Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is the term innovation overused?


'Innovation', along with the buzzwords 'synergy' and 'efficiency' have now become such a cliché that they have lost their impact to most people.

However, in an always on world where ideas are instantly streamed from pc to pc and continent to continent, success is short and new products & strategies are copied quicker than ever.

A lot of companies who now claim to be innovative are just doing their job. Adaptation and change are just business-as-usual things that organisations need to do to maintain the status quo.

But still I see companies talk about innovation as something that happens to a single person and not the entire organisation. It's a flash of inspiration, rather than a cultural way of building competitiveness.

Perhaps we need to rethink innovation or come up with a new term for things?

Digital DNA - do you have it?

Everything you use these days is powered, improved or made by technology. From the kettle you boil your morning tea with, through to the smartphone you browse the web with, play games with, share images with and occasionally make calls with. Technology is unavoidable in the modern world.

But some people just seem to understand it more, they just 'get it'  and others don't. Why is this? 

It's pretty obvious that younger people, the digital natives, are far more savvy than the older  ones. They've been weaned and brought up seeing tech used in everyday life and are far more familiar with it in business, encouraging the BYOB (bring your own device) approach that we now see IT departments struggling with. My three year old daughter tells me "daddy, the tv is broken" because it isn't touchscreen and doesn't allow her all the choice available on her* iPad.

* I haven't actually bought her a £500 device, this is a work purchase. But somehow it typically finds its way onto her lap when it's not being used.

But it's not just an old vs new thing. I've seen some young people struggle with even a simple device and have observed senior citizens pick up & use intricate equipment like they've always had it. On top of this, there are grades of tech understanding, which sees some users coding complex development code in minutes and others just about able to use consumer devices.

I put this down to something I've been referring to as Digital DNA. The additional skill of understanding modern technology and being able to use it quickly and effectively for either passing the time, saving time or for commercial gain. 

Don't get me wrong, this is not some genetic mutation I'm suggesting here, that will be revealed by sequencing the chromosomes of specific people. It's actually a mental function that either exists or is developed (natured or nurtured? That's perhaps a question for another time), but I call it Digital DNA because for me this goes to the core of an individual. It means they are far more likely to integrate tech products and concepts into their work & play. They have it within them to understand how things work and integrate without much explanation and then are willing to learn as they go.

The secret for any employer looking to keep ahead of the competition in the online and increasingly multi-channel market, is to identify these people within the organisation and decide how best to use and encourage this innate ability.

Hayden Sutherland
Digital Strategy - Website Delivery - Online Marketing
+44 (0)780 1341955

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ecommerce for everyone

I work with some fab companies, helping them implement or take their ecommerce operations forward. These tend to be major organisations who have established retail operations, such as stores.

The digital marketplace has quickly filled up, leaving only those companies who have yet to take the ecommerce leap. This is a diminishing minority now, mainly made up of those who think they are either too small to set up an online sales channel or who are happy enough to let someone else run the digital commerce channel for them.

But what opportunities are there for other companies to move into the ecommerce space?  What about those websites who don't already have an existing sales channel, could they benefit?

Quite possibly.

Setting up a professional ecommerce operation isn't as difficult as you might think. 
Isn't it about time we had eCommerce for everyone who wants it?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How can companies stay ahead in the 21st Century?

Business life is hard right now and even the large corporates are having to examine everything they do to stat ahead. Here’s some of my high-level thoughts on the trends andapproaches that are shaping the modern digital workplace and therefore how competitive edge can still be maintained:

1. Digital DNA
Online is not a 'bolt on' to the customer's life, it is howthey live their life now; digital has become part of the customer DNA. Theyadopt, use and integrate technology all the time, to either save time or wastetime. Businesses therefore need to put themselves in the mind of thedigitally-savvy customer or just think like the customer they actually are.This is especially true of the newer generation (Generation Y / Millenials /etc.) who are ‘Digital Natives’, for whom most cannot remember a time beforethe Internet and the use of multiple screens is an everyday occurrence.
The aim is therefore to create understanding, encourageinnovative & agile ‘web 2.0’ thinking within a company and learn how to apply this within the modern working environment.

2. Customer-centric 
The concept of ‘User Centred Design’ has been successfullyutilised for over a decade now to create online experiences that put the userat the heart of the process, rather than just being a passive node that has todeal with whatever interface the system creates at the end.
This turns some business processes on their heads, as theway some corporate departments and product catalogues are structured are notnecessarily the way that users want to browse, search, consume, etc.
Be prepared to turn things upside down if it means thedifference between doing what you’ve always done and what needs to be done tomove forwards.

