EU Commerce Changes In Regulations Impacting eCommerce

Last week the European Commission redrafted guidelines, many of which relate to regulations around distance selling. The revised guidelines had been adopted 10 years ago and the new ones are to be in place beginning in May for the coming 10 years.

There continue to be many restrictions allowed but the overall set of guidelines pull back on some types of restrictions suppliers can put in distribution contracts. For example, suppliers can no longer prohibit authorized sellers to sell on the Internet.

In addition, suppliers can no longer prevent online sellers from taking a sale from across borders including within a distribution system such as exclusive distribution or selective distribution. For example, a retailer in the UK can accept and ship an order to a buyer in France even if they are not authorized to sell physically in that market. The retailer cannot proactively market to that customer, but they may accept an order if it comes to them passively.  

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GSI Gains Control Of Intershop: What It Means

On April 14th, GSI and Intershop announced that they had entered into a licensing and distribution agreement. As a part of the agreement, GSI gains a minority and controlling interest in Intershop. With a relatively small ownership stake of 10.5%, GSI will have significant influence over Intershop, due to Intershop’s very diluted and diverse stockholder base. This gives GSI control over one of the oldest and most established eCommerce software solutions in Western and Central Europe. Additionally, under the agreement GSI will have exclusive rights to distribute Intershop’s solutions in the Americas and also have access to Intershop’s software, engineering talent, and integration experience.


What the agreement means:

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Do Your Customer Self-Service Metrics Measure What Matters to Your Customers?

After a week of startlingly frequent and frustrating customer service encounters, I’ve wondered: to what extent do customer self-service metrics measure what matters to customers? There are many metrics to assess the performance of online self-service: average visits per customer, average page views, online resolution rate, number of zero-results searches, customer feedback on FAQ quality ... But how well does this measure a satisfied customer? Let’s think about what customers want:

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Wells Fargo Provides A Real-World Cross-Channel Example For eBusiness

“Cross-channel” is a term (or shall I say a buzzword) that is thrown around by many and understood by few. Seldom does a week go by that a vendor or client mentioning their objectives or strategy doesn’t throw out “cross-channel” or “multi-channel” or something along those lines.

With this in mind, I have made it my personal goal to seek out real-world examples of cross-channel at work; examples that have a clear benefit both to a customer and to a provider. Progressive Insurance’s cross-channel save and retrieve functionality is a great example of cross channel at work that I have written about before, but I recently came across another:

 Wells Fargo offering customers the opportunity to email ATM receipts to their email address on record.

This feature gets at the heart of a concept I have been thinking about for a while; the concept that the Web can have a role to play in enhancing offline processes that already exist. I mean the emailed receipt doesn’t replace the trip to the ATM, but it does make it better by:

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Microsoft's KIN - Catching Up With the Mobile Social Networking Competition

I had the opportunity to go to the KIN launch today. My colleague Charles Golvin has a full take here.

I loved the social networking features on the phone (and the graphical interface with the "spot" though I'd need a change-up on noises). This isn't the first phone we've seen where  the experience is centered on my friends and my contacts, but they keep getting better. We argued (see report) long ago as many did that the cell phone should be the hub of one's social graph and not simply an application on the handset. The KIN comes close and does many things well including:

- Offers status updates inside of my contact profiles which are "live" on my homescreen
- Allows the user to post photos directly from the phone
- Tags photos with location
- Allows me to choose one of many communication channels within profile (many options, but not my full list)
- Builds an online journal of my photos, videos, messages and contacts (looks to me a lot like the concept Nokia tried with their life blog application a while back)

What it is missing, but I suspect is in development:

- Tags (meta data) that allow me to build a richer social graph by tagging my photos with contacts, groups, trips, etc.
- Ability to help me find my friends
- Location tags integrated into maps that connect me to my friends' favorite restaurants, bookstores, etc. - or more generally their content - could also be photos, videos and posts

 

Is Customer Service Part of Your Culture?

Customers may be sympathetic to the challenges that business having been facing in the current economy. But that sympathy doesn't come with amnesty: 70% of US online consumers expect companies to try harder to provide superior online customer service in the current economy. (Source: North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q4 2009)

I was chatting recently with eBusiness executives about the importance of having customer service excellence as part of company culture.

Zappos.com is frequently cited as a best example of customer service and company culture – and for good reason. Zappo’s #1 Core Value is to “Deliver WOW through service”. The company has embedded exceptional customer service into its DNA as a core value and essential part of its brand identity.

This raises the question: “How do you know if customer service is truly part of your culture?”

As a starting point, I recommend asking the following questions:

- Does your corporate mission statement include providing excellence in customer care and service?
- Is providing excellent customer care included in your long-term vision statement?
- Are customer service objectives well articulated within your company?
- Is measuring customer satisfaction embedded in your process for all customer-facing activities
- Do you have ongoing customer satisfaction improvement processes?
- Are employee performance metrics (including promotions, bonus, etc) – including senior positions – aligned with customer satisfaction?

