Friday, October 16, 2015

Book review: Alibaba's world by Porter Erisman

I am currently on holiday and then I take time to read a few books. One of them is the book “Alibaba’s world” written by Porter Erisman. Funny now I write this down, I realise “Porter” is his first name. While reading the book, I constantly thought that everybody called him Porter just by his last name..:)

Reading the book Alibaba's world from Porter Erisman
Reading the book together wight a seagull

I decided to buy this book because I am interested in international e-commerce especially the Chinese and eastern e-commerce developments as this is where innovation is coming from.

The book starts off with an introduction about Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba. When China opened up and foreigners visited China, Jack was curious and started to talk with them. This is how he learned English and how the world beyond China look liked.
For another job, Jack was sent to Seattle and one of his friends introduced him to the internet. Jack searched for the word “China” but there were no results. Jack said “This is something interesting, if we can take companies in China and make a homepage for them, this could be something big”!

So Jack went to China and set up China’s first internet company. China pages. Some kind of dictionary, like there were a lot back then. It had some success and this is how he got connected to the government helping small business with e-commerce. Jack wanted to empower Chinese companies with e-commerce and not control them, like the government wanted. He started Alibaba to do so.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How to differentiate with culture, customer centricity in a responsive organisation

How to differentiate with culture and customer centricity?

Already for a while I get more and more interested in a new way of working. A way of working that allows the "voice of the customer" throughout the organisation. That allows an organisation to respond quickly at customer's feedback. A way of working that makes working more fun for employees as well.
A way of working that I think is essential in e-commerce, especially if you want to differentiate yourself. You have to add (digital value) and to become customer centric. This means a responsive organisation. An organisation that learns fast, listens fast, acts fast and is creative! 

Someday maybe a year ago, I ran into this manifesto about responsive organisations. I really liked this way of thinking and working, so I decided also to buy a book about this subject. This became the book "Exponential Organisations". As you see below I really started to read, and the page shown is an important page that shows how new responsive organisations are the opposite of traditional organisations.

Reading the book "Exponential Organisations"
Important in the new way of working, is to share information, to react on information and to get a company connected. Nowadays cloud tooling is very helpful in this, for example Yammer. Adam Pisoni, one of the co-founders of Yammer explains in a very motivational way the cause of disruption in business.

The cause of disruption:

The people of the world have start to connect. The feedback loops between people have increased. But companies feedback loops have not increased.They assume new information will not be available so frequently so they keep on focusing on efficiency.
The cause of disruption happens when your customers have more rapid feedback loops then your company. Disruption happens when your customers learn faster than you.

A nice example is given from tower records. It looks like this traditional record selling company was disrupted very fast. But in reality, disruption does not happen so fast, as Pisoni says.
Companies have failed to saw the signals and to interpret them in the right way.
At the time when people started burning MP3's, the people in the stores, the local front line employees saw this trend coming.
They noticed people were buying cd's, burning them to MP3 and return them to the store.
The management of tower records responded with a new policy. "If you had opened the case you could not get your money back."
They did not think from a customers perspective. "how do our customers need change?". They failed to listen, to adapt and to experiment.

A few other interesting points from mr Pisoni's keynote speech:
  • Hierarchy is no longer working, Ignore the hierarchy, work across specialisations. 
  • Work in small groups, but have open communication so other people can benefit from the work that is done.
  • Empowering employees means: decrease cost of failure, increase rate of experimentation and help customer faster.
  • In the past we did not want employees to have any control or power. This makes it hard to learn information and to respond very quickly. Employees were powerless to do anything with the information they get (from customers).
  • What is needed is a new form of motivation for employees. Because work will become less routine and more self directed. Traditional motivation (carrot and stick) is actually now bad for the company. Motivation that is less about targets and KPI"s but more about intrinsic motivation.
Watch the complete keynote from Adam Pisoni here below in this video.

So I started to read more and more about this subject. As I do would like to work in such an organisation. And I really do see in traditional organisations that they say the voice of the customer is important, and they say they want to differentiate with service, but they simply do not know how to.

How do you build op a culture that is open, collaborative and transparent to increase business results?

Differentiate with culture and customer service.
To get better customer service you need a better culture.

At a Canadian telco company called Telus, they started with a 10 point programme to be change culture and the way of working.

