Two's a Queue

Retail, eCommerce, usability, customer experience, service, technology...

Monday, 12 December 2011

A/B Testing, some golden rules - aka What an idiot just learned


I have to admit I’ve always been somewhat dismissive of A/B and multivariate testing. As an ex retailer and someone who has worked on designing parts of some of the UK’s biggest ecommerce businesses I thought this kind of stuff was basically a buzz-concept trotted out by "marketing people" who had no knowledge or instinct and spent their days tinkering about which whether the ‘Add to Basket’ button should be blue or cyan rather than dealing with much more interesting and important things like ‘is my stock file up to date?’. Also I am generally of the opinion that most online retailers should probably get themselves up to at least some kind of best practice level of actual functionality before they start tinkering about with tests and suchlike.(Kurt Geiger.com- I kind of mean you)

No one will probably convince me of the difference between blue and cyan but I have learned a few things recently about A/B testing that I guarantee someone who knows the answer to that question won’t tell you.


I should probably sub title this post as “A/B Testing: The myth’s aren’t true (well they probably are but not for you)”.

-       Know what you’re testing

If you don’t know what you’re wanting to prove with a test what you end up with is some data. Just that, some data. No business question=no real results. You need to be proving something. This is why I often think basic functionality comes first. You don’t need a ton of insight to know whether customers want to be able to track their order or see their previous orders somewhere – none of this affects conversion, it affects customer loyalty, your operations budget and probably your brand among other things but it isn’t going to convert a whole load more. A more interesting thing you could test would be whether your customers convert higher when the price is shown on content or not (for example) . The moral is-  think before you test.

-       In most cases you need big traffic to see big differences


You hear all these ecommerce ‘experts’ speaking about how they improved conversion by about a million percentage points by testing whether a female or male model is better on their Homepage or not. That’s great for them, but I almost guarantee it won’t happen for you. I’ve had tests running for literally weeks on non-core pages – fact is you need visitors to that functionality. If you didn’t have many when it was just A – it won’t be much difference when you have A+B. Learn which things have enough traffic to test and which don’t. Think about the sample size you need and work out how long you’ll be testing for based on your current traffic through that part of the site.

 -       Statistical significance is all

The reason you need volume is to ensure you reach statistical significance. Think of it as a level of confidence in the result. For a normal non maths geek this means the difference in the results for A and B have to be different enough to not just have happened by accident. There is some great articles about this and calculating your sample size around on the web –most of them I don’t understand. What I do understand is-  no statistical significance, no result. The smaller your volumes also mean the less consistency you’ll see-  when a couple of visitors can tip your result you’ll see more ups and downs that when you get thousands.

 -       Don’t test more than one thing at a time

It sounds simple but is actually incredibly hard to implement. If you change more than one thing at once you’ll never know exactly what you did to cause the positive (or negative) test result. And yes this means when you add additional functionality in a lot of cases you can’t go re-designing your page around it. The best way to approach is usually to go for the concept first and then look at the design. Or think about designing without the functionality first, setting it live to establish a baseline and then adding in the new thing.
 
-       Don’t always hope for a positive difference


Sometimes the best test you can do is to hope that when you add something there is no difference – that way you know that developing that functionality isn’t going to have an adverse effect on conversion. There are other factors than conversion (like reducing the calls to your call centre for example).

 -       Don’t listen to agencies

 Just don’t. I'd explain but it will make me angry and stab at my keys. It's my birthday and I have a sprained wrist so neither of these things seems like fun.

 There'll probably be a part two to this.....

Friday, 28 October 2011

Spotted #1

Pet hate numero uno.

Haven't seen this for a while but just spotted on Cos's new site.

Here's me:

Fancy shopping> hmmmm howabout [brandname]? >google for website> find brand name > Click on www.[brandname].com > get annoying SHOP OUR ONLINE STORE button. ARGHHHHHHHHH


Image from http://www.cosstores.com/

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Monday, 24 October 2011

What would a store manager do?

I love this little video made by Google to illustrate what an online checkout would be like in a store environment. Mainly it's really funny but also makes a good point - how many online retailers ask themselves on a regular basis 'how/why would this work in stores?'.

More and more I find myself going back to this fundamental question as challenges come up about how to create multichannel experiences for customers. It's not about replicating the store experience online -technical and security challenges for a start would put paid to that -  but about applying real world behaviours to the digital space. I find it adds another viewpoint to think in this way.

The other interesting spin on this is that when you ask a question like this of your self, your team, your ideas - you're going back to basics and stripping the issue right down. Say you're facing a dip in conversion and you're asked to come up with the magic idea which will fix this (How many of us are going to get asked this question this Christmas I wonder?). How do you start? Usually with analytics and data - first find the possible pain points, OK so far so easy. So now how do you improve it? That's when I ask myself 'how/why would this journey work in stores?.

A store manager doesn't have the ability to take down and rebuild his store, he can't create content himself, he can't even add more lines or greater depth of stock. Take away thoughts of technology and complex channels - there is only a couple of ways of communicating with customers in this scenario. So then - what does he do?

I noticed that Mary Portas has a print behind her desk which says 'What would Mary do?' - next time you're faced with a challenge on your site try thinking ' What would a store manager do?'

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

My Retail Apprenticeship


I was really pleased to read in Retail Week that Next has launched a new apprenticeship scheme. As a former Next person myself I really do credit a lot of the foundation of who I am as a retailer to the time I spent working there. It’s a great company and a solid place to learn the basics in an environment where standards are some of the highest on the high street and the culture is fundamentally based around promotion of people from the shop floor to management or Head Office positions. On a personal level I’d also have to say some of the people who keep the business running from day to day – from store managers to Simon Wolfson himself, are some of the most inspirational retailers I've worked with.


Best of luck to anyone taking up a Next apprenticeship.


People mistakenly believe that retail is a job for people with no education or skills and that anyone can do it. Honestly I think in many cases nothing could be further from the truth.


Yes of course a Saturday job is pretty much a Saturday job but once you start looking under the hood of what many shop staff do on a daily basis you start to see how it becomes a much more skilled position that people realise. Ultimately – and this goes for most things, it’s what you make it. If you treat it as a Saturday job and spend all day painting your nails then that’s up to you but there is a another route- and that is a kickstart to a great career, in retail or out of it.


Yes it can be tough – retail can often be physically exhausting, emotionally draining, long hours, heavy lifting, working Christmas Eve…..but if you see it as a stepping stone to something greater this all becomes worth the hard work.