3. The connected corporate ecosystem
As more systems become interconnected and as we all learnthat data does not have to be re-entered if it already exist online in someform…. This will provide the opportunity for some data (e.g. inferred from auser’s browsing history) to be integrated with other data (e.g. explicitknowledge about a user’s age, purchase habits, etc.) and to significantlyreduce human errors such as those from simple data re-keying. The semantic webis almost upon us, is your business ready?

4. Use of Data for insight
Thanks to the Internet, every 2 days the human race nowcreates as much information as it did in its entire history up to 2003. Thisgrowth in ‘big data’ creates its own challenges (e.g. the storage and abilityto quickly access the right data, re-posted mis-information, etc.) as well asits own opportunities, such as an unprecedented amount of useful data on userbehaviour.  This therefore facilitates afar greater level of personalisation and supports various real-time activities& incentives such as individual offers and rewards (perhaps the very reasonwhy mega supermarket Tesco used & subsequently purchased DunnHumby forcustomer insight and data driven marketing purposes) plus then the future predictivecapabilities that may come from this.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Turbo-charging your digital marketing strategy workshop

This week I flew off to participate in a day of meetings and discussions about the digital marketing plans for a well know IT equipment manufacturer.

The whole day went really well (in my opinion) and as well as meeting people I'd only spoken to on the phone before, I got to do what I really enjoy.... Standing up at a whiteboard with a marker pen & post-it notes and working in a collaborative way to map out "what the short and medium term will look like".

Doing this sort of workshop can at-times be a little daunting, however I've done enough of them in the past to be able to cover most problems that are likely to occur. But this session was actually made a lot easier by two important factors that I wanted to share:

Firstly, by having an agency team around me who are not just smart (even though we all got up before 4:30am that morning to catch our flight), but able to think in a commercial and practical way.

Secondly, having a couple of clients participate in the workshop who are not only digitally-savvy, but driven, passionate and fun at the same time.

This all meant we were able to not only get the plan of work for the short & medium term mapped out, but we got to understand far more about the supporting factors, systems and processes necessary to deliver the business objectives. In essence, getting twice the work done in the same amount of time.

If only every workshop could be like that!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Research online, purchase offline - don't miss out

ROPO is a term introduced by Google some while back to reflect the cross channel habits of today's modern shoppers who research online and then go on to purchase offline.

This is often the unmeasured factor in eCommerce sales, where the online store has actually contributed to an in-store sale by helping the user view the product online (e.g. see the button detail of a jacket, view the specifications of a computer component or read the details of a hotel or resort) before a customer then wanders into a physical location and hands over money to buy the actual goods. 

This shouldn't be confused with the other multi-channel functionality such as: 
click & collect (view, select & pay for your products online, collect in-store)
click & reserve (view & select your products online, pay & collect in-store)

So how do you, as an online marketer help, in this cross-channel transaction? Here's some thoughts:

1. Provide every possible means on your site to help the user record and remember the product they have chosen. This especially means making that 'Print' button easy to find (especially when the item you are displaying online is out of stock).
It is worth noting that some online stores do not include an on-site option to print out the product detail page, instead relying on the browser print function. I'm not a great believer in this, as over time most of the browser companies have done their utmost to hide the print function behind hard-to-find menu options.

2. Make sure your site visitor knows where your stores are!
Simple I know, but assuming you don't yet have the full multi-channel capability to inform your visitor of the exact stock position of each store, make sure the links to your store finder tool is easy to find.
Note: Whilst on this subject, PLEASE make sure the phone numbers of each store are accurate and clearly displayed too.

Furthermore with the increased adoption of mobile / smartphone usage, users aren't just researching online at home.... they are researching all the time online, including in-store! Yup, they are quite possibly browsing your mobile site, app or maybe just your main site in a smartphone whilst wandering around your premises.

John Lewis identified this issue last year and announced their plans for in-sore WiFi in October:
Here's what they said about this:
"More than 60 per cent of John Lewis customers research products online before visiting a shop to make a purchase and in-store Wi-Fi access allows them to continue and complete that journey, accessing product information and viewing ratings and reviews to influence their purchase." 

With the Multi-channel & eCommerce landscape becoming more competitive all the time, it will be increasingly hard to ignore ROPO as a factor that contributes to sales.