Aside

Click Frenzy To Rise From The Grave: Could This Be A Good Thing?

ARISE AND CONSUME MY CLICK FRENZY MINIONS

 So despite the massive and very public failure last year Click Frenzy is apparently coming back not just as a single massive sale but with other timed sales as well. Last year I very cynically (and as it turns out very accurately) predicted just how badly it would fail and I’m honestly a little surprised that it’s back for another attempt. After thinking about it however it might by the slimmest sliver of a pollinating insects genitalia chance of being a good thing for the Australian online retailers and consumers.

First off the people at Power Retail who run Click Frenzy are nothing if not persistent and while I don’t agree with their methods they clearly know how to market to the masses and successfully played the major media companies like a drum set when generating the hype last year. I have no doubt they’ll be able to do it again this year given how desperate for content News Ltd and Fairfax have become (seriously it’s getting really quite pathetic).

This time around they are playing the part of the humbled but unbowed retail savior who has “learnt many harsh lessons”  but never the less still somehow managed to claim last year was a success despite the almost universal panning of the event. From Power Retail’s point of view it probably was successful  The got thousands, if not millions in fees from the participating retailers and they’ve now got themselves a database of people interested in these types of sales and possibly their preferred purchases, very useful for targeted marketing of events.

So this time I’m going to make a series of predictions which I honestly hope are proved wrong. No seriously just for once I’d like my cynical bastard theories proven wrong. Please Australian retailers, we need this.

Click Frenzy Will Suffer At Least One Major Crash

One of the biggest issues last time was the Click Frenzy site and those of the participating retailers could not handle the load and failed. A lot.  Contrary to the belief of some retailers having your site crash under an anticipated load is not a good thing. You had time to prepare, you should have systems and plans in place to handle the load. Running around going “Yah! We’re so popular our site can’t be accessed!” is actually a really shitty reaction. On the internet people very rarely come back of they can’t get access the first time around. Their time has value too.

This time around Power Retail has gotten somewhat over excited and promised Click Frenzy will totally stay up this time and has even been quoted as saying:

…the site is well-equipped to cater for an “infinite” number of online shoppers

Yep you can tell they are in marketing. If you’re going to boast, boast big. Problem is when you make that sort of claim, well, people remember it. I know I will. My prediction here is either:

  • Murphy’s Law will kick in and make damn sure something implodes, probably on the busiest day possible or;
  • Someone out there will take this as a challenge and throw everything they’ve got at the site. Some people just want to see the world burn.

Now Power Retail can not be held to account for how well the individual retailer websites hold up but if they really are working with them and they are indeed learning lessons from last year you’d hope like hell that maybe they’ve put some extra cash aside for infrastructure this time.

2013-04-05 Update: Seems they are comfortable making the “infinite customers” claim this time around as it’s sitting on the Amazon Web Services infrastructure which will certainly give it more of an edge this time around and is a pretty sensible move. However AWS is far from flawless in performance but it does make my prediction far less likely.

2013-04-09 Update: As predicted News Ltd has learnt nothing from being used as a hype inducer the last time around and has faithfully regurgitated this news in a can about the new Click Frenzy site running on the Akami network. While this is good and all it doesn’t provide any assurances that Click Frenzys back ends will be able to keep pace (assuming there is actually demand this time around).

The Sales Will Contain Crap

Sorry to be rather blunt but from my perspective (and apparently many others) the items on offer during the Click Frenzy were, well, underwhelming. It mostly appeared to be a dumping ground of products the stores wanted to get rid of anyway and in many cases the prices were still more than those that could be obtained on other online retailer sites any day of the year.

I don’t honestly expect much different this time around, especially with the announcement of a Mother’s Day, Fathers’s Day and End Of Financial Year Click Frenzies. You know what that means? We’ll get themed crap instead. Just like at the real stores! Yah! Oh wait. I mean yawn.

