Maximising Online Customer Experience

Online sales have grown by 10.7% in the past year, accounting for a total of 9.5% of all retail spending in the UK. As summer winds down (waaah!) it’s vitally important for online businesses to maximise customer experience to keep sales strong through the slow periods of autumn and winter. A major part of this is providing a multi-channel access via personal computers, smartphones, tablets, and social media to ensure easy transactions, a consistent online front and high customer satisfaction.

online marketing

Earnings, interest and unemployment rates have remained consistent since July 2012 year but online growth is steadily on the rise, especially within the mobile market, with 50% of smartphone owners using their device for purchases.

At the 2013 Internet Retailing Conference in October, the closing keynote from Peter Fitzgerald (Google UK’s retail director) is due to offer a number of ideas for the future of online retail. Fitzgerald has said that mobile needs to play a key role in retailers’ plans to ensure that they are providing customers with easy access to products and services and excellent customer services.

mobile marketing

“We, as consumers, always have the internet at our fingertips for price checks, product reviews and additional product range choice, therefore businesses that have seamless touch points across channels and devices will win and win big,” Fitzgerald commented, “Companies that use data to customise to the needs of individuals make shopping more fun and relevant for them will lead the pack.”

E-commerce businesses should also take advantage of the vast amount of data available through online and social channels to shape and mould their operations to suit customer needs and desires, enhancing their shopping experience and increasing conversions. Multi-channel retailing means exploring mobile commerce, tablets, social media and interactive email marketing, and the Internet Retailing Conference is due to explore ‘The New Basics’ of retail and the future of the industry. The event will take place on the 16th of October at the Novotel in Hammersmith, London with over 45 exhibitors, eight free workshops and 500 delegates sharing knowledge and experience of three core areas: The Customer, The Business and The Industry.

For help on any aspect of your digital marketing and e-commerce plans, let Ikroh offer advice and expertise – from social media marketing to SEO and web design. Visit our website or get in touch by calling 01908 379938.

About Ikroh SEO tm

Ikroh has over 35 years of experience in the industry.

Medusa Commerce Acquired by IKROH

Today we are very pleased to announce that Medusa Commerce has been acquired by IKROH ltd. IKROH are specialists in search engine optimisation (SEO) and have been trading for seven years. The team at IKROH have over 40 years experience in digital marketing and are excited that Medusa Commerce will be joining them to broaden the services available to clients. Medusa Commerce will continue to trade under its current name and the team will continue to look after its existing clients and contribute to further developing the business. The decision to acquire Medusa Commerce is part of IKROH’s long term strategy to offer a complete online business package. Medusa Commerce will continue to offer high-end bespoke website design and creation, as well as the development and building of e-commerce sites.

website design milton keynes

An important part of the integration process for Medusa Commerce will be to carry IKROH’s core values into the team at Medusa. At IKROH we understand that business changes! We work closely with our clients to understand their business requirements, and if they need to change direction we are quick to help.  When building a website it is vital that the company thoroughly understands their business and the goals they are trying to achieve with their online commerce and marketing. It is crucial to also offer flexibility for clients to change their minds, and to know when to suggest alternatives and offer guidance. Medusa Commerce creates high-end bespoke websites, and, with the aid of the SEO team at IKROH, all websites will be built for search from the ground up. Both companies can now be contacted via the main IKROH switchboard on 01908  379938.

About Ikroh SEO tm

Ikroh has over 35 years of experience in the industry.

Ikroh at Social Collective 2010

About Ikroh SEO tm

Ikroh has over 35 years of experience in the industry.

Contactless Payment (look, no hands!)

contactless payment

contactless payment

Bring on the flying cars and space food, the future is here… Contactless payment with your  debit card is going to change the way we pay, in a technological advancement to reach a par with (or exceed) the convenience of online retail.

