Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What to do when the C Suite doesn't engage with Digital

Does your organisation have an executive board that fails to grasp the changing tide of digital transformation? Do the senior people at the top of your organisation still either ignore or just pay lip-service to the need to evolve people and processes into the 21st Century? (Note: It is much harder to get buy-in from a company board who think they are already implementing online technologies and practices, when in reality what they are actually doing is bolting digital onto what they currently do or just "updating our website")

If your C Suite isn't fully engaged with Digital, here's some suggestions to help move things forward and into the 21st Century.

  1. Deliver quick wins Nothing impresses like delivering upon a promise you have made. No matter how small the actual task (a microsite that taps into a new market, an online marketing campaign that builds acquisition in a novel way, a website change that your Finance Director has wanted for ages) they all go a long way to showing just how little things can mean a lot. 
  2. Have an implementation plan It's one thing to have a 'wishlist', it's another to have a 'roadmap' of when these things will eventually move online and it's a different matter entirely to have a plan of when these different initiatives will be delivered. Even if things change (e.g. other dependent project don't land when they should) you should still keep your digital implementation plan up to date. 
  3. Understand how much it costs and what benefits you want to achieve It may be that you need to build a value model for the complete Digital business transformation, or it could be that you just need to build one or more business cases for the roadmap of major improvements you want to deliver. Either way, work out the cost and the return that digital change will bring to your organisation. 
  4. Be clear on what you want from your execs Whether you need wider business direction, clarification on key deliverables or feedback on your ideas, get the input of the senior team. After all, they haven't just been put there, they probably earned their position through effort, innovation or understanding of what to do next. You may find that a few clear explanations on what you want and how you plan to improve things may be sufficient to get the buy-in you need.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Are you a digital driver or just a passenger?

Are you the person leading the digital change in your organisation, or are you just along for the ride?
I've now seen enough digital transformation initiatives to know who is driving from the front and who is not. It becomes quite clear after a while (especially if you are frequently involved with similar types or style of programmes) to identify the leaders and passengers in online change initiatives.
So here are my tips on how to recognise these two types

Digital Leaders:
Typically these people have the vision or initiative to start the digital revolution within an organisation. They may be the technical person that creates the overall enterprise solution that enables a shift away from analogue processes to online ones, or the executive who drives forward the business case or rationale for sweeping channel shift. They may also have a number of different roles across a project, either stepping into different positions where necessary or act as the project manager in the absence of any other leadership.

Digital Passengers:
These are the people that try to align themselves to a digital change project without actually having any responsibility (yet will be first to claim all the credit when change does start taking place). They will understand that 'digital is the next big thing' but will not have had any real experience and yet claim to be knowledgeable when stakeholders or executive sponsors are in the room.They are also most easiest to identify by their repetition of a small number of key facts they have picked-up along the course of the transformation, possibly even getting them wrong over time.
Or put more esoterically... Just because a person is standing in the direction of movement,  it doesn't mean they are actually going that way.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Put your business in beta

Do you want your organisation to succeed?  Do you want your company to survive the constant digital wave of transformation?
For quite a few years now I've been steadily preaching the mantra "test and learn" (in reality its a kinder and more palatable way of saying "change or die"), which in some sort of simple Darwinian way highlights to my consulting clients some key points:
  1. It is OK to make mistakes
  2. It is fine to experiment on a regular basis
  3. You need to measure what works
  4. You have to ignore what doesn't
This is typified by a business that sees the advantage of releasing functionality and features in ways that make a difference, whilst setting user expectations that things will change. In other words, a business needs to embrace a Beta delivery approach.

Beta, named after the second letter of the Greek alphabet, is typically the software release that is complete in functionality... but may still have significant bugs or issues. However, it is also usually the first accepted release version that can be presented to a limited set of users or customers.

But why do organisations succeed when they adopt Beta releases? (Especially when compared with the professional and stable delivery of a considered and considerably tested set of functionality.)
Perhaps it is because a public Beta release gives a lot of quick and useful feedback on what does and doesn't work for your target audience. Perhaps it is because those companies that are prepared to take the risk of an online beta release are also more likely to be innovative. And perhaps it is because any organisation that can even consider  Beta release better understands the digital landscape and the possible ways of finding success in the modern economy.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Are we too reliant upon Google?

In my posting at the beginning of this year I wrote Never bet against Google in 2014, I explained that despite the search giant’s mantra of “Don’t be evil”, its very size and might in the online world meant it was highly disruptive in anything it did.

I also stated that:
What this means is that betting against Google in anything it decides to do is an unwise move. 
A year on I still stand by this comment and furthermore have started to ask myself the question of whether digital marketing and online business as a whole has now become too dependent upon Google.

To paint the picture of its huge role, here’s some typical examples of its use in my life:

  1. Search
    The current industry figures state that Google has an approximately 90% share of the search market in the UK. For me, that’s a lot closer to 100%.
  2. Gmail
    Now the biggest global email service, I use Gmail for all my work emails. 
  3. Android
    The open source mobile operating system runs my phone and integrates with my Gmail, calendar and contacts.
  4. Analytics
    This free service helps my consultancy’s clients (and me) track a range of visitor, usage and conversion statistics. Even to the point of being able to provide inferred insight about user demographics and preferences.
  5. AdWords
    Provides a (mostly) cost effective means of raising awareness, building traffic and re-marketing to your target audience. If someone is searching for something, then it stands to reason that they might be receptive to seeing an advert about something associated with that term. The fact that advertisers only pay when a prospect clicks on an ad means it is possible to quickly identify interest, track budgets and optimise promotions to get the best ‘bang for your buck’.
  6. Maps
    I use this service more than I initially realised. From looking up locations, to finding directions on my mobile phone and also as when used as a ‘mash up’ (when a map is integrated with other data services) on any number of other sites, such as a store locator on a multichannel retailer’s site. I bet most of us use Google Maps a fair bit more than we realise.

Overall for me there is one reason why I have adopted these products … it is because they are so useful. And therefore any new entrant to any of the areas that Google has a dominance in will not just have to provide them for free (obviously with the exception of AdWords, which is free to the person clicking on the ads, but costs the advertiser) but will have to provide a better user experience somehow…

But all these services have not just become second-nature in my use of them, they have also pushed out other products or services (anyone remember: Freeserve, PalmOS, mapquest.com , etc ?). The list of dotcom and technology casualties caused by ‘The Big G’ are proof that this company doesn't just enter a sector, it tends to own it… with perhaps the exception of Social Media, which Google has never really cracked, despite the different tools it has released over the last few years. Orkut, Waves and even G+ haven’t really reached the tipping point that they were hoped to achieve, despite being popular in specific user groups or even countries.

So are we really too reliant upon Google now?

