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Re-defining e-commerce sales

Blog posts   •   Dec 07, 2011 10:16 GMT

What defines an e-commerce sale? This may seem like a question with an easy answer, “sales made online”, right? Not necessarily. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Darrell Rigby titled “The Future of Shopping” points out that the influence of e-commerce on sales is not simply about the daily report you receive about yesterday’s on-site sales.

The article asks “is it an e-commerce sale if the customer goes to a store, finds that the product is out of stock, and uses an in-store terminal to have another location ship it to her home? What if the customer is shopping in one store, uses his smartphone to find a lower price at another, and then orders electronically for in-store pickup? How about gifts that are ordered from a website but exchanged at a local store? Experts estimate that digital information already influences about 50% of in-store sales and that number is growing rapidly”.

These scenarios and many others highlight the blurring lines between e-commerce and traditional bricks and mortar shopping, yet this is a topic that many traditional retailers have not begun to understand.

This blurring of the lines creates a host of issues for traditional retailers. How do you market to consumers in the digital age? How do retailers properly track what sources are driving revenue? In terms of marketing to digital age consumers it is apparent that the days of viewing digital channels, in-store marking and traditional advertising in isolation are coming to an end. A focus on creating the easiest and most rewarding shopping experience for the consumer will need to take precedence across retail marketing, creative and advertising agency offices with a focus on coordination of messages.

Marketing efforts will specifically need to increase for mobile and tablet devices as consumers are becoming increasingly savvy at utilising the power of these devices as tools help them shop for the best deals.

The article points out one particularly interesting example of this, citing Tesco’s brand in South Korea called Home plus. In an effort to “bring the store to the consumers at a point in the day when they had time on their hands… Home plus covered the walls of Seoul subway stations with remarkably lifelike backlit images of supermarket shelves containing orange juice fresh vegetables and meat, and hundreds of other items. Consumers wanting to do their food shopping could simply scan each product’s Quick Response code into their smartphones, touch an on-screen button, and thereby assemble a virtual shopping cart. Home plus then delivered the physical goods to the shopper’s home within a few hours”.

In addition to changes in the way retailers market themselves, another aspect of the traditional retail approach must also be addressed. How will various stores, the retailers’ website and marketing channels be credited for sales?  Most retailers still approach sales reporting on a per store basis with the website being counted as one store. As the example above clearly shows this approach is not necessarily relevant in the digital world.

If one store, for example, has a great sales staff but limited stock, it is very possible that consumers could be purchasing online as result of their experience in store. Who gets credit for this? Shouldn’t the great sales staff get some credit? Retailers that think of how to model a reporting system that gives credit where credit is due will likely be ahead of the game in relation to their competitors. They will be in a better position to encourage sales staff to meet all of the consumers’ needs rather than only the needs that can be met within the confines of the walls of the store.

As we can see the definition of an e-commerce sale is changing at a rapid pace and will continue to do so over the coming months and years. Retailers that look ahead and begin to address these changes no are likely to be at big advantage in the years to come.

Blog post by Mike Jennings Director at Reform

What defines an e-commerce sale? This may seem like a question with an easy answer, “sales made online”, right? Not necessarily. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Darrell Rigby titled “The Future of Shopping” points out that the influence of e-commerce on sales is not simply about the daily report you receive about yesterday’s on-site sales.

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Strictly come surfing – at the half way mark

Blog posts   •   Nov 28, 2011 12:28 GMT

Last year, after an off the cuff comment in a meeting with our PR agency I set about digging around online data sources to see if they could be used to see who would win Strictly Come Dancing. Looking at search and social data in the build up to the show launching last autumn,there was a clear front runner – Kara Tointon. It also happened that she was an excellent dancer, and so as the weeks went on it was very easy to keep chopping the data in a different way and confirm that Kara would win.

This year the stakes have been raised as the challenge of examining the data to see who would go out each week was laid at our door. Manfully we accepted the challenge and have been writing a weekly post for the Guardian’s Media Monkey blog outlining what the data says and what that means for who is going to leave Strictly in any given week.

We found out very early on that predicting the loser each week is much more difficult than predicting the winner of the whole show. Who’d have thought it, hey?! The first issue we encountered was that of collecting clean data for the celebrities. Is there a more generic name out there than Alex Jones? Perhaps John Smith, but after that I’m not so sure! It has taken us until this, the half way point to be entirely happy that the data we’re looking at is actually about the right people as we’ve tweaked our queries each week.

