Jellyfish.com Case Anlysis

Once again, for my Marketing on the Internet class...

Jellyfish.com is a new breed of online shopping website. Instead of a simple task oriented interface, like Amazon.com or Wal-Mart.com, Jellyfish chooses to include a large experiential element to their web business model. The site works like this: you sign up and create a profile -- the profile is very similar to one that you would create for a social networking site, name, interests, a shopping wish list, and any photos you wish to include. From there, you participate in the Smack Shopping experience. Smack shopping is basically a reverse auction (the price drops as time goes by) with an unknown quantity of items. The items are organized in different shows (electronics, mens clothing, etc.) throughout the day. Users who watch the shows can participate in a live chat, as well as a variety of games where users can win coins, (which can later be redeemed for prizes), money, and other jellyfish schwag. Users can also win chances to co-host shows, which means they get to pick the merchandise that's auctioned, and spur the live audience to participate.

This is why Jellyfish is an experiential site -- it is designed to encourage users to spend inordinate amounts of time on the site, engaging with the brand on a level thats hard for other e-commerce sites to achieve. As one spends time on the site, social connections develop with fellow "smackers", and it becomes even harder to leave the tight knit online community. It is not rare to hear of groups of smackers getting together for real world events (recently, a group from the finger lakes area went wine tasting). This is the kind of devotion and engagement money can't buy. It's the kind that comes with a clever business model, and an ability to nurture and engage the customer in ways other online retailers cannot.

What is most interesting about Jellyfish, however, is the way in which they choose to market their site. Jellyfish doesn't advertise much online. That means no banner ads and no Google AdWords (a quick search of relevant keywords returned no results -- though if you search for "jellyfish" the site comes up on the first page). What Jellyfish does have, however, is an affiliate advertising program and an opt-in e-mail newsletter. Thats it. Yet somehow, Jellyfish managed to build enough traffic, and establish a large enough user base that Microsoft purchased the company in October of 2007. So how did they do it?

A big part of their traffic building strategy was turning Jellyfish into a Lovemark -- so adored by its users that they would do anything to get friends and relatives using the site. For several months last year, Jellyfish ran a contest called "Smack Daddy's Quest". Smack Daddy's Quest was the ultimate in a word of mouth recruitment campaign. How it worked was the Smack community was charged with reaching certain point levels (1o points were awarded for each new refferrel) reaching those point levels triggered different rewards (larger money pots for games, smacking a car, etc.). Users were provided with a custom referral link, static banners, an e-mail footer and a widget to use as recruitment tools. This campaign alone increased the user base of Jellyfish by over 30,000 users in about 2 months.

Jellyfish also takes advantage of a public relations style of online advertising. Much of their users sign up when a popular blog mentions the site in a blog post. Jellyfish will also run co-hosted shows with popular blogs like The Consumerist and Tree Hugger, which also generates a lot of traffic. Jellyfish users will also post to the message boards of Woot during their famed Woot-offs (instead of one item being sold per day, a constant stream of items are sold until everything sells out) which encourages even more people to sign up for Jellyfish.

The traffic building strategies of Jellyfish are an example of a small online company taking advantage of every method available to them, without necessarily breaking the bank. It's a strategy that will only work for a certain class of website, but if your site belongs to that class, it's a good way to go.


Anonymous said...

See here or here

Kurt said...

Nice overview of an interesting site. You've provided good examples of how they blend experiential features into what is normally a task-oriented shopping site. Good examples of using affiliate programs and word-of-mouth to build traffic. Lacks detail on the specific SEO strategies used on the site architecture. Adding information on title tags, meta tags, etc. would make this analysis very strong.

Grade - 4.25

bbdl said...

Search the (iOS) AppStore for Gravy Live Shopping. Smack Shopping is back, by the original team from Jellyfish!