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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

29 Oct 2014 6:09 PM
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We at Affino are very proud to share the culmination of a 9 month collaboration with IMRG. The fruits of our labours have brought forth a truly smart, automated web-enabled service for retailers, powered by our own Affino Social Commerce Platform. The full details are set out in the following recently minted press release:

 

 

London, 27 October 2014: IMRG – the UK association for e-retail – is pleased to announce the launch of the e-Retail Benchmarking System, powered by the social commerce specialists, Affino.

 

The first of its kind, this automated system allows online retailers to measure their performance against a quorum of similar retailers (for example, young fast fashion retailers) on a daily basis (the day after the data has been submitted) from a PC, tablet or smartphone.

 

Offering instant access to business critical KPIs such as average basket value, unique visitors, checkout abandonment and conversion rates on a unique personalised dashboard, the IMRG e-Retail Benchmarking System makes it easy for online retailers to measure up to 12 months’ user behaviour, traffic and overall performance and then make a comparison against the rest of the e-retail market. Benchmarks can be filtered to suit the company and each KPI is displayed as an interactive and user-friendly graph.

 

As the e-Retail Benchmarking System uses just a simple line of JavaScript (similar to Google Analytics) to automatically track all the KPIs and provide measurable data, this clever system will not slow the website down. The core of the system is a highly secure, smart asynchronous sampling engine.


With over 1,000 retail members, IMRG feel they are well-placed to launch the e-Retail Benchmarking System as an addition to the series of monthly and quarterly Indexes (e-Retail, m-Retail, Quarterly Benchmarking and Delivery) for the e-retail industry. Having handled data securely for over 14 years, IMRG has ensured that all information provided by online retailers who join the IMRG e-Retail Benchmarking System is completely anonymous and totally secure.

 

Graeme Howe, Managing Director of IMRG, comments: “IMRG have been providing the e-Retail Industry with benchmarking information for over 14 years and this new system represents a significant leap in the service we can provide to our retail members. Retailers will be

... IMRG partner with Affino to launch the automated e-Retail Benchmarking System
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

27 Oct 2014 5:40 PM
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Staggered releasing is back in the news again following Taylor Swift’s decision to withhold the second promo track from her new ’1989’ album from UK fans only. The single ’Out of the Woods’ was made available for individual download on iTunes, unless of course you happened to live in the UK. As a UK citizen, the only way to get hold of said track was then to pre-order the whole new album.

 

Taylor Swift then added insult to injury by claiming that this was an effort to create ’a better experience for you, the fans’. Seriously? The UK fans alone singled out for a special experience!? One which was enforced in limiting fashion by the record company. This is obvious and blatant profiteering and anything but a ’service’ to the fans.

 

I still fail to see the appeal in ’pre-ordering’ digital content, you usually don’t get any tangible benefit, bar the occasional taster single. There are a number of tracks on iTunes which are ’Album Only’, meaning that you need to download every single track just to get your hands on the one you want. A case in point is Taylor Swift as per above, and another example is Annie Mac’s new ’Presents’ compilation, whose standout track is ’Rhymes’ by Hannah Wants and Chris Lorenzo. I already have the majority of tracks on the album, but to get my hands on this single, I am forced to buy a very large number of tracks for a second time!

 

The upshot of all of this is that most people will seek alternate means of getting their hands on new material from their favourite artists. In trying to control or limit access in any way, artists and record labels are undoubtedly encouraging piracy. For this very same reason, International artists like Beyoncé and Madonna know to release their output simultaneously to all territories, as a fan is still a fan regardless of their geographic origin, and they will want to get their hands on the new material immediately. If for some reason the album or single is not available in that region by legitimate means, the fans will use illicit means to gain access to what they want. Trying to withhold materials in any way, simply results in less revenues for the record label and the artist. Why anyone still engages in this policy is far beyond my level of comprehension -

... Staggered releases deliver ever diminishing returns
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

22 Oct 2014 4:36 PM
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One of the trickiest questions I get asked regularly is - "What exactly does your company do?". This is not for reasons of difficulty in explaining everything that we do, rather the difficulty of summarising what we do into a sufficiently short format. When I was in Iceland on vacation in September I had the additional challenge of trying to accurately translate some of those technical terms and concepts into everyday vernacular. I decided then and there that I would compose as concise an article as possible to act as a crib-sheet for anyone needing to explain or understand our modus operandi.

