How quickly you can react to market forces is usually the dividing line between success and failure. Every opportunity is fleeting, and rarely are you the only one competing for said opportunity. In marketing, first mover advantage is often the key to seizing the deal. How much you can do in-house at but a moment’s notice is therefore crucial for your success rate.
If you have read ’Maxmising Revenue #1’ - you will know that Gill & Macmillan attribute the ability to create new targeted sites on new domains at will, as a significant cornerstone of their recent success. For BIBA Medical, the ability to take charge and make swift changes has been key to their online growth, as Web Manager David Reekie notes: "The best thing about running BIBA Medical on Affino is that I have total hands-on control over every aspect of our business on the Internet".
When you read the two recently published Case Studies (BIBA Medical and Irish Books Direct), you will see the importance the Web Managers place on being able to do everything themselves. In a forthcoming case study from Human Kinetics, they talk about the significant challenges their web development team faced when running their sites prior to Affino. Every single change, new promotion or campaign had to go through the development team - the support burden was getting to a point of unsustainability. Post Affino transition, Human Kinetics now have category editors empowered through workflows, and marketing personnel who can trigger their own campaigns without needing to bother development. Development can now focus on innovating and delivering a better service with Affino.
’Empowerment’ has always been one of Affino’s core values - the ability of small teams of individuals to take control over vast Affino portals. Affino’s Empowerment is best explained by the 10 following benefits:
Use Affino’s ’Design Centre’ to build, change and evolve page / site look-and-feel at will
Deploy radical changes to site structure using ’Structure Copy’ and ’Restructure’
Use Application Bar and Live Edit to edit Structure, Content and Design on the screen and instantaneously
Use Topic Lists and Granular Keyword assignment for smart Site Taxonomies and Organic SEO
This post was prompted by an email we received last week stating - "How much do you lose to cart abandonment?" - from a certain something company offering a very specific solution for spotting, analysing and dealing with abandoned shopping carts. This highlights two very different approaches to eCommerce sites in general - most of the sites out there are what we would determine fragmented ’bolt-ons’ - i.e. a core eCommerce / checkout system with lots of 3rd party integrations - difficult to set-up, manage or evolve. The Affino Social Commerce Solution is a much more holistic approach, as all the essential tools and utilities are included and built into the very core of the system.
Most people don’t realise quite how much is available on-tap in Affino, so here follow some of the less obvious included elements - which very much sit within the areas of Sales and Marketing Automation and Social Utilities, all of these of course help with maximising revenues, improving customer retention and generating repeat sales:
Abandoned Cart Notifications
This is simply one of the many triggers within Affino’s Messaging solution - others include: Purchase, Login, Birthday and Conversion Event - all despatched fully automatically to incentivise customers
Part of Affino’s Customer Ladder solution, there are currently 42 trigger types with subsets, including: Cancelled Purchase, Friend Bought from Invite, Item added to Basket, Item added to Wishlist and of course Purchase - these can auto-despatch a variety of messages, or trigger coupons, discounts, store credits or other rewards
You can assign any Conversion Event to a Lead Generation Profile, which logs resultant leads and sends notifications to the appointed Leads Manager/s
Another essential Conversion Event utility, where any conversion even can trigger a content subscription - such that customers get notification whenever a new product is added to a specified category
Based on topics assignment and registered user preferences / likes, Affino recommends content, media, products, contacts and events - so customers get more of what they like - and so do you
Active Shopping Basket Management
Track and manage active Shopping Baskets - help customers through
An interesting piece on Econsultancy indicates the key reasons for Shopping Basket abandonment, which Experian estimates is costing UK retailers £1bn+ each year. In an online survey conducted by Econsultancy and TolunaQuick, 44% of customers indicated that they had abandoned a purchase, and cited high delivery charges as the key reason.
Results and key questions as follows:
After adding items to your basket, what would make you abandon your purchase?
77% - High delivery charges
55% - Technical problems
49% - Prices too high
26% - Needing to register before buying
Once you are in the checkout process, what would deter you from completing the purchase?
