First we need to define ’Social Retail’ and detail how it is different to what most companies consider Social Commerce to be. In its simplest form, Social Retail derives from an Integrated Community Space - with proper Facebook-like User Profiles and multiple channels of communication and participation for consumers. Most Social Commerce which you see on the web today is in the form of rather superficial social plugins, most typically - Social Media Sharing and Comments and Ratings.
Social Retail creates a vibrant community hub with relevant incentives - to encourage consumers to own and promote their own space within that brand’s larger retail community. The retailers get much better records and understanding of their consumers’ increased activities - as well as more word-of-mouth recommendations, and the consumers in turn get a much more rewarding experience from the retailer. Social Retail is a connected experience - bridging the onlne store with the local stores and local communities.
Here follows what we believe to be the key components of Social Retail.
On an Ecommerce website, the emphasis has to be on adding to basket and checkout - you cannot disrupt or distract from that process, or the retailer is likely to suffer diminished returns / conversion rates. Thus the best way to connect with the consumer is from the Sales Confirmation Screen. They have just made a purchase, and the screen presents them with sharing options - ’I just bought Red Coat from B-Boutique’ etc. much like Amazon does. On the same screen you would see links / buttons to Community Registration - with a list of incentives. A key part of Social Retail is rewarding consumers for their various online activities - so you present a brief case for how consumers accumulate reward points / store credits from their purchases and online social activities.
A Social Registration needs a few more details than the regular Ecommerce Registration, which is why it is important that the incentives listed on the Sales Confirmation Screen are repeated on the Registration Screen. It works well to have a rolling ticker of ’Recently registered members’ too for added motivation - try and keep it simple though. Successful Communties need Profile Pics and user Nicknames, so these features
As business moves increasingly online, there is ever more competition - way beyond traditional local / national / continental borders. For many businesses - being online means you are competing for customers against diverse businesses located far far away from your own. There are numerous ways in which you can forge a stronger market position; way before you start thinking about promotional activities, SEO keywords and PPC campaigns, you should be thinking about the ideal brand experience you need to create for your intended customers.
Nearly all companies will have numerous competitors - both direct and related - all competing for overlapping budget allocations. In this modern age, budget boundaries are fluid, whilst overall budget limits are fixed. This means you are often competing in related categories which you might not consider to be strictly competitive but end up being so. In any scenario, you need to make your company stand out, be relevant to intended customers, and be memorable - so that prospective and actual customers can easily find their way back to you again and again in a meaningful and easily replicable manner.
The key and most immediate means by which businesses can define themselves are brand logos and their associated attributes. Get the logo treatment correct, and you already have a leg up on most of your competitors. Where you are competing with businesses with strong brand propositions, you need to use additional attributes in order to elevate and differentiate your brand.
What’s in a name? Quite a lot actually - there’s an added reason why Amazon, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Flickr, Twitter et al. are so easily successful and others less so, and it’s quite a bit to do with their names. Twitter in particular follows a great naming convention - Twitter / Tweets is entirely understandable, relatable and relevant. It often helps to have a shortish moniker as this aids memorability and relatability. For a customer to understand what a new business is about largely from their name, means there is less work for the logo / brand mark to do. Brevity also is key to memorability - the shorter the name is, the easier it is to reproduce and type into a browser. There’s a
A recent Econsultancy feature discussed the challenges Integration poses for business growth. No matter what type of website / online business you run, there’s likely some need for Integration to provide you with the full solution you require. Ecommerce websites typically have a large number of Integration requirements - I have listed the key areas below. Integration is often a costly and time-consuming activity, and one which needs to be maintained in perpetuity. There are of course a number of different Integration strategies, and consumers should be well aware that not all systems are created equal. Here below, I outline the 4 key considerations for businesses to think about before starting down the long road of Integration.
It pays dividend to have full oversight of your business requirements at the start of your project process. There are some very different systems in the marketplace, and some will be far better tailored to your needs than others. It almost goes without saying that some degree of Integration will be required, but the more holistic a core solution is, the lesser the up-front cost. With a solution like the Affino Social Commerce Platform, most of the key Integration Areas are already catered for. For instance, you may not choose to use the Affino CRM Component in the longer-term, but you can make use of it in the first phases of your roll-out while you build up your business. Having more elements of your overall solution included in the core system greatly reduces costs and overheads - and makes for a simpler owneship experience.