In my opinion we are. However, I personally don’t have a problem with this right now, because on top of the usefulness argument:

  • I don’t have to pay for a lot of things I would have done I the past
  • The products and services provided work (the robustness of their service is only noticeable when there is very seldom outage)
  • They work at scale (10 Million visits a day is the current free limit in Google Analytics. A figure only breached by the biggest of sites)

And based on these factors… I’m happy to be a reliant and supportive customer.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Black Friday - The Farce Awakens

So that was the first full-scale Black Friday that the UK has ever experienced.  And what an event it was.

Stories of in-store wars, bargains snatched from the hands of those who waited patiently in line for hours and police arrests for fighting at 24 hour supermarkets have been written about and told over the last few days. The British shopping masses have been shown as a brawling uncultured rabble, who would happily trample others underfoot just to get their hands on a discounted television for themselves... that they probably would not have purchased anyway.

Previous pre-Christmas sales have now been overshadowed by the dark lord of post-Thanksgiving sales bonanzas that we have willingly inherited from the USA...without any of the thanks or the giving we are supposed to have at this time of year.

If this is the beginning of a new saga in retail... then part of me wished I lived a long time ago and far away.

Friday, November 28, 2014

#blackfridayfail - eCommerce sites struggle under high volumes

So, Black Friday fever really looks to be kicking in, as a number of websites seem to either be having issues or are down entirely.


As of writing, the multi-channel catalogue-based retailer claims to be "experiencing a very high volume of visitors"

River Island
Apparently failing to cope with the pressure of the pre-Christmas bargain hunters, the fashion retailer seems to be having a few issues delivering a homepage.


Although this site is up right now, at certain points late last night the UK's biggest retailer was only able to display a waiting page

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What does Black Friday mean to the UK?

It seems to me that the use of 'Black Friday' as a retail promotional tool is now everywhere in the UK. From Glasgow to Manchester and Plymouth to London it seems to have sprung up from almost nowhere just few years ago into a few days of serious high street and online discounting.

But why is it especially this year that a lot of UK retailers have embraced an American holiday?

Here's a few suggestions:

1. The high street needs to stimulate sales
Following a mild autumn, a lot of people have not raced out to the shops in September and October to buy items such as a new Winter wardrobe (if you don't believe me, ask your peers if many have bought a big coat recently).Consequently year on year takings are down across a number of sectors, including clothing.
2. Autumn sales aren't a new thing
Discounting around this time isn't a new concept and many stores have been having 'mid-season sales' for decades. Yes, a lot of retailers have been dropping prices of specific products and ranges in mid-to-late November, it's just that...

3. Black Friday sounds cool
It's good to give something a catchy name and it seems that yes black is indeed the new black.  I suggest the fact that it refers to the day after the US commemorate a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621 is pretty irrelevant to the average Brit.

4. The UK is becoming more and more American-ized
As reflected in: the recent growth in Halloween over this side of the pond, the increase in Seattle style coffee shops that sell huge capacity cups of caffeine and the gradual use of "Tuxedo" (an American club that adopted the use of the black suit and tie) over the "Dinner Jacket".

5. The Internet is reducing cultural barriers
I first noticed the use of 'Black Friday' on Amazon.com about a decade ago, when just like today, I couldn't find anything interesting to buy on the site. The increasing use of global eCommere sites like Amazon, eBay and the like have created a boundary-less society that is only too happy to embrace different retailing concepts.

Which leads me to a slightly cynical further idea... Could it be that Black Friday is just another ploy adopted by savvy retailers across the globe to get rid stuff that would never have shifted at full price anyway?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What does Direct Traffic actually mean?

Website Analytics (e.g. Google Analytics) provide a lot of insight into digital user behaviour, including what keywords they are typing into search engines, what pages they are arriving on and the locations they are coming from.

However all too often I have seen visitors coming into a site as Direct Traffic pretty much ignored or understated as a source. For example if all other digital marketing sources come to 80% and analytics says Direct is 30%, I've heard clients say “Oh, let’s just make Direct 20% and show how good my paid for efforts are"… rather than looking at why a site is showing 110% inbound traffic.

But I think we all need to stop and reconsider this approach, take another look at direct sources of visitors and assess the value that they bring.

Although we tend to take this as "the visitors who type the URL direct into the browser" - this is not the full picture. It is also includes:
- bookmarked visits
- those campaigns that are incorrectly tagged
- those visits where the referrer data is not available (e.g. those coming from an https source, such as a secure site - which may even be your own site itself )

Note: There is even the suggestion on some forums that Google Images has been a source of direct traffic because it creates visits from links that are not traceable.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Importance of Keywords in Digital Marketing

Keywords have a huge influence across many areas of online marketing. They help to drive the correct traffic from organic positions in search engines, which in-turn need to be optimised through SEO efforts (white hat only of course). Keywords also form the fundamentals of any pay-per-click activity done across Google, Yahoo/Bing, etc.

Keywords therefore have a big impact wherever they are used online and you should make sure your keyword strategy is:

1. Planned in advance of any major digital work, taking care to analyse and understand the terms and phases your target audience is really using (not just those your client thinks they should use)

2. Incorporated in your onsite efforts, such as: Page titles, Meta Description and body copy (including semantic headings & structure)

3. Communicated to other parties, such as your PR company and external copy writing / translation agencies.

4. Reviewed and updated on a regular basis, to ensure you are still getting the required traffic and conversions. This is an evolving situation after all, where new sites and efforts are always changing.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Stupid things said in October

Since it is the end of October (and a Friday),  I thought I'd let you all read some of the daft, incorrect and just plain wrong things I have heard people say this month:
  1. Our contact centre isn't 3D Secure right now
  2. Why are we building our site so blind people can read it?
  3. We need a business case written for something that won't happen.
  4. If I could go forward in time and see what I needed to do, then I would come back and tell myself not to do it. (Oh hang on, it was me that said that!)
  5. If you build it, they will come back again
  6. I know the figures haven't changed... But can you send me the latest version?
I can't wait for November....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Google Wallet or Apple Pay - the UK is waiting

I moved away from using Apple and the iTunes ecosystem a year & a half ago and I went back to Android. I thought the devices and flexibility offered by Google's open operating system and Play Store was a better choice than the locked down offering from Cupertino. 

The only thing the whole Google ecosystem was missing in the UK was a decent mobile payment solution. It's been a gap in the British eCommerce chain since the retirement of Google's Checkout product was announced 18 moths ago and Google Wallet was described as the successor.
But since then we have been teased and tantalised.

According to the Google Wallet website:
"Google Wallet is an easier way to pay in stores, pay your friends and pay online.
Shop in stores with all your loyalty, offers and gift cards in one place. Send money to friends and they can spend it instantly with the Google Wallet Card."
But I'm still waiting for Google's payment offering to extend beyond North America.

So, with the recent announcement of Apple Pay, I have to admit I felt a twinge of jealousy... 
as it looked like UK Apple users were going to get a mobile payment system before UK Google users. But it looks like this could be another year away, despite Steve Perry, Chief Digital Officer of Visa Europe, going on record as stating  "We are working closely with Apple and with other member banks to bring this new service to market in Europe."

