Posted by: Paul Mitchell  |   Comments  No Response

OK, that’s not strictly true. But when retailers got together at BT Tower recently to discuss the e-commerce journey, they were all in agreement about two things: the term e-commerce just doesn’t do justice to everything that it now incorporates and, although it’s a journey, there’s no final destination to aim for.

1. E-commerce doesn’t cover the half of it
It’s not just e-commerce anymore. In a really short space of time, we’ve gone from e-commerce to multichannel to cross-channel to merged channels to… what? Forrester suggests “agile commerce” as a catch-all for the rest of the alphabet (including, e- m- and F- commerce).
In joining up the channels, it seems e-commerce will exist as a separate discipline in a few years. But what does that actually mean for retailers?
Phil Heaton from relative newcomers, talked about creating an online business and building it up to a market leader in just three years.

Phillip Heaton,, presenting at the Next Generation Event, BT Tower

Phillip Heaton,, presenting at the Next Generation Event, BT Tower

In that short space of time, he’s been astounded by the changes: “Customer expectations around delivery, for example, have changed dramatically since we began. We had what could be considered an appropriate delivery model for our business at the time, but with 90-minute fulfilment and tailored timeslots around now, we know we have to change to meet current expectations.”

2. We will never get “there”
The two most-used words at the event were e-commerce and journey.  But a journey suggests a destination, unless you’re in e-commerce. Sarah Hughes joint MD at BT Fresca set the scene for the day:  “We’re on a journey,” she said, “and we’ll never be nearly there.”

Sarah Hughes, BT Fresca, speaking at the Next Generation ecommerce event, BT Tower

Sarah Hughes, BT Fresca, speaking at the Next Generation ecommerce event, BT Tower

Sound a bit daunting? Not according to Nadine Sharara, e-commerce director at Thomas Pink. Echoing the views of many in the audience, Nadine spoke enthusiastically and energetically about the never ending e-commerce journey. “I think about it, not so much as a journey,” she explained, “than as a travel experience.”
Nadine introduced the latest Thomas Pink on-site product videos and explained how these were now driving the in-store experience. And the products featured on the videos are flying off the shelves, both real and virtual, proving that a more engaging e-commerce experience is more than just cool eye candy.

Nadine Sharara, Thomas Pink, presenting at the Next Generation ecommerce event, BT Tower

Nadine Sharara, Thomas Pink, presenting at the Next Generation ecommerce event, BT Tower

The stats show that retailers who grasp this idea of an ongoing journey do better than those who get everything in place and sit back. “Your e-commerce investment needs tending,” says BT Fresca’s multichannel specialist Jason Shorrock, “you have to feed and water it.”


What else did we learn?
Most innovation in e-commerce is focused on channel integration and fulfilment. So ensuring that web orders can be picked up in store (offering an opportunity to up-sell) and integration with social channels, like Facebook, are essential.

Click and collect has been the kiss of life for the High Street. Almost all retailers have a transactional website. But retailers without a store footprint (even just a couple of flagships) look a little old fashioned. And multichannel retailers are faring better than pureplays in general.
This is a huge opportunity for multichannel retailers to fight back against pure e-commerce providers as they can provide better service, instant gratification and increasingly flexible delivery options. One of the best examples of this is Oasis, which offers a 90-minute delivery from store.
So e-commerce is just the beginning. Mix in a little multimedia, in-store wi-fi and social networking, sprinkle in some smart handheld devices and you’re there. Well, nearly there. For the moment…


Find out more about ecommerce & online marketing solutions from BT Expedite

Posted by: Gerald Maidment  |   Comments  No Response

The Internet Retailing conference (October 4th, Novotel, Hammersmith) always focusses on the latest on-line developments and this year revealed a growing chasm between the old and the new. What is different this time is that the new “old” is about old-fashioned, nothing to do with number of years trading.

Resting on the old-fashioned cliff-side are some relatively recent retailers, ASOS (founded in 2000),  eBay (1995) together with an analog and digital media pioneer, HMV (1899). Staking claim to the new ground are traditional high street names such as Burberry (1856), Thomas Pink (1984),  Aurora Fashions (Coast, 1996; Oasis, 1991 & Warehouse, 1976) mixed in with the cream of social networking Facebook (2004) and a revolutionary delivery company, Shutl (2008).

What sets them apart? A true appreciation of their customers’ multichannel lives.

For example, yesterday ex-ASOS visionary Hash Ladha, now 18 months in as multichannel director at Aurora Fashions announced the latest tranche of UK cities to be covered by his fashion industry leading 90 minute delivery service. By February 2012, 90% of the UK can order a dress late afternoon and be wearing it the same evening. Why does this make pure-play retailers like ASOS look old? Because ASOS do not have the nationwide store coverage to support this type of ship from store to home service. Nick Robertson, ASOS CEO, has long muted the possibility of a single ASOS store on Oxford Street, but even that’s a long way from the 50 or so stores required for pan-UK coverage.

The retail equivalent of Apple, Burberry’s recent tie-up with underlines the absolute need to focus on your customer wherever she happens to be. In the same vein, presenting creative innovation yesterday, Nadine Sharara, e-commerce director at Thomas Pink, underscored the need for absolute quality and consistency of brand regardless of channel. The beautifully British Brideshead revisited theme of this years A/W campaign oozes the kind of high end luxury that thrives in the harshest recession. And the execution from store through to on-line is truly multichannel.

Of the keynotes that kicked off the conference yesterday, eBay sounded tired as it talked up its outlet channels and social media heritage. Conversely, head of Facebook commerce partnerships, Gavin Sathianathan, is effortlessly cool and unceasingly innovative as he describes the stories of the 800 million people that make up the Facebook world and the opportunities for retailers to join them.

