Online Stores as Super Heroes: Top 5 Online Super Retailers

There are retailers and then there are super retailers. Here’s a list of some of the bravest and strongest online retailers and their super hero avatar.

Let’s start with number 5:

5. Batman

Secret Identity: Apple.com

batman-apple

The Batman Super Retailer is a mighty hero – strong, determined but first of all – rich. He uses gadgets to fight off the competition and just when you think he is going down  he manages to bring out a game changer out of his handy secret belt (once every year during the WWDC).

But oh my under its dark armor (designed in California, made in China) lies a hurtful secret: The Batman Super Retailer misses his dad, killed by cancer. He tries to cope with the loss by continuing in its tradition and trying to save the world from bad design. Sometimes unsuccessfully.

Biggest enemies:

The Redmond Joker and Mr. Android.

Weakness:

The Dark Knight is everybody’s target. Everyone talks about the “the iphone killer”, “the ipad killer”, “the Apple killer”. Why? Because “he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now… and so we’ll hunt him, because he can take it.”

 

3. Spiderman

Secret identity: Fab.com

spiderman-fab

You know that awkward kid that no one actually cared about back when he was into, what was that – photography? Oh, no, wait – it was social networking. It seems he is not so awkward anymore. Overnight he turned into this fabulous, tights wearing, home decorator that simply just loves to help you pick that lovely new carpet for your living room (yeah, he’s also gay).

His super powers are a. his spidey senses when it comes to picking beautiful products and selling them online, b. climbing on walls and giving you ideas on how to better redecorate, and last but certainly not least his unmatched ability to adapt fast to the market. By doing things like letting you design the furniture you want to buy.

The Spiderman Super Retailer has recently moved on from the recently mainstream Flash Sales market and into this new thing he’s doing right now, that doesn’t include Flash Sales and is aaaaalll about design. Also – you’ve probably never heard about it.

Biggest enemies

The Green Goblin living on One Kings Lane, and a distant cousin of Iron Man, the Doctor Octopus also known as  Gilt Home.

Weakness:

Spiderman the Super Retailer catches clients in a pretty expensive marketing web. It seems that its greatest weakness is the high customer acquisition cost.

 

3. Iron Man

Secret identity:  Gilt.com

ironman-gilt

Rich, famous, bright and ready to wear some of the best suits in town. The Iron Man Super Retailer was fathered by Kevin P. Ryan, that had a history of investments in some companies you have probably heard before: Business Insider, Mongo DB, Double Click. Although his corporate siblings are definitely bright, Gilt.com seems to be the prodigal son.

The Iron Man retailer is no match for any of his enemies when it comes to building the best technology, working and managing the smartest people and just being a genuine charismatic fashion and style icon.

Although not really into astrophysics the Iron Man Super Retailer manages to learn new things on the fly, adapt and … look … he does offline retail now.

Biggest enemies

The dreaded Miss RueLaLa – rich, smart and uber-sexy. She is backed up by her corporate hotshot husband, Mr. Ebay and has so far snatched a couple of victories from Mr. Gilt.

Weakness

Beautiful she-heroes like Miss RueLaLa or Maidmoiselle Ideeli.

 

2. The Hulk

Secret Identity: Walmart.com

walmart-hulk

When it comes to this Super Retailer – one thing’s for sure: you do not want to make him angry. When things go south this green retail monster will squash its competition with its low prices and national coverage. You are never too far from him and you won’t be able to hide when he gets all “Hulk, Smash!” on you.

What’s his super power? The Hulk Super Retailer has the upper hand when it comes to size, strength and endurance. The whole operation employs 1.6 million people, it’s bigger than Home Depot, K-Mart, Costco, Kroger, Target and Sears, combined and most americans (90%) live within 15 miles distance to a Walmart shop.

His online operations aren’t to shabby either: it made $4.9 billion in 2011 and that’s him not really trying. When exposed to the Big Poppa Walmart’s Green Dollar Radiation this Super Online Retailer has the potential to make its fellow competitors look like scrawny kids.

Biggest enemies. Biggest weakness:

The biggest enemy this hunk of overgrown retailer has is itself. Bigger is not always better. The Hulk is either a smashing machine or the smart researcher working at Walmart Labs. He is still trying to control its size and keep its balance while growing so fast. He is not yet there but he will be. From that moment on there will be only one Super Retailer that will, maybe, be able to face it:

 

1. Superman

Secret identity: Amazon.com

amazon-superman

This Super Retailer is actually in a class of its own. He is stronger and faster than anyone else online. He has a global reach and can fly and wirelessly deliver its products to anyone, anywhere. He grows faster than anyone else and has so far proven unbeatable.

He was born in a time when  people didn’t believe in its type of heroes. He struggled and after some slightly awkward teenage years (it took Amazon 9 years to turn a profit) it finally showed up at the graduation party, red cape flowing and all.