I started working at Next as a Saturday kid at 17. When I was 19 I was running a department which turned over about £10k a year – it doesn’t sound like a lot but that £10k was hard won. It meant merchandising my department as best I could, replenishing lines which got low, adding new lines in a timely fashion, studying space reports and managing what should go where each week, daily housekeeping, tidying every night and making sure my key lines were on the shop floor and not in the fitting room. By 23 I was helping to run a £3-4m turnover department with 20 staff, managing them, training them, planning, and dealing with stock. At 24 I helped open an overseas store where I learned about overseas supply chain, watched systems being installed and experienced first-hand an international launch. By 25 I was part of a team running a £6m department with 120 staff- coordinating operations and labour planning, floor moves, stock counts, Christmas and end of season sale. By 26 I was dealing with budgets, profits, HR issues, incentives, and yet more merchandising, planning, man hours and motivating of my staff.


Listing out all the skills I gained from those 7 years would take hundreds of words.


But how many of those skills are things we do in business every day? How many of those skills can you learn from a book? How many of those tasks are issues and processes retailers deal with every day at Head Office level – in some cases at board level? How many of them am I still dealing with (albeit in a different capacity) now?


Now anyone who says that that isn’t a great start in a career, and that being a shop girl involves nail painting and chatting - well they were probably rubbish Saturday kids :-)


Monday, 5 September 2011

Uniqlo new website

I'm quite excited to see the new Uniqlo site which apparently launches on Thursday (though a 24 hour outage is a bit scary!), I'll be at Bestival so will no doubt be updating on how it looks on the iPhone.....



Tuesday, 23 August 2011

It's about the journey....

Pretty much anyone who has ever worked with me knows my views about the way ecommerce businesses should work. I've even posted about it on this blog.

I still get quite excited when I interact with a company that appears to have the right balance between commerciality and solid operations. It is simply not acceptable to attract lots of visitors to your site, offer them lovely promotions, rich content and a perfect browsing experience and then abandon them once you get your hands on their money. For the customer's experience does not stop at payment - it might stop when they receive the item, but then again it might not even stop until their guarantee has run out on the product. Online businesses who understand this end to end experience -whether it lasts 5 minutes or 5 years are those who I believe to be the most successful and set up for long term growth.

Take the following examples:

Four weeks and one day ago (yes - I'm counting) I placed an order with one of the UK's biggest furniture suppliers - coincidentally one who clearly has a large marketing budget to spend sponsoring one of the UK's biggest soap operas (and whose digital marketing manager had been presenting at an event I attended not too long ago). So I ordered - pretty ropey website I have to admit but so far so mediocre. The delivery promise on the item I've bought is 4 weeks - it's a sofa after all so although I'm heartily sick of sitting on the floor I'll wait. Four weeks (and one day) later I'm still waiting. In those four weeks I've heard absolutely nothing from the company. I've essentially given them over £500 of my money and had zero communication from them (bar the auto confirm email). If I was head of ecommerce at this company I'd have to be asking myself - what is my customer experiencing? I'm not even head of ecommerce at this company and I'm brimming with ideas on what I'd do.

Conversely yesterday following an inviting marketing email from Boux Avenue I ended up purchasing a whole load of items I had no intention of originally buying while simultaneously trying to balance a project budget and eat my salad. I went for the standard delivery option (£3.00 incidentally for 1-3 days) as I wasn't in any hurry for my items, yet by the time I left the office I had a text letting me know my items had been dispatched and would be with me on Tuesday along with a tracking number to prove it.



Now I realise these are completely different products - one is a large ticket item with a long lead time which is potentially being custom made, the other a £30 stocked item in a fulfilment house probably not 50 miles from my house. I would argue this isn't the point, both of these companies clearly have savvy marketing people who will engage with a customer to get them onto the site but do they both have strong operations people who are looking to make sure there is consistency across the customer journey? If there is are they talking to each other? I'll never know as I don't work for either of them, but I'd suggest one does, the other not.

Short or long the customer's experience is the end to end experience and to be successful in online retail you have to remember it's not about the destination...it's about the (customer) journey.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Buying thin air: Working with stock online

Often when you're responsible for designing, building and testing a website you can get carried away in all sorts of exciting things in your virtual little world; design, look and feel, customer journey, fancy tools.......They're all things I've sat around tables and talked about for hours with clients and are genuine considerations when building an online business. What can get forgotten in these conversations is some of the work that needs to be done on the physical - because 9 times out of 10 an online store has a physical manifestation - whether that be a fulfillment centre, a huge DC, a store, someone's garage....unless you're iTunes the likelihood is that what your aim is to sell physical stock.

In a traditional retail environment the journey will usually follow the pattern that a customer sees an item in store, picks it up, buys it - leaving one less item on the shelf and so on. The chances of a customer buying something that isn't there are pretty slim in a traditional store environment (although I’m sure it’s happened before – all manner of odd things happen in store retail after all!). In the multichannel world there is numerous circumstances this can happen - and given no customer likes to spend money on thin air and retailers don't want to lose a sale (and probably pay a refund charge)-  it's best avoided.

So how do you manage the relationship between the virtual - the item people see on your site, and the physical - what is actually available to purchase.

Your stock file

Ah the Holy Grail – a single, real time, accurate view of stock. This is probably the single most important thing a multi-channel retailer could have today; though not many companies do. If you don't know where your stock is then you can't be reactive to the customer's needs. You need to be able to switch channels, combine channels and allow the customer freedom of choice of channel. You can't do that if you don't know where every single item of stock is at any one time. As mobile commerce settles into being a usable channel this will be even more important, the world where customers can check for the nearest store to them with a particular product available then go and buy it is not too far away and retailers should be ready.

Single – speaks for itself, you need a single point of truth for a number of reasons not just to create the multichannel experience. One of the fundamentals of retailing has to be ‘how much stock do I have?’. More often than not our retail architecture works on a store by store level and it’s a cultural shift to centrally (even in virtual way) hold stock. This is a process many businesses are going through right now to try to prepare themselves for the future of retailing.

Real time (or ish) – Timing is important but more often than not we’re constrained by system capability, legacy design, bad architecture, out dated tech. There is a number of different ways to combat this and integrations across the retail industry represent all sorts of complexities. Key thing is that the stock you hold centrally shouldn’t exclude what your website is selling, and on the other hand your website needs to know how much stock it has to sell. If you can do this on a real time basis you’re lucky, if not- find a way to fake it.

