As strategic business visions continue to push the boundaries on technology solutions, the need for a real-time approach to quality has become increasingly important. With the transition from waterfall to agile, engineering teams went from multi-month, milestone release schedules, to 2-4 week tactical sprints; bringing visibility and exposure to demonstrable functionality.
For all of my friends out there that spend time working with clients to visualize what a customization to the BCC (business control center) would look like in ATG 9.2, I have made your lives a little easier.
Below you will see two files 1) a custom Visio shape stencil that can be imported into Visio and has all of the essential objects for mocking up a custom Merchandising UI in the BCC and 2) a template that shows what a standard Merchandising UI would look like using each of the objects in the stencil.
.zip file containing both files can be found here
With the news abuzz around Google’s deal with Groupon falling through (a rumored $6B deal), one has to wonder why Google was so interested in acquiring a group coupon start-up in the first place… here’s why:
- Changing the Success Metric: Having tackled the coupon and promotions industry in the past, one of the biggest hurdles businesses face with the traditional coupon model is the incredibly low response rates on coupon redemption. Most companies that leverage coupons are happy to get a 1-2% response on their direct mailings and the risk sits completely in their court. Groupon has introduced a system that transfers the risk away from the business with pre-paid purchasing of coupons and thus has changed the way a business evaluates the success of a coupon campaign. Buyers on the other hand (having subscribed to the service) are in a permission-based environment where the deal does not appear as solicitation, but rather as a welcome communication from a member business with a deeply discounted service or offering. This changing of the model brings greater satisfaction to both parties involved in the process.
- Breakage, breakage, breakage: Groupon has defeated physics and has changed the anatomic structure of a coupon… well not really but in some ways, yes. What was once a push mechanism for retailers to spam individuals with potential marketing offers has transformed into a pull system. Groupon has taken the philosophy of a gift card (up-front payment, stored value, and breakage) and applied it to coupons. For businesses, this is the best of both worlds… low risk for participating virtually (no more mass printings, mailings, art work, lengthy delivery time frames, etc.) with the combination of up-front payment and increased breakage by consumers (for those who don’t know, breakage is the percentage of customers who never redeem something of stored value… usually a gift card [which after a certain period of time can be recognized as a revenue instead of a liability]).
- Global Exposure: Groupon has done a great job of making strategic alliances in other cities around the world (i.e. MyCityDeals in the UK) in order to bring the Groupon concepts to localized areas.
- Collective Buying Power; Collective voice: While Groupon thrives on it’s concept of collective buying power, it achieves this through the collective voice of its customers that spread the word by mouth daily on a single deal. Instead of having a lot of people spreading the word about a lot of deals and losing the inertia, you get one large group dedicated to one deal which also brings the business that is featured into the limelight and makes their potential for reward even greater.
- Google’s Ad Platform is getting stale: People are smarter, the way we accept solicitation is changing and Google realizes that unless it changes the model that it has built around paid per-click and paid SEM it will continue to hemorrhage potential ad revenues to up and coming platforms like Groupon.
One the other side of the web, Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon is also making a play in the collective buying space by investing $175M into the LivingSocial platform, a close competitor to Groupon. While the site offers much of the same functionality and localization of content around the globe, it still hasn’t gained the momentum that Groupon has established but, is not far behind. If there is one thing you can be sure of, its that Jeff has been salivating over the idea of collective buying for awhile now (with the acquisition of Woot.com and now the investment in Living Social) it will be interesting to see how he brings this concept into the core Amazon.com platform.
The next 18 months will tell a lot about the maturity of these two start-ups and I have no doubt we will see an acquisition in the not so distant future (even though Groupon has dreams of IPO).
In the land of multi-channel retail, customers not only expect to have a consistent experience that transcends channels, in many cases they are forced to in order to complete the research, checkout, fulfillment, and service life cycle of an online purchase. The following five enhancements (ordered by their ease of implementation) can empower your customers to satisfy their needs on their own and in turn, reduce the volume and overhead on your call center and service channels.
