How quickly you can react to market forces is usually the dividing line between success and failure. Every opportunity is fleeting, and rarely are you the only one competing for said opportunity. In marketing, first mover advantage is often the key to seizing the deal. How much you can do in-house at but a moment’s notice is therefore crucial for your success rate.
If you have read ’Maxmising Revenue #1’ - you will know that Gill & Macmillan attribute the ability to create new targeted sites on new domains at will, as a significant cornerstone of their recent success. For BIBA Medical, the ability to take charge and make swift changes has been key to their online growth, as Web Manager David Reekie notes: "The best thing about running BIBA Medical on Affino is that I have total hands-on control over every aspect of our business on the Internet".
When you read the two recently published Case Studies (BIBA Medical and Irish Books Direct), you will see the importance the Web Managers place on being able to do everything themselves. In a forthcoming case study from Human Kinetics, they talk about the significant challenges their web development team faced when running their sites prior to Affino. Every single change, new promotion or campaign had to go through the development team - the support burden was getting to a point of unsustainability. Post Affino transition, Human Kinetics now have category editors empowered through workflows, and marketing personnel who can trigger their own campaigns without needing to bother development. Development can now focus on innovating and delivering a better service with Affino.
’Empowerment’ has always been one of Affino’s core values - the ability of small teams of individuals to take control over vast Affino portals. Affino’s Empowerment is best explained by the 10 following benefits:
Use Affino’s ’Design Centre’ to build, change and evolve page / site look-and-feel at will
Deploy radical changes to site structure using ’Structure Copy’ and ’Restructure’
Use Application Bar and Live Edit to edit Structure, Content and Design on the screen and instantaneously
Use Topic Lists and Granular Keyword assignment for smart Site Taxonomies and Organic SEO
Christmas is a scary time of year for many shoppers as they have to buy gifts for the extended family - some members of which they don’t know particularly well. Even though it’s customary to ask recipients what they would like to receive, there is still usually a plethora of vague messages which leave a heavy burden on the shopper.
There are two ways to help out such shoppers, and usually two quite different types of shoppers actually. The first way is to set up manual recommendations - in terms of simple Bestsellers Lists or Recommended Gifts within fixed themes. I know some of my family members who shop this way - i.e. what’s the most popular within a category. It’s also the lazy way out for both retailers and shoppers alike, and often a surefire way to give someone something they may have already. For Retailers though it is a quick and easy fix, as you can usually create recommended product selections by simply assigning existing products and multi-displaying them into new seasonal categories.
The second route is one in which John Lewis in particular has always excelled at - which is in making recommendations to shoppers based on specified input criteria. If you view the Toys sections of their site for instance, you get to filter by Age, Brand, Character, Type, Boys’ Toys and Girls’ Toys. This is never more important than at Christmas when so many shoppers are venturing out into unknown territory. Most shoppers do care also about what they are giving and would like to be in a position to make the best choices.
The way John Lewis and our own Affino Social Commerce Solution achieve these kinds of recommendations is via careful Topics Assignment, such that every product available on site is assigned defining Topics - gender, age, occasion, theme etc. This allows shoppers to filter products / gifts on precise criteria. Moreover the topics can be used to create ’Topic Landing Pages’ where all products in the same category can be grouped and displayed together for increased impact.
Smaller retailers can compete with the likes of John Lewis by applying their Topics criteria more finely, and more creatively - by using personal knowledge to highlight specific categories of products which are not specified in such a way on other retail sites. If there is a big Christmas movie for
This post was prompted by an email we received last week stating - "How much do you lose to cart abandonment?" - from a certain something company offering a very specific solution for spotting, analysing and dealing with abandoned shopping carts. This highlights two very different approaches to eCommerce sites in general - most of the sites out there are what we would determine fragmented ’bolt-ons’ - i.e. a core eCommerce / checkout system with lots of 3rd party integrations - difficult to set-up, manage or evolve. The Affino Social Commerce Solution is a much more holistic approach, as all the essential tools and utilities are included and built into the very core of the system.
