The most significant of the eCommerce introductions in the Affino 7.1 release is our new Store Credits system. This of course bolsters the existing Service Credits - where Consumers are rewarded for their onsite activities with access to premium features and functions. Store Credits of course give your website a fully monetised approach to incentives.
Customers can accrue Store Credits in three ways - by making a purchase, similar to the Boots / Frequent Flyer / Nectar / Tesco loyalty points schemes, secondly by triggering any of the circa 40 Conversion Events (various online activities), and finally - Credits can be assigned manually to Users - either for incentive purposes or for transactional refunds.
The Checkout Screen (top) makes customers aware of the Store Credits system (name it what you like!) and displays ’Total Points’ accrued and ’Points received’ for that specific transaction.
The above, second visual, is actually a composite of 2 different control-side screens - a ’Store Credit Profile’ above and the ’Incentives’ panel below - as appears on any of Affino’s 40 Conversion Events. For the former, you set the Point limits - the Threshold / minimum points required for redemption, and the Maximum Order Percentage for which the points can be redeemed. There are two different conversion rates - the Points to Currency Conversion Rate - i.e. how many points to a penny/cent; then you have the Currency to Point Rate - which is how well you reward customers for their purchases. A typical rate for Points to Currency is 100 points = $1 in value, whilst $1 spent typically renders 1-5 points or up to $5 in credit for every $100 spent.
On each Catalogue Item you can activate the Credits via a ’Credit Scale’ setting - default value is 1, but you can increase multiplier up to 10 meaning 10x points for that Item - a ’0’ value means the Item is exempt from Credits.
The bottom panel in the visual shows how you can assign ’Store Credit Points’ for each of the 40 Conversion Events - so that you can monetarily reward loyal participants on your site - i.e. Customers who post reviews, ratings, recommendations and other useful editorial or social content / media.
The final component of how Store Credits incentivise is
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
2013 is going to be all about being Responsive, so expect priorities to be very fluid to meet the ever evolving needs of the Affino community. One overwhelming priority we will have for 2013 will be Responsive Design. We’re going to be introducing Responsive Skins which means that pages will transform to fit any device, however they are turned.
The second Responsive element is that in 2013 we are going to turbo-charge Affino’s evolution. The past years have required a great deal of effort to evolve Affino to work on mobile and tablet devices; to become super-scalable and reliable; to run on the latest cloud-based architectures; and to have a new 21st Century management interface. All of those are now at highly evolved states.
It means that the Comrz team can now focus on rounding out Affino Social and Commercial platforms; do much deeper integration with the leading Social communities; evolve key communication and promotion aspects such as direct and real-time messaging, and a new approach to A/B and Multi-variate testing.
Below are many of the key challenges we will be tackling during the course of 2013. Expect the most productive Social Commerce platform to become even more so.
We will be introducing Responsive Skins to Affino in the first half of 2013. Responsive Skins will mean that Affino pages will automatically re-organise themselves to provide the best experience whatever form-factor of device is being used to navigate the pages. This will affect how everything is displayed on Affino sites and is the major undertaking for the year.
As part of the process, the new Skins will be light-weight, fully CSS-based and Affino will have built-in code compression to minimise the page size.
Usability and Learnability
We will continue the major initiative to make Affino as learnable and usable as possible. This was what we spent most of 2012 on, and Affino is now much more usable than ever before. Key initiatives include new Setup Wizards, Control Centre Zone filters, and the new Media v3 management interfaces.
Continuing from last year we expect to make hundreds of further usability improvements throughout the course of the year and have already wrapped up some great ones for Affino 7.1.
Our priority for Affino 7 has been to make the most productive platform available for running your business online. The integrated nature of Affino means you only have to manage your community, content, products, design, , promotions and analytics in one place. This is by far the most effective approach for managing an online business. What we have done with Affino 7 is to improve in every way how how you manage your online business.
Affino 7 has a New Control Centre, with the pages delivered by a New Page Generation Engine, and it runs on a New Cloud Architecture, all with the intent to deliver the best Social Commerce platform on the market today.
New Look Affino
We’ve brought together great productivity ideas from the Affino user community and the Comrz team. It has meant re-styling, re-factoring and re-architecting Affino from the ground up to be more productive and easier to learn. Affino 7 also has a great new minimalist look, and now works great on tablets and mobile devices. With Affino 7 we’ve set a new baseline which means that every new element we roll out in Affino will be that much better.
