Those dastardly Eurocrats are now threatening to break up Google, not that they really have any jurisdiction over the make-up of an American Company - but German MEP Andreas Schwab is sponsoring a draft motion for the European Parliament to consider ways to unbundle Google’s principal parts.
For me, this follows hotly on from the ’unbundling’ of Lloyds Bank - another great EU initiative, which bundled me into a bank where I had no say in the process - I was unceremoniously dumped out of Lloyds into TSB, despite long-standing Lloyds VIP Platinum account status (25 years) and vehement protestations from myself.
In fact this is another gauche attempt by the German media barons to punish Google after their pathetic ’Leistungsschutzrecht’ initiative failed - you can read about that in my previous ’Germany vs Google’ post. This time around though, Germany is looking to gain support from France and Spain - whose media barons also bear grudges against Google.
This is all about Google’s dominant position as Search Engine provider really, where Bing is the second placed competitor and looks to be making the most significant recent headway since it started powering Yahoo Search back in 2009. Firefox, just last week, announced that they would be switching to Yahoo Search as their default browser search option (therefore Bing!).
Like most others way back in the early days of the Internet I used to use Yahoo (powered by Inktomi). When Google first arrived with its simple search box layout I thought it overly simple and elected to stay with Yahoo for several months, until I realised that Google provided a far better, more intuitive level of service. Over the years I have tried all the different offerings of Search Engines, but continually return to Google as my first choice of preference. The vast majority of web users really only consider Google and Bing, just like the majority of smartphone users only consider Apple and Samsung even though there are an enormous variety of other competitors available.
Germany in particular, with its very traditional industrial heritage, has been very slow to invest in Internet innovation. In all of Europe, the UK easily leads the pace in innovating clever web technologies and developing smart Internet services - retail and otherwise. No other
Taylor Swift is not the first to remove her entire catalogue from Spotify and nor will she be the last. Following on from her disingenuous pretense at offering better service to UK fans by forcing them to buy her whole pre-release album instead of being able to download individual promo tracks like the rest of the world could do. It’s not a surprise that she’s taken these latest extreme measures, but the reasons she gives are nothing more than record label bulls**t spin - in an attempt to divert attention away from a pretty blatant act of profiteering - which is to say that she removed all her music from Spotify so that the only way her fans could access it legitimately was via fully purchasing / owning the album and thus ensuring higher sales revenues... of course her less fastidious fans can still listen to her back-catalogue via Vevo, YouTube, Dailymotion, and a million other video and mp3 serving websites - the vast majority of which pass on absolutely no revenues to Taylor or her record label.
I myself am a huge music fan, not particularly of Taylor Swift, but I buy on average 2-3 albums worth of music each week - via iTunes, Amazon, Beatport and Juno Download etc., I am also a premium subscriber to Spotify whose services I really love - I still live in hope for proper full-range ’Spotify’ -like services for Films, for TV and for Books. Long have we heard the music industry and particularly certain old-fashioned (backward looking?) echelons within it bemoaning the diminishing fortunes of the industry - compared with its heyday in the 70’s and 80’s - seemingly totally oblivious to ever evolving changes in society and in technology.
Let’s then not forget to review the entire history and evolution of popular music, and how mainstream American radio is still very much influenced by payola-like dynamics - or pay-for-play. Bob Stanley (Saint Etienne + Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop) traced the origins of modern pop back to the 50’s and the start of the 45rpm vinyl records which fuelled the earliest pop charts. Records were initially seen as promotional tools to ensure radio-play in order to get more members of the public to attend concerts. The peak of record-buying was reached in the late 70’s / early 80’s - where the records became an artist’s main source of
Throughout this year I’ve been talking about the key challenges High Street Retailers face with trying to consolidate their online / offline inventories - so that shoppers can be sure of the likelihood of their obtaining what they seek when they venture into town. In numerous posts over the years I have highlighted my disappointment about making the usual weekend pilgrimage into town - only to find that most of what I was after is either not stocked by the particular branch I happen to end up in, or is recently out-of-stock.
I have cited Phonica and Forbidden Planet before - whose inventories are somewhat in sync with their websites, and I can check with some surety before I set off. Neither one has a same-day reservation facility yet, but if I set off early enough, I can usually guarantee a favourable result.
This is also the second time I have secured a new iPhone by reserving one for in-store collection the night before. Admittedly I was compelled to venture a little further afield this time to get my first choice of model (Apple Store at Watford Mall), but the fact that I could reserve and knew that my phone was waiting for me, more than offset the extra miles I needed to go to obtain satisfaction.
As shared previously too, I still vividly recall two particularly vexing examples of poor customer service - both happened on Regent Street - in the pursuit of shoes at Hugo Boss and a jacket from Banana Republic. In the first instance my size was out-of-stock at Regent street, but I had to forcibly cajole the shop assistant to ring each of the other London branches in turn - until we secured a pair at Brentwood. I then had to plead and negotiate to have those shoes conveyed to said branch for easy pick-up the following week. At Banana Republic it was more a case of ’missing stock’ in that the computer said they had 2 in stock at Regent Street, but the assistant could not find either anywhere. I was sent to the Long Acre branch where a similar scenario played out in unusual déjà-vu fashion. I eventually secured said jacket when returning to the Regent Street store later in the day, and finding the mystery jackets now featuring prominently on display.
It is quite a common scenario thought that I venture into town in high spirits and return at the end of the day wholly empty-handed and deflated
Circa 10 minute video interview of Graeme Howe, Joint Managing Director of IMRG by Phil Clark, Director of Fillip Media.
Phil Clark questions Graeme on IMRG’s Member Services, the state of the e-Retailing Industry, and the background to the e-Retail Benchmarking System, its benefits to retailers, and the 9 month collaboration with Affino to develop this new service.
"Since 2009 e-retailing has achieved double digit growth every year, this year we are forecasting a growth of just over 14%"
"Our e-Retail Sales Index now collects over 44 KPIs"
"A retailer might think they are doing extremely well, but how does that compare to their competitors"
"Affino, one of IMRG’s supply members, came up with the idea of sampling, and suddenly the lightbulb went on"
"We needed the dashboard to work across all platforms, wherever that retailer was located..."
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:
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.
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
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 -
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
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.
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
Two years ago I wrote an article about how GEMA, the German performance rights organisation had targeted Google’sYouTube 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
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-
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