Debit cards have become four times as popularity as credit cards since 1999, and secure electronic payment such as PayPal, Verified by Visa and the other range of channels available online have become second nature to us. E-commerce (and soon, m-commerce) is overtaking traditional retail as the method of choice for researching and purchasing goods, for its ease and convenience. Regular, real life stores, therefore, are reassessing their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) strategies to compete. We talked about the integration of multi-channel transactions in our m-commerce post, and stores are also looking to technology to increase the usability of their interactions in store, for example:

  • Loyalty schemes
  • Touch screens for stock checking, product information or reserving items
  • Self-service tills

Perhaps it’s a sad sign that we are moving away from almost any human exchange whilst shopping, but entirely electronic payment is becoming more popular – self-service tills are available in most large supermarkets, meaning you don’t theoretically require the services of a staff member at any point in your transaction.

As well as making our shopping experience smoother, technology is speeding up the way we pay. Cash is, apparently, a bit passé. Small change is annoying for customers to carry around, and equally irritating for those in the queue behind anyone counting out their pennies at the till. Cash ironically costs retailers time and money to process too, and paying by card is massively on the increase. The only problem area is paying for small amounts with your debit card – often risking a charging for less than the minimum payment. So, in steps Contactless Cards – omitting the need for entering a pin number for amounts up to £15; instead, you merely hold your card over a wireless reader, cutting the time it takes to pay by almost half and removing the need to carry around lots of small change.

Actually, it’s been around for a while – since the mid 90s in fact, and banks have been using them in the UK since 2007. 9-12 million cards have been issued so far, meaning 1 in 6 of us in the UK already have one (including me, though I didn’t know it until I wrote this article) and though use in the majority of stores is still fairly limited to only 50,000 tills currently processing them in the UK, this figure is likely to double by 2011.

So far we have the options of PayWave by Visa, and mastercard’s PayPass, both of which give itemised details of what customers and spending and where. The technology is proven and stable, and will soon be incorporated into mobile phones, enabling the same ‘hands-free’ Near Field Technology (NFT) for small payments, creating a ‘Virtual Wallet’ out of your phone. Beyond that lies Visa Codesure, a payment card which has its own integrated keypad and digital display.

Contactless payment hopes to increase speed of transaction and provide better customer service – it seems ideal for retail in a hurry to minimise queuing such as: public transport (London tubes and buses are hoping to utilise the technology soon); coffee shops; fast food restaurants; newsagents and convenience stores; pharmacies and supermarkets.

Whether this will even the scores between traditional retail and its main competitor, e-commerce, remains to be seen, though it’s certain to close the divide somewhat. Will it mean that e-commerce will become even faster and easier in response, perhaps following in Amazon’s ‘one-click-payment’ footsteps? For any e-commerce retailer, there are ways to increase the usability and convenience of your checkout stage(s), and optimise the chance of conversions (we covered this in more detail in our e-commerce turn-offs post), for example:

  • Getting rid of required registration – just get them to the checkout!
  • Encourage trust by offering no quibble, free returns and money back guarantees
  • Keep shipping low-cost and as fast as you can make it
  • Provide accurate representations and clear images of your products/services
  • Enable customers to get in contact easily and promise a quick response
  • Keep your checkout screens in a familiar format – we naturally distrust pages which look different to what we are used to seeing in internet retail
  • Use SEO to optimise your site to increase ranking on SERPs and strengthen your brand authority
  • Integrate Social Media into your marketing campaign to connect with and engage customers on a personal level

And finally, a little invention of my own: barcode scanning lasers implanted in our brains which shoot out of our eyeballs for psychic payment when we see something we like. Too soon? Ah, I’m way ahead of my time…

About Ikroh SEO tm

Ikroh has over 35 years of experience in the industry.

M-Commerce – welcome to the future

m-commerce

m-commerce 

As e-commerce becomes ever more competitive, retailers are turning to mobile technology to differentiate from their competitors and keep up with modern advances in the way we shop. Generally, sales are on the upturn; according to The British Retail Consortium, retail sales values rose by 3.8% in the last 3 months compared with last year, and total sales have increased by 6.6% since the start of the recession. Despite these positive stats, we as consumers are still making a move to internet and mobile purchase to try to find the best deal and get the most for our money.

