Your privacy is very important to us. Your data will not be shared and you will only receive news regarding Netonomy posts.
The Beauty and Cosmetics category is one of the fastest moving digital commerce areas. It is a highly competitive and innovative market with large brands quickly adopting digital models and challengers innovating their way to the top.
The emergence of the ecommerce sales channel for beauty brands has seen a long wait. The time has come for beauty retailers to align with the customer’s demand and specific requests. For example, a recent AT Kearney study showed 28 percent of online shoppers use the digital media to get informed on products. They carry this information in stores where they are sometimes more knowledgeable than the store assistants, which may pose a real challenge for beauty brands.
The AT Kearney study shows that only 16% of all online shoppers are online enthusiasts. The rest either use the digital media for information or for shopping for products they are already familiar with:
Online shoppers are more inclined to shop for particular products, such as skin, personal and hair care. Products such as beauty tools and nail care are less likely to be purchased online, unless is a very specific product, one the customer is already familiar with:
In this post we’ll get a glimpse of the eight most important type of beauty brands that engage their users through digital commerce (also). We’ll have a look at a selection of global champions with different backgrounds and different models. From digital pure-plays to established brick and mortar brands, let’s have a look at some of the most interesting approaches to beauty and cosmetics digital retailing:
As expected, Amazon leads the way when it comes to online beauty retailing also. Customers are delighted to almost 2 million products, including luxury brands.
Its Beauty category is the go-to place for most of online enthusiastic shoppers, where Amazon is available. And with Amazon’s shipment policies, that’s basically everywhere.
Amazon’s secret weapon lies in its free-shipping policy (for orders above 25$), a great motivator for online shoppers and a better threshold than challengers Sephora and Beauty.com.
Another great asset Amazon will use to gather shoppers around its beauty retailing section is the fact that more customers use Amazon (30%) than Google when doing online product research.
Sephora is generally seen as the actual leader in the digital beauty commerce. Though it lacks Amazon’s ecommerce strength, the company is part of the largest
luxury high quality goods (ahem…ahem) group, LVMH, packing a lot of beauty retailing know-how.
The company has developed a great omnichannel model that focuses on mobile as a bridge between online and offline.
One of the best things Sephora.com has implemented in its web store is the content marketing and digital assistance features. I’ve previously covered the subject and praised Sephora’s efforts to offer quality content, as praised are due.
The curated content customers find is a great choice to build loyalty. So is the Community where customers can browse among the knowledge base or post questions and interact with professionals.
As mentioned, one of the greatest assets Sephora has is its focus on digital rich content. Users are treated to:
Some other touches make Sephora a great choice for beauty products customers, not the least of which are the three free samples with each order (a great way to drive future orders) and the mobile apps that make us of barcode scanning to offer price info and customer reviews.
Beauty.com is an online retailer so it has no apparent need or intention to leverage offline or omnichannel sales. It has developed specific filters and features to cater to customers that either know what they want and want the best price or they can quickly decide.One of the features that really stands out (they have a pop-up to insure it stands out) is “Auto reorder and save” option. Simply put, the online retailer has noticed the habitual purchase beauty customers take and leveraged it.
Customers can set an auto-reorder flag for certain products, which can be shipped each 30, 60 or 90 days. Before the order is shipped, customers receive an email notifying them and they can pause, skip or cancel the auto-orders. The customer incentives are savings and free shipping.
Another great feature that lets customers reach the right product is the filtering option which is set not only for product features but also customer concerns and specific needs. In the Make-up section, the eye category, one can find brand and ingredients options, but also filters such as concerns (acne, dryness or oiliness), benefits (curling, hold or smooth) and skin type. Unfortunately, the filters are not usable on the smartphone version of the web store.
Just like its direct online competitor (Sephora.com), Beauty.com offers free samples, free shipping for orders $35 and above, free returns and 5% back through its loyalty program. It also features great content areas, such as its Beauty Blog, with Romy Soleimani, The Latest Trends section reviewing product news and a Beauty Videos section, ranked according to customer reviews. A great no-no on the video section is the fact that videos embedding is restricted to affiliates only, leaving a lot of marketing potential untapped.
The Asos Beauty section provides a great user experience and a lot of product options. As the Beauty section is built on top of Asus’ marketplace, it stands to offer the same great features and discounts.
Customers worldwide can benefit from Asos’ free shipping policy and the express delivery.
Though Asos lacks the specific concerns or personal filters the likes of Sephora.com or Beauty.com offer, it rocks when it comes to user experience, both on desktop and mobile devices. The filters are easily accessible, the search, shopping bag (cart) and comparison options work seamless and the purchase and registration sections are a pleasure to use.
Even more, the design is elegant and easy to use, in a form follows function kind of way. There are only few design elements that are not absolutely necessary and this makes shopping pleasant.
As an online pure-play, Asos does not have any specific plans to open brick and mortar stores but has been known to use pop-up stores to boost awareness.
The Beauty category from Boots.com is a great example of how an omnichannel experience can be implemented. Though the online store provides great online purchases options, it also provides easy location based options, a great store locator feature and even store information and product availability. Moreover – is a great example of how mass market and prestige brands can be distributed together.
On Boots.com, customers can either purchase online or find the nearest store, get directions and interact with the store assistant, check inventory availability and reserve products.
As L2 shows, Boots is the “ten-ton gorilla” in the UK Beauty retailing industry. Though Sephora has built quite a remarkable loyalty program, Boots has done that 10 years before. Boots registers more than 18 million purchases through its Boots Advantage Card, 60% of which are tied to the loyalty program. Boots’ ecommerce sales have grown 17% year over year in 2013, which is amazing.