If you answer "No" to any of these questions, you have likely identified an organizational weakness and an opportunity for improvement that will help you meet consumers' high expectations.

Raising The Bar on Mobile Advertising: Apple's OS 4

Apple announced iAd today as part of their OS 4 program today. I speculated in this post on why they purchased Quattro Wireless a few months ago, but now we have more details. This post is on iAd only - my colleague Charles Golvin has a more complete analysis in his post.

First, looks like Apple will leverage Quattro's business model and use their sales force to sell ads. This should work early on for large buys.

They are continuing to be very supportive of their developer community with 60% of the ad revenue going to the developers. Not a lot of details now, but this could be generous. Part of the revenue needs to go to the sales team as well. There will be less leftover for Apple. Models such as Admob's have more of a self-serve model that have the potential to be more cost-effective especially with smaller buys. The types of companies that will have the budgets to develop interactive ads that take full advantage of the platform - accelerometer and location plus rich media - will have the budget to spend on media as well - not just on the creative.

Beyond developers, Apple is continuing their focus on the consumer experience. They are looking to protect the quality of the user experience by controlling the ad experience. Steve has raised the bar on quality of mobile ads by keeping consumers within their existing application or experience. He anticipates that the ads will be engaging enough to be considered entertainment.

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Why are folks so interested in Apple's ad inventory?

It has the potential to be more valuable than inventory on many phones.

Why?

People who own smartphone devices are more active on their cell phones than your typical cell phone owner. For simpler tasks like SMS, they are moderately more active. For more complex tasks such as shopping, using maps, banking or doing product research they are significantly more active. iPhone users are some of the most active smartphone users when it comes to commerce-related activities.

Advertisers have held back on spending more on mobile marketing for many reasons. One of the primary reasons has been their inability to demonstrate the effectiveness of the medium or calculate an ROI. It gets a lot easier to calculate the ROI when consumers are buying items or using services such has mobile banking to deposit checks. Consumers are spending real money. My colleague Sucharita Mulpuru will be working on a mobile commerce forecast later this year. Anecdotally, we saw consumers spend in the hundreds of thousands of dollars with individual merchants/hotels/restaurants in 2009. We're likely to see run rates in the low millions for a few companies within a few industries by the end of this year.

The more consumers spend, the more advertisers will be motivated to spend. Consumer product and service companies will invest in mobile services such as "find the nearest," consumer reviews, available inventory, etc. to support commerce-related activities. The greater the supply of services (of great services), the more adoption and usage we'll see among consumers. Then consumers will spend more because the experiences will be convenient - it'll be easy to buy books or toothpaste.

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Thoughts on Demandware's New Link Program

By Brian K. Walker
Earlier this week, Demandware announced their new Link program. This program enables Demandware to make it relatively easy to add many SaaS-based point solutions to their clients’ sites in a pre-integrated fashion. The list includes Cybersource, Bazaarvoice, Baynote, PayPal, among many others. In today’s eCommerce technology environment it is extremely common to integrate various third-party technologies with the eCommerce platform for a variety of reasons – from payments to search to recommendations to content – and increasingly these third party applications are being delivered through services which must be integrated first to receive data to use on behalf of their client or to deliver their service. This integration may not be overly burdensome or complex, but it takes away from other resource needs and may limit a company’s experimentation with various tools and capabilities.  The Link program gets at the heart of what SaaS platforms have promised for some time, and it is a great to see a platform provider move forward by investing in this. By implementing what we could consider in some ways an “app store for the enterprise eCommerce business” Demandware has certainly innovated here.
Why Link matters:

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Do Your Customers Want To Telephone You For Service?

I was speaking with clients today about their views on telephone customer service. One believed that his customers liked calling the call center to solve problems with a “human touch”. His colleague countered that telephone customer service is simply too expensive to be giving away that “human touch”.

I think they are both correct. And they are both incorrect. Why? Because I believe one of the most common customer servicve misperceptions is that customers prefer to telephone you.

It’s true that the most commonly used customer service channel is the telephone. According to Forrester’s North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q4 2009, 69% of online consumers used the telephone to speak with a customer service agent (followed by 55% who emailed customer service and 55% who used a company’s Help or FAQ section.)

It’s also true that telephone customer service has the highest satisfaction compared to other online customer service channels, at 69%. Only 60% of people who used email for customer service were satisfied and 56% of those who used Help or FAQ’s.

These are compelling numbers. But do they mean that people want to call? Or do these numbers mean that alternative online customer service channels are absent or lackluster?

Here is another compelling number: 72% of US online consumers prefer to use a company's Web site to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email; roughly half this group strongly prefers self-reliance.

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