In short.. neither payment service looks like they will step out out of their comfort zone (the USA) for some while... despite other services such as Zapp, Pingit (by Barclays), PayPal and others marching forward.

Or maybe that's both Apple & Google's strategy... To see which product or vendor looks like winning out in Europe and further afield... then to swoop down and buy them.

Monday, October 20, 2014

British consumers spend more online

According to respondents to The 2014 Parcel Deliveries Usage and Attitude Survey carried out by consumer delivery specialist Hermes, British consumers are now spending substantially more online than those in France and Germany.

Apparently twice as many Brits (27%) have shopped online in the last three months compared to the French (14%) and the Germans (10%).

This confidence in online retailing is also refelected in a greater proportion of each nation planning to use eCommerce channels next year than they did this year. With 42% of British consumers now planning to shop online over the next 10 months compared to 30% of French and 28% of Germans consumers.

One of the more facinating insights in the report is that us British customers are using mobile devices far more to buy items online... 23% compared to 9% and 11% for French and Germans respectively.

However, the most interesting fact from an International eCommerce perspective (something that I've been increasingly focusing on for my own consulting clients) is that home-grown sites are doing a Stirling (pun intended) job of attracting foreign custom, with over a third of German and French shoppers stating they have now bought from a UK online retailer... even beating American and Chinese sites to claim the top spot.

More information is available here:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

5 questions to ask your new SEO agency

So let's imagine you've recently hired a new search engine optimisation agency to improve your organic position in the popular search engines.

Before you actually engage with them, here are a few important questions you should ask:

1. Does the SEO agency understand my business?
Or again more specifically, do the people actually working on my account understand what my organisation does, its products or services and what it's unique proposition or selling point is?
There will almost certainly be some initial familiarisation with your offering or processes, but first check that this agency gets what you do and has a firm understanding of who your competitors are.
Note: The counter to this issue however is when you hire an SEO agency that knows your industry very well and already has a number of your competitors as clients in this market sector... are they really able to provide you with a unique and perhaps innovative approach to on-page and off-site optimisation?

2. How much of my monthly retainer is for actual work?
Or more specifically, how much of what you pay for is agency 'padding' in the form of 'Project Management', 'Account Management' or even worse... 'Administration & Reporting'?
(Note, most SEO tools these days have quite decent automated reporting functions. So sending out a regular report is just a case of configuring the reporting service once).
In one situation I saw last year, where my agency won the SEO business, The outgoing agency managed to fill over 60% of its monthly SEO retainer with non-specialist staff. Nice work if you can get it....

3. Who is actually doing the work?
It's a pretty good bet that you had a smart(ish) new business person put together the proposal that you accepted. Or if the agency is a smaller one, then it may well be the owner or other senior person that wrote the document that won them the work. But will this person be the one actually working on your account day-to-day or will it be a junior person they may not even have mentioned in their credentials? My guess is that in most SEO agencies it will be the latter that does the hard graft most of the time (not the 'Head of Search' or 'Head of SEM Services' you were promised)
Note: If it is someone you never get to speak to, then reconsider hiring them. And if it's 'someone in their [not this country] office' then get concerned quickly, really quick....

4. What tools & techniques do you use?
Some SEO agencies like to keep the tools and techniques they use a secret to their clients. I guess they feel it adds an air of mystery to the complex art of search engine optimisation. As far as tools go, there are a few good ones out there that the majority of agencies use for most of their clients. Also make sure that you are not being charged extra for these tools, the costs for them should be included in your retainer.
Note: Some of these tools use propriety indexing technology to work, whereas others need to link to your own site's Webmaster Tools accounts. Neither is wrong, but be prepared to grant them access in the same sort of ways you've granted them access to your website analytics package.
As for the techniques used... you should have full transparency about what they are doing and the rationale for doing it. However, if they mention the act of buying links... run a mile!

5. What do you want me to do next?
Getting started with a new agency is usually a process of learning, testing, evaluating and refining. Expect the agency to ask to speak with other stakeholders or 3rd parties in your business (e.g. PR company, website development agency and product / catalogue managers if you have an eCommerce site). Having an SEO firm that is not just technically competent, but has decent organisational skills can be a rare find. Also make sure that you have regular review sessions booked in the diaries. Even if these are done over the phone / Skype or webex... your business, the competition and most definitely the search engines change all the time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Customer Data Is Essential To A Digital Strategy

The cornerstone of any Digital Transformation Programme, to move an organisation to a place of improved digital maturity, is customer data

The collecting, storing, processing, analysing and presenting of data collected about your users needs to be a fundamental requirement. From data comes an understanding of who your customers are and what they are doing.

Who they are:
(Typically obtained from account / registration database)
Age, sex & other demographics
Communication preferences

What they do:
(Typically obtained from your online analytics package)
Device(s) used
Time of day they visit
Browsing behaviour (e.g. pages visited)
Marketing campaigns they have interacted with
Goals completed

Or put a different way... structuring your digital transformation efforts around your customer is more important than you possibly realise.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The 7 Deadly Sins of Social Media Marketing

From the pen of Marketing cartoonist comes another witty illustration, this time on the 7 Deadly Sins of Social Media Marketing:

Which do you practice?
(I bet you do at least one, if not more)

The full selection of cartoons can be found here: http://tomfishburne.com

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Happy 16th Birthday Google

Can the search giant really only be 16 years of age today?

Has Google really only hit it's mid-teens already?

Yes, the site that made search simple and pioneered & perfected the pay-per-click advertising model was only founded in 1998 by two Stanford doctoral students called Sergey Brin and Larry Page who developed a bunch of algorithms that turned the search marketing upside down.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The 4 C’s of a Digital Platform

I've previously posted about the need for organisations to move away from just a website to a Digital Platform, so I won’t go into detail about ‘why’ you need one. However, from feedback I've had about this topic, I think I need to go into more detail about WHAT specifically one actually is.

To therefore keep things as simple as possible, I think the scope of a Digital Platform can be summed up in 4 terms beginning with the letter C:

Keeping any online property up-to-date requires a decent system for managing content. With free and easy to use CMS (Content Management System) tools available, the days of static sites are (or should be) long gone.
Note: although I know of at least 2 large eCommerce retailers who claim to manage their site content via their merchandising system, which only updates product and category information but still needs a fleet of developers to make HTML-based changes to their homepage, landing pages and anything else you would generally classify under the term content.

Having transactional functionality in your online platform is becoming more and more of a fundamental requirement for an increasing number of sites as they look to acquire and retain direct online customers rather than use a complex and commercially draining network of stores, partners, resellers or agents.
If you want proof of this, just look at the recent demise of the mobile retailer Phones4u in the UK. As the mobile phone operators have gotten more grown-up with their online selling and customer management propositions, then their need for an intermediate who takes commission and attempts to own the customer becomes less and less. In short, by having a mature online commerce and account management service, companies can now seriously consider or reconsider dis-intermediation in fast moving markets.
A digital platform should therefore have a host of features (shopping carts, integration to payment services, discounts & offers functionality and ‘my account’ database functionality, etc.) to enable your business to quickly allow your customers to self-serve.

