E-tailing by association

Is the e-tail wagging the dog? A while ago I needed to buy a rail ticket. I needed it fast. In my book, fast means Internet.

But I couldn’t remember that catchy little name for the ticket website. So I set to with search engine and optimistic abandon. I began with “Rail Tickets”. No luck. I tried “Train Tickets”, “Ticket Line”,”Rail Line”, “Rail Ticket Line”. No joy. In desperation I tried “Rail Travel” – “Railways” – “Tickets” – “Travel” – “Reservations” – “Bookings”.

I came across many sites and, truth to tell, I side-tracked a little to learn about the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Orient Express, but tickets? Nothing.

The success of any e-tailer has to depend, surely, on the customer recalling the service; what it offers and what it is called.

Accessing a website is not about popping in as you pass. It is about knowing what you want and going to where you will find it. I am not a patient person. I picked up the phone and dialled American Express Travel.

Since this unhappy episode I have noticed a few changes. The first thing is that e-tailers are spending more money to remind people of their names. The second is that search engines have added useful little explanations to the results of their searches (even though I still have to wade through 1,456 “matches” in order to find the site I’m after).

And thirdly some of the new e-tailers are adopting names that explain the service they offer.

There is something hauntingly familiar about all this. Are e-tailers simply proving once again how important clear and targeted marketing really is?

As a consumer, it seems to me that e-tailers need to get two main pieces of information across to me:

The precise service they offer and the name/location where the service can be found.

Armed with this, I will turn to the right e-tailer every time, whatever my needs. But there’s the rub. I simply cannot recall every useful site for all my needs.

Every site has to talk to me all the time so that at the precise moment I have a requirement for something, the sheer weight of exposure will mean that the site I need is at front of mind. A dream for the media owners; a financially demanding nightmare for the dot-com companies I suspect.

David Hall

Managing director

Brands United

London SW18

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here