One unique use of digital retailing is the brand direct store. While some brands, like Bare Escentuals or Avon have long used their own sales channels, albeit different concepts, others, such as L’Oreal have just started implementing online sales channels.
The L’Oreal Group, world’s largest cosmetics company, has traditionally relied on third parties to distribute its products. Its distribution chains included supermarket retail chains for its mass products or upper scale beauty shops for luxury and professional products. Though the company has been resisted development of its own online sales channel, that all changed in 2014.
One of the main reasons that lead to its change in distribution strategy was China’s increasing beauty market. As a recent report puts it:
“In China – the world’s number one online-purchasing market(1) – e-commerce already accounts for 10% of L’Oréal sales, and more than 15% for brands like VICHY, LA ROCHE-POSAY and MAGIC(2). These promising results are underpinned by partnerships with online distributors like Alibaba and Tmall. On Singles’ Day, a very important day of special offers, L’Oréal’s brands performed well, particularly MAYBELLINE NEW YORK – the number 1 make-up brand in the country(3) – and MAGIC, which sold over 11 million face masks in 24 hours”
So that’s one reason for the company to shift course. Another is the shift in consumer purchasing behavior. The company has invested heavily in social media and can now leverage its influence. As consumer increasingly use social media to get recommendations and share beauty experiences with friends, L’Oreal is in a specifically great place to not only help them do that but also increase sales through digital shopping tools.
One of the tools that connects customers through social media, connects online and offline experience in an omnichannel environment AND offers a great functionality is the Makeup Genius, an wonderful application I’ll discuss in the sections below.
L’Oreal has started pushing ecommerce strongly into its distribution strategy. For example its USA digital presence is ecommerce enabled and customer can purchase online, but they can also find the closest store and purchase there.
One particularly interesting concept they have implemented is an user generated section featuring customers’ looks gathered from the social web, using Olapic. Customers share the products and looks they love on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter and can get featured on the website.
But that’s not the only feature L’Oreal USA uses to engage potential customers. The web site offers a beauty library, focused on beauty trends and advices and a consultations area focused on interactive advices for users. Last but not least, L’Oreal shines the spotlight on Women of Worth, a selection of the women that have impacted their communities the most through their actions.
Lancome, another brand from L’Oreal, is doing just great in its ecommerce efforts. One particular area that stands out is the auto-replenish (a synonym for auto-reorder) feature you may have noticed its starting to catch on.
The web-store interface is gorgeous, with elegant fonts and imagery and offers a carefully curated user shopping experience.
The Elite Rewards membership program offers access to loyalty points, free samples, free shipping, a birthday gift and access to products aimed exclusively at members.
However, not all L’Oreal brands offer purchase options directly from the brand. For example Garnier and Maybelline offer store locator features and a buy from partner online shopping features. The preferred online retail channels are Amazon.com, Drugstore.com and Target.com.
Bare Escentuals is a great example of building a beauty brand with the help of a community. Their online store is packed with info, helpful ideas and hints, special options for members and great products. Among the most interesting features and options, some stand out:
You can’t have an online beauty sales list without AVON. Though many things can be said about Avon and its approach to building a representative network and combine this network with online sales, probably one the most important features you should take note when evaluating AVON.com are:
One particular area of digital beauty sales is the Department Store. Probably the best cases are Macy’s and Nordstrom. Macy’s long history with omnichannel retail ensures that customers can bridge the online-offline experiences and skip channels.
A great these companies have is the fact they control the offline experience and they can engage customers in ways that other retailers on this list can’t.
For example Macy’s has implemented interactive kiosks in the past that helped customers discover information on beauty related products and purchase either in the store or online.
In either case, both Macy’s and Nordstrom have outstanding commercial options and their cross-channel activities, as well as customer loyalty are bound to go a long way.
There are two online shops that may not outsell others but they do have their strong points.
First of all, you’ve probably heard about …
Just to get a glimpse of what makes Birchbox so special, have a look at this unboxing video, showing what customers get:So, simply put, Birchbox is a curated product experience. All of the stores we’ve previously studied pack a lot of options but sometimes that is not the best option.
What Birchbox founders envisioned was “a way for customers—just like themselves—to easily and efficiently try, learn about, and purchase beauty products online” (Source). Basically, they’ve mixed editorial, curation and beautiful packaging and ended up with what Birchbox is now.
Ipsy is backed up by strong content marketing efforts from vlogger Michelle Phan (See the Youtuube channel here).
To fend of competition Birchbox has opened a men subscription service as well as a potentially revolutionary type of store that combines shopping, services and product experience and beauty events. Have a look at it.
Make Up Forever is a LVMH owned brand aimed at make-up professionals. Its online presence is filled with beauty information, how-to’s and information regarding the brand’s history, activity and philosophy.
A special area is provided for professionals but visitors can purchase products just as well or they can locate stores where said products are distributed. Make Up Forever is a great example of how online shopping can be applied to brands that were previously impervious to this type of sales channels.
Another great aspect that makes this online property noteworthy is the beautiful and stylish design, aligned with the brand’s care for beauty and elegance.
As Make Up Forever is the last brand that I’ll be featuring on this list, let’s have a look at the main strategies these companies employ to reach their desired audience:
The digital world is filled with information. So much that customers can get lost and sometimes they can appreciate a helping hand and a trustworthy advisor. Birchbox and ipsy are doing just this. A lot of the other brands mentioned above also have a “most wanted” or “new” section but some go a little further and offer insights rather than options.
In a world where information is everywhere, decisions are better left to a knowledgeable professional, able to recommend the right product.
If there is one thing all these examples have in common, that would be content. Beauty brands are not only product manufacturers or retailers. They need to provide customers with relevant information, in its many forms.
Probably the easiest to digest is video.