Forget that desktop-only site you've been holding onto for the last few years. The use of mobile devices to browse and buy are increasingly overtaking PC and laptop usage in all sorts of markets. Your customer is now almost as likely to be using their smartphone or tablet (in an array of sizes) to inform themselves. However, just because your mobile visitors have increased, it doesn't mean that your conversions have… as on average (in my experience anyhow) conversion rates on desktop sites accessed from mobile devices sharply decrease in correlation to the size of the screen used.
Or in other words… make sure your digital platform can deliver your content and commerce capability to all users regardless of their channel of choice.

If you capture and manage customer data, then use it to communicate. To really leverage the user data contained in you Digital Platform it also needs to include (or fully integrate with) a range of digital marketing tools to get your message out and to build a relationship with your target audience. Can your platform:
  • Deliver segmented marketing emails to a set of subscribed users?
  • Send alerts to customers that they have left something in their shopping basket (and that they should jolly well come back to the site and buy it before someone else does or it is no longer available)?
  • Send out SMS messages to those who want or need it (think how useful those text messages about that flight you booked for next week are and how they don’t need you to have a modern 4G data connection to look them up).
  • Work out which of your customers are Tweeting and confirm what product they actually bought online from you?

Hopefully your answer to all of the above is “Yes”.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Flybe location picker touches down too far

I'm an admirer of the online usability shown on flybe.com's website (OK, they do have a few slightly sneaky techniques for increasing average order revenues - but you still have to take appreciate the way they do it).

So it came as a little surprise to see the site's location selection 'mega menu' partially disappear beneath the bottom of the page of my browser. This means that around half of the destinations the discount airline fly from (including Glasgow, my own local airport) aren't shown at full screen.

I know that Flybe do fly to and from a large number of destinations around Europe, but surely there must be a more economical way of showing as many locations on the screen at once.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Remember to spell your client's product correctly

Dear Jeep.

Can I please suggest you speak with your digital marketing agency pretty quickly and find out why they can't even spell the name of your flagship motor vehicle?

You would have hoped that the people creating the Facebook Adverts to entice people to view your large family 4x4 would be able to actually spell..... wouldn't you?



Monday, September 8, 2014

Build a Digital Platform not a website

I still hear a lot of businesses talk about “building a new website” or “creating an online presence”. Now by itself this is not a bad thing and these organisations will no doubt join the ranks of those that regularly move pixels about to create more impact or sell more.

But your web presence should be only one part of an entire toolbox that larger organisations should be using to influence more, engage more, sell more and retain more. But in my experience, a lot of them don’t understand that to have a joined up online customer experience and you need to have a joined up collection of tools that all work well together.

In other words you need a Digital Platform not a website.

So what can a Digital Platform do for you?

Provide ubiquitous online access
It should give as many users as possible easy access regardless of: device, connection speed and ability.

Improve the Customer Experience
It should create a relevant & consistent digital interface for each user segment, allowing all interactions to be as efficient & intuitive as possible, allowing your business to understand customers better.

Improve revenue
It should maximise any online revenue opportunities through better marketing campaigns, improved conversion and opportunities for additional revenue optimisation

Improve insight
It should allow you to understand digital visitor behaviour with the intention of informing and optimising future digital activity.

Provide consistent content
It should allow the central management of content (text, imagery, etc.) across all online devices and interfaces.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Brandjacking is getting tired

I'm a lover of a decent brandjacking, where a brand, campaign, hashtag, etc. gets hijacked by someone else.
However it needs to be done elegantly and with more style or impact than the brand being 'jacked'. If it isn't... then it falls on its face.
And in my opinion this is what Kia have done with their promoted tweets intended to leverage off the marketing mammoth that is XFactor.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Subaru mobile website is roofless

With mobile web usage rocketing and more and more potential customers looking to inform their purchase online... you'd think that Subaru would get their website working correctly.

However this landing page for the new Subaru Impreza not only gives a poor layout, but also manages to only partially display the actual vehicle. In fact, the top half of the car is completely hidden from view and gives an overall poor experience to users looking to find out more on their smartphones.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Commerce and Content – Still not fully integrated

The two disciplines of digital content management and eCommerce have been side-by-side for many years now, but why has the enterprise software / service market not yet managed to create a bunch of mature products that have both great content management systems (CMS’s) and great digital retailing service… and that are actually fully integrated into each other?

I believe the root of this problem lies in the origins and on-going management of these two inter-connected digital disciplines. Back in the dim and distant days you had two distinct silos for managing online: the digital marketing team who managed the content (text, images and increasingly rich assets such as video) and the eBusiness or eCommerce team who managed the product catalogue & payment side of things. In my opinion this has historically resulted in two different sets of people creating disparate experiences and leaving one crucially important person floundering in between… the customer.

The only thing is, the customers these days do actually notice when an online experience clashes. They quickly give up when they are struggling with a user interface that doesn't help them search, find and browse through the products they want. They try your competitor’s URL when your site doesn't connect product content with the ability to buy it in one simple action.

I therefore think the major vendors of Web Content Management (WCM) and eCommerce need to seriously take a look at their product stack. They then need to integrate & align these two areas into one compelling proposition. This shouldn't be done in half measures (E.g. by a large CMS vendor just buying up a small eCommerce product and offering it as a complex bolt-on  to their already weighty offering), in most cases this will need a complete re-think of both sides of the equation to create something that works for the customer (and the end user).

Until then, both in-house teams and the customer will continue to have a mixed experience. And quite frankly in this more mature digital age…. That’s bloody awful!

Friday, August 1, 2014

What factors affect your conversion?

Everyone who runs an eCommerce website is hooked on conversion as the vital key performance indicator to improve. And quite rightly…. It is the one metric that tells you how well your website it turning lookers into bookers (or browsers into buyers if you don’t like things rhyming and prefer alliteration instead.).
So what affects conversion? Well there are a number of factors that have an influence including:

  • Usability
    How easy your site is to navigate and transact with
  • Security
    How well your site conveys and actually take steps to ensure the safety of customer data
  • Content
    How well  the site text and imagery informs &  supports the sales process
  • Layout
    It’s not just how much you have on a page, it’s where you put it that counts
  • Speed
    How quickly your site appears & displays affects bounce & therefore conversion
  • Aesthetics
    How it looks also affects how it converts (try changing the colour of a few buttons if you don’t believe me)

All you have to do it find out what works for your customers.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Facebook revives Social Commerce, but will it work?

The topic of Social Commerce (or SocialCommerce if you like to remove that middle space to look modern) has arisen again recently with two announcements:

Firstly Twitter a few weeks back allowed a 'buy now' button in its promoted tweet messages.
Secondly today Facebook have announced that they will do something similar and allow online shoppers to click a “buy" button. This will allow them to purchase items in adverts or other posts, without leaving the social network platform.

But will these small but important innovations fuel the much discussed 'social commerce' development of social media?

Or will it merely create further annoyance to Twitter and Facebook users, who already have a significant proportion of monetised screen real estate taken up with promotions and ads?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Give the customer what they want

“The customer is always right, even when they are wrong”, was the phrase drilled into me at my very first retail job, a weekend activity that furnished me with enough money to gain some independence during my late teenage years (e.g. to drive a car and to date girls clearly out of my league).

I questioned this mantra at first, asking why someone had the right to reverse common sense just because they wielded money. However, I subsequently came around to this financial perspective, especially when it earned me further work and therefore some incremental income. I had therefore succumbed to one of the pressures of modern life, I had followed the money and given the customer the control.

But now, as I consult on eCommerce projects across the globe, I find a similar situation… that the online customer is right in whatever they do, even if they don’t do what you want them to do. In other words: you can craft what you think is the best online user experience, you can come up with what you believe is the most persuasive design and you can create the most engaging content I the eyes of your stakeholders… however if the relevant customer doesn't have what they want to make their decision (e.g. to take them forward to purchase), then all your hypotheses aren't worth anything.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

UX actions to do BEFORE you redesign your website - part 2

Here's the second part of my thoughts on the UX actions to consider before redesigning your website. Part 1 is available here.

4. Benchmark
So who in your competitive market is doing a better job of things than you online and who isn't? What does great look like for your digital customers and why? If you cannot answer these two questions, then you clearly haven't assessed the competition and understood what makes other sites better.
Review at least a handful of competitors websites to understand how they solve the same problems you have. Assess the features that make them easy to use (you might even want to look further afield at organisations that aren't necessarily in competition with you, but just have similar goals).
Note: For a small cost you can even point your usability tool at these competitive sites and give users the same tasks you give your own site.

5. Map out the customer journeys
Not all goals are the same on each site. Whether your aim is to generate leads or to directly convert users to buy a good or service, the path to acquisition can be difficult and dependant upon a huge number of factors. Action:
Map out the journey through your site for each of your key personas, ideally from initial awareness and acquisition through to them converting and beyond (e.g. into being a brand advocate). These functional flows will explain to you, your stakeholders, your developers and your testers what is happening to your users.
Note: Remember to include the situations when things don't go exactly according to plan.

6. Build your sitemap
It's not all about functionality, you also need to map out your content and the site's information architecture.
Draw up the hierarchy of your primary content pages and understand how each of your topics is delivered (if necessary for each device).

7. Wireframe the key templates
Producing a schematic or blueprint of every key page will create a visual guide of what your online users will experience. Wireframes will explain: the kinds of information displayed, the functions available, the priority of the information & functions, any display rules and effects of personalisation & other scenarios.
Create your wireframes based upon your customer journeys and the sitemap. But remember to test your creation before going into design.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Digital leadership - be more than an online expert

Being a digital leader means you need to be more than just an absolute expert in one area of online technology or marketing. You may know all about PPC, display & remarketing, SEO, email , display, affiliates and social media, but this isn't enough. To truly be at (and stay at) the forefront of digital, you really need to have the following qualities or experience:

1.  A leader of people
It's not just enough to have line managed the odd eCommerce staff member or digital agency, you need to be a mentor & coach, a motivator and a decision maker who can support and build a high performing team members to do great things.

2. An all-rounder
To understand how to get the best from that team, you ideally need an understanding of all aspects of online business. From being able to produce a focused digital business case to justify further investment, through to engaging with your opposite number in the technology department... you are going to have to have a broad spread of expertise.

3. An innovator
What have you done in your career that wasn't just "me too" but truly ground breaking? Have you been creative in your delivery of a new digital platform or applied a new method or approach to a building a difficult user interface? Have you been the first in your industry to trial a new device or an advanced technology that was subsequently adopted by the rest?

4. A strategic brain
Are you able to consider the bigger picture and link your team's work to the business drivers of the wider company? The creation and ownership of your organisations digital strategy should sit with you, it's yours to manage shape and develop as the company grows in its adoption of new online technologies and practices.

5. A customer advocate
Do you know who your customers are and what their digital needs really are? Do you know why your online presence or your eCRM initiatives work well (and why sometimes they don't strike a core)? It's not just a case of hiring a user experience (UX) person to do your thinking for you... you also need to get under the skin of your users and know what drives both their loyalty & resistance.

6. A scientist
Getting data from your analytics package is a basic necessity for any online practitioner these days, but being able to dive into the dashboards and analyse the insight that the information is giving you needs more than just a little diligence. You should also have experience of carrying out multiple experiments to improve your goals, ideally from a programme of on-going AB and Multi-Variate tests.

7. A communicator
It's fine to have strong views on those topics that you are passionate about, but you also need to be able to get your ideas across in a structured and eloquent manner.... especially to senior stakeholders.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

UX actions to do BEFORE you redesign your website - part 1

Before you dive into a full creative redesign of your next website project, here's six user experience tasks I recommend you carry out.

1. Understand who your customers are:
Some of the biggest mistakes I've seen on sites are when they assume who the customer is... without actually find out the trust and validating that assumption. I'm sure we've all seen or heard of the exec who comes along at the beginning of a new digital project and says "I know who our customer is, I don't need to research them" or something similar.
Dip into your site's analytic package and see if this provides any insight into who your current visitors are (just don't assume this will be the same going forwards or that the same type of visitors all convert in the same way).
Note: If this doesn't tell you much, then carry out whatever research you can (Alexa demographic figures, online survey, site registration details, etc.)

2. Create customer personas
Personas are simply a way of describing the attributes, qualities and required outcomes of your key customer types. I believe that the aim here is not to be too descriptive about who they are (e.g. what income they have or what car they drive) but to describe their online needs (e.g. what they specifically want from your website).
Jakob Neilson says that you only need to test with 5 users to get the best from your usability tests [link] and I also think the same is true of personas. In other words, I recommend creating more than a couple but don't create too many.

3. Review your current site(s)
"Our site is rubbish, I want something entirely new" said the business stakeholder to me on a recent website redesign project. To which I replied... "that rubbish site is currently making millions of £'s worth of revenue for you each year, it must be doing something right!"
Yes, sure sites can always be improved... but just to slate everything about the current one without actually know what is working well (and conversely what is not) is of vital importance to ensure that you do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Carry out a set of user test on your website to see what users like & don't, plus where they incur obvious struggle in completing their goals.
Note: A few tests using a tool such as whatusersdo.com will highlight key user issues and also provide a permanent record of just how 'rubbish' your site is or isn't. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Lack of Digital Skills – not just a Scottish Problem

A workforce skilled in online & digital tools & technologies is key to developing an organisation’s digital agenda. From the more specialist digital-specific & IT / IS / ICT roles, through to the generalists who may need up-skilling and re-training on average every 3 years… the hiring and development of skills necessary to take forward your online roadmap is not something to take lightly. In fact, the lack of digital skills could be one of the greatest factors in why your digital change strategy fails.

