E-commerce is not different from traditional marketing

Last week, we had another guest speaker, So Young Park, who has various e-commerce marketing experiences. She initially built and managed the 1st generation of an online store for A&E and History channel. She worked at Guitar Center and Musicians Friends, and she is currently working at Oracle. In this post, I would like to share some of interesting statistics that So Young presented to us and her valuable life lesson besides e-commerce marketing.

E-commerce, marketers are not confident.

I was thinking about e-commerce sites. I go to Amazon where I consider as the essential website for my survival in New York City. I go to j.crew.com which is my favorite fashion brand. I go to Gilt when I need some good deals.

They are all efficient, selling well, looking great and conveying true brand image (except Amazon conveying true brand image…) I thought that I was living in the world that e-commerce has finally conquer our lifestyles. However, my thought was not quite right according to So Young’s resources.

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Not many marketers answered that they are not confidence with the e-commerce. The blue bar at the very bottom indicates that respondents who gave 6 and 7 on a scale of 7, where 7 is highly confident and 1 is highly unconfident,  for e-commerce execution are only 43%. This confidence, translated to how well  they are equipped and prepared, has significant differences among percentages, for example, brand building rated 70%.

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Ok, marketers are not so confident with what they are doing on e-commerce. This can be translated that they are ready in terms of brand and everything, but e-commerce is not making right profit that they expected. Therefore, another graph above shows that marketers are focusing on conversion rate optimization. Conversion rate optimization is  important in the case that the brand has strong value proposition.

In my definition based on So Young Park’s presentation, conversion rate optimization is  to increase sales overtime. This should be based on seeing everything in a holistic way such as brand image, audience’s experience on website, and clear and convenient process of searching, detail-seeing, adding-things-in-shopping-cart and paying. What business has to do is selling products in an integrated sense online like offline stores have to have integrated store display, trained sales representatives and layout planning.

So Young Park pointed out that e-commerce is not something very different. It is one of your direct channels that sell your products, and it should be managed better, easier and clearer to increase sales.

In addition, what I appreciated from her presentation was that she made a metaphor optimizing conversion rate to a real life career experience, finding your KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and cumulating your experiences overtime. It reminded me of the book, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. So Young and Sheryl put a stress on the same thing: you never know what you will become, so being prepared and learning from what you experience to find your KPI is important.

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Virtual Currency: Convenient Spending

I love coffee and drink two cups of coffee almost everyday. When I am busy, I easily visit Starbucks and make an on-the-go coffee. Of course the location of stores is one part that I go Starbucks so often, but its easy payment system is another reason.

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I load a certain amount of money onto my Starbucks app and pay with the Starbucks app on my iPhone. I can get a cup of coffee even though it is a day that I forgot my wallet.

From my experience, virtual currency is easy, and sometime I get to spend money without thinking. In a reverse thinking, business would love a customer like myself who likes convenient payment system and easily spends his/her money.

We had the third guest speaker, Craig, for my E-commerce marketing. He is an entrepreneur and investor. He understands how big the virtual currency market and works on a payment system, Payz.

According to Craig, the e-market has a possibility of $350 billion, including unbanked money, gift cards, etc. However, there are a few problems like shopping cart abandonment. For example,  you added some dresses and shoes in the cart. You want to find your credit card, but you just figured that your wallet is in your car. You postpone to add your credit card information, and your dresses and shoes are forgotten forever.

Of course brands can send a reminder email to you that you haven’t finished the order process. However, before brands send out emails for the unfinished business, we can save one step by having consumers pay with the virtual currency.

Gilt, one of my favorite shopping site, can be an example of a company uses virtual currency. Among the deals, there are some items which cannot be returned, but some other items can be returned with gilt’s website credit. The virtual currency stays with the company waiting to be spent on another item. Consumers do not have a problem with this system because they know this is the way that Gilt has bargains every day.

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Facebook Gift is another good example of virtual currency: gift cards.The social network service provider used to allow gift givers to choose a specific items, like chocolate cookies or a grande latte from Starbucks. However, there was some problem in terms of stocking and logistics, and now Facebook provides e-gift cards.

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You choose the amount of money from $5 to $50, and the e-gift card will be digitally delivered to the gift receiver. This is a convenient and easy for both gift receivers and givers.

Back to my Starbuck fervency, virtual currency also allows me to be loyal to the company since I can collect starts to upgrade my status from green to gold. When I have my Starbucks app, my credit card and some cash in my hand, I will use the smartphone app because I can receive much more benefits at the gold status as well as it is fun to collect stars. The more I use the app, the more I loyal to Starbucks.

