Affino 6 is the culmination of fifteen years effort to improve customer engagement online. It is the realisation of a key goal we have had since the outset to provide the tools to automate online sales and customer engagement. Affino 6 introduces the Automated Affino Customer Ladder and Social Gaming Engine, which not only provides great insight into your store and community but also automates online incentives in a highly effective manner.
Affino Catalogues now integrate with two of the key eCommerce destinations namely eBay and Google Merchant Centre / Google Shopping. These provide great platforms for extending your online store and are a key milestone in Affino’s evolution as a Social Commerce Hub running at the centre of all your promotion, social and commercial initiative online. We’ve also rolled out deeper integration with PayPal to allow for onsite payments.
Over 300 Updates
In total Affino 6 follows the roll-out of over 300 enhancement projects. Some of these are minor usability fixes, but many are major projects with dozens of enhancements each. For more insight into all of these, see the headline features and detailed release notes below.
More Social Media
On the media side Affino now integrates with Ooyala and Wowza / Amazon EC2 for improved video delivery (it also now has a HTML 5 video player and supporting H.264, WebM and Ogg Theora and YouTube). For social music, the Affino media library now integrates directly with SoundCloud which allows users to freely upload MP3 tracks and remixes.
Facebook Open Graph
The key Social integration in this release is Affino’s full embrace of the Facebook Open Graph. We’ve completely re-written the Meta Data created for each page, updating it to the latest standards for W3C Dublin Core and crucially including all the key Open Graph and Facebook Meta Data so that all Affino pages can become Facebook Pages and be listed in the Facebook search results. We’re also extended the Facebook and Twitter integration to Comments and the ability to have Facebook and Twitter connect buttons throughout Affino.
You will need a new Affino Licence Key to be able to upgrade to this release. Please post through the forums when you want to update and requesting a new licence key.
We’re not expecting any major issues with this release, but the scale of this release means that issues may arise. We recommend that eCommerce sites wait one to two weeks before updating and check on Comrz.com for any guidance. We have already tested the release successfully on production community and commercial sites, but the range of configurations means that caution is recommended.
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 and Skin Update.
Affino is an engagement platform. It aims to service users in the most effective manner and to allow them to do what they want to achieve as easily as possible. To that end Affino allows site users to join, buy (and sell), publish, communicate, share, invite, extend and promote all their experiences.
Affino also provides extensive analysis of all this user behaviour with twenty different analysis tools, some which are highly specific such as Polls analysis, others which are more far reaching and include the eBusiness Dashboard. Affino further extends this by providing real-time integration with Google Analytics.
Affino is now being taken to a completely different level by introducing the Customer Ladder and Gaming Engine.
The Customer Ladder is the journey each and every site user takes from discovering you through to buying and becoming an advocate for you. It’s a process that traditionally websites are only able to cater to very loosely. Affino now enables you set up automated incentives and communication to help facilitate users in their engagement.
The Customer Ladder allows you to define all the key actions which your site users make and name them; associate them with Badges and points; define what part of the sales conversion process they are; and associate them with specific incentives and notifications. These are called Conversion Events.
Conversion Events are the key which brings all the elements together. They can be both public and private. When they are public, members can see the badges they have been awarded. Equally some or all of the tracking can be kept private and used solely for automated incentives and analysis.
Conversion Events have key attributes which they monitor. Initially there are over twenty different activities which are captured, including: purchases, repeat purchases, purchases of specific items, content creation, uploading, sharing, communicating, promotions, form filling, and profile completion. Affino also monitors the frequency, e.g. the 10th time an action is taken.
Significantly every Conversion Event can be assigned to a specific step in the Customer Ladder. It means that a buyer might be given a coupon to buy more, whereas a repeat customer might be given loyalty badge and additional unique incentives, and will be encouraged to become an advocate for the site / brand.
Automated Incentives happen in three key ways: users are issued Badges which give them status within the community; users can be given increased security privileges either temporarily or permanently. These allow for hundreds of potential incentives such as discounts, free memberships, and access to premium content and improved services.
Conversion Events can also trigger messages which can include specific incentives such as Coupon Codes, and calls to action.
Badges may seem simple devices, which they are, they are however a key element in the multi-billion dollar social gaming industry and are great motivators when used right. In Affino, Badges can be displayed on members’ profiles, and on the Badge Design Element. They are also accessed through My Information, which is also where all the available badges are highlighted.
Equally importantly the Who’s Online Design Element has a new filter so it is possible to filter members based on the badges they have achieved. This allows sites to showcase specific achievers and categories of users.
Conversion Events are the major driver for the all new Customer Ladder Analysis Centre. This is a major new part of the Analysis Centre in Affino and provides immensely valuable insight into the growth and development of the community and customer base.
