NYU E-Commerce Marketing: Sessions 5-14

NYU’s fall semester is nearly complete, with only one week to go. Last time, I shared with you an overview of how I began my teaching career here, as well as recapped the first four e-commerce marketing classes. It’s been longer than I wanted to for my follow-up, but I now have the details on the remaining classes (sessions 5 through 13). We do have a 14-week semester, but the last week will be final project presentations. Any questions — don’t hesitate to reach out.

Session 5: Bottom of the Conversion Funnel: The Payment

We dove deep into the e-commerce marketing funnel, spending one week on the top (session 3), one week on the middle (session 4) and this week on the bottom, where the money is made. It was effective to take a look at how transactions used to take place when consumers had to physically go to a store to pay with cash or card. We then migrated to desktop where you typed in your digits or used a stored-service payment solution (e.g. PayPal). Now, on mobile, you can scan your credit card or use your thumbprint to pay.

How people can pay is one way to look at the bottom of the funnel. The other are a range of considerations companies must make when designing their checkout process. These include international payments, transaction fees, customer inputs (e.g. no need for a city and state option when the zip code can pre-populate these), registration pre-purchase vs. post and more.

Ted Talk: Apollo Robbins “Art of Misdirection”

Reading: Chapter 5 – E-Commerce Security & Payments + Write 200-250 words dissecting a brand’s checkout flow and note any differences between the desktop and mobile versions. (Note: This is where I really started to get into the grove regarding assignments, pivoting from writing about the chapters to applying their knowledge to real-world examples. You’ll notice similar assignments moving forward.)

Session 6: Business Models

What is a business model? It’s the plans designed to result in profit within a marketplace. That’s what we dove into six weeks in, including the different types B2B (e.g. Salesforce), B2C (e.g. Amazon) and C2C (e.g. CraigsList). We spent some time on digital disruption (using digital technology to change the way business was traditionally done) and sustaining technology (using digital technology to improve or maintain a business).

The second half of the class was spent on developing a comprehensive business plan. This meant spending time walking through the eight different components that make up a business plan and relating them to real-life examples. The unique revenue models drew the most interest from the class, which included advertising (.e.g Facebook), subscription (e.g. NYTimes), freemium (e.g. Spotify), transaction (e.g. eBay) and sales (e.g. Macy’s).

As a side note, I am going to move this class to ahead of the conversion funnel analysis in future semesters.

Ted Talk: We had too much to cover to show a Ted Talk this class. Looking at it now, I’ll probably show the Simon Sinek “Start with Why” one I showed earlier in the semester during this session instead.

Reading: None because of the midterm

Session 7: The Midterm

The midterm covered a range of topics related to what we covered through the first six weeks of the semester.

Ted Talk: None

Reading: I Refuse to Be Busy

Session 8: Post-Conversion Funnel

The first half of the semester was focused on making money through e-commerce and how to get people to pay. We kicked off the post-midterm class exploring what happens after we’ve obtained a customer. This meant looking at customer journey mapping, onboarding, habituation and retention/churn prevention.

There were two exercises that I believe the class enjoyed: 1. selecting a brand on UserOnboard.com and walking through their process (they choose Pinterest); 2. digging deeper on habituation and the hook model (as detailed in the book “Hooked”). This is what the hook model looks like. We used the example of Dominos to go through the trigger (hunger), action (send pizza emoji to Dominos), variable reward (Dominos sending response and updates with order tracking) and investment (enjoyed the pizza).

Ted Talk: We ran out of time so I wasn’t able to show a Ted Talk in this class.

Reading: Chapter 3 – E-Commerce Infrastructure + Write 200-250 words on one brand’s on boarding strategy featured on UserOnboard.com.

Session 9: Validation Through Testing

A large percentage of the students really seem to enjoy the technical aspects of e-commerce. I first walked them through two types of testing: quantitative (A/B or multivariate) and qualitative (usability). This laid the foundation leading to the why and how. For that, I set up an A/B test on my website, WineryPassportApp.com, using Optimizely. I showed the students how to build the test into the code and schedule in the dashboard. They then chose two variations to test, the targeting criteria and voted on a winner.

Ted Talk: We ran out of time so I wasn’t able to show a Ted Talk in this class.

