Masters status awarded to the Diploma in Internet Retailing!

I’ve posted the fuller story elsewhere, but I’m so pleased I couldn’t let this pass without a post 😉

The Post-Graduate Diploma in Internet Retailing (which I created along with Econsultancy.com) has just been accredited by Manchester Metropolitan University as the UK’s first Masters programme in Internet Retailing…

We’re about to change the marketing blurb and website to proclaim ‘MSc in Internet Retailing’, but for now I’m just enjoying the glow of pleasure after over 3 hours of grillings!

Thanks to @cragster and @groovegenerator for their hard work.

Frenetic phase of speaking

It’s been a busy time speaking of late. In the last month I’ve:

I was particularly taken with the venue for BBDO U: an hour outside Paris in a chateau run by Chateau’Form, a business-only venue format that takes stately piles, renovates them and then makes them available for business summit and conference hire. For more cost-effective and characterful than hotels, and providing a convivial atmosphere – ideal where networking and team building go alongside the more formal presentation and conference activity. Chateau’Form de Mello was a chateau on top of a fort and a really amazing place:

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I managed to grab a few mins to try my hand at archery. Ahem:

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While I’m pleased with getting one on the target, the two in the wood show my aim’s a bit ‘off’ and I’ve ignored the arrows on the floor and in the trees behind!

After my presentation and Q&A I headed back into Paris for meetings, pausing only just long enough to wander through the Jardins du Luxembourg and get caught in an almighty downpour: here’s a panorama from my shelter:

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The Walpole Yearbook – my article on Social Media in Luxury

I’ve just posted my article on Social Media in the Luxury sector on my blog:

http://pencil.wpengine.com/the-walpole-yearbook-article-on-social-media/

The article was a short one, written to stimulate debate in the luxury sector, where adoption of social media both lagging and also challenged as to whether it’s relevant to the sector.

Research on this was really interesting, and I came across some fun companies (especially ThisNext.com which is now a firm favourite as an exemplar of social-meets-brands-meets-commerce).

Internet Retailing – first results from the Inspiration Index

The March issue of InternetRetailing’s hitting desks around Europe and we’re able to release the standings after the first ‘dimension’ of the Inspiration Index voting – on “Moments of Brilliance and Delight”.

irii-results-dimension1

To recap for those who missed the IRII announcement, the InternetRetailing Inspiration Index focuses upon:

those moments of admiration, enjoyment and – frankly – envy: when we look at another retailer’s activities and wish we’d thought of that first, had implemented as well, or have an open regard for a difficult problem elegantly overcome

You can see the full article from InternetRetailing Magazine here:

IRII Article (pdf) – download

The next dimension – Customer Experience – is now available and awaiting your comments. Please follow this link to the eDigital Research survey page:

https://ecustomeropinions.com/survey/survey.php?sid=473664927

Results and the site review will be published in the May issue of InternetRetailing Magazine.

Other links

Speaking: International Association of Department Stores, in Amsterdam

I was pleased to be invited, along with Frederik Nieuwenhuys of Fredhopper.com, to give the keynote at the IADS meeting in Amsterdam on Thursday, looking at the future for department stores online. We received a warm and open welcome at the de Bijenkorf flagship store for two days.

My pleasure turned quickly to a feeling of privilege, however, during two days of open, candid, revealing and utterly stimulating presentations and discussions.

I’m unable to recount details or attendees, but I can say that the leading stores in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Mexico, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Chile were represented.

A further highlight was the informal discussion time in the evenings, where I found in particular the directorate of IADS to be in possession of a mine of information, challenging ideas and an archival historic view on the sector… We’ll be hearing more of this in future issues of InternetRetailing!

My (publishable) take-aways from the meeting were:

  • a focus on the customer and customer expectations, rather than technology
  • concentration on ROI, and investing in business process and ‘cross-channel’ as much as in ‘building the web store’
  • a tension between comprehensiveness and focus when it comes to online range – along with a view that there’s no single, simple answer
  • a focus on growth (surprising in this economic climate) – geographically, in terms of range and scale of operations.

I’ve lost count of the number of conferences I’ve sat through, but I can’t remember the last time that I sat through two days without a single weak presentation, scribbling notes and ideas all the while and having my preconceptions challenged to regularly.

In my view this emphasises the benefit of smaller, peer meeting that allow for candour. I’d certainly be pleased to attend any further events by IADS based on this exemplary conference, and will reflect on the format for upcoming InternetRetailing events. A well-spent couple of days.

You know you have a powerful brand when…

After a week or two of conferencing and marketing meetings I’m getting a bit sick of the talk of ‘branding’ and ‘brand values’. Call me curmudgeonly, but I hold fast to the notion that I as a consumer bestow ‘brand’ status on a product or service and that this status is something earned as a result of some underlying value: working as or better than claimed; consistency; transparency; fair dealing. And then a little bit of desire and ‘wow’ to finish things off.