One particular form of content that seems to work rather well is video. Some of the most engaging YouTube channels feature video showcases of Beauty how to’s, product presentations and unpacking videos. Here are three of the most influential ones:
Her ipsy channel is focused exclusively on beauty and is highly engaged by her audience. The channel has been launched in 2011 and already boasts more than 400 videos and over 500 000 subscribers.
Kandee Johnson’s You Tube channel lists almost 3 million subscribers and over 300 million views. Her videos focus on make-up, how to and style. Kandee has joined YouTube in 2009 and since than her channel has grown steadily.
Her videos showing make-up techniques have become viral and are constantly gathering views and influence.
Her combination of fresh, direct videos and great recommendations has won her 3.6 million subscribers and roughly 260 million video views.
You can also enjoy her style on Instagram, along with other 1.2 million fans.
So video is here to stay as almost 50% of all beauty shoppers view an YouTube vide while shopping for beauty products. Have a look at the slideshare below, a great collection of beauty insights, starting with the one I’ve just mentioned:
Though not many retailers have managed to set up a decent subscription-based model, there is still hope. The craze started by Birchbox and the likes of DollarShaveClub (personal care products for men, delivered monthly) may be a great way to create loyalty in the Beauty retailing area. For the “creatures of habit” that purchase beauty products, replenishment at a great price can go a long way.
As seen above, a great way to implement a pseudo-subscription model is the “auto-reorder” feature for individual or grouped products, used by Beauty.com and the L’Oreal Group online stores.
Mobile has seen an explosive growth in both consumer usage and retailer adoption. As now most retailers and beauty brands have adopted some form of mobile presence, the next step is engaging consumers with rich mobile experiences designed for native apps.
One such example is L’Oreal’s Makeup Genius, a mobile application that lets users test make up products directly on their mobile devices.
Customers can browse products, “try on” make-up and test products before they buy them. With such an app, L’Oreal makes a great case of connecting channels, distributors and improving customer experience.
So the next wave of digital commerce will probably be mobile-enhanced and mobile-driven. With Google improving on its mobile search algorithm, mobile sites will get even more search traffic.
There have been countless debates on what a beauty online store should offer in terms of electronic features.
Bellow you’ll find a proposed must-have list:
Some of the most effective ways to drive ecommerce traffic are Email, Social Media and Paid Search. With a boom in Paid Search for the beauty category, most traffic seems to be coming from the search engines.
However, Email and Social Media still drive relevant traffic and conversions. A recent L2 Report emphasizes the the changes in social media landscape and the type of email marketing techniques beauty brands are using.
With almost 100% social media adoption, few social media outlets are still unused by beauty brands. Facebook has seen near total adoption but with the drop in organic reach, it has turned marketing teams to other more creative solutions and/or optimized media budgets.
The one channel that has seen an increase in both traffic and conversions driven has been Pinterest. The graphic social network is far better suited for digital commerce.
When it comes to emails, most of them are using different incentives to drive traffic and increase sales. Free shipping, commercial discounts, gifts with purchases and samples with purchases are among the most used by beauty brands with ecommerce capabilities:
Whisbi is a tool for the omnichannel customer support. It bridges online, offline and phone-call experiences to provide a type of support fit for today’s and tomorrow’s merchants.
What Whisbi does is create a rich connection with the customer. It does that by streaming a live interactive screen from the sales support and at the same time it synchronizes this screen with a live phone call.
The great thing about the technology is that customers can effectively be “teleported” within the store or a specially designed sales support space. For example, if a retailer were to provide support for big-ticket products, such as cars, high-end electronics or maybe a designer items, the customer should effectively “feel” these products. For now, the general consensus among consumers is that such a feeling can only be attained in a real store. Two of the most important factors for in deciding to visit a brick and mortar store are the sensory experience and human touch.
Whisbi fulfills these two needs quite admirable. First of all it provides a smooth connection between the sales person and the potential customer. This is done either through a “click to call” function where the customer requests a call, or through a direct call to an inbound number. While the phone connection is established, customers also start a digital interaction with the sales consultant. This stream of information can be in the form of co-browsing, assisting in data-filling, showcasing product videos and photos, but most importantly, it can come in the form of a live product demo, from the store.
The sales consultant effectively streams live video to the customer through a mobile app, a laptop camera or even … wait for this … Google Glasses.
So while the two discuss on the phone, the customer can experience touching and discovering the product, as if he or she were in the store. This type of assisted purchases are the perfect fit for omnichannel retail.
The customer sees the sales assistant while they discuss but to insure the customer’s privacy, it doesn’t work the other way around.
The fact that the video stream and the phone call are synchronized may seem trivial but keep in mind that data is streamed through two very different infrastructures. The fact that the customer can see and hear the sales assistant at the same time gives a pleasant sense of human interaction, mimicking the experience one would have in a real store, with a trained store assistant. In fact, one of Whisbi’s four patents, and in my opinion the most important, is a patent to synchronize phone calls to online experiences.
The feeling you get by using Whisbi as a customer is quite impressive. By synchronizing multiple sensorial experiences, the solution works far better than either the phone-call option or the live chat.
In fact, the company claims a 15-30% conversion rate for customers interacting with the brand through this technology. While this might seem outrageously high, I think this might be an accurate figure. The feeling of (almost) complete immersion may be an even better experience than the one customers would get in a real store. The reason is “whisbi-ing” is an experience brought up by the customer’s demand, in the safety and comfort of a familiar place. By taking out stressful elements that brick-and-mortar stores sometimes have (crowds, un-involved sales reps), this omnichannel experiences works as a type of “concierge” service.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably noticed that Whisbi sounds too good to be true. The fact is that it actually IS too good to be true. The usage of Whisbi is limited by the potentially high cost of hiring qualified personnel to handle incoming customer demands.
