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August 15, 2012

Updates from the Mobile Trenches (Part 2)

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In my last post I discussed changes in our process over the last 18 months, as well as looking at the choice between apps and sites and the potential of responsive design. In this installment, we will continue our strategy discussion by touching on iPads, testing mobile projects, and how to select target platforms.

 

 Does ‘Mobile Design’ include iPads?

 Ok, so iPads aren’t mobile. Sometimes they’re grouped in with mobile devices, but they aren’t really mobile devices. While they may be physically portable, shoppers don’t use them like mobile devices, their screens are bigger, and they have different (overlapping, but different) design metaphors and styles. However, they convert like crazy. Shoppers on iPads convert at roughly the same rates as full-size computer shoppers. Making your full (i.e. non-mobile) website compatible with iPads is relatively straightforward for most companies, and will absolutely have an impact on your bottom line.

 Other tablets are coming onto the market over time, and if iPhones and Android phones are any indication, Android tablets will eventually be more numerous than iPads, but will probably not convert at quite the same rates. However, the same compatibility work you should be doing for iPads will also help with Android tablets, which will eventually make up a significant source of traffic.

 

Target Platforms- Who Do You Love?

 One key thing our mobile teams have learned about mobile projects is to identify your target platforms early in the process, as early as is practically possible.. This is important because the breadth and types of target platforms can have a big effect on the effort involved in the project. Using analytics to look at the current usage patterns is very helpful in identifying which platforms should be targeted. Analytics can also be used to justify weeding out platforms that will be expensive to develop for and will represent a small minority of visitors- I’m lookin’ at you, Blackberry! According to our stats, Blackberry users are both less common and less likely to purchase than iPhone and Android users. When you consider the additional effort that is required to get mobile sites to function properly on some Blackberry phones, it can be more practical to drop Blackberry (or at least their older phones) from the target platform list.

 Android can also be a bear when deciding on target platforms. Different versions of Android add new features and drop old ones, leading to increasing unpredictability about how an individual phone will display or handle sites. Manufacturers are notorious for not allowing Android system upgrades, so individual phones are locked to one or two versions of the OS. One way to manage expectations is to agree on a target Android version and use that version during development, QA testing and customer acceptance testing, ensuring that the functionality delivered works as promised without sinking into the quagmire of which features are supported in which versions. 

 

Testing Your Patience

 Testing can be another trouble spot with mobile development, but of course with testing, the harder it is the more essential it is. We are seeing challenges with devices, simulators and connection speeds.

 The first area is with getting the devices into the right hands. It’s essential to ensure that all stakeholders (both client and vendor stakeholders) have access to the targeted devices in an effective and timely manner. That means that they need to have received the appropriate mobile devices before the beginning of the testing window at the latest. IT groups everywhere are struggling to make these devices available to stakeholders, so it’s essential to get this ball rolling months ahead of schedule (another reason to decide on your target platforms as early as possible – see above). That way the inevitable questions that come up can be answered and the phones procured early enough to complete testing on time. Under ideal circumstances, stakeholders would have these during the comp review process, so they can view the comps in context and understand how the site will look when built. 

 The second area is testing on simulators. Testing on simulators, while convenient and often easier than trying to procure a specific device, does not accurately reflect all of the features, constraints and limitations of the actual device. Simulators almost all consist of some kind of browser or browser add-on that simply presents the site in a window resized and decorated to look like a mobile phone. It’s not using the actual mobile browser code, it’s not subject to the processing power limitations or  bandwidth limitations present on the phone. For many of these reasons it will mask problems that later appear on the real mobile devices. On the flip side, simulators can be buggy themselves, forcing developers to spend time fixing bugs that don’t exist on the actual mobile devices at all.

 Finally, testing at multiple connection speeds is essential. The site should be tested on Wi-Fi, 4G, 3G, and 2G/EDGE networks to ensure that performance is acceptable in all cases.  It’s important to do this not only in QA but also as the code is written, so that the development team understands the constraints present when shoppers are using the site and can tweak things as they’re being built, rather than coming back later and fixing finished code.

 

In Closing

 Hopefully the lessons we have learned and described here will be helpful while planning and executing your own mobile projects. Maybe the time we have spent metaphorically smacking our heads against these tiny computers can save you a few headaches down the road.  

 

August 14, 2012

Updates From the Mobile Trenches

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A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post called “Notes From the Mobile Trenches” (http://blog.fry.com/my_weblog/2010/11/notes-from-the-mobile-trenches.html) that discussed some lessons I learned while implementing my first few mobile sites. Now, with several more launches under my belt and plenty of time to talk to other smart people about similar experiences, I have some additional thoughts.

 

The Times They Are a-Shakin’

Looking back at least year’s post, a few changes jump out at me. Now that mobile sites have been around for a while, better stats are available and better planning is possible. This is an example of how the field itself is maturing. In fact, with more than a year of measurement on some sites, we now have enough stats on sites we’ve built to move beyond  generalized stats from early adopters to make strategic and tactical decisions.

 

Another change in the field: the browser wars are slowing down as the Blackberry continues its decline. iOS and Android now dominate the mobile arena in terms of visits. While more Android phones are in use, it’s our observation that iPhones are still responsible for many more visits- as many as double the rate of Android phones- and also convert at a higher rate. Windows phones are still a blip in terms of traffic, but that is something that is likely to change. How much it will change is yet to be determined.

 

Also, networks are also continuing to improve as mobile carriers add or update towers and an ever-growing set of providers get access to the iPhone and top-tier Android phones. 3G network capacity is expanding, and 4G networks are becoming more common- at least if we can trust the phone providers’ definition of ‘4G’. This reduces some of the issues I previously discussed with dial-up-like performance, which is a step in the right direction. On the other hand, there are still areas where my iPhone doesn’t get 3G network connectivity, like my mother-in-law’s house in one of the ritzier (and hillier) Detroit suburbs. What this means is that 3G performance for your shoppers becomes more likely every year, but won’t be guaranteed for some time to come.

 

To App or Not to App

The ‘site vs. app’ question is still out there, and still a bit murky for new entrants into the mobile world. One important thing to consider is that every site will have visitors from mobile devices, whether you have a mobile version or not. This really means that the question isn’t whether to do a mobile site or an app; if your company is launching an effective mobile strategy, a mobile-optimized site is required. Only the app is optional.

 

Given that ecommerce sites must be mobile-friendly, how do we assess whether an app is needed? Really it is a simple choice: If the requirements for a mobile project include features that aren’t available or appropriate for a mobile site, an app will be necessary. If all the features can be implemented and perform well on a mobile site, the app can be skipped In essence,  if the mobile feature being requested requires access to the phone’s camera, microphone, accelerometer, or other sensors, an app will be necessary.

 

For most phones, access to the location services (including GPS) is available from the browser. We have had good results implementing location-aware features on mobile sites, but some more processor-intensive uses of location services might be better in an app. Under ideal circumstances this could be decided by some proof-of-concept development, to get an idea of performance impact. 

 

Finally, an app may be necessary if some features are very processor-intensive. Even the most modern phones still have much less processing power than a ‘real’ computer. While a site will always have the browser’s overhead and will be doing calculations in scripted code, apps can be doing the same calculations in compiled code, optimized for the specific platform it is running on. This can (in some cases) result in better performance in an app.

 

As alluded to above, one drawback with apps is that, although they can be optimized for each platform, a separate app must be written for each platform that will be accommodated. Although most of the user experience and visual design work can be re-used in most cases, at least some of the design will need to be tweaked on a per-platform basis. The actual coding work, on the other hand, will need to be almost entirely re-written for each distinct platform and they will then need to be maintained separately.

 

What the Heck is ‘Responsive Design’?

One approach to addressing the needs of your mobile web users is to build a separate mobile-optimized site and redirect mobile users to that site. This is a common and effective approach, and one that Fry / MICROS-Retail frequently uses with ecommerce clients. This site accesses the same catalog as the main site, but the HTML served to mobile users is different.

 

Another approach is to build a single site that will change depending on the user’s device. Because this type of site ‘responds’ to the device the customer is accessing the site with by adjusting its layout to the user’s device, it’s referred to as ‘responsive’. This approach has become more popular recently as our clients look for an approach to handle the new landscape of dozens of different mobile, semi-mobile and non-mobile devices.

 

So which approach is better? It depends! Specifically, it depends mostly on your content, and it depends a little on the way that you want your site to be perceived by shoppers. Some content is well-suited to responsive design, other content is less so. Going with a responsive design if you are a big-box retailer, for instance, may make it hard to show off the wide breadth of your retail offerings. On the other hand, a small boutique retailer with only a few types of products may be well-served with a responsive design that emphasizes their brand. In any case, responsive design is often appreciated by more web-savvy or design-savvy users, so it can add a bit of cachet to your site if you expect to serve that audience.

 

The Fry design team and MICROS-Retail development team have together implemented both mobile-optimized and responsive sites. Deciding which approach to take requires getting together with your strategy, UX and visual design team members and thinking through which approach is best suited to your content and goals. Remember that the responsive design will also replace your full site, so that may change the scope of the project, especially if the existing site is heavily customized.

 

Tune in Next Week…

So far we have discussed general updates in the mobile space, the app vs. site debate, and responsive design- just the tip of the iceberg! Part 2 of this post will discuss iPads, selection of target devices, and testing considerations.  

 

March 02, 2012

Pinterest - What is it?

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And why it might be better than Facebook for engaging your customers and driving sales

Do you have customers who are interested in fashion?  What about decor? Gardening? Cooking? Recipes? Might some of them be involved in planning a wedding or some kind of event?  Do they have kids?  Are any of your customers women? (I could go on and on.  Check out this Pinterest demographic infographic.) If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then it's likely your customers are on Pinterest, and your brand should be there too.

What is Pinterest?  In short, it's a new social network on the scene that allows customers to post, or "pin" images they find around the internet, and organize them into meaningful collections, or "boards," and share them with "followers" who also are interested in images or topics they represent. But what it really is is just plain cool, as evidenced by what we've been calling around Fry "Pinterest Mania." 

Still don't quite get it?  Think old school cork boards with newspaper clippings and pictures of supermodels cut out from fashion magazines, online. (My real life Pinterest in my home office pictured below. Why didn't I think of this?!)

Fry_marketing 003

 How is this different from all the other social networks...

and how should you as a brand use Pinterest to engage your customers?  Even in it's very short life span, Pinterest offers up a lot of potential and variety of uses. In fact, I think it might be a superior tool to Facebook for driving customer engagement and loyalty and maybe even driving sales.  Why?  It's simple.  At it's core, Facebook is about one person and their circle of "friends" but think about it,  do you and your group of friends all LOVE the same things?  Generally, no.  A person and their circle of friends on Facebook can be pretty diverse, especially as Facebook has evolved into connecting with both "Friends" (capital F) and "friends" (acquaintances, distant family members, car-pools, etc.).   A brand's efforts to gain impressions across a person's group on Facebook based on the assumption one person's likes may translate across their group  might not be as successful as originally thought.   What a brand really wants is a captive group of like-minded individuals who share the same passions and interests. Pinterest is exactly that. 

So the potential for engagement is great, but is there opportunity for real social commerce here? AKA driving sales?   I think so. As I've mentioned before, there just isn't a natural intent to buy when using Facebook whereas there may be more of an inclination to actually click through and BUY that cute dress pinned by someone you're following. Given the pinning patterns shown thus far, with a good portion of pinners seemingly planning for an ultimate purchase, I think Pinterest may represent a new step in social commerce compliance laddering and the customer purchase lifecycle.   

So what can you actually do with Pinterest?

Need some ideas?  Consider this a Pinterest Inspiration Board!  Brands are doing some great things with Pinterest to leverage those groups of like-minded individuals, getting them engaged and maybe even driving sales!

Put a "Pin it" on it

First - add a "Pin It" button to your Product Detail Pages, in particular, but any page with nice big images or videos should have the Pin It action.  When a customer clicks that button they will get a choice of which image or video on the page they want to add to their Pinterest boards so make sure you have Pin-Worthy pictures!

Pinittowinit2

Then, to encourage your customers to get into the Pinning game, try contests or promotions.

Pinittowinit

Create a Board for your Brand

Set up an account for your brand on Pinterest and get started by creating a board or two that reflect the brand story, product groupings, promotions, collections or anything you think your customers might be interested in hearing from you on. Other people are likely pinning YOUR products already and creating a lens and experience through which their followers interpret your brand. Seek to become an active participant in shaping that lens by becoming the authoritative source of your brand on Pinterest. 

As a reference, check out some fashion and food brands.  Fashion and food are BIG on Pinterest and are quickly setting some defacto standards for brands on Pinterest.

On the food front, given that recipes are HUGE online right now (Google recently added a filter capability for recipes on their general search result page) think about creating some boards around food trends and recipes; either general or topical.  For example, one of our clients, Hannaford Bros. Supermarkets, created several boards highlighting recipes around specific holidays, health concerns, and audience.  What's great about Hannaford's boards on Pinterest is they address a cross-section of their customers; brand loyalists AND foodies.  

Hannaford_pinterest

On the fashion front another one of our clients, Lilly Pulitzer, created several boards that go WAY beyond product pins and gives followers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the Lilly design process, the people in their creative group, and their overall inspiration as a brand.  They even created a board specifically for their sorority fans, making them feel extra-special as customers.  Pins aren't just product shots but pictures the Lilly folks took themselves to reflect their brand. Think engagement! 

Lilly_Pinterest

 

Make sure you give your customers something to Pin!

As I mentioned before, since your images and videos are likely being pinned out there in the Pinverse, you'll want to do a quick check of photography quality and adjust accordingly. Over and above that there are some technical considerations here too.  If your site is Flash or has Flash components, they can't be pinned.  If your front-end code has something going on that hides the image or video files, your customers will get a goofy error message like the one shown below.  So, as is the mantra in web design, test, test, and test again to make sure your customers won't be disappointed in their pursuit to Pin!

PinterestNoNo

 

 Pin to it!

These are just some ideas, examples, and cautions to get your brand started with Pinterest.   As it grows and expands we'll keep you updated on our thoughts and success stories we've seen. In a future post, we'll explore using Pinterest and other social networks to gather customer intelligence and do some incognito customer research!   In the meantime, have fun pinning!

Want more?

Follow Fry  on Twitter:  @fryinsights  | Subscribe on Facebook:  FryAgency

 

December 06, 2011

Same-day delivery, soon to be a reality?

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Fast, reliable fulfillment is part of consumer brand perception, and a key driver in the purchasing decisions.

There is no bigger success story of fulfillment as a brand element than the internet behemoth Amazon.com. Amazon itself does not sell unique products or always even offer better pricing (for years they have allowed their marketplace sellers to consistently undercut them on price). What they offer is a bulletproof fulfillment experience and a breadth of product unmatched anywhere, period. This strategy, along with their ingeniously addictive “Amazon Prime” has allowed them to continue to win the consumer’s dollar online, while the rest fight to maintain their market share.

With the recent buzz circulating about a possible Google quick ship service, there may finally be a viable challenger to Amazon’s dominant market position. If it comes to life it could prove an interesting opportunity for retailers to play catch-up and finally be able to compete with Amazon’s core competency of being the fastest shipper in the biz.

One of the purported aspects of Google’s strategy is the ability to take the goal of instant gratification for the consumer one step closer by offering “same-day” delivery service for certain products. It is speculated that same-day delivery will be accomplished through leveraging the existing store inventory of Google’s retail partners. In theory, a customer searching for khaki pants could start their search on Google, select a product from one of Google’s partners, for instance GAP, if GAP has that particular SKU in stock at a surrounding store the same- day delivery option would be enabled. From there, the order would be parsed out to the store for fulfillment and a courier, or shipping partner (there’s been some speculation even of a Google branded delivery service) would transport the purchase the customer’s door.

Although it is early yet to gauge the feasibility of such an offering, it certainly seems like a natural extension of the cross-channel experience. Already customers expect the ability to search store inventory or ship-to-store. Companies like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Sears offer same-day store pickup and Nordstrom has seen success with their ship-from-store program.

In the wake of such continuing innovation, retailers need to be proactive to ensure that they continue to keep pace with customer fulfillment demands. This is especially true during key selling seasons when retailers should be looking to put their best foot forward and impress their web shoppers with unprecedented service.

Jennifer Ulrich is Director, Supply Chain Services at Fry.

November 29, 2011

2011 Holiday Online Spending on the Rise

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Fry/MICROS-Retail is happy to report that sales over the past holiday weekend have boomed for its online retail clients. Of the 25 websites monitored, these clients enjoyed an almost 30% increase in year over year revenue from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday. The total number of orders is up almost 23% over last year for the same time frame. Average order value also increased by an average of $6.86 per order. 

The big story, however, is that revenue taken in on mobile devices is up significantly, five times more than last year’s figure and accounts for 2.5% of all revenue. Tablet shopping is up seven times 2010’s figure and accounts for 5.4% of all revenue.  This is up from 0.8 and 0.9% respectively. 

We will report on Cyber Monday activity once the day is complete and data has been analyzed, probably late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

 

Emily Kania is Fry's Marketing Manager.

November 04, 2011

Google tweaked its algorithm. Have you tweaked your SEO strategy?

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Google has tweaked its search algorithm in order to deliver timelier results, which means it's time to tweak your search engine optimization strategy. The updated algorithm affects about 35% of all searches on Google, which makes it a significant change. It's all about sensing the user's needs for up-to-date information, something Google already had figured out for weather and to an extent with live news updates.

Here's the key to your soon-to-be-tweaked SEO strategy: they're doing this to compete better with Twitter and Facebook, which are real-time news delivery vehicles. Whatever you're doing to supply the internet with frequent news, do more of it and in more places. If you don't think Twitter and Facebook are strategic for your brand, you might reconsider, unless high search rankings are not important to you. At this point, assume that the more recent the content, the higher it will rank.

Here are three things you can do today to tweak your search strategy:

  1. Post regularly to Twitter and Facebook, to your blog, and to anywhere else you know you have an audience.
  2. Post in such a way that you will get responses and reposts (e.g. retweets on Twitter). This means posting interesting facts, promotional codes, exclusive content, etc. and even asking questions of your audience. Retweets on Twitter and Shares on Facebook spread your news far and wide.
  3. Be on top of your own events. If you've just launched a new product, make sure you're the first one reporting it, and when you do report it, make sure your posting is as rich with content as possible--on Twitter, this would be an engaging "headline" that sums up the product, then a link to a more detailed page on your blog or home page--wherever that news lives in your domain.
  4. * Draw people to your site. Having your customers closer to home base gives you a little more control--and your customers closer to your products. Publish the detailed content on your site, and publish headlines and teasers pointing to that content on the social networks.

*I know I said three but this one's just something you should be doing anyway, regardless of the algorithm tweak.

David Bivins is Director of Strategy for Fry

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September 12, 2011

Announcing the Release of OCP 4.0

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We are pleased to announce the release of OCP 4.0. Open Commerce Platform™ (OCP) is the industry-leading direct commerce platform for business-to-consumer, business-to-business, mobile, OMS, and Call Center commerce solutions. Developed by Fry, Inc., a division of MICROS-Retail, OCP leverages decades of experience from successful implementations for clients such as Cabela’s, Charming Shoppes, Eddie Bauer, Meijer, Vera Bradley, Whirlpool and more. Fry’s end-to-end services encompass all aspects of building and maintaining a results-oriented, market-leading commerce business. From strategy and marketing through design, development, managed services and hosting, Fry’s services complement OCP’s technology leadership. Fry offers a stable partnership that will yield many years of secure, scalable, creative, and adaptable experiences for all of your users on multiple platforms.

OCP is a part of the MICROS-Retail family of products that work together to provide comprehensive cross channel commerce. In addition to OCP, these products include:

  • Relate: CRM, loyalty and gift cards/certificates
  • Locate: Order brokering to show inventory in-store, online, and to allow for in-store pick up
  • CWSerenade: Warehouse management system or standalone OMS
  • XStore: Point of Sale systems
  • PIM: Product management

OCP 4.0 delivers the best in breed capabilities for B2C, B2B, and mobile commerce. Some of the highlights of this release include:

B2C

Picture3

  • The addition of PayPal as a standard payment method
  • Integration with Relate from Micros-Retail for gift cards and electronic gift certificates
  • Search Engine Optimization enhancements
  • Enhanced Order Management reports

 

 

B2B Picture5

  • New starter store
  • Business Partner Accounts
  • Public/Private catalog browsing
  • SKU number entry/upload
  • Delivery date requests
  • Saved orders
  • Order templates
  • Easy reordering functionality

 

 

Mobile

  • PayPal as a payment method
  • Integration with Relate from Micros-Retail for gift cards and electronic gift certificates

Contact us today to discuss how you can leverage OCP 4.0 to drive your business.

 

Doug Rassner is a Product Manager for Open Commerce Platform.

August 03, 2011

The Wordless Web

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How much text do we really need on eCommerce sites? David Bivins, creative director and occasional copywriter, writes himself out of some work.

Ever since the breaking news, in the late 90s, no one reads any of that instructional text (link is to a more recent study) that we so carefully place on our websites, we have struggled to design visual and functional metaphors for said text: a question mark in a circle for "help," or red text to denote an error or urgent message. Still, we fall short of thoroughly explaining ourselves in design. And more benignly, we litter our sites with text that only the most optimistic of us really thinks is read by anyone.

When our dog was a puppy, she didn't chew on shoes--she chewed on remote controls. We had a DVD player by some obscure Korean manufacturer at the time, and sure enough, our pup made mincemeat of it. I had to go online to the manufacturer's site and order a replacement because so many of the DVD player's functions only existed on the remote. Of course, the site was in Korean, but the search box was in the upper-right of the page, the add-to-cart button was a shopping cart with a plus sign, and they accepted Mastercard. And a couple of weeks later, a padded envelope with Korean all over it arrived in our mailbox with a shiny new remote inside.

WordlessCheckout2

Recently we had a cross-office design summit, including our visual designers, user experience designers, and a couple of our interface developers. Among the activities, we asked them to design a checkout flow that used no explanatory text. Think about it--it's a lot easier than you think if you stick to the familiar. As any online shop-o-holic will tell you, messing with the expected flow of checkout can really trip us up. We're not reading any of that text! 

How do we evaluate the metaphors that we develop?

  1. Is it used widely enough to be part of the common visual lexicon?
  2. In other words, does everyone pretty much know what it means because it's everywhere? Think of that plus sign on a shopping cart.

  3. Is it differentiated enough to be at least somewhat unique to our needs?
  4. Does it work with the style guide, or better yet, was it designed specifically for your site by the same designer or team? Is it just me or can you tell in a millisecond when someone's ripped off Amazon's "Add To Cart" button?

  5. Is it innovative enough to accommodate any idiosyncratic needs of the particular function or site?
  6. Are you inventive enough to create an icon for in-store pickup? Or is there another way to convey that concept?

We also have to be honest with ourselves as to whether we're willing to confuse and potentially alienate the 10% of our users who aren't going to have any idea what the heck that little icon means without rolling over it and getting an alt tag or tooltip. Which makes you wonder if the people who don't get the metaphor are the same people who wouldn't know to roll over something in case it has alt text or a tooltip. Text starts looking pretty good here. That question mark in a circle might mean "help," but there's a good reason most sites actually have a text link for "help."

For years I've struggled with the simple function of the logo, so dutifully seated at the upper-left-hand-corner of the page, as a link to "home." Everyone links the logo to the home page, and still my clients often ask for an explicit text link to "home." And worse, at least a couple of times a week I run into a site on which the logo does not link to home. We tell our clients that "everyone knows the logo links to home," and yet for some of our users, it certainly does not.

Should we request a meeting of all the website owners of the world and propose a set of standards for this stuff? Of course not. We should continue to try to innovate and struggle through and invent new ways of describing concepts with symbols and indicators, and we should humbly acknowledge when text is most appropriate. The Web continues to evolve, and like language it continues to evolve through the new ideas, mistakes, and audacity of its myriad creators.

July 27, 2011

People are social, computers are not

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The holidays are just around the corner for retailers and planning has already started.  Top on the list?  Social.  However, most of the conversations seem to be around how existing platforms or devices can be used 'socially' and not about the experiences a retailer should create to naturally tap into most humans' drive to be social.  In other words, a website isn't social, people are social!  You just need to figure out a way to build a social experience into your devices and platforms to help drive your particular KPI.

Let's back up and take another look at developing a social strategy so you can focus energies in the remaining pre-holiday time to really leverage social tools out there and tap into your customers' natural desire to connect with others. 

No big surprise here, developing a social strategy starts with answering a few questions (hint:  depending on your answers to these questions, social media may not be the answer!).


1. What goal are you trying to achieve?  What is your major goal for the holiday season?  Drive sales?  Loyalty?  Reduce call center volume?  Articulate a goal and go to question 2.

2. Who are you trying to reach? "My customers" is not a good answer here.  Be more specific.  Existing customers?  Potential customers?  Community members?  Press?  Customers who have purchased two sweaters in the past six months and live in Arizona?  As you move on to the next questions you will see how being more specific in answering this question can help drive social tactical answers later on.

3. What part of the customer decision path are you trying to impact?  Awareness? Search? Evaluation? Purchase?  Post-purchase or loyalty?  You get the point. Identify your goal, who you're trying to reach, and at what point you want to reach them.

Based on your answers to these questions, you can start identifying which social media tools, if any at all, can help you accomplish your goals this holiday season.  Here's a simple, hypothetical example:

Goal: generate excitement for and publicity around a feature that allows you to personalize an apparel item and share it with your friends
Who:  new customers, press
Decision Path: awareness

In this hypothetical, here's an example from Converse that leverages a simple sharing mechanisim to achieve their goal.  Notice they didn't pick one platform over another, rather, they understood that the sharing part made the social experience, and allowed for a sharing mechanism available across platforms. (No fair commenting on my design!)


 Converse

Of course, the more specific you are with answers to your strategy questions, the more finite and specific you can get with your tool selection. Of course, how a customer interacts with the social tool or feature can be customized to provide an even more social and personalized experience for your customers (see my previous post about integrated social commerce).


If you're just looking to try out some social channels this holiday season though, Tom Humarger (http://tomhumarger.com), on his social media strategy blog, has a great matrix that generalizes which tools are best used once you answer the questions above, as well as the level of effort involved in implementing each channel without customization.

Social-media-functions-to-tools-matrix1 
Bottom line, time is short and social is not to be ignored, but starting with a solid foundational strategy will allow you to avoid wasted time and effort this holiday season when it comes to turning your commerce social.

 Kim Williams-Czopek is the Director of User Experience Design at Fry.

July 18, 2011

How Do You Measure Success?

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Boy-riding-bike

For a young child success is achieved in the acquisition of new skills such as learning to swim or ride a bike. For a teenager success is determined by the rite of passage such as getting their driver's license, graduating high school and being accepted into college. For parents success might be measured in the delicate balance of work and family life and for business owners success is measured by achieving their business goals and being profitable. These are pretty cut and dry, cause and effect scenarios. The goal is well-defined and the result is either one of success or failure. We all have goals and milestones that we face on a regular basis and whatever your goals may be there are basically two questions that you need to ask yourself: did this make a positive difference and is it worth continuing?

But what about things that aren't so concrete like measuring the success of a redesigned web page or a new checkout flow? Do you know what data is needed to validate the success of any changes to your site? Can you make a determination based on the number of page views and visits or revenue and orders? The answer is no. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.  Maybe the increase in traffic was from an email campaign or a free shipping promotion and maybe revenue and orders were up because of an end-of-season clearance. When analyzing the effectiveness of site changes, you need to know everything that is happening on your site prior to the change and then after the change. Measuring success on web site redesigns and implementations takes experience, knowledge and proficiency. You need to know what data to look at and how to analyze it.

Let’s compare this to home improvements. Before you start you need to decide what improvements you want and why, and which improvements will give you the biggest return for your money.   You also need to understand how these improvements are going to impact you in the long run. What is the desired outcome you want? Is it to increase the value of your house, make it more energy efficient or to attract more potential buyers? Then you need to compare the desired outcome with the actual outcome. Did you get what you expected?  Did this home improvement make a positive difference; would I do it again if given the chance?  For web sites the process is the same but measuring the success of the desired outcome takes a lot more skill. It takes someone trained in analytics to understand what the data is telling you.    

Fry's Reporting and Analytics Department has this expertise. We look at your data and then give you the numbers you need to make informed decisions. We have the knowledge needed to understand what is happening on your site. We know what metrics to look at and how to interpret them to measure success. We also have the knowledge to quickly troubleshoot and identify issues that may be impacting your site. Our data is used to support all of our teams, whether it’s design, sales or marketing. Our team is proficient with Omniture, Coremetrics, Webtrends and Google Analytics. These tools along with experience give us the skills needed to delve into tons of data and compile a comprehensive analysis.  We are here to help you from start to finish - check us out!

 

 Sue Burt is a Web Analyst at Fry.