Accuracy is important - having minimal intervals between updates to your site/from your site is probably going to mitigate to this to some degree but there is also stock loss, inaccuracies of counting, accidents which happen in warehouses, things being put in the wrong place and rails of clearing in your fitting room. All of these are the enemies to accurate stock files and can absolutely undermine your multichannel capability if you don't tackle them.

Stock aware design decisions

So now I know where my stock is at each moment and my site knows. What do I do now? Well you have to work out how to interpret that information for your brand and your customer in the most useful way. Do you keep the page for a product which is out of stock? Continue to list it but let people know when it will be back? Or do you hide things as soon as they go out of stock? Do you show things before they’re in stock to create excitement and buzz for the products?



Asos show an item before it's available to buy and let you sign up to receive updates

There is no one size fits-all for what to do when it comes to your site. You need an out of stock strategy – is your product something which regularly goes out of stock and comes back in? Do you have visibility of a rebuy date? Or do you do short runs on product that it’s unlikely will come back into stock?

ACHICA show you how many items are left - allowing the customer to feel a sense of urgency about purchase


Can you suggest other items which a customer might like instead? Can you offer a gift voucher? Do you allow them to sign up for an email to indicate when it’s going to be back available to buy? Do you accept back orders? What about a wishlist so customers can bookmark the items they love? SO MANY QUESTIONS!


Amazon allow you to preorder an item

And while customers are browsing you could keep them up to date with their item- have they reserved it by putting it in their bag? If so how long for? Is the reservation valid if they go away and leave their session? If the customer does go away and come back again are you going to recheck against stock file when they open their bag or yust let them buy regardless? Fancy order management systems will do all of this for you, but they cost money so you need to work out what is right for your store and your customer.


If all else fails communicate

If a customer has placed an order which can’t be fulfilled make sure there are processes in place to pick this up as quickly as you can. An email back within 30 minutes of ordering might be inconvenient but at least you’re proactive and timely. Customers make plans – they think about delivery – take time off work to wait in, they think about where a product will go in their house, they assume a birthday gift will arrive – all of this matters to your customer and if the item doesn’t arrive because the stock never existed in the first place it’s doubly irritating and you’ve probably lost yourself a customer.

MyWardrobe let you know when you have an item in your bag which has since gone out of stock

Promises, promises

Next day delivery, same day, click and collect, check and reserve or 90 minute delivery are the new shiny toys of the ecommerce industry but they show up flaws in your order management process like nothing else. Remember it’s all very well to offer these fantastic new tools but if you can’t fulfil the product then it’s even worse for the customer than with a long lead time product.

The inspiration for this post was the infamous sofa bed purchase I made a couple of weeks ago. I had a short notice guest so ordered on next day delivery, took the day off work to wait in for it and then realised on the morning that I hadn’t had a dispatch email. I contacted the company to be told that the item was out of stock and was never going to arrive. I was annoyed, tweeted, told everyone about it, panicked trying to find somewhere I could get a sofa bed/airbed for our guest on the same day (FYI Argos and Shutl – thanks)had to spend a week begging for my refund (another post there I think), and the company lost a £250 sale.

Moral of the story – don’t promise what your stock file can’t deliver.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

I'm Back!

Well after 6 long weeks without broadband (thank you Sky) 2AQ is back. Watch this space for some more retail chat very soon...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Once Upon a Time

Today I'm feeling like a story.



---ONCE UPON A TIME IN ONLINE RETAIL LAND (shortened for dramatic effect)--

2AQ: I need to return this quite expensive item which has broken for the second time in the same place

CUSTOMER SERVICE (CS): Thankyou for contacting GENERIC ONLINE RETAILER care. We are currently receiving a high volume of emails. Here's all the things you can do which don't involve us xxxxxxxxx. Someone will get back to you shortly.

CS:  Can you please send us your order number so we can confirm the item?

2AQ:(outloud to self) EH? You have it in my account - you can see the item I bought, then returned, then the re-purchased, USE YOUR EYES. *Digs through millions of emails grumbling*

CS: Thankyou for contacting GENERIC ONLINE RETAILER care. We are currently receiving a high volume of emails. Here's all the things you can do which don't involve us xxxxxxxxx. Someone will get back to you shortly

CS: Thankyou for contacting GENERIC ONLINE RETAILER care. We are sorry to hear your item is faulty. Please send the item back to us so we can determine if the issue is with a manufacturing fault or is wear and tear.

2AQ: (outloud to self) WEAR AND TEAR! WEAR AND TEAR! I bloomin wish, I've worn them about 3 times!


2AQ: Given it’s the second time this has happened with the same style of boot that suggests it’s a manufacturing fault. I will send back though I am not overly impressed with your response

CS: Thankyou for contacting GENERIC ONLINE RETAILER care. We are currently receiving a high volume of emails. Here's all the things you can do which don't involve us xxxxxxxxx. Someone will get back to you shortly

CS: Thankyou for contacting GENERIC ONLINE RETAILER care. We are just letting you know someone is dealing with your query. Yada yada yada.

2AQ (One week later): Hi - have you received my return?

CS: Thankyou for contacting GENERIC ONLINE RETAILER care. We are currently receiving a high volume of emails. Here's all the things you can do which don't involve us xxxxxxxxx. Someone will get back to you shortly

CS: Sorry you haven't waited 10 days. Go away. (OK that was more than dramatics -but that's what they meant)

CS: Thankyou for returning your item.


2AQ:Please could you let me know which card this has been refunded to as I can’t remember which one I paid with and it isn’t shown on the email or in my account

CS: Thank you for contacting GENERIC ONLINE RETAILER care. I can confirm that the refund was made to the card used to place the order.

2AQ: *collapses in exhausted heap never to purchase again*

---------THE END ---------

How do you feel about your customer's returns story? Are they the big bad wolf - necessary evil, or as an opportunity to build your brand and your relationship with your customer?

Do you staff say age-old fictions like 'We'll have to make sure it's a manufacturing fault'? Or do you offer a 'no quibble' policy?

Do you sit in a boardroom developing strategies for returns services? Do you know what happens 'on your shopfloor'? How do you know your staff are living your story?

Can you be sure this story isn't about you? Is your returns policy a fairy story?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Perfect Pages #2

OK so somewhat lightweight on content this week due to 'The Great Richmond House Search' but just had to share this. I love this site for many many reasons - one being the fact you can roll over the lamps with your cursor and see what they look like when lit up. Product Page specialness indeed.




Images from the website of Caravan-  a shop in Shoreditch with small online store, blog, content loveliness...

