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February 26, 2009

Customer Experience Continued - Principles & Best Practices

There is no doubt that improving customer experience is a priority or at least a planned initiative for most eCommerce professionals. As I mentioned last week, hundreds of respondents to the Adobe Scene7 survey on customer experience provided feedback on features they use or plan to use and their effectiveness.

If you have run across my 'predictive' presentations or writing in the past, you may recall my eCommerce 3.0 whitepaper, which documented trends and innovations in customer experience, drawn from experience working with leading e-tailers over many years. With new technology and innovation in the marketplace, I have now expanded on these principles in a new, whitepaper – "Customer Experience, What's Best? What's Next?" – to address trends driving the next wave of online innovation, highlight unique examples of companies with leading edge implementations, and expand on best practices for differentiating your website to drive brand loyalty and repeat business over the next two to three years.

Download a copy and let me know what you think.


Customer Experience, What's Best? What's Next?

I am constantly in search of great new principles and supporting best practices. If you have an example that fits into one of the principles described in this paper, or perhaps an example that is driving a new one –please drop me a note in the comment section.

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February 17, 2009

The Economic Downturn Requires Prioritizing Customer Experience in 2009

Throughout the evolution of eCommerce one thing has remained constant - the critical importance of creating great, highly-differentiated customer experiences. With the economic downturn and eCommerce growth rates slowing to single digits worldwide, customer experience is even more important now than ever before.

My marketing team just conducted their annual online customer experience survey and released the results today. The results were fascinating to me as a record 474 people responded from around the world – a true global view on what matters. It was no surprise that the research further validated the sentiments behind my recent posting about the video revolution – podcasts and videos were among the top 5 planned features for 2009. This year's analysis expanded beyond rich media merchandising, to include detailed questions on social networking, mobile and personalization. Social networking features are clearly top of mind for most retailers in the coming year, as these features are being used as much as rich media tactics; they were also some of the most effective and highest planned for the coming year. Of the top deployed and top planned social networking features, it is no surprise that user ratings, rankings & comments were in the top 5 features in all categories of deployed, planned and most effective. Interestingly, blogs although highest in deployment and planned, were not rated nearly as effective by retailers (are you still reading?). In the rich media merchandising area, once again, zoom, lifestyle imagery, visual search and search landing pages were among most effective tactics.

Customer experience is encompassing more than just the web now, too. Mobile features are becoming closely integrated in the online experience as well. Although the adoption of mobile remains low, the use of mobile features has increased 6% from last year according to survey respondents. The highest deployed tactic in the mobile area is promotions used to drive shoppers to store or web. And with more than 3 billion mobile devices worldwide, this is an area to keep our eyes on. Sears is one of my favorite 'cross channel' examples – with buy online, pick up in store, with text notification of one's order being ready.

I think this report is well worth the read as you evaluate your customer experience strategy and tactics for 2009.  After you check out all of the data in the full report – let me know what you think. Get the full report.>

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February 12, 2009

Show off Your Product From Every Angle

If you are not in a position to get a video strategy live for 2009 – what should you do? Well, there are still plenty of basics to get in place that will improve conversions. At the risk of repeating my myself, the age old adage – a picture is worth a thousand words – holds true here again. But since online shoppers want to see a product from multiple angles, or perhaps see the item in context so they can visualize how it would fit into their lifestyle, the more pictures the better. And, every image should be zoomable so people can get a closer look at the details. But how do you provide all this functionality within a cohesive, integrated interface?

Shane Co.

Here are a few options:

Shane Co.

Shane Co.'s alternative views are displayed both on the product page and in a large popup zoom viewer. This makes it very easy to see the different images and easily zoom in on all of the views.

JD Sports
JD Sports provides great alternative views on the product page. The images become the focal point of the page with embedded full screen zoom.

SHOEBACCA.com
This site also does a nice job on the embedded only alternative views using a slider for the zoom feature. And, all alternative views are shown on clickable thumbnails rather than being triggered by a text link.

Telescope.com
Telescope.com shows it all. Not only do shoppers get alternative views, recommended zoom views, or hotspots as we like to refer to them, all views are available through an embedded viewer or through a larger modal layer view.

I mentioned this when talking about zoom, and it applies to alternative views as well… you can never provide your customers too much visual detail.

Click here if you want to learn more about Adobe Scene7 and applying alternative views to your site.

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February 05, 2009

Musings from Shop.org strategy conference…

I spent a little bit of time checking in with the attendees of the Shop.org strategy conference, just completed in Orlando, to gather some general thoughts and impressions to form an up-to-the-minute state of eCommerce.   Also, I’m adding a new format today – I asked my good friend Peter Cobb of ebags.com to add on his thoughts from the show to provide a view of the show through the eyes of a leading etailer.  So first, a few of my takes:

  • Attendance was visibly down from last year.  Clearly, tighter travel budgets and priorities back at the office kept more people than usual at home.
  • The feel was by no means ‘ominous’ – but several attendees did notice a significant change in the mood from the September show.  People are a bit more guarded without visibility to what 2009 will hold for their businesses. However, optimism runs high for the industry being stronger than ever when the economic funk clears.  Some would even say we are in a necessary adjustment period where the consumer needs to get back in control – finding a silver lining in the macro-economic clouds.
  • Everyone I spoke with feels eCommerce remains highly strategic to their overall company mission, and they are seeing published and verbal support from top executives to keep making eCommerce a key priority.  It was also noted that there is increased pressure to perform as a result.  While there is a general industry perception that budgets will be tighter this year, I also heard cases where budgets have not been touched to ensure a strong eCommerce agenda.
  • We all have heard the ‘talking heads’ on television discuss a second-half recovery – and joked a bit about how around this time, last year, they were talking about a second half (‘08) recovery.  In general, the consistent view was all of ‘09 will remain a challenge, and best case is to start to see some improvement next year.
  • Vendors are still getting business done – but the decision cycles have stretched out.
  • The general take was that the show content was excellent – diverse and topical – props to Larry J.  I received a particularly rave review from a ‘tough grader’ who felt the presentation by Bob Thacker of Office Max was one of the best ever… and was on the edge of commanding a standing ovation.   A strong reminder to keep on with the business of doing business.  If interested in more on Bob’s presentation, read Ellen Davis’ synopsis.

Now, Peter Cobb weighs in….

  • A frequent comment from attendees and a bit of a “silver lining” to the current economic challenges is the feeling that there will be a contraction of eCommerce players. Those who have solid business models and who have taken steps to be on sound financial footing will have less competition and will gain market share “once the skies clear” and online retail returns to a period of stronger growth.
  • Several attendees commented that they are “getting back to basics” and solidifying those areas that they might have recently overlooked. Optimizing areas like home page abandonment, shopping cart performance, and emails are areas that will get more attention in the coming months as online retailers strive to increase conversions.
  • Some good discussion about how to monetize the 97% of the traffic that does not purchase.
  • Several multi-channel retailers mentioned that the online retail division is getting more attention (and more capital) vis-à-vis their brick and mortar counterparts. In a few cases, members of the online team were recently given promotions in recognition of their ability to drive the business to success.
  • Shop.org attendees seemed more willing to share what worked as well as failures; and several presenters commented that if you don’t have a few failures, you are not stretching enough.
  • Twitter tweats were flying both days.

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So, summarizing what both Peter and I observed and heard – those who made the trip were happy that they made the investment of their time and money. This was a good example of the benefit of not “hibernating” in a tough market; but instead, continuing to forge ahead with confidence to run “business as usual as much as possible” with the mid- to long- term opportunity in eCommerce in mind.

If you were at the show, please comment on your experience.

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  • ShopTalk is a blog featuring "Quick Tips", trends and more written by experts from the Adobe Scene7 team who live and breathe web, rich media and customer experience. This interactive forum offers insights and best practices on the latest trends we are seeing in the marketplace to help improve your customer experience, ultimately driving conversions and revenues.
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