Attack of the Widgets!

May 11, 2007

Digital Marketing ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

Desktop beware…widgets are in the air!

Alright, enough cliches and stupid rhymes.  The point is that “official,” branded widgets are starting to sprout from major CSEs offering functionality above and beyond simple search capabilities.

How does this affect both buyers and sellers?  And what does the future hold?

There are two common themes here: exposure and entrenchment.

Let’s start with exposure.

Widgets by nature are meant to be distributed forms of marketing and functionality — a platform for awareness, value and consumption.  When executed well, they can spread your content and brand to millions, provide a practically free distribution channel and segment your core product into smaller, bite-size mini products suited for highly-specialised needs.

The CSEs that released widgets over the past two weeks (Shop, Mpire and even eBay released one) are clearly seeking an early toehold into this “new-fangled” distro channel.  A good soundbite for this trend can be found in the words of eBay’s Meg Whitman — “If people don’t come to eBay, we will bring eBay to them.”   I’m sure the  CSEs see it the same way.

These widgets hold the potential to strengthen the exposure of these engines and extend their reach.  Furthermore, this means that seller’s products, ranging from the big boxes to the start-uppy, scrappy SMB operations, have an easier time getting in front of consumers’ eyeballs.

Lastly, a widget with Shop / Mpire / eBay branding could convert CSE agnostics to choose a CSE religion.  Some Internet users are playful, but most are  prone to migrate towards the things that provide the most comfort.  Desktop widgets — or even a widget on a trusted personality’s blog — set a new bar for comfort and trust.  And since most of these CSEs are, in the grand scheme of things, indistinguishable, widgets may give at least an early adoption edge.

So, this much is clear and particularly obvious.  In terms of entrenchment, however, I believe that  CSE widgets will tighten the grip around those who already prefer one CSE to another.  If I’m an avid Shop user and have the know-how to download and install a widget, I’ll have little incentive now to look anywhere else.  My favourite CSE can be accessed, searched and purchased from right from the comfort of my very own desktop.

This is all theoretical  I’m not completely impressed with the execution of some of these widgets and I’ll do an analysis into the specifics in a later entry.  (Preview:  Shop = mediocre; Mpire = very interesting and thought-provoking)

Until next time…

Written by Scott Hurff.
Contact me at scott.hurff (at) channeladvisor (dot) com.