Monday, 23 May 2011

A Delicate Balance

Did anyone make it to Internet World at Earls Court a couple of weeks ago? I went along with colleague D hoping for some interesting keynotes, chats with useful suppliers and a barrage of free tat. Unfortunately I was disappointed on all three counts, however what I did get was an interesting anecdote which illustrates an issue I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while.

Picture the scene-its 10:30 am on day 1 of Internet World, you're searching fruitlessly for the coffee bar, walking the gauntlet of cheesy sales people in cheap suits (and in some cases tutus and cocktails dresses – what was that about? Anyone think it was 1987 and it’s OK to have promo girls?? No me either). Oops your badge showing the name of your company has given you away, a recent VC investment (plus let’s be honest probably because you’re a girl) has made you easy prey...he approaches, he pounces, he goes for the opener 'hi there, do you work in marketing?’ so far so classic sales.

The poor man almost had a heart attack when he realised that the potential prey in front of him-shock!horror! works in tech (well project management but same difference). His little face fell, he asked again 'you don’t work in marketing?', second time round it still wasn’t happening for him. Newsflash Mr-Cheap-Suit -neither me nor D work in marketing. He couldn’t have looked more like a dog whose favourite chew toy has been taken away. Luckily his confusion ensured a quick getaway. (though the coffee was not worth it – instant coffee for £1.90 - it really was 1987 inside Earls Court)

So why is it so surprising that someone at an internet conference who works for a transactional website - isn’t in marketing? In my view-it shouldn't be, though I’ve seen this kind of thinking time and time again in my consultancy days.

Traditionally retailers started their forays into online from one of two places. Their marketing team or their trading team. For a marketing team this was another way to advertise product. A giant billboard to the world. Plus they had the budgets. For trading departments the website was yet another store- this time a direct way to sell product skipping the operational hassles of the store estate. In lots of cases ecommerce departments haven’t shaken off these humble beginnings and you’ll find many an ecommerce team which started in marketing is still in marketing, led by someone with a marketing background and reporting to the CMO.

Last Thursday I attended an event organised by eCommerce UK (the LinkedIn group) - The Great Social Media Debate at County Hall. The format of the event focused on a debate about whether customers were aware of social media. It was a great all round evening but one of the key things I took away was the fantastic arguments offered by David Walmsley – director of ecommerce at Dixons. Apologies for the no doubt misquote but he said something along the lines of ‘I’m not a commie, I want to sell stuff’. Ah a man after my own heart, D and I had a little retail-chuckle to ourselves. It’s a rare thing these days that you get someone admitting that ecommerce is about making money and selling more stuff. (Though funnily enough Internet Retailing this month has an article on Debenhams which says very much the same thing).

So does that leave you with two sides? (or three if you count the techies). The stereotypes speak for themselves – the creative, airy fairy marketers with their long wine soaked lunches, old school retailers (usually northern on everyone’s minds) who graft their way up from the shopfloor and could sell ice to Eskimos? Techies who don’t see daylight and exist only as an avatar in some role playing online game? How can these disparate personality types join together in the perfect org chart to produce a profitable, innovative and popular online retail experience? Who is right? The marketing based business? The trade based business? The digital based business?


None of them is.


Modern ecommerce is about leaving behind the roles of the past and forming new roles, new departments, and new standpoints. These groups can meet and they meet in one place – the customer. Marketers know the customer – they look at data, demographics, personas and brand values, they rely on data to back up their arguments and ROI to prove marketing spend. Traders know the customer because they know what they buy, they know when they buy it, how they buy it and what with. They look at a product and know when their customer would buy it and how much of it, they know what price it should be and when to mark it down to maximise throughput of lines. Your tech team built what your customer needs to make their purchase; they work to make things simple and clean and about all - fast. The customer is the point of common ground here and we should build on it. Doubtless - everyone is a product of their experiences – (I will always be tempted to look at problems from a store perspective – while colleagues will go for a press/PR or acquisition angle) and that’s not something we should move away from. What we should move towards is this idea of the customer centric business – and everyone having a role in it.

Successful businesses will surely be those who can blend the ‘e’ with the ‘commerce’.

The first step? Stop asking me if I’m in marketing.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Excellent Errors #1

I love error messages. I do. I think it stems from the endless testing, copywriting and full stop checking I've done in the past, or maybe I just find them to be a notoriously unloved part of most websites and I feel sorry for them. Either way I just love them. Here's my current favourite from twitter:

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Dark Side - 10 crimes against online

Thus far on this blog I have attempted to be balanced in content - and tried not to be too negative and critical (haha-yes this is me being positive!), but meh - sometimes you just have to indulge your dark side....it's been a tough week....




A list of my top 10 online crimes

Everyone is guilty, multichannel retailers, pureplays, content sites...we all fall into the dark side every now and again. Here's how:

This doesn't really deserve to be at number one because it's hardly original but it's SO annoying- auto-play music - yes yes I know  - not exactly a novel choice but just because it's a cliche doesn't mean it ain't true. Twice in the last day this has happened to me. It's 2011 people.....

Slideshows which refresh the entire page when you click the next image. mtv.com I'm looking at you.

Homepages with too much going on - described by @lostferret as being like 'an explosion in a catalogue factory' the uniqlo homepage is a prime example of this. It is exactly like that and it hurts my eyes. Office make this same mistake. It's like trying to fit an entire store onto one page. Eek.

also..conversely...

Homepages with nothing going on. You can almost see the execs sitting round discussing how they should be more minimal, 'more like ASOS' and 'more like John Lewis'...yawn. So bored of the white - it works for ASOS, it works for JL - everyone else please find another style.

Newsletter sign ups with more than one question. I actually had a nightmare about this last night. All you need to know is my email address so please just ask for my email address.

'How did you hear about us?' dropdowns Do I care enough to select the real option or will I select the top one because I'd just like to checkout? Hmmm now let me think.....

Not telling me how much delivery will be until I sign in at checkout - It's so old school but people still manage to get away with this

Blatant copying-  This comes back to the whole 'let's make it WHITE' thing, but as a consultant I sat in so many meetings where senior management would not even consider their customer or their brand, they'd shoot straight to the 'let's do what Amazon/Tesco/ASOS do'. I've nothing against conforming to best practice and getting ideas from sites you admire but many of these sites are popular because they know their customer, if you don't know yours and you try to copy their approach. Well that's just not going to work is it?

Overindulging your creative department - sliding, whizzy, multiple bevelled edges, drop shadow on everything. Looks pretty but can I find anything? Who cares I'm distracted by the flashy video on the Homepage, have I bought anything? Nope.

