E-commerce and its multi-channel adventures!

‘Multi- channel’ has become a bit of a ‘Web 2.0 buzz word, but it has become one of the most expansive sectors in e-commerce. ‘Multi Channel’ (we shall call it MC 2.0 for comedic slogan purposes only) can involve a retail organisation having several touch points for interactions with customers and also several competitive routes to market. Large traditional ‘Bricks and Mortar’ (apologies for my over use of apostrophes this evening) companies have expanded to incorporate several channel for example Next Retail

Next have:

  • Walk in Stores
  • Paper mailing catalogue (which is also present in the store to showcase the full range of products)
  • Online Shop
  • Call centre operations
  • Affiliations with comparison shopping engines, pay per click advertising, shopping directories as well as other new media advertising.

To complete the set they should think about marketplaces such as eBay. They may be satisfied with their end of season re-sellers already on eBay.

In response to this expanse in retail channels, companies specialising in total retail solutions (such as Channeladvisor,Marketworks, Venda and Truition) have spawned from the far corners of the earth. These systems incorporate as many product to consumer channels from one platform as possible, providing a custom branded system. These systems are also available (and mostly piloted by) the smaller virtual retailer. Many of these smaller retailing business have taken such a slice from the high street that the larger players had to respond to the drop in sales.

Going MC 2.0 is about opening up your offerings to different markets as well as your products being available across all channels.

Retailers should be looking to synchronise the service level across all channels. All channels should be fully integrated with existing systems and correctly aligned across:

  • Price (even though some companies have set up separate branded channels to be more competitive on-line without being detrimental to their high street trade)
  • Promotions
  • Gift Vouchers (should be able to be used off-line and on-line)
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Order process and Returns

A customer likes a single experience across the various channels.

One department should administer all channels to the consumer, as a customer does not like to be passed from pillar to post with their queries about a product or order.

And this is the end for ‘E-commerce and its MC 2.0 adventures’ for now!

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The different types of e-commerce website

The selling aspect of e-commerce doesn’t only involve selling tangible goods but also using internet technologies to market services.

Transactional websites enable you to purchase services or products online. The websites main contribution to this service is through the sale of the product and providing the corresponding information to facilitate the sale, on-line or off line. This is the most popular embodiment of the selling side of e-commerce and the most commonly associated with ‘e-commerce’ Most transactional websites these days are business to consumer sites, but there are a growing number of business to business suppliers on-line as the e-commerce world grows.

Relationship based websites provide information to stimulate purchases and build customer relationships. You will see this type of site more often in the business to business e-commerce and in the services industry. Products are not usually purchased on-line as this type of website is more of a sales tool. The website is built to provide information as to encourage off line sales and to generate leads from potential customers.

Websites can also purely provide information or news about a range of products. These websites have an array of options for generating revenue though affiliation, advertising, commission based sales or sales of customer data. Blogs can often cross over into this field as a targeted revenue stream though affiliations to appropriate products and services based on the general theme of the blog.

Some websites are built purely for branding purposes. The main focus of such a site is to support and strengthen the brand expanding its reach and influence among its target consumer. Again, you usually can not purchase online but sometimes the on-line interactivity of the brand. For example New Look Clothing. You can not purchase online but you can view the products and find your nearest store. This site makes sure the brand is correctly represented on the web.

These different classes of website all fall under the e-commerce banner with respect to selling.

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Gearing up for Xmas 2007 – What to do in October…

Right, its getting close so what do you need to do? You haven’t started yet? Thought so. So lets get cracking and here’s a few things to get on with or you can use it as a basic guide. It’s generic as every business is different and every product type moves differently. This post leans more towards your advertising and a little about inventory and website functionality. I am going to start my Christmas shopping this month, and I buy EVERYTHING on-line, and about 50% on eBay.

Week 1

Gather Data – Make sure you have the necessary data from last year October to December including your pay per click campaign statistics from last year. This has to include your website statistics, ROI, traffic sources, best keywords Google Analytics’s can provide this basic data if installed correctly, including basically what made your revenue.

Review Product Launch Dates – Many companies schedule launch of products in time for the Christmas season, especially consumer electronics. Make sure you advertising picks up on these trends if your product is relevant.

Gather Competitive Intelligence – know your enemy in the battle for Christmas! What paid campaigns did they use last year? What keywords are they ‘buying’ now? Does your paid search campaign match up?

Prepare a calendar of events – make sure you and your advertising/website team know what’s going to happen and when.

Week 2

Prepare your website for the new season – evaluate the ease of navigation, can your item be found in 3 clicks? Is your shipping information clear and above the fold? (above the bottom of your browser window, on initial viewing of the page)

Determine your up-sell opportunities, you will have related products to your main Christmas sellers.

Have you tried setting up on eBay to increase your reach?

Test your seasonal landing pages.

Re organise your product inventory, make sure there is room for your seasonal items. Taking off your lower selling items during this period to squeeze in more popular items is OK. Most catalogue companies do this to make way for Christmas. Put keywords like ‘Christmas gifts’ and ‘gifts for her’ within the HTML and keywords of your site. Remember gifts is what its all about now.

Week 3

Prepare for launch! Once Halloween is over its time for Christmas so you need to make sure you can flick on your advertising methods, be it standard advertising, marketplaces or pay per click quickly. Test your campaigns intensively and monitor your competitors for change. Test your website, and remove any dead links or fix broken pages. Set budgets wisely. You supposed to be making more money at Christmas not loosing it on excessive advertising!
Week 4

Launch your campaign. You will need to make sure the search engines know what’s going on so have you updated your sitemaps? Once November hits is all about Christmas, you need to make sure your Christmas and gift keywords have been indexed. Once your campaign has been running for a week you will be able to fine tune it in the first week of November.

November Edition Posted

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How E-business can be used for competitive advantage

There are many opportunities within business to move products and services on line. The internet gives you a better reach, both nationally and internationally at a low cost compared to bricks and mortar. The internet has a richness about it. You find more detailed information on products and prices from many companies and you need your business to show up against your competitors. You might have the better product at cheaper price, but without the knowledge your customers will continue to buy elsewhere.

Moving a service or product on line enables interactivity and customisation to engage your customers, as we know very well the impact of social media on today’s adult population, with the myspace and facebook generation.

Affiliation should not be shunned by an e-business. An organisation with rich links to other compatible companies or organisations will be able to gain a larger reach and influence.

Encouraging your customers to use on line services will reduce costs while providing a new, convenient channel for purchase and customer service. On line your customers are only a mouse click away from your competitors so you need to make sure you build last relationships with your customers. This statement can be a generalisation in some cases as customers or suppliers will generally lock themselves in after learning to use a system or website as the switching costs can be high.

Take the Marketworks and ChannelAdvisor example. Both are on line auction and e-commerce management systems. Marketworks has the poorer product, which was less reliable but high end retailers were locked in because of the cost of switching from one system to another.

This is now however not a problem for Marketworks Customers wishing to switch!

There are some limitations to your e-business and problems will arise. For example in customer service, emails need to go directly to the person concerned within your business and not just ignored. This can damage a companies reputation as your customers will share their experiences on-line in forums and message boards.

Your services are limited by bandwidth, the amount of information that can be presented to the customer at any one time. A website can become unreliable at peak traffic times, and after certain events such as the Olympics and the World Cup if you products are relevant. Your information has to be accurate and reliable, constantly updated to meet the customer needs and changes within the marketplace. No e-business can rest on its laurels.

Security and protection of customer data is an on going problem which you will have to keep on top of.

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