eCommerce & Facebook’s Universal “Like button”

There are plenty of rumours that Facebook may be aiming to “weave itself more tightly into the fabric of the Web” with a universal “Like” button.  This facility, it is thought, will enable users to easily share their views on any site, product or service.

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of eCommerce, and its clear that customers may benefit from this type of facility.  Have a look at  my mocked up screens. (Click to enlarge images).

Being able to see the universal number of ‘likes’ would in all likelihood be a useful gauge of overall interest in a product, and I’d be interested to see how users would contribute and be influenced by this type of information – particularly if they can see how many of their ‘friends’ have ‘liked’ the product in question.  Additionally how would this kind of service complement a series of more detailed authored reviews which are promoted by vendors such as Bazaarvoice, Power Reviews and Reevoo?

Clearly there’s an impact at the Facebook profile page too, here’s my mock up on that.  Clearly merchants would be very keen to continue there outreach into Facebook’s personal profiles.

Overall I think at face value this represents a win-win for customers and merchants, although I should imagine that there would be a degree of fear on behalf of merchants when it comes to introducing potential clicks aways from the online basket.

What is also exciting about this type of service is that it will enable Facebook to capture more and more detailed information about what customers like on the web; which may in turn lead to more intelligent targeted advertising.

All eyes will be toward Facebooks F8 Conference which takes place tommorow.

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What’s Now and What’s Next

Pete Sheldon (from Elastic Path) highlights in the E-Commerce Times what’s now and what’s next in eCommerce.

In the piece he profiles Video Solutions, Customer Service, Real-World Guided Selling, Multi-Store Retailing, User-Interface Design, Navigation Tools, Effective Merchandising, Social Shopping and Customer Loyalty.  Pete’s core messsages are “if you’re unsure which cutting-edge e-commerce innovations are right for your operation, plan, test and evaluate results – and then move forward“.  And importantly, “don’t be left behind by a fear of the unknown. Embrace innovation.

A very good piece indeed.

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Argos internet sales pass £1bn

Home Retail Group, the owner of Argos and Homebase (both Salmon eCommerce clients), has reported its annual results for the year to end February 2009.

Many are talking about triple digit growth rates in revenue, which is impressive, but HRG’s numbers illustrate just how far many organisations have to go to genuinely develop their internet offerings into viable or strategic business operations.

Argos Homepage

Given the group’s strong presence online, details of the company’s internet operations were given prominence in the report.  At Argos:

  • The internet accounted for £1.1 billion of Argos sales, up 22% from £900m a year ago.
  • The internet is now responsible for 26% of Argos sales, up from 21% in 2008.
  • Of this, £700m (17%) of Argos sales were Check & Reserve, up from £500m last year.
  • Multi-channel sales — internet or phone orders, or store orders for home delivery — totalled £1.7 billion or 40% of all of Argos sales.
  • A series of improvements have been made to Argos‘ Check & Reserve service. Customers can now see real-time stock availability of any product in their two nearest stores and can check availability in a further eight alternative stores; a text message is sent to confirm the reservation number when an online reservation is made and a reminder text is sent at midday on the day the reservation expires.

Homebase’s online offer is less developed than that of Argos but work is on-going to make improvements:

  • 5,000 Homebase products can now be bought online.
  • Another 11,000 Homebase lines can be viewed online, with the aim of all products ultimately being either viewable or buyable.
  • A Stock Check service for browseable lines has been rolled out to all UK stores. Check & Reserve is on trial in 25 stores.
  • A further 9,000 Argos products are also now available for home delivery via the Homebase website and there is a “continued transfer of skills” between Argos and Homebase.

We are always careful about promoting the work we do for Argos, but there is a little further information here and here.  But it is clear to see that it is a very successful partnership.

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UGC – Customer Reviews and Ask & Answer

There is no longer any doubt that leveraging UGC (user generated content) is a valuable eCommerce and digital marketing discipline. You just need to go here and here to see the conversion and influence statistics for themselves – provided by two leading vendors Bazaarvoice and Power Reviews.

