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.
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
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
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/
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
These last few weeks have seen a lot of features about B-Reel’s excellent recent interactive touchscreen live sales assistant interface for Sweden’s 3 Mobile Phone Store . The new interface - aka ’3 LiveShop ’ enables a sales assistant to present various options in the style of Tom Cruise in Minority Report. The touch screen interface allows the assistant to sweep and select with multiple touches and drag and drop pictures and text panels onto the interface. On the client side, the customer can then view / click on their screen to select / approve the options presented.
Of course this looks very slick and user-friendly, and contains some amazing technology - beautifully executed, but it adds more to the retail side than the shopping side. In many ways it’s a new innovation on a very old fashioned transaction. Back in the earliest days of retail, we had the General Store, where a shop keeper behind the counter did all the running around - making selections on behalf of the customer and presenting them with options. This is really just a hi-tech update of that.
Modern retail has moved much more towards automated vending - think of all the vending machines you get on a typical Tokyo street corner - many of them now with modern touch-screen interfaces. A future-proof system really needs to be highly automated and easily and constantly accessible. The advantgage of the Internet is not only that it can reach customers remotely, but that it can reach them at any time of day or night. Of course 3 could put on shifts which covered 24/7/365 - but there’s a very significant cost overhead for this, which would be prohibitive for most retailers.
For my mind, the future of retail is most definitely Automated Social Commerce - where the sales assistant’s role is taken up by both the technology, as well as the other members of that retailer’s community -i.e. other knowledgeable customers. I can see all kinds of clever lessons being learnt from the ’3 LiveShop ’ experience, and this technology eventually becoming established in a more domesticated environment - where customers assist each other online by using just such ’Minority Report’ gesture-based on-screen communication.
So in short B-Reel / 3 are not wholly the future of online retail, but certainly set down some signficant...
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...