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
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.
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
Affino 7.4 is very much a usability focused release which includes six months’ worth of usability improvements and bug fixes. There are key usability improvements throughout Affino and the CRM in particular has been transformed in its day-to-day usability with this release.
Affino 7.4 also introduces two new significant behind the scenes changes. The first is that everything now points to affino.com, the second is the shift for the Design Centre to be the Classic Design Centre. You should not notice any changes with these two introductions except they’re pointing at different locations.
This release also prepares much of the groundwork for Affino 7.5 which sees the introduction of the responsive design centre later this quarter.
The Affino 7.4 is very much a stability release and is an essential update for all Affino sites. It is an easy update, simply go through the standard update process. You will need a new licence key to access the updated Social CRM elements so please contact your account manager.
It is essential that you run through the complete update process starting with the Affino Updater, followed by the System Update, Re-Initialise Site, Design Element Update, Skin Update and finally Clear Guest Cache; all of which are available on the Settings > Update screen.
Affino’s Social CRM has seen major improvements in this release with the focus on improving the sales workflows and productivity. It means it is now easier to work with prospects as they are created as non-members and then seamlessly transitioned to full members when they register, bringing along all the pre-registration contact history. A major focus has been on minimising the steps required to manage prospects, e.g. entering the details on the contact for a new Account will instantly create the account.
Finding contacts is now much easier as you can tag them to your ‘My’ list anywhere with simply a click. When searching and you select a user from the predictive drop-down you will be taken to them immediately.
We also introduced Contact Notes which let you easily track any correspondence with the contact. These are then instantly trackable to Accounts and to a centralised Contact Notes screen. Future upgrades will see
2014 is going to be an exciting year for Affino. Q1 will see the Affino 7.5 release, which introduces the new Responsive Page Designs. These have been a long time coming, but the wait will be worth it. To provide the best experience we went right back to the drawing board for how we serve live pages in Affino so that we could produce the very best responsive interfaces.
In fact Responsive Design is the main priority for the first 6 months of 2014 and everyone should look to be rolling out fully responsive sites on Affino by the end of 2014. We will continue to support the Classic Designs, and you will be able to run the Classic Design Centre alongside the new one until Affino 8.
As usual note that the priorities are subject to change, however we do anticipate a significant pick up in the rollout of new updates once the new Responsive Design Centre is complete. It will be the culmination of a four year plan we’ve been working through to delivering ultimate cross-platform social commerce experience.
The new responsive page rendering engine is being written entirely scratch using an object oriented approach which is seeing page generation times up to 10 times faster. The pages themselves also render dramatically faster on the browsers, and we are optimising every part of the process to ensure the fastest mobile experience possible.
The new Object Designer allows you to design and preview designs across multiple form factors with unlimited undo and redo whilst designing. Updated Design Styles now incorporate Form Styles and have been greatly extended to allow for very tightly styled sites including auto-scaling of fonts.
Every single Design Element, Template and application interface is optimised around responsive resizing and cross device usability.
To get the new Responsive Design Centre to you as soon as possible we will be staging the introduction of responsive elements. Phase One sees the roll out of the promotional elements so that you can design and roll out promotional sites (including most social elements), this will be followed by the ecommerce elements and then the remainder.
Usability and Learnability
2013 saw the Control Centre consolidated around the new Affino 7 interface, which is both very usable and presentable. 2014 will see a major focus
2013 was a year of two halves for Affino development. The first half was primarily focused on the Affino user experience and the second half has been focused on creating a new Responsive Design front-end for Affino which is due for launch in Q1 this year. Along the way Affino saw some great improvements.
We built Affino to scale this year, and to scale at speed without needing any human intervention. This meant major architectural changes where we changed virtually every platform that Affino was running on, or where we kept the same platform we moved to the latest generation.
We also focused on optimising many key aspects of Affino so that it is faster across the board. We have carried on in the second half of the year, and Affino’s upcoming responsive design pages are stunningly fast. We know you appreciate the speed improvements you already see, so be prepared to be delighted when you move to responsive.