Most people don’t realise quite how much is available on-tap in Affino, so here follow some of the less obvious included elements - which very much sit within the areas of Sales and Marketing Automation and Social Utilities, all of these of course help with maximising revenues, improving customer retention and generating repeat sales:
Abandoned Cart Notifications
This is simply one of the many triggers within Affino’s Messaging solution - others include: Purchase, Login, Birthday and Conversion Event - all despatched fully automatically to incentivise customers
Part of Affino’s Customer Ladder solution, there are currently 42 trigger types with subsets, including: Cancelled Purchase, Friend Bought from Invite, Item added to Basket, Item added to Wishlist and of course Purchase - these can auto-despatch a variety of messages, or trigger coupons, discounts, store credits or other rewards
You can assign any Conversion Event to a Lead Generation Profile, which logs resultant leads and sends notifications to the appointed Leads Manager/s
Another essential Conversion Event utility, where any conversion even can trigger a content subscription - such that customers get notification whenever a new product is added to a specified category
Based on topics assignment and registered user preferences / likes, Affino recommends content, media, products, contacts and events - so customers get more of what they like - and so do you
Active Shopping Basket Management
Track and manage active Shopping Baskets - help customers through
An interesting piece on Econsultancy indicates the key reasons for Shopping Basket abandonment, which Experian estimates is costing UK retailers £1bn+ each year. In an online survey conducted by Econsultancy and TolunaQuick, 44% of customers indicated that they had abandoned a purchase, and cited high delivery charges as the key reason.
Results and key questions as follows:
After adding items to your basket, what would make you abandon your purchase?
77% - High delivery charges
55% - Technical problems
49% - Prices too high
26% - Needing to register before buying
Once you are in the checkout process, what would deter you from completing the purchase?
71% - Hidden charges
58% - Concerns about payment security
44% - Technical problems or slow loading pages
37% - The process takes too long
33% - Lack of contact details
26% - Difficulty filling in forms
23% - Security features such as Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode
How to combat the key causes of Shopping Basket Abandonment
No surprises! Be upfront and transparent about all charges
Always try to give at least 2 delivery options, e.g. cheaper normal post and more expensive express courier
Always try to give at least 2 payment options, e.g. PayPal and Credit Cards
Have an SSL Certificate on Checkout, Registration and Login - most shoppers will be reassured by HTTPS designation in browser
Belong to a relevant retail association - e.g.ABTA or Internet Shopping is Safe
Sign up to Trustpilot for unbiased customer reviews
Use a Single Page Checkout - everything simply laid out on a single screen means faster and easier checkout
Allow shoppers to buy with PayPal - without needing to register or logon
Ensure business address is clearly visible - shoppers are far happier doing business with someone they can place geographically
Have a named customer service representative with picture and contact details on site - shoppers are even happier doing business with someone they can put a face to
Our Social Commerce Solution Affino has been engineered to tackle all the key points indicated above - Contact our Business Development Director Marcus Svensson on firstname.lastname@example.org for further insights on Affino’s revenue generating abilities.
We were somewhat surprised to find that the majority of eCommerce platforms cannot easily be set up or extended for Multi-domain Delivery. By this I mean the ability to target different market segments - whether geographic or other specialisation, by adjusting settings on the same site licence.
The Affino Social Commerce Solution offers just such an ability out-of-the-box; we call it a ’Zone’. You can set up numerous Zones on your Affino site licence - all with different URLs or domain subsets and all with unique design and content. Affino further has built-in tools like ’Structure Copy’, ’Restructure’ and ’Design Smart Copy’ to make it easier for you to adapt existing content, structure and look-and-feel - to create new targeted derivations.
In this way you can create the absolute optimal experience for each of your key target audiences, without any need for compromise. All retailers agree that you get the best results when you are able to provide each customer segment with their own optimised, dedicated retail environment.
