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Last night, at about 3am, I was awoken by a strange noise. Climbing out of bed I was approached by a ghostly figure. “Who are you?” I asked. “And what are you doing in a retail technology blog-related dream?”

“I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past,” came the reply. “You might remember me, I’m the one everyone remembers from the film.”

“You’ve been focussed on retail technology all year, I’m here to take you on a journey to show you the effect some of your work has. You’ll need this.” He handed me a Gift Card; the familiar bit of plastic so many of us have received, often from relatives who don’t know what else to get us or bought as a panic buy at 3pm on Christmas Eve.

“Of course in my day,” said the spirit, “it was all paper-based, fixed values, printed on till rolls, faded in the sun.”

I explained to the spirit that life and technology moved on, paper-based is great but with no real-time authorisation and a lack of flexibility around topping up they don’t quite conform to today’s real-time world.

“And look what happened last year…” The spirit transported me to a room full of gold coins. “In this room there is £250,000,000. I’ve counted the lot”

Last year, £2 billion was added onto gift cards and this was the money that was never redeemed – the unused change languishing on the nation’s  Gift Cards, with people too embarrassed to ask the store to take the last 47p off the card. Or the gift card you got for that shop you never go in, or the one you lost behind the sofa or the one you forgot you had….

As I listed these situations, the spirit vanished.

Turning around, I saw another spirit. “I’m the Ghost of Christmas Present.” Suddenly I was presented with a whole load of data – my shopping habits, my Christmas list, my e-commerce and store transactional history, loyalty points information and a multi-brand, omnichannel solution.

“By buying a  Gift Card this year,” said the spirit “you are providing the smart retailers out there with the perfect way to capture additional customer information; from a few simple  Gift Card transactions you could be telling the retailer who you are, who you like enough to buy a present for and what they like to buy – you’re effectively signing your relative up for a loyalty scheme as an extra Christmas present. The really smart retailers will of course have a combined loyalty and  Gift Card – why have two cards in your wallet when one will suffice, meaning the  Gift Card remains in your relative’s wallet long beyond the January sales.”

“Blimey,” I thought, “this spirit knows his stuff. The Ghost of Christmas Present is right. Throughout this year we’ve seen a number of customers doing exactly that, by bringing their  Gift Card capabilities in-house and stitching the solution into their CRM, loss prevention, POS and e-commerce systems they can really build up a picture of the customer from a single purchase. The Ghost of Christmas Past was right too. That unspent money, previously sitting with a third party supplier, is now sitting with the retailer, no longer paying a percentage of each transaction used on their  Gift Card scheme.” Online authorisation of balance, liability tracking and management and web service integration means a  Gift Card is a tender that can be used anywhere these days.

And I waited for the third spirit that tradition dictates would be along. But he never came.

The next morning however I noticed something strange on my phone. Of course! A mobile voucher – with a personalised greeting from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He had obviously learned from the other two ghosts how to do things properly, removing even the plastic from the mix, collating more CRM data (e-mail addresses and phone numbers) and suddenly having the ability to target those customers with unspent vouchers to drive them into his shop. And integration into an electronic mall scheme (linked to my e-wallet) means that if I don’t approve of the choice of shop for my mobile voucher, I can easily transfer it to a brand of my choice.

So am I a changed man following my experience with the three ghosts?

Well yes, I’ve seen the light;  Gift Cards aren’t just for those relatives you don’t know what else to buy for. They provide a key to an omnichannel shopping experience with benefits for both the customer and the retailer alike. It’s a win-win situation. 
And that’s what I’ll be telling my wife on Christmas morning.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by Mark Denton, Head of Solution Consulting, BT Expedite 

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It doesn’t matter how good you think your product is – research shows that online shoppers trust other people’s opinions more than any marketing claims. So the ideal way of promoting your goods is to get your customers to do the selling for you – by using a ratings and reviews and customer recommendations engine on your site.