On the flip side Power Retail is claiming the amount of sales last year was “well over $10 million” so clearly some people out there don’t object to buying crap if they think it’s a steal. Maybe I’m just in the wrong demographic for the Click Frenzy market.

2013-04-23 Update: As we approach Mother’s Day and the first of the “new look” Frenzies, Power Retail has embarked on their rounds of hype generation, including “teasing” a handful of sales to News Ltd, who thankfully seem to be a little more cynical this time around. One of the items being teased is 75% off a throw rug. A throw rug. Have you ever been so desperate that you think “gee if only that throw rug was 75% off I’d totally buy it”? No. No one is. No one will be and frankly if this is the best they can lead with in terms of teasers how incredibly crap must the rest of the offerings be?

There Will Be A Lot Of Complaints

As mentioned earlier Power Retail now has a handy database of interested consumers, possibly even broken down into what categories those consumers are interested in left over from last years attempt. This is exceptionally useful as it means they are no longer going in blind and can take a much more targeted approach in marketing the sales. It also means they are less reliant of media hype.

When people signed up last time they may not have noticed this entitles Power Retail to happily spam them on anything related to Click Frenzy until they unsubscribe (and to the best of my knowledge the unsubscribe function does actually work as required by the Australian  SPAM Act).

My prediction here is a lot of the consumers from last year have not as yet unsubscribed from Click Frenzy list as there’s been nothing particular to remind them they did so sent to it since the very public failure last time. As the new Frenzies kick into marketing high gear however I suspect we’ll start to see emails being sent out to those lists and a subsequent angry reaction from some consumers burnt from last year.

Power Retail could of course mitigate this by starting from scratch but given the media might not be as hype inducing friendly this time around they’d be fools not to use the previously acquired data. One hopes however they have though through this potential backlash and have put procedures in place to handle it well. Hopefully not in the same way their Facebook page treated people last year.

Prove Me Wrong

Please Click Frenzy and Australian retailers prove me wrong. Prove to the Australian consumers that you can in fact deliver what people want. Provide services that work, products people want and in a way that doesn’t annoy the ever living crap out of us. I would be very happy if you could even just prove the first two predictions wrong as I concede the third will probably occur in any case. Prove that the famously conservative Australian retailers can pull their fingers out and actually achieve a worthy goal.

The time of whining about online sales stealing all your customers and how it’s terribly unfair that you have all these extra burdens is long gone. The average Australian consumer does not give a damn about your sob stories after you’ve had it so good for so many decades. This is a damn good opportunity for you to grab people early, if you provide a good experience people will come back even if you can’t compete on price. Pull yourselves from wallowing in self pity and get the hell on with moving into the future.

Could Even A Second Failure Be Good?

So let’s say for the sake of argument the cynical bastard in me is proven right yet again and the Frenzies become Fizzles. Is there still good that could come of this? Quite possibly. The extra sales Power Retail are shoving in this time might actually mean Australian retailers might decide to provide a decent online experience all the time rather than just a once off attempt followed by yet another whinge of how the big bad internet is eating all their profits.

Just maybe even sales of end of season crap might translate into a thought process of “hey this internet thing might just work” followed by “well if we provide a good enough service” If we are extremely lucky they might even start pushing back against suppliers about higher wholesale prices for items in Australia and stop blaming the consumer for simply choosing the most effective purchasing system available to them. I still doubt we’d be that lucky but maybe this rise from the grave from Click Frenzy might in fact signal Australian retailers are finally emerging from the shell of online sales ignorance.

PostScript – The Curious Search Patterns

In a curious coincidence I recently noticed a sudden spike of clustered search requests hitting the previous Click Frenzy pages. Further investigations showed that many of them were coming from Macquarie University networks. The obvious conclusion was it was for some sort of assignment. After a little cajoling I located someone who admitted that yes it was for a marketing assignment (due the next day) and they were nice enough to provide the questions in the assignment:

Q1a. What is Click Frenzy?
b. How and why did this idea originate?

