The Retail E-Commerce Challenge

I’ve written before about the challenge of bringing a bricks and mortar sales operation online. Well it seems those in the know in the e-tail sector are all too aware of the relative poor level of sales being generated online for some of the well known high street retailers.

Speaking recently to an e-tail Director, it became apparant at some of the internal issues faced by traditional retailers, including a huge misunderstanding of online trading. It is not enough to use a successful store model online. Why would you try and cash in on those £4.99 value transactions online which work so well in your stores to drive footfall and sales, when the online delivery charge is £5? Am I prepared to pay £5 for convenience? Perhaps, but the online commercial model, whilst sharing the same business foundation as the high street stores, requires a differing layer of development.

In today’s world of high-speed internet, choice and convenience, it can hurt your business considerably by not playing the online game seriously. Consider it a new branch of your business as opposed to a new sales channel… one that needs to be thought out for its business proposition, product placement, differentiation and marketability amongst other things.

The good to come out of the challenges faced by a recession and reduction in footfall for retailers is to find cheaper routes to market and market penetration, leading retailers to give online commerce the commitment and investment required to leverage lower cost sales and marketing to those already online. This leads me onto the issue of customer insight, far too big a discussion area for this post, but one which must be at the centre of the online drive.

On a final note, the travel sector is in many opinions years ahead of most other sectors. Perhaps retailers in particular have lay in wait too long with the comfort of their traditional sales channels negating any need to change. Now’s the time to review your business model.

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The InterWeb – Past, Present and Future

As I sit on this Virgin Pendolino train from Manchester to London a few random thoghts occur.

How amazing life is, with an entire ‘real life’ network of people, actions and thoughts. How could such a thing have simply evolved over time, without a more powerful existence to guide it.

Secondly, and unrelated, was how beautiful the British countryside really is and without the train journey I’d have probably never seen it.

yorkshire-countryside-uk

yorkshire-countryside-uk

So this is a web log about the web so I thought of them in context to the InterWeb. For those that are not familiar with the distinction between Internet and Web, the Internet is the train and train track, the Web is a collection of all the destinations reachable via the train. The InterWeb therefore is my generalisation of both. Back to the topic…

The InterWeb as we know it, knew it and theorise it to become was not invented, in the same way as life as we know it was not. They
evolved over time. Such is the nature of our Universe that everything evolves, within the constraints of the environment.

However every now and again, just like the fish jumping out of the water, things need to evolve outside of its inherent constraints. Ask a cool sounding ‘Futurologist’ what the Interweb will look like in 5, 10 or 20 years down the line and you’ll hear lots of fanciful, some plausible thoughts including discussions on Web 3.0 (or the next big leap in web). However evolution cannot be mapped or guessed. At best we can guess but quite often we’ll be way off the mark. Just ask those born in the early 1900’s about the year 2000. It never happened that way… – but how could they have possibly known?
What did happen was technology. Technology has always existed. Who knew the power a transister would afford us, in the early days of its existence? No one did and know one thought to think about every possible application. Instead the technology acted as a catalyst to the evolution of computing into the device you’re reading this digital text from.

The future of the InterWeb is unknown. Will the train tracks change to allow us to take different journeys? Maybe new trains will enable new ways of working and thinking. Perhaps the entire structure of websites will change. Perhaps social media really is that catalyst for the evolution of web, maybe its the iPhone. What’s certain is that we as humans are full of endless possibilities. What limits us is the environment that we live in. We await the next catalyst to set off the next stage of online evolution – however I very much doubt anyone will be able to predict it.

In the meantime I reflect on this train journey and doubt, within the limitations of what I know and understand today, whether the experience of visualising the beautiful scenary can ever be replaced by anything digital, whether it be the next gen Google Maps or a new Virtual World gizmo…

What do you think this new online world looks like? Will we even get close to seeing the Matrix in real life? How much could we improve and globalise Second World? What’s the future looking like for Social Media?

Web 3.0 – The Final Destination?

Web 3.0 has been bounded about even though the majority of websites are still coming to terms with Web 2.0 – Web 1.0 is where most companies are at!

Web 3.0 is seen as the next progressive step for online. Making online think for us, making the online world easier to navigate and leveraging more from the web. Web 3.0 can be many things to many people. However, reading an article in the Financial Times today described Web 3.0 as a form of worldwide ‘social media’ platform. That is, Web 3.0 will bring people, information, websites and content even closer into a single consciousness.

Can you imagine asking a website ‘what car should I buy next?’ and for the website to scour the Web to find out more information about you, about your lifestyle and other factors which influence the way people like you think to suggest the best car for you?

There are many steps in the way of progression in reaching this higher state of consciousness but believe one thing – if we can think of where we want to be and not worry about how we’re going to get there, or how long it might take, then there is no limit to the things we can achieve. This is Web 3.0.

Depesh Mandalia