Affino has a brand new Control Centre and Live Edit tools. It is now optimised whether you’re using it on a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device, so you can use it anywhere any time. We’ve really raised the bar for every management interface in Affino. You fill find almost every task easier to do, with great new short-cuts, lookups, help items, searches, lists, entry forms, and navigation elements.
Affino has been brought right up to the leading edge with it’s platform support. It now runs on the latest technology which means it is faster, more reliable and more scalable than ever before. It also means that the Comrz team will be able to accelerate the development of the Affino platform in the weeks and months ahead.
There’s a great new Design Centre. The Design Objects are now completely managed within native browsers with no Flash requirement. All the Design Control screens have seen significant updates and Affino now has better than ever custom CSS support. We’ve also introduced some much needed enhancements such as padding on Design Cells and full Font styling, along with a breakthrough ability for you to be able to secure each and every Design Element
Affino 7 is one of the most versatile of the full-featured website systems and can be adapted for pretty much any means, there are certain scenarios though that Affino is already optimised for - high-impact out-of-the box performance.
Affino really is the complete Social Commerce Solution, so it is quite evident that in hybdrid retail and community deployments - Affino makes for a perfect choice - yet there are other less obvious permutations where Affino has significant pedigree and therefore eminent suitability too:
Publishing There are a number of International flagship Publishing sites running on Affino, including Human Kinetics in the USA, Gill & Macmillan in Ireland and Procurement Leaders in the UK. All these publishers capitalise on the full spectrum of Affino functionality and utilise a myriad of targeted microsites using the best of Affino’s commercial and social features. The scope of what all these organisations have already achieved - each running off just a single Multi-Site Affino Licence - is already impressive, and they are all still growing.
Social Commerce and Hybrid Online Retail Whilst there are millions of ecommerce sites out there on the web, there are very few that combine multiple varieities of retail - digital, packaged goods, subscriptions and memberships - alongside social promotion and community support. Retail sites which allow their consumers to champion and support the products and services they consume are a breed apart and have many more revenue streams open to them - Affino proponents at the forefront of online retail include Aido, Bathroom and Showers Direct and Flower Innovations.
Commercial Communities and Professional Networks Affino’s version of community is one which generates revenues for the site owners by as many means possible - through fully servicing the community’s members. Both Filmutea and Digital Doughnut have capitalised on Affino’s capabilities for connecting and rewarding site owners and site users alike. Filmutea for instance offers a number of professional subscription and bulletin board facilities alongside an Affino-powered funding platform and auxiliary services - to provide the complete professional film maker’s resource - a one-stop utility for anyone wanting to make films in Spain - seek out cast and crew, equip, fund, produce and
The great advantage of Affino 7 having so many different functions and technologies in a single system is that you get unprecedented synergies when combining them all together.
Right at the heart of Affino are the Social CRM and Automated Customer Ladder which elevate Affino’s unique approach to Social Commerce to a level unseen in any other system. The true advantage of Affino is using the single interface to manage so many different evolved activities, including the following:
The perfect marriage of social and commercial interaction - all enabled through a seamless interface - gives you a highly beneficial customer experience and revenue generator
combining your customer registration database with analytics gives you a deep customer insight through direct social network integration and demographic data collection
Automated Customer Ladder
Affino’s 36 Conversion Event types allow you to automatically trigger off an incredible variety of actions on your site; you can use social gaming to drive customer engagement and further revenue channels; and the in-depth analytics on the elements which matter to you
Affino’s depth and breadth of functionality, with built-in keyword and taxonomy management, allows for unprecedented and automated content tagging, indexing and analysis
Personalisation and Recommendations
Affino recommends connections, content and media based on a user’s preferences and onsite activities
Expert, opinion-led retail pin-point targeted with Affino promotions - produces a powerful form of personalised commerce
Content / Media Flow
Affino allows for multiple different types of complementary content and media to be displayed together on the same screen to encourage users to browse more and stay more engaged
I spent a year as a Buyer (procurement executive) back in my early twenties, and the experience shaped a lot of the decisions I’ve made since career-wise and as the chief architect of Affino. My twin goals of making it easier to get information out to companies, and making it easier to buy for the client were largely shaped by the pressure which came from having to buy 10,000s of different products during the course of the year.