Indeed, forms and chat have a low conversion rate. However they are great for low to median cost products where margins are low and the cost of specially trained sales reps is not justifiable.
But there are some cases where Whisbi can be a great fit:
1. Big Ticket omnichannel sales: Think of cars. A car should be seen, experienced and felt. It is an expensive purchase, one that has a lot to do with the rational but more to do with our emotional decisions. While purchasing and paying for a car is far from mainstream, a sales rep using Whisbi can offer a great display of the car’s features and teleport the customer to the dealership, before a visit is made. One of those using Whisbi is Fiat, and the ad below showcases a potential customer journey:
Its not just cars, either. I think Whisbi can work great as an omnichannel support for other big ticket items such as designer fashion, jewelry or maybe art.
2. High customer acquisition cost: Several industries have high customer acquisition costs. Telco is one of such industries. Voice and data subscriptions, especially for customers switching from one operator to another, as well as those that decide on their first subscription, have a high customer acquisition cost. This is due to increasing competition, large marketing budgets and extensive offers from competitors.
But such high-acquisition cost industries also tend to be profitable because of a certain aspect. That is the large lifetime customer value.
3. High lifetime customer value: The lifetime customer value expresses the long-term value a customer has for the company. Simply put – it means how much will the customer spend on the company products during his lifetime as a customer. For example, due to a high lifetime customer value, Goldman Sachs estimates that Apple’s customer’s base value at $295 billion. The point is that retailers estimating high customer lifetime value should use omnichannel customer service to acquire customers. Even if costs are high.
4. Personalized service for the loyal customers: Maybe not all customers can be served through an Whisbi experience. But such great support can be a great incentive for your loyal pack. Concierge support for loyal customers and high-spenders can go a long way in keeping your friends close.
5. Address to impress: Let’s face it. Whisbi’s technology is awesome. The experience of a live demo convinced me to write this review. The experience is great. Google Glass, mobile apps, live streaming and phone calls – arent these impressive? More so – teleporting users and showcasing products in real time directly in the store and letting customers purchase online and receive at home? This is impressive and impressive is an asset on its own.
In conclusion Whisbi may not be perfect for all ecommerce or omnichannel operations but for some – it is an impressive and must-have technology. The results in conversion rate improvement shows the need for better customer support within omnichannel operations. And Whisbi delivers.
We expect historic changes to be a bit dramatic. We think of “Evrika!” moments when inventors discover new technologies that make our lives better.
The reality, however, seems to sneak up on us. We now know how important the Internet is but few would have guessed it when it was used to exchange short bits of information between academics. Same for Google – it is now easy to see how important having the global stream of information at your fingertips actually is. But it was a lot harder when the concept was still in its infancy.
Not even Steve Jobs could have predicted the impact the iPhone would have on the world. And I believe Elon Musk will look back on these days and be surprised by the changes Tesla brought to the world.
When Elon Musk announced the Powerwall, the world shook a little bit. Its beautiful design and promise of energy independence seemed almost dreamlike. But the Powerwall shows a far larger vision than just making the home energy independent.
It is a promise that we could harness the virtually unlimited energy of the Sun and store it. Storage, you see, is the real problem. The complex systems we use are powered by energy that is consumed almost instantly. Our cars, our electronics, our planes – they feed on streams of energy as it is formed. Even the best energy storage systems fail after a short while.
The promise that one day a company (could it be Tesla?) can find a way to harness and store the sun’s energy (or any type of green energy for that matter) has an impact we can hardly predict.
The implications range from pollution reduction to geopolitics to economics. Especially economics. To understand how much we could save by switching to green energy, have a look at this estimate for an average Tesla car compared to one running on fossil fuel:
Think that’s a lot? That car “only” logs 120 000 miles. Compare that to the 397.8 billion miles logged by all trucks used for business purposes (excluding government and farm). In the US alone.
Now mix the numbers and add the savings Tesla’s technology can bring.
Add something else: sun-powered electricity. Think of trucks and ships that can move goods around without any need for refueling.
Because that’s where the real change comes in. When products are manufactured and shipped at a tiny fraction of what they are today, everything changes.
When we take out the distribution costs, the energy costs and any other costs associated with energy from our current commerce paradigm, everything changes in the world.
The products we buy would have costs that would be driven to the ground. Without costs associated with energy consumption and storage, goods would be manufactured cheaper and faster (instant energy), shipped cheaper and faster and consumed by more. We could have cheaper products, consumed by more and believe it or not, more profitable to sell.
There is only one thing stopping this: the current transportation and energy system. Musk’s vision has already stirred things a bit with car dealers. What happens when the company will go against the global leaders in energy and transport companies, the ones still relying on fossil fuels? These companies would have to change or fight the change. The former is what one might expect.
That’s where the Uber concept comes in. Uber connects, as you know, smaller professionals that provide transportation services. Right now this is limited to personal transportation. Uber, today’s Uber, acts as a glorified cab dispatcher.
But tomorrow’s Uber may have bigger ambitions. Somewhere behind the scenes, investors know that there’s more to Uber than meets the eye. The reason the company landed a $41 billion valuation is that it has the potential to change the global transportation system. Not just personal transportation but all kinds of transportation.
That includes making sure goods are quickly moved from manufacturing to storage to the consumer. Don’t take my word for it. Uber has been experimenting time and again with logistics. And if Uber won’t, there are other companies that will.
So you have virtually unlimited power. You have storage. You have the a system that makes sure goods are sent to the right destination by the optimum freight. This means the kind of change we now can’t fully comprehend.
It means that good is now in motion.
The term “robot” essentially means “worker”. It was coined by Czech author Karel Čapek in his science fiction work R.U.R. and since then it has become the standard term to define semi-autonomous machines.