- Give customers a voice on your site, not in your call center: Tools like GetSatisifaction and User Voice have come to market to offer a service for retailers to capture feedback and identify/prioritize issues customers are having with their shopping experience. What was once a problem that lingered on a site for days or an issue that solicited hundreds of additional calls to your call center, can now be mitigated by adding a “Feedback” tab (like the one on the left hand side of this page) or similar functionality to your site; thus reducing the burden on your service channel. These tools are very easy to implement (can increase in difficulty as you attempt single sign-on) but can dramatically reduce unnecessary call volume while also allowing customers to vote which issues are most important to them from a resolution stand point. While not many ecommerce sites have adopted this functionality yet, I see this being a quick win and valuable tool for any storefront.
GSI Commerce has banded together with several retailers (Toys R Us, Borders, The Sports Authority, Petsmart, etc.) to launch ShopRunner.com, a consolidated loyalty shipping program offering customers two-day shipping from any participating retailer for $79/year. Challenging Amazon’s Prime membership, which also offers 2 day shipping on most products for $79/year, ShopRunners key point of differentiation at this point is their “unlimited free shipping on returns” which is something Amazon does not currently support. Interestingly, Ruelala.com which is owned by GSI is shown as “coming soon”… I would have imagined them to have more skin in the game of their own service.
While the service makes sense and has promise, the true success will be told by the number of retailers that buy into the service and join the program. I am keen to follow the success of this as I believe their are other types of communal functionality that retailers should start banding together to share (particularly those who do not directly compete) in order to benefit from scale and consistency for customers.
Update: As you can see, even Zappos.com (Amazon) is struggling to prove their model across the border in Canada. My hypothesis is that the greater your competitive differentiation point is based on service rather than product assortment, the more difficult it will be to succeed with a virtual internationalization approach.
Internationalization (I18N) and localization (L10N) continues to be a strategic priority for many retailers to investigate, yet few have actually achieved their vision. However, one aspect of going global has gotten much easier, international fulfillment and returns. It’s the year 2010, shouldn’t companies be able to easily ship product anywhere in the world leveraging their current infrastructure?! Theoretically, yes, we should. Realistically, we still face logistical, organizational, and regulatory issues that challenge companies that dare moving into this space alone.
With the announcement of Google Instant now over two months old, Google has published statistics on how Instant has improved search efficiency for people around the world:
- Before Google Instant, the typical searcher took more than 9 seconds to enter a search term, and we saw many examples of searches that took 30-90 seconds to type.
- Using Google Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search.
- If everyone uses Google Instant globally, we estimate this will save more than 3.5 billion seconds a day. That’s 11 hours saved every second.
- 15 new technologies contribute to Google Instant functionality.
As a lover of all things seafood, I decided to pay homage to one of my favorite dishes from the sea, the fish taco. The collection of fresh cabbage, a homemade corn tortilla (for all of those wondering how to make a tortilla from scratch click here), fresh fish (preferably halibut or mahi mahi for my favorite flavor!), fresh lime juice, diced tomatoes, sour cream, and Tapatio come together to tickle the taste buds! Below is a list of my 3 favorite places for fish tacos, please let me know your favorites!
- Blue Water Seafood – San Diego, CA [go for the blackened local halibut]
- Bahia Don Bravo – La Jolla, CA [while the tacos are amazing, the shrimp burrito is to die for]
- The Clam – Grants Pass, OR
Cooking tip: If you are making halibut at home, try adding a little Corona or Modelo to your pan to add a little flavor!
Here is a family recipe that is sure to make you never want to order roasted chicken from another restaurant again! It all starts with a fresh, hormone free, roasting chicken (usually around 3-5lbs). I recommend picking one of these up either at your local butcher (not grocery store) or farmers market. There is a huge difference in flavor and cleanliness between a fresh, non-Tyson/Perdue/Foster Farms chicken!