E-commerce is not a carrot any more

Remember e-commerce? That shiny new thing that would save business and give us all the exact coordinates of the end of the rainbow? When did it die? Or, more precisely from a copywriting point of view, when did it stop being a desirable goal of its own?

Copywriters love carrots. They’re good for the eyes and we think that readers will always jump at them. So when developing a headline, body copy or e-mail shot, we’re always looking for exciting carrots to dangle in front of the readers’ eyes.

E-commerce is not a carrot any more. It means nothing. Whereas once the very idea of enabling e-commerce was supposed to start a drool of anticipation, it now gets blank looks. Why? Because it’s a fake promise, a hollow tube that leads somewhere else. Holiday destinations don’t try and sell you the excitement of air travel. That’s just the way to get there. They sell you a relaxing sunset dinner with a view of the bay. They sell the most exhilarating peak experience of your life. Or the most enjoyable time with your family.

There is always a risk that when trying to find the right carrot – the promise that will get readers excited – we don’t dig far enough. What is e-commerce? It’s a way of doing business. What’s really interesting is either the money it brings in, or the new avenues it opens up. So go for that as a carrot. “This gizmo enables e-commerce” is a debatable fact. “Try the gizmo that drives sales while you sleep” is a headline (not a very good one, but you get the point).

There are lots of fake carrots out there. “Followers” and “friends” are two that spring to mind. How deeply did you research your latest marketing communication?