It really is hard to define what we actually think of when we say robot. It may be an anthropomorphic fun figure such as Honda’s Asimo or a somewhat creepier animal version of it, such as Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog.
But it can also be a simpler and more applied machinery. Robots can be built to handle some of the most menial and repetitive tasks, including those that have to do with ecommerce fulfillment.
In terms of operations, fulfillment means everything that has to do with getting ordered merchandise to the customer. It includes picking and packing and let’s face it – it’s boring and repetitive. The robots below do just these things. Robots, unlike people, require no pay and are available 24/7. Whether using robots is effective or not, moral or not, it’s up to you to decide. But no matter your view on the subject, you have to admit they look awesome.
Not longer than two months ago, Fetch Robotics was non-existent as a company. Than they’ve got $3 million in founding and started working on a mysterious warehouse robotics project.
Today they’ve unveiled not one, but two robots aimed at helping warehouse staff make it through the long corridors. Their names are Fetch and Freight. Below is Freight, my favorite, a little guy following around picking staff and going back to base when orders are finished picking:
You would think that farming and ecommerce fulfillment don’t have too much in common. Maybe they don’t but they do have the Omniveyor robots from Harvest. The company was founded by former iRobot executives, the company that brought you house cleaning wonder-robot Rumba.
The company developed a fulfillment robot, called TM-100, which will be available spring 2016. Here’s TM-100 in action:
In 2012 Amazon paid $775 million for Kiva Systems, a Seattle based company manufacturing warehouse robots.
In just two years Amazon has fully digested the technology and now has 15 000 Kiva robots doing the picking and packing job twice as fast as humans could. Inventory moves twice as fast and products are delivered to packing stations in just under 15 minutes, faster than any human could.
Here are the little Kiva robots plotting to take over the world, while picking orders:
Some industries are more inclined to bridge the online-offline gap and provide omnichannel experiences. Among these industries, ticketing is one of the biggest. In the recent years, with the help of innovation and lots of money pouring in, technology has changed the way events are organized and attended.
While some companies have been more effective than others at attracting investments, media attention and of course users, the field is far from leveled. New ideas and opportunities are waiting to be discovered and ambitious startups are working hard at it.
One of these startups is KweekWeek, a London-based startup that recently received a $3.25 million investment to work on its technology and improve sales. The company founders, Tina Mashaalahi and Mehdi Nayebi, hope to tackle the fast growing competition with a better understanding on how customers discover and attend events.
While most ticketing tech startups focus on organizing and managing events, KweekWeek seems to be more inclined to tackle event discovery. There are probably many missed opportunities for event organizers due to potential event attendees not being informed. KweekWeek stated it has developed an algorithm that is able to push the right events to the right customers.
I am not exactly sure how well this algorithm works, but it probably crunches data on previous ticket purchases and aims to predict behavior.
By adding a social layer (event goers can follow organizers) the predictive analytics might become even more effective and event discovery can actually be a pretty potent tool.
As small and medium event organizers have traditionally built lasting relationships with attendees, this social networking approach to event management seems to be a great idea. Even more, adding a social layer, event organizers can probably engage their followers even after the event and they can use their input to improve upcoming events.
Social networking and event discovery are not the only innovations KweekWeek brings to the table. Although the company monetized the product with a ticket processing fee so far, they've shifted to a new model. By providing a fixed subscription fee for the organizers, they are effectively building a new model, closer to software licensing. This might work best for medium to larger event organizers, if it catches on.
Though it has a difficult road ahead, I believe that KweekWeek is a great alternative to previous ticketing companies. It combines social networking, event discovery (a great tool for event sales) and mobile experience to create a multi-channel event management tool. It may just be a winning ticket.
The marketplace has been a very influential social and economic construct for a very, very long time.
It has been a central concept to commerce all over the world since the dawn of man kind. In time, the marketplace has been refined and evolved to include ever more complex structures. During the past century it morphed from temporarily trade gatherings to large permanent structures such as shopping malls and eventually it evolved into what we now know as the online marketplace.
Ebay, Alibaba, Etsy, Amazon and others have one thing in common – they get sellers and buyers in one place. These online marketplaces are fueled by a business model that has seen a steep increase and proved excellent in the past years. But now, it's time for the next step:
I believe the times they are a-changin', like Dylan would chant. The Online Marketplace is not enough any more. The markets demand something more.
That something is the Functional Online Marketplace, a virtual hub that combines the features of a marketplace (buyers and sellers, reputation management, transaction handling) with functions that improve the lives of either sellers or buyers.
The Functional Online Marketplace goes beyond just letting sellers and buyers trade. It helps the seller run its business better and the buyer benefit more from the product purchased.
And some of the biggest tech companies we know have created this type of Functional Marketplaces. We've used them and most customers love them. We just didn't put a name on it. Have a look at some examples:
Steve Jobs envisioned the PC as a digital hub, a central unit that connects the user's digital activity. From email to web surfing, from music to pictures and more. It than proceeded to create this vision and along the way he built much more.
By launching the iPod and than the iPhone, Apple moved the digital hub inside the consumer's pocket. With such a valuable real-estate in the reach they've had to build a system that shipped music, video and applications from third parties to these devices.
The iTunes Store and the AppStore were born. Apple built the platform to consume apps, the place where customers could download these apps, empowered developers to build these apps but did something else too.
It built Xcode (the development tool for iOS developers), it launched Objective C and than Swift (the programming languages used to build apps) and helped developers create useful apps.
Apple went beyond the marketplace paradigm. Yes, it allowed media and software consumers to meet developers but it also created the platform where they could be consumed and the tools to build them. It built an extraordinarily effective Functional Marketplace.
But Apple is not the only one …
Uber is an extraordinary successful company that connects freelance drivers to those in need of their services. It connects buyers to sellers. It is technically a digital marketplace. And more.