1) An open model of how to connect and unite people. How to hire, promote and develop the employees.
2) Pervasive learning. Learning is not an event. Learning is equal parts formal, informal and social. so they also setup:
3) Habitat social. They have setup all the collaborative social tools you can think up. Everybody and all is connected. From Video sharing, micro blogging wiki's etc.
4) Give something back to society: give where we live
5) Bravo , an internal recognition programme. Where people could give e-cards or points for jobs well done. Points could be used to give to charity, to exchange for travel cheques etc.
6) Performance development changes. Management is more a mentor/coach and no hierarchical relationships.
7) Executive teaching: The CEO teaches four times a year to all employees 4 times a year.
8) CEO talks to the front line forums, so for example the unions
9) Workstyles: in 2008 20% of the organisaiton was mobile workers, now 70% of the organisation can work from everyhere in the world.
10) Customers first. How are we going to serve customers better?

Interested in more? Watch this video below with the Telus case as Dan Pontefract tells you more about his experiences and vision. Pontefract also wrote a book, that I most likely will buy also soon.

Sir Richard Branson, always in for some nice quotes or idea's also embraces the new way of working for his employees. For example by allowing unlimited holiday's.
For me this would also work, as I think one learns a lot from traveling in general but if you pay attention to it during your travel, also about cultures, habits, service, marketing and e-commerce.
And with a connected company, like mr Branson has, you can also work regularly from your holiday address, just as I do myself. It would give me extra motivation.
And if you combine this with the quote of mr Branson below, I think a winning combination!

Another book that I can certainly recommend is the book "the connected company" and the book 'the amazon way" that is all about customer centricity working in small groups and less hierarchy.

From "The Amazon Way"

I wrote a small review from this book earlier at this blog.

The creative economy, the customer centric economy, the new way (agile) way of working, the employee empowerement, working from around the globe, I like it all. Too bad there are not so many companies embracing the principles yet. I hope to be able to work for such a responsive, creative and customer centric organisation as well in the future!



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Retailconcepts: the integration of on and offline with retail experiences

I visited London the past few days. Only 45 minutes of flying but a totally different retail landscape than here in the Netherlands. Much nicer actually.
Luckily there was at least some Dutch influence that I noticed :)

Some (important) Dutch influence in the London retail and restaurant market, luckily :)
Below just a few pictures from a few shops I visited. Shopping can be nice! the interesting and very nice British furniture retailer that started in 2010 and is one of the high growth technology companies in the UK. I follow them online now for a while and I think they are doing a great job. So when I was walking through SoHo in London, I noticed their brick and mortar flagship store and I decided to take a look.

It is always fun to visit shops from companies that started online and now go offline. Interesting to see how they mix on-and offline.
And did a very nice job!

As you enter the store you will find a desk where you can grab a tablet that you can use to get extra information at the articles displayed. Simply touch the tablet at everywhere were you see the "+" sign and you get extra information. To get the device working, you have to enter your e-mail adress. I did not see they asked for an e-mail opt-in at this stage (I would have done that), but you got to register with e-mail. (why not social sign ons as well?).

And I suggest to write at this desk, where you grab your tablet (see picture below) also that once returned, the device resets automatically, so no personal details are available at the devices and someone else is free to use.

Grab your tablet to connect on and offline in's shop in SoHo

After the sign on (submitting your e-mail adress) you will see this screen as shown below. The device explains how it works. 
You can e-mail your favorite products to yourself, so you can buy then online at a later stage or further on in the shop (see below). 
I am curious if they also connect my flagship store "touch" behaviour to their website product display.
So meaning that if I login online at a later stage at the webshop, they will show me the products that I "touched" in the shop, but I could not test that correctly. Would be an idea though. Or to use it in e-mail marketing for example or in social marketing.

The tablet you can use to get additional information about the products shown in their brick and mortar store and this is how they connect on and offline.

This is how the spots look like, where you can touch the tablet. Every product that is displayed has such a spot where you can connect with your tablet.

+ Marks the spot for Made.Com's connection between on and offline
And once touched (I had to touch 3 times) but once or twice or three time touch, the device starts with all information about the product displayed.
Additional products are displayed at "virtual walls". You see this everywhere in their shop.

What I really like from is their online "unboxed" section. Customers that have products can display them at a special community. So you can see how the products look like at other customers. Customers can connect to each other via this platform. Perfect!  You can comment and even look for customers with products near your house! They also advertise this in their flagship store and encourage to be social active with in their shop. It builds trust! I did not see it, but maybe nice to display a (live) carroussel of the user generated content from their community in their brick and mortar shop. 

Also in the shop, you can order the products you saw or "touched" , directly via the desktop yourself.

As I walked on in London I suddenly spotted this sign, with "Boxpark Pop up Mall". I saw a popup mall in Las Vegas recently, and I was very enthousiastic about that concept, so I decided to walk on....

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A collection of order confirmation, transactional and order shipment emails

For a project about the customer journey, I am collecting some "order confirmation e-mails, transactional e-mails and order shipment e-mails".
I decided to publish them here as well. Might be convenient for others also do get some inspiration.
These are just email examples I either received myself or found at the internet.
Most of them are quite boring. Still so many possibilities for organisations to improve the customer experience with these high open rate e-mails/contact moments.
I wonder if email stays important as a confirmation medium. We will see in 1 year from now. Social shopping or selling through wechat or whatsapp might change this all. Whatsapp for example does not even has my email adress in their settings.

Blogger (where this blog is hosted) has no advanced image view possibility, so I am sorry about that. Just click at an image and the larger size image will open.

Deal Extreme Shipping Confirmation

Deal Extreme Order confirmation Example

Superdry Order Confirmation

JetStar Pacific Pre-Flight communication

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Crossborder e-commerce reports

Usually I publish the "cross border e-commerce" reports, I run into at the internet at either my twitter account or my slideshare account. But sometimes it is convenient to have a summary of direct downloads. So, some direct downloads, just because it is almost Christmas :)

Forrester released a report (paid by metapack) about the relation between delivery options and e-commerce success in France, UK and Germany. A download via my dropbox here.

I discovered that Pitney Bowes often has interesting reports and white papers. This one is a document that helps US retailers to reach consumers around the globe. But it is not only interesting for US retailers. For everybody who wants to understand customer and e-commerce differences around the world this is a useful document. It gives differences per country in purchase behavior and other localisation considerations. A direct download via my dropbox here

Shop the world from DHL is a great 339 (! that must have been lot's of work) page document about cross border e-commerce! A truly global ecommerce document. I hope DHL is just as good as delivering parcel's as in writing clear reports, because this one is truly nice to read and really useful in crossborder e-commerce. See country specific information and needs and see what's important in customer journey's around the world. See if German's still do not like to pay with credit card or if the French still like (a little bit) ordering by catalogue and if the Dutch use marketplaces or prefer local websites. It's all in this document.

Domain names -often forgotten- in global marketing, are an important factor for SEO and credibility. A lot is going on in the domain name industry. New top level domains are being introduced at this moment. This report from Speednames, tells you where to pay attention at in the world of global domain names.

Did you know that in Canada, Italy (?) and the Netherlands and Switzerland the percentage of e-commerce orders placed in the local language is much lower then in other countries? Besides that this presentation (so no report) gives information about global payment methods and what to use in which country. Download the presentation here

Yes, our friens at Pitney Bowes gave another presentation/webinar about global e-commerce. The PDF download itself is not so interesting as I expected. Maybe the presentation itself was. However, download here to see how pitney bowes thinks about making a profitable global e-commerce

This report from Global Web Index, gives a summary (not an extensive reports) at the most used social media networks in the world and it has a special section of social media usage in China.

A video about Global Shopping. Australians buy a lot of autoparts, luxury goods work everywhere because of brand recognition. An interview with Craig Reed (yes, Pitney Bowes again) about global shopping:

According to this report from "Postnord" about e-commerce in Scandinavia, the Norwegians are the most frequent cross border buyers with 54 percent that purchases online from abroad. But only 22 percent of the Swedes purchases from abroad. Norwegians spend 3565 SEK each quarter when buying online, that's about 384 euro's! This and much more in this Nordic e-commerce report.

And here is a 30 mb file about e-commerce in Russia.The Russian post is still underperforming, but alternative delivery providers are coming up. Cross border sales are growing dramaticaly especially from China. Russians are extremely active at the web. A comparisment with other countries is made in this report. A must read for everybody who is interested in Russian e-commerce.

Book review: The Amazon Way

I am reading the book "The Amazon Way, 14 leadership principles behind the wolrd's most disruptive company".
I am not going to write down all 14 principles, just buy the book if you are interested in that. The book is well written and you can read it in a few hours.

I just shortly summarize a few phrases from the book, that I find interesting. 

Reading the book is a bit ambivalent, while when I was visiting Amazon in Germany, earlier this year, I did not recognize the open and innovative culture, the book describes. 

However, the book is a motivator for anybody who is creative, customer centric and e-commerce and trend driven. 

Long before the the complete vision of Amazon was ready, these two principles is where it all started from.

  • When a company makes a customer unhappy, she won't tell a friend, or two, or three....she will tell many, many more and
  • The beste customer service is "no" customer service, because the beste experience happens when the customer never has to ask for help at all.

For Jeff Bazos, the founder of Amazon, it is important not to focus at margin's. Focus at the "free cash flow". This is done because Jeff believes that the internet potential for growth is still enourmous. For him it is 1889.

The Amazon, flywheel effect (by the way also the only "picture"in the book

The Andon cord is a concept , originally invented by a Japanese car manifacturer. So imagine if you work in a busy car plant and you notice that the widget you are installing is broken, you can reach up and pull the "Andon cord". Immediatly the whole assembly line stops. Amazon made a digital version of the Andon cord. When people in the retail group don't provide the right data for the customer or enter a product description that is inaccurate, the customer service department can remove the product from the website. "Fix the defect or you cannot sell this product". This is power to the consumer!
From a my personal experience, I think we could have used this method also a few times. If you think long term and about returning customers, this is a method that works very well.

The book has also many examples of social webcare. Methods that nowadays are used by many companies (but many still do not!!) Amazon was already pioneering with social webcare long before others did so. The book explains a situation where they noticed somewhere at the web, a customer experienced poor video playback, while watching a video via Amazon Video on Demand. Amazon pro-actively contacted the customer and refunded the amount. 

Amazon does not do things "small", Amazon started by "scanning" the books they sold. This is very convenient for customers, so customers can browse a few pages of a book, before buying it. This was a very costly programm to setup and in that time took up a database of 20 terabytes. Amazon says "if we had tried it in a tentative way or at a small number of books, say 1000 or 2000, it would not have gotten the PR and full customers perception".  

Monday, July 14, 2014

16 ways to prevent returns for ecommerce company's

16 ways to prevent parcel returns in ecommerce

Parcel returns. Every e-commerce company has to deal with returns. In Europe customers have the right to withdraw an order up to 14 days after the parcel arrived at the customer. Returns cost a lot of money for e-tailers. 

Below you find 16 ways to reduce your return percentage.

  • Make use of "product" reviews and user generated content (UGC). Experiences and pictures/video's from others will help meeting expectations from your customers and will reduce returns.
  • Use High Resolution product images. If you have a "living" product (f.e. plants) be clear about the product that people receive and how it looks like when it is mature. This can be done by images but in the case of plants with "time lapse" video's. 
  • It depends at your competition and long term strategy, but you can charge (shipment costs) for returning ordered goods. Especially for Europe, mention this in your terms and conditions. Be clear about it. Otherwise the customer does not have to pay for the return of his parcel.
  • Make sure you offer multiple prepaid payment methods. Offering post paid payment methods causes higher return rates. Especially cost on delivery. People can easily refuse the package when the mailmen arrives.
  • Be clear at your website about your guarantee conditions.
  • Setup an interactive return process at the website. Let people register their returns first. Do this by making a simple process, but do ask some questions about the reason of the returns. Be able to change this process. If you know why they return, depending at the product you sell, you can prevent them from returning, by giving the right advice in this process.
  • Disable/Remove customers who always return and never keep an article. 
  • Be very clear about your delivery and order process both at your website and your after sales communication. Better sent an extra e-mail about the order status then one less.
  • Make sure you deliver fast. People expect fast delivery for most consumer goods. 
  • Make sure you offer multiple postal services. Many countries for example have popular pickup spots (droppoints) that are used for distance selling. Make sure you offer the most popular methods in each country.
  • Make the "unboxing" a surprise and fun. And if you sell a difficult (technical) product, be clear in the parcel about how to set up the product and how to use it. Clear directions for customer service also might help. 
  • Customer Service Agent. The customer service agent is a "gatekeeper" for reducing returns and customer satisfaction. Be sure your customer service instructions/scripts help reducing returns but also keep customer satisfaction. The customer that returns now, must order next time again with you.
  • Use the "internet of things" if possible for the product you sell, to improve customer satisfaction. If the devices you sell can connect to the internet, you can give tailor made advice and help. This also prevents returns.
  • Use Augmented Reality to show how the product looks like in your home, or when you wear it.
  • When a customer returned a parcel and the payment is reimbursed, make sure you have a good after sales communication strategy, so you can keep the customer and prevent the next return.
  • Expand your content and product attributes, you sent to external marketplaces. 
  • Invest in CRM and Personalisation tools. If you know what your customer wants, based at order, click or conversation history for example, you prevent returns because of your tailor made offers.

Remember: Trustworthiness + Expertise = Credibility = E-commerce Success = Less Returns.

A fair, clear and transparent return process helps your trustworthiness and this helps your ecommerce success.