Reading: Chapter 9 – Online Retail & Services + Write 200-250 words after selecting a case study from the Optimizely website and answering the following questions:

  • Question 1: What was the test?
  • Question 2: Why did they want to run the test?
  • Question 3: Why was the test successful?
  • Question 4: Is there anything you would have done differently with the test?

Session 10: The Pivot

The illustrious pivot. The zig and the zag of the business world, where your plans had you going one direction, but you learned to go in a different one. The pivot isn’t about giving up, it’s about iterating and seizing opportunities. After all, as Mark Zuckerberg once said, if Facebook doesn’t kill itself, someone else will.

We explored pivots in a number of ways. The first was traditional to online pivots. This included companies like Best Buy, who have brick and mortar locations but have successfully migrated online, while also still having retail stores — Best Buy uses many of their stores like warehouses. We also looked at online pivots, such as Twitter, which started out as a podcasting company but transformed itself into a powerful live communication/media service.

My favorite example, however, is Netflix. I can still remember getting DVDs in the mail just as well as going to Blockbuster to rent a DVD. Netflix started as having physical products, but eventually pivoted into streaming. What’s most impressive about this is Netflix knew the streaming business would kill their existing multi-million dollar business yet still moved forward. Blockbuster, meanwhile, tried to get into the DVD-by-mail game, but not streaming because it would cannibalize their retail business (once worth $5 billion). Now they’re no longer relevant.

Ted Talk: Keith Barry’s “Brain Magic”

Reading: Post thoughts about e-commerce businesses that have made pivots in the NYU Classes forum.

Session 11: Tech

What does it take to build a website? How about an app? This was a class for the techies. We dug in on what technologies are necessary (and some optional) to start a website, as well as the costs involved. This ranged from the obvious (domain name and server) to the more detailed (WordPress and its SQL server integration). There was also a lot of overlap with app creation, outside of the platform costs (Apple’s $99/year vs. Google’s $25/one time) and software (Xcode and Android Studio) — there is no what-you-see-is-what-you-get solution for apps like there is on the web.

I think one of the more surprising takeaways for the students was how little it costs to create a website that they own. Most were familiar with just going to WordPress.com or Blogger for the costs (free) and simplicity. But we estimated a web presence on their own server could be had for less than $50 per year, to at least start out.

Ted Talk: Margaret Gould Stewart’s “How Giant Websites Design For You”

Reading: Chapter 5 – E-Commerce Security & Payments + Write 200-250 words describing APIs based on this New York Times paid post

Session 12: Final Project Prep

I opted against a final exam, instead choosing to divide the class up into teams. Each team was asked to come up with an e-commerce business, develop the business plan, design their website/app’s e-commerce marketing funnel, potential A/B tests and budget using $1 million in seed funding.

I had assigned the project the first class after the midterm and, based on the class’ response, I think they really were excited about it. This team project takes everything they learned throughout the entire semester, forces them to be creative and work together to build something special. This is NYU — some of these ideas may even be worth pursuing!

Session 13: Web vs. App

The final “lesson” class focused on the biggest differentiators between web versus app. I covered parts of this throughout the semester, but several students asked for a deeper dive in the mid-semester class evaluation so that’s why I tackled here.

We first dove into why consumers are spending eight out of every nine mobile minutes in apps, yet mobile web has significantly more traffic. The best way to break this down was to talk about the benefits each have over the other. For example, the web is platform agnostic (a sexy word I like to use for something that works on multiple platforms), while apps provide convenience (e.g. offline streaming like Netflix recently announced) — and quick and convenient is what consumers want these days.

After, I tied the two worlds together and talked about how they’ve begun to converge over the last couple years, thanks to technology advancements such as deep-linking and app indexing. But not only have apps adopted web qualities, the web has adopted app qualities, such as Apple Pay for one-touch checkout.

Ted Talk: Daniel Pink’s “The Puzzle of Motivation”

Reading: None – Prepare for the final project presentations. This was assigned earlier in the semester and has the students working in teams to create an e-commerce business plan, develop their funnel, budget using a $1 million seed round and more.

Session 14 will be final team project presentations. Stay tuned for an update on the spring semester…

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  1. Scott – this is really great stuff! I feel like I should take your class- it looks like you’ve packaged up so many facets of what it takes to build a viable online presence in one curriculum!

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