This true story recounted to me yesterday says all that’s needed about the power of a brand – even with competitors…

A friend, let’s call her “Nicole” for the want of a spare false name, had recently requested a PAC code from her mobile provider (let’s call them T-Mobile, just for the sake of the story). The PAC code closes your account and allows you transfer the number to another network.

As well as a PAC code, the request invariably triggers calls from the bowels of the contact centre and the ‘customer recovery’ team – those rare beasts empowered to grant your tariff desires, issue free phones, and generally persuade you to cancel the request and ‘de-churn’ yourself.

Said T-Mobiler introduced himself to “Nicole” and started the spiel. “Nicole” tried to cut him off saying that nary a blandishment nor inducement would change her mind and could he please leave her alone.

Silence for 10 seconds. Then – “You’ve bought an iPhone, haven’t you”.

“Yes”.

“OK. I understand. Thank you very much.”

When even your competitors’ battle hounds decide to go home and floss their teeth you know that your brand is in a strong position.

Acquisition Manager, E-commerce, House of Fraser, House of Fraser | Econsultancy

Acquisition Manager, E-commerce, House of Fraser, House of Fraser | Econsultancy

A quick heads up for a new role at a client, House of Fraser.

This is a really interesting post in a vital and growing aspect of HOF’s ecommerce activities.

Initial setup of the affiliate and acquisition activities has been done by Chris Bishop, so it’s by no means a greenfield situation, but it’s an evermore important part of the marketing mix.

Customers expect not only to see retailers present on niche, offer and voucher sites (that’s now obvious) but two important new factors are emerging:

  • closer working with key affiliates like MyDeco and ShopStyle (both demanding of product data, imagery, metadata, collaborative campaign and promotional management), and
  • ever-tighter cross channel working – leveraging the in-store activity, PPC, SEO and on-site promotion for maximum customer satisfaction and of course profit.

The integrated, friendly and capable team at HOF are the cherry on this particular cake!

Note that applicants need to add a supporting note to their CV stating in 500 words or fewer the three tactical, “day 1” things you’d do to improve SEM and/or affiliate activity.

Applications to:

Rebecca Bedwell
Resourcing Advisor
House of Fraser
27 Baker Strert
London
W1U 8AH

Tel: 020-7003-4809

resourcingho@hof.co.uk

Profit per pixel second – pps?

Over the last couple of years I’ve had two concurrent obsessions when it comes to ecommerce: data and online merchandising. The former is the foundation of everything we do and sell online – product data, customer data, metadata, behavioural data… Increasingly, my interest in data has extended to behavioural and attention metadata, as well as the free(r) interchange of said data. The interchange is made possible with APIs, microformats and emerging XML standards in Attention Profiling Markup Language, APML. The open data and data portability movement is also vital for a future in which all sorts of data can intermingle, be mashed up and generally create valuable services.

I covered this for the last two years in presentations, culminating in my Digital Trends series given this month where we reach a level of ‘epiphenomenology’ and magic by extension of these trends. The slides for this presentatio are available on Slideshare.

In tandem, I’ve been working with clients and collaborators on advancing approaches to online merchandising – the art of selling online. We’ve covered this twice so far at the European eCommerce Forum (notes of the inaugural ECF are posted last year) and it’s also a module in the upcoming Certificate/Diploma in Internet Retailing. The aim of course is to maximise the profitability of the merchandised ‘page’ online.

This approach was fine where eCommerce was in a growth phase and customers seemed keen to spend evermore time online. However, in a saturated market there’s evidence that online customers are settling into a core group of a dozen retail sites (where ‘retail’ include aggregation/affiliate, voucher and cashback portals who – from a customer’s perspective – are simply alternative ways to shop). The battle now is for the customer’s attention as much as for their money once you have that attention.

These two themes come together in a measure for merchandising effectiveness – profit per pixel second.

This combines the notion of ‘yield per pixel’ presented to a customer, with the idea that one only has a given time in which to persuade the customer AND that those seconds have been ‘borrowed’ from the customer’s other activities, their other favourite sites or simply from calls upon their time in the ‘real’ world.

This approach means that we might no longer want to ‘retain visitors’ on our sites for a long time – rather, a quick, effective visit might be best for the customer. We can also start relaxing about multiple, short visits to our sites (for example research, or monitoring stock availability or trends) if we can see that contributing to sales. The ‘yield’ or profitability measure focuses our efforts upon getting the most profit rather than buying the highest turnover.

I’ve been doing some initial work on how this proposed measure might inform day to day merchandising activity, or even be measured (since we know that ‘not all pixels are created equal’), but I’d appreciate thoughts and help on this, not to mention alternative suggestions or rebuttals.

Do let me know either in the comments or via direct email, as well as volunteering to help with some data – in confidence, of course.