When Gill & Macmillan first deployed Affino, they used their site licence for a single site - their eLearning platfrom eTest.ie. The various Gill and Macmillan sites were spread across several different systems, which meant no resource / content sharing and a much larger management overhead for the admin team. The last few years have seen Gill & Macmillan implement a program whereby all the key sites now run on the same Affino licence; these include:
"At Gill & Macmillan, we have many different parts to our business, so it is essential for us to be able to run multiple stores effectively. Affino allows us to easily set up new stores which we can segregate and tailor exactly to our customers’ needs"
Stuart Bannon, Webmaster, Gill & Macmillan
Affino Multi-domain delivery can best be defined by the 5 following benefits:
For all our Affino customers - "how do you relate to the Affino brand?" We hope that it underlines that you are adventurous, confident, creative, innovative, pioneering and smart in your decision making, forward-thinking, yet secure in the knowledge that we at Affino wholly practice what we preach and apply due care and attention to what we do. What about your relationships with other leading brands, what defines and builds long term loyalty and affiliation - which brands are more you than others? The thing is that these decisions are usually much more evolved than simply a matter of cost or convenience ...
The Lloyds / TSB Debacle
I joined Lloyds Bank when I entered University in 1988, my branch at Aston University was later folded into the nearby Priory Branch, but I was lucky to have a great Account Manager in the form of Jon Healy - whom I had the pleasure of dealing with for a number of years thereafter.
Then the bank consolidated / changed, expanded and shifted its focus, acquiring TSB and HBOS along the way - to eventually become the bloated PPI and Libor Rate scamming behemoth it is today. Of course the EU does not like the current shape of Lloyds TSB etc. and has ordered it to divest itself of a number of branches / customers as a counter-monopoly measure.
Early this year I was informed that my account would be one of the many moving across to TSB (without any consultation process and certainly without my consent), as the Priory branch would be changing to become a TSB branch. I’ve not been to Birmingham for nearly a decade now, and my local Lloyds branch is actually on Edgware Road, and this branch is definitely remaining Lloyds. I nevertheless had to go through a tortuous process to apply to stay with my original bank of choice. I’ve been told along the way that if I did not move my account to TSB, I would lose my credit rating, all my current facilities - overdraft etc. and would in fact be treated as an entirely new customer with no privileges retained!! That’s a bit of a slap in the face for 25 years of loyal custom.
In the true legal sense, Lloyds is in breech of a number of banking covenants in behaving in this manner, let alone contract law, or even basic customer care. The UK banking sector has changed a lot in the intervening 25 years, Spanish bank Santander is a major force
The most significant of the eCommerce introductions in the Affino 7.1 release is our new Store Credits system. This of course bolsters the existing Service Credits - where Consumers are rewarded for their onsite activities with access to premium features and functions. Store Credits of course give your website a fully monetised approach to incentives.
Customers can accrue Store Credits in three ways - by making a purchase, similar to the Boots / Frequent Flyer / Nectar / Tesco loyalty points schemes, secondly by triggering any of the circa 40 Conversion Events (various online activities), and finally - Credits can be assigned manually to Users - either for incentive purposes or for transactional refunds.
The Checkout Screen (top) makes customers aware of the Store Credits system (name it what you like!) and displays ’Total Points’ accrued and ’Points received’ for that specific transaction.
The above, second visual, is actually a composite of 2 different control-side screens - a ’Store Credit Profile’ above and the ’Incentives’ panel below - as appears on any of Affino’s 40 Conversion Events. For the former, you set the Point limits - the Threshold / minimum points required for redemption, and the Maximum Order Percentage for which the points can be redeemed. There are two different conversion rates - the Points to Currency Conversion Rate - i.e. how many points to a penny/cent; then you have the Currency to Point Rate - which is how well you reward customers for their purchases. A typical rate for Points to Currency is 100 points = $1 in value, whilst $1 spent typically renders 1-5 points or up to $5 in credit for every $100 spent.
On each Catalogue Item you can activate the Credits via a ’Credit Scale’ setting - default value is 1, but you can increase multiplier up to 10 meaning 10x points for that Item - a ’0’ value means the Item is exempt from Credits.
The bottom panel in the visual shows how you can assign ’Store Credit Points’ for each of the 40 Conversion Events - so that you can monetarily reward loyal participants on your site - i.e. Customers who post reviews, ratings, recommendations and other useful editorial or social content / media.
The final component of how Store Credits incentivise is
My favourite introduction in the Affino 7.1 release is something I have been campaigning after for a while - Panel Design Elements.
The versatility and utility of Panels in Affino is really quite remarkable, as you can combine any of Affino’s 80+ Design Elements into a separate Design Object - which can pop-up from any Button DE.