We will be rolling out incremental updates to the Customer Ladder over the coming weeks so check with the Affino Updater regularly to get the latest version and to get some great updates.
This release sees greatly improved backend order processing and checkouts in Affino. Affino now has Order Lists which can be created quickly and easily. They greatly improve the ability to batch process orders. The Order Lists can be views or printed off; used to generate invoices for despatch; print off packaging labels (Beta) and generate dispatch notifications which are sent to the customers to inform them that their order is on the way. We’ve also improved the management of product availability, e.g. available on pre-order etc.
The Checkout has greatly improved error handling with full, detailed error descriptions and highlights on each field. It is now also possible to have a basic guide on the checkout screen. Users can now also sign up for a Newsletter directly within the checkout.
Company, Email and Telephone numbers are now automatically pre-filled in the address details. Continue Shopping now also works, even when the user clears out their shopping basket
New Geo-targeting of currencies means that users are automatically presented with their local currency (as long as the pricing is available), i.e. Europeans presented with pricing in Euros, whilst US users presented with pricing in Dollars, based on their IP Address.
This release also sees the introduction of localised recommendations; initially these are based on placement areas, but will be evolved rapidly over the coming releases.
Google Base Integration v1
Your products can now be listed directly within the Google Shopping Search. Affino now integrates directly with the Google Merchant Centre and the real-time Google Base API for product listings. Most ecommerce solutions simply provide a product feed to Google, however, Affino products are listed as they are added to the catalogue and are removed when they are no longer available. Price changes are also updated immediately (although it can take a while for them to be reflected on all the Google servers).
The integration with Google Base is highly configurable using the new Google Base Profile. There are also new Product attributes which improve listings on Google Base, in particular new Brand and Barcode attributes. Currently Google Base only supports three language variations: English US, English UK and German.
eBay Integration (Beta)
EBay is one of the two leading centres of eCommerce in the Western world alongside Amazon. This Affino release sees the integration between Affino and eBay allowing catalogues to be seamlessly published and updated from Affino to eBay in real-time. This greatly reduces the maintenance costs involved with managing two discreet catalogues and greatly automates the sales process.
We’ve extended the Affino catalogues to handle eBay product categories and listing information. We’ve also added full barcode support for all the leading codes including EAN, UPC, ISBN and ASIN for future Amazon integrations. To facilitate the product listing Affino provides extensive reporting, highlighting exactly what needs to be done for each product to get the best listing on eBay and how much it costs. Affino also logs, notifies and reports all product listings and associated costs.
EBay has literally thousands of options for selling products through their sites, they also target multiple languages and countries and indeed niches within countries. The initial release is purely aimed at eBay UK but can be extended easily as new country requirements come in. It is also focused purely on fixed-price sales with up-front payment and fixed shipping costs. Since up-front payments are required there is an additional requirement of having a PayPal account as eBay only allows PayPal when doing up-front payments.
We believe these are the best match for Affino users; however they will be extended as further requirements arise.
User Generated Ads v1
Members can now create their own ads as a premium service. The ads can be targeted based on members profiles, the interest topics and behaviour, e.g. female / 25 years / married (profile) interested in family (topic) joined a mums and tots group (behavioural).
The ads have much in common with Facebook user generated ads, but are geared more towards smaller communities. This means that the ads are provided as a premium service whereby users can create a number of ads as part of their membership.
The Live Editor has been extended to add in a new guide step so that the initial step takes users through a guide of how to create their ad. This is a universal extension to the Live Editor and means that guides can be added for all user generated content.
The ads can then be displayed throughout the site with the new Member Campaigns Placement Area DE. Users can manage their ads and have full access to campaign stats to see how well their adverts are doing.
Site owners can also monitor the success of the Member Campaigns using Member Campaign Analysis which showcases the top advertisers and Top Ads for given timeframes.
This is just one of a dozen new ways in which community owners can offer premium services to their community members.
New Media Processing
Affino now uses ImageMagick to generate images and thumbnails. This improves greatly the ability to handle JPGs and reduces greatly the issues users experience when uploading images. Affino now also has improved cache handling so that users can instantly see all their media items once they have been uploaded.
We’ve added a priority queue to media item generation. It means that user generated content is now prioritised above automated media imports such as incoming feeds and webservices. The end result is a better end-user experience.
My Messages v3
This release introduces attachments to My Messages (direct messaging), these allow users to share full documents directly with each other. Direct Messages can now also be made to be a premium offering so that users can now purchase message credits (in a similar way to LinkedIn). These can be at three different levels.
There is also greatly improved Message format, with a dozen new options for defining the message icons, making the experience much more usable.