Q2. How did consumers make their decisions on whether or not to buy products/services from Click
Frenzy, and how did they arrive at their final purchasing decision?

Q3a. Evaluate the positioning of Click Frenzy. Have they defined their positioning correctly?
b. Who is their target market?
c. What is their main points-of-parity and points-of-difference?

Q4a. What competitive frames of reference does Click Frenzy face?
b. What are the implications of those frames of reference for its positioning?

Q5a. Identify Click Frenzy‘s sources of brand equity.
b. Assess its level of brand awareness and the strength, favourability, and uniqueness of its
association.

Q6. Do you think Click Frenzy did a good job in managing its visitors and customers? Why?

Q7. How did Social Media impact the reputation of Click Frenzy, before and after the sales period?

Q8. How can retailers prepare for a Click Frenzy?

Q9. Using other strong brands which have been born online (eg, Google, Facebook), how do you
build a successful online brand?

Q10. What do you think are the future branding challenges and opportunities for Click Frenzy?

Curious isn’t it? The exact questions you’d be asking if, oh I don’t know, you were looking to relaunch a brand that ended with a sour public experience. Oh and for future reference students, Googling the questions verbatim from your assignment sheet is not the best research idea ever.

Aside

Adobe Creative Cloud: One Size Does Not Fit All

Enter the corporate cloud of no return

The Background

Last Friday three large corporations, Microsoft, Apple and Adobe, were pulled in front of the Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into IT Pricing to justify their vastly inflated prices in the Australian markets for their goods, most notably their digital only ones that seem to have a higher price tag, simply because they can.

Why these three corporations? Well because they had either refused or had been evasive in supplying submissions to the Inquiry previously and were being compelled, under threat of fines or possible jail time, to appear and provide justification of their pricing schemes.

It’s worth noting that the Inquiry is merely after answers, it is not a trial nor were the corporations being accused of any illegal activity. Its s simple task was to get at the heart of the pricing disparity issues for Australian consumers and possibly make recommendations later that might help narrow that gap. The three corporations summoned however treated the entire affair as if they were directly under attack.

I won’t be covering responses from all of them or the various arguments used as these have been covered in-depth elsewhere, instead I’ll be looking at the word that the Adobe representative waved about as a get out of jail free card: CLOUD.

CLOUD, CLOUD, CLOUD

The Adobe representative, managing director of ANZ Paul Robson, seemed to think the best way to get out of every single question asked of  him was to pimp Adobe’s Creative Cloud system. Or as I tweeted at the time:

https://twitter.com/dawnstarau/status/314910438368354304

The big argument was the Australian pricing for the Adobe Creative Cloud was on par with the US pricing and therefore Australian consumers should be happy. End of story. Please stop asking difficult questions.

To be fair yes the Adobe Creative Cloud pricing is indeed on par with the US pricing (although interestingly it only became so just weeks before they were pulled in front of the inquiry) but the problem is the Creative Cloud is not the fabulous one size fits all solution Adobe sells it as.

The All New Shiny

So what the hell is the Adobe Creative Cloud service anyway? Well basically put it’s a subscription service which allows you to use either one or all of the suite of Adobe products for a per month fee. The service fee includes free upgrades to each product as it comes along, with some storage as well. On the surface it sounds awesome and for some Adobe users it is, particularly those that use either all or a large chunk of the suite of Adobe products.

The problem is there are many, myself included, that use just one or two Adobe products and once you start running the numbers on the cloud offerings and pricing you quickly realise it’s not such a good deal after all and that in the future there could be some serious problems.

Small Costs Add Up

The example I’m going to work with is Adobe Lightroom which (in my opinion) is by far the leading photo sorting and manipulation program available. I’ve tested many competitors, both commercial and open source, and nothing comes close to how good Lightroom does its job. It’s very much worth the money even we in Australia do pay a premium for the privilege. But that’s where it ends. As an amateur photographer Lightroom does everything I need, I don’t require the absolute power of Photoshop or any of the other suite of programs supplied by Adobe. I know for a fact I’m not the only one in this boat.

