September 11, 2014
Free twitter bar
Next stop: Buy Me on Twitter? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a lot of focus on one-click buying in order fulfillment circles, and with good reason.

Established online retailers like Amazon and eBay have embraced the impulsive allure of quick click purchases for some time, but it’s the more recent roll outs by social networks, first Facebook and now Twitter, that offer the most promising area for expansion.

Retailers already do plenty of work within their own digital walls to up sell and cross sell existing customers. Outside of their own ecosystem the focus has been to attract new customers through advertising and optimizing their sites for search engines.

Social networks, until now, have been an sandpit in which companies can talk to their customers and perhaps raise awareness of their products, but rarely are they seen as a source of direct sales.

Integrating easy-to-use buy buttons within the walls of popular social media sites could change all that, expanding the reach of ecommerce operators exponentially.

one click buying button

One of the main challenges to both retailer and social site to date has been losing control of the customer.

For the retailer, it’s a balancing act between showcasing products on a social network without selling too heavily and driving customers away from the brand in general. For the social network, sending users to another site for another activity has to be balanced with the desire to keep them on site, enjoying the entertainment element that brought them there in the first place.

If immediate buy buttons become a common enough element of social sites both of these problems could be addressed with one solution. Customers can spot a product they like, quickly process the transaction within the walls of Facebook, and get back to catching up with friends, commenting on a cat meme, or playing the latest Facebook game fad (and unwittingly inviting the rest of us to do so). Sale for retailer, easy purchase for customer, increased stickiness for social network, a win-win-win scenario for all involved, no?

The answer to that will slowly be revealed as Facebook and Twitter test their buy buttons, but there are certainly some obstacles.

For one, social sites aren’t currently considered as the online malls that retailers and tech startups might like them to be. Although some transactions are carried out already, such as in-app purchases and buying advertising, the general act of social media shopping is in its infancy. As such, there are plenty of bumps in the road to navigate before brands convince customers to not just like or follow them there, but also buy what they’re selling. And that selling is also somewhat at odds with the general consensus that social media marketing is based on being informative and entertaining, not yet another sales space. The former could limit the latter, even when simple sales functions are put in place.

The other aspect that still worries many customers is just who they can trust with their details online. The biggest brand names online and off – Target, Apple, Home Depot and many more – have been dragged through the mud this year thanks to digital hacker attacks, making customer leary of expanding their purchase activity outside of the providers they already trust. Overcoming these security concerns will be just as important as convincing customers that social sites are a place they want to shop in the first place.

Even against these pronounced challenges, social network shopping holds so much potential that retailers will be pulling out all the stops to build a foundation for its future.

If they’re successful, those of us providing ecommerce order fulfillment services must be ready to meet the resulting rise in demand.

 

February 18, 2014
Dollar Sign in Space - Illustration
Online commerce, global dollars | Image Credit: donkeyhotey

It’s no secret that e-commerce is booming, with ease and efficiency being the driving force behind growing consumption online.When you consider the advantages of automated billing and one-click buying to customers it becomes clear just how important it is for businesses to adapt to this way of working.

What’s more, these savings are being passed all the way back down the supply chain.

Automatic billing of the customer proves to be far more efficient, whether the transaction is B2C or B2B. Reducing time taken at both the initial invoice creation stage and subsequent rework is streamlining a process that has traditionally required an entire department.

Cash flow is another area that can benefit, as customers enrolled in scheduled billing tend to be more reliable, especially if the payments themselves can be automated. Every day that an invoice runs past its due date is cash that isn’t on the books of the creditor earning interest. Offering a “fire and forget” payment option can help to overcome this, not to mention the resources saved in not having to chase overdue accounts.

Back with the end customer, and efficiency is again the name of the game, but this time the focus is on making the transaction itself seamless. One-click purchasing, pioneered by Amazon but subsequently released to the wider retail environment by court order in Europe, remains a primary reason for the company’s ongoing online dominance in the U.S. Here Amazon has so far managed to retain the patent to claim ‘1-Click’ for its own ends, giving it a billion dollar advantage.

