Delivering world-class commerce experiences

As consumers, we are empowered, demanding, and increasingly digitally savvy. We expect to research and purchase our goods anywhere, anytime and via any channel or device. We expect to be able to choose when and where we receive purchases—whether it’s on our doorsteps or over the counter at the brick-and-mortar version of the store from which we purchased them. Finally, we expect to be continually recognized and valued for our business.

Brands know that keeping up with those consumer expectations is increasingly challenging. Behind every customer’s commerce experience lies a plethora of processes, systems, services, and data that need designing, integrating, testing, and supporting.

This is the everyday reality facing CMOs and CIOs who are grappling with how to deliver world-class commerce experiences. The winners will be those who:

1.    Adjust to changing consumer behavior

The way customers behave is evolving rapidly, partly due to a mix of progressive disruption, rates of new-technology adoption, advances in science, and new sources of competition. Consumer research is still an effective way to lend an ear to their immediate needs, but it’s not enough on its own. Consumers can’t predict what they’re going to want next month or next year. Capturing data is key to tracking trends, but acting quickly on those trends is even more important.

2.    Get to market quickly

Unless you’re a start-up business, you’ll have a wealth of “heritage” processes, data, and systems. In order to deliver a seamless commerce experience, all of these things will need to be connected to various critical web components. This can be time-consuming, risky, and complex. Aim to develop and implement in small steps rather than taking a big-bang approach. Successful brands, instead, tend to chip away, using pilot programs for smaller initiatives to gain feedback quickly. And where long projects are unavoidable, businesses enmeshed in Continuous Commerce™ continue to deliver incremental change in parallel. It’s as much about thinking tactically as it is strategically these days.

3.    Differentiate

In a crowded and competitive market, connecting digital technologies with physical stores and real people is key to successful differentiation. In the UK, Argos was the first to connect website and store inventory by launching a “Click & Collect” service in 2000. This has since been widely imitated globally, but at the time this wasn’t an obvious move because the industry was obsessed with dotcom businesses and home delivery. Figure out what’s unique about your business, and how digital and physical can be combined differently, and how to optimize assets you already own, and make them work hard for you.

4.    Deliver round the clock

Lots of the systems and processes underpinning an “always-on” commerce experience aren’t actually always on in the sense that they don’t operate 24/7/365. This won’t do. Brands need to face up to changing working practices and business processes, finding suppliers and services that can support uninterrupted service and creating workarounds for any IT system restrictions.

5.    Get global, and personal

We are fast becoming global consumers. We travel frequently for work and pleasure. We live in different countries from friends and family. We bring back new products and tastes and want to continue relationships with overseas brands, and yet we still like to be treated as individuals, acknowledged and rewarded for our business. Winning brands will use data and technology to deliver functionally rich, immersive and personalized experiences that are relevant to our needs, and that support our globetrotting exploits and continue to earn our loyalty.

6.    Choose the right service provider and technologies

The cost of services for an eCommerce program is many times the cost of the technology, so it’s critical that brands choose the right partners to help in their quest for success. Top brands choose partners that can help shape commerce strategy, define road maps, choose technologies, deliver commerce programs, and manage ongoing support. A partner can also coordinate the many third parties involved in a Continuous Commerce™ program.

Technology can do amazing things, but it’s what you do with it that counts. How brands bring together technology, people, geography, customer service, and user experience today will dictate tomorrow’s commerce winners—and ensure the bar remains high for the competition.

[This article was originally published as part of commerce@Ogilvy's Continuous Commerce™ series here.]

Share this content with:

Salmon enhance Halfords customer experience with new digital platform

Salmon teams have been pedaling fast to complete the latest overhaul to Halfords existing website, which marks the next phase in the leading retailer’s strategy to drive growth online and to its portfolio of more than 460 stores nationwide.

Halfords new website

The redesign further enhances the customer experience and has been deployed across the .com and .ie websites, plus mobile and tablet optimised sites, in less than six months.

Offering 30,000 product lines, the website holds Halfords’ most comprehensive range, directs many customers into stores for service delivery and captures information used across the business.