Not being able to find the contact number - this is a whole other post. And econsultancy have a great one today on poor customer service practices which just about sums up what I was going to say here. Hunting fruitlessly through your footer pages just looking for someone to complain to basically means I'm even more annoyed when I finally do get hold of you. Sky.com, oh yes this is so you. Massively frustrating.

That's it then. The sad fact is that so many of us know all of these things and we still persist on keeping them/introducing them on our sites. It's like they're the 3am burger of the online world - you know it's dirty, you know it's wrong..but sometimes in the circumstances you just can't help yourself. Be strong onliners, it's time to bring ourselves and our sites, back from the dark side.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Don't you just love a well targeted email...

Thanks uniqlo for sending me an email with a discount I can't use. If you looked at your database you'd realise I have an account and I have ordered before which renders your use of my email address in this campaign totally pointless. *sigh*

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

e-Books and My Guilty Kindle Secret

Internet Retailing (internetretailing.net) reported today on the rise of the e-book (sales reached 16m in 2010). According to the article despite this impressive growth recent research suggests "49% of consumers would rather read a real book".

Funny that - because a 'real' book and an e-book are exactly the same  - reading it - as in the words, and the enjoyment of those words - should be no different whatever the medium. I'd suggest what consumers are actually talking about is a couple of other things:

1. The concept of purchasing/wanting/needing an e-Reader - "odd to read!", "can you take it in the bath?", "Does it run out of battery?", "Carrying around £200 of e-Reader in my bag is much more risky than a paperback" (Sorry I can't help with this I'm already a total convert to the Kindle)

And more interestingly to me....

2. The concept of the buying of an e-book - I have to wonder if the Mintel research had been done only on consumers who owned e-Readers already they would get a percentage of users who would say they would rather 'buy a real book'.

The reason this rings tiny little bells in the geeky part of my brain is because this is something which is different when you own an e-Reader. I'm a Kindle owner/user/convert and it's time to admit, to come clean, to share my guilty secret  - I sometimes buy 'real' books!

The major reason for this is perversely also my favourite thing about the Kindle - it's the Kindle Store - or rather my inability to deal with (therefore the poor usability of) the Kindle Store when browsing from the Kindle itself. I can hear you take a sharp intake of breath - don't think I can't. I mean really? This is Amazon - are you mad woman? Well er yes I think I might be; few points.....

The colour thing really is a barrier - I'm not sure how far away coloured e-ink is for the Kindle (The Nook has colour therefore not long I'm guessing) but it so needs it. Sure a book is happy being read in black and white and shades of grey but I can't buy a book (or rather enjoy the experience of buying) if I can't see the cover properly. Colour says a lot about a book, garish fluorescents=chick lit, black background, chunky text=thriller. There is a reason these trends have developed and I think it's because people have come to recognise a book's genre by it's cover - and it's colours. Without it I find it the purchase decision just isn't as...fun.

The other thing that really bothers me is the whole 'Top 100' thing. Admittedly this is getting more useful as people are reading and reviewing the free books more and more so you can find some real gems which have gained a kind of Kindle cult status. However - the fact that 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' is at number 5 (not necessarily 5 - could be 3, I haven't checked but I bet it's in there) in the paid list STILL really doesn't make me want to buy - I'm a keano reader and I read it when it only came in paper form. MOVE ON!

So (Mr Cornish) solutions:

Amazon is the undisputed king of ecommerce recommendations  - targeted recommendations for Kindle purchases would be well received. The reason the Kindle store is so hard to buy from can be it's sheer size and the volume on offer. An email to my Kindle which recommended some Kindle books based on what I've read before would make sense and probably make for lots of direct conversions. I get emails from Amazon showing me what I've clicked on before but no targeted marketing at my Kindle. And I feel it's lacking.

The colour thing is a technical challenge but the thrill of spotting your favourite author's new book because you recognise the style, the typeface, the cover style..and also finding new authors because they kight mimic this style.....this needs to be replicated in the Kindle Store somehow. Yes the reviews by other users are great but reading is incredibly personal and I also know which writers I already like, I just can't find their stuff because I can't see it.

Bring me the new. Hardbacks? Possibly worth spending 15 quid on because you get - you know -  a hard cover and stuff. 15 quid for a newly released e-book? Not the same. I want to know what new books are out all the time (I'm a fast reader) so show me -and don't make me pay a premium for the privelege. I'd probably buy a hell of a lot more.

Stop telling me what everyone else is doing. Bestsellers is a concept as old as time in the book world but these days the turnover of new titles is so much higher. So is the amount of people who have still not read the flamin' 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'. I'd hazard a guess that the early e-book adopters are big travellers, big readers and well big readers. Targeting navigation at what your users want can't be a bad thing.

That's it for now. Though I'm sure next time I'm book shopping I'll think of some more - and if you're reading this Mr Amazon - waterproofing for reading in the bath? Thanks.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Perfect Pages #1


This is just beautiful. That's all. It's from online boutique LN-CC.

P.S This is a possibly occasional series which I've basically just thought of. Plus my boyfriend thinks I need more pictures on this blog. So, there will be pictures, and they will be of cool pages.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Ten Reasons to go ‘Oooh’

I feel like the launch of Boux Avenue has really met my (high) expectations, sure there is a few tweaks which could be made – but it's very clear that the team have learned so many lessons from all the successful sites out there and it's raised the bar in terms of what we can expect from new online launches. This means everyone now is going to have to pull their socks up and start competing. Here's the ten things I think are great about Boux Avenue and that will no doubt soon become 'the basics' of any ecommerce site.


1. Perfect Imagery
I'll be honest – almost ten years in store retail means I can be slightly erm..lukewarm about content. My retail teeth were cut in the days when M&S didn't take credit cards – let alone advertise but more and more lately content is so important. Boux Avenue does it absolutely right. Quite simply it's beautifully done, though it's not just a pretty face - the key thing to notice here is that it's beautifully 'Boux Avenue' done - the brand is strong and clear throughout the imagery. The lifestyle settings of the images reinforce the aspirational nature of what Boux Avenue is trying to achieve, the models look great but not skinny- (as a normal sized woman with money burning a hole in her pocket you're not scared off by Daisy Lowe pretending to have 'curves') and most of all the product looks fantastic.




2.Fantastic Features
When you try on a bra in a shop you always turn around and look at the back view. Who would have thought to do the same online? Boux Avenue did. Every single product having multiple consistent images probably cost them double but you know what? So worth it. And the cheeky over the shoulder poses? Awesomeness.





