Micropostings for October 23rd from 10:40 to 21:48

These are my links for October 23rd from 10:40 to 21:48:

Speaking at a BIMA/Netimperative dinner

Last night I spoke at a BIMA dinner, since I’d been asked by Justin Cooke, the new Chair of BIMA and CEO of Fortune Cookie.

The format was a nice, intimate one: a couple of dozen digital and ecommerce folk, cosy restaurant on Piccadily and, er, me.

It was only after I’d accepted (and the first Netimperative email landed) that it dawned on me that I’d never done a ‘speech’ before. Much as I hate powerpoint, all of my public speaking to date had involved a projector, a script and some pictures. I suddenly felt very nervous indeed!

Turned out OK though – the time passed very quickly and the questions were lively. I spoke on some themes I’m keen on:

  • the role of ecommerce – taking some of the points from my musings on the Chief Electricity Officer (blog post)
  • data (trying to cover the notions of epiphenomenology without pictures…) (see my presentation at the Future of Digital Marketing conference)
  • the Obama-Preedy Pricing Principle – yes, there’s a well-overdue editorial on this that’s notable by its absence… 😉

Thanks to Justin, Davina, Danny and all of the guests for breaking me in gently!

Danny took notes, but I’m not sure what’ll be left after he’s edited for language, career-limiting comments, confidential asides etc. Maybe a photo? 🙂

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.

“Christmas Opening Times” – photoset

Originally uploaded by ikj

Inspired by a nice ‘we’ll be closed’ sign in Tossed on Baker Street just before Christmas I spent some wandering time looking at how shops signal their opening/closed times to customers over Christmas.

This photoset is a selection of snaps from time wandering in Shoreditch, Brick Lane, Spitalfields and Columbia Road.

This one from Nelly Duff is my favourite, but Square Pie comes a close second imho.

Tour of Westfield London and thoughts on retail/etail.

Westfield London is one of my new clients and so it was a pleasure to get to visit and a guided wander with Sarah Lukins.

The first impression – other than the sheer scale of the place as I approached – was of friendly, helpful staff. The car park attendants were lovely – and it’s really pleasing to see a free motorbike parking policy in place. Very civilised.

The car park tickets are also fun, with rub-off panels so you can remember where you left your car! This is useful since there’s a vast amount of parking (as well as signposting to which park for which shops).

westfield-parking-ticket

westfield-parking-ticket

The fit-out of the centre’s of a high quality – reminded me of the luxury malls in Hong Kong. Good flooring, variations in textures and colours of materials, as well as a good variety of shop frontages and eye-lines. The quantity of shopping is numbing – there’s so much that people will develop their own favourite ‘areas’ – much like people will shop certain streets in London. That gives you an idea of the size of the endeavour as well as a subtle success in creating zones of homogeneity and focus.

There were a number of new (to me, anyway) brands, as well as retailers clearly taking steps to broaden their reach. I was gutted that the MOST exciting new store – Beard Papa’s – was not yet open. Totally distraught, but I’ve made a mental note to go back as soon as it’s open. You can see the range of shops on the directory.

I was there from 2pm on a Friday and the place was packed. Circulation seemed good though with only Nando’s having a sizeable queue. Santa’s posh grotto had a busy gathering but seemed to be moving quickly. I couldn’t tell whether people were shopping actively (lots of bags) or just shuffling – no one’s offered to give me any facts I can publish 😉

Visiting the House of Fraser store was wonderful and uplifting with a good dose of ‘retail theatre’. HOF is approach Selfridges-like level of display in some sections – Menswear, Women’s Accessories and bags in particular. Made me sad that Selfridges had not gone for an anchor store there.

I thought of this on Saturday as I shuffled through John Lewis (my mission: tights for the girls and a new steam iron). The crowds were shuffling and suffocating, the christmas decorations an annoying taunt that the crowds would only get worse and the queues at the checkouts (with the world’s nicest and most patient staff, it must be said) were mission-defeating.