HTML 5 Video Player (Beta)
Affino now supports video playback on the iDevices including the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Not only does Affino support HTML 5 video for H.264 for Apple products, it also supports future Firefox, Chrome and Opera browsers by supporting WebM and Ogg Theora. Affino goes further by also supporting the native YouTube and DailyMotion HTML 5 video players so that it seamlessly handles embedded video as well as native.
New Generation Comments & Ratings (Beta)
We have completely rewritten the Comments and Ratings for this release. They are now hierarchical, instantly updatable, social, Twitter and Facebook enabled and provide a far more engaging experience at every level. They’ve been written from the ground-up to provide the best commenting and rating possible and to maximize user engagement by allowing simple guest posts, logins and registration.
Note that this is still under development and will be refined over the next couple of weeks, however if you run the updater you will bet the latest version at any time.
Analytics – now track the number of daily views for Standard and Media items, store data for two months
Catalogue Export – improved usability
Coupons – new Automated / Forced Coupons feature allows coupons to be bundled together, e.g. a 20% off coupon can also include free shipping by including a second coupon
Dynamic Forms – conditional form fields, see Registration
Events – new Events Profile allows greater flexibility for listing events
Feature Scroller DE v1 – new iPhone friendly Feature Scroller Design Element for great banner highlights. Can be used instead of the Flash Feature scroller and works across all platforms
Forms – improved form styling for more compact forms
Forums – optimised Forum subscriptions so that when users subscribe to a forum all their thread subscriptions within the forum are removed; new forum thread limits can be applied to any forum, i.e. only 10 threads during the month; new thread type setting to enforce more information on threads; improved the Today view in the forums; improved forum styling by applying the updated Form Style to all the fields
Keyword Tagging – pop-up keyword tagger now available on Sections as well as Items
Live Editor – new optional Guide step for adding content, offers an additional level of assistance for beginners; it is now possible to simply type the Publish Start and End times; advanced Title formatting option allows new formatting for scientific publications (this is a Site Setting) e.g. sub-script / super-script and italics
Media Editor – streaming video handling; YouTube preview videos; filenames can now be edited; media file URLs can be easily identified and copied to the clipboard
Media Items – added page title so that a separate page title can be applied to each media item for SEO purposes
Media Library – greatly improved Artwork listing with numerous new styling options; greatly improved the Documents search and listing
Media Uploader – Affino now handles CMYK JPGs for the first time if Image Magick integration is set up.
Member Alerts v1 – full release of Member Alerts, these are alerts that members can set up to alert them of new members / groups which match their interests; this can be set as a premium option, whereby subscribers can set up the alerts. This is great functionality for group or other community leaders to help them identify useful contacts
Message Boards – improved listing format for sites with lots of Message Boards, introduced pagination on the Message Board listings
Modal Dialogue Style – introduced new styling element to the Design Centre. The Modal Dialogue Style allows you to style the pop-up boxes which appear throughout Affino for accomplishing specific actions. This is especially useful where sites have black or very dark backgrounds.
My Account – greatly improved Printable Receipt which includes full address and VAT details, and can be printed through the proper Print Preview channel for consistent formatting.
Newsletters – we’ve removed the Text Only version of Newsletter messages. This was in practice deprecated and not used by anyone, which given the era of webmail made it redundant.
Notifications – new account change notification emails for when members change their details
Online Form – Affino now auto-populates the name, email and telephone fields in online forms if the users has logged in
Optimisation – completely updated content view logging engine for greatly improved scalability and performance
Order Processing – added two new columns to all order line items for Coupon Discount and Item Discount, identifies exactly where discounts have been applied to specific items
Public Profile – it is now possible to multi-display any media to members’ pages; added Forum highlights to the Main Tab
Registration – new conditional fields option on the Demographic questions. Fields are displayed / hidden depending on the user’s Member Type or answers to previous questions, e.g. if a user selects CIO then she may be presented with questions on hardware expenditure.
Related Items – new Glossary menu, highlights glossary items distinctly from other forms of related content; improved embedded Glossary links
Scheduled Tasks – improved handling of scheduled tasks for load-balanced, encrypted site setups
SEO – new SEO Titles for all Standard and Media content; these items have a new optional SEO Title field which allows you to override the Article / Media title for improved SEO and bookmarking.
Smart Cache – new smart cache feature allows users to immediately see the articles / blogs / media they have uploaded. The cache pinpoint refreshes specific content and listing displays. This makes for a much improved end-user experience.
Spam Prevention – new Spam Prevention engine which allows you to restrict the number of posts by any member to a specific maximum for a given timeframe. This can then be applied to key content types.
