The Reason Why You Should Be Making (Small) Mistakes

When it comes to ecommerce most of us live in a “Fog of War”. What, never heard about it?

What is “Fog of War”?

intel-armyIn military strategy the term shows the uncertainty one has to deal with when it comes to battle area, enemy forces, enemy positioning and others. The “Fog of War” can easily be described as a lack of visibility or understanding of engagement conditions. The less you know, the thicker the fog.

In a given “Fog of War”  situation, you have to maximize intel by diplomatic, open-source or secret intelligence so as to prepare as best as possible to engage the enemy or prepare for any incoming attack. What is definitely not an option is just sit around and expect the enemy to attack.

The basic thing you need to take away is that when in dark, you have to shine some light by exploring nearby terrain and options.

There is no success without failure. But failure is definitely not success.

All in all – mistakes or failures are pretty useless. I mean – of course, Thomas Edison is famous for saying “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” when referring to his inability to find a decent light bulb.

Unfortunately for most of us trying to innovate our way to success, what this quote fails to mention is that by that moment Edison was successful enough to fund those 10,000 failures.

The fact is failure is still failure. Mistakes are mistakes. There is nothing great or noble in making mistakes. If possible – don’t make them. But if you do – mark them as not to be repeated and than leave them behind.

No one remembers Columbus for his 17 years trying to get a couple of lousy boats to cross over the ocean while NOT discovering  America. No one remembers Einstein for his brilliant carrier as a patent clerk while NOT improving his Theory of Relativity. Everybody gets credit for the things that are NOT mistakes or failures.

However, along the way to success, while discovering and gathering informations to see through the Fog of War, we will make mistakes. Actually most of the things we will be doing will be mistakes. That means we are trying. That means we are searching and while searching, at some point we will come across our objective and then, just then, we will be ready to learn from our mistakes. Not before, because …

We, humans, don’t “learn from our mistakes” because our brain is not built that way

You must have heard the phrase “we learn from your mistakes” so much by now that you consider it a fact. Well – it’s not. When it comes to learning and discovering somewhat complex tasks we are really better at learning from successful actions rather than mistakes.

Apparently our brain remembers short term memories that lead to correct actions and forgets useless details that just don’t work. According to Earl Miller, professor of neuroscience at MIT, “it is reward, rather than its absence, that is driving learning.”

So while trying to find out how to outsell your competitor remember what really counts: the times you got something right. That’s when you and your team will be learning the most important things. And you need to learn and discover new things because …

There is a world of possibilities when it comes to ecommerce

Netonomy.NET being an ecommerce blog, I wrote this post  to encourage you to try new things, to innovate and allow yourself the right to make mistakes. However – don’t settle for anything but success.

Watching Amazon, Ebay, Asos.com and all other big online retailers is not enough. Do your own thing. Try, fail, succeed. The next big thing is just around the corner, if you’re willing to go through some Fog of War.

An Ecommerce Guide to Improve Holiday Sales

santa-claus

The holidays are coming and for most online retailers ’tis the season to be jolly. With shoppers starting their Christmas purchases as early as september, the holidays season starts earlier for those that really want to take advantage of this opportunity.

When to expect sales? Source: ICSC Spending Survey
When to expect sales? Source: ICSC Spending Survey

Most retailers expect 20-40% of their yearly sales to happen during holidays. Here are some things you should keep in check to insure optimum online store performance and increased sales:

1. Check your suppliers and stocks

It would be quite unfortunate if your sales would increase tenfold and yet you could not ship in time for everyone to get their presents. Say Little Timmy was due to receive a brand new toy but you can only deliver on the 27th of December. Too late.

Even worse – say you have one bestseller your pushing out there on the market and demand is so big that you’re left with no stocks after Black Friday?

These things and many others can happen and can leave a big impression on your sales, profits and customer retention so make sure you check your supply chain for any problems. Here is a brief list you should have in mind when preparing for the holidays:

Check your stocks inventory and your main suppliers

Have a look at last year’s analytics and see what products were most likely to convert users into buyers. Round up the total sales per product and increase that figure so you make sure you’ll be ready to supply the demand.

After you’ve optimized your inventory – make sure the supplier won’t bail out on you if you’ll still run out of stock. You never know when you’ll get your big hit.

Have clear commitments from your shipping supplier

Everyone will expect their purchases  delivered by the 25th of December. If you can’t fulfill that – you’re likely to lose a lot of customers. As such – make sure your shipping supplier is ready to deliver on time. Push for shorter delivery terms. After you’re done with that you should also…

Be ready for a lot more pick and packing

Remember – the objective is fast delivery. The fact that the shipping supplier delivers the next day may be useless if it takes you 5 days to pick (or order) and pack an order.

The Holidays will likely increase activity in the warehouse so make sure your fulfillment team is ready to handle a lot more work than it’s used to. If not, scale up temporarily. Can’t scale up? You can outsource your fulfillment operations to a third party logistics (TPL) supplier such as Fulfillment by Amazon.

2. Holiday marketing starts in september

Of course – that doesn’t mean you have to post Santa Claus pictures, snowflakes and Christmas Carols on your Facebook page but being prepared long before your competition can work out miracles. Here are some things you should get ready for, things that usually take quite a lot of time to prepare:

Sell Christmas Bundles  to insure up-sell

Great products need less marketing and bundles are great ways to insure your customer feels he’s getting more for the buck. Your best-selling products are usually bought with other smaller accessories. You can find out which are these by having a look at last year’s purchases and analytics.

Have a look at what people bought and how they bought it. Try to look for patterns in these purchases but don’t stop there. If you see that customers bought an Xbox, two extra controllers (one to play with and one to replace the one they’ve previously smashed against the wall) and the latest GTA – make it a bundle. Go beyond that and bundle up for a Playstation gift.

It’s hard to pick presents. Make sure you offer Gift Cards

Remember that ” ’tis the season to be happy ” part at the beginning? Well – turns out that’s kind of a lie. People feel depressed and anxious during holidays. Among the reasons – media overload, crowded places and a pressure to find appropriate gifts for those they hold dear.

Of course you can’t shut down the media overload but an online store is a great place to avoid the crowd and a gift card can be the perfect gift for anyone. Have a look at what customers are preparing to buy as Christmas gifts:

• Gift Cards: 59%
• Electronics (ex: TV, Computer, iPad/Apple products): 38%
• Apparel: 35%

Gift cards are not a maybe – they’re a must.

Improve your search ratings and email database BEFORE Holidays

How will you get customers to your site? Of course – they are buying, but are they buying from YOU? If you’ve planned to increase your sales during the Holidays you can be sure you’re not the only one. However – you can improve your results by:

  1. Improve your listings in search results: there aren’t many things you can “quickly do” (heard this like a bazzzilion times) but there are some, as long as you have a fairly decent search engine positioning:
    1. Check for lack of content – some of your products may not have an appropriate description or may not have a description at all, the title may be missing or misleading. If you’re new to this, a great place to start is Moz’s Begginer’s Guide to SEO.
    2. Structured data goes a long way when you go head to head against your competitors. Showing data regarding product prices, ratings etc. directly in search results can be the difference between a sale and an user that doesn’t bother to click on your link. Better have a developer include Schema.org structured data but if you’re curious to what this means – check out the “getting started” area on Schema.org.
  2. Increase your email subscribers database: Offer discount, vouchers, products – anything really but get those people to signup to your newsletter, before the holidays. When it comes to sales during holidays, a fairly targeted, permission based newsletter can do a lot more in terms of sales than your usual display or facebook ad.
  3. pinterest-drives-ecommerceImprove your Pinterest page – people on Pinterest like to buy stuff. That’s why they browse. Here are a couple of stats (you can read more about it here) that will make you WANT to improve your Pinterest presence:
    1. Pinterest drives 41% of ecommerce traffic, 4% more than Facebook
    2. Pinterest users are big spenders – at $80.54 average value per referred customer, Pinterest is doing better than Facebook ($71.26) and Twitter ($70.17)

Make sure your Store stays open through the traffic flood

Your Black Friday program will likely increase traffic by more than 800% . Most online retailers have an larger increase and the trend just gets better by the year. That means that in order to have your store open during the surge in traffic you should:

  • move your store into the cloud so you can easily upgrade used resources when needed. Don’t know what “cloud infrastructure” means? You should definitely catch up with IT reading because these things are not IT – only territory, anymore.
  • increase call center operators if you have a support line (hint: you should have one)
  • focus mostly on client service and less on marketing when the holidays are actually there. Client service sells, marketing just drives people in the store.

This short guide covers some of the most important basics. If these areas are fully covered – you should do fine during the holidays but make sure you come back to Netonomy.NET for more information.

Pinterest Ads: Who Needs Them Most?

Pinterest has been growing steadily for the past year and some think of it as a possible competitor to Facebook’s social media turf. That means they do very well in the growth department.

Pinteresting Ads - source: Pinterest Blog
Pinteresting Ads – source: Pinterest Blog

Money isn’t a problem either (at least not for now), as Pinterest is slowly digging through $200 million in funding, but it still has to come up with a monetizing plan.

Pinterest growth rate decreasing in the US, increasing worldwide.
Pinterest growth rate decreasing in the US, increasing worldwide.

Last year’s try with Skimlinks probably looked great in a board meeting pitch but it caused quite a stir when word got out that Pinterest was changing it’s users’ links into Skimlinks affiliate leads. The company was accused of making money of its user generated content (which everyone understood, as … you know … servers cost money), without their consent or an explicit disclosure (which seemed to be not so easy to understand).

That was definitely a failed attempt at monetizing Pinterest’s growing userbase and they seemed to have learnt a lot from that. In the post announcing the new feature CEO Ben Silbermann promises ads will be:

  • Tasteful. No flashy banners or pop-up ads.
  • Transparent. We’ll always let you know if someone paid for what you see, or where you see it.
  • Relevant. These pins should be about stuff you’re actually interested in, like a delicious recipe, or a jacket that’s your style.
  • Improved based on your feedback. Keep letting us know what you think, and we’ll keep working to make things better.”

Pinterest Ads are great news for Ecommerce

pinterest-drives-ecommercePinterest is first of all popular. Not just in the US. All over the world. Users devote time into building, curating and browsing through handpicked photos of products, dreamy locations, fashion photos and many many others. Most things people collect and see pinned onto their boards do have one thing in common – they can be bought. And boy does it show:

  1. Pinterest drives 41% of ecommerce traffic, 4% more than Facebook
  2. Pinterest users are big spenders – at $80.54 average value per referred customer, Pinterest is doing better than Facebook ($71.26) and Twitter ($70.17)

All in all – Pinterest is the biggest social player when it comes driving relevant (and by that I mean paying) traffic to online stores.Yet not all industries are equal – some will benefit more than others when using Pinterest Ads.

Which are the categories that will benefit most from Pinterest ads, in terms of ecommerce sales?

You are probably guessing the leading industry but first here are the runners-up:

3. Travel

Travel pins account for only 2.5% off all pins but don’t let that small percent fool you. Pins get shared and in an industry where everything is judged by the numbers it helps improving your margin with a little thing called emotion.

Pinterest is great at instilling positive emotions and shifting purchase options towards recommended / shared locations. While it it was hardly worth the trouble to orchestrate a social media campaign that gets some kind of traffic rolling now everything will get easier with sponsored pins.

2. Home deco / home lifestyle

Home is the most popular category on Pinterest, with 17.2% of all pins categorized as home items. Not surprisingly either: 80% of all Pinterest users are women, more inclined to look into home lifestyle items and 50% of them have kids.

With an annual household income of over $100 000 or more for 28.1 % of Pinterest users, you can be sure that this is the place where you can market home related items. Brands such as Crane & Canopy actively engage Pinterest users and draw new products inspiration from the things they see trending on the social network.

1. Fashion

The big winner is of course Fashion, for both men and women. When it comes to style, beauty and clothing, 11.7% of all pins are pinned under Fashion and those pins usually come from popular users, influencers and fashion media outlets and bloggers.

Think the previous numbers are pinteresting? Well get this – Sephora’s Pinterest users spend 15 times more than their Facebook counterparts.

Sephora’s Julie Bernstein is unforgiving when it comes to Pinterest vs Facebook:

“The reality is that when you’re in the Pinterest mindset, you’re actually interested in acquiring items, which is not what people go to Facebook for,” Bornstein said. “Facebook continues to be just a great customer interaction tool that gives us the real-time ability to dialog with our customer; it’s a big customer-service venue for us.”

There’s no denying that Pinterest is here to stay when it comes to online retail. It probably helps to be pinning even if you’re not dealing into Fashion, Home or Travel as pinners are buyers. But if you are selling these products  then Pinterest Ads, a great addition to your Pinterest marketing policy, will probably bring a great deal of new customers to your business.

Selling and Marketing Cars Online – 5 Most Important Trends

People may not be (yet) buying new cars online but they sure spend a lot of time and energy researching their future purchases online. Remember the old cars salesman stereotype? Forget it. The new cars salesmen is the guy with the most positive online reviews, a stellar social media presence, hired by the friendliest dealership in town and quick to respond to his customers’ questions.

new-cars-online-stats1. Car buyers are in the market for 5.3 months. Mostly researching online.

Speaking of customers – those looking into buying a new car are in the market for roughly 5.3 months, as shown in this Cars.com research. During these months they check out:

  • information regarding manufacturers
  • information on car models
  • dealership information

Now when it comes to dealerships – you can be sure that by the time a customer sets foot in one he has probably read everything available online on:

  • company website
  • social media profiles
  • online reviews

Sometimes potential customers don’t even bother visiting their local dealerships if online reviews are not good enough. A curated online presence can do miracles for dealers as long as their service matches their marketing. Good service and reliability are still the most important factors when deciding what and where to buy. Recent online developments just make it easy for customers to find out the good and the bad about dealers and cars.

2. Photos sell cars. Reliable cars.

decision-to-buy-carWe all know how important photos are when buying cars. 63% of potential car buyers make their first steps towards a purchasing decision based on photos and other media. However, no dealer is going to make them pay unless esthetics are backed up by great reviews on reliability (52% new car buyers showed interest), features/colors (51%) and safety information (49%).

3. Mobile is used before, while and after purchasing a car

As mobile is quickly revolutionizing every aspect of our lives we were bound to use them on the spot, in dealerships, when making our final decisions. If you’ve used your smartphone in the dealership you can rest assured you are not alone – 43% of customers visiting dealers use their mobile device. Most frequent uses during dealership visits are targeted at:

  • pricing information (57%)
  • general information (22%)
  • vehicle information (14%)

So price checking really matters when visiting the dealer. It’s not a secret that any dealership will try to maximize its margin but that seems to be harder and harder with everconnected consumers.

Much more than this – customers will also check for user generated content on the spot. 79% of new car buyers value user generated reviews , as this CapGemini report shows.

The same report outlines some of the media channels buyers will scan to form an opinion. The big take away from the info below is that social media outlets (for both manufacturers and dealers) really matter when forming an opinion. Make sure that they are well set up and properly maintained.

infomation-checking

4. Customers connect to connected cars

options-connected-cars
Connected users need connected cars

There is a growing need for connected cars. I wrote about it a couple of months ago and now, with the new iOS 7 and recent developments in smartphone manufacturing customers seem to be getting what they want, when it comes to in-car smartphone support:

  • driving support
  • care information
  • remote support
  • communication
  • vehicle information

5. Women feel empowered when it comes to buying cars online

A big shift in car buying, especially when it comes to online-related purchases is the fact that women seem to be more and more engaged.

What has been looked at as a traditionally male influenced industry is shifting by the day and internet plays a large part in this shift. Women are big spenders when it comes to auto: they spend more than $200 billion yearly on new cars and car – care. They also influence over 80% of all new car purchases and account for almost 65% of all car service work done on dealerships.

These are some really, really big numbers and they just keep on increasing as women feel empowered to negotiate their prices behind a computer screen. Once a somewhat biased industry, the auto dealerships are leveled fields for both men and women and purchasing can now be fun and engaging for women. Feel like reading a little more about it? Check out Libby Copeland’s experience with buying a car online here.

In the end remember that:

  1. customers will research online their car options long before visiting a car dealership
  2. dealerships are (still) the ones to finalize the car sale
  3. unreliable car salesmen will soon be a thing of the past
  4. mobile is changing the way we buy cars
  5. women are quickly becoming the most important segment in car sales

 

 

Showrooming and The Future of Retail

Brick-and-Mortar retailers are in trouble with online retail becoming mainstream. A signifiant part of that trouble are customers testing or trying on the merchandise and than buying it online, cheaper. It may not be the end of brick store but showrooming is a sign that we are witnessing a new chapter in the bricks vs clicks story. Possibly – even more.

What is Showrooming?

showroomingSimply put Showrooming is the practice of checking merchandise in store and than purchasing it online, usually cheaper. Although the practice has been around ever since online stores became competitive in terms of prices (past decade), things started moving a little faster now that smartphones allow in-store price checking. Customers can go to the closest store, try the product they want to purchase and than research prices online. Amazon even has a special app for that.

That’s obviously frustrating for store owners. They setup the shop, pay invoices for rent, pay checks only to find customers passing through the store, checking out the merchandise and than buying it elsewhere. Shoppers, on the other hand, don’t really care if the store makes any money or not. They want to try the product (check!) and than purchasing it at the lowest price (check!).

When it comes to it, companies such as Amazon, Net-A-Porter or eBay, mostly online operations, are of course benefiting and even encouraging the trend. On the other hand traditionally offline retailers frown upon, helplessly,  and look for ways to counteract Showrooming.

There is great reason to do so as 69% shoppers look online for better prices and 47% look for free shipping, when checking products in-store.

Showrooming stats
Showrooming stats

There are ways for brick and mortar retailers to fight these trends at least in the short run, by:

  • offering to price match their online competitors
  • increase customer retention by creating loyalty programs
  • develop online operations to increase market reach and decrease product costs, therefore harnessing the Showroomin trend

If you’re a classic retailer you should note that these are only temporary solutions because…

Showrooming will eventually turn stores into showrooms

On the long run physical stores will probably become obsolete. A recent study by Paris-based Capgemini shows that:

  • most offline stores are expected to become obsolete in their present form, and will be replaced by actual showrooms by 2020
  • when that happens, shops will actually sell more, as 56% of digital-enabled shoppers spend more when they first research the product they want online
  • 73% of shoppers expect online prices to be lower

There will be no “brick and mortar”-only retailers

The Boyer, Hensinger & Kleppinger General store, now a part of history.
The Boyer, Hensinger & Kleppinger General store, now a part of history.

Retailers tend to focus on the practice of showrooming, but there’s a larger picture of a rapidly changing reality. It’s not this practice they should be focusing on but rather the changing landscape of multichannel shopping. There is nothing mystic about online retail’s rise: it’s just that customers get more products for less money.

Expensive operations as brick and mortar stores, hardly manageable teams that usually harm retailers’ brands and many, many other overheads all add up to a tectonic shift in traditional commerce. Offline-only retailers are a thing of the past. They can ignore the trends, they can fight them but sooner or later they too will be transformed, just like the traditional media juggernaut.

Ecommerce cuts out the middle men

As far as historical records go, commerce has been a traditionally multi-level industry. There were those that produced the goods, the big buyers, the carriers, the retailers, the marketers, all adding up to the costs. When globalization came into effect that became even more so.

Say you wanted to develop and sell a computer. You had those handling raw materials, processing them, the assembly line, the shipping company, transport, distributers, retailers. Not to mention everyone in R&D, accounting and all those other XXI century white collar jobs. Just a glance shows a very, very long line between development and actually delivering the product to its end user.

All along this line, everyone adds costs. In the end the one that pays for these costs is the consumer.

No some companies thought they can do more with customers paying less and such was the case when Dell decided they will be shipping their customized products to those ordering online, when Apple decided they will just go ahead and open their own Flagship store and also let users purchase online, when Amazon built a bridge between writers and book-buyers – they were all just cutting out the middle man.

Startups are slashing through middle men

Outstanding design and materials to Warby Parker eyewear
Outstanding design and materials to Warby Parker eyewear

You think that’s just a timely thing? Here’s a list of startups that are slashing merciless through middle men with the power of ecommerce:

  1. Founders of Warby Parker showed they can slash prices on premium eyewear by cutting out designers, brands, wholesalers and retailers. From just 1% online buy rate for glasses they now expect the industry to deliver almost 15% in the next year. They managed to do that by letting customers receive home 5 pairs, for 5 days, so people can try them on, ask their friends what they think about them and than return 4 back without any charge.
  2. Seasonal collections? Screw that, Crane & Canopy releases new high quality duvets each week based on Pinterest and social media trends. They do that by connecting premium factories to end buyers. They cut out the wholesalers, retailers and premium designers.
  3. Similarly, Bonobos started when Stanford B-School students Brian Spaly and Andy Dunn decided they want to start a new business, met with a taylor and figured they can make affordable fitted clothing for men. Soon enough they were raising $16.5 million in venture capital and the business really took off.
Bonobos founders Brian Spaly and Andy Dunn
Bonobos founders Brian Spaly and Andy Dunn

These are rather small startups but if you remember no more than 30 years ago – there was no Apple. 15 years ago – there was no Amazon.  10 years ago we had no Facebook. Personal computing and music, books, communication an media – all industries that had been radically and irreversibly been changed by these rather young companies, driven by the amazing change the Internet is.

We now know retail is changing. With it – our whole society. The outcome is hard to predict but the signs are here. Small and mundane as it might seem, showrooming is one of those signs.

Twitter Files for IPO. Expected to go Public at More Than $15 Billion Valuation

In a recent tweet (how else?) Twitter made public its plans to go public:

The IPO will probably be lead by Goldman Sachs and as the company has already received offers between $26 and $28 a share which puts the company valuation somewhere above $15 billion.

What’s next for Twitter, before the IPO ?

twitter logoNow that Twitter has made public its plans, it will need to add some figures to its revenue. The fact that they were able to submit a S-1 form confidentially means that Twitter’s revenue is still under 1 billion (their recent moves show that they are trying to reach that target by end 2014).

Three things to expect now that Twitter has announced it will go public

Soon enough we will probably know more about what’s under the hood but we should be expecting some changes in the company and in the market:

  1. More focus on revenue. Duh! Twitter recently hired ex Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard to handle Commerce operations. Note that there is no one too high profile handling this at Facebook.
  2. One of the reasons Twitter hasn’t yet gone public is Facebook. Although Mark Zuckerberg seemed to handle the IPO pretty well, the fact is Facebook was overvalued and undertraded in the first half-year after the public offering but then George Soros bought in… Dick Costolo thought it would be better to wait a little bit and see how everything works out for FB. Now that Facebook’s stocks are trading well above its initial prices, things seem to be a little brighter.
  3. Twitter will need to turn their ads into something that generates global traction. That means they will probably implement new formats. I expect it to focus a lot on multichannel experience and conversion.

Apple CEO Tim Cook: “The App Store is the Biggest Online Store that We Know Of” – WWDC 2013

Tim Cook at WWDC 2013
Tim Cook at WWDC 2013

Apple has just released its new iPhone 5S at the WWDC 2013. That’s the biggest news in tech right now. Now for something more online retail related news – Apple’s CEO declared App Store to be the biggest online store that they know of, and he sure has some figures to back that up:

  1. Apple sold over 50 billion apps in the App Store
  2. There are 900 000 applications online, 93% of which have been downloaded in the previous month
  3. There are more than 375 000 iPad apps, more than any other tablet
  4. Most important – there are 575 million registered users, most of which have registered with their credit card and are ready to pay with one click

Yup, the App Store has 575 million registered users.

appstore

So – we have one of the largest companies in the world, with one of the biggest online retail operations that just mentioned that it has almost 600 million users ready to buy whatever they’re sold with the click of a button. They sold 50 billion apps. They have roughly 500 million iOS devices out there on the market. Let’s just think for a moment of what would happen if Apple decided to seriously go into … I don’t know … books?

Beat that, Amazon.

4 Ways you Can Engage Customers with Mobile … Other than Sales

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5 years you’ve probably heard about these two buzz-words – “mobile” and “mcommerce” (or mobile commerce). Usually retailers use them together because hey – that’s what retailers do – sell stuff to people. Now that a new channel is here let’s just go ahead and grab it. Well – maybe that’s not the best way to go.

You see – people tend to think of their mobile phone as something quite personal. It’s always there in their hands or pockets, it holds their most private conversations and information, it’s there when they go to sleep, it’s there when they go to bed.

Not many think in the same terms about retailers or shopping. Shopping is less of an addiction (except for those shoes, ladies) and more of a mix between (1) necessity, (2) convenience and (3) marketing induced propensity to buy. Nothing really personal there so don’t expect your customers to download your app, browse the products and buy after. Oh, and mean while, if you do expect that – don’t push notifications unless they actually ask for it.

When building a mobile app – do more than replicate your online store

Mobile sales
Mobile sales

Say you’ve built an online store for your brick-and-mortar operations a couple of years ago. By now you’ve probably seen a healthy increase in sales and you’re quite confident in online retailing overall so you decide to invest in a mobile application to handle mobile users’ needs. You decide that the logical thing to do is build an mobile app to showcase your products and let your users buy from that app.