It’s a great thing then that we’re working with Procurement Leaders (PL) who do a top job of giving you the inside spin on the key trends and events which affect procurement professionals. I originally signed up to the weekly alerts to make sure that everything worked well and looked good, but increasingly I find myself reading the articles, many of which are excellent.
Procurement Leaders really innovate in how the deliver their content, and are always working great new approaches. As soon as each new delivery is out there, the next one is being worked on. If as a Publisher you want to see what’s possible online then you won’t go wrong taking a look at what they’re doing (although expect it all to change soon enough).
There’s a great deal of automation behind the scenes which makes the PL team more productive, especially useful is the Taxonomy / Key Word engine which allows for great drill-downs, searches and organisation of content by Topic as well as automated recommendations and Topic Channels.
We’re looking forward to see how the site evolves next, whilst keeping me entertained with great content in the meantime. Although the site is run by the entire PL team, the Tech team who build and maintain the Affino site behind the scenes are first class and a pleasure to work with.
For any online business to succeed and remain relevant, you need to continuously review what is and isn’t working. At a minimum you shuld do an annual review where you check your assumptions and apply your learnings for the year.
We’re often asked to help work through this process. Below is a useful checklist when you’re looking to update your online business.
The most important element is identifying your target market, i.e. who’s your ideal client, the second level client, third level client etc.
You need to identify the tone of your site, i.e. if your site were a person who would they be: gender, age, look, way of speaking.
We’re very proud of our relationship and collaboration with founding Filmutea members Robert and Gemma, whom we’ve been working with for the past 5 years. The intention was always to create the very best Film-Makers Resource - providing everything you might need to create motion picture magic.
The core of the site has long been the Jobs Boards, Classifieds, Events and Community - which help film makers network in order to find the cast, crew and equipment they need to produce their films.
Affino’s new funding platform is the icing on the cake really - allowing film-makers to secure the capital required - through crowdfunding. The Funding Platform works along similar lines to Kickstarter - where members of the public can sponsor the production at different levels - each of which is usually recognised by some degree of reward or acknowledgment. Funding is enabled via PayPal transactions, and there are extensive settings and workflow profiles to handle the various projects posted. Typically the company that provides such a service (Filmutea in this instance) takes some form of commission - either a fixed rate or percentage of total collected.
For us at Comrz this is the perfect showcase for Affino’s full Social Commerce capabilties. In our opinion, this is one of the most rounded / complete professional networks on the Web, and the business model is incredibly strong - both for the service provider and service consumers. Currently Filmutea is targeted at Spain, and has 43,000 members; 19,000 Job Offers; nearly 6,000 Film Courses listed, and has its first major production under its belt.
If you are making films in Spain, this is your perfect launchpad. We look forward to seeing Filmutea expand into more territories in the next year or two. For anyone interested in creating a profitable professional social network, this is an excellent benchmark for how to do it.
This project is the culmination of a year’s work (for the Graphics!), in some ways it could be said to be the culmination of Affino’s 15 years of development. We have long wanted an elegant means of showcasing the extensive Affino Features Set - and we have takled it a number of ways previously - trying to do a complete features listing (100’s of individual elements - now archived for being too large), and the much celebrates ’Periodic Table of Affino Elements’ - which has 128 listed features - yet still needs further essential additions.
This time it was going to be simpler, yet more detailed, more illustrative at the same time, and punctuated with some lovely iconographic and obviously meaningful pictures and screencaptures. We hand-picked a list of 50 key features as we saw them; alas ’Affino Messenger’ still remains to be re-developed in HTML5 (some way off), but the other 49 can now be found listed on the pictured Affino Features screen; they are as follows:
Comments & Rating
Topics and Keywords
Web Services API
The intention is that they serve as a great reference for all of us, customers new and old - in getting a full and proper picture of Affino, and reminding us of useful features, functions and utilities that we were thinking of making use of but never quite got round to implementing on our site/s.
This release sees the biggest leap in Affino’s usability we have ever made. There have been hundreds of improvements made so that Affino is easier to learn and use. The biggest change is the complete reworking of the Control Centre, and although many of the changes are subtle, everything is now within easy reach. Two clicks and a swipe when using tablets or mobiles.
The usability changes go further to make it much easier to set up security, build page designs, style your sites, run stores and tailor the SEO on each Zone. We also removed a great deal of legacy functionality which has allowed us to streamline Affino further and innovate the new flat navigation that you get in this release.
Ecommerce is the second area which has seen some dramatic improvements. We now have Timezone support for the first time in Affino, so that you can run sites and stores across multiple regions on the same instance. Campaign driven commerce is greatly improved with better campaign management, catalogue management, coupon and order management, product search and product drill-down menu.
We have also improved the shopping experience with a great new drop-down shopping basket and the login overlay which allows for improved direct selling of subscriptions / memberships from the login page.
A major new feature is the introduction of the Funding Platform into Affino. People familiar with KickStarter and similar fundraising sites will be at home using the Affino version.
Many more elements have been Zoned particularly within lookups and Analytics, where Channel, Content and Site Analysis are all now Zoned for the first time. This takes Affino further towards our goal of being able to Zone the whole Control Centre. Watch out also for the tweaks we’ve made to the App Bar, they take a bit of getting used to, but you’ll notice that you speed up over time.
Altogether there were nearly 300 projects completed for this release, and we had to re-write the Affino updater to be able to handle the scope of all the changes, making this by far the biggest update yet.
We see Affino 6.0.13 as great foundation release to build on this year, and the changes we’ve made will allow us to drive forward on the plans for 2012 and accelerate Affino’s development moving ahead. Expect another release later in March
This release is primarily focused on Usability, with a whole range of updates for campaign driven ecommerce sites. We continue to be driven by the desire to speed things up for our users, removing un-used functionality is a major aspect of that, and this release is the biggest ‘spring clean’ we’ve ever done for Affino.
With Affino evolving to be more and more touch and mobile driven we have completed a major review of all the aspects which need to be updated over the coming year. Along the way we have identified dozens of little used Affino elements which we have decided to remove rather than update. This will allow us to focus our resources so that we can update all the elements which are used heavily both faster and to make them better than ever. It also clears out a great deal of ‘clutter’ that was serving no great purpose.
Control Centre - Less is More
We have removed a fifth of Affino’s Design Elements and reorganised the rest; removed 40% of the Security Clearances and reorganised the rest; reorganised the Control Centre whilst removing 15% of the Controls; simplified Form Styles to make them mobile and tablet optimised; and simplified dozens of interfaces to remove complexity and ‘gotchas’.
In removing and reorganising all these elements and many more, we have greatly simplified Affino and reduced the learning curve for all users and especially new ones. The day to day impact on existing sites will be absolutely minimal since we have extensively researched how Affino sites are being used and which elements are under-used.
A great deal of our focus has also gone into improving the usability of the existing elements. Dozens of management interfaces have been improved, ranging from minor fixes such as adding new filtering options through to complete overhauls. These will add up to a great deal of time saved each day for actively managed sites.
The Control Centre has now been firmly built around each of the ken key management screens, e.g. Publish, Promote, Communicate. Each has its own video guide and all the management tools for that area are immediately accessible from each Centre.
We cover each element in brief which has been removed below, and in more detail in a separate Blog post.
We had big plans for developing Affino this year and moved it ahead in almost every way. We reached the 12th version of Affino 6, of which 7 were launched during the year. We worked through 1,408 improvement projects both large and small, some taking months others mere minutes.
Every single aspect of Affino saw improvement during the course of the year and is now faster, easier and more pleasing on the eye.
We started the year with three priorities:
To make affino:
During the course of the year though that a big part of Affino’s usability came down to speed and it simply wasn’t fast or reliable enough on a consistent basis. So we added in three more priorities:
To also make Affino:
We saw great strides across all areas, and really nailed the last three.
This post covers the key highlights for each of our priorities and for the major Affino application areas.
Nothing is more important to the success of a product than to make it as usable as possible. This allows people to do and achieve the maximum in the minimum timeframe. Which means better looking sites, higher conversion rates and more engaging communities.
We have removed hundreds of usability issues from Affino during the year. Each time a support request arises we’ve looked into the issue and seen if we can either remove it or make it so easy that a user never has to ask the question again. In most cases we’ve succeeded and now users are able to do most tasks instantly.
The Control Centre has had a big makeover, and has now mostly been upgraded to use pure native browser technologies (i.e. no Flash). This means it is now faster and more consistent. We’ve also looked into many of the major modules such as Store Management, Campaigns and the Media Library and completely re-worked them to be far more effective.
A big focus was to make the Affino user interfaces more consistent and modern. All the interfaces have had a makeover and are now considerably easier to use, and all have a consistent ‘Affino Style’ presentation.
We’ve also added lots of smarts to the user interface with sticky elements that are always on the screen, clearer buttons
This is the eighth and final release of 2012. It’s a great ecommerce release. Almost every enhancement in this release improves the store management experience. The most significant enhancement is the ability to have Detail Skins on a Channel. This allows for specific Skins to display product details. These can be coupled with all the great new ecommerce Design Elements we’ve created over recent releases including the great new Recently Viewed Products DE.
It is now considerably easier to manage multiple stores on a single instance with improved Control Centre listings, searches and filters. We’ve improved product and order exports and imports and the Checkout now has new abilities to improve user profiling and gather address details.
We’ve introduced Supplier Management for the first time. This is especially useful for sites which are acting as hubs, reselling for 3rd parties. We’ve also upgraded a lot of the ecommerce management interfaces to make them more usable and effective.
It’s not just the core ecommerce capabilities that have been upgraded but a lot of associated elements for example Campaign Management which has had a major overhaul to handle high volumes of campaigns. Status updates now make for more effective promotions and the improved handling of Headings means that Affino’s SEO delivery has just gone up a notch.
All together there are around 100 improvements in this release so the experience will be improved for everyone no matter how you use Affino.
This release has a very significant update, the ability of have dedicated Detail Skins. The update should be smooth, however it is recommended that it is done during Comrz’s support hours should an issue arise which needs support.
It is essential that you run through the complete update process starting with the Affino Updater, followed by the System Update, Re-Initialise Site, Design Element Update and Skin Update; all of which are available on the Settings > Update screen. It means it is now possible to have up to 14 Skins per channel.
Detail Skin v1
This is the biggest structural change to come to Affino for some time. It will now be possible to have Main and Detail skins on each channel. The Main Skins will remain the default
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
Yes indeed - I’ve just returned from a two week break home to Iceland, and it turned out to be even more action-packed than usual. To save me much repetition over the next few days, and in part to offer a decent reference point for my many friends and acquaintances who have indicated a desire to visit Iceland (soon Lucas!), I thought it might come in handy to commit the trip overview to a single blog post.
As anyone who knows our extended family (La Familia) is aware, we like to take extensive walks, eat out frequently, get some spa days / treatment days in, as well as regular cultural pursuit. Here follows the overview (PS - above pic is a stock photo of Northern Lights at Hotel Rangá):
Nauthólsvík - coastal path with great views - runs alongside Reykjavík airport and the West-side of town - starts with geo-thermally heated inlet and man-made beach Öskjuhlíð - wooded hill surrounding Pearl / Perlan restaurant - contains remains of old WWII fort and several rabbits if you keep your eyes peeled Garðabær - home town has a number of excellent walking routes - down and around the lava fields and down to the coast in particular Heiðmörk - nearby National park was re-forrested in the 50’s and 60’s - offers excellent scenic walks Around Rangá - quick walk around the Hotel’s grounds - which are very close to the 2 recent Icelandic volcanic erruptions - returned to hotel covered in ash!
Days Out / Trips:
Trip to Icelandic Auntie’s summerhouse (near Hvalfjörður) - classic Icelandic afternoon tea / coffee - open sandwiches, waffles and cakes Trip to and overnight stay at extended family’s summerhouse (near þingvellir) - evening grill and jacuzzi (most summerhouses in Iceland have a large outdoor jacuzzi), followed by extensive brunch the next day Hotel Rangá - delightful Icelandic country hotel - sort of in the middle of nowhere, between Hella and Hvolsvöllur on Route 1. Jacuzzis are spaced outside every 3’rd room or so on the South-side - quite a superb experience sipping champagne in a jacuzzi under the big sky - with glaciers and volcanoes on the near horizon, and usually the best place to see Northern Lights - excellent restaurant too, great for dinner and breakfast - pricy, but good all-round Fljótshlíð -
The new Irish Books Direct website, is the epitome of a modern family business; it’s also a great example of proper Social Commerce. Affino and Comrz have always been great enablers, but nothing is achieved without a sound business vision and the right people behind it.
Alasdair Verschoyle has long been involved in book retail and distribution, and always had the goal of one day creating a community-centric book store focused on his Irish roots, and underlined by a passion for championing and sharing Irish Literature, Authors and Culture.
The idea was to hand-pick a broad spectrum of quality Irish books, published both locally and abroad, which would appeal to Irish Nationals at home, as well as ex-pat Irish and their descendants around the world. The key point of difference is not just in this particular selection of books, but in the use of Affino’s numerous community tools to create a proper global sharing community for everyone interested in Irish Culture.
The site contains video interviews with authors, and frequent blogs and special features - offering extended background information on key titles, their authors, their motivations, inspirations and reference points - all in all giving the site visitor a fully immersive experience of Irish Literature.
Alasdair is the visionary partriarch, and Lorna Lawless and Jenny Coughlan take care of the day-to-day management of the site. This is typical of Affino sites - just a core of 3 people doing amazing things with the software.
We worked with Alasdair to ensure that he ended up with the best possible logo and positioning statement to underline his vision. We then oversaw the design of the site and some custom template creation, but pretty much all the work was done by the team of 3.
Of course this is just phase 1 really, and we look forward to seeing many more innovations to come.
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/
Ticketmaster has just announced an interesting collaboration with Facebook, where Facebook members can see which seats their friends have booked at a show / venue - and are then able to book seats next to those. To start with, the pilot project will be limited to 300 venues - which ones these are has yet to be fully confirmed.
At the core of this though, is the essence of Social Commerce - the model of ’Your friend bought this so you might like it too’. I can see a whole series of notification services which you obviously need to be able to opt out of / target in some way - I’m not sure you would like to send the following through: ’Billy just bought ’incontinent pants’..., ’We thought you might like ’incontinent pants’ too’...
Anyway, back to serious matters again - this is absolutely the strongest means of persuasion. Within every circle of friends, there are always one or two ’Mavens’ or ’Trendsetters’ which have a significant influence on the buying patterns of their peers - a subject which is of course excellenty parodied in ’The Joneses’ film from 2009.
With several ticketed events also having ticket number restrictions, this is the only way a large group could co-ordinate so that everyone can sit together. This system is sure to do well as it offers up genuine benefits for both customer and retailer. People feel much better when they can choose their own seats, and they feel even better when they can choose who they get to sit next to.
A number of years ago in a previous company, we did some interesting work with the Royal Opera House on Seating Plans - and in particular the view you got from each block of seats - very useful for avoiding balcony columns in old theatre-style venues.
The Ticketmaster app has very clever privacy / tagging settings - allowing you to choose whom you broadcast your seat info to - ’Everyone | Friends | No One’. As we evolve, I expect to see some kind of Google+ system where you choose which social circle you share your which information with.
All retailers have been wanting to do this kind of thing for years - it makes the offering more personal, and encourages further purchasing. Fashion and Home Décor sites have for a long time been able to allow users to create personal looks / outfits which they can share with
Affino just got easier, this is one of those Affino releases where you may not notice many of the updates, and instead Affino will just feel better, more stylish and faster. Much of what is in this release comes from observing users working with Affino and aims to remove hundreds of the hurdles and pitfalls which slow you down when building and managing advanced social commerce sites.
We have moved forward with the two key Affino objectives for 2011: the new Control Centre and making Affino mobile. There have been hundreds of tweaks to make the Control Centre more usable, especially for running larger sites. There have also been big changes to make the Control Centre work for different screen sizes and have a higher contrast, essential for mobile devices and tablets. We’ve also swapped out some Flash interfaces for HTML ones which work on all the iOS platforms.
On top of that, major improvements have been made throughout the ecommerce process, Forums, new Recruitment platform, greatly improved Blogging and Events and refined members’ pages.
Key users who will benefit from this release are: Designers, who will find it easier to implement designs; Pro Bloggers, who can now create much more engaging blogs; Pro Forum Moderators, for whom we have transformed the forum experience and provided with a host of fresh management tools; Store Managers for whom Affino just leapt forward; Event Managers, who have greatly improved tools for managing large events; and Recruiters and Human Resource managers who now have a powerful new recruitment platform.