In my definition, the essence of Retail Social Commerce is not just the ability for customers to interact with ecommerce catalogue items and convey their likes and recommendations - it is the ability for other customers to correlate those recommendations with their own personal preferences.
The above illustration touches on the 4 key areas in my opinion, and I will reference examples of each here below:
LIKES - largely popularised by Facebook, these are now pretty much ubiquitous on most sites - you simply tick an option or click on a ’thumbs up’ icon to indicate you like something - Facebook then cleverly references all these likes on the User’s Timeline. This is the simplest form of recommendation.
HOTLISTS - Amazon popularised these with their ListMania Lists, but there are lots of different examples of this - for instance the various DJ charts on juno.co.uk. In some ways these are really just more structured listings of ’liked’ items, but their impact is far stronger as when you see several examples of something you like in a list, you are more likely to check out the other entries. In various types of retail, Lists and Featured Charts are key to the selling process.
COMMENTS - The postive ones of these are a stronger form of ’likes’ - in that a positive comment not only indicates a liking for something, but offers up additional collateral / reasons to buy. ’Likes’ may have a nominal value of recommendation while the impact of positive comments / reviews is far stronger. I particularly like how Amazon lists the comments on the same page - I find comments hidden behind a tab are less impactful - far better to have a summary list of a couple with a more link than hiding all of them behind a one click selection.
PROFILES - Profiles are really useful as the final convincer for a recommendation, and this is one of the few areas where Amazon needs a lot of improvement. Being able to go to a user’s profile - something like the Facebook Timeline - and get a real context for a person’s likes and recommendations is key to the impact of those recommendations. We humans are always looking for like-minded souls, and really only pay heed to those we think are on the same wavelength as ourselves. In viewing a User’s profile - with a full outline of
A lot of technologies go into delivering Affino. These start right from the product design and architecture stage; through the project management, development and quality assurance process; and finally the delivery and day-to-day serving of Affino sites. All in all Comrz is using close to 100 different techs related to Affino.
There are some that we couldn’t do without, and which are the key engines that serve Affino pages to millions of users day in and day out. These are:
ColdFusion is no longer a fashionable (or perfect) technology, but it is one which is going from strength to strength as a platform. ColdFusion 10 is an incredibly strong platform and Adobe have made some great moves with evolving the latest generations. It allows us to deliver rapid innovations in a way that scales.
An enormous amount of input goes into every major Affino version release, and Affino 7 is no exception. Front and centre to all our considerations are our customers’ ongoing requirements and feature requests - Affino almost wholly evolves along collaborative lines between the Comrz Team and every single one of Affino’s users.
It’s frequently a tough job consolidating all the different diverse requirements into a single streamlined system, but this is what we do every day. Pretty much every tiny nuanced functionality has been specified for a particular business scenario and activity. For every major release we endeavour to simplify the user experience, which is not always as simple as it sounds as no two Affino users deploy the system in exactly the same manner.
Every consideration is made to imbue Affino with simplicity, elegance and ease of use. It thus follows that the key technological inspirations convey those same values of clarity of purpose, elegance and simplicity:
The degree of detail and finish of the many elements of the London Olympics are a key influence in the look of the new interface. In particular, we took inspiration from the dynamic keyline pictograms - which elegantly convey movement and modernity. Affino’s Key Navigation Icons are largely inspired by those pictograms - harnessing the same values of forward movement and dynamism
Apple still remains the benchmark for elegant product and interface design, and supreme ease of use. It’s focus on learnability remains a significant design influence in how we consider Affino’s daily usability and overall customer experience
Despite its detractors, the BBC is a significant pioneer online - with its iPlayer representing the first and the best of the Internet TV Players, and the relatively recent BBC.co.uk update being the first significant move towards tablet-style navigation for the main website interface
Google’s first foray into tablets is part of a double-headed attack on Amazon - to reclaim Android for the Android vanilla experience. Everyone is well aware now of how fragmented the Android landscape is - not just in terms of different version releases, but with every device manufacturer producing their own skinned-up derivation of Android - from HTC Sense, to Samsung’s TouchWiz to Amazon’s Silk Browser. Here Google is aiming to show that the standard Google Android experience really is the best. This is backed up by the relaunch of the various Google Android stores under the singular ’Google play’ brand, to compete with iTunes in some ways, but really to take the initiative away from Amazon’s Appstore.
The Google Nexus 7 equals the current Kindle Fire in price - for the base 8GB model, and serves up faster processor and better screen for a far superior experience to that of the Kindle Fire. For a little more money (£199 vs £159 and dollar equivalents) you get the 16GB of Google’s top ranked Nexus 7 model.
The Nexus 7 is built by Asus - who are responsible for purportedly the best Android tablet experience currently - by way of the Transformer series. I don’t really see this troubling Apple too much in terms of a head-to-head comparison with the higher specced iPads, but it should really worry everyone involved in the more budget end of the market. In stark contrast to Microsoft - who’s Surface Tablet launch was all hyperbole and bluster - with no pricing, launch date or even proper tech specs. Go to the Google play site though, and you will see that the Nexus 7 ships in 2-3 weeks (£159 for 8GB model and £199 for 16GB model). Admittedly this is only a 7" tablet, and it lacks typical Android staples in terms of plug-in memory or replaceable battery. There’s nothing new or innovative here - the form itself is about as standard as you can get, but if you were going to buy a tablet for £159-199 - this is probably where you should be spending your money; by comparison the cheapest iPad model is the 16GB iPad 2 at £329.
Google has a few more tricks up its sleeve with clever Cloud syncing and Google+ integration - which should enable some smart social media sharing and automatic backups, photo archiving etc. Google play + Google Nexus 7
Yesterday’s Apple Education Event (iBooks 2) was essentially all about the iPad’s increasing role within the realms of education. I already own a number of educational-type Apps on my iPad which I believe had a significant impact on this evolution - Touch Press’s ’The Elements’ and ’Solar System’ as well as Transworld Digital’s ’The Magic of Reality’ are all superb types of a new interactive forms of learning - the latter is closer to the new standard that Apple has introduced with its digital ’Textbooks’ - actually just an updated standard of its iBooks format.
These new ’Textbooks’ are essentially interactive books with inline media and other games and interactive puzzles included within the flow of the books, as well as built-in tests, glossaries and clever indexes and bookmarks / study cards.
The Key Features are as follows:
Thumbnail Index - essentially a visual plus text overview index of the key parts of the textbook
Integral Videos - inline Videos and animations within context
Interactive Animations - animated timelines, puzzles and the like bring an added tactile dimension to learning - which of course aids memory
Study Cards - Highlighted passages of text and notes will automatically turn into ordered and indexed study cards - to aid revision
Custom Glossary - Each textbook will have it’s own explanations / descriptions of key terms
Quizzes and Review Questions - Instant Quizzes built into the end of each chapter - to aid memory recall
For content creators, Apple has provided a new ’iBooks Author’ Mac OSX App - wich allows anyone to create their own enhanced interactive textbook in this format (in fact any iBooks can be created like this) - the App is free and is available on the Mac App Store.
Apple has also produced a specific iPad App for Higher Education called ’iTunes U’ - which is already being used by universities - Duke, Stanford and Yale to provide large parts of their curricula in this format.
Apple has once again really stolen the march on its competitors! I had expected Amazon to have made some ground with its Kindle offerings, but truth be told - E-Ink is great for reading regular books, but it’s way too laggy to provide a full interactive environment along the lines of the iPad. A friend of mine has the latest Kindle Touch -
Mary Portas has just submitted her report of 28 recommendations to the government on how to tackle the declining fortunes of our High Streets. A lot of what she says makes some degree of sense, but a number of the policies seem somewhat defeatist and totally against smart, small independent retail businesses.
I have lived in various parts of this land, in towns and cities of varying sizes, and I have witnessed first-hand the changes to our local High Streets, and I have slightly different answers and recommendations for how the High Street should tackle the current issues.
To start off with, we need to be aware of the full spectrum of key considerations for shopping:
Price - Online is best obviously, Malls and Supermarkets are usually cheaper than city-centre retailers too
Range - Again Online is best - most choice at the best prices, next come the larger retailers, and again the High Street typically comes last
Availability - It’s usualy easiest to find availability online, then in larger shops - depends on size of Town really as to what is available on the High Street
Convenience - This largely depends on where you live, but Malls are usually located where they are easy to get to - and have free parking, whilst town centres are more congested and you have to pay for parking - if you can find a space; online of course is always at your fingertips - there are other factors here including weather and transport / traffic congestion in your area
Facilities - Here the Malls come into their own really - Multi-screen cinemas, restaurants, amusements, all the shops and various family-friendly amenities and services all under one roof - antiquated town centres with poorly tended toilet facilities and spaced out amenities cannot compete, of course online comes with its own home comforts
Service - It largely depends on who you do business with - but increasingly you get better service online - better loyalty schemes, better packaging, and increasingly more delivery options, now with more flexible locker collection solutions (like Collect+ and ByBox), as well house-sitters (courtesy of WaitingIn.co.uk) if you need someone to wait in for a furniture delivery or similar while you’re at work (last year 800 million hours were lost by customers waiting for deliveries; 8 million individuals took time off work)
I must admit that I used to be a huge fan of Blockbuster Video Stores, and if there was one next door to me, I would probably still use it, as they still have by far and away the best range of movies, have the earliest release dates, and their price point is only £2.99. Apple iTunes currently has downloads only - you can start viewing progressively at 10-15 minutes in, but it’s not streaming, this is at £3.49 for standard definition, and £4.49 for high definition where available (Older films are at £2.49 and specials at £0.99). LoveFilm has a subscription service also at £5.99 per month, with some films only available on subscription, and new films are typically at £3.49, with older ones at £2.49 - on a par with iTunes. The issue for me on LoveFilm is that it’s overly fussy and overly complex - giving you different options to rent DVD, watch online, sign up for subscription, buy on Amazon etc. Moreover, beyond the optional subscription it offers no great advantage over iTunes as it pretty much has the same fairly slim selection of films which are largely made available for rent a week or two after Blockbuster.
HMV has gone against the grain by launching at a higher level one tier standard price of £3.99 - it’s not clear yet as to what the quality of the stream is though. For HMV you can of course download to watch, as well as stream directly. Again, browsing through their library - there are still enormous holes in the catalogue, although I could find some films here that were not listed on iTunes or LoveFilm.
The point is that the old format - DVD - which is ’Blockbuster’ really still has by far and away the best selection and the best price. Online video has the advantage of convenience
Those who read my blog will know that I often complain about how compared to all other services offered via online retail, the actual process of returning a faulty or unwanted item has usually been well below par. Even Amazon falls foul of this - where all its other service offerings / customer support services are excellent, their returns handling process is really very poor in comparison.
All Saints was the first company I experienced which handled returns properly, but now there is a service company which offers this kind of incredible service to all UK-based online retailers. I was first made aware of Collect Plus’s existence by one of my favourite outward bounds activity equipment retailers - Wiggle - from whom I get a lot of my Nordic Walking kit. In the most recent shipment there was an A4 sheet of paper with detachable label - addressed back to Wiggle c/o Collect Plus returns.
The paper explains that you should detach the sticky label and apply to the package of goods you wish to return - making sure you remove / cover your own delivery address. You then go online on the Collect Plus Website and look up your postcode to find your nearest Collect Plus representative / outpost / collection point.
Collect Plus has an extended network (4,000+ locations) of mostly corner shops, newsagents and petrol stations. You take your package to one of these, and are given a tracking code when you hand over the parcel - for your own reference and further correspondence. The package is then picked up by one of the numerous vans belonging to the Yodel delivery network - which then returns the package back to the original retailer. Yodel handles 200+ million parcels a year. The retailer obviously pays a cost per package - which needs to be factored into the overall overheads of the retailer.
This system is not too different to the one I mentioned in my blog about Amazon using 7-Eleven to offer a similar delivery service - no mention of returns collection yet, though I’m sure Amazon’s7-Eleven system could be used for that too.
As a consumer, ’Returns’ is one of the key reasons why many shoppers prefer to shop at a High Street store. However, with the easy accessibily of the Collect Plus system (extended hours, local collection points), it looks like online retailers now have a perfect solution for this too. Well done everyone concerned! The
My brother Markus reads most of his Kindle eBooks on his iPhone or iPad devices - for me, there is no substitute for the easy legibility and form factor of the Kindle - a smartphone is too small for reading comfort, and a typical 10" tablet is too large / weighty for holding in one hand for prolonged periods.
Kindle - 6" ’Kindle Keyboard’ minus the keyboard in very slightly smaller form factor - $79 / $109 (with or without advertising)
Kindle Touch - 6" E Ink touchschreen display with even sleeker form factor - WiFi Version is $99 / $139 (with or without advertising), 3G Version is correspondingly $149 / $189
Kindle Fire - 7" full colour touchscreen tablet with 8GB onboard memory an unlimited cloud storage - $199
The base level new Kindle is the only one currently listed on Amazon.co.uk (at £89) shipping mid october. If we extrapolate the prices, we’re talking circa £169 for the 3G Kindle Touch and £179 for the Kindle Fire - which are likely to be made available in the UK in time for Christmas - at least the Kindle Touch is, there may be media licencing issue which would postpone the Kindle Fire launch to the new year.
I see this as a direct upgrade / replacement for my Kindle Keyboard 3G - in my review at the start of the year, I marked it down for its clunky keyboard, and lack of touchscreen interaction. Memory remains the same (4GB) although battery life is likely somewhat affected, I still have no hesitation in getting this device when it is made available in the UK. I read several books a month, and the convenience of sub 60 second downloads - and the fact that you are always carrying a couple of books spare - is simply incomparable. The paperback form factor and usability make this my perfect everyday book replacement device. I much prefer reading E Ink to the shiny, bright glare of LCD screens - so I will stick with this format and form factor.
As reported by various online Tech journals and blogs, Amazon has announced that it is teaming up with 7-Eleven to give its customers 24/7 access to parcel collection. One of the biggest issues with online retail is ensuring that there is someone home to receive the package at the time of delivery. The cost of pin-point delivery, where you choose the exact time-slot is cost-prohibitive for most. Some people work very long hours, and have long commutes on top of their working hours, meaning that it is difficut for them to co-ordinate their schedules for sundry package deliveries.
A number of companies have been trying to come up with a solution that works for most eventualities, and all the solutions involve utilising some kind of central, 24-hour access depot. It needs to be manned in some way obviously for security reasons!
It’s actually quite ingenious for Amazon and 7-Eleven to team up on this, as neither is stepping on the other’s toes, and both stand to benefit from the hook-up. Amazon customers are likely to order more, if they are confident of picking up the package at any time, and 7-Eleven will get knock-on traffic from the additional footfall of the Amazon package collectors.
It’s unfortunate we don’t have many big bright 7-Elevens in the UK, the nearest equivalent is the 24 hour petrol station or 24 hour supermarket. Most supermarkets though have their own catalogue operation and would see themselves in direct competition with Amazon, and alas - most garages, are not centrally located, and even if so, do not offer 24 hour access inside the shop.
For the USA, this is an inspired solution to a long-standing problem. In the UK however, we could first do with some central London branches of 7-Eleven, and then we would be able take advantage of the 24 hour access. As it currently stands, I cannot think of a single outlet in the UK which would fit the bill - the prerequisite is obviously location within a residential area and extended / 24/7 opening hours.
Hopefully the growth in online retail will inspire more 24 hour businesses, and once we have an organisation with sufficient branches / outlets we too can have automated lockers where you key in your delivery tracking number, and the locker which contains your parcel pops open.
On the face of it, the solution is neat and elegant, it would be interesting though to see the cost/
With Google’s announcement of Google Plus, it finally looks like Google is getting its Social Network on the right path. In the recent announcement about the now beta-testing site, Google introduced 5 new weapons to fire across Facebook’s bow; these are as follows:
Circles - a really neat ’groups’ app where you simply drop selected contacts into a specified category circle - based on family, friends and other interest groups. Then when you want to share media etc. with this same group, you simply drag and drop it onto the same circle. A seemingly very usable and elegant solution
Hangouts - this is really just group video chat, with seemingly very clever software which centres on the active / noisiest participant involved. The demo looks very slick - you can simply drop in and out of hangouts - like trawling interesting gatherings at a party
Huddle - this is group texting - you can start a ’Huddle’ with one of your Circle groups, and simply blast spam the whole lot of them! - and vice versa of course
Instant Upload - an area where Google has distinct advantages over Facebook - piggy-backing off its own Android Platform and devices - allows you to set up some kind of loosely defined folder in the cloud - which your snaps get automatically uploaded to immediately as you take a picture
Sparks - the least interesting of the new introductions is simply a kind of interest topic filter - which pulls in pictures, videos and articles on said topic - you can then share said ’Spark’ with your various social Circle groups
It’s not yet clear how all these elements will be seamlessly knitted together, and how the overall profile and wall experience which Facebook is so strong on will be met / challenged.
As I said above, Google’s real weapons here are the Android Smartphones, Chrome Browser, Chromium OS and various other bits of soon-to-be seamlessly-interconnected hardware. With more and more people using Smart Phones and Tablets, anyone who sets up automated syncs for content upload and sharing is onto a winner. Google also has an advantage with its already massive GMail audience.
It will be very interesting now to see how Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon react. This is definitely a step changer, and much will depend on how slick and ’convenient’ the whole experience is. If Google comes close to
As a fairly regular Internet shopper, there are I suppose 3 considerations which feature high in every shopper’s mind:
Fear of compromised data - are your just posted credit card details safe?
Fear of not getting the right product - exactly what will turn up?
Uncertainty about delivery - when will parcel be despatched? When will it arrive?
The number 2 concern has always been quite prevalent for eBay customers, as a little-policed marketplace, this is awash with counterfeits and cheap knock-offs. What of Amazon’s Marketplace? This used to be fairly reliable and obviously had some checks and balances in place which made this work well to start off with.
Comrz is in part an eCommerce specialist, and we are very aware - by way of integration projects, as to how these Google, eBay and Amazon catalogs work. They tend to try to centralise on as few product categories / SKU numbers as possible - which allows some unscrupulous independent retailers to use a picture from a set category item to sell their counterfeit or knock-off product. Usually the hint is in the much discounted price, for instance the vast majority of iPad Smart Covers sold on Amazon are not the official Apple ones - but they are sold using the official Apple pictures! Anyway, there is an obvious hint there in the much lower pricing.
However, what is far more galling is when the knock-off products are being sold at the proper full recommended retail price for the actual official product, but are in fact inferior knock-off goods. In the last 18 months or so, I have on 2 occasions been misled by Amazon into buying something that was not of the appropriate quality, but was sold at the full retail price and with the official product name, details and photograph.
I have just recently trawled through a number of the Amazon customer forums, and I can see that this is a growing issue which only used to be inflicted upon eBay customers, but is now affecting more and more Amazon customers too. Amazon will need to move quickly in order to stave off damage to its repetition. In both cases, the suspect products I bought were officially fulfilled by Amazon.
There is no really easy way to contact Amazon to report a mis-sold product either, and I believe Amazon makes the whole returns procedure more difficult than it needs to be too. Several retailers include pre-filled returns forms and stickers
The most amazing thing about the iCloud service - which stores your music, photos, apps, calendars and documents - is that it’s free! (As long as you don’t exceed 5GB). The iCloud stores all your content and media, and automatically and wirelessly syncs / pushes them to all your Apple devices.
There are some obvious benefits of this within the incredibly easy to use Apple ecosystem - automatic backup and syncing through the cloud is a great service for Apple users. Instead of introducing Spotify-style music streaming, Apple instead introduces ’iTunes Match’ for $25 p.a.- this service automatically matches all your CD-ripped music with existing tracks from the iTunes library and delivers them as high quality DRM-free 256kbps AAC files. Obviously if your collection is all iTunes-based anyway, you don’t need the ’Match’ service, but the system works in the same way. The way Apple can steal a march on Google and Amazon’s equivalent Cloud Music Services is that most of what Apple is streaming comes from it’s core collection which it simply ID’s from your own iTunes collection - and then has the corresponding Apple Library track streamed out - making for a much more light-weight system, really quite clever in its conceptualisation - we have yet to experience the full final implementation of course.
Music is supposedly limited to 25,000 tracks, and photos are only stored in the cloud for 30 days - those are the downsides. The upside is obviously that all of this is built into the latest versions of the Apple operating systems; OSX Lion is out in July and iOS 5 arrives in September.
For me I’m not sure it makes much difference. I will still keep my Spotify subscription, and I like the fact that I can shop around for tracks - on Amazon, Beatport and Juno as well as on iTunes - both in solid and digital formats. I also quite like that Dropbox is fully universal - and you can share content with friends and colleagues on any system / platform.
The genius of Apple is always in its simplicity and ease of use,
Google Music Beta was one of the main introductions at the recent Google I/O Conference. In essence, it is a Cloud-based music file storage system which has a number of clever features enabled by the Android software that powers / manages it from Android devices.
The idea is that you can store 20,000 or so MP3 files in the Google Cloud, and access these music files in streaming fashion - through any of your Android devices at any time. The software does some clever syncing which allows you to add files and create playlists and auto-generated mixes from any location. Additional smarts is provided by and offline syncing system which downloads recently played tracks to the local device, so that the files can also be played offline.
Obviously, it's not long since Amazon launched its Amazon Cloud Player, which offers similar functionality on the storage front, albeit not backed up by the same clever multi-device software. Spotify is an obvious competitor which offers a very similar service, but rather from an extended music library angle. For Google Music Beta - you upload all your own tracks versus Spotify where you typically stream from a larger general library of music. No doubt Apple is watching and waiting in the wings, as it's own rumoured Cloud Storage / Streaming Solution is due around the middle of this year.
In a conversation with my younger colleague Chris, I was somewhat surprised that he operates by a similar music collector system to me - buying cherished / favourite tracks / albums on CD and then transferring to digital library, whilst downloading more spontaneous and adhoc tunes and tracks in digital format. As a contrast, my brother Markus gets pretty much all his music from Spotify.
I'm still of a mind that the global network / Internet infrastructure- particularly for the UK, is wholly NOT up to the task of providing a decent uninterrupted streaming service. I still see the cloud as a virtual attic - where you store your overflow files and materials which are not in daily use. I cannot see any substitute for having the actual files on your portable device - if you want to ensure quality and reliable music playback. One of the main reasons I like my iPhone is that its 32GB of inbuilt memory allows me to carry circa 26GB worth of current music with me wherever I go. I keep hoping the next generation of iPhone is going to up the memory size to at
The world’s most popular website may likely become the world’s most popular marketplace. After some early intriguing experiments, more and more retailers are starting to make use of Facebook as a genuine revenue generating platform.
Warner Brothers are making use of Facebook Credits , which undoubtedly will come more into play as one of the Internet’s leading virtual currencies. You buy Facebook Credits for $0.10 (10 cents) each, and they are typically used to buy gaming additions, power-ups and extras. Ongoingly, this will likely become a sort of PayPal system, although there are distinc advantage in maintaining this in its current ’Credits’ format. There are several Facebook games which are aimed at the younger website users; I have already criticised Facebook for not doing enough to stop exploitative charges going though on games like PetVille . Parents should be able to use the Facebook Credits system to limit how much their children spend on games like PetVille - currently it is more a question of how many games makers make use of the Credits system in this way.
There is no question though that Facebook is a rising power in the field of online retail, and an excellent example of proper ’Social Commerce’. As a wrap-around fully dynamic store experience, it cannot yet compete with dedicated sites like Amazon , but it will be interesting to see how this evolves. With a potential customer base of 500 million, there is no doubt that a Facebook Store is an attractive proposition for most retailers. I don’t see Facebook ever becoming the main outlet / interface for most retailers, but it certainly provides a great additional route to market.
From the Affino standpoint, we have done most of the integration now necessary for syncing Affino Store Catalogues with a Facebook Store, we’re really...
Many will know by now that I’m a keen international shopper! - buying various goods from the four corners of this earth. When I say 4 corners, I mean the reputable and reliable parts of the world - those countries where fraud is kept in check, and you get what you ordered - largely at the price you ordered. To-date I have ordered goods in from most countries in Western Europe, as well as USA, Hong Kong and Japan.
Most of my shopping online is music-related, but I do also buy various gifts, accessories and of course ’Vinyl Art’. My favourite International retail experience to date is actually from Japan and occurred several years ago now. I was looking for a rare UK White Label 12" Bootleg Remix of Human League track ’Love Action’. I had trawled all UK resources, and major marketplaces, including Discogs and GEMM . I was then back on Google , and several pages in I discovered that the record was available from Jet Set Records in Japan. I ordered online on Friday afternoon, and was more than a little surprised when the record arrived on Tuesday morning - 1/2 a week! When I order in from Germany, it typically takes a week to arrive - the Japanese are evidently more efficient!
As you may have read from other posts on this site, I am a sometime collector of Touma Vinyl Art - which mostly emanates from Japan. These limited edition figurines used to be regularly available in some UK stores, but not so much any more; one occasionally turns up on eBay every now and then, but usually you have to order in from one of USA, Hong Kong, Singapore or Japan. With Touma being Japanese, it stands to reason that the principle marketplace for Touma collectibles is Japan itself.
The key resource for buying Japanese goods is massive online marketplace ’Rakuten ’ - really the Japanese equivalent of Amazon Marketplace in most respects. However, there is an issue here, in that a large number of Rakuten retailers only deliver to domestic addresses. How then do you buy something from Japan which can only be delivered to a Japanese address?
Well of course, you need to use an International Forwarding Service - like ’Tenso ’ - which I use. The other key tool you need is Google Translate , and a good sense of idiomatic and semantic translation - to get the gist of some of the Japanese emails, as many of the confirmations and noti...
Most are familiar with the various Marketplaces which exist on the web; e.g. Amazon Marketplace , eBay and Google Products - and how individuals are making use of these resources to set up their own personal retail bussinesses, even though many of these are really just extended online garage sales. Away from physical products, there is a growing digital retail industry also.
Several people are making money from posting home-made videos to sites like YouTube ; home-recorded studio productions being sold via Beatport , home-developed games and apps being sold via the Apple App Store and now increasingly - personal book publishing by way of Amazon’s Kindle .
A great example of this is recent multi-millionaire 26 year old Minnesotan - Amanda Hocking , who has so far self-published 10 novels on Amazon Kindle - all at a low price, or under the $3 mark. She cleverly targets the ’Twilight’ demographic with low cost teen vampire novels and novellas, and the teens are lapping them up with around 900,000 units of each volume sold.
I have often cited the amazing $0.99 / £0.59 price point of the Apple App Store , and how Rovio managed to make millions off the very low-cost ’Angry Birds ’ game through enormous volume sales. Conjoint analysis leads you to the ideal price point, but obviously the more direct you sell, the less overheads you have, and therefore the cheaper you can sell your goods - be they eBooks, applications or music. I referenced Radiohead recently in their pricing their new ’The King of Limbs’ album at a very reasonable £6.
It’s of course a frightening proposition for traditional middle-men industries like book publishing and the music industry - when individuals can by-pass these institutions and avoid paying for significant marketing exposure. In the case of Amanda Hocking , it’s obviously a degree of right product at the right time, but she has of course done very well do take full advantage of prevailing trends.
It will be interesting to see what the landscape will look like in a year or two for the more traditional reseller / distribution marketplaces; I foresee several different competitors on the scene, as well as individuals selling Kindle-format eBooks from their own websites. At Comrz we believe in independence as well as utlising the full force of the online ecosystem. Fledgling digitial entrepreneurs can sell through...
I had myself quite a bookish Christmas in many ways. Books are always big sellers as Christmas gifts in Iceland, and in addition to a number of the traditional variety, I was also the fortunate recipient of the 3G version of the latest Amazon Kindle eBook reader.
The 3G version means that I can download books from the Amazon Store - pretty much anywhere in the world, sitting on the beach for instance - having just completed the main holiday read a little prematurely.
Anyway, I thought I would share some of my opinions and experiences of said device - its obvious advantages, and unfortunately, its many shortcomings also.
For comparison - as a book reading device the Apple iPad really is a little too unwieldy - you cannot comfortably hold it in one hand for extended periods. Its backlit screen is certainly very attractive, and once the new iPad 2 is out with its no doubt ’Retina’ screen enhancement, this will be an even better proposition. Amazon though have the form factor pretty much spot-on it - the paperback-size feels great in one hand, can be easily and tirelessly held and you can turn pages with the same hand that holds the device. For scholarly reasons I believe the next device needs to be just a touch larger - to accommodate notes and annotations in the margins, something that the current device does not cater for.
The Kindle’s main forte is its wonderful greyscale E-Ink screen - which renders type, and monochromatic imagery at a beautiful high level of resolution. Reading book-based content from the screen is a real joy, that part of the experience is as close to a traditional page-turner as you can get. I read the latest Richard Castle Novel in just a few days, and loved the onscreen experience. There are some downsides here though in that the screen should really be a capacitive touch-screen, this would so much improve the navigation, but more of that later. I also touched on the fact in Form Factor above - that the screen could really do with wider margins for students to append notes and observations alongside the text.
The small circular buttons do not make for an amazing input experience, although they are usable in as far as that goes. Bizarrely though there ar...
Christmas comes around again, and the madness of Christmas shopping descends upon us once more. In previous years I plan the campaign many weeks in advance and have a list with names and intended gifts. I then typically spend one weekend shopping in-Town (Saturday + Sunday), in my case West End London first weekend in December; and anything I don’t buy in-store on Saturday or Sunday, I order online on the Sunday night.
There is a vast difference to shopping online and shopping on the High Street, yet both are a necessary part of the process for me, for the following reasons.
High Street ShoppingInspiration - Browsing product-laden physical retail spaces is the best form of shopping inspiration
Try before you buy - Certain wares need to be sampled in advance - check fabric / material, quality of finish, colour etc.
Instant Satisfaction - Buy and cross said item immediately off your to do list (no pending actions)
Returns - If you live close to a Town centre like I do, you can return and exchange goods in a matter of minutes
Online ShoppingProduct Hunt - If you know exactly what you want, you can seek it out online amongst potentially dozens of suppliers
Range - They did not have the size or colour you wanted in-store, seek it online
Price - Clever importing via Channel Islands gives you cheaper CDs and DVDs; in fact most things are cheaper online
Home Delivery - You need not be weighed down by half a dozen heavy bags or boxes - have the goods delivered to your door
Stress PointsCongestion - The West End of London can turn into a mini-riot in the lead-up to Christmas
Time - How long does the acquisition trail take? Going from shop to shop is an all-day program, online is typically a matter of minutes
Availability - The High Street has limited availablity, you might need to run around several shops to get specific size or variation / variety - sourcing a known product is usually easier online (although not necessarily quicker)
Receipt - Buying online means that ideally someone needs to be at home to receive deliveries
A recent report ’The Connected Kingdom’ commissioned by Google and carried out by US consultancy - Boston Consulting Group , finds that the Internet contributed some £100bn or 7.2% of UK gross domestic product in 2009.
This £100bn figure is said to be a conservative estimate, and excludes business-to-business eCommerce which is a £360bn per year market alone.
Of the £100bn figure, half of this is estimated to be consumer eCommerce, £10bn is for internet service providers and equipment used to get online, and the remaining £40bn comprises mainly of government spending and private investment in Internet technology - such as fibre optic networks and broadband. The UK Internet industry is estimated to employ circa 250,000 people - mostly made up of small companies like Comrz funnily enough.
The UK is actually a net exporter of eCommerce goods and services, exporting £2.80 for every £1 it imports, or in 2009 figures - £9.5bn exports vs £3.4bn imports. In terms of domestic consumer eCommerce; circa 31m people are responsible for the £50bn figure - spending circa £1,600 each - largely on media, travel, insurance and fashion - this sum puts UK consumers ahead of their American counterparts - on the basis of per capita spending. The UK is also the second largest online advertising market in the world after the US. The finaly interesting statistic revealed by the survey is that households can save approximately £1,000 per annum - by buying most of their goods online.
I know from my own patterns of consumption exactly how invaluable the UK Online Retail Market is. I along with many others regularly use larger stores like Amazon , Tesco , iTunes , M&S , John Lewis , HMV and ASOS , as well as more specialist stores like music store Juno and various ticket-based operations like airline tickets and cinemas - like Odeon . I must say that Amazon is still overall my favourite retail destination.
I shop online because there’s a greater range of goods and better availability, as well as keener pricing. I still quite like High Street and Mall shopping - but my biggest issue there is one of availability - in that the local store often runs out of stock - particularly with regards to specific clothing sizes. For online retail, the weakest pa...