Several sites already have made use of a Login DE as a Panel on a login button - as you can also see top right on this site. In fact the top right corner of the Comrz site is quite heavy with Panel elements. Apart from the Login, we have Forum Highlights on the small Forums icon button, Team Time Who’s Online on the Team Time button, Article Listing DE on the Rated button, What’s New DE on the ’New’ button, and a combination of Article Listing and further Button DEs on the ’BLOG’ button. 3 of the mentioned Panels are illustrated above.
The beauty of the Panels is that they can provide users with quick and concise information in a rapid, easily-accessible manner, and which can take up hardly any of your page real-estate.
I’m sure we will see some very clever implementations of panels in the forthcoming months; hopefully you will like the new innovations forthcoming in the new Comrz.com site design which is due to start implementation soon ...
As covered in earlier blog posts, ’Responsive’ design is one of Affino’s key priorities for 2013. Affino already handles ’Adaptive’ design, but what are the differences and benefits of each of these methodologies? A key trend in current web design is that people are increasingly accessing websites via their mobile devices - i.e. smartphones and tablets. Where before desktop / laptop was king, now customers are much more likely to access a company’s services via one of their mobile devices. The 3 methodologies each set out to tackle this shift in behaviour, and each has its pros and cons.
This essentially means designing several different interfaces - each to tackle a different screen resolution - Affino currently allows you to design and target different interfaces / Skins for: Web | Mobile | iPhone | Android Phone | Tablet | iPad | Android Tablet. You can create as few or many Skins as you need to suit your purposes. You would start by doing generic Web, Smartphone and Tablet skins and then specific per platform. The interesting trend is that tablets are approximating laptop / desktop resolution - so for Comrz.com we currently only have desktop and smartphone variant Skins. The key benefit of Adaptive Design is that you can create a dedicated interface for each screen resolution / access device.
This essentially means creating Apps - which means a different solution for every device. In doing this you can create the perfect environment for your customers - for each device, but obviously this means a lot of work, and a lot of overhead as platform software / firmware is relatively frequently updated, and you need to prepare various assets for each of the different mobile platform stores. Customers will also obviously need to download and regularly update your app to make use of it. Morevover, you still require a core website as that’s where most of these company-centric apps get their data from in any case.
This methodology involves creating just a single interface which expands and contracts to fit the various different access devices. There are numerous ingenious aspects to responsive design - how text and media re-size to fit, and the column / design element structure varies to accommodate
The Automated Customer Ladder is Affino’s unique and ingenious engine for tracking, motivating and incentivising existing and potential customers on your website. A vast array of Conversion Trigger Event Types allow you to reward pretty much any kind of user activity on your website, and in turn trigger incentives and notifications which encourage further activities and interactions.
A highly detailed compound Analytics Screen monitors and filters the activities by defined target group type - Suspect, Prospect, Customer, Regular, Advocate. The system is in part devised along Abraham Maslow’s ’Hierarchy of Needs’, where a simple system of badges for instance conveys instant and visible recognition of active participation. Badges can be used overtly, or simply in the back-end for clearly tracking each user’s activity. The combination of Affino’s scale of functionality with such granularity of incentivisation makes for one of the most powerful promotional and motivational tools available online:
More Conversion Trigger Event Types There are now 36 different types from simple login, through registration, updating profile information, various forms of content entry and participation and of course targeted purchases.
Better Analytics The Customer Ladder Analysis Screen has been re-written for Affino 7, and now features S-Curve graphs, dynamically expanding lists and a Pinterest style layout. The new changes allow you to gauge trends far more quickly and effectively.
Better Integration with Notifications Triggering Newsletter mailouts from Conversion Events is now easier and more reliable than before.
Secondary Conversion Events allow you to daisy-chain triggers together - which means that a single activity can set off a sequence of related actions and rewards!
More Reliable Trigger Event Tracking The majority of users deploying the Customer Ladder, simply use it for tracking online activities - rather than the more evolved incentivisation and motivation. The core engine has been re-written to make it easier to track Conversion Events within custom analysis scripts.
Improved Targeting As with any type of customer interaction, like with advertising and campaigns - the customer ladder is only any good if it targets the right people with the right