In the space of two days I had reason to ponder both why I love ecommerce (no queues, ease, information, access) and why I love some shops (retail ‘theatre’, presentation, stimulus, service, knowledgeable advice). Westfield’s combination of good shops (not just rent-a-mall clones), personal and helpful service, retail theatre and a pretty painless parking/access experience bodes well. The aim must be to blend the best of retail and etail – with the additional benefits of a ‘programmable’ set of spaces (from cinema through to public event zones). In difficult trading times the hope for continued retail success has got to be a characterful blend of the best of all worlds.

I’m now officially allowed a week off from shopping to concentrate on selling!

Walpole Awards

The hall at the Banqueting House

The hall at the Banqueting House

So, then, to the sumptuous surroundings of the Banqueting House in Whitehall for the Walpole‘s Awards for  Luxury.

It was a well-attended and extremely well-orchestrated event and the awards (of which there were seven, plus a special award for Dame Vivien Westwood whose, er, distinctive speech I really hope to be able to track down on YouTube and treasure forever!).

I was really pleased to see Bremont Watches get an award  (I’m a fan of their ALTI-Z, cream face) and Net A Porter picked up a deserved award for best online luxury site.

In all, a fun evening and good to catch up with so many people.

RetailGreen – challenges and issues in green and sustainable ecommerce

“Retailgreen.eu – challenges and issues in green and sustainable ecommerce”

I’ve been interested for a while in the tension between “retail” (encouraging customers to buy more) and sustainability or ‘green’ sentiments (encouraging people to buy less – “reduce, reuse and recycle” being the operating mantra).

There are many benefits and challenges for retailers in considering sustainability as a part of their strategy and this group on LinkedIn is a first step to exploring this topic.

Mired in conflicting claims, in questions of how far to trace and cost impacts and benefits, and struggling to reconcile customer expressed claims with their measured behaviour, we expect some lively debates!

I invite you to join the group and help shape the debate.

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – lessons for efficiency and saving in sustainable commerce

  2. The sustainable customer – market pressures on retailers to ‘go green’. Following the ‘green dollar’

  3. Profiles of companies and their green activities, tribulations or market positioning.

You can join the group directly from this link:

http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/150191/365DA86DD491

iGoogle “UK Retail” tab, featuring Internet Retailing

Google has recently added a “UK Retail” resource to its iGoogle offering. This is more than a collection of retail-specific feeds from the existing Google database. Google has worked directly with key information providers to ensure that the feeds provided are relevant, correctly formatted, useful for retail ‘watchers’ and provide a good mass of information. From a publisher’s perspective the new zone offers improved branding (over and above a reader just adding the RSS feed to their own iGoogle account).

Follow the link above (click on the image) to get to a page that shows the widgets I’m running on my iGoogle page. Clearly, I’m promoting the Internet Retailing one (ahem), but there are some very useful other ones – the Comscore live “Top 15” table, and the Hitwise Top10s.

This is a useful ‘radar’ for retail and etail activities, I reckon, but I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.

“Chief Electricity Officers”: Editorial from Internet Retailing magazine.

This is my Editorial piece from November’s issue of InternetRetailing magazine.

A plague of recruitment calls has set Ian Jindal to musing about what we can learn from the reign of the Chief Electricity Officer.

The phone’s been ringing to the point of melting at IR Towers recently and invariably the opening phrases are either “Hi, I’m looking for a new eCommerce Director – could you help?” or “I work for an exective search firm and a client’s looking for an eCommerce Director – can you help?”. Anecdotal evidence indicates that we’re in a boom in ecommerce – the late adopters (sorry, those with “second mover advantage”) are competing with the pureplays and early-starters for a small pool of talent. Actually, for “talent with experience”.

Such is the clamour for talent that in January’s edition we will look in more detail at the state of skills in the industry – how to grow and retain talent, as well as poaching it.

I’ve had cause to consider the skills we require in senior ecommerce folk: major change management, technical literacy, sales-focused customer marketing, trading experience and if possible some understanding of buying product. Oh, and while you’re chatting to this Superhero, ask whether they have board level gravitas, significant expertise in your sector, a desire to work somewhere lost in the bowels of the company bureaucracy and the self-discipline not to use their x-ray vision other than on company business.

This stringent recruitment requirement – out of kilter with market supply – sent me into the bowels of IR Towers, to the musty library, to research when last there was such an intrusion upon the board hegemony of Managing, Sales and Finance directors (at least, since the invention of Marketing in the 1960s, loosening Sales Director’s grasp on the executive washroom key).

