ecommerceMany MLSs are now considering offering additional products and service to their members. MLS leaders like MRIS, Metrolist and IRES have made forays into the eCommerce space and are leading the industry to figure out the best methods and promotional paths to success with eCommerce.

While the concept of generating more revenue per member is an attractive concept, it is not nearly as easy as one might think. The most successful programs are borne out of constant offer, copy and pricing testing.  Like every eCommerce site online today, customers don’t simply show up and push the “buy now” button. They like to read reviews from customers. Members like to do their homework and read about the features of a variety of products, comparing many options and lining up their own unique individual needs before making a purchase. They may talk to friends, attend a webinar or read a white paper.

The bottomline….an MLS cannot expect an agent or broker to go to their online store site and immediately buy a product without information, promotions, education and insights that will reassure them that they are making a sound purchase decision.

In my days at SVP Marketing at Fisher-Price, I launched an eCommerce business, working with one of the best in the direct marketing business – the founder of American Girl.  For those that have young girls, you are probably well aware of that brand. They are one of the best direct marketers in the country. I was honored and privileged to have worked side by side with the founder of the company Pleasant Rowland. She taught me the eCommerce business from the ground up. She started her company with a $1mm investment and sold it 10 years later for $750mm to Mattel. She’s a pro.

Using proven direct marketing techniques and the support of Pleasant, I was able to create a multi-million eCommerce success story for Fisher-Price. We had never before ventured beyond the shelves of Wal-mart and Target so generating online sales was a very profitable win for the company.

I’m really excited to be able to share the knowledge I gained from my days working with Pleasant so that I can help every MLS to short circuit the often expensive and unproductive learning curve.

MLSs can be successful in eCommerce, but not if they follow the “build it and they will come” philosophy. It takes hard work, merchandising, offer and copy testing, pricing and bundle testing and patience all supported by practical technology solutions to make the return on investment work over time.

Lauren Emery CEO of IRES MLS and I hosted a webinar this week where we reviewed secrets to eCommerce success. I have attached a link for it here so that we can share it with you.

If you are thinking about launching an eCommerce program here are the fundamental questions you need to answer before you go too far down the road…

What challenges are you trying to solve?

  • More adoption of current offerings?
  • Make money?
  • Easier product integration?
  • Breadth of offerings?
  • More revenue per member?
  • Satisfy needs of diverse customer base?
  • Improve relevancy of the MLS?
  • Deep discounts to help subscribers?

Assuming you want to move forward with the initiative there are also a few more questions you need to answer:

  •  Do we want to control the products that are being offered?
  • Do we want to open it up the effort to all companies or just those that are willing to build their technologies to an API standard offered by one eCommerce provider?
  • Do we want to pay a commission negotiated by a third party, ourselves or do we want to simply charge an ad placement fee to keep the accounting simple?
  • Do we want to go live in the next few weeks or are we willing to wait for months?
  • What methods will we use to promote the products offered?
  • Who will help us test offers, product bundles, and pricing to ensure we have the right mix of products for our subscribers?
  • What resources can we deploy to help educate and encourage members to purchase?
  • How can I offset the investment in the technology with technology sponsorships?

Click here to view the recording of the eCommerce presentation including Q&A from Lauren Hansen, who is already engaged in eCommerce at her MLS.  Learn how to increase your chances of non-due revenue success with eCommerce