSocial. And with Amazon's brand and massive audience, it's the better way to launch / play.

PayPal, LivingSocial, Causes, Starbucks Use Brand / Community to Support Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief.

Yesterday, TechCrunch covered the $1m that eBay / PayPal had raised for Japan earthquake and tsunami relief. It's been heartwarming to see such big brands and platforms leverage their communities - and their scale - to promote giving. From PayPal (who is in a position to promote spending) to LivingSocial (who is matching donations) to Causes (who has the perfect community & brand) to Starbucks (who promotes giving as soon as access the web via their network)

It's terrific. A few screenshots below. This is not meant to overlook promotions by others - feel free to mention them in comments below.

PayPal homepage:




Redbox's Smart Movie Promotion Aims to Validate Emails.

Redbox is a service I love, a product that is terrificly done and a business whose future is murky (negative: moving digital and Netflix as a competitor; positive: Netflix as an example of transitioning perfectly). One of underrated components of Redbox is their email interaction with customers... and in some ways, they are similar to Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt Group and Rue La La: email marketing drives the business. So it wasn't surprising to me that, after my first Redbox rental, they followed up via email with the following promotion: confirm your email address and receive a free rental (DVD or Blu Ray). They understand the value of a verified, engaged email user... and they are willing to give free product away (they also make some direct revenue on the promotion because of rental 'late' fees). Smart.

Unrelated: they also do a great job with their website:

- crisp and good looking - four major actions: reserve, learn, find and research - big promotion for Facebook fanpage (1.9m fans!), their newsletter (per above) and the bog - easy-to-navigate list of available movies - with trailers and cast - the ability to send Redbox gifts (ie a Valentines rental via their Facebook app)


Gilt Groupe Gives Free Shipping for 10 Invites

Social commerce sites like Gilt, Rue La La, ShoeDazzle, Groupon and LivingSocial have been among the leaders in 'social marketing'... and they find success through relatively straightforward, sometimes simple products and promotions. Here is a great example: Gilt is running a promotion where users who invite 10 friends to the service get free shipping. Clear value proposition and very simple process to invite. Furthermore, it is an attainable result (not tied to purchases and not a crazy number of invites).

And of course the site / brand itself is 'share-worthy' - if Gilt provided a poor experience, these sorts of promotions wouldn't result in sharing or ROI.

"Got 10 Friends? Get Free Shipping" "Invite 10 friends to Gilt and enjoy free shipping on your next order. Spreading the word is always in style."

Gilt City's Cleverly Designed iPhone App

Gilt Group has rolled out their new group-buying / coupon site Gilt City to six cities (New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Chicago). With it comes the Gilt City iPhone app. There isn't much to write about about the couponing model as it is very much like others in the space (see Groupon, LivingSocial, Yelp, etc). Over time, we will tell if Gilt Group is able to win share through unique offerings, integration with Gilt Group, etc.

I did want to quickly touch on the application's design... which as you would expect with Gilt Group, is glossy and very visual. The background of each city page is themed respectively. Below, for instance, is Gilt City San Francisco - which has a vivid picture of San Francisco scenery. Big, splashy images are becoming very popular (see my post on - and, with a relatively straight-forward product offering, it is one way to stand out, localize the experience and stay on Gilt's brand.

And with the emergence of big screen devices like the iPad, it is again a reminder that design and color are play an important role in the experience:

Optimizing Call to Action Buttons

Smashing Magazine has a terrific guide to designing "call to action buttons." Design and optimization can increase conversions dramatically - just ask (and study!) these conversion-focused leaders: - Social gaming: RockYou, Slide, Zynga, etc - Flash Sales: Gilt Group, Rue La La - Couponing: Groupon, LivingSocial Smashing Magazine lists dozens of examples. I boil it down to the following:

- size and location: think of visiting a grocery store and what catches your eye in the aisle - color and 'clickability': does the button stand out? does it change on hover? - call to action and copy: what are you asking users to do? is it tempting? This dictates size and location...

With so many variables, the only way to optimize is thorough A/B testing. Cycle through messaging, placement, size... collect data and optimize upon that.

Looking for inspiration? Visit the companies listed above: they are industry leaders in funnel and conversion optimization. Here are two examples from LivingSocial & Groupon. Notice how each call to action has large & colorful buttons, clear messaging and conveys urgency:

Groupon's Facebook Widget Includes Referral Invitations

You could do several classes around Groupon and LivingSocial's product / product marketing expertise. Here is a very simple example of how Groupon does the little things very well.

Many sites have Facebook Connect buttons across their header or footer - and when a user is logged in, their name and Facebook icon appears. Like many social features, Groupon goes a step further. In addition the large Facebook icon, the promotional module features similar content to the new Facebook widgets: the number of your friends who are also connected and the names / images of a few of them. For a popular service like Groupon (154 friends are connected!), this is a compelling way to welcome and encourage users to connect.

Once you are connected, an invite button appears. When clicked, it allows you to share directly on Facebook... and it automatically includes your Groupon referral link. Referrals are an important marketing / viral mechanism for sites like Groupon, Gilt Group, etc - and while they each have their own invite flows, this is a clever, streamlined integration.

LivingSocial Now 3rd Largest Facebook Developer (Behind Zynga & RockYou)

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The top four developers on Facebook have three very recognizable names... and one you probably are familiar with by product - but not by name: LivingSocial (whom I have covered in recent weeks):

#1. Zynga: 40,000,000+ monthly active Facebook users #2. RockYou: 40,000,000 monthly active Facebook users #3. LivingSocial: ~27,500,000 monthly active Facebook users #4. Slide: ~25,000,000 monthly active Facebook users The trends are as remarkable as the numbers (consider that 20,000,000 actives represents 10% of all Facebook!).

Zynga is growing steadily; RockYou has stabilized and Slide has dipped. Meanwhile, the LivingSocial growth rates are phenomenal. The below chart is over one month's time:

It will be interesting to see if LivingSocial supplants Zynga at the #1 spot and where / when the growth flattens.

The full charts are shown on I encourage you to take a look because it puts the velocity of InsideSocial's growth in perspective.