So if e-commerce sounded old yesterday, true multichannel retailers are fresher than ever, buoyed by their years of trading and customer focus.

Gerald Maidment, Account Director

Posted by: Dean Taylor  |   Comments  No Response

Everyone’s saying it: 2011 is the year that mobile web use will really hit the mainstream .  Already there are 7.1 million1 people in the UK using the internet whilst on the go and more than 20%2 of time spent online is on mobile devices.

More than 4 million consumers3 are visiting ecommerce sites in the UK every month using mobile internet. What kind of experience are they all having?

Incredible figures when you consider that very few businesses have an online presence optimised to work well on a mobile device. The mobile revolution is moving fast and businesses need to catch up.

iPhone 5 is due in the Summer and the sales for other smartphones (many running Google’s Android OS) are already outstripping the current iPhone. Mobile is The Future and we, as designers, need to understand the new challenges that it brings.

There are some pretty obvious differences when comparing internet use on a mobile device and a regular laptop or desktop computer.

Let’s take a look at just a few of them.

The ‘fat finger’ effect – as there’s no traditional keyboard or accurate pointer, users have to hit everything with their fingers. Great, we’ve removed a barrier between us and the technology, but other than ATMs and train ticket dispensers, there is limited experience in how to do this right. Buttons needs to be big enough (have ‘affordance’) and clearly show that you’ve hit one with your finger. Sounds obvious, but if you’ve tried using a regular website on your phone, you’ll know that they can be very frustrating to use with just your fingers as implements (none of the specialised cutlery you get with your keyboard and mouse!).

Some mobile devices have really quite large screens, but they are still titchy compared to your computer. Also, the screen is portrait in format (or landscape too on an iPhone) so we’re dealing with a different format at a smaller size – this is not just a tiny monitor. The first rule is to Keep It Simple, don’t clutter the screen and allow customers to scroll to see more products or content leaving lots of room for those big buttons.

Then there’s download time. Your device might be drifting in and out of signal and there’s little more frustrating than waiting for content to download especially when you’re on the train and can’t go and make a cup of tea. Stick to the Keep It Simple rule and optimise everything, it’s simply good practise and will improve the experience for everyone.

All the while ensuring the brand experience is reflective of the main website and store experience, of course.

The internet is constantly reinventing itself and this might prove to be the most exciting change yet.

Mobile is already everywhere:  I’m typing this on my iPhone from Mount Everest* (link 3).  This year, mobile web is becoming THE web*.

*Not really. There is mobile coverage on Mount Everest, but I’m sat at my desk with a cup of coffee.

1 Internet Monitor Survey, Kantar Media, September 2010

2  KPMG as cited by eMarketer , December 2010

3 GSMA & ComScore, August 2010

Stats found at


On Facebook

Posted by: BT Expedite  |   Comments  No Response

I read last month that Facebook has now exceeded 500 million worldwide users and over 28 million in the UK. Looking across all BT Fresca clients, Facebook is in the top 10 traffic sources to all sites.

It’s now as important as email communications in a brand’s overall marketing strategy. But, it’s really interesting how different retailers approach it.

Retailers are fast learning that social is not just about marketing, but community, endorsement and customer service also. It’s about getting the balance right. And, there are some really great examples out there.


The biggest mistake any brand can make is to not interact with their customers. Your customers expect you to respond and talk back and even better they want to get involved and feel part of your brand.

Encourage them to chat, this is your customers and they want to talk. The feedback on your business is invaluable and gives you insight into what is and what isn’t working.

There a plenty of great examples out there of brands doing just this. Two that are worth taking a look at are Liberty and Easyjet.

Add Email Sign Up

Don’t be afraid to cross channel market. You add social links to your email
campaigns, so why not go vice versa? Add an email sign up box to your profile and use it to grow your database.

Marks & Spencers actually have a box on the profile displaying their latest newsletter for people to view.

Facebook on your site

2010 was about incorporating Facebook functionality onto your own website. The ‘like’ button being the most popular tool.

The Levi store was one of the early adopters of this functionality. But some other nice examples are ASOS and BT Fresca client Dig Deep

I also love the Orange Glastonbury microsite, where you can tag your friends in the crowd pictures from Glastonbury.

Turn a negative into a positive

The delivery issues caused by snow at Christmas were certainly a test for some
retailer’s customer service abilities. Negative comments on your facebook don’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, it’s about how you manage them. But, the
worst thing you can possibly do is ignore comments.

Sometimes your fans will even do the work for you. I referred to Easyjet earlier, when they were experiencing flight issues with the snow, customers were pointing other customers to where on the Easyjet website.

Negative comments on your Facebook page give you a chance to turn around that customer’s perception of you, so embrace it.

Make the space yours

Ok, we’ve moved on from My Space, but your brand page is a representation of who you are and what you stand for.

What is your key message, how can you engage differently but still on brand via Facebook? With a little bit of creative help, it’s very simple to personalise the page.

Take a look at the Starbucks, Tiffany and Skittles pages for some inspiration.

Reward your fans

Customers that ‘like’ your brand should be treated like any loyalty database you own and manage. Give them something back in return for this loyalty.

At Christmas, John Lewis did a video for customers on how to set the perfect Christmas table. Pringle have a video from illustrator David Shirgley and to celebrate reaching 500,000 likes Next gave away 25 gift cards to customers.

Happy customers will spread the word and do your work for you.

Encouraging Sign Ups

On a penultimate note, I just wanted to share this fun page on Zappos encouraging likes.


And what does 2011 hold? I look forward to seeing more from Facebook places and shopping on Facebook…

Laura Summers heads up the BT Fresca Online Marketing team and manages online services for some of retail’s biggest and most successful UK websites. If you’re interested in discussing Facebook marketing, drop Laura a line via [email protected] or call 0870 8506880.

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