He is known for making a living of print but in time it diversified its product catalogue through a combination of digital content and marketplace products. After all – how could this Super Super Retailer finance its Fortress of Solitude other than by reporting a whooping $48 billion revenue in 2011.

Biggest enemies:

General Zod, a super enemy seemingly out of this world, seems to have set up shop with AliBaba.com and is now threatening Superman’s global reach. The Hulk (mentioned earlier) is not too happy with Superman’s hegemony either and is trying to catch up but is not yet strong enough to go head – to – head with the Man of Steel.

Weakness

No one has actually found the Kryptonite that is said to be the Amazon killer but rumor has it that its expanding marketplace and investment in digital sales might not be so healthy after all.

Apple’s new iOS 7 is Big News for Mobile Commerce

Apple unveiled its new take on the iOS – the iOS 7. Certainly a big change in terms of design, the iOS 7 is actually a bit more than that – it’s an assault on a couple of yet untapped markets. Let’s forget about the shiny new icons for a few minutes and let’s focus on what really matters: iOS7 is a huge improvement for what we now call Mobile Commerce.

ios7-screenshot

What does this “big change” mean for mobile commerce? First off…

How big is iOS on the mobile commerce market?

emarketer-mcommerce

Let’s have a look what the iOS means in terms of mobile usage and mobile commerce:

First off – iOS is not the best sold mobile operating system but that doesn’t really matter as the iOS is by far (61%) the most used mobile operating system when browsing the internet. As a result, when it comes to mobile commerce, the iOS is the most important operating system.

We know m-commerce is growing fast, just like mobile usage. Last year meant an 81% increase in m-commerce sales, up to $ 24 Billion and as eMarketer estimates, the growth will continue at a fast rate in the following years, reaching almost $90 Billion in 2016.

Mobile Usage - the iOS leads the way
Mobile Usage – the iOS leads the way

That means that the mobile space means big bucks and Apple is all about big bucks. The new operating system is meant for the masses, it’s meant to take on the new wave of heavy (borderline obsessive) mobile users that will be soon shopping online from their mobile devices first.

So – we know m-commerce is big and it’s getting bigger. We know Apple dominates the market. Let’s have a look at iOS7 ‘ s new features from a mobile commerce perspective:

1. The iCloud Keychain will make mobile shopping easier

The iCloud Keychain is meant to make it easier for the iOS user to store passwords and credit card information. As mobile devices become more and more personal they will be carrying more and more of our personal information, personal history and, of course, cash.

Even with such a personal approach to mobile usage, one of the biggest bottlenecks in mobile commerce remains the actual checkout. Partly because there are so many inputs one has to fill in. Partly because taking out your credit card and filling in payment details while sipping the Venti Latte at your local Starbucks is not really what comes to mind when you think “secure payments”.

Here comes the Keychain – Apple’s solution to an improved mobile shopping experience.

2. The iOS and NFC (near field communication) payments

The iCloud Keychain integration goes beyond online payments, actually. It will probably work also as a NFC wallet, if this patent is any indication. NFC payments and transfer will probably replace the plastic cards in the near future and Apple is sure to be a part of the m-payment revolution.

3. Siri may be the next personal shopping assistant

Siri
Siri

Apple’s personal and sometimes quite charming personal assistant, Siri, was so far thought to be an overhyped voice controller for the mobile devices. With the iOS 7 Siri gets lots of improvements, with related tweets and social media connectivity, new voice features, improved usability for french and german speakers and Bing instead of Google.

Siri also gets to do a little predictive analysis to better match the user’s need. With better and better suggestions Siri will quickly become the go-to …. uhm … feature … when in need of anything, really. That includes stores, products, restaurants, cafe’s  and so forth.

With Siri dictating the recommended venues to spend your money in, that may become a serious threat to Google’s search hegemony, which might be one of the reasons Apple is ditching the search leader.

4. iOS7 in the Car and the Radio Killer

iOS7 in the car
iOS7 in the car

Apple has been working closely with a couple of car manufacturers, such as Mercedes Benz, Honda and Volvo, to tap into the emerging market of car entertainment and technology. The automotive industry has really taken its time improving car entertainment and control technology but it seems Apple has once again managed to bring on the innovation it is known for.

The “iCars” will be available starting 2014, the year cars will probably start coming equipped with wireless internet. Such news may mean an improved driving experience as Apple promisses a new car experience.

As the iOS 7 comes with an “iRadio”, streaming from Apple’s iTunes library, that may be very bad news for both conventional Radio Stations, online radios and probably, even the new music stars – on demand streaming apps such as Pandora, Spotify or Deezer.

The iOS 7 in Car integration also means location based recommendation from Siri and a decrease in local radios driven sales. Instead Apple will probably push forward some kind of location based ad system. This was probably the reason it was bidding against Google for Waze.