Speed of Deployment
Many companies we deal with are tempted to do too much, too soon - that is to say, to fit too much into phase one of their project - this can be both a costly and risky strategy - as well as being time-consuming. With a solution like Affino though - where there’s a large
Retail is increasingly moving online, although there will always be some forms of shopping more suitable for a personal hands-on experience. When I buy clothing, I always try to bear in mind the following five criteria (The 5 F’s):
Fabric - What is the garment made of? Is it machine-washable? How does the fabric drape? Is the fabric water resistant and breathable? How will it stand the crumple test?
Fit - Exactly what size and shape is the garment? How well will it fit me - is it slim / loose? Is the garment true-to-size or larger / smaller than advertised?
Finish - How well is the garment put together? How tight / defined is the stitching? What little details elevate the quality of the garment?
Form - What is the garment’s overall styling - colour, shape etc.?
Function - I like all my jackets to have minimum 4 sealable pockets. I love 2-way zips. Special functions include overall purpose of garment - e.g. athletic garments need to enable free movement, wick away sweat etc.
So when I buy something in-store, I can run my fingers along the stitching and seams to ascertain quality, I can also obviously try on the garment to ascertain how good the fit is, how well it suits my frame etc. - all people are different shapes and sizes and not all brands will suit.
When buying online, as you cannot easily apply all the 5 criteria, there will obviously be a fair degree of returns, so for Fashion Retail, the returns process is an essential component. Overall though, you are trying to overcome various barriers to sale - to put the shopper’s mind at ease and remove all doubts they may have. I devised the above template to include all the necessary details to give a shopper full confidence to buy from you. I buy a fair amount of clothing online, and have distilled best practices from the leading fashion retail sites, as well as extrapolated some finer nuances which appeal to my own discerning nature.
NOTE - that I was limited by space (800 x 800 pixel visual) and that the above concept is obviously a little cramped for space - the final implementation would of course have a more spread-out layout.
The key purposes of the included elements are as follows:
Ratings | Reviews | Share +
Social elements are key to encouraging purchases onsite (Ratings + Reviews) as well as through distributed social media
Society is going through a key step change at the moment - we’re still in the throes of a major global move to urbanisation - prices are sky-rocketing and living space is shrinking. What with wage levels largely frozen since 2008 - your typical householder has less disposable income and less space to stow their goods.
Several rental-type businesses are already into maturity through technical innovation - most people rent or subscribe to music and video now - via iTunes / Google Play / Spotify / Netflix / Hulu / Sky and the like, and people mostly subscribe to literature now too via Kindle / eBooks.
As the new social / eco-conscious economy looks to cut down on wastage and the various different types of pollution, consumers are increasingly looking away from materialism towards more responsible means of accessing products and services. There’s not just a change in consumption / consumerism, but also a change in how we utlise existing resources. A few of my neighbours for instance make use of Airbnb to get additional income via renting out a spare room. It’s also getting fairly common in Reykjavik that several young professional couples are sharing a house - for the sake of more affordable rents.
Many retailers need to face up to these new challenges and find new means of delivering their services. What with the growing success of eBook monthly subscription service ’Scribd’ I’m surprised that none of the publishing giants have really taken this to heart. I would be all for paying a £9.99 monthly fee for unlimited Kindle eBooks access (a la Spotify) - why hasn’t Amazon done something about this - they already sell, and rent out videos. It’s a no-brainer for media companies to offer different means of accessing / acquiring content - from short-term rental to longer term subscription and yes - outright purchase. The truth is most media buyers don’t realise that when they buy a digital version of something (Kindle, iTunes) it is actually a long-term subscription, they don’t really ever actually own the media (it’s more of a licencing model). I’m really surprised that a major player like Amazon has not yet given its customers similar options with Music and Literature as to what it already provides for Video.
