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.

Why Gmail’s New Interface is a Direct Hit to Email Marketing?

Gmail has recently switched on its new tab based interface. As a general rule – when the leading email provider changes something so signifiant in its interface, it must be somewhat important. On one hand users get a cleaner, marketing free first view of their inbox. On the other hand, and marketers should really be worried about this – users get a cleaner, marketing free, first view of their inbox.

gmailtabs

What are the changes in Gmail’s tabbed interface?

First and foremost Gmail changed the stream – like view of incoming email to a tabbed organizer, that seems to organize individual emails pretty well into 5 main categories:

  1. Primary – usually email from individuals
  2. Social – emails focused on social media activity
  3. Promotions – marketing messages from brands you’ve subscribed to
  4. Updates – usually transactional emails such as internal messages notifications, registration confirmation and others
  5. Forums – notifications from forums or groups you’ve subscribed to

Of course – as any automated organizer system, Gmail’s tabbed interface may sometimes be wrong. Users can now move incoming emails from one tab to another and “teach” Gmail where to put incoming mail.

Why is the tabbed interface so important to Google and Marketers ?

Google, through its AdWords advertising program and contextual traffic sends much of the qualified traffic to online stores and other online marketers. It is so good at generating qualified traffic that it’s only real competitor so far is email marketing.

As you probably know – Google is all about advertising. Its main revenue source comes from AdWords and as such the “Do no evil” company needs to protect its cash cow.

Splitting the screen will lower email open rate and, in turn , email conversion rates. Soon enough marketers will find that in order to reach their established customer database they will need to improve marketing efforts in order to move their company emails from the dreaded “promotions” tab to “primary” by the incentivized will of their subscribers.

Is the tabbed inbox going to change email marketing?

Probably. What I definitely know is that online retailers will need to adapt to this change or risk cutting off one of their most profitable traffic sources.

Another thing that I find obvious is that this type of interface change will soon be adopted by all major email providers such as Hotmail or Yahoo Mail and than we will see the real impact this change had.

The Customer is not a Robot. She is Your Wife. 3 Tips on Improving Customer Experience.

David Ogilvy famously said “The customer is not an idiot. She is your wife.” back when advertising was less about media budgets and more about customer understanding and providing ads that use the type of message your customer actually wants to hear.

Untitled-1

Ogilvy was also famous for his approach on advertising. When all others were ignoring research he took an almost religious approach in discovering customer insights so that his ads can deliver information rather than boring or obnoxious advertising.

Years later the world has changed. 2012 meant an increase of 21.1% in global ecommerce. The total ecommerce sales have reached $1 trillion for the first time in history and are still going strong, according to eMarketer.

World's biggest in terms of ecommerce spending.
World’s biggest in terms of ecommerce spending.

The revolution is here and both retailers and customers have started looking more careful into online shopping. Yet again we find customers are still not being treated as they should be. In the world of bits and code lines we started expecting users to act like robots. Click here! If this than that! Choose now! Rather mechanic, don’t you think? That can improve and below you will find 3 tips on how to improve your customers’ experience.

1. Be relevant

Customers still like  offline stores better than online stores. Why? Basically they are more accustomed with this type of shopping experience. They’ve done this all their life and feel better about shopping offline. But we, as marketers and retailers, know that “classic retail” is just as artificial as online retail. Of course there are people around doing the same thing, you have the store associate there to help when in need but most of all you have relevant merchandise and relevant stores.

How often had you walked in a supermarket only to buy groceries and had one of the sales people jump in front of you yelling they have a 70 percent discount on a certain brand of TVs? Well you hadn’t – that would be creepy but it does happen all the time in online stores, especially those dealing with a certain not so smart selection of merchandise.

We once had a customer that dealt in fashion. They had huge success online and thought about expanding to other areas. First accessories. We thought – well a nice dress is nothing without a pair of earrings to match it. Then came travel. Mmmm… fashionable people need to … travel? Next came electronics, household appliances which was weird enough for fashion retail but the “piece de resistance” hit the fan when we noticed, standing graciously underneath a beautiful pair of shoes: a jar of pickles. On discount.

Needless to say that is NOT the best way to stay relevant to your customers. It’s hard enough to build a brand on a single industry and unless you can magically profile users like Amazon or Facebook do, you will not be able to jump wagon to another industry.

2. Be more than Online, Offline and Mobile. Be Connected Across Channels.

In a recent study by Accenture focusing on customers’ habits of shopping seamless research showed that users feel they need to be treated the same online, in store and on mobile interfaces.

Integration of  the Big Three (Product, Promotion, and Price) across channels.
Integration of the Big Three (Product, Promotion, and Price) across channels.

That is, of course, pretty intuitive. We believe that we have the right to be treated the same no matter where are we shopping. As customers we feel that we should be earning loyalty points for both online and offline.