Halfords Digital Director, Clive West said:  Our new website represents a real commitment to Halfords online offer.  More and more of our customers want to use the web as part of their purchasing trip with us.  We’ve consulted extensively with them and believe the improvements we’ve made will increase the ease and enjoyment of shopping with

Neil Stewart, CEO at Salmon said: “With a very tight deadline for this project, the Salmon and Halfords team have delivered a huge amount of work in a short space of time.  This has only been possible due to our innovative ways of working and the team’s commitment to delivering for the client.  I am pleased to say that this has allowed us to deliver the new site on-time, on-budget and Halfords to achieve their business objectives.”

So what’s new, and leading to a much happier shopper experience? now features:

  • Inspirational visuals
  • A no-fuss layout and easier navigation, simplified into four key pillars: Cycling; Motoring; SatNav and Audio; Camping and Touring, with a different shopping experience across all four
  • A new streamlined checkout with fifty per cent less checkout steps
  • Integration with Google Maps
  • More products, less text and only the key features while shopping
  • A much more friendly, engaging and informative “voice”, reflected in text alerts and emails, 4,500 product description and 50 advice articles have been rewritten
  • 170 product videos and 50 new How To videos have been added and optimised for tablet viewing
  • Simplified the customer proposition so that ALL orders placed online for collection at one of Halfords stores can be paid for in-store, instead of only some of them, combining products which are stocked in-store with items coming from the distribution centre or courier deliveries

The full press release can be found here  and details of Salmon’s other work with Halfords can be found here.

Some other interesting facts about Halfords:

Online Halfords product range is in total around three times larger than their superstores with around 10,000 product lines in stores, increasing to around 30,000 lines online.

Halfords latest Half Yearly Profits, show Pre-tax profits rose 5.2% to £44.6m for the six months to 27 September, with total sales up 7.7% to £490.6m. Online Retail revenues grew by 16.9% and represented 11.5% of total Retail sales (H1 FY13: 10.5%).  A consistent 88% of online orders were collected in store during the period. More here

Share this content with:

Lack of online integration holding back international revenues for UK B2B organisations

According to newly released research jointly commissioned by Master Data Management company Stibo Systems and ourselves, B2B organisations are struggling to extend their online footprint abroad, despite success selling through existing channels.

The research findings revealed that 72 per cent of UK B2B organisations sell internationally, but only 40 per cent were doing so online. The same research revealed that 67 per cent of UK B2B organisations already had online offerings, highlighting that, though many businesses have invested in online, they had not yet taken the step of extending it overseas.

The research, commissioned in order to explore the latest trends in ecommerce for business-facing organisations, questioned 100 senior UK decision-makers in manufacturing and wholesale companies about the current stage in their adoption of ecommerce. Part of this research was to find out how ecommerce operations were expanding internationally, and what challenges businesses faced in implementing successful ecommerce strategies.

The findings provided an insight into some of the challenges B2B organisations in the UK face when operating internationally. The most significant challenge was the cost of service to trade, which 87 per cent of respondents listed as the problem encountered most often. Trading overseas for any business has significant cost implications ranging from logistics, a concern to 49 per cent of businesses, to lack of market knowledge at 58 per cent.

Yet the development and tailoring of an international ecommerce offering that fits into an existing UK solution can significantly reduce the costs of doing overseas business and serve as a business growth opportunity.

Commenting on the report, Simon Walker, director, ecommerce innovation at Stibo Systems, said “British businesses are innovative and dynamic, as this research shows, and have expanded considerably overseas in recent years. However, this research has highlighted how this expansion is being stifled by the cost of doing business. By channelling the local market and cultural knowledge developed by selling through existing channels into online operations, the cost barriers to international expansion can be significantly reduced. By utilising centralised tools such as Master Data Management as part of a business’s ecommerce infrastructure at home, it can in turn power online offerings abroad, significantly reducing the costs of operating overseas.”

Craig Harper-Ashton, head of multichannel at Salmon, added “Growing ecommerce offerings abroad should be a key consideration for any B2B organisations looking for growth. As this research shows, the main barrier to growth internationally is the cost of doing business, which can be immediately reduced by selling online. Optimising sites for international markets and utilising existing expertise gained in the market, is a simple way for UK businesses to expand their international footprint, driving growth.”