There’s a huge amount of processes and procedures that go into building a business online it would be very difficult to cover absolutely everything in a single article. Instead I have tried to distil some of the key considerations which get you into the right mindset and help you maintain good habits for growing your site in an organic fashion. There’s another promotional layer which overlaps with this, and is often called ’Growth Hacking’, which we will be covering in a later article ...
The first rule of growing your business is ’Know your customers’ - to be able to successfully target prospective customers, you need to know exactly who you are going for and what their motivations are. You need to be able to put yourself into your customers’ mindset and see the world from their perspective - to properly identify their needs and how to meet them. You need the strength of mind to be able to filter out your own personal bias and preferences - as your personality can easily get in the way of objectivity! The customer acquistion cycle is a staged / iterative process - one which we often call ’The Customer Ladder’; to successfully acquire and retain customers you need to understand their motivations and behaviour at each step in the cycle, so that you know how to engage them. I recall a professional and serious news / reportage site which was styled in screaming pink - a preference of the site owner, but something which somewhat undermined the gravitas of the news, and alienated certain prospective readers...
Relevant Content + Products + Services
This is essentially the second rule of business - ’Serve your cusomers’. There’s actually several subdivisions to this, and different categories of content which need to appeal to prospects as well as existing customers. At the simplest level we are talking about 3 categories of content / products here - what you are actually selling is the core, but then you have supporting materials and facilities - some of which will need to appeal to prospective customers and some to existing customers - each will have a different degree of scope and depth. You need to be able to consitently and regularly provide supporting materials to ongoingly engage your audience. For prospects, and in advertising, we
Not only am I an Ecommerce Specialist for Affino, I am also an avid International Internet shopper. I buy goods from pretty much every part of the civilised world - from USA to Hong Kong and Japan and all the major states of Europe in between (20+ countries). I have bought all manner of goods at all manner of prices / currencies and dealt with various returns processes, goods forwarding services and general customer services - including advanced goods and customs / imports handling. My day-to-day trifecta are Amazon, Ebay and Ocado, but I also have a love for Juno.co.uk (Vinyl) Wiggle.co.uk (Sportswear) and Parajumpers.it (Sportswear) - getting next day delivery from Italy for £22 is seriously good! Generally I love fast and efficient service best - and I love that Amazon uses Yodel to arrange doorstep pick-ups for returns - everyone should do this!
Here follow my recommendations for how everyone could sell better online:
1: Full Disclosure
Too many sites still get this wrong - not telling you everything you need to know to check-out with confidence. The bare minimum info you need is whether an item is actually in stock and ready for despatch, and EXACTLY how much it is likely to cost. Details need to be something like this:
9 in Stock, despatching now
Standard 1-3 day delivery from £3.00
The above is clear and to the point, and has no ambiguity - many sites that don’t display stock levels, don’t actually have the items that they are listing ’in stock’ - this should always be made clear to the consumer. I still see sites that don’t include pricing on listings, and have no reference to delivery costs until you are in the final stages of checkout - all these are major cases for shopping basket abandonment.
2: Compact Info
Grouping all the essential order data together in one compact location makes it easier for customers to see what they’re in for, and therefore better predisposed to actually making an order. Many sites hide essential information behind tabs, or locate it in different areas of the page. A single at-a-glance box with everything you need to know compactly contained within it is the ideal here.
You will often hear me talking about ’Post Purchase Dissonance’ i.e. the doubts a consumer
As part of our marketing campaign this year, we’ve reviewed a heck of a lot of publisher / magazine / book retailer websites, and while a lot of them are taking positive steps; as a whole, the industry is still a little bit off the pace for what the Internet can truly deliver. Most publishers are still faced with dwindling book sales overall, particularly since the slow-down of the ’50 Shades of Grey’ phenomenon which briefly invigorated the industry.
There’s been an obvious transition from traditional books to ebooks and electronic formats, but still the general public reads far too few books each year as a whole. The publishing industry has somewhat forgotten that they are part of the Entertainment Industry and are competing with clever innovations in Television like Netflix, Spotify for Music and 3D + Atmos sound at the Cinema. Publishing needs to get more innovative and produce a richer, more immersive experience. Publishers need to engage their customers better, give them more ways to access and interact with their published works, and a deeper, more affecting long-term relationship.