As retailers and marketers though we find that connecting online and offline operations (usually treated as two separate divisions or even companies – as was the case with Walmart and Walmart.com) is a bit of a hassle. It’s not really easy integrating informational systems to serve the customers as they would like to be served. That shouldn’t stop us as 49% of customers expect seamless treatment across platform when it comes to promotions.  Moreover 43% have a unified account when it comes to their favorite brand and expect to use this account to shop faster across channels.

“Webrooming” (the practice of getting information on products online and than purchasing offline) has been growing steadily, with 83% of customers reporting they purchased a product in store after previously researching it online. That’s just a little part of the changes multichannel shopping brings aboard.

3. Make it Simple

How many products does Amazon sell? Probably millions. Chances are you will be seeing a tiny fraction of those whenever you feel like shopping there. Even more – those are the products you are actually interested in. How does the company do that? It keeps tracks of your purchases, visits, ratings, and a couple of other indicators you can read about here. It then matches these options with other’s to return a sorted product list that you are most likely to enjoy and buy. Presto! Simplicity.

The thing is customers are not robots. They have a very short attention span compared to what most online retailers expect them to. They need a simple way of getting to their desired products. A couple of things you can do to improve on these are:

  • track users behavior and predict their purchase intentions
  • improve search according to semantic searches (human talk – ex. “looking for a blue, casual shirt” might return all shirts that are blue, and casual)
  • hide any products that are not in user’s interest area.

As a conclusion – treat your customers as human beings. They are not purchasing machines. Facts and figures are great tools but make sure you treat your customers as you would want to be treated. Our technology has evolved a lot but our minds have not.

Three Technologies that are Disrupting (Online) Retail

Retail is changing fast and it’s part due to some new, disrupting technologies that we can see at work with companies such as Amazon, eBay or Walmart. Here are three of these technologies:

1. Print on Demand

Long gone are the days when self-published authors needed to spend a small fortune to get their novels printed, when refused by publishers.

If you wonder what exactly is print on demand here’s the basic info: say you’ve written a book. You’ve designed the book covers, you you’ve checked your beautiful work of art for grammar errors and now you wanna sell. If you’ve heard about print on demand you know you have to upload the document in PDF format, sign up for a free or premium service and companies such as CreateSpace or Lightning Source will print that document whenever someone orders your precious book. They keep a share of the revenue, the customer gets your book and you get to brag to your nephews that you are a self published author.

Anyone can sell print-on-demand (POD) books, without publishing large numbers of books, keeping them stored and dealing with the hassle of distribution and marketing. All they have to do is choose one of the larger print on demand services, upload an already fully designed book (complete with book covers, headings, table of contents and all the other things typically reserved to book designers).

Amazon’s Create space

Create Space, an Amazon Company
Create Space, an Amazon Company

Amazon’s CreateSpace features one of the best services reserved for upcoming authors that need to publish their works as fast and cost-effective as possible.  Although anyone can theoretically publish their book by themselves, a certain amount of help with book design, copy editing and of course marketing is usually needed. CreateSpace offers a wide array of services to those willing to pay for it.

The big plus: with CreateSpace the conversion to Kindle format and distribution in Amazon’s market is fast and easy so new authors can enjoy being published on the worlds biggest book market and its new prodigy – the Kindle ebook reader.

Once the user sets up its basic account he or she can start selling. Of course, Amazon will charge 20 to 60% plus a fixed printing amount. No one said writing is necessarily profitable.

Lightning Source

Lightning Source
Lightning Source

Create Space’s biggest competitor is Lightning Source, a subsidiary of Ingram, a company that deals with connecting publishers to stores and libraries. I mentioned that because if you want to see your book in a real library shelf you are most likely to choose Lightning Source.

The company has a remarkable distribution operation with libraries and stores, unlike Amazon, who is still not really in the friendliest terms with libraries, stores or publishers.

Other companies that provide print on demand services are Blurb, a bit more expensive and usually oriented to photo books, and HP’s MagCloud, featuring reasonable prices and fairly competitive printing.

2. 3D printing

iPhone case
iPhone case

We can print books on demand  but what about other things? What if you could shorten your supply chain to just a big 3D printing machine, without any need for factories, suppliers or stocks that might or might not sell?

Right now the 3D printing revolution seems to be more of tech subculture than a real business. But you know what? So did the PC market back in the 60’s.

Here’s something Ebay just launched: a new product called Ebay Exact, a partnership that brings together three leading 3D printing companies (MakerBot, Sculpteo and Hot Pop Factory). Ebay’s users can now browse to a set of products from these companies, choose from a wide selection of materials, colors and options and create their personal favorite product.

This is just a small step into creating better products with faster delivery time and the 3d printing market will soon evolve to a popular solution for online and offline retailers. If you balance production, shipping and import taxes soon enough we will be better off printing, say, a chair than purchasing it from a factory overseas.

