Over the last five years, it has been proven that some things sell better online than others. The clear winners are books, CD's, magazines and movies. These are items people willingly buy without knowing the entire contents of the package. Those don't sell as well online or require offline sales support more often include houses, cars, clothes. These items are harder to sell because there are too many preferences involved, but you can showcase these items online.
Going with that, you can see what sells easily and what doesn't. The trick is in the presentation. Online Marketers have a harder job because the customer can't see, hear or feel the product in its entirety, this makes things hard.
One way to convince people to purchase online is to offer them something they can't get offline, make that purchase simpler and offer immediate electronic delivery. Several different companies are starting to follow this approach.
I am an avid player of Dungeons and Dragons. I started playing in the 7th grade and I am still playing it 17 years later. Even as there have been a lot of mergers in the online world, there have been in the offline world. In 1998, TSR the makers of Dungeons and Dragons, were dying. They had run out of money and couldn't publish new products. At that time they were bought by a hot new game company that made trading card games, the most notable of which was "Magic: The Gathering". After this they revived the games TSR had created, came up with new products and started pushing the game through unconventional channels, most notably a movie that came out late last year. In 2000, Wizards of the Coast was bought by Hasbro. So now a small gaming company is owned by the second largest toy conglomerate in the world.
Why do I mention this? Because Wizards of the Coast's online marketing strategy is brilliant and encourages people to purchase goods online. I will focus on the Dungeons and Dragons line of products that they offer.
First you have the core rule books. There are three and cost about $20 U.S. apiece. You can find these both online and off. In the Player's rule book there is a CD which contains a Character Generator. This is a subset of a larger program called MasterTools. The only place you can buy the full suite of tools will be online. You see it isn't even finished yet but they are pre-marketing it online. Hundreds of thousands of players have signed up for the weekly mailing list to know when it is going to be available. MasterTools will most likely be priced for $69.95 or more.
Besides being able to buy the books and some other software like Baldur's Gate and the complete archives of their monthly magazine, "Dragon", online they also offer other products that you can't get offline. These include modules for playing the game. Modules are pre-built adventures used in the game. You can purchase some in bookstores like Amazon or Barnes and Noble for about $10 apiece. These are printed and ready to use. The ones you can buy online are $3.50 apiece and you can download them immediately. This means that the unprepared Game Master can download and prepare a game in less than 15 minutes and $4.00. That is a great idea and allows spur of the moment purchases from anywhere.
Product sites would benefit tremendously from this kind of marketing scheme. Even if you run a content site, you can do something similar through e-books and the sort.
This brings us to m-Commerce or mobile commerce but I will talk about that more tomorrow.