It's a shame that CompUSA will not be with us much longer, because it gives us a great example of the potential for RSS feeds for ecommerce sites. Check it out while you can: http://www.compusa.com/help/rss_feeds.asp
This is a close-up:
This is how a sample feed appears in my Google Reader:
Online retailers that use RSS syndication for product content are few and far between, the ones that do usually are electronics and computer related (more tech savvy audience, I assume). It's likely that the general public still doesn't understand what RSS is or how it can help them, so CompUSA provides a nice little introduction to what RSS is with links to resources and popular RSS readers.
Why might customers want to subscribe this way?
- Alternative to creating an account and giving up an email address / creating password (anonymity and time saving)
- Saves time figuring out how to subscribe to specials and unadvertised deals from within an account (with some retailers, you cannot subscribe to email offers from your account).
- Allows users to self-segment what they want to receive from you. Most email campaigns just send you whatever the marketing department decided was important
- More reliable delivery - no chance of getting flagged as spam or getting lost in a sea of offers
- On-demand retrieval - Customers can check news feed as often as they like, not when you decide to blast your email. Puts users in control
- Better organization and usability - With email, customers can't organize your offers without creating folders or filter rules in their email program (which most email users don't even think of doing). A newsfeed keeps all your offers/notices in one place - easy to come back to and scan
Why might customers want to subscribe to retail related RSS feeds?
- If someone received a gift card for Christmas and can only redeem it at your store, he or she may subscribe to all your best deals, or just the new products in the category(ies) of most interest
- For long term purchase decisions, customers might want to be notified of new products
- Hard-core buyers (example - gamers) who are loyal to your store and want notifications on each new release
- The purchase requires periodic upgrades (operating systems, software) or refills (printer ink, paper)
RSS marketing solves the email delivery problem as you're pretty much guaranteed delivery, and when customers abandon email addresses, you can still reach them. You also provide better customer service, giving customers a choice of how they want to receive communication from you, and what they want to receive. You can easily track RSS subscribers and other stats with Feedburner for a very low cost.
RSS publishing is also a great way to send other forms of content to your affiliates (notifications, product feeds etc), suppliers / resellers, partners, investors and press contacts. If you'd like more information on how to set up RSS feeds, check out Practical Ecommerce's RSS video tutorial.
If RSS becomes more mainstream and more retailers begin to offer this form of customer communication, this will also help ecommerce marketers keep tabs on the competition more efficiently. One could subscribe to new product feeds, sales, unadvertised specials and more and manage it all from one feed reader.
RSS is great for publishers and readers. PS - Have you subscribed to Get Elastic?