Monday, February 28, 2011

Why is it important to have an e-commerce website that loads quickly?

In this latest episode of online video interviews I set out why is it important to have an e-commerce website that loads quickly.

Here I talk about the current expectations in page download time and quote the popular book by Steve Krug "Don't Make Me Think".

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You're not just watching a revolution

As you've probably seen recently, the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have had the Social Media 'experts' around the globe saying "I told you so".

Yep, Social Media has been given the credit for the biggest political events in the last few years. From toppling dictators through to funding the campaign for the first black American President, you can find the Web 2.0 gurus claiming the credit.

But as some technology and social commentators such as Malcolm Gladwell have stated "the French didn’t need Twitter to overthrow the monarchy and the American Revolution happened without Facebook".

Now, I'm not going to state who's right, wrong or missing the point here , as I think there's another important aspect that needs to be covered...

Social Media isn't just changing the political landscape. It's now changing everything from the way people consume media (e.g. try watching live tv events without following the back-channel of Twitter, once you've started things are never the same) or the way they shop (e.g. try asking a teenage girl not to Facebook her friends from the fitting room of TopShop).

So to those who say we're now seeing a revolution unfold in several North African countries using the different social platforms... I say think bigger.

You're not just watching a revolution, you're participating in one!
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is e-commerce software necessary?

Do you really need an "all singing and all dancing" ecommerce software package to trade online?

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What is e-commerce?

Second video of my series of videos covering the basics of eCommerce.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What is the most important aspect of owning an e-commerce website?

Here's the first of a series of video I did for 'Hit Me' for Fresh Business Thinking. These clips focus on the basics of eCommerce for those just starting out or looking to improve their basic transactional website.

Here I cover the key factors of: product, price and stock, plus talking about the security and stability of your website.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Email and Social Media - part 2

Yesterday I posted about how email was generally in decline, seen as the old person's tool compared to the younger allure Social Media. But it doesn't have to be that way...

Email is great:
  • It has almost instantaneous delivery to a specific known address that usually has a single person receiving & reading it.
  • Email can be forwarded in a standard way (no strange and manual ‘re-tweeting’ to worry about)
  • Email has instant delivery feedback loop – via ‘bounced’ reports
  • You don’t need to be ‘friends’ with someone to receive it (and sometimes you may not even know them or like what they are sending you)
  • And it is just as useful for B2B as well as B2C marketing.

Email is also apparently far more popular than Social Media Guru’s would have you believe. Looking at the eMarketer statistics [below] it’s clear that far more users subscribe to brand emails than ‘Like’ brands on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.
But it’s not a popularity contest between email and Social Media. Both now have their integrated role to play in the digital world. AWeber in its Email Marketing Customer Survey report last year (which has a primarily US-based SME customer base) found that almost 70% of small business marketers are employing some sort of social media tactics.
Perhaps more interestingly… a majority (77%) indicated that integrating email marketing and social media is either “very important” or “moderately important” to them.

I would therefore argue that there has never been a better time for email.

Perhaps that’s why Facebook is now giving people their own email addresses?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Email and Social Media - part 1

I was recently chatting with colleagues about the use of social media and email. Eventually, in some Orwellian fashion, it distilled down to the following thought: Social Media = New, Email = Old

This thought has been validated by the recent report in the New York Times that there is a generation of difference between the usage of Social Media platforms and email. With the surprising statistic that “In the last year, time spent using e-mail sites like Yahoo and Hotmail has fallen 48 percent among 12- to 17-year-olds”

It seems that in the hyper-modern world we live it, where new is typically better, email doesn’t come out of the situation too well with young people. But why is this?

Perhaps because it has been around so long, it’s no longer considered part of the digital revolutionary’s armoury. (Note: We still consider it part of the “Digital Toolkit” we use for client projects at Ideal Interface)

For example… How can a cutting edge online consultant even think of suggesting a technology that is almost 30 years old? ( . Especially when there’s the new sparkly social media set of: blogs, wikis and social networking sites out there! What sort of consultant in ‘new’ tools and processes would they be if they suggest something even your gran now uses?

Or maybe it’s perhaps it’s because email is the most ubiquitous online business tool we have in the modern word (being even more popular than MS Office IMHO!). Forget Facebook with its 500+ million users, email is used by far more than that (the most recent statistic I can find is about 1.2 billion, this was from 2007, but there may be a more recent figure than that). In fact, the one thing you need to sign-up to Facebook to initially prove who you are… is a working email address! And don’t forget just how many email notifications you get when you participate in social networks.

Basically, email has fallen out of favour despite being such a powerful marketing tool.

So doesn’t email just need better PR?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Your hardest working employee

We're living in a time of austerity. An age where boom and subsequent bust have now been replaced by stagnancy and misplaced optimism about the economy.