First of all Uber empowered a set of freelancers that didn't know they've actually had a market. The driver app allows drivers to see potential riders and provides GPS-linked functionality inside a simple mobile device.
The functional side of Uber not only improves the way sellers (drivers) provide their services but actually it makes it possible.
For customers, the app makes hailing a driver an easy task, it allows direct payment on mobile phone and brings the comfort previously unattainable. The functional marketplace at its best.
Google is many things. Search giant, mail provider, mobile os developer and robot builder among others. But at its core, the business model is quite simple: Get people to pay for ads. Show ads to customers. Make people click on said ads.
Google ads revenue (billion $). Source
Advertising accounts for 89.5% of Google's total revenue so it's safe to say that ads are its bread and butter.
To achieve these levels of revenue Google has to place together "The Sellers" (Advertisers) and "The Buyers" (Customers clicking on ads). Though customers don't technically buy on Google, those that generate the company's revenue end up as leads or buyers on advertisers' websites.
To do this, Google built its ad market on top of its primarily function: Search. Users searching for information of interest are effectively buyers in the Google functional marketplace.
The marketplace, therefore provides functional support to buyers. The search, Gmail, Android – are all basically functions that lock in the ad-clicker and in turn generate revenue through these types of transactions.
These are just three functional marketplaces examples but they illustrate the concept. To be successful, a newly established marketplace has to provide more than just a connection between buyers and sellers. It needs to provide function beyond the commercial. By improving the lives of buyers and sellers beyond the commercial, Functional Marketplaces provide the type of lock-in and effectiveness previous models don't.
Ben Horowitz tells it like it is: starting and running a tech company is hard. Really hard. But not for the reasons you would think.
Founding and running a tech company is generally viewed as the thing anyone should aspire too. The fame, the riches and everything that goes with it is the dream of our generation. Silicon Valley is just as attractive as a career in Hollywood or being a rock star. With poster boys such as Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, young men and women grow up believing that all you need is a great idea and the guts to start it.
But that dream fades when your bright idea and optimistic vision have to face the hard truths of running the company you’ve just founded. Ben Horowitz has a reputation of being a no-bullshit kind of guy and you can actually feel his straightforward words telling you that your dream will be squashed by reality.
Unlike the glamorous and relaxed articles you’re reading about the likes of Facebook, Google or PayPal, Ben’s book is a clear indication of what you can expect when running a company and what to do about it.
It’s definitely not a perfect guide to running a company but it is a great start to understanding what to expect. Being a CEO is a tough place to be in. It’s a lonely place. It’s full of doubt and decisions that may or may not be right.
One of the greatest idea I’ve found in the book is telling it like it is. Yes, telling it like it is when things fall apart. Because they constantly do and someone has to constantly put them together.
Sometimes CEO’s start trusting their PR too much. They start living the persona they need to project to customers, investors and the media. Of course, no one can just go and tell the world that they don’t have enough data to make a decision. Or tell investors that the company may or may not exist in the next 6 months or the product development is stalling. Or tell customers that the product they’ve just purchased may be out of the market in the next year.
No. The CEO’s job is to project confidence and show the world that everything works just smooth. Right? But what do you do when things are the opposite of smooth? What should the CEO do when they fall apart and everything starts running amok. How can you tell the engineers that the customers hate the new features and they just have to rewrite everything so it can be spotless. How can you tell the marketing team that the last campaign they’ve pulled is bringing in no results.
Ben’s answer is simple:
“[…] give the problem to the people who could not only fix it, but who would also be personally excited and motivated to do so”
There are three big reasons to do so:
Take care of the People, the Products, and the Profits – in that order.
Throughout the book Ben Horowitz deals with hiring, managing and retaining employees best fit for the company. And he stresses the “fit” part. People that cannot work in a team should not be part of the team. Egos and politics can destroy companies if not properly managed.
The people themselves have to build products that the market needs and wants and there’s plenty of advice on this topic also. Concise, clear and to the point advice.
Ben shows that innovative products and successful companies are built by CEO’s that lead without knowing where the path would lead to. They lead their teams and they try and try. Sometimes they get the right answers. Sometimes they don’t. That’s because there is no formula for building the equivalent of Facebook or Google or Apple. If it were – more people would be doing it right.
The hard things are things all responsible entrepreneurs and CEO’s have faced. It’s the worrying, the lack of direction or know how, the lack of guidance and the loneliness. It’s keeping your emotions in check and being stronger because of it. It’s finding answers without showing weakness. It’s the struggle you have to embrace so you can continue when things get rough.
In the end I would highly recommend this book to anyone starting or running a tech-related business. My only regret is not having read it five years earlier but then again – it was not written then.
What does it take to turn a store visitor into a loyal customer? Any retailer that can answer this question is surely a leader in its respective niche but it is not a simple question.
There are a multitude of factors at play and we thought we might ask the experts. We’ve reached out to George Skaff, CMO of TouchCommerce, the leading company in omnichannel engagement. George has over 25 years of marketing leadership experience in the computer industry. Prior to joining TouchCommerce, he has held marketing leadership positions with SGI, DigitalPersona, Wyse Technology and NEC Computers.
George Skaff: TouchCommerce is the innovative leader in omni-channel engagement solutions. We have been in business since 1999. Our company was built with a results-driven retail perspective to replicate and enhance the in-store customer experience online, with chat technology. We have award-winning technology platform and mobile solution with an emphasis on data, self-service and automation. We are focused on Enterprise Global F1000 eCommerce companies. TouchCommerce real-time customer targeting engine leverages “BIG DATA” to target and engage customers in a personalized digital assistance experience on desktops, tablets and smart phones across the omni-channel environment. TouchCommerce operates in 16 countries across North America, EMEA, and Japan.