So how does accessing Lightroom via Creative Cloud stack up against purchasing the box set (or digital download) outright? Well not very well as we’ll see.

First the pricing. Adobe likes to throw the figure of “Only $49.95 a month!” about. This is technically true. These screenshots were taken from the current Creative Cloud AU pricing page:

Creative Cloud per year cost[notice]Note there is a stream for a single application purchase via the Creative Cloud for $20/month. For some unknown reason however Adobe Lightroom is not currently among the “select applications” available via this subscription and therefore not relevant to the comparisons we will be making.[/notice]

First off the $49.95 a month isn’t exactly right. It requires a 12 month lock in which immediately means you’re looking at a $600 yearly spend. What happens if you decide you might want to opt out at any time? Well the price jumps just a tad:

Creative Cloud Month on Month costs

 

For an equivalent 12 month period you’re looking at $900 spend but at least you can cancel at anytime. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this pricing structure as it helps Adobe recover costs from those unwilling to subscribe long-term to their service.

So Where’s The Problem?

The problem lies in the fact I just want one application. Adobe make a great argument that yes for a mere $50/month I could get every application at my fingertips, all the time. Problem with that however is I’m extremely unlikely to ever use them and I am generally against throwing my money at services I’m never going to use.

So let’s do a comparison. Let us assume we only want Adobe Lightroom, how much would it cost us to get over a 5 year period via the Creative Cloud vs box/digital download outright purchase? We are going to assume that costs stay the same over the period of time.

Creative Cloud

Best case scenario we are looking at 5 years at the $49.95 per month rate which brings us to a total of $2997 AU ($49.95 multiplied by 60 months)

Worst case scenario we foolishly opt for the month to month pricing for 5 years which brings us to a total of $4497 AU ($74.95 multiplied by 60 months)

And hypothetical best case, Lightroom becomes available on the single application subscription which brings us to a total of $1199.40 AU ($19.99 multiplied by 60 months).

Box/Digital Download Outright Purchase

Since this is not quite an apples vs oranges comparison for the box set we are going to assume an initial outright purchase of the software, followed by one upgrade a year for each of the five years (which is usually inline with the Adobe release schedule).

An interesting side note that during the inquiry the Adobe representative did reveal what many have suspected in that the pricing for the digital download version of the boxed software is priced the same mainly to keep resellers of the boxed software happy.

At current pricing the full version of Adobe Lightroom 4 is $187 AU. To upgrade is $108. We’ll assume the upgrade cost stays the same each release (which is normally roughly the case) leaving us with a total cost of $727 AU ($187 initial cost, plus $108 multiplied by 5 years)

That’s a full $472.40 AU cheaper than even our best hypothetical Creative Cloud scenario or for a direct comparison $2270 AU cheaper than the current real best case Creative Cloud scenario. That’s not an unsubstantial sum for an amateur photographer. That’s a new lens, maybe even a camera body upgrade in savings right there.

The Cloud Is Coming

The biggest potential issue is however I doubt that the boxed/digital downloads will be around in five years time. Adobe is already crowing over how successful the Creative Cloud is and it will be only a matter of when, not if, the Creative Cloud becomes the only method to access Adobe software. On that day many of us may be entirely screwed as there are several issues:

What happens when you stop paying your subscription? Well the application stops working. You don’t lose your files as they are all handled by your local machine but you will be held to ransom if you ever want to access the proprietary Adobe file formats again. You’ll need to fork over the subscription again.

Spent countless man hours creating that Photoshop file? Making all those tags and keywords in Lightroom to effectively sort your collection of photos? Well all that will be useless unless you keep paying. Each month. Every month. Forever.