You may wonder why is the iOS7 in the car such a big news for m-commerce. The answer is the letter “M”, for mobile. The car becomes the actual “mobile device”. The iOS7 car integration may be a whole lot more than we expect in terms of market disruption.

Conclusion

Maybe Apple’s iOS7 is not its best take on mobile interface design. Maybe they did get a little too inspired by Windows Mobile. But also, maybe we’re underestimating the new, Steve Jobs free Apple. The company showed guts and determination at launching a revolutionary, if unusual, product. Apple may stumble once in a while but the company continues innovating and bringing change to new markets. The iOS7 may not have the prettiest icons but it is sure as hell huge news  for mobile commerce and the car industry.

5 Things Online Retailers Could Learn from the Game of Thrones

The Starks. The Lannisters. Dragons. Swords. Power. Blood. Sex. Aaaand violence. I guess this pretty much sums up a slightly superficial yet short description of the Game of Thrones series.

starks

Now if you’ve opened up your Facebook or Twitter account today, you definitely  know something happened. Last evening HBO aired a certain episode called “The Red Wedding”. I will not spoil it for you, if you’ve not seen it yet, but it was a pretty shocking episode. Blood and death ruled the storyline and social media reactions quickly followed.

Just to get an overview of how much impact Game of Thrones had, here’s a tweet from musician Ed Sheeran that pretty much sums it up:

Yeah, things got pretty violent. Shocking actually. And that got me thinking. Not the usual things one might ponder on but something closer to my professional interests. As the credits rolled in, I found myself wondering what could online retailers take away from the GoT Universe? I pretty much narrowed it down to 5 things (there is still a certain limit one can take away from blood, death and violence). Here they are:

5. Form alliances

Some alliances are better than others.
Some alliances are better than others.

You are not alone. Of course, you might have a strong company, you may not need partners right now and yes, others can sometimes slow you down.

However, you never know when you might need to launch a new product or face a strong competitor. That’s when allies such as industry bloggers, influential community members, thematic forums or websites will prove really useful.

Develop your customer community. Grow a company blog. Sponsor thematic websites. Maybe all of these. You never know when but your allies will come in handy.

4. Always be on the watch for challengers.

Retail is a fast moving industry. Online retail moves even faster. You might be the king of the hills today only to find out your market share has dropped faster than you could say “Winter is coming”.

If you’re not the market leader you probably want to be. That’s human nature. Also – online retail nature. With hard work, creativity, and a couple of other things you too can reach the “Iron Throne” you’ve battled for. Once you’re there you need to keep an eye for certain news that might predict a strong challenger:

  • a more flexible business model
  • better products
  • better marketing
  • better team

3. Technology can save you. Almost magically.

What is your company's Wildfire

If you’ve been watching the Game of thrones you might remember season’s two finale. Peter Dinklage’s character, Tyrion Lannister leads an outnumbered army against a potentially disastrous siege. His best choice is to use the “Wildfire” – a magical substance that acts as a very powerful and persistant explosive (consider sorcery to be the equivalent of technology in the Game of Thrones universe).

With the help of the Wildfire, Tyrion manages to save his castle and his life.

Now, just like the movies, technology is probably lurking somewhere around you. Be sure to reach out and use the best available technologies if you want to stay competitive.

4. Keep a look out for the new king product.

There is probably no secret to you by now that some products perform way better than others. For a limited time. Than some other products gain your customers best favors. And than others and so on.

Keep a look out for the king product. There is always a struggle on the market and while you can marginally influence the outcome you cannot predict it. It is really not up to you to decide what your customers want but rather what they can choose from.

Be sure to treat your king product or products royally and they will repay you. How can you do that? Here are some tips:

  • be sure to make it easy for your customers to reach your king product
  • bring on new customers by advertising your best sellers
  • if you don’t have one already – create a special products category

Remember though: different customers may be on the look out for different king products. Try to customize your online shopping experience according to each customer’s needs. With the help of technology.

And finally …

5. Kill your products.Well … not all.

A fairly iconic scene in the Game of Thrones Series. The death of Ned Stark.

Just because you have a virtually unlimited storage space doesn’t mean you really have to keep all products in your catalogue.

Some products are … well … underachievers. They cannot be kings. Or queens, or barons, or soldiers. They are not wanted. Your customers don’t buy them. Maybe they don’t even want to see them.

So – test your products and clean up the mess. You can handle an limited amount of products. Your customers want a limited amount of products, curated only for them. With the rise of flash sales focused on certain types of individuals online catalogues seem to be getting smaller and more focused on customer’s needs.

Don’t be afraid to cut out underperforming products. You get more time with your king products. Do the math – more focus on the best sellers, less on the underachievers. You can only improve.