DigitalShorts: blackboards, magic, google history and porn

So then, to Brighton, for another outing of my Digital Shorts presentation, arranged by Econsultancy (see events calendar on my business blog).

It was lovely to have an excuse to visit Brighton again, and a quick, chilly wander along the seafront with my new-old Minolta CLE and tack-sharp 28mm Elmarit-M and a roll of Fuji 1600 ASA (golfball-grain)… results shared in due course if acceptable – although do see the results from Paris last month…).

The venue was cosy and there was an interesting group – many digital agencies, a sprinkling of retailers and some software vendors.

The fun began (ahem) when we realised that there was neither a projector nor a screen available. A couple of frantic calls later and we realised that they were ‘lost’. Hmm. In the Hove lanes we could see into people’s Home Offices and so was tempting to have Craig push in a door and ‘borrow’ a 40″ plasma, however in the end the cafe downstairs lent us their menu blackboard and – drumroll – a piece of chalk!

So – with the support and chuckles of the assembled, alcohol-fuelled crowd, I cracked on with a presentation with the power of waving hands and – yes – chalk 🙂

It was a laugh and the questions from the audience were tough, robustly-put and really engaging. I had a great night.

Indeed, I _knew_ it was a cunning group by the way they took my demonstration of Google History to heart. I’d mentioned how APML and attention tracking were alive and with us, witness Google’s history (and showed mine, noting how one should be careful sharing this in case of compromising past activity!).

Anyway, after the presentation I left my laptop at the front for people to see some of the demos and realised that a couple of people were looking a little _too_ sneakily pleased with themselves (yes, you know who!).

Turns out that they’d indulged in a little guerilla history frigging, gently porn surfing (along with the kindergarden ‘reset home page’ routine) in order for this to appear in my history: excellent!

I know that an audience has taken my points to heart when we see this sort of behaviour 🙂 I can teach them no more than this 😉

During the evening we took a journey that looked at the phenomena that occur when ever-better structured data, metadata, behavioural data meets open, free exchange over increasing numbers of nodes. We then considered further possibilities – ‘epiphenomena’, if you will – and how these in short order would become indistinguishable from ‘magic’.

It was a great opportunity to think a bit beyond the pressing commercial exigencies of 2009 and envision the services we’d be engaging with in a couple of years.

If you’re interested in seeing the slides they’re online at Slideshare:

Ps071 Digitalshorts Manchester

View more presentations from ikj.
Finally, the event’s been covered on Twitter via the #digitalshorts tag:
http://search.twitter.com/search?q=digitalshorts
Finally, I’m going to be delivering a similar presentation for the Sense Network on 25 February in London – see my calendar for details.

Digital Shorts – my first ‘twittered’ event

Last week I presented at Digital Shorts in Manchester. It was a really fun evening with an engaged crowd, good questions and a great set of conversations afterwards. And of course a beer or three catching up with some ex-Littlewoods colleagues afterwards.

The slide deck is available here – looking at how data + open interaction + standards + behavioural insights can lead to an ‘epiphenomenology’ or, put succinctly, ‘magic’.

I don’t want to spoil things yet (especially since I’m delivering the presentation in Brighton on 11 February), but I did want to note that this was the first time I’d had an event ‘twittered’.

So we all know about twitter – microblogging, or a public-ish exchange of sub-160-character messages (think of a group instant-messenger session, or an IRC channel ‘done’ via single message) – but at this event there was someone in the audience ‘twitting’ my points.

On twitter you direct message at people by the incantaion “@[username]”, so for example to be certain that a comment appeared on my ‘radar’ you’d include “@ianjindal” in the message. Think of this as a way of ‘attaching’ messages to me.

A further development are ‘hash channels’ – anything prefaced by “#” creates (or adds to) a channel. These can be created on the fly (eg #createdonthefly): the genius of these is that they act as a ‘tag’ or a collector: without the need to establish a ‘channel’ in any formal fashion, twits from any number of people can be aggregated into a feed.

This was shown to good effect with #uksnow (coverage of the recent snowy weather in the UK) or channels that formed to cover the recent emergency landing of a jet on the Hudson.

There’s no ‘ownership’ of the channel and there can be conflicting claims (eg #TCUK was claimed by TechCrunch UK and The Co-op UK). The only ‘right’ in this instance is ‘might’. You can’t claim, own or protect a channel. However, as an ad hoc, current and flexible ‘collector’ these are ideal.

One such is #digitalshorts (you can see this here at http://search.twitter.com/search?q=digitalshorts). You can see that @GeorgiaBrown did a great job in transcribing activities – especially since I don’t seem to have been misquoted at all 😉

So – let’s see whether Brighton manages to micro-blog the evening 😉

In the meantime, here are the slides from the evening.

Ps071 Digitalshorts Manchester

View more presentations from ikj.
ps you can find me on Twitter as twitter.com/ianjindal