Whitepaper and infographic

Further information on the research can be found in the form of a whitepaper and an infographic


The survey was conducted by Coleman Parkes Research in February 2013. The sample consisted of 100 senior business decision makers in charge of ecommerce development and delivery for a mix of large manufacturers and wholesalers (1,000+ employees) that either currently have an ecommerce operation or are planning to implement one. All interviewers abided by the MRS code of conduct.

Share this content with:

eCommerce becomes Everywhere Commerce. Brands face stark choice: adapt or die.

Yesterday’s definition of eCommerce is dead. The rough definition — buying and selling over the Internet—is inadequate for today’s commerce companies.

Today’s shoppers expect to shop anytime/anywhere, to buy every kind of product, to use whichever device or channel suits them at that moment and to be recognized and valued for their custom. Today’s business leaders (whether brands, retailers or B2B businesses) are grappling with increased shopper expectations, rapidly evolving technology and new sources of competition.

So, should we now drop the “e” and call this form of transaction just “commerce?” Since all commerce today involves electronic systems and the lines between the online and offline worlds are blurred, the “electronic” in eCommerce may be redundant. Another approach would be to redefine it as “everywhere commerce” so that we can focus on the big opportunities and challenges in eCommerce today.

To assess whether a company is adequately recognizing this shift in commerce and taking the necessary steps to be present everywhere, business leaders need to ask themselves these key questions:

Every country Are we offering international shoppers a seamless experience? Are we reaching potential shoppers in fast growing markets? Are we personalizing the shopper’s experience based on his/her location?

Every device Does our eCommerce platform support the wide (and increasing) variety of devices and browsers? How are shoppers using their devices? Are they using a smartphone and laptop at the same time and in complementary ways or at different times and then keeping them in sync?

Every channel Are we supporting every possible route into an eCommerce transaction? These include: social networks, brand marketing, physical stores or branches, wholesalers, Amazon, eBay and other marketplaces, aggregators and choice engines that simplify options to help consumers make better decisions.

Every shopper Are we personalizing the shopper’s experience based on the current context plus his/her past and predicted behavior? And are we catering to both B2C and B2B shoppers?

Every interaction Are we delighting our shoppers every time they interact with our brand (whether on our own web properties or elsewhere)? Are we delivering excellent service right through the customer experience: from brand awareness, to product awareness and purchase, as well as the delivery, returns and customer service processes?

Every product How effectively are we managing product information, pricing, inventory and returns across our own, third party and drop ship supplier locations?

Every piece of data Are we gaining enough insight from the mass of data available on our shoppers’ interactions? What new opportunities are offered by the exponential growth in data from smartphones and social media (big data) and from information disclosure?

Every business model Have we just taken our pre-Internet business model online or have we really exploited the new opportunities offered by the Internet? Which aspects of our old business model can be blended with digital to offer a differentiated proposition? Can we integrate with our legacy systems? How do we keep up to date with new developments like Google Shopping Express?

Every delivery option Are we meeting the needs of those shoppers who want the product in the next hour or the next day as well as those who are willing to wait until next week? And what about those shoppers who want a one-hour delivery slot or want to pick up from a nearby location at their convenience, not ours?

Based on the answers to these questions, business leaders need to decide on priorities and start making changes to adapt to this new environment. The name change from electronic commerce is important, not just because the term too narrowly defines the today’s reality, but also because it confines thinking. The term focuses thinking on the wrong problem.

Retailers need to think about how strategic use of technology, mobile location-based services and big data can improve life for the customer, unify the brand experience across all venues and provide a competitive advantage.

“Everywhere commerce” is here already and the choice for today’s commerce companies is stark: adapt or die.

This article was first published in BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2013

BrandZ Top 100 2013

Share this content with:

IBM WebSphere Commerce Feature Pack 4 Highlights

Have you noticed that WebSphere Commerce feature packs seem to come out much more frequently than they used to?  Our friends in the IBM development labs seem to have changed their approach slightly in bringing these out much more quickly, even if this means partial releases.