Another issue that we have faced has been in examining the sentiment behind the buzz of celebrities. Our experience told us that volume itself was no sign of popularity, as people love to get on social networks to have a good whinge as much as they use it to declare themselves a fan – if not more! Our in house self-expressed data fiend developed a tool for sentiment analysis (well done Richard!) that does a pretty good job of sorting the positive from the negative, but there is no tool out there that is 100% accurate. In fact, even paid for tools such as Brandwatch and Meltwater aim for 70% accuracy – so we’re always at risk of being wrong. Just as an example one week someone tweeted ‘@bbcstrictly bloody hell that was absolutely fab…u…lous!! Len you are wrong #scd’ – our tool put this firmly in the negative camp, but clearly it’s not!

All that is before anybody has even danced a dance. We found that the volatility in the dancing performance by the celebrities in the bottom half of the table in the first few weeks made it very difficult to judge what would happen. As the couple that leaves is decided by a combination of the judges score for their dance and the phone vote, a novice celebrity doing the pasodoble one week and a waltz the next might be near the middle one week and then rock bottom of the judges score the next. We quickly had to factor this fluctuation into our algorithm, allocating a score for the perceived difficulty of the dance celebrities were undertaking each week.

So how have we done? We’re currently sitting at about a 50% success rate in predicting who will go out each week – so using the data is certainly more effective than randomly guessing! More than anything I think our experience doing this analysis has shown that data on its own isn’t enough. Without understanding the context and the content of the data we would have been way off the mark every week. By examining the source and taking into account the limitations of our data, we can be much more calculated in the way in which we read it. Data is one thing, but insight is another!

Blog post by Penny Anderson, Consultant at Reform

Last year, after an off the cuff comment in a meeting with our PR agency I set about digging around online data sources to see if they could be used to see who would win Strictly Come Dancing.

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Retailers: Top tips for maximizing your mobile visibility

Blog posts   •   Nov 15, 2011 16:31 GMT

As Christmas approaches, retailers must position themselves to maximize their visibility amongst consumers, especially during challenging economic conditions where budgets are tight. In an increasingly wired world, consumers are turning to their mobile devices and tablets for guidance. This is only likely to increase during the Christmas season, as consumers are expected to conduct more searches from their mobile and tablet devices as they shop.  Google has estimated that in the US, 44% of last minute gift searches will be made using a mobile device (though that has been disputed by sites such as Search Engine Land). Google also states that more than 33% of US smartphone and tablet users plan to start their holiday shopping prior to Thanksgiving.

Performics recently released a report showing that mobile devices now account for 14.2% of Google’s total search clicks, also stating that paid search clicks from mobile devices are expected to increase to 17.3% in November and December.  As holiday sales can comprise nearly half of a retailers’ annual sales, being positioned appropriately for mobile and tablet search can mean the difference between a successful or dreadful holiday sale season.  Poorly optimized sites and images, along with sites that have flash and poor navigation and sites which are not mobile friendly, could result in local retailers losing significant business.

According to Google 65% of high-end device users report that they have used their device to find a business and made a purchase at that business in person shortly after.  So, burying details such as store hours and phone numbers, could negatively impact offline sales.   Consumers who are in a rush and need access to that information right away may very well take their business elsewhere, thus causing an impact both online and offline for shoppers.

Here are some tactics you can implement in order to optimize your mobile search campaign this holiday season.  Most e-commerce websites have a mobile version, where the landing pages and URLs are separate from their desktop site. We suggest that you do not copy the landing page from your main website as it probably won’t function properly. Instead, create a landing page that is pertinent to what your mobile users are searching for, but with less add-ons than a full website page might have.

Next, conduct mobile-specific keyword research.  Whereas SEO rankings for terms are similar to some extent whether a mobile or a home user, the PPC landscape is quite different.  Business owners should create a keyword list and set separate campaigns specifically for mobile devices and tablets. Mobile users are generally on the go, therefore their search queries will typically be more generic or location based, so be sure to include the right terms and match types in order to attain more traffic.  Doing this will allow you to set a specific budget and track the campaign’s performance.  If you apply those strategies, you will be able to maximize your visibility amongst mobile device and tablet users this holiday season.

Blog post by Priya Chandra, SEO Consultant at Reform

As Christmas approaches, retailers must position themselves to maximize their visibility amongst consumers, especially during challenging economic conditions where budgets are tight. In an increasingly wired world, consumers are turning to their mobile devices and tablets for guidance.

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About Reform Digital

Reform is a specialist digital management consultancy with offices in London and New York.
We build actionable business solutions for clients – from market intelligence and benchmarking, to business planning, strategy, product development, technology, operational improvement, resourcing and delivery.
We believe that digital is a disruptive model, a positive force for business change and growth. So we work with our clients to transfer our digital skills and best practices into their organisations – through auditing and modeling, management and practitioner training, planning workshops and organisational change programmes.

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