Friday, September 16, 2016

About the future of ecommerce, contentmarketing strategy and personalisation by force

It is september, and I do not know why, but in september there is alway's lot's of interesting ecommerce news. I do like to share a few interesting articles with you today.
Take for example Ryanair. Ryanair is going to introduce "personalisation by force". You do not have a choice but to get personalised offers and information, Read more about it here and here.  I think a really good move. Make loyalty easy. It always annoys me if I fly with an airline and I can only benefit from their loyalty programme if I sign up. Why not just match my email adress, and see my booking history. For example I flew many times with Cathay Pacific, but I never took the effort to sign up for their loyalty programme, same goes for KLM. But they do have my fly history and flight pattern, so they can personalise offers! However they do not do so  leaving me chosing often other airlines. Curious how this works out countries where privacy is an important issue in online marketing, countries like Germany for example.

Then there is the growing importance of call centres in e-commerce and marketing. Every call is becoming a data collector! Interesting. By using data acquired by call centre agents, the website experience, or more broad the digital touchpoints experience can be improved. This aspect of ecommerce is often forgotten, but call centres already were of great importance for ecommerce but their importance is only growing!

Econsultancy, from the UK released a nice infographic about contentmarketing. Often companies think that contentmarketing is just writing an article or publishing a generic video. But that is not the case. Contentmarketing requires a true strategy. This infographic (on click for large) describes various types of contentmarketing.

As you see there is a lot to take into consideration and now imagine these content types in an international environment.
Meanwhile others (and I think there is truth in it) say that generic content is no longer king. But write content (and give tooling), so others can write content for you and about you. Of course it depends in which industry you are at, but when thinking out of the box , there are always some idea's to think try.

Another interesting opinion about the future of ecommerce, I found at this website. This guy, Brent Bellm, signalises a trend: Seemless buying, buying via social platforms, or any platform where there is interaction between friends or consumers. 
The trend he sees is that we move away from ecommerce platforms (bring the store to me), and even that we might move away from marketplaces as Amazon. 
Interesting, as how will digital branding look like, when there are far less ecommerce websites? Customer Experience will be even more important as it is far easier for consumers to share idea's or products (maybe even for a commission), at the same time digital experiences related to the products you sell, or digital problem solving tools, will help in creating your brand.
At this moment, by the way, marketplaces are still growing strong. 92% of users use online marketplaces in a lot of parts of the world.
However we also know from China, that seemless buying in chat applications like wechat is very popular and easy to do. It is also very easy for companies to integrate their shops and services in wechat.
A very interesting trend to follow closely the next few months.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Entanglement Marketing

Today, August 20th,  I am in Zermatt, Switzerland. Hoping to do some summerskiing. It is summer in the village, but winter is still present up in the mountains here, 3883 meters high there is lot's of snow. However today is cloudy and windy and lifts are closed. So I grabbed a book and started reading about “Entangled Marketing” and watching the people go by in their electric mini cars, with the Matterhorn at the background. Tomorrow I will go to enjoy summerskiing, tomorrow the weather will be great! This post is a combination of items from the book, some personal opinions and some examples I found at the web. Enjoy reading!

I gave the book a view at the Matterhorn,
during my stay here..(but the Matterhorn is
sometimes "entangled" with clouds as today :).
I bought this book since I believe, that the way of marketing brands or building brands, is also changing rapidly. It’s no more just some display advertisements or an always on PPC strategy, there are many other possibilities.
I never could find a word for it, but now I have read this book, I know what it is called: “Entangled Marketing”, moving beyond engagement. Engagement is no longer enough. As a brand you have to go beyond engagement. And that you do with "Entangled Marketing"!.

The authors describe the word entanglement as "the quintessential quantum effect". In the sub atomic world, a pair of entangled particles never let go of one another.
It’s a perfect metaphor for what business management would like to see happen in our digital environment. What if the brand entity and the customer entity could be entangled in an enduring, supportive relationship? One to one is yesterday’s news, it is time to take the “to” out of one to one. 

