GD 438 – E-Commerce & Marketing : Week 1 – Case Study

Company: Webvan, online grocer
Webvan, one of the first online grocers, has been coined by Cnet.com as being the number one biggest flop of the dot com bust. (CBS Interactive) With a bit of researching into the company’s business model, it’s easy to see why. That’s not to say that their idea was not a good one, it was! However, it’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it.
In business, you have to do a lot of planning and be wise and cautious in your decisions. Financial planning in this manner is essential. A company’s revenue must, a least, meet the capital investments put forth to start the business. Webvan spent enormous sums of money to build high-tech distribution centers in order to meet expected customer demand. They also spent even more money on marketing and advertising to attract customers and increase sales. In an article on Venture Navigator entitled, “Webvan’s unsustainable business model”, it is reported that, “it was costing Webvan about $210 to acquire each customer.” Considering that the average order was only $81 and the business plan had been estimated at $103, it is clear to see why the company could not make ends meet. (Mullins) In the two years Webvan was in operation the company spent almost $1.2 billion dollars and still flopped. This goes to show that no matter how good an idea is or how much money you have, solid planning is still crucial for success.

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Questions for the Budding Designer

“If you want to be famous, design for your critics, If you want to be wealthy, design for your customers, If you want to be happy, design for yourself.”

– Unknown

What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses with your current design skills?

I feel that the strengths of my current design skills are my use of hierarchy and color. I use these two elements to draw the eye to important content in my designs. I also design with the golden rectangle (or ratio) in mind to create more visually pleasing designs.

A weakness of my current design skills is that I tend to let myself become stuck in an idea instead of starting from scratch and trying something completely new. Sometimes all a design needs is for me to walk away from it for a little while and then it will come together just fine. Other times I end up creating something totally different, but it’s these times that it takes me a while to realize it and I lose valuable time in the process.

Do you think you will ever be completely finished with your portfolio? Why or why not?

I think that the only way my portfolio will ever be completely finished is if and when I retire. As a designer you’re always creating something new and your style may change, or you’ll work for a different company or client. Hopefully your work improves and evolves over time as well. You want to reflect these things in your portfolio. The business is always changing, especially with the web, so it is important to show that you are abreast of current trends and techniques.

Found: A great example of a Flash portfolio.

Flash portfolio for: Nick Jones. http://www.narrowdesign.com/
I think that compared to some Flash portfolios I have seen this one is very well organized and easy to navigate. The buttons are very obvious and clearly indicate the client each project was created for. I like how the designer linked the images to the actual site and also noted weather they are live sites, comps, retired sites, etc. There wasn’t really anything about this site that I thought needed improving. The color scheme is neutral and doesn’t clash with the content and the font choices work well also. I might make the information at the top stand out a bit more by increasing the font size, but other than that this is a great design.

User Centered Design

I used to think of websites as digital ‘books’. We go online to look at web ‘pages’ and we ‘read’ information we find that relates to what we are looking for. However, since I have been in college my view on the web has shifted. It now seems more like a busy city street to me. We use different means, such as search engines, links, and bookmarks like modes of transportation to move through the web to find what we are looking for. On our way we may be confronted with advertisements, like street vendors vying for our attention. The web is an interactive place where we can play games, talk to friends, and even go shopping so it makes more sense to me to think of the web as another ‘dimension’ than as a plain old book.
As a student of web design I think it is important to think about how we view the web because we are the ones constructing it. If we think of ourselves as architects of this relatively new dimension we begin to think outside the box and look for ways to advance and make the web better, such as city planners would do in the ‘real’ world. For the most part, making something better usually boils down to making it easier for people to use. This reflects also on the fact that by improving something, hopefully more people will use it. It seems to me that two of the most predominant goals of website building is to create something that has superior functionality and attracts (and retains) customers. Looking at these two goals alone it should be clear that user centered design is the key to quality web development.

Web Marketing & New Media – Content Strategy

Just to be safe, I would like to point out here that I am in no way affiliated with The Ford Motor Company. This is a fictitious marketing campaign created for my college assignment(s).

The client I am choosing to represent from the automobile industry is the Ford Motor Company. The challenge to build sales during a time of economic downturn is no small feat. When people all over the country are losing their jobs and falling into debt, how can we possibly expect to boost sales? Since one of the major contributors to the failing state of our economy is job loss, I think focusing on helping to resolve this problem could help to boost brand loyalty and encourage consumers to seek out American made products. While the long-term goal of this campaign is to boost sales, the immediate goal is to help bring jobs back to the American worker.

The target audience of this campaign is the average American, blue-collar worker. Since it is this group that is most affected by the current state of our economy, I feel that they would be more inclined to respond to a call for action in response to this campaign. Having a job and being able to provide for their families is extremely important to this segment of our population. I think if we focus our attention on helping to boost our economy, we will build a better rapport with the average American.

Since we are looking to connect with our audience on a more personal level, I feel that our digital marketing should take advantage of strategies that encourage interactivity between the company and the consumer. One digital media form that this campaign utilizes is a dynamic, interactive web site. This site will be a resource for the working class of America, consistently updated with ways everyone can help to boost the economy, find jobs, and get educated. Registration on the site will allow members to interact and network with each other and the Ford company through a blog type forum that will focus on the economic state of the United States. As a nation, we need to alter our spending habits and lessen our reliance on foreign production. One way I feel that this task can be accomplished is by uniting our country towards a common goal. However, the only way this will work is if people are educated, concerned, and willing to change. As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water…” This campaign will take the first step in the effort to educate our target audience of the seriousness of our country’s economy and look for ways to improve it.

Although this web site sounds like a wonderful idea, it will not be worth a stick in the mud if no one visits or uses it. In order to pull traffic to the site the campaign will use strategically placed web banners ads and advertise through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Since one of the goals of this project is to involve, well really, every working class citizen in the United States, we want this campaign to go viral. Prior to the date of the web site’s launch, social networking posts will work to peak interest by spreading little known and/or shocking facts about the problems our country is facing and provide a call to action to visit the web site. The web banner ads will be placed on employment seeking web sites, such as monster.com, in order to reach those who are most likely to be unemployed.

Looking at a way to keep costs down, since an increase in sales is not immediately expected, yet we still want to remain true to our theme, college interns will be recruited for all web and design work, minus senior administrative positions. We want our audience to see that we are more concerned with the welfare of our country than we are with making a quick buck. The goal here is to help everyone, not just ourselves. I think most people want to help and they want to change things, they just do not know how. This campaign will open up the door and lead the way.