This month’s top trends in digital: EU ecommerce trading | SMEs lack SEO | Marketers still scared of social media | Engaging customers in-store | UK broadband plans | Alan Sugar’s Apprentice trends | Abandoned basket emails | Travel site usability | Hollow corporations lack comms skills | Mobile money in developing countries
Cross-border trading biggest barrier to European ecommerce crowth
A pan-European report has been released highlighting some of the key issues and trends in online shopping across the region. The report, compiled by e-commerce specialist FACT-Finder, finds that although the internet is opening up huge opportunities for retailers on a global scale, 70% of online sales in Europe belong to “the big online three” – with the UK generating €48 billion in sales, Germany €39.2 billion and France €25 billion – and cross-border trading still remains a major challenge for many online stores.
Even between countries as close as France and Germany, few online shops sell across borders. FACT-Finder cites cultural differences as the key driver for this, with promotional activity not transferring between nations; campaigns designed to influence German consumers are of little interest to potential French consumers.
Another important barrier for the development of pan-European e-commerce is a lack of consumer confidence in buying from different countries. People are often unaware about the procedure for buying goods abroad and prefer to buy within their own country as it’s perceived to be safer. On top of this, complex VAT requirements for traders who sell into other countries makes it far from easy for smaller brands and retailers to do business across the European Union (EU).
The lowest level of overall online sales across the region is in Poland with only €3.4billion generated. However, this is also the e-commerce market that is growing the fastest; registering a 36% in 2010 against the same time in 2009. The report highlights that though not as developed as Western European markets, Poland has the most potential, with retailers becoming increasingly aware of the possibilities of the internet offers, increasing visibility and enhancing the usability of online shop’s websites.
The report also suggests a positive outlook across the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Europe for 2011. For the UK, the most mature market, forecasts predict that one of the most dominant trends will see retailers looking to invest in “user experience”. Elsewhere, the French will be looking to push their online shops abroad, focusing on internationalisation and for Spain, despite having taken a battering over the past 12 months, the growth rate for e-commerce will still be one of the highest in Europe with more retailers going online.
1 in 3 SMEs ‘stressed by lack of online visibility’
Prominence on Internet Search Engines is a significant stress and concern for one third of UK small businesses, according to research released today by Fasthosts Internet, a leading web hosting provider. The study of 467 small firms(1) also finds that a large number have not addressed these concerns by attempting to improve their rankings. Furthermore, 27 per cent of firms with a website admit that they have never used online methods to interact directly with customers, and only 23 per cent of businesses participate in social networking. Data from 1000 UK consumers(2) shows that 38 per cent of Britons regularly look for social networking material from businesses. Whilst 1 in 3 consumers now expects to read responses from companies to negative reviews posted online, only 14 per cent of firms are providing these. Both studies show that all types of UK business can benefit from efforts to improve their online visibility, branding and communication.
Fasthosts ‘Business Connectivity Audit’ reveals that online visibility is a key stress factor for 34 per cent of UK small firms, both in terms of attracting consumers and suppliers or partners. 1 in 5 businesses suspects that it may be held back by an under-investment in online marketing this seasonal trading period, more than those who have under-purchased stock, or under-invested in their premises. Despite widespread concern, few companies are properly tackling the issue, with 41 per cent having never attempted to optimise their position in search engines. Cost is a key deterrent for many small businesses when considering their search engine positions. 1 in 4 firms believe that paying to optimise their positions would be too costly. Some 35 per cent of businesses have paid to optimise their online visibility in the past but were not properly aware of the total costs at the time. 11 per cent are deterred by past failed attempts to optimise their online visibility. Furthermore, the majority of businesses admit they currently fail to understand their ‘virtual footfall’. Only 28 per cent of small companies believe that they understand their number of website visitors effectively.
It appears that online communication is still a problem for many UK businesses. Even basic website features, such as an email contact form, are still absent from 41 per cent of SME websites. Only 6 per cent of firms use live-chat to communicate with customers visiting their website. Despite the huge popularity of social networks with Britons, only 23 per cent of firms are publishing social networking material. The figure is lower for real-time activities such as Twitter (15 per cent), and multi-media or video channels such as YouTube (7 per cent).
This is in direct contrast with data from 1000 British consumers, which finds that consumers now expect a package of online participation – web presence, dialogue and social networking. 38 per cent of Britons now actively look for social media material from companies when making purchases, and 55 per cent appreciate multi-media material such as video clips. Consumers today are now sensitive to online branding. 60 per cent would like small companies to show consistent online branding across everything they present online including social networks.
Significantly, 1 in 3 consumers now expect to read responses from companies to negative material about them posted online. Such material can often be published on review websites, news and industry websites and consumer forums. Alarmingly, the study reveals that only 14 per cent of small businesses are currently responding to such online material. Encouragingly, only 1 in 5 consumers report that negative online material alone would lead them to avoid a retailer altogether. The data suggests that consumers expect businesses to engage with what is written about them online, and all firms can benefit from managing their online reputation.