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AboutOne: Customer-oriented website

My family casually says about something we lost in the house: “Dobby stole my socks.”ImageWe mean Dobby, a house-elf, from Harry Potter. So, do we have a house-elf at home? no way….. we just put things deep in the drawer and forget where we placed them. 

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AboutOne is for people like my family, or anyone who needs an organizer (or filing cabinet) for the family document such as doctor’s note, medical history, health insurance, schoolwork, etc.

As a start-up, the founder & CEO of AboutOne, Joanne Lang works so hard to make things happen, competing to big cloud sources like dropbox. There are a few things that I was impressed (or interested) from her guest speech held for my E-commerce Marketing.

 Critical understanding about her audiences

Unlike other clouds-service providers that targets the general audiences, AboutOne has specific target audiences: baby boomers, families, caregivers, homeschoolers and military. This special selection starts from Joanne’s motherhood with children of four. She is a working mom who has to take care of four young children. This is not easy to remember locations of all different documents about her family and family events. I am not saying that you have to select your target consumers that fits your lifestage. I am saying that deep understanding about your target audience can be a start of your business and will dedicate to your success.

Listen to your audience

Joanne told us that she sometimes chats with her customers after she comes back from work to see how AboutOne’s consumers feel about the product. She doesn’t have to spend a large amount of money on focus groups and workshops to get insights from customers. Her makes a humble and sincere gesture to listen to her customers and tries to reflect any complains or suggestions to the website. Also, as a small company, it is hard to conduct frequent market research, and chatting with customers is a great source to obtain real customer feedback.

 

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Online shopping site start-ups

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At my E-commerce class, we had a guest speaker, Michelle M McCormack, who is a founder and digital director of the website, lovethecool12. She has plentiful experience in terms of digital and art. She majored in photography at School of Visual Art (where my younger sister goes!), worked with magazines, worked as a flash/web designer, owned her digital agency, started a digital community of a size of about 15,000 fans and is a fashion/tech blogger. With these interesting and colorful backgrounds, she launched lovethecool12 on September, 2013.

Love the cool 12 is an e-commerce website that the website runs a monthly item and people can buy it with $12. In South Korea, it is common that successful bloggers initiate group buying and then the blog becomes a shopping site. Michelle’s e-commerce also has a similar characteristic, except she fixed the price at $12.

As a start-up company, Michelle stated that that digital optimization and email were more important than social in terms of customer acquisition. This actually makes sense because SEO & SEM and email can be targeted and specified.

Digital Optimization

I think that CPC is somewhere between push and pull strategy. With a small crumble that people type in Google or Bing (meaning keyword), brands have to find the way to meet them (meaning optimizing keyword.) Higher position in the search result would increase traffic to the website, and visitors will stay or make a purchase if they like.  Google Analytics is a way to analyze keywords, and you can bid on keywords on Google Adwords based on Google Analytics. Google Analytics allows you to evaluate each keyword’s performance that led audiences to your website.

Email

Michelle regretted that she did not collect email addresses from her online community for the new business from the start. She knew her audiences in terms of their demographic, interests, age range, gender, etc. Buying a list is somewhat expensive and burdening to a new startup. She could have more customer acquisition if she collected email address from the start. However, there is a way if you don’t feel to buy a list. You may borrow an example of strategic collaboration with keep.com and refinery29.com.

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Refinery29.com is a lifestyle platform that circulates articles about fashion, entertainment, art and lifestyle. Keep.com is also a similar blog about the similar topic. In terms of audience size, the story is different. refinery29 has 527,470 Facebook likes as of today (10/23/2013), but keep has 43,600 Facebook likes. I’d subscribed refinery29 on Facebook, but I had no idea what keep.com is. In order for keep to increase its audience, Keep and Refinery announced a sweepstake that a winner could have a Phillip Lim bag. I fell into the marketing activity and subscribed keep.com for the Phillip Lim bag. (Why  they chose a Philip Lim bag is another story. Target and Philip Lim collaborated and introduced stuffs at that time. People were talking about the brand, and this giveaway could attract people.)

Ok, I have talked in Michelle’s point of view that email and digital optimization with SEO and SEM is the king. I agree that the two things are the important tactics to raise acquisition, but I kind of understand why she thinks that way. Although Michelle had a strong presence in SNSs in the past, but SNSs are not a powerful weapon for lovethecool12. Some improvements can be added in her SNSs in terms of brand integrity and content strategy.Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.00.29 PM Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 9.59.54 PM

I understand that lovethecool12 just started last month, but she needs to enrich her website with fashion/tech related topics with a certain schedule like she did for her blog lovethecool. Since the website hasn’t settle down, SNS lacks contents and the brand page of each SNS is not integrated. For example, lovethecool12’s website has just updated, then Facebook’s cover and profile picture have to be updated with same or at least similar pictures.

