DRM is Hazardous to Your Revenue

I answered a question yesterday about tools for applying digital rights management (DRM) to electronic products such as PDFs and digital video files.

The short answer is that you do not need to act like an big media executive in how you offer digital products. Applying DRM to your electronic publication products is counter productive in most cases. I offer a few more thoughts on this in the short slide presentation below.

As an aside: I’ve been having fun with slideshare.net this past week, as you may have noticed. The key to using this as a medium for sharing your ideas is to design for it. Slides from my presentations are optimized to support my talk. Slides on slideshare need to stand on their own.

Update: This set of slides is currently featured on the Slideshare.net home page. Nobody can resist a good DRM smackdown.

Effective Ecommerce with a Login

The screencast I created of the effortless ecommerce process for Coda prompted several questions about how to best incorporate a login to the online sales process. I’m going to address that issue via a normal blog post rather than a video.

Every additional step in an online process usually costs you people who don’t want to go through that extra bit of effort. Depending upon the situation, the abandonment rate can be quite high for each step. Exceptions are when the goal of the process has a very high perceived value by the customer.

The Coda example does not use a login. They have no need for it. All they care about is selling an individual product to you. However, some organizations offer discounts to certain classes of customers (members, rewards program, etc.) and they need some way to identify them in the process. They may also wish to capture data about the individual purchasing a product for later analysis.

Here is the deal: you can incorporate a login to the ecommerce process if it provides sufficient apparent value to the customer to go through the extra steps required. Here are some potential reasons a customer would perceive value in logging in:

  • Repeat customers can save time not having to re-enter their data and billing information.
  • Certain classes of customer receive a significant discount or savings if they identify themselves to you by logging in.
  • They want the product enough to jump through the login hoop. (This is obviously not a good reason for a login, however.)

Look at your process for selling online. Is there any value to your customers to login for each sale? If not, you are going to hurt yourself by placing a login between your customer’s money and your bank account.

What should you do if you have both customers who can benefit from a login and those who won’t? Provide the option to login but do not require it. A number of sites offer this where you can login to retrieve shipping and billing data or go to a simple form for entering it. Providing the option allows your customers to self-select the process that is most appropriate for them.

Your database administrators may be pushing you to implement a login to reduce the occurrence of duplicate records in the database. You must analyze this requirement for the actual value to your organization. Is forcing data maintenance onto your customers the most profitable tactic to take? It very rarely is from a online sales perspective.

The Amazon Bar

Amazon continues to set the bar for ecommerce efficiency and overall experience. I have been telling clients and audiences this for some years but I had an experience this week that shows they are still on top.

I bought three books from Amazon yesterday, which get free 2 day shipping from my Amazon Prime membership. They showed up today. I could immediately access status reports on the orders and even change or cancel them before the products had shipped (although that didn’t take long!). Great experience, exceeding my expectations all the way around.

I also bought two small bags from REI for organizing all the gear that goes with my laptop and other electronic doodads. I selected regular ground shipping since I don’t need these in a hurry. My e-mail from REI confirming the order says I can access the status of my orders after 48 hours have passed. I have no idea when they might arrive. It was such a let down from my experience with Amazon.

The lesson, my friends, is to go through your own ecommerce process, including fulfillment. How do you measure up? Do your customers know exactly what status their order is in, when it ships and when it will arrive? I guarantee you are being compared to the Amazon experience by many of your online customers.

WYSIWYG Web Editors

All modern content management systems provide a Word-style editor that lets non-technical staff edit and add content to web sites. It is a key part of enabling line staff around the organization to produce and manage their own content.

What you may not have realized is that you have several options avaiable for adding WYSIWYG editors (what you see is what you get) to your own web applications. Sometimes they are as easy to install as adding a few lines of code to a web page.

Here are a few free and commercial solutions for providing an easy to use text editor in your own web applications:

Tiny MCE
This editor works across numerous platforms and is available under an open source license. It is written in javascript and is used widely in many applications. It has many configuration options available and can be tweaked to support a defined set of styles.

Ektron eWebEditPro
A widely used commercial editor from Ektron. It is also highly configurable and allows you tie down functionality to just what you want editors to have access too. It is not cross platform and only works on Windows-based browsers. (Their suggestion for Mac clients is a bit of a joke.)

Another open source content editor written in Javascript.

And one more open source, Javascript-based, editor.

Given all the options available, it is unreasonable not to provide a rich editor for your applications that should support user formatting of content.

Getting Out of The Way

I made a short screencast on Friday showing how Panic does a great job with the shopping cart for their products. In We Have Always Done It That Way, I write about getting out of the way when someone is ready to invest in your product or service:

When a member has made the decision to invest more money in the association by purchasing a product or paying dues online, get out of their way and make it as easy as possible for them to complete the transaction.

Panic does a great job of this with their site. They collect the bare minimum of information for completing the transaction. They don’t even ask for you to subscribe to a newsletter! Watch the video below to see a demo with my commentary.