The IT revolution put IT Directors on the Board (now they report to the COO – the morphed, ever-resilient FD in many cases); the people-are-our-capital boom of the late 80s put HR Directors on the Board (they too now find a place within the COO’s domain) and the MBA explosion of the last decade had Strategy Directors and Business Development Directors duking it out for the freshest PowerPoint [tm] templates (now everyone on the board is expected to have an MBA). Of course there are strong HR/IT/Strategy Directors on major Boards. However, if you were to prohibit three directors travelling together on a rickety plane you’d select the CEO, COO and CMO, would you not?

Whither then the eCommerce Director, often batted between Marketing, the COO or as a digital adjunct to B&M? Few today would doubt either the importance or transformational responsibility given to the eCommerce Director, yet a permanent position at the Board table is not a given. eCommerce is still seen as “other”, “different” and something to be dumped on someone else’s desk.

Some dusty research offered up by our nonagenarian archivist reminded me of the brief but important tenure of the Chief Electricity Officer. Electricity defined the modern era, yet was an expensive and immature technology. Once standardisation (voltage, plugs etc) was in place the industry entered the mass-marketing phase – but adoption was slow. In 1902, Niagara Falls alone could generate a fifth of all the electricity used in the United States, and by 1907, only 8% of American homes had electricity. eCommerce is just leaving an analogous phase – with broadband now having reached all of the most commercially-attractive homes in the UK, and browser compatibility and stability taken for granted – customer are now looking ‘through’ the technology and assessing the proposition, the price and promotions.

In order to thrive at the Board table our eCommerce Directors will need every one of the formidable skills that the headhunters are seeking. Alongside them, however, so will their Board colleagues. Which FD can today say they ‘don’t do marketing’, or which CMO could blithely claim to be financially illiterate? Of course this no longer happens. In short order, therefore, we’ll see eCommerce Directors with the full range of skills needed to make a contribution to a savvy, supportive and challenging group of Board colleagues.

This temporary bubble should not relieve Boards of the imperative to fully embrace ecommerce any more than the temporary scarcity of talent in eCommerce should lull specialists into an arrogant separatism. The eCommerce Director has no permanent place at the Board table unless and until she manages to “drop the ‘e'” and become, simply and gloriously, the Commerce Director.

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House of Fraser – a user experience review | Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke has written a very nice review of the launch of the House of Fraser ecommerce site on the e-consultancy blog.

As you may know I’ve been working with HOF since February on this project (and recently posted the Telegraph’s coverage of the launch on this blog).

Paul’s coverage is much more thorough and it’s rather spooky that he’s noticed (and credited) the areas upon which we worked really diligently, as well as picking out some areas of great annoyance that – yes indeed – the HOF team are beavering away to improve.

To give a bit of ‘behind the scenes’ perspective, while the Board determination to commit to fuller multichannel operation was in place during 2006 it was only in January 2007 that the company started to develop the functional requirements. From that date (ISTR it was January, the day after I’d been chatting to Paul in Manchester at a Digital Shorts evening…) House of Fraser and the wider group have: created a new platform and best practice company (www.ecommera.co.uk), procured an ecommerce platform (Demandware), appointed lead system integrators and lead creative agency (Javelin Group and LBI respectively), established a contact centre (www.becogent.co.uk) and an outsourced warehousing and logistics operation (www.iforcegroup.com). On top of the platform itself there’s some nice imaging magicke from the good folk at Scene7. All of this has been put in place, from first meeting to launch, in 6 months.

Now, there are many further blog posts on my views on developing a complex system with so many partners, and of course many blog posts that I’m totally unable to write on the matter (!). However, it’s a remarkable achievement and very much to the credit of HOF: their Board for a supportive, clear vision and ongoing engagement in the project; a wonderful project leader (step forward, Colette Wilson), a massive level of ambition from all the partners that this would be a high-water mark and reference for them all; and finally immense amounts of good will and common endeavour from the parties.

With the launch now receding in the rear view mirror the adrenaline’s subsiding and the ongoing questions of performance improvement and site development come to the for. Welcome to eCommerce!