During the inquiry the Adobe representative made repeated reference to the fact that Creative Cloud pricing for teachers and students in Australia is substantially cheaper, even than the US educational offering. Again that’s entirely true but it’s not out of altruism. Like every other corporate entity  that provides cheap educational pricing the purpose is to lock them in while they’re young and the Creative Cloud gives an added level of lock in. Want to keep using those tools you spent years learning after you graduate? Well you better fork over the full price. Each month. Every month. Forever.

Finally the Creative Cloud is geared towards market that have bandwidth to spare and, alas, the average Australian household or even business is still lagging well behind the rest of the world in bandwidth, particularly in terms of upload speed. This doesn’t have a huge impact on Creative Cloud which operates mostly on your computer but there are times when it becomes a real pain.

The Final Cloud Down

At the end of the day the Creative Cloud will be the new way forward and it does hold promise of making several things easier for the end user, automatic upgrades being one of them. As it currently stands however it is far from the one size fits all solution that Adobe sells it as and I personally hope a different approach will be taken for those consumers in the middle ground that do not need or want to pay for an entire suite of software they will never use for the privilege of using the one application they love and respect the company for.

Update – 2013-05-07

As predicted when I wrote this post it was only a matter of when, not if, creative cloud would become the only method of purchase. That day is today. Adobe has announced that the Creative Suite will be rebranded the Creative Cloud and will only be available by subscription from here on in.

It’s not total doom and gloom however, this FAQ indicates that, for now at least, Adobe Lightroom will remain available as a separate boxed product which possibly shows Adobe is aware there is a market for those that only use one of their products. I don’t think for a second the Australian pricing for the boxed version will get any fairer but at least for now you won’t have to strap yourself to the Creative Cloud just to get Lightroom.

Oh and Lightroom is still not available on the single app purchasing subscription model via the Creative Cloud. I wonder why this is?

Best Photos Of 2012

Gold on blue

This post is part of the very excellent ‘Your Best Photos From 2012” blog project run by Jim M. Goldstein, a very worthy project to be involved in to get your photos seen and also to see amazing photos from other photographers from around the world. This show cases some of the ones I feel are my best for the year of 2012.

The one above is by far one of the best macro shots I’ve ever managed to take out in the world. A confluence of luck, timing and strategy all came together to make this one happen. The bright blue background was not added in post but rather is a piece of blue card held behind the insect as it rested on the wire.

2012 was a big year for me photographically. Half way through I finally bit the bullet and switched from Olympus to Canon – a very painful and expensive change but unfortunately the Olympus love affair with very small cameras left me without an upgrade path (the otherwise very technically excellent OM-D EM-5 is too small for me to hold comfortably).

Part of the switch was going to a full frame sensor (Canon 5D Mark 3) and I’m still going through the exceptionally large learning curve with this. As a result of this and a few other life changes it feels like I’ve taken less photos this year or at least I’m being far more fussy about which ones I’m willing to share.

Explosion of Light

This was a fun long exposure shot of the Santos City Of Lights event during the Brisbane Festival.

Waiting... waitingThis is a macro shot of a White Crab Spider waiting for an unwitting victim to come along.

Streaming plasma

I had a fun time capturing macro shots of a plasmaball in the dark and using them to learn more about post processing in Adobe Lightroom.

Fade to black

A silhouette shot of the Brisbane city skyline at dusk that happened almost entirely by accident.

Mayfly Yoga

A mayfly that posed beautifully for the camera.

WINTER IS COMING!

I did a really fun series of LEGO minifigs in the fog shots using dry ice. This is by far my favourite one so far.

The sky burnsThe sky turns into a gorgeous burning pit of roiling clouds.

Just RestingThe shed skin of a huntsman spider sites serenely in a bright orange flower.

Sitting in the darkFinally a macro shot of a tiny insect taken using a new technique using a portable softbox and turned out better than I could have hoped.