The typical book-selling websites simply just list books, with generic descriptions, ISBN codes and one or two prices. The more clever add industry reviews and author details, but relatively few enable proper interaction via commenting, forums, recommendations and the like. Social Engagement is not just key to getting customers more involved with books and magazines, it’s also essential for the promotion of the same.
This has been done before, but not nearly enough - letting readers become an active part in the writing / direction of the narrative. I’m not talking about succumbing to a mob mentality, but more about creating an ongoing and active means for readers to get involved in their favourite works. There’s lots of examples of crowdsourcing for various creative endeavours - and this is just the kind of thing publishers can do to make themselves more relevant and more accessibly to their customers.
Our Affino Social Commerce Solution - soon to be version 7.5, has been around for a lot longer than many realise, and has quite an illustrious history. This article is intended to illuminate some of the highlights from Affino’s past evolution - especially for those who have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing Affino.
The roots of Affino go back to Markus’s (Affino CEO) consultancy years of 1997/8 where Affino evolved out of the somewhat more rigid ’Sunrise’ Platform, which Markus developed to run websites for Audi, Casio and Carrera Technology. The original Carrera Technology implementation has continued to influence the development of Affino, as it really was a state-of-the-art Ecommerce experience of that time, with a series of advanced specifier steps in the checkout process, and real-time inventory integration and delivery management - pretty state-of-the-art for 1998.
The company Emojo (a precursor to Comrz, with several of the same staff) was founded in 1998 with a view to developing ’Sunrise’ into a more modular platform that would be easier to implement, and most importantly - be easy to manage by customers. Right from the offset, the intention was to build the best system for selling online. There was always a long term goal of creating a full-featured modular hub, with essential plug-and-play functionality at its core, and simultaneously empowering site owners to take full control of their entire online business and to maximise their revenues through the Internet.
A key cornerstone to doing business online is the ability to sustain complex, long-term dialogues and interactions with customers. This is why, right from the start, Affino came fully loaded with social-interaction capabilities. In the early years, Ecommerce took a bit of a back seat, while the social engagement core of the system was being finessed.
Flash has largely come and gone, as has Affino IPTV and numerous other innovations of their time, which have since been replaced with ever-evolving contemporary technologies like Responsive Design and the Automated Customer Ladder. The future direction for Affino is always guided by finding the best balance between empowerment, total technical ability, seamlessness, learnability and simplicity. Affino has always been developed with the intention of delivering the
All marketeers are well aware that the start of the marketing calendar is wholly focused on recovering from the excesses of the Christmas holiday season - Finance, Fitness and Diet are splashed across all media in high concentration from January through to Easter. More than that though, January is about setting up for the year ahead - building towards goals, and trying to hit the ground running. I have extrapolated 3 derivations for each topic term for you to apply to how you might best oversee a successful online business.
This is about making the most of your existing business assets - getting the most effective participation and output from your human resources, how you bolster the value of your Intellectual Property and Brandmarks. This is obviously a review and enhancement exercise - seeing where you can extract more value and impact from what you’ve already got. Our company used to have two brands - Comrz (company) and Affino (Solution), and to increase the impact of our marketing and extract more value and efficiency, for 2014 we decided to put everything (company + solution) onto the same Affino brand.
As part of planning the year ahead, you need to figure out which areas of your business need investment - where is the most opportunity for growth, and what resources (human? technical? supplies?) need to be acquired to support that growth. You have to balance investment with profitability, as ideally one leads to the other, although initially the investment is likely to put a strain on resources.
CASH FLOW MANAGEMENT
This is the essence of most business management - balancing the flow of payments over the whole year, and having sufficient reserves, backup plans and / or other financial facilities to draw on to ride out the off-season / lean times.
FITNESS = RESILIENCE | AGILITY | ADAPTABILITY
This is the Core Strength of the business - how well set-up and how good you are at handling pressure and coping with stress points. A key part of this is Rate-of-Recovery too - in terms of tackling heavy projects at high intensity, and being able to recover quickly to deal with other matters. For smaller businesses this is particularly important, as there is a lot of multi-tasking that needs to happen to render a similar degree of service which larger companies can