3. Robotic Warehouse Management

Kiva Robot
Kiva Robot

Although we haven’t been overrun by sentient robots as SF books and movies predicted – we did shift a lot of work to these machines. With ever growing online retail operations – humans just don’t fit in anymore in the warehouse, as their jobs and responsibilities are shrinking by the days.

Kiva Systems is a company that deals in fulfillment automation. It provides technology and robotic warehouse management to the likes of Amazon.com.

Have a look at how they manage to put their little orange robots to work:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWsMdN7HMuA&w=420&h=315]

Higher Education can’t Keep Up: Online Retailers Need to Hire Experience, not Diplomas

It’s pretty hard for anyone to admit it but it’s true: universities can’t keep up with the times. They cannot deliver qualified individuals for the growing online retail segment because there is nothing to be qualified on. Of course, there are some courses that cover some successful business models but truth be told there is no use in knowing Amazon’s business model as long as there is already one Amazon on the market.

The original college drop-out overachiever.
The original college drop-out overachiever.

How did it come to this? When did this pillars of economic evolution start to lose ground? Let’s have a look at some of the potential causes and some answers on how to hire and develop the right individuals for the online retail segment.

Universities teach rules. On the internet rules are meant to be broken.

The whole concept behind higher education was that one might benefit from (1) a few extra education years, (2) access to some very experienced professors and most important although not usually talked about – (3) a network of like minded, probably successful colleagues. These three factors don’t really apply to online business in general and online retail in particular:

  1. with wonder kids such as Mark Zuckerberg and the Google Duo, dot-com entrepreneurs are expected to be successful before their early thirties. Spending too much time in the academia is not really the best choice if you are an aspiring young millionaire. Have a look at this M. Zuckerberg’s interview back when Facebook was Thefacebook.com. The thing you should be thinking about – how can someone driven, ambitious and aware can stay in college for 4 years when he feels ” ‘near future’ being like anytime in the next seven or eight days.” Remember – this guy is a Harvard drop-out.
  2. as for the “very experienced professors” – there is no way they can actually be that experienced unless their name is somewhere along the lines of Jeff Bezos or Jack Ma. The high education fees and the time spent in conventional education facilities are not really that useful when it comes to innovation. Professors are not really the most adaptable types. Most of them are still trying to understand and explain the Dot.com Bubble. They are historians rather than explorers. Of course, understanding our past can save us from some trouble but it can also lead to a certain lack of innovation, a thing the internet thrives on.
  3. the network of like minded, probably successful colleagues is not really spending that much time in the classroom. They are studying, alright, they are building networks and they are building stuff. Just not where you would expect them to do that. They hang out in technology hubs, they read books on their Kindle and their laboratory is probably a Macbook.

Unfortunately a college diploma shows only that the individual can remember some things and can obey rules. That’s great for middle management and below but what do you do when you need to hire talent? Where can you find people that can turn Brick and Mortar stores into online retailers?

How to attract talent that can develop Online Retail Companies?

No matter how big your company is – you will be always faced with recruiting issues. How to look for the right candidates, how to attract them and how to keep them are always distinctively  difficult issues.

Some of the larger companies, such as Walmart, have chosen the path I believe works best: buying entrepreneurs. When I say buying  – think more than cash. The large pay check is one type of incentive, but not the only one. The right kind of people need a purpose, a direction and the freedom to choose their own teams. They will be motivated by a large vision, a goal to strive to and a team that can help them achieve that goal.

Here’s how Walmart CEO Mike Duke managed to lure ex-eBay engineer Jeremy King, now CTO of Walmart. Notice how Mike Duke had already decided that although ecommerce is not really the biggest piece of the pie – it is the key to continue Walmart’s development in the future.

After years of seeing his company lag online, Duke swore that digital was now a priority for Walmart. Duke had restructured the company, placing e-commerce on equal footing with Walmart’s other, much larger divisions. He had made serious investments in high-tech talent, acquiring several startups.

Hire experience – any kind of experience.

Remember – what did you do when you first tried to ride a bike? Chances are that unless you were an unusually talented  child or a late learner you got a few bruises out of your first try. However, due to those slightly annoying incidents, you managed to learn what to do and what not to do.

As an online retail business owner or manager you should be looking for experience. Experience doesn’t come easy. As I said earlier in the article – there is no one there to teach young professionals what to do and what not to do. So far, at least. As such you will be dealing with people that failed, struggled, tried again and again and eventually learnt a thing or two about online retail.

In time, education will adapt to this changing landscape and it will offer better suited courses. In the same time online retail will develop into a mature industry and things will start to get rusty again, just as it had happened to classic retail. Then you will be able to hire diplomas again. Until then – keep you eyes open for experience.

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.

How big are Flash Sales Sites? An Infographic.

We had a look at how flash sales sites work and got into some details regarding their business model.

So, just to get a better understanding at their size and growth rate, I’ve prepared an infographic which I hope you’ll enjoy:

Flash sales sites stats as infographic
Flash sales sites stats as infographic

If you like the information, be sure to visit our sources here and here.