 

The shortform elevator pitch is as follows:

 

"Affino is a London-based multinational Social Commerce Specialist with its own in-house-developed Affino Social Commerce Platform. Affino works with companies and organisations to evolve business plans in order to create successful automated digital businesses, which are powered by the Affino Social Commerce Engine. Affino Social Commerce covers key industries, ranging from Retail to Publishing / Media, Professional Communities and Performing Arts."

 

There are 3 key aspects to Affino

 

1. Expertise

The core to every successful business is the high calibre of individuals who make up that business, and how well they work together. Although small in number, Team Affino is composed of some of the very best creative-problem-solving and hard-working talent found anywhere in the world. All team members are expert in their own area - whether Systems Architecture, Applications and Software Development, Project Management, Design and Branding, Technology and Operations.

 

2. Process

We have a unique process for drawing out the very best from everyone involved. The process is highly collaborative, and is centered on two or more partners gaining a full understanding of each other’s goals and challenges. Broadly speaking, there are three stages to the process:

  • Digital Business Audit - a deep and broad-ranging on-site organisational audit - consisting of a series of structured discovery conversations with leading stakeholders - with a view to investigating the current standing of a company, and evaluating its ability to capitalise on its full digital potential.
  • Transformation Plan - evolving from the Audit, the Transformation Plan sets out what a business or organisation needs to do to
... Delivering a More Successful Digital Business
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

13 Oct 2014 11:10 PM
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Two years ago I wrote an article about how GEMA, the German performance rights organisation had targeted Google’s YouTube video platform in terms of how it dealt with the public posting of music videos not personally sanctioned by GEMA. GEMA’s contention was that the 24 hour take-down rule was insufficient, and that Google / YouTube should be made to pay penalties for illegally displaying those videos at all, as it was gaining advertising royalties while those videos were played back by members of the public. The end result of that action has been that YouTube in Germany is now a total shadow of its former self, with hardly any native music videos displaying at all.

 

YouTube is, and always has been, one of my very best music discovery resources, so GEMA really does not understand the impact of its actions which have at the very least negatively impacted on its members. I’ve lost count of the number of artists I have discovered and grown to like via YouTube - leading to my direct purchasing of their albums and singles on iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, Juno and Phonica. While other mainland European countries - the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Scandinavia are still regularly producing international hits, it has been a long time since anything significant has come out of Germany. GEMA plainly does not understand YouTube’s place in the promotional cycle of music - and how much importance international artists place on the gaining of 1 million plus views on promo videos primarily via YouTube. Psy’s global hit ’Gangnam Style’ and Ylvis’s ’The Fox’ are unlikely to have happened without YouTube playing a significant part - in fact YouTube is responsible for the careers of many of pop’s current crop of young(-ish) performers - Justin Bieber included. Younger generations of Germans are more than slightly frustrated and upset by GEMA’s stance, whose net effect has been to enormously devalue the impact and worth of the German music industry.

 

The most recent chapter in this ongoing story concerns German publishing association / agency VG Media which launched a case against Google for its inclusion of snippets of VG’s members’ copyrighted text, as well as copyrighted images in the form of thumbnails used to punctuate search results under ’Google News’. VG Media

... Germany vs Google
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

06 Oct 2014 9:24 PM
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One of the examples I best remember from my Marketing degree was the concept of Indirect Competition. An excellent example of this is flowers vs wine vs chocolates. When accepting a dinner invitation, it’s considered the height of good taste to bring a house gift with you when you attend. A florist may consider his most likely competitor the flower shop around the corner, but dinner guests are just as likely to bring either chocolates or wine - depending on the gender or personal preferences of the host/s. Thus products, goods and services from within the same sector or related sectors are likely vying for the same customers - who make decisions based on various contemporaneous factors, as well as availability, appeal and cost.