But to build on these raw statistics, here are two new blog posts that go into a bit more detail and they may be of interest because they are specifically related to two Salmon clients and eCommerce engagements.

Salmon’s client Halfords uses Bazaarvoice’s Ratings & Reviews and Ask & Answer to optimise UGC and give their customers the information they need to make the best purchase decision.  Read an interview on the bazaarvoice blog with Jon Asbury, Halfords’ Channel Development Manager as he talks about the value and need for user-generated content on the site [disclosure: as I mentioned we implemented this - more here.]

Additionally, Kiddicare have just been given a glowing reference from e-consultancy.com for their implementation of Power Reviews [disclosure: we replatformed Kiddicare back in July explicitly to enable them to leverage leading technologies like Endeca and PowerReviews for intuitive search, guided selling and Web 2.0 navigation techniques such as tag clouds - and you can read more here.]

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ASOS on the stairway to brand heaven

Yesterday ASOS beta launched ASOS Life .

asos1

In a move that reminds me very much of the Zappos model for online retailing + social media, ASOS have created an online destination and platform to ‘visibly’ host blog, forum, comment, tag, photo and story baased content.

On the ‘invisible’ side of course they are building relationships, assessing customer behaviour and building their community.

In terms of their brand I can only think this will lead to positive brand interaction, consistency, credibility, authenticity, trust and loyalty.  A very nice move.

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What does Web 2.0 mean to Retailers?

So what does Web 2.0 mean to Retailers?

Well the term ‘Web 2.0’ means very little.  But what Web 2.0 enables is having significant bearing on retail in 2009 and beyond.   Inventory management, store systems, logistics and CRM will all be affected in one way or another. And in eCommerce, it is already having an impact.

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Twitter use in Retail

As Twitter becomes more popular – and continues its shift from the (lunatic) fringe to mainstream, it is interesting to be able to take a sneak peak into several retail Twitter accounts in action. Visit No Turn on Red’s Retailer Twitter Aggregator (screen grab below) for a real-time perspective.

twitter-use in-retail

This resource displays on one page, a glance of some of the retailers who are using Twitter to connect with their customers.   Take a look at the conversations that they are having, the sales information they are posting, and the helpful advice they are sharing.  Useful?  Worrying that you might be missing out?

There is no doubt Twitter use in retail is growing fast.  e-consultancy just published a list of UK Retailers with Twitter accounts.  The names are surprising – and the list is growing fast (look at the comments!).   EDIT 13/03/09: e-consultancy Just added a list of US Retailers on Twitter.

The Retailer Twitter Aggregation is maintained by Tom Sullivan of No Turn On Red. You should contact him on Twitter (@noturnonred) with any feedback.  Needless to say I am on Twitter too (@chrishoskin).  My advise is for you to join in the conversation.

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Free eCommerce Breakfast Briefings throughout 2009

Salmon is going to be hosting a series of “eCommerce Analysis” breakfast briefings throughout 2009. These are being held in both Manchester and London each month.

Invite Cover
The briefings help merchants identify;

  • How to rapidly optimise poor performing eCommerce websites
  • How to ensure rich, compelling, interactive online customer experiences
  • When and how to implement robust, secure and scalable eCommerce technologies that integrate back office data or third party systems.

Delegates will meet the UK’s leading eCommerce practitioners face-to-face and discuss 2009’s key criteria.  Each briefing provides ample opportunity for networking, interaction and discussion with the aim of helping merchants discover their online potential.

Topics to be discussed include;

  • Guided Searching and Navigation
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Analytics and Reporting
  • Customer Experience
  • Web Content Management
  • Online Visual Merchandising
  • Customer Reviews, Social Networking
  • Personalisation
  • Usability and User centred Design
  • eCommerce Architectures and Platforms
  • Site Performance
  • Site Scalability and Availability
  • Systems Integration
  • Cross Channel Management
  • Payment and Fraud

Go here for further information on the event series and to register for free.  Events will be held at Salmon’s head office in Watford, and Mal Maison Manchester.  Salmon is able to provide organisations with tailored or bespoke workshops on request but the standard agenda is here and an overview of topics are here.

Alternatively you can contact me on choskin at salmon dot com, for more details.

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Deeper Customer Experiences in eCommerce: Pt 2

So following on from this post, why do I think what has been achieved on Halfords.com is a vast improvement on the Halfords customer experience?

Bearing in mind that the following innovations were borne out of customer research and insight, here are 11 reasons:

  1. Brand New Visual Design – supporting key customer journeys more effectively – namely research, search, browse & navigation and guided sales
  2. Better Search – Customers can now search on car registration or make, model and year of their car for such items as oil, batteries, car bulbs and blades.
  3. Guided Navigation – For customers who may not know which product to purchase but have a list of requirements and intended uses, a new guided sales offering is now available.  The customer can complete a series of questions which filter a list of product options relevant to the requirements identified
  4. Multi Channel Support – Introduction of a call-centre support site to assist the customer through advice, ordering, payment and store reservation
  5. Introduction of social commerce features – enabling consumers to read/write product reviews and contribute user-generated content, helping customers benefit from authentic customer opinions ( Bazaarvoice technology integrated)
  6. Complimentary editorial – added to provide better product attribution for browsers.  DirectNews is the leading provider of tailored news feeds for websites and their solution has been seamlessly integrated
  7. Provision of Dynamic Imagery – Allowing customers to quickly and interactively view high-resolution product details providing an engaging, informative shopping experience.  Scene7 technology has, again, been seamlessly integrated
  8. Better demonstration of Product Expertise – website now enables customers to buy vehicle specific parts (e.g. oil, bulbs, blades, batteries) based on the make, model, year of their exact car.  Integration ITIM Zygon Product Information Management seamlessly integrated.
  9. Customer Friendly urls – Integration of IBM Omnifind to give customers a better search engine experience as a result of the development of SEO friendly URLs
  10. Quicker access to relevant ‘help’ – Introduction of a better online ‘Advice Centre’ which now dynamically displays relevant content based on search results.  In addition better integration with call centre, which now allows CSRs to support customer inquiries and facilitate purchases more effectively
  11. Better support for channel hopping shoppers – the provision of “Quick order forms” that allow shoppers to input Catalogue Numbers for fast online product selection

The result is an eCommerce website where the  customer experience is optimised as a direct result of the seamless integration of  data, systems and third party solutions.

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Deeper Customer Experiences in eCommerce

I have to admit it, despite being a marketer, I am becoming increasingly anxious with the mass-overuse of the term ‘Customer Experience.’

Don’t get me wrong, it is right that our  ‘thinking‘ and ‘orientation‘ should be fully aligned to the ‘customer’, but I do see familiarities with phrases like ‘CRM’ and ‘SOA’ which, despite being critical for business success even today, were tainted by a myriad of opportunistic suppliers that over-egged the pudding and stretched the truth to satify their revenue streams.   The result of bandwagons like these?  CRM and SOA became loaded terms and everyone started to avoid using them.

It would be tragic if ‘Customer Experience’  and those in the Customer Experience solutions business were to suffer a similar fate.  Maybe its too late?  In fact ‘Customer Experience Management’ failure has been discussed already in some circles.

And yet low and behold, this morning I add fuel to the fire by distributing a press release entitled Salmon seamlessly integrates data, systems and solutions for Halfords Limited – Improving the overall customer experience of shopping at Halfords.com and meeting the needs of customers across Halfords’ multiple shopping channels.

My colleagues and I (and Halfords of course) distributed this with a great deal of thought.  We are obviously conscious of the overuse of the keyword, BUT know what has been achieved IS an improvement of the experience for Halfords’ customers.

And in the context of the complex nature of enterprise eCommerce – that fact shouldn’t be confused with cosmetic surgery at a CSS level, simple web re-design or other web projects that increasingly fall under the category ‘Customer Experience’.

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