That distinction will continue to come under fire from competitors as e-commerce becomes the main way we shop, especially with the advent of mobile wallets and other payment systems facilitated by a smartphone or tablet. Facebook is in the early stages of testing a single click mobile checkout option, which could give even the Amazon juggernaut pause for thought.

The upshot of all of this is the potential to greatly increase consumer demand and drive efficiency through the order fulfillment process. From transaction to billing, e-commerce solutions are transforming not only the way we buy, but the way we do business as a whole.

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September 17, 2013

English: Gmail logo

Google’s latest tweak to Gmail may not be good for business. Retailers are getting the word out on any number of platforms these days, including Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter, but email is remains the workhouse of online retail.

Google has over the last few months rolled out a new framework for Gmail, creating several different folders within users’ inboxes. The “Primary” folder is intended for personal and priority emails. The other folders include “Social,” “Promotions,” “Updates” and “Forums.” The names are fairly self-explanatory. Google says simply that it wants to address email overload.

The organization may be useful for users, separating and perhaps prioritizing Gmail. The effect is less certain for retailers. The risk is that e-commerce emails will be shunted into an “email ghetto,” according to the New York Times. The open rate for promotional emails has decreased by about 1 percent since the introduction of the feature according to three sites that manage e-mail mailings, Yesmail Interactive, MailChimp and 3DCart.

It is possible for users to change the folders in which emails appear. Gmail from retailers may be dragged and dropped into the “Primary” folder. Once that’s done, future emails will also appear in that folder. The Gap and Groupon have urged recipients of their emails to do just that.

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August 28, 2013

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Twitter has appointed its first head of commerce, Nathan Hubbard, as it begins an e-commerce initiative. Details are sparse on how Twitter will facilitate retail in 140 characters or less.

Hubbard, the former president of Ticketmaster, said only that “We’re going to go to people who have stuff to sell and help them use Twitter to sell it more effectively,” in an statement to Business of Fashion. The article goes on to say that Hubbard will seek partnerships with retailers and payment services companies, rather than entering head-to-head competition. The move is intended to raise additional revenue as Twitter looks to an IPO in the months ahead.

How’s Social Media Working Out for Retail?

Twitter’s foray into social media comes at a time when social media is not working as well hoped for retailers.

Although some business sectors are taking a second look at Twitter for business marketing, a study of prestige retailers the digital consultancy L2  found that over the past four years, less than 0.25% of new customers have been acquired through Facebook and less than .01% from Twitter. In addition, the research disclosed that customers gained via social media spend less than other customers.

A number of retailers opened up Facebook stores to great fanfare in 2011. With the exception of Tory Burch, most are now closed, including:  Oscar de la Renta. the Gap, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, GameStop.

It would appear that the strategy that works best on social media is word of mouth. When someone hears from a friend or other trusted source that something works, they’re more likely to go with it. Pinterest has provided a great example of this type of personal “show and tell.” Brands may be finding that what works best is to make it easier for people to find and order items that they see and hear about from their own networks.

July 24, 2013
Kuwaiti Instagram
Sheep are a hot commodity on Instagram in Kuwait

Entrepreneurs in Kuwait have turned Instagram into an on-line storefront. That must have come as big news to Facebook, Instagram’s owner, and the social photo site’s team. But in Dubai, everyone is doing it. Even grandmothers who have their own Instagram storefronts.

The use of Instagram is so widespread that Kuwait even had a Kuwait Instagram Expo. The photos are great, obviously, as are the social applications. However, there’s no way to process financial transactions. Entrepreneurs post a WhatsApp or Kik number for low cost texting and and email address.

Kuwaitis it seems have developed an appetite for selling things other than oil. Many of the goods are things that you might see in other markets on eBay or Etsy. What’s strictly Kuwaiti is sheep. Yes, you heard it. Kuwaitis are doing a brisk business in the sale of sheep on line. Talk about order fulfillment. Just why is there such a brisk trade in sheep. It seems that sheep sacrifices are an integral part of Kuwaiti life.

The largest site seems to be @sheep_sell which looks like it’s selling a wide range of sheep and has over 2,500 followers.

 

Kuwait Instagram Sales
The make up company Sondos is one of the companies doing big business in Kuwait on Instagram.

 

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