The book describes a few examples. About John Hancock insurances, who entangles the insured person by giving the customer a fitbit and rewarding him for his healthy lifestyle, or the company“Chick-fil-A” who organises special entanglement for the animal toy’s children often take with them to a restaurant. They even let them sleep over in the restaurant and share all kind of pictures the adventures the child’s animal toy had during its sleepover! Great for the kids, and thus great for parents, who keep on returning to the restaurant. I found a video about this sleepover and experience.

Back in the old days, in the analog era, the direct marketing business model, selling directly to the consumer or a business consumer, represented about 10% of the economy. The vast majority of the companies did not know much about the behaviour of people buying their product or getting their service.
Now in the online era, marketers have so much data, they know what the customer wants before he knows he needs it.
Think about Spotify, Netflix or Dollar shave club and all those subscription services from nowadays. This is the way forward. The still rapidly growing world of connecting services and products (IoT), will only speed things up. It makes sure you can entangle consumers with your brand.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cross bordere ecommerce: centralise or localise digital marketing activities

In cross border e-commerce, often the question is asked: "what can I centralise and what can I decentralise if I do cross border ecommerce"?

Cross border ecommerce wisdom

The question really depends at your strategy, your products or services, the size and structure of your company, your financial capabilities and of course the countries where you are active, or want to expand to.

There are nowadays companies who can fully fulfil every aspect of your cross border e-commerce activities,

Having said that, I have described per e-commerce channel, my view at localisation versus /decentralisation and how I think it is most effective.
To make it easy I introduce here the Alex -localisation-centralisation -*- meter!

Stars and Alex a good combination

SEA (search engine advertising)
Search engine advertising, can be centralised, there are nowadays some really good global search engine agency's who really can help you with your international sea strategy and execution. Since a large part of SEA (like advertising description, product insertion, stock information) can be automated if you have a good product feed and ICT landscape it is easy to optimise via a central agency. 

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity * localisation star and ***** centralisation stars.

SEO (search engine optimization)
There are two important aspects in SEO, technical SEO and content SEO.
Technical SEO is best to centralise. The reason is, that almost all search engines in the world, more or less require the same technical adjustments and often companies have one generic website system.

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity * localisation star and ***** centralisation stars.

Content SEO is a different story. Of course there are also agency's who say that they can deliver content SEO per country, but sometimes they just translate texts that in other countries might have important keywords, but in the country aimed at, might not so important. Besides that content SEO is also often, to be ahead of trends, to produce content that will be important in a few months time. Often this knowledge is only known by real local people, not by just translating.
Then there is of course the -not completely undisputed- linkbuilding activity where people pay others to get a link.
I personally am not so much in favour of this activity, I see more value in creating real valuable interactive content, that will be highly shared and linked to.
But if you do this paid linkbuilding activity, it is best done by locals.

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity *** localisation stars and **centralisation stars.

Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising, is just like SEA pretty  easy to centralise, however the trend is more and more to adjust your advertisement to organic social behaviour or into geotargeting at for example local events. This makes social media advertising in my opinion still centralisable, but just a little bit less then SEA. Localisation/Centralisation **/***

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity ** localisation stars and *** centralisation stars.

Social Media Content production
The organic social media results, so the general posts we make, can in my opinion best be done as a hub and spoke model. Centralised but with local flavours. Social media needs to be authentic and there are many local interests that differ per country or even per region. It is advisable to centralise the social media tooling (including social media reporting tools), but to keep local access for local posts and local influencers.
Many cases are known where international companies use local influencers in their local social media strategy.

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity **** localisations star and *** centralisation stars.

Website Optimization
If one of your company's main activities is selling via your website, it is best to centralise all technical issues but when acquiring these tools or building these technical adjustments, keep in mind what local offices or agency's can do at your website.
Think about for example:

  • Local access for A/B testing purposes, locals know much better how their customer group or target group is behaving and what their interests are.
  • Local CMS access for writing content, in order to have more valuable content, faster. 
  • Local access for SEO purposes (adjusting product titles/meta description)
  • Local access but with guidelines for image uploading
  • Local payment methods
  • Local checkout flows 
  • Etc.

Optimising a website for the highest conversion and traffic possible, always involves local knowledge.

Also take in mind, that your template must be flexible. Many global company's have different templates for the different regions they service.
This is of course related to culture and user behaviour. You can still be one brand, even if you have different layouts in different country's or regions. Read more about that here.
I will write more about website localisation in a future post, someday :)

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity **** localisation stars and ** centralisation stars.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wouldn't it be nice...

Wouldn't it be nice if:
  • used the data of my hotel reviews, informing hotel owners of future bookings I make, with things I find important? If they know from previous reviews, I find WiFi very important, give me a room next to a router. If a person don't like children that makes noise, give him a room far from family rooms (or the other way around). 
  • I received local commercials in my own language, at spotify? I was walking in a town, abroad, while listening to my spotify playlist. But I kept on receiving Portugese commercials. It would be so much more effective, if I could receive local commercials in my own (or in the English) language. "take part in this boat excursion, say the promotion code "spotify" in our shop, here in Albufeira and receive 10% off"
  • I could just shake my phone (or press a button), and receive discount coupons of retailers near me. It is already possible in China (alipay), I have not yet seen it in Europe.
  • If I receive from NS (Dutch Railways) advice or discounts for routes I regularly take? I use this OV chipcart, but I never have any advantage of it in a personal way.
  • If my local garden supplier, used the IoT to prevent problems from occuring? If my IoT device signals bad weather, or signals that my plants need furtulizer, tell me! Prevent problems from occuring and the customer experience will be so much more positive.
  • If , like yesterday, I arrived at a totally deserted "bus station" in a city I do not know, that Google will auto suggest, to get me an Uber to get to my hotel destination? That I only have to press "yes"
  • If cities, see the commercial benefits of offering wifi throughout the city, it will help retailers, and improve visitors experience.
  • If I do not have to signup for loyalty programs with airlines, but that they just recognize me because I always book a plane ticket with the same email adress. Give me an account and auto loyalty me and surprise me. 
  • My Samsonite suitcase, has a small (very light) motor, and some chip that follows my cell phone. In that case, I do no longer have to carry or pull my suitcase while traveling, it just follows me. Much easier.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Responsive organisation and Digital Transformation

I have a few days off, so time to catch up again, lot's of reading to do.

In two weeks time, I am invited for the mediapost email insider summit in Portugal! Seems like a great event and I will for sure post some interesting insights at this blog during this event. I hope to learn more about customer centricity and CRM there!

But today something about organisations and especially the future of them. Take a look at this article
The Future of Organisations is Responsive

I think so true, the new branding is not anymore about a nice video, and some ATL branding campaigns and a nice logo. It is about being relevant, about reconnecting with your customer, being able to adapt quickly, solving problems for customers with the help of digital tooling. To be able to do so, as an organisation it is essential to optimise for uncertainty instead of certainty.

Many traditional organisations keep on thinking from a traditional point of view. They do not dare to think out of the box, they keep on falling back in their traditional way of thinking.
For every campaign, promotion or system change they mostly start thinking from their original values.
They stay too close to their -in many cases- successful businessmodel that worked for decades. But the times have changed.

A few weeks ago, I was attending a conference organised by shopping tomorrow. It was a very interesting and well organised event. One of the speakers, talked about OAD, a former Dutch traditional travel agency. One of those old school travel agency's, that organised (bus) trips across Europe,
OAD was known by everybody and you could book their tours through travel agency's. Travel agency's? Yes, those shops, with many holiday pictures of happy families at a beach that smiled towards you from the shopping window.

If you entered such a shop, you were always given a printed catalogue, with pictures of beaches you never saw when you were actually in this resort. If a new catalogue came out, the winter or autumn catalogue for example, you had to be quick to get the best offers.

Oad did not make it into the digital age.

The speaker at the shopping tomorrow conference, worked at OAD for a long time and gave us the following learnings:

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

International language and country selector and geolocation examples for crossborder ecommerce

I am currently in Jahorina, try to ski somewhere different, a little bit more adventurous. First I made a stop at Kapoanik, and now I am here in Jahorina. That really worked out, it is fun to ski somewhere completely different, if you have skied in many major ski resorts. I am in a real funny hotel here, very, very friendly people.
Unfortunately their car broke down today, so I did not go to the slopes today, but decided to write something, as it is very cloudy today as well, so skiing is not optimal especially not above the three lines. I always like to work a bit from abroad or to write something about my interests from abroad. Internet is so awesome that these things are all possible you can work and study from everywhere!

Fun! All of the hotel including me, packed in a small car on our way to the slopes.
Language or country selectors in crossborder ecommerce:

Many international websites, have a language or country selector. Either everybody sees it and you first have to make a choice, or you are first redirected to the most likely version of the website you need and can change afterwards.
There is not much to be found at the web, about usability best practices for these country and language selectors. So I decided to make a few screenshots, might come in handy for others who are also investigating the best option for users and conversion.

Below I will place some screenshots of country selectors/geo location for your inspiration. I am writing this from the country Bosnia where I am at holiday. This means sometimes the interaction can be a little different then if you are in another country.
These language and country selection pages are very important in crossborder e-commerce.They can make or break a sale or lead.

Zalando shows a country selector page with flags. I visited this site before. If you are in a country that Zalando has a website for, you see this page only for let's say 1 or 2 seconds and then they redirect you to the correct country (I guess it is an IP detection system). At Zalando it is not possible to choose another country once you have chosen one. I think that is strange, since IP detection systems are not always correct. But that's the way they have made it. Positive is of course they own all major TLD's from to etc. But this not all companies have.

Zalando's country and language selection

KLM shows links to their main departure markets, Netherlands, Germany, United States, United Kingdom and Norway and a drop down for other countries. After you have chosen your country you have an option to choose a language. KLM has integrated the EU cookie policy at this first page (see also remarks about the cookie policy at the end of this article).

KLM's country and language selection.

Also if you are at the site of preference you can choose easily another location also another language for the location. It works also (a little bit) with typing if you want to change a country in this menu.

Unfortunately KLM is not so well in their offline service in switching countries (link=Dutch only) if you are traveling, but online switching between countries and languages at KLM is not so bad. has it's own IP detection system, they redirect you to the correct locale, or incorrect locale is I have now here. But then you can easily change from location.

Easyjet automatically redirects me to the UK version of their website, visiting from here at my holiday address in Bosnia. But you can easily change website from the main menu. As you see they have flags representing the country, but also the language, by duplicating the country flag and writing next to it the country name in the local language (so f.e. Schweiz for German speaking Switzerland and Suisse for French speaking Switzerland). Good of course, more companies should do so is the possibility for Chinese people to browse and order through


Well, off to a fashion website now. I have never visited one of their shops, but they are a global player. They do not use flags, but a drop down menu. And the left one is automatically set depending at your location (must be again an IP detection system). At the right one you choose the language.

However you cannot order online in every country, if you use the drop down button you can see where you can shop online, they use some icon for that.

Geolocation detection at
I see also that in all countries you can select, they offer the English language as well as (where available) the local language. I think also very positive. 

Ikea is a truly global player and uses a system that is divided per continent and uses textual links instead of flags. Also you can select a language at the same line. Once you have chosen your site/language you cannot change your location from the menu. By the way an interesting article about Ikea and cusotmer insights in combination with localisation can be found here.

Turkish Airlines

I flew with Turkish Airlines to my holiday address here, good experience in flying, however not such a good customer service via social media, as I have experienced. Their language selector is also divided per continent, including a handy "remember my selection" checkbox, however I think hardly anybody notices that checkbox, you better store the selected preference (also) automatically as well. Also what is annoying is that once you clicked on a country you have to click again to select a language, must be horrible at a mobile device as it is already horrible at a desktop.

Turkish Airlines does have an option to change country from the menu, and I think this looks pretty good you can choose the country and languages available, and here the "remember my selection" button seems very handy.

This selector from Turkish Airlines in the menu looks nice the Japanese internet giant and marketplace has a remarkably small country selector at their website. And the selection of languages is even more limited. I think they need to localise more. Visiting rakuten you do not get a gateway page but you have to choose from the menu after you first are redirected to an English language page. By the way at that other retail giant from Japan, Uniqlo, I could not even find a country selector? I like the brand and shops however. I visited them a lot in Asia and they really localise their clothings and designs. I saw different local designs in the same holiday at both Australia and Singapore. Really nice! However online it seems they do not localise so much yet unfortunately.

Rakuten's country selector in the main menu
Off to one of my favorite websites. The folks at even let you choose between your language, currency and shipping country. It automatically pre fills the country where you surf from in the drop down box.

The separate menu shows a few local sites and if this is not one of your choice you can choose a language fia a drop down menu.
Aliexpress language selector
Nike has a three step approach, maybe that's because they are a sports brand and they like people to be active, so they let them click a lot of times. As I am not so sportive and more lazy, I do not like this activity so much :).
I only show the screenshot with everything combined, but you have to click three times to get to your destination. It builds up. Very tiring if you are not so sportive :).

I have marked the screenshot with a 1,2,3 in which sequence they appear.

Nikes sportive country and language selector
Well, there are many things to consider when making such a country and/or language selector.
Keep at least these things in mind:

  • Some flags can be offensive, like for example showing the Taiwanese flag in China.
  • People do not always enter a website via the homepage but for example via search engines at a product page, how do you deal with that? Make sure people are visiting the right website before they have placed products in their baskets, or let them easily change from within the basket.
  • IP addresses are scarce, and many people use (proxy) services that let people surf through other countries, so always give people a choice to change their country and language selection.
  • With mobile usage growing and growing, make sure you have a good working mobile version of you country selection.
  • Design alert: in the EU you have the problem that also the cookie law, requires you to ask permission when people visit a page, often the same page as the country selector. So you have two messages you have to combine in one page, as KLM does already but I haven't seen it with others. Legally you have to inform/ask people for cookies already at this page. This results already in difficulties measuring effectiveness and user experience (thanks EU not).
  • Pull down or drop down menu's usually use a general list, with the United States at top. But consider to do it alphabetically or better make it relevant, as shown in the examples above. Show the country that most likely is the one the visitor will choose pre-selected.
  • You can store the prefered selection with a cookie of course, but also if people are logged in via the my environment and in your database, but also you can use the browser language settings or an external IP database. Always make sure people can easily change their preference and locale. Since many PC's are used by different people and all of these options combined do not give a 100% correct locale.
  • If you use a drop down or some menu, make sure it also works when people type in the first letters of their country. It is easier for users.
  • Watch out with standard drop down lists for countries as many countries have different names for the same country. The Netherlands is also known as "Holland" , so make sure you have both options in the list. Wikipedia has a list of countries with alternative names.
  • If you have an e-commerce website and people have products in their shopping cart and change country or language make sure they keep the products in their shopping cart. Note: keep this also in mind with your pricing strategy as prices may differ per country. In the EU it is not even allowed to charge different pricing per country. 1 , 2 , 3 links more :)
  • Try to get all local TLD's in the countries where you are active, so people can always use the local domain. It is still better for seo as well.
  • Find a good IP detection/geolocation company. There are lot's of differences between them and good ones have multiple ways in detecting the location of a user (not only IP). 
I have searched the web, but I could not find any case study of a language /country selector and their effectiveness or user behavior. It would be very interesting to see or test what works best for different user groups. 
As soon as I have the chance I will test it at the company I work for, to see what works best. It will be highly interesting to see test bounce ratio's and to follow user behavior into the chosen website.
  • Are flags the best option? Does everybody knows the flag of the country they live in?
  • Is a combination between flags and text the best?
  • How to best deal with different languages spoken in some countries?
  • How effective is an IP detection system? How many users change country or language after being sent to one via the IP detection system?
  • Does a checkbox to remember settings work, like Turkish Airlines has?
  • It would be very interesting to test user behavior at these gateway pages via a tool like 'clicktale' or something similar.
Maybe this is the best option, stereotypes in country selection :)

Stereotypes in country selection crossborder e-commerce

I wish you all a very nice end of 2015 and a great and healthy and cross border e-commerce 2016 where one of the key drivers of e-commerce success will be localisation and personalisation!


Alex Baar

Saturday, December 19, 2015


International SEO can be an important aspect of your digital strategy. The search engine market is still very much dominated by Google, however there are local differences like Baidu in China, Naver in Korea, Yandex in Russia or Seznam in the Czech Republic.

This chart shows this quarter's (4th quarter 2015) search engine shares across the world. 

The source of this chart is this site, where you can make your own search query and analyse the search engine market.

Each search engine has it's own specific (international) requirements but a few general important aspects to keep in mind with international SEO are these:

  • Always use real local content. Don't translate via "Google Translate" or similar tools. Use real local unique content, use translators who understand seo and give them access to for example a tool like, or "search volume checkers", from the various search engines". Yandex has a search volume checker, Google has one and Baidu as well.
  • Image naming is more and more important in SEO, especially in some branches like clothing, design, home and garden etc. For image SEO there are three important aspects:
    • The name of the image, should be relevant and it should be a clean URL like /.../uselessbox.jpg. If you have multiple versions of an image just add f.e. 01.jpg like /../uselessbox-01.jpg
    • Alt-text. Each image should have a relevant alt-text. 
    • The text around an image should be relevant as well.
However if you have a webshop with several 1000 sku's and also in multiple countries, you cannot do this easily manually. It is easier to make some rules like to always use the product title for images and alt-texts. But be aware, make sure you can manually override the automatically generated texts. Most e-commerce platforms cannot yet handle different naming for images in a multi-country webshop setup. Usually it is necessary to rename and sometimes copy images in your PIM/CDN system per country,
  • The same goes for the following language specific aspects of a webshop:
    • The page title (appr. 56 characters with the focus keyword in the title)
    • The Meta Description (is about 160 characters maximum)
    • The H1 Heading (each page should only have one H1 heading)
It is essential that all of these aspects/attributes are written by someone with proper SEO knowledge and also that they can be manually overwritten. It is often the case that the page title comes from your PIM system.
  • Don't forget to use a local Meta Description for each page (<meta name = "description">). Also for pages like category pages, landing pages and all others.
  • Search engines need to "recognize" the country or language the website aims at. This can be done via several ways, for example:

    • Host the website at a server with an IP address in the country the website is aims at. There are services , like that can help you with this. Using a local server is also better for the visitor at the other side of the globe as this really speeds up the page loading time (this is also a very important search engine ranking factor).
    • Both Google and Yandex use the "A-HrefLang" tag. A very important and easy tag to use and to tell search engines your localisation information. This article explains more about A-Hreflang. Bing does not recognize the A-Hreflang tag, see more information how to tell Bing your localisation information here.
    • Use the correct TLD's (Top Level Domains). It is still the best for SEO to have your local domains. Like zalando has,,, However there are maybe organisational , technical or branding reasons to do otherwise. If this is the case you can also use subdomains to make the difference. E-consultancy has made this infographic with some possibilities:
    • Tell the search engines geo location information via for example Google's webmaster tools, nowadays known as Google Webmasters.
    • Make sure you get links to your localised website from other (important) pages in this country.
    • Use XML sitemaps per country and import them via for example Google Webmasters . Usually the location in an international environment with one TLD of the XML sitemap is
  • Make sure you use clean URL's. Use lower case letters and a "-" if the page has a longer title (f.e. /international-seo-information/. If special characters are used like Ç or é convert them to normal characters like "c" or "e".
  • Make sure your product pages are available at only one URL. For example name/ If your product shows up in multiple category's just place it under these categories. 
  • If you use filters or facets (search and merchandising software) at your webshop platform make sure it contains the filter parameters, More is explained here. This is important to prevent duplicate content which is not liked by search engines. 
International SEO will be more and more important with cross border e-commerce rocketing the next few years. India + 500%, China + 125% and Mexico +96% . Read more details here.

Make sure you keep a close eye at the latest developments since things change very fast. Not only in a technical way but also in a user behavior way. Youtube is in some countries the number 2 search engine, Facebook is constantly improving their search engine and in China wechat can be used for searching and shopping. Localise wherever you can, it will always benefit you.

var perPage=6; No. of posts to show perPage var numPages=6; No. of pages to show in Navigation var prevText ='