To date, m-commerce has not proven to satisfy consumers’ requirements for fast, efficient and easy transaction, with problems ranging from slow page load times and small screens making viewing difficult, to fiddly or long-winded payment methods. Bad experiences mean irritated and frustrated customers, possibly leading to the loss of custom not only on mobile channels, but online and ‘real-life’ branches of the store too.

The percentage of smartphone users is still fairly low in the overall market, though more accessible pricing tariffs which are becoming increasingly available should change this. And so the world of m-commerce is coming; in fact, it’s been here for a while, we just haven’t noticed…

Quick Response (QR) codes – commonplace in Japan for over 10 years – are becoming more and more utilised to marry mobile and retail. The QR pixelated black and white squares can be scanned whilst in-store to provide mobile users with special offers or links to more information. Vouchers sent by SMS can then be scanned off the handset to cash in discounts at the checkout.

But uses for the codes are not just limited to promotions – Ubimark have printed 2D scannable codes into their copies of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, allowing readers to link easily with interactive maps, historical facts and information via their phone while reading. In the UK, estate agents intend to place QR codes on For Sale/To Let signs so that prospective buyers can download information on a property instantly. In France, codes are already in place on public furniture and parking meters to provide additional information.

A YouGov survey commissioned by Broadbank found that 40% of mobile users buy tickets for concerts/shows/events with their phones, and the most popular use of retail-related mobile internet browsing is to compare prices and product reviews, for example via Microsoft’s Ciao. You can even now apply for an instant (low amount) loan via text. We are increasingly relying on our mobile phones to make purchasing decisions, just as online research and commerce has become a trusted method of doing business. The creation of barcode scanning applications means that we can even wander around a shop checking comparative prices while we shop. Our current technical generation is made of confident and fickle shoppers and we are demanding better service via mobile technology.

Mobile marketing is becoming an integral part of multi-channel commerce; customers can research a product online, snoop out the store IRL (in real life) and make a quick double check via their phone to make sure they’re getting the best price. Multiple channels should satisfy different customer needs (ie: finding information via a website, reserving a product via mobile and picking up in person to avoid shipping costs) and not simply replicate the catalogue or website. A good retailer is always trying to make it as easy as possible for their customers to make a purchase or find out about a product. Suggesting related products according to a customer’s favourites or previous browsing history, and predicting where a customer might want to go next simplifies transactions and makes potentially complicated mobile retail faster and more user-friendly.

The key points here are to provide consistency and flexibility; m-commerce makes it possible for customers to get what they want wherever they are, not relying on proximity to a real life store or their computer or internet connection. They want familiarity with the store/website they already know, and the option to customise their purchasing experience. Providing stock details and reservation ability, SMS reports about your delivery status – these are all ways to give the customer full control (and in turn encouraging them to put their full trust in you).

Promotions and offers can span all channels, though be careful not to alienate some divisions of your customer base by leading them to believe that online customers are getting a better deal, for example. Encourage your clients to utilise all variations of your business presence – even if you don’t have a web-savvy customer, they’re likely to know how to use a mobile phone, or at least understand a special offer via text message. Customer service can be broadened from personal service in store, to a helpline, to email, to interactive support on Twitter or Facebook.

A company held to be a successful example of multi-channel commerce is UK warehouse retailer Argos, who provide reservation options on both their website and their iPhone app, which was downloaded by half a million customers within the first 3 weeks of its launch this spring. You can check stock, reserve products or request the transfer of items between stores, and this ease of use is transferred in-store, where self-service checkouts allow you to avoid queues. If you choose to have your item delivered, you are kept up to date with its progress via text.

And the future? Well, we’ll be covering this in a… future blog post, but it seems to be along the lines of completely excluding button pressing from transactions completely. Following on from contactless card purchasing, mobiles will apparently soon be endowed with NFC (near field technology), to turn them into virtual wallets, requiring a mere wave over an equivalent version of a chip-and-pin machine to pay for a purchase. Not satisfied? Ok, how about finger print transactions? Apparently realistically in the works. Minority Report here we come…

About Ikroh SEO tm

Ikroh has over 35 years of experience in the industry.