With mobile revolution happening right now, the way customers want to interact with retailers is changing fundamentally. There is a shift in customer behavior underway. You can no longer rely on them dialing your number when they have a problem and talking to a customer service agent. There are hundreds of ways they could contact you and they may well try several different ways to get the information they want. However, make no mistake: your customers are not aware that by clicking out of a webchat session and picking up the phone that they are ‘changing contact channel’. They do not care. All they are concerned with is getting their query answered in the easiest, quickest way possible. And they want their experience to be consistent across all these channels.
Combined or stand-alone, the fully-integrated custom solutions we create for customer acquisition and customer care and retention contribute to an enhanced online, mobile or in-store customer experience and increase self-service in the omni-channel environment.
George Skaff: To maintain consistent consumer experience, it’s vital that retailers start thinking in terms of the customer journey and the conversation you are having with them, rather than the platform for that conversation. In order to have a cohesive, joined-up omni-channel offering, it’s essential that the different channels are integrated at the back-end. There should be one view of each individual customer, no matter which channel they have chosen to contact you. Ideally, this view should be presented to the agent in one, single desktop application too, so when a customer calls, the agent has a clear idea of their previous interactions and account details, and can quickly access information to help solve their query.
When choosing a software provider, retailers should consider if the solution:
George Skaff: The Dynamic Targeting Engine is the core of the entire RightTouch platform and underlying technology. It tracks all user behavior and website variables to identify optimal engagement opportunities. This highly flexible tool can be configured in limitless ways to identify any group of users and target their specific needs. All direct consumer engagement activities are managed via this robust engine.
By using Our Dynamic Targeting Engine, you can focus your energy and resources on the customers by presenting them with the products they want most. This targeting tool allows us to identify consumer behavioral attributes in order to launch any one of our products with the right context, including chat, guides, offers, survey invitations or any other rich content offering a targeted engagement experience online.
The Targeting Engine enables:
George Skaff: The retailers should be very specific in selecting the metrics to measure their omni-channel marketing performance, and not to focus on metrics for each individual channel. Engagement metrics should include consumer visits, consumer interactions, conversion ratios, LTV, incrementality in all of the above measurements, as well as customer satisfaction.
George Skaff: Several innovations are happening as we speak, among them ability for the consumer to effortlessly move across the channels, as well as the ability for the retailer to follow consumer journey across the channels. Retailers are starting to pay close attention to consumer’s shopping journey online and offline (in-store.) Products like TouchStore from TouchCommerce are a good indication of the future entails.
George Skaff: Apple Pay improves the ability of the consumer to effortlessly complete the purchase, but it does not change the purchase paradigm in principle. While there has been other payments method (Google, Amazon, etc.), Apple massive outreach in promoting this is helping the fast adoption.
George Skaff: The store of the future will be like a country without borders, where consumer moves effortlessly across different channels executing their intent to purchase. The thing to remember is that customers do not generally have a preferred channel. They will just pick whichever one they think will get them the result they need most quickly with least effort.
Consumers want choice – they will want to use different channels depending on their needs – and the ease with which they can contact a company increasingly forms part of the criteria for choosing one brand over another.
For example, a customer might call their mobile provider to find out if they were on the best price plan, but they will go online to see their current balance – and then turn to Twitter to chat with an agent about data limits abroad.
Another example is when a customer is doing their research online on their laptop looking to purchase a new TV, they check with their friends on social media regarding their friends recommendations on their tablet while sitting on the couch at home, then search for best prices using Amazon mobile app, and still will end up in a physical store to touch the product before they buy, and they might get engaged with the brand chat agent while in the store, ending up purchasing the TV of their choice in the store but using the coupon pushed by the chat agent to their mobile device.
Apple announced online sales in Russia will stop due to the ruble’s volatility. Indeed, the Russian currency has taken a blow recently as it plummeted to an all-time low against the dollar.
The Russian Apple online store has been taken offline while prices are reviewed and commercial activity on iPhones, iPads and other Apple products has been halted.
But how did Apple went from more than $1 billion in sales in Russia in 2013 to pulling out in 2014?
In 2013 Apple failed to reach an agreement to local mobile operators so it went straight to retail chains and selling online. It didn’t go too bad. iPhone sales doubled to 1.57 million units. After seeing huge spikes in demand, the local operators finally gave in and agreed to Apple’s terms. Nevertheless, almost 80% of all sales came directly from retail, skipping carriers.
So basically Apple sold $800 million worth of unsubsidized products without any help from local carriers, a surprisingly good result for the Russian market. “We’re really happy“, said Tim Cook in 2013.
Yes, the ruble drop may be a problem for Apple. But why close the store? Why block sales? Why not just switch to foreign currencies only? Why leave such a huge market? Sure, Russia is struggling with an economic a crisis but on a smaller scale – so is Europe. You don’t see Apple stopping sales there.
It may be that Apple was bound to leave Russia anyway and it figured this is the best moment to do so without worrying investors.
Starting January 2015, Russia will pass a law forcing tech companies to keep Russian users’ data in Russia. That means Apple will have to move some of its servers to Russia and keep them there.
Now this is obviously an unacceptable situation. With tensions between Russia and the US, privacy and data security concerns will force the company outside anyway.
It may be that the ruble collapse is the best Apple can go about a bad situation: leaving a billion dollar market and still look like its saving the day.
Achieving clarity in Omnichannel Retail is no easy task. Retailers, especially large ones, need to get all departments, all sales channels, suppliers and fulfillment operations on the same page.
And that’s just the first step. Then comes the IT integration where legacy systems are connected to a central management tool that handles at least inventory transparency, CRM and order management across channels.