I understand starting own e-commerce site must be tough, and I don’t even know how to start. Many applauds for start-up owners, and thanks Michelle for sharing her valuable experience.

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Amazon, the #1 in the Customer Satisfaction

Once upon a time, Amazon was a online source for me only when I had to purchase textbooks at the beginning of each semester in college. Now this is my past, and I rely on Amazon for pretty much everything. Why? because I like it.

I love because it has a wide range of products available, and I enjoy their 2-day free shipping with my prime account.

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I am not the only one who is satisfied with Amazon. In terms of customer satisfaction, the company has ranked number 1 since 2007 among leader online retailers. There are a very little ups and downs in terms of the satisfaction ratings for the brand.

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Why Amazon has high customer satisfaction? Like I said at the beginning of the post, many people find the company useful because of its wide selections. Putting the price aside, your website should be prepared with good merchandise to serve people. Wide range of products can be one of the merchandises, appeals and availability can be included. Back to Amazon, its customers shop at Amazon because you can find most brands that you want and products are available all the time. This is how you satisfy your customers and make them loyal to you.

Also, Amazon ranked number one for holiday gift shopping in terms of both web and mobile. The mobile e-commerce has started to grow as many people obtain table PCs and smartphones. Maybe some would comment that Amazon’s mobile could be beneficial from the website’s reputation. However, if its mobile web is not as great as the website, it wouldn’t have been ranked number one in the mobile area.

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There can be many drivers to increase customer satisfaction. One of the drivers is that Amazon thinks and develops its app in consumer’s prospective, according to MIT Technology Review’s  interview with Sam Hall, vice president of Amazon.

Mr. Hall said that he spends his time thinking how to make the company’s mobile site father, better and easier to shop in consumer’s shoes.  For example, Amazon’s mobile website gives fast page loads and quick search suggestions for the mobile users.

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I also think that pleasant mobile web experience can be one of the drivers because Amazon clearly divides the categories and the location of each icon is easy to access. Also, the wish list icon next to the shopping cart icon is very useful for both the users and the company as users don’t have to explore the whole app to find what s/he saved earlier and it can contribute company’s profit as it can reduce checkout abandonment.

My conclusion:

Any brands should estimate merchandises if it satisfies consumers enough or not. Also, brands that want to increase customer satisfaction should think in a consumer’s perspective for a better, faster and reliable e-commerce experience. Attitude to invent and good-quality web/mobile web design are must-haves.

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Solutions for online entrepreneurs

Online shopping can’t be easier for now. You can look at the catalogs, zoom in-and-out the image to look details and see different colors and options. There are more things you can do when shopping online.

This sounds easy as a consumer, but now I am thinking in the shoes of new online entrepreneur. I wonder who can build the website for me? what about design and integrity of the website and my brand? All the editing and updating are a problem. Also, payment system can be a big burden for new online business starter.

This post will be about Shopify.com and Optimizely.com for people who are new to online stores.

Shopify

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According to Shopify, over 70,000 online stores powered by Shopify with over 100 templates. There are tons of online stores, but 70,000 customers sound reliable and versed in terms of online store builder. So, what they do is from designing your website, they take care of order and payment process and allow to analyze all the data for measurement.

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One of things I liked about this service provide was that I can play with the system with 14-day limit. I signed up to see how I can build my website, but I was impressed by the questions that I had to fill out as well as tasted how e-commerce sites are built. Especially, with the well-structured building process, there’s a less chance that I miss something for the website. Shopify actually can help me not only designing the website but also build structure for my online store. As I play with the system, I even though that I could start a business.

Like I said that the company tries to give a holistic solution from the building to the analysis, the company also wants to help its clients to be successful in the marketing field. It provides SEO friendly services like linking up the picture of the latest product or new design of the website to the search engine by automatically generating sitemaps.xml. Since Shopify has teamed up with Google, website owners can receive $100 when they spend $25 in advertising on a new AdWords account. This seems very strategic and clever. Shopify encourages its clients to push, hidden meaning that higher traffic toward clients’ websites can make Shopify more stronger brand.

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I also like the fact that it provides mobile service with responsive design. As smartphone is the device that people can’t live with, smarphones and table PCs are important driver for the sales. Shopify understands the current online ecosystem and helps its clients to create more and better opportunities.

So, Shopify is a great source to start your website. However, if you are a big brand, you wouldn’t go with Shopify. Even though Shopify provides many templates and customizable features, there might be some limits  such as logistics control and international business foundation. (if you are selling your product to all over the world)

Optimizely

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Tracking, measurement and analyzing the result is as important as setting up a website with good design. If you can’t provide what customers want, you will loose them after all.  Optimizely can be a solution for online entrepreneurs who haven’t yielded success or want to expand their pie. (of course this service has been used by big companies like Starbucks). Like business does offline, understanding them, observing their behavior and leading them to the conversion point can be happened online.