 

I wrote a recent piece which included a line or two on how publishers need to understand that many of them are competing within the entertainment industry - someone who potentially buys a book has the option to stay in and watch television, go to the movies, buy and listen to an album or play a console / tablet / smartphone game. All these alternatives are vying both for your spending power and your time. Which means your high street book store is in competition with Netflix, the local cinema, HMV, iTunes and Game. The book retailer needs to attract attention and pocket / birthday money away from these mediums - especially always-to-hand mobile phone apps. Most publishers have done relatively little to sex up their own book launches or try to make their retail environments - digital and otherwise sufficiently dynamic and exciting for those types of audiences.

 

A little closer to home, we have the indirect competition between traditional magazine publishers and online blogs, vlogs and clickbaiting publishing sensations like Mashable and Buzzfeed. I must admit that I rarely read magazines these days. I used to regularly read What Hi-Fi, Stuff, T3, Wallpaper and Monocle, DJ and Mixmag - as well as the occasional FHM and GQ. Nowadays I only really buy magazines at airports - the Internet provides me with my daily / hourly / minute-by-minute fix, and I can find highly targeted and on-point resources which totally fit my personal preferences.

 

A recent article in ’The Media Briefing’ outlined how digital newsstands such as Apple’s are now very much in decline. Accessing a magazine in PDF-

... Know your competition!
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

06 Oct 2014 4:56 PM
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Last week saw the launch of the new Selfridges website, part of a £40 million investment over the next 5 years. I must say that I quite like the improved product pages - which are really snappy and contain near enough of the right details and features - I like the layout of the page too, although feature-wise overall it’s not quite up to my ideal customer user experience, as per what I posted earlier this year in my ’The Ideal Fashion Ecommerce Template’ article.

 

The previous Selfridges site was a little laggy and unfocused, while the new one is agile and crisp. Interesting to see that they have not gone with a fully responsive design framework, but are relying on adaptive for mobile screen resolutions. Shopping basket is maintained well across devices - a miniature facsimile of the famous yellow bag with a number indicator within it - works well in both formats.

 

I would have preferred to have seen ’how many in stock’ details, and some indication on number of days for standard delivery. Also, the Size Guide is one of those next to useless generic ones - it needs to at least say whether fit is Skinny, Regular or Generous, and also ideally what size model is wearing to give proper indication of sizing - actually model sizing is often included in main Product Details. I would recommend a mannequin you could click on for major size options and where key dimensions are displayed against the mannequin. In the overall details, there is also nothing about care instructions though - which is a big miss for me. When you buy online you don’t get to check the labels and feel the texture and finish of the fabrics - so a digital retailer needs to proved all the pertinent details which you need to make an informed decision.

 

Size, number and colour selectors etc. are slick, and I like the way they have included the ’Add to Wishlist’ element, although the tool tip is missing for perfect usability on that icon.

 

£40 million over 5 years (£8 million p.a.) is a huge investment though, and I’m not sure Selfridges needs to be investing at quite that level, or whether the ROI is fully justifiable on a singular digital business. Of course a significant part of the moneys will go to the logistics and fulfilment services, and there is still ample scope for improvement to the

... Is Selfridges' £40 million investment a reasonable amount for a digital retail business?
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

25 Sep 2014 1:51 PM
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Before I get into the details of my 10 cents worth on this, I need to categorically state that yes! I am an iPhone 6 Plus owner myself. Having just recently returned from two weeks in Iceland, I was a little behind the curve on reserving my phone, and had to travel to Watford to secure the model I was after - this last Tuesday in fact.

 

By happenstance, on the same day I acquired said phone, ’Bendgate’ was just starting to rear its ugly head, and this is before the ’bricking’ issue of the iOS 8.0.1 update release, which Apple hastily recalled without further explanation or excuse.

