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Monday, 17 January 2011

ePages Social Commerce

Enhancing Customer Experience

eCommerce is changing as we see more influence from social networks and we see greater motivation to share content between visitors. Your customers are looking for a more social experience than ever before. They want to see up to the minute communications and information; and they want to participate. New generations of online shoppers expect to find this interaction on your store. But even your existing customers will see information in social networks that might lead them to another store. So you have to be there and be part of the social commerce generation.

ePages V6 makes this easy with lots of built in features that we will cover. If you do not use ePages V6 then there are alternatives using plug-ins and add-ons to most online shopping software. A great social sharing tool that is easy to add to most websites is the AddThis service it is free and a great tool. For something a little more advanced you can look at Wibiya which integrates to most websites. If you run an online store an issue to watch is how these add-ons work with your SSL for encrypted pages.

If the online shopping software or system you use doesn't support social commerce then it might be time to upgrade.

Business blog, forum and guest book - Communicate with your customers

By using a business blog, a forum or a guestbook, you are showing your customers that your are open and present thus strengthening the customer relationship (i.e. customer retention) The corresponding modules can be integrated into the website from the shop system and do not need to be linked via external blog or forum software. Content of the integrated business blog as well as the forum are automatically made available as RSS feed.



Product review and recommendation - Let your customers decide

Customers prefer to purchase products that other customers have reviewed positively. To enable this in the ePages shop system, you can activate the "Product rating and review" and "Product recommendation" or "Tell-a-friend" function.



You decide yourself whether this function can be used equally by all customers or only by registered customers. When reviews are written by customers, you can specify whether they will be visible immediately in the shop or whether they must first be approved by you.

You can utilize the opinion of satisfied customers on price comparison and product portals as well as by eBay. ePages has link-ups to Getprice, shopping.com, Google Base and other platforms as well.

Questions about products - Help your customers

Don't make your customers have to search for your contact information. Offer them an automated link to a contact form on every individual product page. 

RSS feeds - Stay up-to-date

Search engines and customers love content that's up-to-date. That's why you can embed RSS feeds with appropriate external content into your shop. Here you have the option of using already specified feeds or creating your own.
As participant in the free Amazon partner program, you as shop operator, have the option with the RSS feed function of bringing Amazon products into your shop and earning a commission on their sale. 

Gadgets - Little helpers for your shop

Gadgets are small programs that can be integrated into websites and shops in addition to the shop's actual content. Increase the entertainment value for your customers and increase the length of time they spend in your shop. With the ePages shop system, you have access to a large number of predefined gadgets. 



The Wikipedia gadget for instance facilitates looking up terms that are marked in the shop or website directly at the online encyclopedia. You can thus immediately illustrate particular material types, for example, in a very elegant way. 

The YouTube gadget allows you to quickly and easily integrate your own product videos in your shop.

Social Media – Sharing your product content

Your visitors and customers are now more than ever likely to use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to exchange information with friends and colleagues. So you can now make it easy for them to share your content by adding the social sharing features in your online store. It is easy to automatically add by just enabling the Social Web feature under Marketing. 



Once you have done that you will see the “Like” and “Share” buttons appear on each of your product pages. Your customers can click on the links which will send your page like to Facebook or Twitter to be shared with your customers’ friends and network.


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Can your retail store sell online?


What is the big deal about selling online? 

10,000's of Australian businesses, and millions worldwide, do it now successfully. Some large Australian retailers like Dick Smith and City Beach do it successfully. But a few narrow minded retail executives can't see past their wallets. 

If they want to compete then go online and stop the whinging. 

Does it mean losing jobs? Well I don’t think so. One of the largest department stores in the USA, Macy's, has just announced that its online channel is adding 725 jobs

Does it mean losing customers? Definitely not as you will be able to compete outside of the traditional demographic and geographic space. 

Does it mean taking "in store" business away? Macy's as an example believe that for every dollar spent online drives $4 to be spent in store.

Is online selling today eating into the traditional retail sector in Australia? No it is not but lets get the numbers straight. Online retail accounts for less than 8% of all retail in Australia. Online sales from overseas account for around 20 - 30% of all online sales in Australia so less than 3% of all retail. 

Online retail is growing rapidly and exceeded $20 billion in Australia in 2009.

The challenge for traditional retailers is to get their heads around another channel selling for the business.

The addition of an online channel for a traditional retailer just needs some planning. It also needs to be approached like any other investment in your business. If executed well the online channels can add significant value to your business both in revenue and equity.

On the other hand poor execution will just mean that you may not be as successful and that you miss an opportunity and probably waste money. Poor execution in my opinion is to not adequately planning or funding the channel. As with any new shop that you might add to your brand the online shop needs to represent your business, its qualities, products and level of customer service. So think before you execute but don't procrastinate.

As a technologist I have to tell you that technology should not be the driver. Great technology can be poorly or improperly implemented. I am not saying that technology does not matter just that it is not the most important consideration. Large retailers often have large information technology organisations; who immediately absorb eCommerce projects as information systems projects. The online shop or eCommerce channel is first and foremost a marketing and sales vehicle for producing revenue and creating customers.

You would not hand over the decision on establishment and strategy for a new bricks and mortar store to a bunch of carpenters, plumbers and electricians regardless of how good they might be.

Building an eCommerce Strategy: 

In building a strategy and plan for your eCommerce channel you need to look at the following topics and that covers 80% of the plan.
  • Mission and Aims
  • Business Objectives
  • Business Alignment
  • Tactical Deployment
  • Marketing Requirements and Goals
  • Content Gathering and Management 
  • Fulfillment and Logistics 
  • Financial Management and Payments 
  • Social Media 
  • Platform and Technology 
  • Maintenance and Management 
  • Review and Recycle 
You must also produce a budget in line with your expectations of sales and revenue with KPIs that can be monitored. Give your online store its own P&L and Balance Sheet.
 
Questions and Issues About The Business:
  • How you will deal with;
    • Content,
    • Pricing & inventory,
    • Logistics,
    • Service & support,
    • Payment & refund/returns,
    • Security.
  • What is your business model
  • What kind of resources will you need
  • What is the demographic focus
  • What expertise is available
    • Self managed
    • Need assistance
Shape your Competitive Advantage by understanding the landscape
  • Market and demographic shifts occurring?
  • Develop an easy-to-use purchase process?
  • Consider localisation requirements?
  • Consider customer relationship management and personalisation?
  • Make sure that you select a scalable platform or solution?
  • Make sure you have a team in place?
  • Marketing Campaigns and requirements?
  • Integrate to external systems, suppliers or 3PL?
  • Customer service help desk capabilities?
I am remarkably positive about the future of online retail in Australia and New Zealand. We have a rapidly growing opportunity base, we have buyers who have come of age, we have good companies competing, we have payment security and we have logistics and shipping covered. Australia is a great place for your online store whether it sells just in Australia and New Zealand or to the world. Remember - "fail to plan equals plan to fail".