Companies of all sized are, quite rightly, looking to get more for the same (or less): car fleets are stretched another year before replacement, machinery is worked through the night to optimise its use and staff are 'requested' to work additional hours to save on salary costs (when in reality, we all know the inference is that unless staff actually work harder and put those extra hours in, they could be added to the list of potential redundancy candidates)

But what about your company website? How hard is it actually working for your business?
It's sat there day and night, designed & built with the aim of getting you more customers or keeping the existing ones serviced and engaged. But is it doing all it could?

Surely your website should be your hardest working employee?

If its not, then talk to your digital agency straight away and see what they suggest....

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Digital customer retention

You've no doubt read my previous postings on digital customer acquisition, via a complex toolkit of PR, marketing and conversion. However, I've not really mentioned the online tools for retaining customers once you've got them.

My original thought for this posting was to list and explain them all, as I've done for other stages within the customer acquisition lifecycle. But after thinking through this subject in more depth, I came to the conclusion that there really is only one main digital retention tool ..... email.

Well, if you think about it, how do you typically get contacted by an online retailer to suggest another product from their new range you might like? How do you find out your favourite band is touring again (if you're not already browsing their website, most likely during work hours)?

Sure, you have other methods.... (and I need to ponder subsequently the value of social networks such as Facebook for creating customer loyalty) however in my mind the principle digital tool for customer retention is email.

Does anyone disagree?
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FCommerce has arrived

I've been mentioning the use of FCommerce (Facebook Commerce) for retail ecommerce for almost a year now. In fact, I believe that coordinated selling via Facebook and other Social Media channels is the 4th stage of the Social Media Maturity Matrix.

And it finally looks like its taking off in a big way, with the announcement today that French Connection, the UK clothing chain are to join Asos in opening Facebook store at the end of the month.

It seems that you'll be able to buy directly from Frech Connection's news feed, therefore hopefully creating some value for the retailer to the act of 'liking' a brand online.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Influential Thinking

Today we put yet another site live. is one more of the divisions within All About Brands, our parent company at Ideal Interface. Its only a small site, but we're proud of its clean & elegant design.

All feedback, both postive and negative, is gratefully recieved.

Monday, February 7, 2011

How integrated it digital in your company?

"Oh, we don't have a online strategy, we don't need one"
"A website? I guess we'll get round to thinking about that eventually"
"Lets see how the brand looks on paper before we worry about that Internet stuff"

Sound familiar?

Its amazing these day that companies and the individuals within them are still not sufficiently joining up the communication and engagement channels. For too many the Internet is seen as a "bolt on" to their existing work practices and not an essential tool they need to consider from day one.

So if you find the phases above all-too-familiar, what can you do about it? Here's my suggestions:

1) Market digital at every opportunity
This may seem obvious, but continue to bang the online drum at every opportunity. A lot of senior executives have woken-up to the digital alarm clock and more and more are beginning to realise its effectiveness and usefulness.

2) Stay abreast of the latest and greatest products and thinking.
Don't get caught out by someone saying something like "we've just heard of [online product or service] and wondered what you thought about it"... its these opportunities that can mean the difference between getting a digital project sponsor and not.
Note: Although I would never suggest lying about your knowledge or expertise.

3) Try to stay strategic and business focused
Its not all about the technology.... any digital initiative has either got to make money or save money somehow to be commercially viable in the longer term. Make sure you can justify any proposed investment or at least show how you plan to measure its effectiveness.
Hint: Linking a digital project to the strategic or business aims of the organisation helps!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The year of the rabbit - some predictions

No, I'm not becoming Chinese, I just thought I'd give some predictions for the year ahead now. Mainly because I missed all the prediction stuff last month as I was rather busy.

What are the tools and trends to watch in 2011, now that its over a month old?

Here's my take on the year ahead:
  1. There will be another technology along very soon that most of the people here won’t understand or care for how it works. But some of us will use it in our personal lives and in business to build relationships.
  2. Companies with large numbers of ‘fans’ or ‘likes’ on Facebook will soon start asking “Ok, so what? How is this helping my relationship with my customer and making me more money?”
  3. People will still need to run business and make money… and many will do so just fine without all this stuff
  4. Social Media analysis will become a specific skill that employees (mainly agencies) will want to capture, create or cultivate.
Oh, and one prediction for the longer-term while I'm at it... We won’t use the term ‘social media’ in 5 or perhaps even 3 years time. It will simply be a ubiquitous part of how we communicate.

Let's see how these predictions far next Chinese New Year

Friday, February 4, 2011

Social Media Maturity Matrix

Yesterday I posted on Social Media Maturity and that someone needs to come up with a matrix, a one pager that answers the various questions about the maturity levels of different organisations and their Social Media activity.
Well, rather than wait for someone else to do this, I've taken the initiative and put my own together.
This is not supposed to be the finished article, but merely 'work in progress' and a concept I would like feedback on so that it can be developed, etc.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Social Media Maturity

Where is your company or organisation along the path to maturity when using Social Media for business use?
How do you gauge your activity with those of your competition?
What's the next step on from what you are currently doing online?
What Key Performance Indicators should you be looking to measure at each stage in this evolution?

I think someone needs to come up with a social media maturity matrix. A one page diagram or similar that starts to answer the above questions...
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