 

I have to say that I really like the phone, but more of that later... the thing is, I’ve never really understood this obsession with being the thinnest, particularly with phones - more understandable for laptops and desktops. Weight is an important consideration, as is feel and practical usage - wafer-thinness, is certainly not conducive to the best touchy feely experience - I really don’t think the phones need to be any thinner. In fact, I could stand a couple of additional millimetres if this made for a better battery life.

 

From an engineering / structural standpoint, making something thin and long means it has inherently added flex, and more propensity to buckle - particularly for a non-elastic metal like aluminium, which is relatively brittle compared to most carbon steel alloys. Airplanes / airplane wings are made from thin aluminium, but they have ribs, braces, membranes and struts to give them added strength and rigidity. Apple could also have utilised more advanced lamination techniques to increase the strength of the phone chassis without adding too much weight or thickness.

 

Apple is of course new to the large phone form factor, and it sounds like insufficient stress testing has been done on these production models - of the type that Ikea does:

constantly to test wear and tear / longevity of its many furnishings. Product launch cycles are relatively short these days, and I can easily understand how something like this may have been missed in general population testing. My phone is in a lovely Apple leather case which gives it further protection, but I will not be putting it to any stress tests myself. I have an aversion to tight jeans (as I’ve noted previously), and rarely carry my phone in

... Thinnest is not always best!
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

23 Sep 2014 1:31 PM
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I have just returned from a two week vacation in Iceland, and was fortunate enough to join in a sightseeing fly-by of the current Bárðarbunga / Holuhraun eruption. The above picture (not related to my fly-by) is courtesy of Paolo Sicoli and captures the essential magic of Iceland, in this instance two of nature’s most wonderful phenomena - volcanic eruption with the added sparkle of the northern lights.

 

Flight NY 1808 was a special scheduled daytime flight by national inland airline Air Iceland - departing from the actual Reykjavík Airport (not to be confused with Keflavík which is the seat of the International airport). Flight-time was near enough 2 hours - with 45 minutes of journey time each way, and 30 minutes sightseeing of the actual eruption and neighbouring areas. There were 25 of us in the Fokker 50 - window seats only, and including volcanologist Steindór who was our guide.

 

The flight coincided with the best weather of my vacation - clear blue skies, at least from Hofsjökull onwards - one of only 3 rain-free days during my stay. For most of the approach flight the airplane remained above the cloudline, but as we neared Vatnajökull - Europe’s largest ice cap, and the location of the source of the eruption, we moved lower to get a good view of the surrounding landscape.

 

The first thing you see is the steaming lava field of Holuhraun, now nearing 40kmsq, then a molten river of lava, followed by the 3 current active spouts of the eruption, the original spout (which would make 4) is no longer active. The precursor to the eruption was a series of earthquakes starting August 16th - more than 1,000 per day - most with an epicentre in a channel between the Bárðarbunga caldera and the Dyngjujökull part of Vatnajökull. (see inset map below)

 

The eruption started at 00:02 on the 29th August when a fissure opened up roughly 5km north of Dyngjujökull - circa half-way between Dyngjujökull and the currently inactive Askja caldera which contains a most wonderfully green-hued lagoon. The root volcano system is Bárðarbunga - the caldera of which is gradually subsiding and which lies some 30km to the southwest of the erupting fissure.

 

You can view the 3 shots I took in the below sequence (after the map references). The best video

... Iceland's Bárðarbunga volcano is still erupting continuously
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

10 Sep 2014 5:34 PM
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My last iPhone review happens to coincide with my current iPhone - the 4S.

 

I wrote [then] under ’Misses’:

  • No 4" Screen
  • No 4G
  • No NFC
  • No real chassis improvements - same but different antenna, same fragile glass sandwich

I also wrote back in 2010, a prescient article called ’Mobile Commerce - The New Currency’ all about the kind of Apple Pay functionality (NFC) which was announced in yesterday’s Keynote address.(Albeit now with the even more clever fingerprint Touch ID solution Apple has engineered.)