Social Bookmarker – added the Facebook Like button (see Open Graph above) to the Social Bookmarkers
Standard Items – added page title so that a separate page title can be applied to each media item for SEO purposes
Users – the Security Centre User listing now has the User Profile assigned to the user and the Zone they registered in as two of the listing columns, helping to track users to specific sites
Video Player – it is now possible to create Topic-based Video Walls; new video task panel for better sharing of videos; new HTML 5 video playing mode with support for H.264 Ogg Theora and WebM as well as the YouTube and Vimeo. Also amended Affino video playback to use the Affino Video Player for .mov, m4v and mp4 videos
Who’s Online DE – introduced character limit option on user names
Workflow Profiles – new Premium Publishing options can allow limited ‘free’ publishing with two tiers for premium publishers; can be used for example to allow users to publish a limited number of user-generated Ads.
Application Bar – fixed issue where Sections were occasionally being listed as Channels
Blog Highlights DE – fixed image formatting issue in IE8
Catalogue Items – resolved issues with displaying the correct price / VAT combinations
Channels – it is no longer possible to assign a channel as its own parent; editing channels no longer displays the ‘Micro Blog’ alert; deleting channels which are selected within the Online Directory Profile no longer errors out
Checkout – 1st stage of Checkout process now works reliably across all Zone variations so that if a user already exists then they are identified consistently; consistently checks the payment method versus the appropriate address, whether it is the payment or invoice address; fixed issue with PayPal / Coupons which was causing it to error out; screen names are now only displayed if selected when checking out
Classifieds – fixed issue which caused new classifieds to error out
Coupons – now working reliably for shipping coupons
Design Menu – fixed and improved copy function so that when the copy is created the user is taken directly to it
Design Objects – can now be deleted reliably (when they’re not being used); fixed numerous Design Object previewing issues
Documents – fixed PDF download links, now work reliably
Dynamic Forms – resolved issue which caused some forms to error out; notifications now work reliably when using the Selector – Notification field
eCommerce – now displaying Top Shoppers accurately
eCommerce API – new option to set the number of days from which new products are pulled in from, e.g. could be set to 100 for initial import and 1 for on-going updates
Embedded Links – fixed issue which prevented some related content from generating embedded links
eTests – fixed issues with creating some questions; improved styling
Forums – improved listing where forum members have been deleted and their content is anonymously available in the forums
Groups – fixed issues causing groups to error out; groups no longer error out when being deleted; group members can now reliably see group media as per restrictions; group notification duplicates no longer being sent out
Incoming Feeds – fixed issue which was causing some incoming feeds to error out
Internationalisation – improved media look-up internationalisation
Inventory – resolved issues when searching for out-of-stock inventory; resolved issues when paging through inventory
Keyword Tagging – now shows a tick on the tagging status whether content has been tagged on the Control or Live side.
Live Editor – can now select images reliably, resolve image security issues; fixed issues with the URL shortener (Bit.ly) integration
Media Editor – master file dimensions can now be set reliably; items now listing reliably; images now showing reliably
Media Library – Media Scroller now works reliably, Media Library no longer errors out when members channel is secured; styling issues resolved, fixed issues with editing embedded media; media library sections no longer error out on the Control side; fixed errors with new Documents layout
Media Uploader – stability fixes; now handles Zip files in multiple ways, either extracting them or as a new document type
Member Search – member search no longer errors out
My Account – fixed issues where paid-up subscriptions were erroring out
My Messages – added new drop-down menu for browsing messages in My Messages. This feature had previously disappeared during the My Messages re-design.
Newsletter – resolved major styling bug whereby Design Styles were not being applied properly to content
Password Reminder – refined form so that it no longer errors out with missing profile attributes
Personal Tools – now completely hidden to guest users
Public Profile – fixed document listing on the main public profile tab; user’s content is now displayed in their content folder even when not live; public profiles now only display members own content; improved formatting when editing the profile; fixed issue causing public profiles to error out when viewed
Publishing Workflows – resolved deletion issues
Recommendations DE – now displaying reliably on Public Profiles
Registration – resolved issues with enabling / disabling the country selector on Registration / Demographic forms; fixed Double Confirm on registration
Related Prime Content DE – related channels now displaying with the right links
Screen Names – Section screen names are now unique per Zone
Site Search – resolved duplicate filter issues
Skins – fixed issues which caused Skin generation to error out
Smart Image DE – fixed Focus Image state for section trees, it means that images are now accurately presented in their active state for the target sections; fixed styling issue whereby Bold text was appearing in the ‘button’ link when defined on the Dynamic Menu
Templates – fixed formatting on a number of Standard Templates
Video Player – Video Wall now pulls in correct default video thumbnails; QuickTime files now play reliably; rating has been fixed; playlist no longer freezes video player; it is now possible to use the scroll-wheel again when browsing through videos; improved behaviour when removing videos from the shopping basket; fixed email interface; video mouse-over mode now displays product information and buy options