That’s what usually retailers do but not what users want – remember the personal attachment people have to their phones?

Here’s a couple of things you can do right on your online store to serve mobile shoppers (which, by the way – are on the rise as you can see here):

  • build a responsive design to handle desktop users, mobile users, tablet users
  • adapt that design to fit each type of device
  • make payments as easy as possible and as secure as you can for mobile users

Now that you’ve covered the basics, while not boring or forcing your users to adapt to your store packed a native application, let’s make your mobile experience personal:

1. Make it useful

The smartphone is nothing if not useful. You can use it as a music player, email reader, browser, game console and dozens of other things. Your app should be useful. Here are a couple of examples as how companies made their apps useful to the targeted audience and changed the way customers thought of them:

Uber connects passengers and drivers. Changes the way they connect.

uber

Alright – Uber is not actually a retailer but we need not think in terms of black and white. What Uber handles extremely well is a customer need and delivers to that need as well as it’s expected. Note that its mobile approach is just a means to an end: customer satisfaction.

Amazon is sure it can outmatch brick and mortar competitors’ price. Launches barcode scanner app to prove it.

Amazon Barcode Scanning app
Amazon Barcode Scanning app

Amazon handles a huge inventory. If there’s any product out there that has a barcode attached to it, chances are you can buy it on Amazon with one click. The company makes that easy with its barcode scanning app – find a product, check the barcode and find it on Amazon. Easy and useful.

2. Make it fun

The Amazon Kindle is a disruptive mobile strategy that changes the way we read (and buy) books.

The Kindle iOS App
The Kindle iOS App
Back to Amazon – ever thought about the Kindle as a store? No? Because it’s one of the best stores out there. You can’t see the cash register but it is there. It is hidden behind that great mobile device / mobile app that allows you to read your favorite books (and purchase more of them), but it is there. It’s so good that it helped Amazon reach a point where, in some markets, it already sells more eBooks than paperback.

Talk about fun…

3. Make it local

Shop Nearby, by The Find
Shop Nearby, by The Find

Let’s just assume that not all shoppers are inclined to buy online or rather more – some of them need to find a product quickly, in their nearby area. The want the product now and are willing to drive to the local store to buy it. Here comes Shop Nearby, by The Find.

The application makes it easy for you to find a certain product in your close area or browse through all shops nearby.

4. Make it Personal

Last but not least. Make it personal. It has to be personal because mobile devices are personal items and apps should be personal also.

Gilt understood this when they launched …

Gilt personalized shopping

“Our goal is to make it even easier for members to discover products they love while they are on the go” said Steve Jacobs, Chief Information Officer at Gilt.com

Personalized sales
Personalized sales

Gilt.com is, as you probably know, one of the largest fashion flash sales retailers online. With a huge database filled with customer information and purchase history they can make their approach to sales chic and personal again.

When Gilt.com was launched it served as a private venue for brands to unload their unsold inventory. It used to be private and quite a little secret for Gilt’s members. Once the store got bigger and bigger they found they were unable to cope with users need for short-stock brand clothing. Even more – they couldn’t handle selling premium brands discreetly, something their suppliers were not really happy with.

Now that the personalized shopping has been launched, users can get special (and by that I do mean special) deals, based on their purchase history.

What’s not to love about a store that handles a one-on-one relationship with millions of customers?

Twitter Starts Developing Commerce Operations. Hires Ticketmaster CEO to Lead Commerce Efforts

Twitter has recently hired Nathan Hubbard, former Ticketmaster president, to lead the charge on its commerce operations. This move is a part of Twitter’s efforts to pass the $1 billion revenue threshold by 2014. With its current revenues coming almost exclusively from advertising, Twitter figured it can unlock its social commerce potential, a market that is still untapped by most social networks.

Twitter's new Head of Commerce - Nathan Hubbard
Twitter’s new Head of Commerce – Nathan Hubbard

While Twitter’s intention is not exactly disruptive or unexpected, it is interesting to have a look at some of the subtle nuances. Hubbard recently declared in an interview that…

“We’re going to go to people who have stuff to sell and help them use Twitter to sell it more effectively. One of the hallmarks of Twitter’s entire approach has been partnering. We’re going to take the same approach with owners of physical and digital goods.