 

My first ever iPhone was the 3S - 32GB version (finally delivering on all my then expectations / requirements). I was delighted that 2011’s 4S doubled the memory to 64GB, since I find I always use all the memory I am given. For a very long time now, I have been waiting for 3 things really - a larger form factor, 128GB memory and NFC.

 

The iPhone sixes, finally have all the functionality I needed, after introducing 2 very iterative series 5s, which I always felt had an overly fragile and mis-engineered glass chassis (because of ongoing signal / antennae issues).

 

When I saw the first pictures of the iPhone sixes, I was not immediately taken in by the design, but the more time I spend with it, the more I like it. I also decided very quickly that the beautiful curvature of the glass really only works to perfection with the black front facia of the Space Grey edition.

 

Like I said previously, I was exstatic to finally be getting 128GB, so there was no question I would be getting one. It was just a matter of whether to go for the 4.7" version or or the 5.5" phablet.

 

In comparing the specs, the infinitely superior playback time is what really swung the vote. Also, when I work, I almost always work in split-screen mode whether on laptop or on desktop - seeing that the 6 Plus had clever layout variations for landscape mode was another thing that pushed me towards the larger model. In typical fashion I have measuered the phone against most of the coat pockets I will carry it in, and the circa 16 x 8 x 0.7 cm dimensions are large for sure, but can perfectly easily be accommodated.

 

Android fans will rightly of course say that there are far better spec’d Android phones already in the markeplace and due imminently, and they’re right. Samsung, Sony and the like

... Apple finally delivers much needed feature-set with iPhone 6
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

03 Sep 2014 2:51 PM
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It seems that current fashion is still somewhat in thrall to the 80’s, as has been the vogue for much of the last decade and a half - and not really the parts that I loved. As a child of the 80’s I actually have quite the phobia for what were then termed ’drain-pipe’ or ’pipe-cleaner’ jeans - at their worst in stone-washed, distressed and torn varieties. I have naturally skinny legs and therefore no real wish to appear like some exotic wading bird.

 

Historically there have been circa 10 classifications / mainline trouser cuts / styles:

  • Wide-leg
  • Baggy
  • Loose
  • Flared
  • Bootcut
  • Straight-leg
  • Regular
  • Tapered
  • Slim
  • Skinny

When scouring the shops recently for a pair of semi-smart straight-leg black cotton chinos I came up quite empty-handed after a good day’s runaround. Although an extreme example, Topman is a good case in point, currently only offering up variations of:

  • Stretch Skinny
  • Vintage Skinny
  • Skinny
  • Spray On
  • Super Spray On

It seems that contemporary legwear is no true friend of man, as recent variations have seen the most uncomfortable and impractical variations of ’nut-crackers’ and ’butt-flashers’ with highly restrictive low-waist / no-waist editions too - they’re barely sufferable standing up - sitting down in them though is quite the experience! I am in no means opposed to diverse cuts, even though some of the drop-crotch and cropped versions are sublimely ridiculous - surely you don’t need to reveal every facet of epidermal and anatomical detail. My personal taste tends to Straight-leg, Bootcut and Wide-leg which are all currently somewhat impossible to find in general circulation.

 

The latest menswear must-have is now the ’Jogger’ / ’Jogging Bottoms’ or elasticated cuff tracksuit bottoms. ’Joggers’ are a further example of the more practical evolution to sportswear. 2-3 years ago catwalk models started sporting trainers instead of high-heels and formal shoes, as for most consumers this is now their preferred mode of footwear. Isabel Marant was the pioneer of designer wedge trainers, and Giuseppe Zanotti is the king of the luxe high-top trainer. If you visit Selfridges’ shoe department, you cannot move for designer trainers - mostly high-tops, and many retailing in the near £1,000 price range

... Fashion enforces slimmer choice in men's legwear!
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