Prior to 2013 our focus on uptime had been to make Affino run as effectively as possible on fixed hardware. The reality is that approach is not the best way to develop for the Internet. There are simply too many opportunities for systems to be ’shocked’. Moving to the new generation auto-failover and auto-scaling architecture, and focusing on up-time for the user versus up-time for individual systems has made all the difference.
For high performance Affino sites there has been precisely 0% downtime since the launch of the new architecture. For entry-level Affino sites the uptime has been as high as 99.98%. In fact from the human interaction standpoint in almost all down-time events since the transition a new system has been in place by the time the user hits the re-load button on the browser.
When taken together, the great performance improvements and incredible uptime, it means that Affino is now always there to deliver a fast and effective experience to all users.
Messaging saw a complete overhaul with new Message Campaigns for mass, personal and SMS campaigns. We split up the old newsletter system to separate out the mailing lists and the message campaigns, and it has transformed how you can communicate with your community through Affino.
Message Campaigns can now be used not only to send occasional manual
Picking up from some of the key activities of 2013 and extrapolating forward for the next 12 months - some things, like the Amazon drone deliveries are still in the world of the fantastical. Fortunately, most of what’s coming up in 2014 is on a more practical plane. Most of what’s up and coming was initiated last year - and whilst some of these elements are in their infancy, many too are accelerating rapidly and reaching maturity ...
Responsive Design focused principally on the Tablet format will become the norm
Even though the majority of the Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas Sale transactions were conducted via PC and Laptop - the real growth was very specifically on Tablets. Where websites used to be designed from the largest resolution size of the PC and adapted down the formats to Tablet and Mobile, the new paradigm is to focus on the strongest growth area. We can see from the surge in Tablet sales vs PCs and Laptops that this is where computing devices are headed. Even though Tablets may not be the lead format in many sectors yet, they undoubtedly will be and soon. Responsive Design is the ideal means to provide an optimal interface across all touchpoints - only now the starting point and key focus is likely to be on the Tablet format.
Mobile transactions will take an even bigger share of online transactions
Over Christmas 2013, BBC iPlayer requests were running neck-and-neck between PCs / Laptops and Tablets - on boxing day, Tablets just pipped the other formats as the most used means of accessing BBC iPlayer. In certain sectors Smartphone Apps can work particularly well, as Dominos Pizza has shown. The smaller form factor is suitable for more basic retail and ticketing, whilst catalogue browsing is not really comfortable at the smaller resolution. The domestic computing device of choice is more and more becoming the Tablet, and this is where online retail will grow the most.
More stores will start using mobile checkout terminals similar to Apple’s
Oasis was one of the first UK high street stores to follow Apple into the area of the roving mobile checkout - in this case by utilising iPads. Knowing how - long queues at the tills can be a deterrent - more retailers will be introducing mobile checkout points. There are obviously certain types of retail that this format of checkout is more suitable for, but in the long term
Over the last 12 months, we have heard a lot about the need for replatforming, owing to game changers and paradigm shifts in the online retail industry. The chiefest of these is the increasing consumer shift to mobile devices and the need to provide a seamless high-level customer experience across all channels of involvement. Responsive Design will of course be essential, but there are several other key criteria which will need to be seriously considered too.
Here follows a quick checklist vs your current platform as to whether you need to change-up to a more powerful engine to grow your business effectively in 2014:
Current Platform is not Responsive
According to IMRG, in 2013 it was mobile devices that were responsible for the net growth in eCommerce - you need Responsive Design to be able to provide your customers with a seamless experience across all their chosen touchpoints.
Current Platform is not Enabling
Can you update content. structure. layout, design and campaigns without agency assistance? Speed of reaction is critical of course to maintaining a healthy competitive advantage, and if you can do more yourself you save on overheads...
Current Platform is not Engaging
Are your customers actively engaged on your sites - by means of social and participative functionalities? Customers need a platform for communication and participation, they want a voice, and are no longer content to just pass silently through checkout.
Current Platform does not support Multi-Domain Delivery
It is essential for marketing effectiveness to be able to target each customer demographic with their perfect experience on a dedicated and relevant domain. Failure to provide a high-level dedicated experience will mean customers look elsewhere for satisfaction.
