Flood Meets Web Shopping

One year ago my family met with disaster. We arrived home from a Thanksgiving holiday trip to find a pipe had burst on the second floor. I could hear the water before I turned on the lights.

Waterfalls flowed down the walls; the bathroom ceiling had caved in and water sprayed in every direction hitting all four walls, ceiling and floor at the same time. It was raining on my living room couch, piano, and my mother’s hand-painted artwork. My newly-installed hickory floors were warping in three inches of water. My cedar walls were black with oils that seep from the wood when it gets wet. The furnace made a gargling sound.

That evening started a full-time, eight-month journey of gutting and rebuilding, battling with an unsympathetic insurance company, managing contractors, moving to rental homes (seven times!) and making endless renovation and purchasing decisions. Enter web shopping.

I’m a web shopper but I never imaged how important both paid and natural search results were going to become. I live an hour away from any meaningful home improvement store, lumber yard, or plumbing supplier. I had to move extremely fast to make hundreds of decisions from door knobs, flooring, lighting, faucets, windows, stair railing, decking, paint, appliances. . . aughhhhh! The web became my best friend.

Not only did I find everything I needed, I found great online deals. I did my homework. I used Google to search for a multitude of home products. I clicked on all first-page paid ads (sponsored links) and on any natural listings that seemed relevant. My search results became a lifeline to what I needed.

I hear people say that they don’t pay attention to the little ads because it’s “just advertising,” or “I never click on the top ad on a page.” They don’t know what they’re missing! I found most ads to be highly relevant to what I was searching for. Not only did I find the products I needed very quickly, but I was able to comparison shop, find the best deal, get wholesale pricing, and purchase from companies that offered free shipping. Plumbing supply store. . . “Good bye!”

My search experience wasn’t all pleasure. I found poorly designed websites. Some were cluttered with pictures and text. Others were difficult to navigate or required many levels of searching to find what I was looking for. One of the most frustrating experiences was clicking on an ad and landing on a search results page that was completely unrelated to what I was searching for. I have no patience for this and departed for more functional websites.

Web shopping is on the rise. According to the Census Bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce, e-commerce was up almost 21% in the third quarter of 2006 over third quarter 2005.

Marketers: Market your products or services on the web but do it right. Your website should be optimized. Include paid advertising that is targeted and relevant to potential consumers.

Shoppers: Click on the sponsored links as well as the natural links that come from your search. Both are there to help you find what you need.

As for me, I’ve decided to stay home this Thanksgiving, give thanks for the blessings of a rebuilt home, and start my Christmas shopping . . . on the web, of course.