Omnichannel Retail is not mainstream right now. It is still in its infancy. Sure, some are more advanced than others and some companies are building the future faster than others. But the truth is omnichannel is a need to be fulfilled for most retailers.
And here come the knights in shiny digital armor to rescue the day. The following 5 vendors have built omnichannel retail capabilities ready to be plugged into existing retail ecosystems. They are now the go-to elite for large retailers in need of upgrading their IT infrastructure.
Shopatron was founded in September 2000 by Ed Stevens and Sean Collier. Since then, it has evolved into an integrated SaaS platform that connects offline and online orders management, making it easier for customers to purchase from retailers.
The company offers specific omnichannel solutions, most important being:
Shopatron targets midsize retailers and its main benefit is the advanced order routing. The platform combines online and offline sales and claims inventory visibility across channels.
NetSuite was already rocking a great SaaS ERP product and a fully flavored ecommerce solution when it acquired OrderMotion in 2013. Now the company can provide inventory management across channels, a single customer view, business intelligence data and omnichannel order management.
The company, among the first to bet on SaaS platforms, is now one of the fastest growing companies in the field, closing 2013 with $414 million in revenue. The revenue is up 34%, which is a big win for the company initially backed by Larry Ellison.
NetSuite started as NetLedger, envisioned as an online accounting tool, that later turned to an wider array of company management tools.
The past two years have been very active for NetSuite in terms of omnichannel related acquisitions. In 2013 it acquired Retail Anywhere, a POS solutions company. In 2014 it acquired both Venda, an ecommerce SaaS company, and eBizNet Solutions, a company focused on WMS (warehouse management system) solutions.
Netsuite has decided omnichannel is a perfect mix when it connects companies focused o separate blocks in the retail chain.
PayPal is not the only jewel in eBay’s pocket as it seems. eBay Enterprise (formerly known as GSI Commerce) is one of the fastest growing and biggest companies providing technology and consultancy for omnichannel retail.
The company delivers four big solutions to its customer base:
Unlike the other companies on the list, eBay Enterprise goes beyond software integration and into marketing and operations. In terms of retail solutions, eBay Enterprise provides support for commerce integration across channels. The company integrates the main sales touch points, with the help of its omnichannel tools:
The omnichannel operations tools cover a lot of ground and can be used in fulfillment operations, customer care and store based fulfillment.
IBM stands for a lot of things and among them it had to be omnichannel retail also. The tech giant offers technology to retailers in need of:
Its Websphere Commerce solution connects both online and offline sales through its different versions. It handles cross-channels inventory visibility, distributed order management and scales as you would expect from IBM.
At the core of IBM’s order management and inventory tools you’ll find components IBM acquired in 2010, when it purchased Sterling commerce. The transaction cost IBM $1.4 billion but brought in 18.000 global customers.
The Websphere commerce is a great fit for large companies and powers some very well known brands, but it is somewhat a not so great fit or midsize retailers.
Hybris, now a part of SAP, is probably the best fit for omnichannel retailing. Hybris is a dynamic company focused on growth and delivers constantly on market needs.
The omnichannel solution is scalable and built on a modern and flexible architecture, that allows interaction with all interfaces. Its order management solution, inventory and commerce application are built to work together seamless and easily connect with other systems.
Hybris’ solutions work both B2B and B2C and can handle inputs from multiple inventory sources and outputs on multiple sales channels. Moreover, the solution features a central content management system that enables retailers to push content across a multitude of interfaces.
As of 2013, Hybris is a part of SAP, making it a global powerhouse connected to the world’s most popular (well, at least used) ERP.
So that’s it – these are the best of breed. Of course, there are more out there that deliver great products and I could name Intershop, Demandware or even Oracle. They, however are less inclined to omnichannel or have a really new found love for omnichannel retail. The vendors mentioned above are leading the pack in omnichannel retail implementation, especially for large customers.
Achieving clarity in Omnichannel Retail is no easy task. Retailers, especially large ones, need to get all departments, all sales channels, suppliers and fulfillment operations on the same page. And that’s just the first step. Then comes the IT integration where legacy systems are connected to a central management tool that handles at least inventory transparency, CRM […]
What does it take to turn a store visitor into a loyal customer? Any retailer that can answer this question is surely a leader in its respective niche but it is not a simple question. There are a multitude of factors at play and we thought we might ask the experts. We’ve reached out to George Skaff, CMO of TouchCommerce, […]
Here are 5 companies whose combined online sales in 2011 amount to almost $75 Billion, US and Canada only. Let’s also have a look at their background and how did they manage to reach the top 5. The winner is one of the fastest growing companies in the world, a company born and raised online and […]
What better way to get advice on implementing and improving omnichannel retail than asking the experts. So we did ask the experts and we started with Mattias Pihlström, founder and omnichannel consultant at Brightstep AB. Mattias is experienced in implementing ecommerce, multi-channel and omnichannel processes with industry leaders such as ABB, Apoteket, Ericsson, SCA, Indiska, Interflora, TeliaSonera and […]
Shopping cart abandonment is one of those dreaded issues both online and omnichannel retailers hate. There are many reasons for customers to just leave a webstore after they have picked their products, instead of completing the order. Some customers find better prices elsewhere, some fail to navigate the store but most (56%) give up on their order […]
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Add a cool filter in Instagram and it may be worth more. So luxury retailers have taken up on the chance of showcasing offline products in the most popular photo-sharing app in the world. It’s definitely worth it. With more than 300 million Instagrammers, the social network […]
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5 years you’ve probably heard about a little thing called flash sales sites. Well … maybe not so little. It seems that, according to Gilt founder and ex-CEO Kevin Ryan, the flash sales sites you’ve probably heard about, such as Gilt, Fab and Rue La […]