71% - Hidden charges
58% - Concerns about payment security
44% - Technical problems or slow loading pages
37% - The process takes too long
33% - Lack of contact details
26% - Difficulty filling in forms
23% - Security features such as Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode
How to combat the key causes of Shopping Basket Abandonment
No surprises! Be upfront and transparent about all charges
Always try to give at least 2 delivery options, e.g. cheaper normal post and more expensive express courier
Always try to give at least 2 payment options, e.g. PayPal and Credit Cards
Have an SSL Certificate on Checkout, Registration and Login - most shoppers will be reassured by HTTPS designation in browser
Belong to a relevant retail association - e.g.ABTA or Internet Shopping is Safe
Sign up to Trustpilot for unbiased customer reviews
Use a Single Page Checkout - everything simply laid out on a single screen means faster and easier checkout
Allow shoppers to buy with PayPal - without needing to register or logon
Ensure business address is clearly visible - shoppers are far happier doing business with someone they can place geographically
Have a named customer service representative with picture and contact details on site - shoppers are even happier doing business with someone they can put a face to
Our Social Commerce Solution Affino has been engineered to tackle all the key points indicated above - Contact our Business Development Director Marcus Svensson on email@example.com for further insights on Affino’s revenue generating abilities.
When Affino was first launched back in 2000, the central focus was always for the site owners to have full hands-on control over their online retail environments. Affino has always been developed with a view to being a holistic Social Commerce Platform - combining Online Retail with core CMS, Community and Deep Analysis.
Here are some of the essential facets of the Affino Social Commerce Solution which give Affino users more control:
Structure - Set up, copy and adapt multiple nested or fully independent content / product hierarchies. By utilising separate ’Zones’ you can build a Multi-Channel and Multi-Brand Platform with ease
Design Centre - Affino’s Design Centre is still as revolutionary today as it was when first introduced in 2002 - DIY Design Implementation via currently 86 Design Element Widgets, Design Styles, Menus, Frames, Design Objects and Skins, with advanced CSS customisation options available for those who have the skills
Personalisation - Using a combination of Affino’s Granular Security and Assignable Topics with configurable Design Elements, you can set up highly targetted shop fronts with distinct customer journeys
Application Bar / Control Centre - Total control over everything you see onscreen - Affino has extensive settings profiles to give admin users enormous scope for making instant changes
Live Edit / Design Edit - Edit Content, Text Labels and Design Element Settings on the live Display Screen
Sell Almost Anything - Affino has extensive selling abilities, mixing up standard Product Catalogues with Digital Media, Events, Saleable Articles and Memberships - via Granular Security assignment you can pretty much put a price on any of your site activities
Social CRM + Customer Ladder - Have complete oversight over every activity your site users engage in, track them, incentivise and reward them
Instant Analysis - Affino has several bulit-in dedicated Social Commerce analytics tools as well as the wholly configurable Customer Ladder Conversion Events Analysis, and Configurable Analysis Dashboard with 19 dedicated Commerce widgets
Shopping Basket Management - Track and assist customers with their purchases
Core vs Integrated - Affino contains everything you need to run several high level, socially-enhanced stores in a single solution, but it also integrates with 3rd party solutions including
Since it’s origin as an American online bookseller in 1994, Amazon has gone on to conquer the world. In most regions where it is active, it is the pre-eminent Internet Retailer, and now covers near enough every conceivable area of shopping, albeit not equally in every territory.
I’ve been an Amazon Prime Member for some time now, and alongside the Ocado Smart Pass, consider this an everyday essential service! I love the ease at looking something up, and fire and forget ordering with next-day noon delivery in almost all cases - even Sunday to Monday ordering on occasion.
There are many reasons how and why Amazon still maintains its lead:
Range - The Range of goods on Amazon is without equal
Price - In most cases (certainly not all though) Amazon has one of the lowest price points available - particularly for Books / Music / Video / Games
Stock - Amazon typically has a larger stock, so it’s less likely to sell out of the item/s you want
Delivery - Plenty of delivery options including same and next day delivery, even with the option of secure lockers and 3rd party location pick-up points
Reliability - You have to be a little careful with Amazon Marketplace, but with a bit of reading between the lines you can usually spot the right moves, pretty much everything I order gets delivered the next day or two
Returns - Amazon uses the Yodel service to pick up packages from customers’ doorsteps - I have used it several times and it works brilliantly
Reviews - Even though there is a slight proliferatin of semi-dodgy reviews, by-and-large you get a good indication of suitablity of product from customer reviews
Recommendations - Every area you browse on the site you get sent recommendations via email, not always wholly relevant, but very cool and frequently useful nonetheless
ListMania - Top 10 / 20 lists of customer favourites help you spot new products that are likely to appeal
Wishlists - The ability to file away preferred products for later purchase, great as a reminder for future releases
Amazon is usually my preferred retailer on the basis of a combination of range, cost and service, there are certain areas though that would benefit from improvements.