3. Know your nav
The difference between guided and faceted navigation is something which often escapes retailers, and more to the point when to use them. Boux Avenue has it spot on. I want to see lots of things which fit my vague criteria, I might be a 12 or a 14, I might want black or navy. You can do all this and more with their lovely faceted navigation.


4. Product Shots
 This deserves to be at least two reasons, these are just in another league. When choosing a bra you can see the product from the back, full view, close up, front view and in video. And there is a different image for a larger size and a smaller size so you can better gauge if the bra will suit you – and they're not photo-shopped – they're actually models with a bigger cup size! Amazing.



The videos are just great. As per imagery they're beautifully shot, you see the item from all angles and you can see it in a lovely setting which makes you want to buy so that you too can waft fragrantly around your white antique French furniture and gaze into your vintage mirror adoring your fantastically hot body…….


5. Multichannel IS multichannel
Unlike any other retailer to my knowledge (most do either or) Boux Avenue do order online and collect in store (free) and reserve online and collect in store (also free). Also you collect your purchase from a dedicated concierge desk, so no queues – something which more established retailers have been trying to get sorted for a very long time.

Also due to the nature of purchasing lingerie there is the option to get fitted in store or watch the informative guides on how to measure yourself. Again the multichannel experience – customers online shouldn't get anything less than those in store. It's consistent and more to the point it's genuinely useful.

What's also quite special and again enhances the multichannel credentials is that on the store locator you can email each store individually - if you have a specific query on your order or reservation or even what's in stock.

6. Mobile
"In the meantime, our website will still work across all browsers and mobile devices – meaning you won't miss out on the Boux Avenue experience, even when not in front of a computer." I'm in awe. That's all.

7. Free Returns
I'm beginning to feel very inferior….

8. Contact Boux
There is an actual phone number and an actual email address. From a customer perspective this is really positive as there are no barriers to getting in contact and you can do it in the best way to suit you (I work in a team of boys – the last thing I feel like doing is having a complex customer service phone call about lingerie at work – email is the way forward people!). From a business perspective this may start to cause them some problems – depending on how their back end behaves (no pun intended) – in my experience phone calls drain customer service budgets more than email and a simple email address – despite the instructions to include order details- may cause more problems than it solves. Still – I'm hopeful!




9. The 'Men's Buying Guide'
Oh lordy they have realised that men might want to buy gifts and might need some guidance. Nice touch.


10. A great memory
Yesterday I thought I might be losing my mind, today I wondered if I'd left the facets on the left on and the site remembered them. But no – the site actually does remember my size as I browse. Everything I look at defaults to the size of the item I first added to my bag on day one. This is means all I have to do is click 'add to bag' and I'm in. WOW!




OK so I haven't even ordered yet and I'm almost passing out in excitement on the new heights that Boux Avenue has reached (another post for the order process soon I think – watch his space!). Admittedly there are a few bits and bobs which could easily start to annoy me- for a start I really REALLY don't like the font, I hate the text only menus (I know it's for SEO purposes but I really think live text looks crap -  so there!) and I think the whole pink/white/black thing was a seriously safe choice- I'd have liked to see the design boundaries pushed a bit further. The store locator bothers me a tad – it's a bit iffy looking, and I think they need to work out on a product level exactly where they are in the market – the bra set I want is actually only £5 cheaper than one I bought yesterday in Calvin Klein.


All that aside I genuinely think this site is great – usable, pretty, consistent, useful features and true a multichannel retailer…its love!

All images shamelessly screengrabbed from Boux Avenue

H x


Friday, 1 April 2011

Boux Avenue Launch....

I'm literally on the edge of my seat awaiting the launch of bouxavenue.com. The link to the site has started redirecting to the blog now so I’m guessing the reveal is imminent. My finger is actually hurting from pressing F5 :-)

This is for a few reasons but first and foremost because I'm genuinely excited to see a simultaneous online and store launch which might actually live up to the hype. Being in the industry when something like this happens reminds me why I love my job.

There hasn't been that many brand new stores launching in my lifetime (Sorry GIve - yours disappointed me so much I can't even discuss it. Even now. I think I'm scarred) so this one is incredibly exciting, all the more so because it’s actually multichannel. And hopefully multichannel in the true sense of the word and not a hashed together load of systems which talk to each other via the mysterious power of empty loo roll holders and sticky tape.

Hurry up and flick the switch Theo!

P.S The Facebook page is a whole other world of specialness and I absolutely love the fact you have to ‘Like’ it before you see it. Awesomeness!





image grabbed from Boux Avenue on facebook

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Road (train) Trip

Should I ever get out of the office this evening I'll be attending the Internet Retailing Expo tomorrow in Birmingham. These events are so useful when they're good so if I learn anything exciting I'll update on here, similarly if I hate it I'm sure I'll be letting you know.....

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Two's a Queue

Queuing is the inspiration for the name of this blog so it was only a matter of time before it becomes it's subject as well. This blog is supposed to be more online retail based but I'm still waiting for my first guest site review from my lovely talented colleague (cue guilt trip!) so I shall go back to the traditional momentarily.

Queues are a given in offline retail. There are people, there are lunchtime salads to be bought, and there are limited numebrs of staff to process these sales.It's been happening since..well ever. The problem is these days is that there is a competitor who has NO QUEUES-  the web.

So what as retailers should we be doing to ensure we don't lose all our customers to the web because of this dreaded right of passage of the shopping experience?

'Two's a queue'

The phrase which inspires the title of this blog is something we used to say at Next. I never knew if it was actually a specific decreed-from-above saying or one made up by my store manager. Either way it stuck in my head.

We'd often find ourselves in rival retailers tapping our foot and muttering 'two's a queue'. You'll be unsurprised to know I still do this and there is a reason why (besides the fact I'm just cheeky). If I'm waiting behind one person at the till - it's OK I can see the end in sight. As soon as I'm behind two or three, or ten (I'm looking at your Tesco in Richmond) I'm in a queue, and whatever happens that will be my key takeaway from the experience.

Everything takes longer

There is numerous studies which show that customers' perception of time is warped when they are standing waiting in line. A minute feels like three minutes-  and if you're on your lunch break, starving and counting your remaining 26 minutes of freedom while someone grapples with the complexity of a gift voucher (and cheques - remember those?) then it goes even slower. Note this when you serve someone - for you it may have felt like a mere moment, for your customer it was an eternity out of their precious day. Now you can't speed up time (unless you're Superman or something) but you can acknowledge it. Apology apology apology.