How can they do? one of examples is A/B test. A/B test is running two types of variations -could be creatives, location of link and so on- and make the website more optimized. Whichever generates higher click thru rate, conversion rate, or anything else will be your next move.

Website’s look, location of links, messages and creatives are not decided website manager’s guts. It actually requires measurement and analysis. Action for a possibility to make the website better, stronger, and more powerful should be conducted now.

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Optimizely gives 30-day trial. You can simply type in your website at the home menu, then it will show you this dashboard that you can play with variations. Of course, you will need to further details for more serious experiments.

My conclusion

Shopify and Optimizely, both look strong presence in terms of their fields. If I plan to have an online website, I would use the two solutions because I am new and not technician.

What I would do, if I were Shopify, is to initiate A/B testing more more intricate analysis solution like Optimizely. Shopify does provide “advanced store statistics.” Although I am not sure how detailed data will be given, eventually people would need more sophisticated solution to analyze the website to improve it.

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Travel Websites Comparison

I am a traveller. I have been to over 30 countries so far and still want to go more when I have a chance…..(also have $$). Since travel is one of my hubbies, I love look around travel websites. Looking around nice hotels, reading review, checking out the prices and estimating a might-be-happening travel plan are one of the things I do when I am not busy.

Most of times I go for price and nice customer service (that I can change my plan without a huge trouble) and there are several favorite websites. But for this posting, I just want to simply evaluate the following websites, putting the deals and customer service aside: Priceline, Travelocity, Orbitz and Tripadvisor

Priceline

Priceline, known for its unique bidding system for hotels and flights, maintains a simple design at the home. The home features its spokespersons, called the priceline negotiator, Kaley Cuoco and William Shatner. (Kaley Cuoco started to appear in the ads from 2013 in a role of a fictitious daughter of William Shatner.) Having the fact that not so many travel websites feature spokespersons, the priceline negotiators can grab consumers’ attention, connecting their appearance on other media vehicles to the website and the brand itself.

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Among the four websites, only Priceline has a responsive design. I shrank the website, and the the father negotiator (William Shatner) disappeared from the search box in order to fit in the screen size.

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There are three possible ways that you can book a hotel at Priceline. You can simply look up list of hotels, you can try Name Your Own Price to get a nice deal, or you can do the Express Deals to obtain great bargains.

However you hit the travel date, destination and the number of room, you will end up finding the three search types at the top of the screen. The website, known for a bidding for travel, can keep its consumers from travel aggregator site by providing both its innovative bidding system and the conventional name lists.

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Things Priceline can improve:

  • Add a internal search box at the top-right corner of the website
  • Add customer service phone number or a link of email address

Travelocity

My first impression with Travelocity was boring and unorganized. There was a half-cut promotion on the right side of screen because the site didn’t fit into my browser’s screen size. Also, the banners at the bottom middle seems like floating in a awkward spot. I wonder what is like a click rate of the banner.

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When I scrolled down to the end of the site, I found an enormous empty space. Almost half of the page was wasted on nothing. The whole website design should be revised in order to survive. Although great deals are the most important element for Internet travel websites, website design should fit customers’ design preference, especially in this design-oriented world.
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Things Travelocity can improve:

  • Add links of SNS accounts along with an Email sign up box
  • Apply a responsive design
  • Organize images so that the site looks less busy

Orbitz

A nice background image grabs my attention as I enter the website. Also, I like the function of My Recently Viewed Hotels. It automatically saves previous search results and acts like a reminder for people like myself who likes to play around my travel destination.

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Things Orbitz can improve:

  • Move the location of SNS accounts to the top or anywhere that has easier accessibility.
  • Add customer service phone number or a link of email address
  • Add an Email sign up box

Tripadvisor

There are so many things that I like about this site’s design. First of all, nice and simple design doesn’t distract me from anything else. If you access to this website with a clear travel plan search, things are better. This is because its simple trip plan box is very noticeable. Of course, tripadvisor acts like a bridge to the other travel websites like priceline, expeida and booking.com. It doesn’t have to have specifics like the number of traveler within its travel plan box.

I like the top of the website including, internal search box, Facebook account connection and a link for tripadvisor mobile app. Also, you can sign in through your Facebook account and connect with your friends. It helps the website build more database-reviews- and brand awareness.

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While I wrote this website evaluation, I felt some urge to leave. What I felt other than the urge was each travel website uses different style according to the company’s strategy. Also, I when I think back, price was not all that I looked for. Website’s design can be one of factors that the company builds its brand image and reliability.

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