Areas Amazon could Improve Service:
Packaging - A lot of the packaging is not particularly re-useable for returning goods in - why do Amazon
In Britain, the ’Internet Shopping Capital of the World’ (q.v.), sales for September 2013 rose 13% from August, like-for-like comparison with September 2012 saw a rise of 20% between years (IMRG / Capgemini).
Clothing, especially lingerie and undergarments, saw strong increases on the success of sites like ASOS.com.
Mobile devices, including smartphones from Apple and Samsung saw a rise of 150% compared with 2012 - which directly impacts on shopping via mobile devices also.
Experts say that online sales have been boosted in particular by rapid delivery options, such as same-day delivery offered by companies like Amazon, ASOS, Dixons and Next. The September 2013 figures see the fastest increase per month since the e-Retail Sales Index was set up 13 years ago.
Over 10% of all UK Retail Sales are now online, with the ratio predicted to rise to 20%+ by 2020.
21% of UK families shop online for food and groceries compared to under 10% for the rest of the world. EU research shows that 82% of British Internet users regularly shop online, which is the highest figure within the 28 member states:
..1: UK 82% =2: Denmark 79% =2: Sweden 79% ..4: Germany 77% ..5: Luxembourg 73% ..6: Finland 72%
-------------------------- =26: Italy 29% =26: Estonia 29% ..28: Romania 11%
UK leads the EU for online purchases of clothing and food, Sweden is top for travel, and Luxembourg is top for books (perhaps something to do with Amazon European HQ?)
UK Shoppers are more active than US as online food and grocery retail has not taken off to the same extent in America.
Like for like comparisons with September 2012 in the UK see clothing up 18%, lingerie 30%, accessories 20% and footwear 20%.
Current trends seem to indicate a likely strong Christmas season for online retailers - time to get all your ducks in a row then ...
It’s the time of year where it’s good to review how far we’ve come with Affino’s development since we set out the 2013 Priorities. The big picture is that we’ve wrapped up one of the two biggest initiatives this year which was to re-architect Affino for super-scaling.
It took us half the year to get there, but we’re now seeing great up-time figures across the board for Affino’s SaaS services. There are still more refinements to do, but Affino has been transformed in it’s ability to be auto-scaled.
The next major performance update is coming with the advent of the new Responsive Skins in Affino. We are completely re-working how all public facing pages are being served, which means serving many more elements from memory for a faster response time. We’re also re-architecting Affino to make the pages fundamentally more stable, secure and to reduce the chance of bugs arising.
The Responsive Skins themselves will also be fundamentally faster across all devices with the new code compression, new toolkits, JS and CSS structure and fully CSS driven page designs and styling. All of this will be in place by the year-end.
The second major initiative is now well and truly underway, namely the new Responsive Design roll out. We have split off the old design centre to become the Classic Design Centre and are busy rolling out the new Responsive one. We’ve hit the first major milestone, namely the core framework for the new Object Designer. The new Object Designer will be much more solid than any of the previous versions, especially as we’re now working more directly with core CSS.
One example of the improvements coming is that we have built in full undo / redo in the Object Designer from the outset, both for layout and content. This is a great development and will make it much easier to experiment with designs in Affino in the future. It is just one example of how the new architecture is a big step forward.
A great win with the new Design Centre has been our ability to retain all the core concepts we have in the Affino Design Centre, updating some and introducing just one new element: the Breakpoint Profile which will allow you to evolve your Breakpoints over time. Everything else is an evolution of what&
We are right in the middle of rolling out Responsive Design in Affino and this post outlines many of the key decisions we have made, and why.
When researching approaches to implementing Responsive Design in Affino, we have been looking at existing tools such as Adobe Reflow and Webflow.
They have taken two opposite lines of approach. Adobe Reflow allows you to manipulate everything to the nth degree but makes the process very manual. It displays a grid, but it’s purely for visual guide purposes, nothing snaps to it.
Webflow has a much more restricted approach, as do all fixed grid systems, in that you have 4 fixed breakpoints and things essentially can be set to be stacked or side-by side. There is a very rigid approach to the grid implementation but it does make assembling purely designed pages a fast and efficient process.
Affino has different challenges, firstly Affino is an application suite which allows layout and styling, as opposed to a purely static framework. It has content and media libraries as well as dozens of functioning applications that can be styled but have to work in certain ways to be effective.
Affino also works with millions of pages, these aren’t designed individually, instead we have re-usable page designs (Skins) which work across many different functional and content pages.
In practice we’re going to be keeping all the key productive features of Affino 7, whilst making them Responsive and lightweight. We’re also going to be providing much improved interfaces for designing and laying out pages in Affino.
Key Principles for Affino Responsive Design:
1) Nested Design Objects
Affino will still have Design Objects and Design Elements as the basis for designing your pages. It means you will create your page elements individually and then re-use them throughout your page designs, e.g. button bars, header, footer, navigation panels etc. These are then assembled to create your page designs.
It means a bit more work for the first page design, but a great deal less for all subsequent ones.
2) Breakpoint Profiles
Breakpoints define where one page layout, e.g. PC changes to another, e.g. Tablet. These things change over time, for examples mobile phones are getting bigger, whilst tablets are increasing
Affino 7.2 is a major speed and stability improvement release. It addresses the issues which have arisen with moving all Affino SaaS sites to the new super scale cloud. This has been an extremely complex release to work on so it’s great to have it out.
Affino 7.2 is not only focused on delivering pages quickly and reliably, there are also many great enhancements across the board including: Invitations v2, Commerce Dashboard v2 and Smart Edit. In all there over 200 updates in this release, and as always there’s a lot of great usability improvements throughout.
A considerable number of site updates and launches have happened during this release cycle so there’s a broad spectrum of enhancements throughout the system which make it easier and more effective to business online whether you’re a SEO pro, a designer, marketing manager, store manager, editor or community moderator. It always feels great to have a release like this which makes working with Affino that much more effective.
The Affino 7.2 is very much a stability release and is an essential update for all Affino sites. It is an easy update, simply go through the standard update process. WorldPay users please see note below as you need to update your settings with this release.
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, Skin Update and finally Clear Guest Cache; all of which are available on the Settings > Update screen.
Speed and Stability
Reality always interrupts achieving ideals, especially when it comes to changing technologies. We’ve gone through the biggest tech learning over the past couple of months following the move to the super-scale cloud that we’ve had to do since originally moving to the Amazon cloud. It’s meant un-learning 20 years of best-practice and learning a whole new way of running the tech infrastructure.
We’ve overcome dozens of significant hurdles and advanced the entire Affino technical stack considerably over the past couple of months. We are finally starting to see the stability levels we have been aiming for with the move to the new super scale cloud stack. Hopefully it will be a few
We’re getting ready to move Affino to being fully responsive. This will be the major initiative over the coming months now that we have the auto-scaling cloud infrastructure in place.
There will be a switchover from the current way Affino page designs are created to a new responsive approach, like moving from analogue to digital.
We won’t have dual Design Centres in Affino at any point, it’s a one-off transition to the new Responsive Designs when you update to Affino 7.5.
Legacy Design Freeze
Once you update to Affino 7.5 all the legacy designs will be frozen. All the existing Skins will keep on working, but you will need to create new responsive designs moving ahead.
This way your existing site designs won’t be affected by upgrading. You will though want to make sure your designs are finalised before upgrading since it will no doubt take some effort to create your responsive designs.
We will have the means to transition the existing design components you’re working on so that most are simply transitioned, e.g. Design Styles, Design Menus, Main Menus, Form Styles.
Others such as Design Objects can be transitioned through a one-off manual transition which will create a new single-column Design Object that you would then arrange on the grid as required.
Fundamentally though Affino will still use the same elements we have in place, just in a much more wysiwyg fashion with easier design interfaces.
It’s very clear that we’ll need to be adaptable in our methodology whilst we roll out the new responsive design centre, once we come to the practical rollout issues on the design side.
We’re working to have the best methodology up-front though, so input and feedback is essential at this point. The better quality of input we get now, the more likely you are to get what you want when the new responsive design centre is rolled out.
New Design Interface
We envisage a new design interface which will be WYSIWYG. You will have a grid-based structure, with gutters, and can drag in the design elements which will automatically snap to a column. You can then drag them to span multiple columns / gutters.
As soon as you’ve selected the initial settings, the Design Elements will immediately display wywiwyg. You can then edit them in a similar way to how Live Design works on
The Analysis Centre in Affino has undergone a continuous evolution since we originally launched the very first version. Every single Analysis screen has seen two or more updates over the past year, some have seen dozens.
Recently we’ve accelerated the evolution considerably as technologies firm up and we’re able to roll out much smarter, more immediate analytics interfaces.
Previously a great deal of our focus was on the Dashboards, we found that in practice very few users ended up configuring these, instead preferring to use more basic tools which needed less effort.
It means that we’re now focusing more on ready-made stats interfaces which are optimised right from the outset to give you the best views of immediate activities whilst also giving you insight into long-term trends.
The one exception is the Customer Ladder in which all the metrics are customised by you, far beyond what was possible with the Dashboard.
Besides the death of Flash, and the impact that had on most dynamic online analysis tools, we found that Affino collected too much data, too easily. On the surface it’s great to capture and retain every data point, but very quickly this incidental data starts to weigh down on performance and drive up costs.
We believe we now have the mix just about right by extending the data series to two years, and we’ll scale up from here. We have done this by doing a great deal of data crunching.
Aggregating data continuously to provide daily, weekly and monthly overviews essential for long term trends, cleaning up the millions of un-used underlying data points.
At the same time we’re also providing better insight into Now and the most recent trends.
Updated Analysis Centre
When you go to the Analysis Centre there is now an instant overview of the activity on your site, with live updates of how many members, guests and bots are on-site along with the latest activity. There’s also handy snapshots of the overall level of user engagement for the day and recent past.
The Analysis Centre itself is now organised into categories so that for example all the Promotional analysis tools are grouped. When you go into each analysis screen, you will notice that many are now much faster than
The new Messaging 2 suite in Affino is not simply an incremental update, it is a complete re-imagining of how messaging should work for businesses online.
It has meant a fundamental re-think of how bulk and targeted messages work, and breakthrough improvements for notifications and auto-responders.
Sales and Marketing Automation
Messaging is at the heart of sales and marketing automation. Typically though it is necessary to integrate with many different systems to achieve even the basics of an effective messaging campaign.
Although Affino’s Messaging doesn’t do everything that tools such as Mail Chimp, Mandrill, Hub Spot, Eloqua, KISSmetrics and Scout do, it does a big part of it, and a whole load more.
It also does it at no additional cost, with easy-to-use tools, and with no code integration required.
Message Campaigns vs Mailing Lists
The first big change with Affino’s new messaging comes with the splitting off of the mailing list from the messages being sent. Affino now has Mailing Lists and Message Campaigns in place of Newsletters. Mailing Lists manage the actual subscribers, whilst Messages are sent out based on your Message Campaigns.
This means you can target your mailing lists in much more creative ways by running multiple messaging campaigns against individual mailing lists.
It also means you can do much more to target your subscribers effectively, whilst maintaining a unified unsubscribe and bounced subscriber list across multiple campaigns.
Premium, Personal and SMS Message Campaigns
You can now run three distinct types of messaging campaigns. Premium messages act the same as the previous Newsletter messages. These are tailored messages which can have high design values and where the message content can be highly targeted, automated and personalised.
It is now also possible to send out bulk SMS messaged and Personal messages. Personal messages are instant messages which appear to be sent individually, but are in fact sent in bulk.
We have also made it much easier to send out individual messages and to test / preview those messages. You can now simply enter in the message content, and Title where they are being sent by email. You can then preview them, send test messages or simply dispatch your message
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
Affino 7.1 is now out, and it’s a major release in every way. Whilst there are many aspects to this Affino release, the two key threads are improved scaling and greater engagement. Affino 7.1 has been significantly re-architected to scale with new search and analytics engines. With the release of Affino 7.1 we will also be migrating sites to our new super-scaling cloud.
We’ve rolled out big updates to many core Affino services including Messaging, Search, Analysis, Customer Ladder and Relationships. We’ve also introduced great features such as Store Credits for incentivising customers, and Design Panels for creating great popups.
The combined improvements in the Customer Ladder (engagement), Messaging and Analysis add up to a breakthrough for sales and marketing automation. The new Messaging Campaigns for bulk premium, personal and SMS messages, come with advanced targeting, filtering and triggering options and great analytics.
Site Search has been completely re-engineered around Solr which gives Affino greatly improved performance on searches, and allows for much smarter searching. Core management elements such as relating content have also seen big updates focused on making editorial teams much more productive.
Altogether there are nearly 400 great new updates in this release, many of which will be transformative when fully rolled out on existing Affino sites.
We have also fixed most of the identified low-level issues which arose from the Affino 7 launch, and which are inevitable with the introduction of such a significant new platform.
The Affino 7.1 release is a signifiant update, and unlike most Affino releases, this one takes some time to run as we’re completely restructuring all the analytics data and refreshing the search indices. Given how intense this update is on the infrastructure, and that your site will be moved to the new hosting cloud, it is essential that you co-ordinate your update with your account manager.
Also in this release is a significant change to how most images are presented as you can now set the margins around the main images using Design Styles / CSS. It is essential to review your pages to ensure that the images are presented as expected, and note that you can now optimise the layout.
The upcoming Affino 7.1 release is another significant step forward for Affino. It will see completely new search and messaging engines, greatly improves sales and marketing automation, much more usable relationship management, much improved stats and reporting, refined mobile experience, and smaller pages.
All of these key improvements aren’t simply incremental, they are dramatically better.
New Site Search Engine
Site Searches will be much faster and much more capable. You’ll be able to use conditional OR and NOT searches, check for word proximity, similar searches, fuzzy searches, range searches and phrase searches. Even better, almost everything will be indexed in near-real-time.
We’re reworking the entire messaging system, so it will be much more capable, run powerful message campaigns, act as auto-responder, with multiple message type options including SMS. We’re also further introducing a completely new level of message campaign analysis.
Sales and Marketing Automation
Affino 7.1 has greatly improved sales and marketing automation, with a much improved customer ladder, reports and charts. This is a big deal for online sales, e.g. messaging a sales person when a shopping basket fails, or if a person has filled out a form and watched a demo video.
We’ve reworked the way we log / crunch all Affino’s stats to restore Affino’s ability to track things up to the last two years. This means significant improvements to most of the analysis screens. Not only that, but the Dashboards will be useful again.
Related Items have been massively upgraded, all ajax driven for instant selections with the ability sort relationships plus create two way relationships instantly.
We’re crunching down the pages, removing a lot of the tables, shifting more to CSS, and building compression directly into Affino. This means even faster pages and the ability for your sites to serve more pages within each hosting band.
Improved mobile Control Centre, and significantly improved mobile interfaces on the live sites.
Improved SEO Management
We’ll be introducing some new SEO power tools for SEO pros to make
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
The above screen capture tells you everything you need to know about why it’s no longer enough to be in the top 10 on Google, as the world goes mobile. You now get 10 times as many referrals by being No.1 than you do by being number 2, and that ratio gets bigger by each position down the ranking.
66% of Search Screen is Paid-for
It also highlights the immense power that Google now has with search placements, when two out of the three top search results above the fold on mobile are now paid-for. There’s no way that Google can justify taking up so much of the screen space on mobile with paid for listings, and it goes a long way towards devaluing the SEO efforts that millions of companies are investing in.
What’s interesting is that if you use Google’s own search app on the iPhone you typically only get one ad shown, and you get a completely different set of results than if you use the main iPhone Web search. What is noticeable that Google sites, such as YouTube videos rank much higher on the Google app search results than they do in the general web search results. It means that in the app 80% of the initial screen is either paid for, or a Google property.
