Huge holes in the Argos Net

Since you mentioned in your New Media digests (MW September 13) that Argos have sold only 500 worth of goods on the Internet in 18 months, I thought I’d look at the site to see why that might be.

The first problem is that it is not at http://www.argos.com where a Web user would expect to find it.

The site is instead found at http://www.itl.net/cgi-bin/ argos/mainmenu. I found it by entering “Argos” and “catalogue” into my search programme then reached it via The Biz site, where it didn’t even make the first page of the list of matching 3,000 items.

Once there, we find a lurid black background with red and yellow text and a list of items so apparently arbitrary in their composition that it could take hours online to find what you want. At this point I gave up.

There are two good reasons for a company to have an Internet presence. Firstly, to build better relationships with customers by satisfying their requirements interactively and more effectively. Their requirements may be for goods, services, entertainment, information or any combination of the above.

Secondly, to make a brand statement: that it is a progressive, dyn-amic, technically advanced company.

You did not mention Argos’ objectives in having a Website. It may be a brand statement; it may be there to encourage people to visit stores; and it may be a trial to reach a different target group from its usual customer base. Unfortunately, Argos is not going to sell products because it does not make its site pleasant to visit or easy to use.

There are many companies who feel the need to forget everything they ever learned about marketing the instant the Internet is mentioned. They don’t identify their customers, they don’t ask them what they want, and they don’t make it easy for them to get it. Perhaps Argos has fallen into this particular hole.

I have spent a year researching Internet commerce, and for fun I’ve tried it myself. For the record, I’ve sold a lot more vintage jewellery to the US than Argos has sold household goods to the UK population. I did it by applying textbook marketing techniques and adding a little imagination. It is just as difficult or easy as any other kind of market, just a little different.

Sarah McCartney

Consultant

Little Max Marketing Management

London W5

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