Current Platform does not support easy Back-End-Integration
It is inevitable that the website front-end will need to be integrated with key back-office technologies, for many platforms this can be a very high-level overhead experience. Indeed, for many platforms this can be the chief bugbear and often means the web team spends more time managing the system than developing and evolving the customer experience.
Current Platform does not offer Customer Incentives
A successful retail platform requires ongoing customer incentivisation and activity triggers, relatively
We would like to thank everyone for a great 2013. We welcome on board splendid new Affino users, and celebrate the amazing success that so many of you are seeing with your online engagement and revenue growth.
It has been a year when we’ve seen some great site evolutions and have started to see Affino sites win major awards. In particular Procurement Leaders with three PPA awards (the UK publishing Oscars). We continue to see Affino sites evolve towards their potential and we’ll work with you to help you get the maximum benefit from your online presence over the coming year.
A Year in Transition
This year has been a great transitional year for Affino with the first half of the year focused on the Big Bang move to the new super scaling high availability version of Affino. From your feedback we know that you’re appreciating the solid improvements in uptime and performance.
Online business has been evolving more gradually over the year and the improved stability in the ecosystem means that for the first time we’ve been able to slow down the release cycle somewhat, something that we know many of you appreciate. Looking ahead we’re aiming to bring out just three to four major release each year, compared to the 6+ we have been historically.
There have been a number of key enhancements to Affino this year including the greatly enhanced Analysis Centre with the updated Customer Ladder, Ecommerce Dashboards and greatly increased timeframes for all analytics. Messaging had the biggest evolution to-date with greatly improved messaging campaigns, SMS integration and improved auto-responders.
Invites and relationship management have both been transformed this year, in fact it is now easier to look up, select and connect throughout Affino. Affino’s look and feel also improved considerably with more refined styling options, Design Panels and greater ability to use custom CSS.
The second half of this year has been all about developing Affino into being a cutting edge responsive design platform that works seamlessly across all devices. Like many good things it’s taking longer than we had hoped to bring you the first responsive release, but the long baking period will be worth the wait.
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
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 email@example.com for further insights on Affino’s revenue generating abilities.
When Affino was first launched back in 2000, the central focus was always for the site owners to have full hands-on control over their online retail environments. Affino has always been developed with a view to being a holistic Social Commerce Platform - combining Online Retail with core CMS, Community and Deep Analysis.
Here are some of the essential facets of the Affino Social Commerce Solution which give Affino users more control:
Structure - Set up, copy and adapt multiple nested or fully independent content / product hierarchies. By utilising separate ’Zones’ you can build a Multi-Channel and Multi-Brand Platform with ease
Design Centre - Affino’s Design Centre is still as revolutionary today as it was when first introduced in 2002 - DIY Design Implementation via currently 86 Design Element Widgets, Design Styles, Menus, Frames, Design Objects and Skins, with advanced CSS customisation options available for those who have the skills
Personalisation - Using a combination of Affino’s Granular Security and Assignable Topics with configurable Design Elements, you can set up highly targetted shop fronts with distinct customer journeys
Application Bar / Control Centre - Total control over everything you see onscreen - Affino has extensive settings profiles to give admin users enormous scope for making instant changes
Live Edit / Design Edit - Edit Content, Text Labels and Design Element Settings on the live Display Screen
Sell Almost Anything - Affino has extensive selling abilities, mixing up standard Product Catalogues with Digital Media, Events, Saleable Articles and Memberships - via Granular Security assignment you can pretty much put a price on any of your site activities
Social CRM + Customer Ladder - Have complete oversight over every activity your site users engage in, track them, incentivise and reward them
Instant Analysis - Affino has several bulit-in dedicated Social Commerce analytics tools as well as the wholly configurable Customer Ladder Conversion Events Analysis, and Configurable Analysis Dashboard with 19 dedicated Commerce widgets
Shopping Basket Management - Track and assist customers with their purchases
Core vs Integrated - Affino contains everything you need to run several high level, socially-enhanced stores in a single solution, but it also integrates with 3rd party solutions including
Since it’s origin as an American online bookseller in 1994, Amazon has gone on to conquer the world. In most regions where it is active, it is the pre-eminent Internet Retailer, and now covers near enough every conceivable area of shopping, albeit not equally in every territory.
I’ve been an Amazon Prime Member for some time now, and alongside the Ocado Smart Pass, consider this an everyday essential service! I love the ease at looking something up, and fire and forget ordering with next-day noon delivery in almost all cases - even Sunday to Monday ordering on occasion.
There are many reasons how and why Amazon still maintains its lead:
Range - The Range of goods on Amazon is without equal
Price - In most cases (certainly not all though) Amazon has one of the lowest price points available - particularly for Books / Music / Video / Games
Stock - Amazon typically has a larger stock, so it’s less likely to sell out of the item/s you want
Delivery - Plenty of delivery options including same and next day delivery, even with the option of secure lockers and 3rd party location pick-up points
Reliability - You have to be a little careful with Amazon Marketplace, but with a bit of reading between the lines you can usually spot the right moves, pretty much everything I order gets delivered the next day or two
Returns - Amazon uses the Yodel service to pick up packages from customers’ doorsteps - I have used it several times and it works brilliantly
Reviews - Even though there is a slight proliferatin of semi-dodgy reviews, by-and-large you get a good indication of suitablity of product from customer reviews
Recommendations - Every area you browse on the site you get sent recommendations via email, not always wholly relevant, but very cool and frequently useful nonetheless
ListMania - Top 10 / 20 lists of customer favourites help you spot new products that are likely to appeal
Wishlists - The ability to file away preferred products for later purchase, great as a reminder for future releases
Amazon is usually my preferred retailer on the basis of a combination of range, cost and service, there are certain areas though that would benefit from improvements.
Areas Amazon could Improve Service:
Packaging - A lot of the packaging is not particularly re-useable for returning goods in - why do Amazon
In Britain, the ’Internet Shopping Capital of the World’ (q.v.), sales for September 2013 rose 13% from August, like-for-like comparison with September 2012 saw a rise of 20% between years (IMRG / Capgemini).
Clothing, especially lingerie and undergarments, saw strong increases on the success of sites like ASOS.com.
Mobile devices, including smartphones from Apple and Samsung saw a rise of 150% compared with 2012 - which directly impacts on shopping via mobile devices also.
Experts say that online sales have been boosted in particular by rapid delivery options, such as same-day delivery offered by companies like Amazon, ASOS, Dixons and Next. The September 2013 figures see the fastest increase per month since the e-Retail Sales Index was set up 13 years ago.
Over 10% of all UK Retail Sales are now online, with the ratio predicted to rise to 20%+ by 2020.
21% of UK families shop online for food and groceries compared to under 10% for the rest of the world. EU research shows that 82% of British Internet users regularly shop online, which is the highest figure within the 28 member states:
..1: UK 82% =2: Denmark 79% =2: Sweden 79% ..4: Germany 77% ..5: Luxembourg 73% ..6: Finland 72%
-------------------------- =26: Italy 29% =26: Estonia 29% ..28: Romania 11%
UK leads the EU for online purchases of clothing and food, Sweden is top for travel, and Luxembourg is top for books (perhaps something to do with Amazon European HQ?)
UK Shoppers are more active than US as online food and grocery retail has not taken off to the same extent in America.
Like for like comparisons with September 2012 in the UK see clothing up 18%, lingerie 30%, accessories 20% and footwear 20%.
Current trends seem to indicate a likely strong Christmas season for online retailers - time to get all your ducks in a row then ...
It’s the time of year where it’s good to review how far we’ve come with Affino’s development since we set out the 2013 Priorities. The big picture is that we’ve wrapped up one of the two biggest initiatives this year which was to re-architect Affino for super-scaling.
It took us half the year to get there, but we’re now seeing great up-time figures across the board for Affino’s SaaS services. There are still more refinements to do, but Affino has been transformed in it’s ability to be auto-scaled.
The next major performance update is coming with the advent of the new Responsive Skins in Affino. We are completely re-working how all public facing pages are being served, which means serving many more elements from memory for a faster response time. We’re also re-architecting Affino to make the pages fundamentally more stable, secure and to reduce the chance of bugs arising.
The Responsive Skins themselves will also be fundamentally faster across all devices with the new code compression, new toolkits, JS and CSS structure and fully CSS driven page designs and styling. All of this will be in place by the year-end.
The second major initiative is now well and truly underway, namely the new Responsive Design roll out. We have split off the old design centre to become the Classic Design Centre and are busy rolling out the new Responsive one. We’ve hit the first major milestone, namely the core framework for the new Object Designer. The new Object Designer will be much more solid than any of the previous versions, especially as we’re now working more directly with core CSS.
One example of the improvements coming is that we have built in full undo / redo in the Object Designer from the outset, both for layout and content. This is a great development and will make it much easier to experiment with designs in Affino in the future. It is just one example of how the new architecture is a big step forward.
A great win with the new Design Centre has been our ability to retain all the core concepts we have in the Affino Design Centre, updating some and introducing just one new element: the Breakpoint Profile which will allow you to evolve your Breakpoints over time. Everything else is an evolution of what&
We are right in the middle of rolling out Responsive Design in Affino and this post outlines many of the key decisions we have made, and why.
When researching approaches to implementing Responsive Design in Affino, we have been looking at existing tools such as Adobe Reflow and Webflow.
They have taken two opposite lines of approach. Adobe Reflow allows you to manipulate everything to the nth degree but makes the process very manual. It displays a grid, but it’s purely for visual guide purposes, nothing snaps to it.
Webflow has a much more restricted approach, as do all fixed grid systems, in that you have 4 fixed breakpoints and things essentially can be set to be stacked or side-by side. There is a very rigid approach to the grid implementation but it does make assembling purely designed pages a fast and efficient process.
Affino has different challenges, firstly Affino is an application suite which allows layout and styling, as opposed to a purely static framework. It has content and media libraries as well as dozens of functioning applications that can be styled but have to work in certain ways to be effective.
Affino also works with millions of pages, these aren’t designed individually, instead we have re-usable page designs (Skins) which work across many different functional and content pages.
In practice we’re going to be keeping all the key productive features of Affino 7, whilst making them Responsive and lightweight. We’re also going to be providing much improved interfaces for designing and laying out pages in Affino.
Key Principles for Affino Responsive Design:
1) Nested Design Objects
Affino will still have Design Objects and Design Elements as the basis for designing your pages. It means you will create your page elements individually and then re-use them throughout your page designs, e.g. button bars, header, footer, navigation panels etc. These are then assembled to create your page designs.
It means a bit more work for the first page design, but a great deal less for all subsequent ones.
2) Breakpoint Profiles
Breakpoints define where one page layout, e.g. PC changes to another, e.g. Tablet. These things change over time, for examples mobile phones are getting bigger, whilst tablets are increasing
Affino 7.2 is a major speed and stability improvement release. It addresses the issues which have arisen with moving all Affino SaaS sites to the new super scale cloud. This has been an extremely complex release to work on so it’s great to have it out.
Affino 7.2 is not only focused on delivering pages quickly and reliably, there are also many great enhancements across the board including: Invitations v2, Commerce Dashboard v2 and Smart Edit. In all there over 200 updates in this release, and as always there’s a lot of great usability improvements throughout.
A considerable number of site updates and launches have happened during this release cycle so there’s a broad spectrum of enhancements throughout the system which make it easier and more effective to business online whether you’re a SEO pro, a designer, marketing manager, store manager, editor or community moderator. It always feels great to have a release like this which makes working with Affino that much more effective.
The Affino 7.2 is very much a stability release and is an essential update for all Affino sites. It is an easy update, simply go through the standard update process. WorldPay users please see note below as you need to update your settings with this release.
It is essential that you run through the complete update process starting with the Affino Updater, followed by the System Update, Re-Initialise Site, Design Element Update, Skin Update and finally Clear Guest Cache; all of which are available on the Settings > Update screen.
Speed and Stability
Reality always interrupts achieving ideals, especially when it comes to changing technologies. We’ve gone through the biggest tech learning over the past couple of months following the move to the super-scale cloud that we’ve had to do since originally moving to the Amazon cloud. It’s meant un-learning 20 years of best-practice and learning a whole new way of running the tech infrastructure.
We’ve overcome dozens of significant hurdles and advanced the entire Affino technical stack considerably over the past couple of months. We are finally starting to see the stability levels we have been aiming for with the move to the new super scale cloud stack. Hopefully it will be a few