Winner Takes All
The world of search engine optimisation has entered an era where the winner takes all, where being the top ranked entry now can cost a factor more than it did previously, and where different entry points to the Google search engine give different results. It also means that increasingly the way to get the top rankings is to engage fully with all of Googles initiatives, whatever the cost.
It also means that many companies will get a higher rate of return when investing in social engagement, more direct online sales and smart affiliations.
Google has to be very careful with how it evolves the paid-for search marketing over the next couple of years, or it could see a big dip in its earnings as companies no longer try to compete in the winner takes all gamble that is Google Search.
Ecommerce is speeding up, and no one is safe if they’re not fully committed to meeting the evolving market head on. 2013 will see big winners and losers as more shopping goes digital.
Here are some of the key trends for the coming year.
Nothing comes close in importance to being able to tailor the buying experience for each and every one of the shoppers who comes to you, whether it’s online, on mobile devices, kiosks, in-store or via television.
The starting point for personalisation is the unified user account. This means offering a single login for the user across all devices, with instant syncing of user data across all different sales interfaces, or preferably using a single client-facing commercial engine across all platforms.
Product listings, product searches, recommendations, emailers and community engagement should all be tailored to the individual user. This should be done on recently viewed products, identified interests, and increasingly by using game mechanics to automatically identify and guide users’ buying preferences.
The economics, scale and distribution of Cloud setups mean that companies must embrace cloud services in 2013. Even though there are still occasional headline stories on cloud provider down-time, cloud services are maturing rapidly, and in real-world scenarios downtime is becoming increasingly rare.
On the other hand the cloud costs keep on coming down, and the service levels are rising dramatically each year. It means the cost / performance / scale / reliability equation has now firmly swung in favour of cloud setups rather than in-house infrastructure for ecommerce.
Being able to deliver a rapid response, at scale, globally, is best delivered via cloud platforms. Solutions such as Scalr mean that it is now possible to automatically scale up and down your infrastructure. This means that you only pay for what you use, and can run much fewer servers as a baseline, even within the same day as demand scales up and down. It also means that you can address peak demand with the best response times.
Using Content Delivery Networks means that your media and static files are delivered locally, globally, with much faster response times. Using cloud-based storage networks with offsite backup networks means
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.
For the first time, Affino runs great on mobiles and tablets. It’s been a long-term project we’ve been working on for the past two years, and it will be a year or so until everything is likely to be perfect across all mobile platforms.
For anyone working in mobile, it’s a minefield, and lots of decisions have to be made along the way. I’ve posted previously about how under-developed mobile browsers are, but that has largely changed in the past year. For the most part they’re now great, in particular Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android.
With Affino 7 out initial target devices are the latest generation IOS (iPhone / iPad) and Android (mobile / tablet) devices. Mobile browsers will continue to improve in their capabilities and standards support.
When we brought out the alpha version of our mobile tech last year we did all kinds of optimisations to work around limitations with iOS 4 / Android Browser. Apple and Google have since then updated their platforms a couple of times (4 in the case of Google) and the browsers are far better than before. A side effect of the updates though was that all of the work-arounds we did for earlier mobile browser versions were broken when those browsers were fixed.
It has lead us to a principle for our mobile platform development which is that we won’t code for mobile browser bugs, instead we will do our best to work around the issues, and if that is not possible then the expectation is that the mobile browsers will be fixed soon enough.
We’ve tested Affino 7 on a lot of mobile devices. Many different Android phones and tablets (most of the leading ones and all Nexus devices), half-a-dozen iOS variants from old iPhones to the latest iPods / iPads and iPhones. We have also tested Affino on Windows Phone 7 and the Kindle HD. Both WP7 and the Kindle have some minor issues, but these issues are platform specific and the expectation is that they will be solved by Microsoft / Amazon respectively.
In practice 90% of users and above should have a great experience using Affino on their mobiles, and now that we’ve completed the initial phase of mobile optimisation, we will be accelerating to roll out mobile optimisations throughout all Affino’s interfaces both on the Control and Display sides.