Let me know what's going on (or not!)

Last night I discovered the oddest queue system I've ever seen  - it was in Waitrose in Angel.

You queue in the normal post-office counter stylee and there is a screen with the number and one of those bossy automated voices shouting out the number. So far so normal. Except it's not. You're waiting behind a five foot wall. You can't see the cashiers, they can't see you, all you do is follow the disembodied voice to the next available till. How bizarre. I waited (for a while - thanks Waitrose) and pondered whether I liked this or not. Usually if I was waiting I'd be tapping the foot, craning my neck, huffing, sighing and getting generally impatient. In this case I couldn't do that. I kind of liked it.

In all other cases though I would say, informing customers of why, looking like you're doing something about it and generally getting a wiggle on usually helps.

And finally...

Queues are almost so old and so fundamental to our culture (especially in this day of self service - more on that another time) that we forget that they cause issues. If anything the issue is more key when you have the ability to order same day or next day deliveries online - why would you get up from your desk instead of doing that? If stores want to compete with the web they have to look to fix this old chestnut and not ignore it.

And next time someone in your queue is muttering and sighing..you'll know who it is ;-)

H

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Talk is cheap

Last time I looked – well, read Retail Week - the retail industry was having a difficult and tough time at the moment. The current economic situation, government spending cuts, weird and wonderful weather, cotton prices - let alone last year’s online delivery meltdown with "The Snow". Retail can’t exactly afford to be luxuriating on its leather Chesterfield right being fed grapes by small but perfectly formed cherubs while consumers throw £10 notes at them as they walk on past. It’s tough times, no one disputes that.

This is not a situation which is going to change all that quickly, there are always things that can be done- retailers can implement better buying to drive down price, they can cut costs across their operations, they can focus on business change plans to adjust to the market, and for online retailers there is even more that you can do. All of it pretty much costs money, which no one has right now - cue catch 22 (if I was any good at PowerPoint I’d put in a  little diagram – but I’m not)

BUT if there is one thing I learned from my career in store retail it was that the key differentiator is very often in the basics. And you know what the basics don’t cost much. In fact most of the time they’re practically free. And you know what is always free? Talking.

In the space of three days I have encountered two prime examples of the lack of talking in online and offline retail.  A Yodel delivery guy managed to conduct an entire delivery transaction (including the signing of a HHT device) with NO WORDS WHATSOEVER on Saturday. I really wanted my Amazon books but I’d have liked them a lot better if he’d deigned to speak to me.

Today I went to Tesco on my way to work and again an entire transaction without the staff member even looking at me - let alone talking to me. When I looked at her expectantly waiting for the cost of my item to be imparted to me she indicated with her eyes towards the till display. *sigh*

Now technology is great –  but really an indication with the eyes towards the great and wonderful till display??! What next? The till says 'Hi' , apologises for your wait and comments on the inspired nature of your purchase? More to the point technology costs money, lots of money, talking to people doesn’t.

If I go to Waitrose and they have fancy quick shop terminals I’ll be impressed but it wouldn’t stop me going to Tesco who don't have them. You know what would - staff who don’t speak.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Finding the Fashion Finder

http://www.retailgazette.co.uk/articles/02240-asos-fashion-finder-brings-online-retailers-together

Question is can anyone find the fashion finder?!! I'm finding nothing on Google....

Monday, 21 February 2011

Love and Customer Service

Ah Valentine's Day. A day of organised commercial goo, horrible padded cards with bears on them and icky cheap chocolate -  custom designed to make you a) miserable (singles) or b) inadequate (couples) . Three of my least favourite things are commercial goo, horrible padded cards with bears on them and icky cheap chocolate so I rebranded Valentine's to become the night 'I Was Cooking'. Basically it was going to feature all the things we love - mainly Jamie Oliver's tuna meatballs with Ben and Jerry's for afters .  Turns out there actually was no avoiding goo on my Valentine's Day. The real life kind. Two hours after putting my precious Fairly Nutty in the freezer......the ice cream was soup. Fridge/freezer was broken. Ouch.

I knew the fridge/freezer was under guarantee but I had a sneaky suspicion I had recently ignored one of those 'your guarantee is about to run out buy a new one for a zillion ££££'s' letters. After checking the order email for the fridge I realised it was purchased on  -  14th January 2010 - one month out of guarantee....NOOOOOOO.

But - ever optimistic and in possession of the finer points of the 1984 Sale of Goods Act I phoned the site I bought it from to see if there was anything they could do to help. I Googled the phone number, I wrote down all the things I wanted to say, I was prepped , I was ready for a fight. I didn't honestly believe a fridge should last 13 months. *deep breath*.....

I phoned the Co-Op...they agreed! I didn't even have to roll out my ‘I’ve been working in retail since ...yada yada’ patter. Within about 15 seconds of me telling my Ben and Jerry's trauma the customer service agent said they would contact the manufacturer who they'd expect to honour the guarantee and if not they would support the replacement of my fridge/freezer for up to 6 years (as per DSR's and SOG Act). Wow, I was in raptures. I was fully expecting a long drawn out argument which would culminate in me a) crying b) shouting c) calling the small claims court or d) all three. None of these things happened. It actually was amazing. Co-op phoned me back when they said they would, they contacted the manufacturer who is coming round this week to look at fixing the fridge/freezer and if they can’t fix it then we can talk about what they can do for me. It's all good!

And how many people have I told about the fabulousness of the Co-Op Electricals. About 50. I've tweeted, I've facebooked, I've bored my colleagues to tears. And now I've blogged about it.

The power of turning a bad into a good. Nuff said.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

ASOS f-commerce review

Ah f-commerce. Never has there been a more mentioned phrase at eCommerce networking events (other than 'eurgh what is this I'm drinking it looks like red wine but the taste resembles paint stripper' - but that's by the by). Anyone who wants to appear 'on trend' with their finger on the pulse of social commerce is talking about it. In my experienced they are pretty much the only people that are talking about it..the rest of us are too busy using facebook for it's primary purpose - stalking our secondary school boyfriends /best friends/enemies and observing how fat/ugly/the same they look. Anyway what was I saying? Oh yes f-commerce...it bores me.

All that said when a major player like ASOS tears themselves away from updating their friends on the number of olives they've eaten in the last ten minutes and start putting the 'book to a use that should resonate with all retailers - selling stuff, then we should be taking notice. ASOS has 445,401 followers on their facebook page, which up until recently was mainly used for promotional activity and engaging customers in discussion as well as competition campaigns etc. (They also have a customer service page but that's a whole other post). No one can blame them for seeing the £££'s that an audience of that size can represent. And the online retail community is waiting with bated breath to see if they do indeed convert into real money (and I'm sure the ASOS bigwigs have their pinkies crossed under the table as we speak).



Two paragraph's in I'll get to the point. A few things I personally don't like:

  • It's slow to load - the content is clearly going via a third party and it shows. I'm so bored of the waiting wheel I almost went back to studying my high school boyfriend's wife/kids/whatever. 
  • It refreshes every time you choose a colour/size/image. See above
  • The text is pretty small- it looks like it's been scaled down to fit in the minimal space fb allow. I'm old, it makes me squint.
  • Weird image refreshing/no zoom. Can't work it out. One of ASOS's plus point is their catwalk vids. Not here.
  • Error messaging. Eeek!
  • The delivery type selection journey is a bit odd. You choose it in checkout instead of on your 'Shopping Bag' page, and it's hidden in a tiny dropdown. Not sure this is quite as good as it could be.
Things I do like:
  • As expected for social commerce the emphasis is on 'Share'. Big buttons. Nice
  • The user journey in general is pretty consistent with the normal site and it's not overly lengthy. I'd imagine you could see an item that your mate has liked, navigate to it, view it and buy it within two shakes of a lamb's tail.
  • Despite the obvious space issues they have managed to maintain the brand - it's very ASOS and it reflects the site content well.
Now I feel bad that there's more things I don't like compared to what I do like. Partly this is due to me being not really their target market - I admit I do like facebook and I probably do check it everyday but it's on my iPhone on the train rather than spending hours browsing and chatting. Also I work at a desk with a PC on it. If I want to buy ASOS I'll erm....go to ASOS. Whether other people do the same will no doubt be publicly announced at some point in the future. Either way my pennies are going into ASOS's piggybank so ultimately who cares?

I guess that's the key, as long as customers are shopping on ASOS be it on their site or their f-commerce site then all is well in the world. Horses for courses. f-shoppers can shop, and f-stalkers..well they can just keep on stalking.

H x

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

eCommerce Tricks for Offline Retailers

For quite some time there has been tantalising posters in the window of a vacant shop in the village where I live. After my trip to New York in December the prospect of a Magnolia Bakery style cupcake shop within a one mile radius of my house was something I could definitely get behind.

The aforementioned shop opened last Sunday and over a week later I still hadn't been in. Considering not only had I been hotly anticipating my local cupcake moment for ooh at least 3 weeks but surely to goodness I was sitting slap-bang in their target market (also I pass the shop every day on the walk from the station). WHAT on god's earth was WRONG with me? Was I ill? I mean the day the new Zara site launched I had a calendar invite in my Outlook...I was directly onto the new ASOS facebook app as soon as it went live...the Outnet design refresh made my year...and then....the penny dropped.

It occurred to me that the shop - I'll call it 'Hotly Anticipated Cupcake Shop' (hacs to save my typing finger) must be doing something wrong to have so disappointed me,  It just wasn't grabbing me in the way my favourite websites do - despite the convenient location. And given that Hummingbird Bakery deliver..well it could be all over for me and hacs.

Here's a few lessons I think hacs could have learned from the world of online retail:

Engage me with the Homepage
To me a cupcake is the summer fashion of the baked goods world. It's beautiful, it's colourful, it's sweet, it's probably got some cute little mini butterflies stuck to it, it doesn't last very long..and I need to SEE it to want to buy it.

Fashion websites show you lovely shots of models wearing their product on their Homepage because they want you to buy into looking like that, they want you to delve into the rest of the site. Having a display case which is three feet into the shop so that I have to squint and push my nose against the glass to even view what's on offer is a massive barrier for me. The Hummingbird has those cool glass shelves for a reason, Cox Cookies & Cake has the cake stands in the window for a reason, crikey even Greggs shows it's 49p iced buns in the window. SHOW ME THE CAKE. That's all.

Call to Action
Clear calls to action on a website tell the visitor what to do next. Whether that's clicking on a link to some information, signing up, tracking their order. hacs could do with some clear CTA's. It's 7pm, you're standing behind the counter with all the lights on staring at me, I am so not going to try the door to see if you're open. Nor do I really want to ask what the price of everything is. Put a sign on it.

Targeted Promotional Activity
Apparently there was an offer from hacs to people leaving the train station on the Sunday. Sunday. You see my point.

Customer Experience
When designing an online retail site the customer journey is constantly referred to, again and again. We A/B test, we user test, we do it again. The focus is always (or should be!) 'What does my customer need?'. What my village needs is a cafe with more than 2 seats in it (real estate is expensive in London) and not yet another shop with ooh 2 seats in it. Not only is this faintly bizarre (it's a residential area not a workers lunchtime spot) but it's also just not a pleasant experience for anyone. Walk into the shop and you're basically struggling to navigate the two tables to get to the counter. Sit in the two tables and you're pretty much going to get someone standing over you to look at the fareaway vision of cake...the cream leather seats look nice though.

SEO
Not strictly something online which you can apply to offline but no less irratating. If you're going to have a website to promote your offline shop and/or brand then for goodness sake make sure people can find it. Furiously Googling for opening hours on my way home on the train was an epic fail after even the exact name of the brand and it's location didn't show up on Google. I had to go via a local blog it had been mentioned on.



Clearly this is a bit of a labour of love for the owners, and in some ways they seriously know their stuff - the brand and logo for the shop are excellent, as is their social media presence - they're definitely investing the time on Twitter and engaging directly with customers (or friends - I can't work out which) on ideas and feedback. Customer service was a tad scary and Rowan-Atkinson-in-Love-Actually-esque ('Which would you like madam? The vanilla? Very good madam. Would you like a bag or a box madam?) but the sentiment was there.

Given all this they'll probably do incredibly well (and it's cake to be fair - everyone loves cake) but really this post isn't about hacs. There are so many businesses making precisely the same mistakes (not strictly a shop but Balls Brothers - have you heard of menu burn??). It's about all those 'real' stores  - the traditional, well worn, regular bricks and mortar stores that could just learn a teensy bit from the tricks of the mouthy teenager upstart of online retail. After all that's where ecommerce came from to begin with...that's why it's not just called 'e'....

H x

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Make Contact

If you'd like to contact 2aq for any reason (favourite reasons being providing me with cake, crunchies or cheesy puffs) please feel free to do so here.