I've previously blogged about the lack of digital skills in Scotland and highlighted the lack of technical, marketing and associated skills (design, user experience, content, etc.) ‘North of the border’ where I live. But this skilled and empowered workforce isn't just missing in Scotland, or even across the UK. In a digital skills presentation today from ScotlandIS, the Scottish IT Trade body, I was actually shocked to hear the fact that there is a shortfall of 1 million digital jobs across the EU.

Scotland is therefore only a drop in the ocean compared to this, with only 10,000 people a year needed here to fill the gap.

So what is being done about it?

  • Are schools, higher education and further education producing the right courses and talent?
  • Are companies investing enough to drag seasoned employees (who may have previously resisted or ignored the use of digital)?
  • Are cities and even governments doing enough to encourage digital enterprise in specific areas that need it most?
  • Are boards hiring Chief Digital Officers to champion online excellence?

I fear not.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Social Media in action – CalMac Culture

As some readers will know, one of our clients at Ideal Interface is Caledonian MacBrayne, the ferry company known as CalMac. Based on the west coast of Scotland, they are the UK’s biggest ferry operator by size of fleet and cover 60,000 square miles of land and (mainly) water.

One of the initiatives that I’ve been involved with has been CalMac Culture #calmacculture – an online competition to find original singer / songwriters, leading to a slot in several of Scotland’s key festivals (e.g. Tyree Music Festival, etc.)
If you happen to be online tonight, you can see the ‘Battle of the Bands’ being streamed live from King Tut's Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow:

Take a look:

Monday, June 2, 2014

5 reasons your Digital Change initiative will fail

Nearly every business I now speak to is going through some form of digital change. From smaller organisations assessing the capabilities and skills of their online marketing teams & agencies, through to major multi-nationals looking to transform their IT systems, business processes and customer engagement models around electronic services... the mantra is clear “change or be changed in this new digital world” and I bet yours is very similar.

But transforming your company into a digital leader isn't easy and “becoming the next Amazon” is neither realistic nor practical for most organisations.

To give some ideas of the challenges faced, from my experience here are some areas where organisations fail to get a grip on their digital change:

1. Your delivery model is wrong:
Are you still creating lengthy waterfall project plans more suited to industrial age delivery expectations? The age of agile development and iterative delivery has not only been around for decades now, it has evolved into different flavours and techniques. However, just diving into a fully-blown scrum delivery method without fully understanding the implications this will have on the wider business (and setting these up correctly) is also a recipe for failure.

2. You don’t have the right skills in place
Just giving people new digital job titles doesn't cut it. There’s a talent war out in the wider marketplace right now, where businesses are struggling to hire and keep the right people with the necessary online skills to take big steps forward in technology, marketing and other commercial areas.  Assess what makes your company different and how you could attract and retain the right talent to realise your digital ambitions.

3. You don’t have digital business leadership
Ask yourself who in your company is actually responsible for the ownership and stewardship of your digital strategy? Where are the priorities, road-map and alignment of this digital strategy to the rest of the business set? If this role is not represented at your boardroom table, then you’re probably not taking it seriously enough.

4. You haven’t defined your technical vision and solution
It’s one thing to make bold claims about where your company will be in the future, it’s another entirely to assume it will get there without a technical vision of what the end solution looks like. I don’t think I have ever been on a successful change programme that failed to have the solution architecture for the main features or components defined in advance.

5. Your culture doesn't accept failure
Sure, every company likes to say it gets everything “right first time” but in reality this never happens… there is always room for improvement and things always go wrong. Or in other words “fail forward” by: accepting it, getting on with it, learning from it and move forwards quickly. One client I worked for in the past had a company policy of actually rewarding when a member of staff accepted they had made a failure (and quickly wrote up what went wrong and what they would do better next time). 
Has anyone got any others?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ideal Interface is looking for a part-time administrator

Ideal Interface is a privately owned, strategic digital & eCommerce consultancy based in Bishopton, Renfrewshire. The business consults to a number of household names on all aspects of online sales, marketing and delivery.

Due to continued growth in the business, we now need a part-time administrator to help with key support tasks including:

  • Processing of contractor expenses
  • Creation of monthly invoices
  • Basic client assistance (e.g. website updates)
  • Interaction with suppliers

Skills you will need:

  • Computer literacy (Windows, Excel, Word, etc.)
  • Numeracy
  • Good communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Basic internet (browsing, social media usage, etc.)

What we offer:

  • A flexible working approach
  • A competitive rate
  • An opportunity to be part of a growing company 
  • An opportunity to learn about Digital Marketing and the future eCommerce environment

Note: Because we are flexible, this role might well suit a parent who wants to return to work part-time.

8-16 hours per week.
Non-smoker and own transport preferred.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The first 90 days of the Chief Digital Officer

The first ninety days in any job are important. But in such a new and exciting industry as online & digital, the first 3 months in the role of Chief Digital Officer are key.
Here are my thoughts on what should be the main areas to focus of the CDO during this period:
  1. Understand the overall business strategy
    Any digital strategy created must be completely aligned to what the business is planning (Commercial aims,  new products, marketing, etc.)
  2. Learn the culture
    Every organisation has a "way of doing things" and seeing itself. This doesn't have to perpetuate, but it is good to know what sort of people your peers and team around you do and think. Most important is the appetite for change... which can either be a critical success factor or a big nail in the coffin of a lot of the most forward-thinking digital plans.
  3. Set a benchmark
    Recognize which of your competitors (if any) are doing innovative things, or just doing the same stuff but better! 
  4. Identify your stakeholders and make friends
    From marketing and customer insight through to IT and Operations... if you are going to be an agent for inevitable change, you will need to build allies first.
  5. Research your customers
    It's no good setting yourself up to digitize everything if that's not the correct way forward. And it's no good rolling out smartphone apps if all your potential business is using tablets. You don't have to know everything about every one of them, but being able to classify and segment them into target audiences will help you create the most relevant products and experience for them.
  6. Build your vision
    Create an idea of what success looks like. What is the end game of all this change and how does it help the user and company? (Tip: Then give this vision to your strongest critic and ask them for feedback - this will iron out a lot of the wrinkles)
  7. Create the roadmap
    Draw up and digital roadmap of short and longer-term projects & tactical changes that move the organisation forward towards your vision. 
  8. Justify investment
    Where necessary develop businesses cases that explore the investment required to realise the roadmap.
  9. Deliver something quickly
    Nobody is realistically going to wait for you to see out your initial 3 months without some business improvement. This shouldn't be too difficult for any CDO new to the role, as there are always quick wins to be had
  10. Have fun
Have I missed anything?

Monday, May 5, 2014

How to get your Amazon product images wrong

Whilst researching wearable technology on Amazon, I saw this array of strange images for sale:

Now I'm not that familiar with the latest gadgets, but I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to attach a kitchen tap and sink to your body. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Advanced robots.txt techniques – Crawl Delay

We have a client we have been carrying out search engine optimisation work for over the last 3 months. However, recently we noticed that they had a bit of an issue with their robots.txt

Now for those who don’t know, a robots.txt file sits in the root directory of your website and it is there to tell search engines which files they should and should NOT index (The only real exception to this rule is that some search engines also allow you to provide the address of your XML Sitemap in this file)

Note: placing a file or directory to exclude in your robots.txt file is no guarantee that these pages will not be indexed by search engines. It is merely a way to indicate that you don’t want the page appearing in Google, Bing/Yahoo, etc. … but it still might.

Anyhow, back to this problematic little robots.txt file – here it is, in all its glory:
User-agent: *
Crawl-Delay: 10

The main issue here is with the command “Crawl-Delay: 10”

Note: This was put in automatically by the client’s eCommerce application and not manually by the client.
It is important to know that the “Crawl-Delay” command is not a representation of crawl rate (e.g. the amount of pages indexed at any one time), but instead it defines the amount of time (from 1 to 30 seconds) that the search engine "bot" will wait between crawling each and every page of your site. Meaning that the higher the figure, the lesser the number of pages on your site that actually get indexed.

The original purpose of this command was to stop search engine spiders from tearing through a large site and having a performance effect (e.g. too many crawls at once could even bring a site to its knees). However, Google publically states that they do not support the crawl delay command, (although Bing does), so the case for actually having this command there in the first place is significantly reduced.
Moreover, this crawl delay command poses an issue for some search engine optimisation services, such as Raven Tools. Which can’t effectively crawl sites when this single line is present.

So my advice…. Unless you have strange and less common search engine spiders frequently visit and they have a noticeable effect on your site’s stability, I would remove this command if at all possible.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Presenting at the ETAG Technology Solutions Conference 2014

Ouch, I've just found a rather cringe-worthy video of me going 'Umm' a lot, especially at the beginning of this presentation I gave in front of 200 people. This was at the ETAG (Edinburgh Tourism Action Group) Technology Solutions for Tourism Conference 2014 a couple of months ago.

My focus here was on the opportunity for International eCommerce, although there was a bunch of stuff I covered generically around online selling of tourism.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The unpaid invoices of Stephen Halpin of Merchant Soul

As regular blog readers will know, I'm owed a significant unpaid sum by Stephen Halpin of Merchant Soul. I therefore thought I would detail the specific unpaid invoices, to let others know of this man's inability resolve his debts:
merchantsoul-invoice-oct012 (£1,920.00)
merchantsoul-invoice-nov-dec-2012 (£7,680.00)
merchantsoul-invoice-jan2013 (£2,400)
merchantsoul-invoice-feb2013 (£3,360)
merchantsoul-invoice-mar2013 (£3,480)
merchantsoul-invoice-apr2013 (£2,400)
merchantsoul-invoice-may2013 (£1,680)
merchantsoul-invoice-june2013 (£1,680)
merchantsoul-invoice-july2013 (£1,680)

 As you can see, I not only gave Mr Halpin significant credit but allowed him to not pay me for a significant amount of time. To date, Merchant Soul has not paid any of the above invoices nor has there been any explanation for this failure to pay.

Friday, April 11, 2014

UK financial comparison homepages - revisited

Over a year ago I posted an article on the homepage file size differences of several financial comparison websites.

I therefore have revisited this topic and thought it would be good to see what's changed... once again using the Firebug and Google page speed plugins for Firefox.

Homepage weight: 384.1K
Number of items: 60
Page Speed Score: 80/100 (Desktop)
Page Speed Score: 65/100 (Mobile)
A decrease in page weight but an increase in the number of items means that the page speed is now very slightly less than it was.

Homepage weight: 468.2k
Number of items: 34
Page Speed Score: 82/100 (Desktop)
Page Speed Score: 76/100 (Mobile)
A slight decrease in page weight and a decrease in the number of items has not had the desired effect on page speed.

Homepage weight: 419.9k
Number of items: 38
Page Speed Score: 81/100 (Desktop)
Page Speed Score: 66/100 (Mobile)
A small increase in the homepage weight but with a significant reductions in the number of items on the page has not improved the page speed score

Homepage weight: 1,100k (1.1Mb)
Number of items: 106 
Page Speed Score: 70/100 (Desktop)
Page Speed Score: 59/100 (Mobile)
An increase in the weight of the page by over 200k coupled with an increase in the number of items gives a significant reduction in page speed score (from 87 to 70 - the greatest difference in this test)

The transitional Chief Digital Officer role

We live in a changing world and titles come & go over time. One of the more modern roles to gain more of of the recent spotlight has been that of the Chief Digital Officer or CDO.

In a post a while back, I commented about why the role of CDO is needed, but that some organisations may choose to use a digitally-savvy Non-Exec Director instead.

However, I've give this topic further thought and can see the role of CDO becoming more popular over the next couple of years, but then gradually fading away... as the rest of the board becomes more digitally aware and knowledgeable.

If this scenario is likely to become a reality, it does then beg the question as to who would put themselves forward to become a Chief Digital Officer now?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

NHS decommissions website early

So NHS Direct is shutting down it's service on 31st March 2014. So what does it do several days beforehand?

It closes its website...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Winning further international SEO business

February was a busy work month for me and the rest of the team at Ideal Interface.

Not only have we fitted in a presentation at the Edinburgh Tourist Action Group (http://www.etag.org.uk) on the opportunity for International eCommerce, delivering the digital strategy for a financial services company, consulting on one of Scotland's biggest digital platform projects and hosting a table of clients at the Scottish e-Commerce Awards... it's been an eventful month.

However on top of all this we won a new search engine optimisation client http://www.fmwfasteners.com an American-based eCommerce site that sells nuts, bolts, wall mountings, screws and a whole lot more on top. Making this our first USA client, on top of others closer to home in Europe and the UK.

A big thanks must most go to Jon at Cobnut Web Services (http://www.cobnut.net) for the initial referral.

You can read the official press release here on our website:

Friday, February 28, 2014

The signal and the noise of The Oscars

I'm a big fan of predictive data and analytics, with the statistical findings of Nate Silver being a pet subject.  The ability to see through statistics and see the patterns than some data makes is: part skill, part art and part alchemy.

So it was fun to see that Nate has focused his attention on this weekend's Oscars:

However rather than picking a winner, such as best film or director, the Moneyball statistician has analysed previous films for trends and common themes.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The need for an agile Digital Strategy

Most industries and vertical sectors now face increased pressure from digital technologies to transform the way they run business. This pressure exists all the way across the online spectrum, from customers with new and increasingly diverse channel preferences through to agile market entrants that threaten to disrupt the status quo, the need for change (at speed) is huge.

Organisations therefore need to respond quickly and build the right digital, commercial and information technology road map for future demands...
  • To protect key revenue streams
  • To remain competitive
  • To find new lucrative products and markets
In other works, any Digital Strategy that exists in an organisation needs to be flexible enough to change quickly, whilst still providing consistency in service levels, customer experience and product quality.

The agile digital strategy may therefore not just be an ideal... but possibly the only way to fully relevant and valuable in a world that is changing at an ever-increasing rate.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Multichannel retailing trends in 2014

If you've never heard Ian Jindal from Internet Retailing present, then I suggest you get yourself along to one of the many digital and eCommerce events that he either runs or participates in.

As part of my involvement at the ScotlandIS Scottish eCommerce Forum today, I saw him give the keynote below. What was supposed to be an outline of the trends in multichannel retail for the next year actually became more of a philosophical view of the meeting (AKA a clash) of the human condition with the always-on & connected paradigm of the world wide web.

Just what was needed to kick-start an entire day (and evening) of thought-provoking presentations and discussions on the future of eCommerce north of the border.


Friday, February 7, 2014

You can't answer everything with analytics

I'm a big believer in the use of digital analytics to inform business decision making. And this isn't just the correct presentation of data in the right format, but in the delivery of insight from this data.

But statistician John Tukey had a different perspective. He once stated:
“Data may not contain the answer. The coordination of some data and an aching desire for an answer will not ensure that a reasonable answer can be extracted from a given body of data.”

In other words... sometime the data you have collected just isn't enough. Or more pointedly... if you have not originally set-out to collect the data you need to make the right decision, then no amount of analysis effort can generate the answer.

So how do you resolve this? Collect everything you possibly can, in the hope that you will one day find a use from  it?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Finding User Experience Resource in Glasgow

Since moving to Glasgow I have noticed that there’s been a lack of some digital-specific skills. The most obvious so far has been around the subject of analytics & insight. However more recently there has been a new glaring resource gap opened up… User Experience.

I currently have a large client project in the Glasgow area that requires User Experience resource.  So for the last couple of weeks I've been looking for decent local freelancers who can consultant on-site over 2 to 3 months. This is an important piece of work and I really need someone who can take things from Customer Strategy all the way through to wire-framing (ideally with large eCommerce and travel experience).

However, despite one unsuccessful avenue, I've so far drawn a blank. And after speaking with several digital contacts in Glasgow, there seems to be a real unmet demand for decent and available user experience contractors and consultants in the West Coast of Scotland.

Or am I missing something?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Is your Digital Strategy actually Strategic?

Does your Digital Strategy really deliver a vision and road map that takes your organisation forward?
Or does it simply to just wallpaper over the cracks and problems?

This is a question I've been wresting with lately and one that's let me to reconsider the work I do and scope of what Ideal Interface is actually involved in.

Or to put it another way, let me share with you a few key parts of a digital strategy outline and one that companies could use as the basic of their own.

Strive to be 'digital first':
Whether this be in the way you communicate to prospects, the way you design your core services or the way you integrate with business partners, 'digital first' is both a philosophy and a key requirement.

Accept change as a constant:
Understand that there is a continual change in customer & user preferences, channel shift patterns and technology trends. 

Be inclusive and user-centred:
Providing self-service functionality via digital touch-points isn't enough. You need to do this regardless of a user's: ability, connection, device and location.

Be optimised:
Whether this be by providing relevant, timely & targeted information or by maximising revenue using sophisticated conversion optimisation techniques, nothing stands still and everything needs to be tested, modified, measured and tested again (and quickly).

Be great:
I'll leave this one up to you.....

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Improving Scottish eCommerce

As some readers of this blog will know, I've recently been asked to present on the opportunity for eCommerce across Scotland.  But what value do these events have in the context of encouraging Scottish companies to engage in eCommerce and to do it better?

Well the feedback I have had via face-to-face, email & social channels so far has been very positive. One example that really got a great response was... during my presentation I had a quick interactive session where I got everyone with a website to stand up. They then gradually sat down as I increased the level of sophistication in the use of eCommerce Analytics.

This not only showed people that they weren't alone in not fully utilising one of the most useful digital tools out there, but also demonstrated the next few steps they could take to online maturity.

However... this is just the start of things. As Scotland's only dedicated eCommerce consultancy (I did ask a year ago where all the Scottish Digital Consultants are, and nobody responded), we see a huge opportunity for companies and organisations to not just do things better (improving what they have) but to do better things (innovate, take opportunities, etc).

It is this mix that I believe should help take Scottish eCommerce forward!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Why do I see 'Not Provided' in my SEO agency report?

Since October 2011 Google has increasingly been hiding the actual terms used in organic searches. This has been done by Google as they “believe that protecting these personalized search results is important”.
However, Google has only hidden these terms for organic searches and is seemingly prepared to overlook this privacy issue for its paid-for marketing service AdWords (or as search engine specialist Danny Sullivan put it more bluntly, Google Has Put A Price on Privacy )
These hidden search terms are now reported in Google Analytics under a generic “Not Provided” category and the comparative size of this catch-all segment has been steadily increasing over time. In fact, aggregated industry figures now put this figure as high as around 80% for some sites, with a major increase seen in the 3rd quarter of 2013.

Whilst there are some work-arounds to try to get some insight from this missing data, site owners have no real option but to ‘like it or lump it”, use the data they still have available for search engine optimisation and hope the figure doesn't get any higher in the future.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Basic eCommerce Terms revisited

When you work in the digital and eCommerce consulting industry, there's the tendency to assume that the person you are speaking to always has enough experience to be able to understand what your saying and act accordingly. However, this is not always the case (e.g. when the person has just been moved or promoted into a new role) and sometimes it takes time to cover the basics with a client, even though you don't always want to make it too obvious.

I therefore thought I would revisit some of the more common eCommerce terms used. Not just in case a current or potential client was reading this blog, but also to help anyone else who may be venturing in the world of online transactions, etc.

The processes and tools used to get new customers to start using / visiting any digital company touch-point (e.g. website, app, social media presence, etc.). Acquisition rates can be increased by using different marketing techniques (e.g. paid advertising or search engine optimisation).
Example KPI = Website visitors

The amount of people who complete a required online goal (e.g. a booking or a purchase) divided by the total number that visit. It is sometimes called the 'look to book' ratio and in some markets / companies it is one of the most protected (e.g. Secret) of figures.
Typical average conversion  rates by industry:

The number of customers who come back to the digital channels and book/purchase again within a given time period (sometimes set as the entire customer lifetime) .
There are no recognised benchmark figures on digital customer retention that I'm aware of and this depends considerably on industry, product, customer type, etc.

Average order value is typically the sum of revenue that has been generated divided by the number of orders taken. Again, there are no standard measures for this, as the range of products and prices vary from company to company.