Management Centre is a good example where this much-improved business tooling was brought to market relatively quickly without replacing Accelerator 100% i.e. there was still functionality within Accelerator that wasn’t available in Management Centre.  Cleverly though, they developed the marketing focussed elements early so most business users only need to see Management Centre.  Meanwhile, Accelerator is still used for the more technically oriented facilities.  Wins all round and it’s a philosophy that we greatly support. Read more »

Share this content with:

How to attract the opposite – six in eCommerce

It’s often said that opposites attract.  As far as personal relationships are concerned, I haven’t found this to be the case.  However, for people working in the eCommerce and multi channel world, the ability to attract or bring together opposites is becoming increasingly important.

Here are six sets of opposites that come to mind:

  • Developing strategic IT architectures and embracing rapidly emerging technologies.
  • Listening to what the customer wants now while anticipating their future needs.
  • Balancing cost versus capability in solution design.
  • Delivering personalised customer experiences and super-fast web site performance.
  • Managing divergent goals of stakeholders from marketing, stores, supply chain, IT and finance.
  • Building sound return on investment cases in the context of rapidly changing business models and technology.

(I’m sure there are many more than six, so would welcome your thoughts on others.)

So why is the ability to attract opposites important ?

Read more »

Share this content with:

Halfords: Integrating for Cross-Channel Mobilisation

Internet Retailing” magazine (n.b. takes you to the  July/Aug 2011 digital edition) is focused upon serving the UK and Europe’s leading multichannel and pureplay retailers. Inspired by the very best, and commercial to the core, Internet Retailing analyses, stimulates and challenges the etail community with news, analysis, events and insight.

In the latest edition, we are delighted that a Salmon retail project, Halfords has been showcased.  Emma Herrod speaks to Jon Asbury, Channel Development Manager, Halfords, about how system integration has improved customer choice and encouraged mobile interaction. The interview covers Reserve & Collect, Text & Reserve, Advice Centre, Order & Collect, Distribution, M-commerce site, iPhone and Android apps.

To read the full story click the image above, or simply go to Internet Retailing Magazine. (The Halfords/Salmon story starts on pg. 10 of the digital magazine).

Share this content with:

To .mobi or not .mobi, that’s not the question

With the impressive returns apparent for those retailers who have optimised their web sites for access by smartphones and the inexorable rise in smartphone adoption, the debate has moved beyond the ‘why’ and ‘when’.**   The question now is ‘how to optimise your web site for mobile devices’.  Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of the main options to help you navigate your way through this key decision.

Option 1.  Building a mobile store – developing a set of pages specifically optimised for mobile devices

Pros:  Fancy something (relatively) quick to market and with easy access?  Then a mobile store could be just what you are looking for.  No snazzy touch screen smart phone needed, even if your customers have a Nokia e71 they can shop on your mobile store, plus with auto detection and re-direction, accessing your store couldn’t be simpler.

Read more »

Share this content with:

Salmon develop iPhone and Android apps for Halfords

Salmon have developed iPhone and Android apps for Halfords, extending their current mobile and multi-channel proposition.  The apps allow customers to shop, scan products and find their nearest store.

Mobile phone shoppers will receive a better online experience with the ability to research, locate and purchase products via the apps. The apps combine both web and app capabilities, providing Halfords with a cost effective solution and customers with a better online experience.

Jon Asbury, Halfords Channel Development Manager said: “We aim to give customers an even better online shopping experience through cutting edge technology. The apps are a natural progression from our successful mobile site. Customers will find the apps versatile, functional and easy to navigate.”

Read more »

Share this content with:

Tesco use SmartPhone and QR Code technology in South Korea

Tesco Video

Tesco: Homeplus in South Korea offer customers a new way of shopping via their SmartPhone and QR Code technology.  It’s proving popular with customers there.  I’m not sure we have the same issues in the UK as Korea do to warrant this here, they are quite a unique market, but this does offer customers an alternative shopping method and is a great visual reminder.  See for yourself here.

Share this content with: