Another US-based online shopping delivery service launches

More competition for Kiwi eCommerce operators. Yet another American delivery service has decided that New Zealand represents fertile ground:

"PreZoom, a unit of i-parcel, LLC, has begun a unique new service geared specifically to New Zealand based internet shoppers, providing highly economical shipping services from the USA."
http://www.voxy.co.nz/business/prezoom-starts-delivery-service-new-zealand/5/133781

Pricing starts at "as little as NZ$19.50 for a 500g package from the United States for delivery to their door, including Customs Clearance, full tracking and tracing as well as automatic minimum compensation for lost or stolen packages." 

Top Ten Mobile Shopping Apps

Nearly half of American smartphone owners (47%) used shopping apps in June 2012, according to the latest Nielsen data.  Overall, 45 million smartphone owners used apps in the Shopping/Commerce category, accessing shopping apps 17 times on average during June 2012.

Here are the Top Ten Shopping Apps for the month:

Most of the apps on the list are obvious, but a handul need further explanation:

ShopKick
Shopkick is a shopping rewards program that’s, well, more rewarding. No plastic cards, no confusing rules, no extra steps. You just do what you love doing anyway—walking into your favorite stores like Target, Macy’s, Best Buy, Crate&Barrel, Old Navy, Toys”R”Us, Exxon and Mobil convenience stores, and more—and you automatically rack up über-versatile points called “kicks.” No applications to fill out, and no purchase required. That’s right—you just walk in with your smartphone and instantly earn kicks.

Red Laser
The ultimate Showrooming aid. Wave your smartphone in front of any item’s bar code. The app scans websites and nearby stores to tell you if it’s available for less elsewhere.

Out of Milk Shopping List
Out of Milk is an easy-to-use and intuitive Shopping List, To-Do List and Pantry List app that can be as simple or as detailed as you’d like.

Mobile Number 1 Priority for Australian Online Retailers

The latest Forrester Online Retailing in Australia study reveals that Mobile is now the most important priority for Aussie etailers. PowerRetail reports:

"For the first time, mobile is a higher investment priority for online retailers than an e-commerce platform, according to the just-released Forrester report, Online Retailing in Australia 2012. Multichannel retailers are leading the charge into mobile investment more so than pureplays. Fifty-four percent of multichannel retailers say mobile sites are a top technology investment, versus only 29% of pureplays claiming the same view.

That difference in focus isn't surprising: if you have a physical retail presence, mobile ecommerce is inevitably of greater importance and utility.

The full Forrester report “Online Retailing in Australia 2012: Mobile” is available here (for US$499). 

Will Mobile Commerce Overtake eCommerce?

Useful point to ponder from MarketingProfs.com:

How vital is mobile commerce becoming? Worldwide, mobile commerce is set to hit $119 billion by 2015. The projected amount of retail purchases made online by 2014 is 54%.

To better grasp mobile’s incredible growth and its implications, Big Commerce, an e-commerce software software company, recently studied analyst and trend-watching data from various sources, then created the infographic below.

Virtual Agents and eCommerce

Here's a (49 minute) webinar on Virtual Agents and how they can contribute to eCommerce.

Featured Speakers:
  • Don Davis, Editor of "Internet Retailer"
  • Pam Kostka, Chief Marketing Officer of Virtu
  • OzJens Voight of Kaspersky Lab 

The webinar also includes useful U.S. stats about those who shop online.

10 Makeover Tips For Your Ecommerce Site

Dale Traxler just asked some useful questions on the Practical eCommerce blog:

“When was the last time you really looked at your online store with the same level of critique as you did when you first launched it? Are you featuring seasonal products in your featured items or are Mother’s Day gifts still at the top in August? Are your promo banners the same ones you used last month? When is the last time you created a completely new promotional idea? When did you last add a blog post? A Facebook wall post? Tweets? Do you have your “back to school” category created? Is your navigation optimized to get traffic to the right parts of your website?”

Dale’s post shares 10 Tips to refresh your site. These are our top five favourites:

  1. Clean up the site weekly. Assign someone to go through the home page, category pages, shopping cart, any other parts of your store where content might be changeable. Clear our old promotions and seasonal content. Make sure there are no missing images. Look at customer product reviews to make sure postings are appropriate. Make sure you don’t have featured products that are out of stock.
  2. Feature new products. Consumers want new products. Make sure you launch new items, and then tell your visitors about them. Create categories that feature new items. Move new items to the top of your product listings. Write a blog post about them.
  3. Rotate your promotions. If you feature daily, weekly or seasonal specials, rotate them regularly. In my previous online jewelry stores, our “sale” pages were among the most trafficked. They were the first place many visitors went. If visitors see the same promotions week after week, they stop noticing them at all.
  4. Be competitive. Pick your top five competitors and review their stores at least weekly. You may find one offering a 50-percent off sale, or a 2-for-1 deal on your best selling products. You may not decide to match the offer, but you should at least be aware of it and be prepared to modify your promotions or featured items.
  5. Product videos are becoming mandatory in some retail segments. When you shop online, note the things you like and incorporate them in your wish list for your next redesign. Investigate the amazing capabilities of CSS3 and HTML5. Your site may look dated if you don’t keep up.
For the full set of tips, head to:

http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/3683-10-Tips-to-Freshen-Your-Ecommerce-Site

eCommerce Predictions for 2015

This week's Online Retailer conference in Sydney, Australia saw plenty of predictions on the future of eCommerce. Here are just some of them, as reported via Smarthouse.com.au (http://smarthouse.com.au/Home_Office/Industry/W9L4C6B2):

A peek at eCommerce 2015 from Jake Hird, eConsultancy's Director of Research:
  • QR codes, although big news at the moment, won't be here in five years, Hind believes. He reckons Near Field Communications (NFC) – the touch and tap payments technology – is the way mobile shopping is going. NFC will be widely used by consumers in the future, eConsultancy predicts.
  • Facial recognition (FR) technology, where a user's identity will be immediately recognised when they visit a particular site, will also be massive.
  • And mobile will be huge. The ecommerce guru cited the words of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt: "if you don't have a mobile strategy you don't have a future strategy. "
  • Instead of the 4Ps of marketing (product, price, promotion, place), retailers should be thinking of the 4 Es – experience, everyplace, exchange and evangelism.

 

To see what you missed — and perhaps plan your attendance for next year, check out http://www.onlineretailer.com

Mastering eCommerce

The latest (2012) Nielsen Online Retail Report is out, and it confirms what we’ve already suspected: half of New Zealand (49%) now buys products online! That translates to more than 60% of Kiwi internet users who purchase online — and 97% of NZ web users who research products and services online (even if they eventually buy the products offline).

Already 5.1% of NZ retail sales are made online — and that percentage is expected to double over the next few years (it’s close to that already, in the U.K. and the U.S.).

So are you ready to take your business online?

Our online course, “Mastering eCommerce”, tells you what you need to know in a seven-week programme that steps you through the principles and practices of eCommerce in New Zealand.

The course has been created by Michael Carney, longtime marketer and author of the top-selling book “Trade Me Success Secrets” (now in its Second Edition) which tells how to sell effectively on this country’s largest and most successful eCommerce platform. Michael is also the creator of a number of other online courses (including several Social Media Marketing courses) and consults on many digital business initiatives.

This is an online course, conducted on a web-based e-learning software platform, enabling course participants to proceed at their own pace, accessing materials online. This particular eCourse provides content in a variety of multimedia forms, including videos, slideshows, flash-based presentations and PDF files. No special software is required to participate.

Course lessons will be provided in seven parts, for participants to access in accordance with their own timetables.

Course Content for MASTERING eCOMMERCE includes:

INTRODUCTION

In which we explore current eCommerce trends, locally and internationally, and identify what it takes to be a successful online seller. We also provide an Action Plan to help you construct an effective eCommerce programme as we proceed through the course.

LESSON ONE: KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS: TURNING PROSPECTS INTO BUYERS

Customers have changed, largely thanks to the Internet. Google talks about a new process, the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), which reflects the many ways that today’s consumers now research and but products. In this lesson we talk about prospective buyers, discuss what makes them buy (or not), review how and why they’ve changed in the last few years, discuss ZMOT and its implications for Kiwi sellers; and explore buyer motivations (and how you can trigger the urge to buy).

This lesson also covers:

  • The 10 most important factors that consumers look for when deciding whether or not to buy from you (and how you can improve each aspect)
  • The seven aspects of online shopping that shoppers most want to see improved
  • The five most attractive offers that you can make, to close a sale
  • The six factors that consumers are most likely to consider when comparison shopping
  • The most popular items that Kiwis are buying online these days
  • The four most-important services you can provide that will have consumers recommending you to their friends
  • The five most likely reasons why consumers abandon their shopping cart in the middle of a purchase
  • The growing trend towards “showrooming” — visiting a store to view a product but then actually purchasing it online — and what you can do about it
  • The perils of too much analytics: how Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did

LESSON TWO: KNOW WHAT ACTUALLY SELLS ONLINE (AND WHAT PROSPECTIVE BUYERS WANT TO KNOW)

In this lesson we show you how you can find out what people are actually searching for on the web — and where to go to find out what’s hot now (and what may be hot soon). Are you actually selling the right products online? Here’s where you find out.

Lesson Two also covers:

  • How you can tell if your business is really suited to eCommerce
  • The seven most common fears of online retailing
  • The 71 keys to successful eCommerce websites
  • Twenty bad practices to avoid
  • The amazing market intelligence you can steal from your competitors
  • The hot secrets you can learn from Trade Me, Daily Deal Sites, eBay, Amazon and Alibaba
  • The world’s leading online retailers — and what they can teach us about best practices in ecommerce

LESSON THREE: KNOW THE MARKETPLACE

So where should you actually sell your products online? In this lesson we explore the characteristics of, and the opportunities (and pitfalls) associated with, the marketplaces available to you: your own website, Trade Me, eBay, local Daily Deals sites, Amazon.com, Facebook, Mobile, location-based commerce, niche sites and more.

Lesson Three covers:

  • How to structure your website pages to make more sales (not lose them)
  • How to turn your shopping cart into an effective selling tool
  • The untapped power of the “Thank You” page
  • The staggering growth of smartphone and tablet usage in New Zealand — and why that matters so much to online retailers
  • The surprising range of products purchased by consumers on their smartphones and tablets — and the significant implications for online retailers
  • The 10 most important ways in which consumers are using their mobile phones to shop online more effectively — and what you absolutely must do to take advantage of this hottest of new trends
  • The seven most important steps you must take when listing your products on Trade Me or eBay
  • Why Daily Deal sites can destroy your business if you don’t take these precautions
  • What consumers are really looking for on Facebook — and how to turn a casual like into real (and profitable) conversations with your customers

LESSON FOUR: GETTING NOTICED

You won’t sell anything if you don’t attract visitors to your listings — but how do you get noticed online? We explore digital marketing tools such as Organic Search, Pay Per Click, Social Media Marketing, Online Video, Affiliate Marketing and of course email.

Lesson Four shows you:

  • How to see what Google sees when it looks at your website. We don’t want to scare you, but you’ll probably be horrified (most online businesses are, at least at first).
  • The strategy we call Trojan Horse Marketing — and how you can use it effectively to build ongoing relationships with customers and prospects
  • The brave but risky strategies adopted by some of the world’s best ecommerce operators — and why they’re now virtually compulsory
  • The source of more than 30% of all traffic to leading ecommerce sites — and the steps they take to maximise that traffic
  • How often you should communicate with your customers, and what happens if you talk too much or too little
  • How an observation made long ago by one of the world’s leading admen is now absolutely vital to your online success
  • The single technique that accounts for a whopping 77,316 website visits each month to a leading U.S. online retailer
  • Cheap and cheerful tools you can use to streamline your online marketing, whether you’re a massive multinational or a sole trader
  • The key ingredients that can spell success or failure for your online store

LESSON FIVE: MAKING MORE MONEY FROM EVERY SALE

Great — you made a sale! But how do you grow the money you earn from every sale? We take you through smart strategies to ensure that you’ve maximised the amount of money you can earn — all the while adding value to the customer. And we tell you how best to track key metrics such as clickthroughs and conversions.

Lesson Five shares:

  • The very best moment to ask your customer to spend a little (or a lot) more
  • Upselling and cross-selling strategies that work best online
  • Data, data, data — and why that replaces ‘location’ as the online retailing mantra
  • How an oddly-named technology pioneered by Pattie Maes at MIT now powers the world’s most effective online selling machine (and how you can and must use it yourself)
  • The three crucial ingredients of online retailing success — and how you can constantly refine them to improve your profitability in any market
  • The secrets of today’s online retailing sales funnel
  • Lessons you can learn from a long-dead professor

LESSON SIX: SURVIVING ONLINE SUCCESS

So now you’re selling successfully online — but you’re also drowning in paperwork, struggling to get goods out the door and in danger of being overwhelmed by your own success. We look at currently available tools and best practices (including listing, multi-channel management and logistics systems) and talk you through what you need to do to cope. In this lesson we also explore the steps you must take to build your reputation and credibility online — and how to protect that reputation at all costs.

Lesson Six takes you through:

  • The ten questions that will kill your business if you don’t know the right answers
  • Effective economies of scale and how they can be applied to your business
  • The one common failing that will absolutely doom virtually any online sale
  • Logistics solutions — where to find them and what to evaluate
  • The importance of tracking for smooth after-sales service
  • How to identify and exceed consumer expectations

LESSON SEVEN: COMPETING AGAINST GIANTS

One of the most common issues facing online retailers: “how do I compete effectively against the category killers? They have the buying power and I’m just a small business.” Well, as David found when he went up against Goliath, there are definitely ways to compete and win. We explore the most effective of those strategies (even in commodity-based categories) and start you thinking about what steps you need to take to redefine your business and your products in the online space.

Courtesy Lesson Seven, you’ll discover:

  • How Curation has become perhaps the most important new strategy for online sellers
  • Why today you need to be more hare than tortoise to compete effectively
  • The new 10 Ps of online retailing and why they matter to you
  • Business-changing lessons we can learn from Procter & Gamble and other global marketers

CONCLUSION

Time to turn all that learning into a planned sales programme. We give you the tools (or tell you where to find them). We also share research that reveals online retailers’ top priorities this year and show you how to prepare for retailing tomorrow.

For details of the next Mastering eCommerce course (including timing and pricing and how to register), please click here.

Mobile Shopping Perils & Promises

Smart retailers, in New Zealand as well as elsewhere, are resorting to a low-tech solution to (at least in part) combat the latest high-tech challenge: mobile phone scanners that allows customer to scan bar codes on merchandise and then find the cheapest prices elsewhere.

The low-tech solution? Print price labels with the store’s own (store-specific) barcodes and stick them over the product barcode.
Of course, price comparisons are not the only use for mobile phones at retail — and many of the other possible usages are actually beneficial for retailers. At the weekend The New York Times reported on some of the ways that many US retailers are using mobile technology to make shopping easier for consumers and more lucrative for themselves.
The main way they plan to do it is by turning people’s mobile phones into information displays and ordering devices. Can’t find the flour at the grocery store? Grocers will offer phone applications that tell shoppers exactly where to go. Is the department store out of size 8 jeans? Retailers want to make it simple to punch a couple of buttons and have the desired size shipped home.
Some supermarkets intend to offer real-time coupons while people shop. For example, a promotion for milk may be sent to a shopper’s mobile phone the moment her cart rolls into the dairy aisle. Drugstores will offer loyalty programs on cellphones, not on plastic cards. And specialty chains will allow shoppers to breeze through the aisles compiling a wedding registry, just by pointing at merchandise.
It remains to be seen how readily shoppers will embrace such aggressive merchandising, which will generally require them to download free applications onto their phones and consent to being tracked electronically while in a store. But many stores are betting they will go along. After all, people already wander city streets guided by maps on their mobile phones. Why shouldn’t the same technology lead them to the toilet paper in Aisle 3?
Hoping to use the technology as a competitive advantage, some big chains are reluctant to discuss their plans. The Sam’s Club division of Wal-Mart, Crate & Barrel, Kerr Drug of North Carolina and Disney stores are among the retailers that confirmed they were testing various mobile technology or planned to do so soon.
Technology companies behind the products say retailers are sniffing around, with some planning limited introductions this year and wider deployments in 2011 or 2012.
A technology called ScanLife was recently installed at designer Norma Kamali’s boutique in Manhattan, and it already allows people to scan bar codes on merchandise and obtain details about the clothes through videos. The ability items day or night will come in another week or two.
“To say that I’m excited is putting it mildly,” Ms. Kamali said. “I’ve been in this business since the ’60s and I have to just tell you, nothing — nothing at all — has been as powerful a change in the psyche of the way we do everything as this technology.”
Other retailers have begun testing a product from I.B.M. called Presence. Shoppers who sign up can be detected as soon as they set foot in a store. That enables Presence to offer real-time mobile coupons. And tracking shoppers’ spending habits and browsing time in various departments can help the system figure out who might be moved to suddenly buy a discounted item.
Presence can also make product recommendations. If a shopper was buying cake mix, Presence might suggest buying the store’s private-label frosting and sprinkles, too.
“We’re also able to do predictive analytics — predict what we think you might want based on what we already know about you,” said Craig W. Stevenson, an I.B.M. executive who oversees Presence.
Cisco Systems, the supplier of networking equipment and services for the Internet, is also a leader in the field. The company’s Mobile Concierge system is capable of connecting customers’ smartphones to retailers’ wireless networks — so a shopper could type “Cheez Whiz” into a cellphone, then pinpoint its location in the store.
“We see the smartphone being used more and more in the shopping experience,” said Dick Cantwell, Cisco’s vice president for retail at Cisco’s Internet business solutions group.
Beyond privacy worries, retailers recognize other potential pitfalls. If the phone applications freeze or give bad information, they will most likely frustrate consumers. So reliability will be a priority, a reason retailers are starting with limited tests. And as some executives said, many stores cannot yet afford such technology.
As the more daring retailers see it, the potential benefits outweigh the risks. More aggressive profiling of shoppers — along with a novel, entertaining shopping experience — could help increase sales. And the technology may help retailers save money by cutting workers, essentially substituting electronic guidance for store clerks. Motorola, for example, has stores testing kiosk systems that enable consumers to summon a clerk to a particular department or fitting room when needed.
A new Motorola product promises to eliminate loyalty cards, instead putting the program, as well as coupons, onto shoppers’ cellphones. “Probably by the end of 2010 we’ll have 10 to 20 retailers up and running,” said Frank Riso, a senior director at Motorola, adding that most of the activity will begin in 2011.
Many big retailers have already created cellphone applications that do more than just dole out coupons. Target, for one, has an application that can identify which store aisle sells nightgowns.
So far, many stores have focused on improving their mobile shopping sites, which some consumers use when browsing the aisles to see product reviews and specifications. Retailers like Sears and American Eagle Outfitters work with a company called Usablenet to optimize their mobile sites.
Jason Taylor, Usablenet’s vice president for mobile products, said retailers began clamoring for improvements around Thanksgiving. The company is also working with a retailer, which it said it could not name, to enable shoppers to use smartphones to scan items in its stores, then add them to gift registries.
“Extending the phone to use as a scanner in the retail world — especially gift registry, wish lists — you’re going to see a lot more of this year,” Mr. Taylor said.
In the end, though, stores may not have much control over the way consumers use mobile technology, especially for price comparison purposes. The only real method of combating such usage: the old-fashioned notion of providing a retail experience so superior that consumers are willing to pay a little more.

Afraid of Customer Reviews? A Word of Advice.

Are you hesitant about implementing ratings and reviews on your website because you’re concerned about negative comments?

It’s a common complaint. The US National Retail Federation’s Ellen Davis spoke about the issue to Brett Hurt, CEO of BazaarVoice, a social commerce technology company that powers ratings and reviews for 50 of the top 100 US retailers. Here’s what he had to say:

“Every day people are coming to your store and having experiences – positive and negative. You’re kidding yourself if you think all customers have great experiences, and the truth is that most unhappy customers won’t ever take the time to write a letter or complain to a manager. So, what happens? You see the negative effects in one way or another – defection to your competitors, high return rates, and decreasing sales. Why guess at what is happening when you can make it easy for consumers to communicate with you, and each other, so you can solve these problems and uncover new opportunities?

“You should also note that our research over the past four years has shown that over 80 percent of all reviews are positive – worldwide. There’s simply no reason to hide from reviews. They are proven to increase sales, decrease returns, lift customer loyalty, and transform the practices of your marketers and merchandisers. To think you can hide from the effects of word of mouth are misguided, and there is no debate about the positive, highly quantifiable effects of embracing it.”