I’m blogging in my professional capacity over at blogs.shave.com/digital (must do something about that picture). I’ve been figuring out what a medium-sized manufacturer with half a dozen well-known brands (like King of Shaves) ought to be doing online.
We’ve come up with a cheeky strategy that actually reduces the emphasis on our own ecommerce activities in favour of better supporting the other online retailers: from Tesco and Boots to the long tail of pure play etailers who already sell our stuff.
This is going to have commercial benefits for us but also real benefits for the environment. Of course, as a manufacturer, we’re lucky: you can’t do this sort of thing if you’re a pure-play etailer. For those guys the other etailers (especially the big buggers) are the enemy. For us, though, as the people who make and market the stuff, the etailers are our friends. So ecommerce for us is not a zero-sum game. We don’t have to beat up the opposition to win: growing sales through Boots.com, Tesco.com, mankind.co.uk and all the others will feed directly into our bottom line.
And those green benefits will be substantial: a tube of shave gel delivered through Ocado‘s fine-tuned, route-optimised, biodiesel-fueled home delivery service (along with the rest of your groceries) makes a fraction of the environmental impact of the same tube shipped in a Jiffy bag in the mail.
So take a look and let me know what you think of the new strategy as I start to unfold it over at my KMI blog. I think this is the direction that ecommerce is going to take from now on. Etail 1.0 (or paleocommerce) – the period during which thousands of pure play etailers popped up to exploit massive audience growth but with no thought at all for the environmental impact of their activities – is finished. Hope I’m right…
Why don’t eCommerce platforms behave like blogging platforms?
- Is it because the cool developers don’t want to work at ecommerce application developers?
- Is it because all the big ecommerce platforms started life the best part of ten years ago and can’t flip architectures just like that?
- Is it because the kind of fancy features you find at social networking sites are so much fluff that would only get in the way at an online shop?
- Is it something to do with Microsoft?
So what do I actually want from an ecommerce platform? Well, there’s all the obvious stuff like good integration with fulfillment, stockholding and accounting; really flexible merchandising; easy addition of new SKUs and lines; outstanding usability and accessibility and so on…
Then, what I’d really like to see, beyond all that, is:
- A really clever user model. Product pages ought to behave like photo pages at flickr: if you’re a logged-in admin user everything’s editable right there, in-line and if you’re a customer it’s a locked-down, read-only page with an ‘add to basket’ button.
- Up-to-the-minute page creation and editing with inline editing and drag-and-drop. Product pages that behave like blog entries.
- Really obvious, easy-to-grab widgets in one, simple platform-neutral format that users can ‘tear off’ and stick in their own sites with no fuss so they can sell my stuff via their blogs or MySpace pages.
- An ultra-powerful, geek-friendly API with hooks for all the right systems and at least two levels of interaction (super easy HTTP plus gnarly REST and SOAP for the grown-ups, say).
- Pages that love to be shared. Share this page, bookmark it, DIGG it, send it to a friend, save it to my desktop, send it to my mobile, print it nicely, widgetise it, send it by post to my Grandmother, roll it tight, bounce it off a satellite…
- A clever way of mapping individual SKUs onto stable, predictable URLs. The SKU is retail’s fundamental unit but you don’t want to expose the raw data to customers so you need some kind of helpful translation layer between the database of SKUs and the web site.
- Tools that make life easy (and fun) for merchandisers and marketers. Create a promotion, feature a promotion, delete a promotion. Run a survey, split the creative, throw a ten minute sale, add a ‘free with purchase’… Direct and flexible. No obstacles.
- Reporting that’s as pretty (and helpful) as Google Analytics.
This is a work in progress, based on what I’m learning here at King of Shaves (mainly from customer care/IT/web site guru Nicky Springle). I guess I’ll add to it as I go along.
If you’ve ever used a warm, comfortable, expensively-stocked book shop as a showroom for books you’ll later buy more cheaply online and felt slightly dirty about it, you’ll recognise Mike Lee’s feelings. He even has a word for it: shopshifting.
Rachel Frank runs an online wine store called Arthur’s Bar. It’s a good site – excellent customer service, next day delivery, single bottles (most sites require you to buy a case or more) and they have lots of specially-sourced wines you won’t find elsewhere but there’s one product that really stands out. Rachel’s father, David Hallgarten, is a whisky blender and he bottles the only 35 year old blended Scotch whisky in the world. This stuff is gorgeous and very unusual. Most top whiskies are single malts. This is a blend – but to my taste it’s as good as any single malt I’ve tasted. The current batch was distilled in 1964, which is the year after I was born. You can’t buy it anywhere else and you’ll need to remortgage your house to buy a bottle (or move to a caravan and buy two) but if you’re trying to think what to buy me for Xmas, you can stop thinking now.
The people at Ocado seem to have got it about right. With the help of a substantial investment from Waitrose, they’ve built a home delivery service that doesn’t require you to know exactly how to spell ‘brocolli’, that delivers for nothing if you spend over £75, that allows you to book slots in one hour increments and that delivers at 10 p.m. if you forget about Olly’s football practice and can’t be in when you said you would… If grocery delivery is going to work it’ll probably be these guys.