Buying physical space for online products

PhotoStamps kits at Costco

This time of year, there’s always a lot of talk about driving clicks to bricks: how online affects offline purchases. Whether it’s an actual purchase that is picked up in store or just online research that influences store purchases, the Web has undoubtedly had an effect on in store shopping.

What is less talked about is the increasing trend in the other direction. Online retailers are putting their products on store shelves. For a few years, you’ve been able to find iTunes gift cards and Rhapsody subscriptions at electronics retailers like Best Buy.

I was at Costco the other day and ran into the boxes of PhotoStamps pictured above. Each unit gets you three boxes, each of which can be redeemed online for a sheet of 20 personalized stamps that are sent by mail.

From a marketing standpoint, it’s brilliant. You get to put a cute baby in front of thousands of gift shoppers and drive impulse purchases.

From an environmental standpoint, it’s highly wasteful. It’s mostly packaging. Each box is mostly air; there’s a cardboard insert to keep its shape. Inside there’s a one page pamphlet explaining what PhotoStamps are and a CD. (You don’t even need the CD, you can just go to the Web site.) On the CD sleeve is the redemption code. The 13-digit code is all you need to get your stamps.

It could just as easily be sent as email. In fact, you can get an email gift certificate from the PhotoStamps site. But email doesn’t look as good under the tree. And without the Costco discount, you’ll pay more buying direct.

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About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is CEO of redesign | mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. His personal blog is at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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