The e-commerce landscape is forever changing. What once seemed like super-whiz-bang functionality is now just table stakes. Two perfect examples of this phenomenon are ratings and reviews and product recommendations. There are some exceptions, undoubtedly, but the vast majority of e-commerce sites will benefit from allowing their customers to review the products they have purchased and dynamically recommend other products for up-sell and cross-sell.


Ratings and reviews
BT Expedite & Fresca’s in-house Ratings & Reviews service lets you show customer comments and ratings on a product details page, while an average star rating shows customers the most popular items in a category or search result. You can restrict reviews to registered customers, and send feedback reminders to people who have bought something from the site. Administration screens let you find all the reviews that have been placed using the same email address and you can require approval for reviews or remove any that are inappropriate.


Ratings & Reviews


The FrescaCommerce Platform Recommendations service allows retailers to cross-sell and up-sell by providing dynamic recommendations. It comes with a fully-featured administration console enabling retailers to modify recommendation rules on the fly so that they can achieve the highest possible conversion rate. Rules can be based on product attributes – for example products in the same category or with the same colour– or based on previous sales data – “customer who bought this, also bought that”. The rules engine allows retailers to refine the basic rules so that only products over a certain price or with stock above a certain level are displayed. Rules can be A/B tested against each other on an ongoing basis to ensure that the highest-performing rules are enabled.



Recommendations are typically shown on a product detail page, but the BT Fresca Recommendations service supports recommendations across the website, with the ability to use different rules in different places. Want to cross-sell on your basket page where the recommendations take account of what’s already in your basket? No problem. How about a recommendations spot on your homepage that takes account of the product categories that your visitors looked at on their previous visit. We’ve got that covered too. And much more!
The Ratings & Reviews and Recommendations services are fully hosted by BT Fresca, and share the same administration console. They will work together or independently and, although each integrates fully with websites built on the FrescaCommerce Platform, they can also be used as standalone services on any e-commerce site.

 Posted by Jonathan Bowen, Head of Client Services, BT Expedite & Fresca

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Merry Christmas from BT Expedite & Fresca

Merry Christmas from BT Expedite & Fresca

Posted by: BT Expedite  |   Comments  No Response

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a certain Mr S Claus was buying his presents online this Monday, as the number of e-commerce orders broke all records for the busiest shopping day ever! It’s been reported in the media that over £320m was spent online by UK shoppers on 3 December alone; that’s a whopping £3,700 per second. Imagine the amount of carrots and mince pies that could buy!

Our own analytics show that on Monday 3 December – or Mega Monday as it has been coined in the UK – we saw a 24% increase in orders through the FrescaCommerce Platform, compared to the busiest day last Christmas (30 November), and a 25% increase when compared to the first Monday in December last year.

To put it into perspective, between 1 December and 3 December the number of online orders increased by an amazing 70% – making it the largest number of orders ever seen through our platform, which is behind many of the world’s fastest growing and most successful e-commerce web sites – including the Aurora Fashion brands (Coast, Oasis, Warehouse), Get The Label, Karen Millen, Matalan, The Perfume Shop, and Thomas Pink.

Drilling into the shopping habits of Mega Monday shows that most people filled their e-stockings after dinner – as the hour between 21:00-22.00 was the busiest with almost twice the number of orders being placed than the typical lunchtime peak.

It’s also interesting to note just how consumers purchased their presents in 2012. IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark (which analyses e-commerce data from 150 retailers in the UK) shows that the number of people buying through a mobile device almost doubled compared to last year (21.7% vs 12.6%). The most impressive increase in this area was the percentage of online sales made on iPads which saw a monumental 194.4% increase on 2011! So instead of Mega Monday – and to pay homage to what was the most talked about topic by retailers this year – maybe it should be renamed Multichannel Monday?

Christmas Sales

Posted by Richard Vining, Head of FCP Performance, BT Fresca

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