– Nathan Hubbard

Taking into account Hubbard’s words and the recent developments in social media and eCommerce some things are to be expected:

  1. It’s really important to note that Twitter’s efforts seem to be going into C2C territory, as well as the traditional approach into B2C. Twitter’s users may be empowered to exchange and trade stuff on the social network, an activity that is not that uncommon on its main competitor platform, Facebook. That may mean that Twitter’s commerce innovation will be to help transform its social network by adding a C2C commerce layer, not unlike Ebay’s platform. It does have the users, it might just as well let them trade.
  2. There seems to be a great focus on digital goods, as they may work better with the digital market Twitter is building. Some of Facebook’s best commerce results came from digital content, such as apps, especially Mobile App Install Ads. The Install Ads have helped Facebook increase its share of mobile – related revenue to 41% of total. But digital products is a far larger market than apps. It goes beyond to include concert tickets, airline reservations, hotel reservations, digital books and many others.
  3. You might have noticed that Twitter left the “e” out of its “eCommerce” operations as the company has a Commerce target. Both online and offline. A multichannel approach, if you will. As the lines between traditional and online retail have become almost invisible in the past years, Twitter seems to be looking into an integrated commerce approach, tracking and targeting the potential consumer via brick and mortar stores, as well as online. To help deliver metrics on such efforts, the company recently paid $90 million for Bluefin, a social and TV advertising metrics company.

 

There is a high chance that Twitter’s commerce efforts might not be all that spectacular, as even the mighty Facebook seems to be running around in circles when it comes to commerce, but I am personally looking forward to see where their efforts take them.

Smartwatch Commerce? It Might Happen. Ebay is testing Ecommerce Apps on the New Samsung Smartwatch

We all knew it was coming but we kinda expected Apple to be the first one to market the Smartwatch. Although the fifth iPod Nano generation kinda looked like a watch, it was not one.

Samsung just launched the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch (I’ll just stick with “Samsung Smartwatch”). The company’s CEO, mr.  J.K. Shin, unveiled the gadget in front of a 2.5 k audience in Berlin, two days before the opening of  IFA Berlin.

Among other features, the Samsung Smartwatch comes in 6 colors (Jet Black, Mocha Gray, Wild Orange, Oatmeal Beige, Rose Gold, and Lime Green) and users can choose from 12 third party apps (58 more to be announced). One of those is powered by Ebay.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch.

What does Ebay’s App for Smartwatch do?

Ebay's m-commerce app for Samsung Smartwatch
Ebay’s m-commerce app for Samsung Smartwatch

First off, just as you might expect, Ebay’s Smartwatch app is really limited in terms of features, mostly due to the low interaction area.  With a 320×320 px amoled screen the Samsung Smartwatch is not the world’s best platform for mobile commerce apps.

It is, however, big enough to handle things such as bidding, alerts and a simplified browsing system.

As Ebay is moving into mobile apps that improve users experience and retention the app is a bold move and it  may be more to it than it meets the eye.

Could Ebay for smartwatch handle barcode scanning or instant bidding?

One of the things that sets Samsung’s Smartwatch appart from the competitition is the 1.9 megapixel built-in camera. It might just be that the most interesting thing about this device, in terms of mobile commerce, could be the camera’s possible barcode scanning abilities. In such a case users could just walk into a store, test products, scan the barcode and later purchase the product on Ebay.

An instant bidding feature that follows barcode scanning might just make sense when it comes to smartwatch commerce.

Is there any future to Smartwatch Commerce?

We all know that mobile commerce has not yet really taken off. People are indeed using mobile apps to search for products, browse online stores but they are not actually shopping. When it comes to to smartphones or even tablets, customers are yet to be as trusty with mobile apps or mobile versions of online stores. When tablets and smartphones can’t really deliver how would a 320×320 px resolution smartwatch do that?

The answer is that we shouldn’t treat different screens as separate media. They are part of the multichannel experience that drives the customer to purchase a product. The customer will probably scan a product to find info online regarding the price, compare it on a mobile phone or tablet to other products, read the full description and get more info on the desktop or the brick and mortar store and than purchase.

Ebay’s strategy to build a multichannel, multidevice customer experience might be the winning formula. It sure did work miracles for Apple.