Marketing Executives ‘Hesitant to Shift Investment to Social Media’
While social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are recognised as essential digital marketing channels in 2010, a survey conducted at the worldwide digital marketing conference ad:Tech by EPiServer, the world’s fastest growing provider of platforms that drive online engagement, reveals that in 2010 nearly 60 percent of the respondents realised the highest return on investment (ROI) from email and the company website, and those same channels top the list for future investment among 46 percent of those responding.
In addition, the survey further asked about the involvement of the IT department in marketing technology purchasing decisions. Despite the era of Cloud Computing and the ease of technology procurement, 54 percent, or more than half, of the respondents revealed that the IT department is involved “very frequently” or “frequently” in technology purchase decisions. The survey was conducted at ad:Tech 2010 among CEOs, Vice Presidents, Directors and Digital Marketing Managers at more than 65 attending organisations including large corporations, small and medium-sized business and marketing and digital agencies.
The great escape: marketers missing out as brands fail to engage with customers in store
Independent research commissioned by Callcredit Information Group has today revealed consumers’ attitudes towards giving out personal details in store, as 38% of Brits never divulge their details to retailers, and almost one in ten (8%) admit to giving out fake contact details to avoid being contacted. Surprisingly, the YouGov research reveals that almost two thirds (64%) would be likely to give out their contact details for future marketing communications if they were signed up to the store’s loyalty programme (35%), or offered a small financial incentive like a discount off a future purchase (38%). Moreover, 15% said that they would be happy to give out their contact details if they were informed about relevant promotions, products and services in future; given the chance to be part of an exclusive store club (11%); or if they were simply asked by a friendly and approachable person (9%). The ‘flirt factor’ has the biggest impact on men and young people, as 10% of men and 17% of 18-24 year olds would give out their details if they were asked for them by someone friendly and approachable in store.
The research into consumer shopping habits also reveals that at least one in eight online Brits (12%) are planning to shop from their phone this Christmas to avoid the rush in stores. The majority of these respondents are classified as ‘Accomplished Singles’ by Callcredit’s CAMEO Lifestyle consumer classification. These are a highly affluent, upwardly mobile, energetic and ambitious group of singles, typically aged under 45. Of people who have mobile phones that allow them to shop online, 15% said they would purchase clothing, footwear or accessories this Christmas, while 12% would purchase electrical goods, not including mobile phones. However, the reality is that whilst mobile shopping is appealing to some demographics, technology is a barrier as 41% say they do not have the capacity to do so on their phones.
Even more surprisingly, 78% of people who do not purchase items on their phone, but have the capability of doing so, say they would not like to do so in future. This includes 58% whose main reason is that they prefer to use other methods like going in store or shopping on their computer and 15% have concerns about safety and security issues. According to Callcredit’s CAMEO Personal Finance segmentation, the majority of respondents that have never made a purchase via their mobile phones are classed as ‘Sophisticated Savers,’ while consumers that have made a purchase via their phone are likely to be ‘Seldom Savers.’
Brits feel government’s broadband plans ‘don’t go far enough’
The results from 842 respondents to ISPreview.co.uk’s latest survey have revealed that a vast majority (92%) of UK internet users are concerned that the government is not doing enough to improve broadband access. However, 73% still support its goal of making a minimum download speed of 2Mbps (Megabits per second) available to everybody by 2015 (Universal Service Commitment), yet 89% felt that the target speed of 2Mbps wouldn’t be fast enough.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, confirmed in his recent Spending Review that £530m had already been set aside to help bring faster broadband to the remaining 30% of towns and villages by 2015 (rising to £830m by 2017); locations where Private Sector investment alone would be unlikely to reach (i.e. rural areas). Many of these communities are expected to benefit from newer “super-fast” fibre optic based broadband services, although others will be forced to settle for the USC.
The European Union (EU) is similarly seeking to make “basic broadband” provision compulsory by 2013, with a minimum access speed requirement of 30Mbps coming into force for 2020. By contrast the UK’s plan may not be sufficient to meet European standards.
Lord Sugar Urges Apprentices to ‘Think’ as Favourite Word is Identified
With the dust yet to settle on the announcement of Stella English as this year’s winner of Lord Sugar’s Apprentice, the UK’s largest network of regional job boards revealed that, through 12 weeks of boardroom rants, ‘think’ was Lord Sugar’s favourite word.
MyJobGroup.co.uk, which operates a network of over 300 regional job boards, has analysed every word spoken by the business supremo in the infamous boardroom throughout his 12-week search for the ideal candidate, publishing weekly word clouds via its dedicated site.
A word cloud including all his utterances has now been published on the site, alongside the boardroom dialogue of winning candidate, 30 year-old Stella English, showing that to impress one of the UK’s toughest bosses, clients really need to use their brains. embers of the public had also been invited to tweet their predictions as to what Lord Sugar’s most frequently used word would be for the entire series, using the hashtag #lordsugarMJG, with Paul Martin winning a replica ‘Sir Alan’ boardroom chair for successfully guessing ‘think’.
Lord Sugar’s favourite words for this series of BBC’s Apprentice were:
1. Think (99 utterances)
2. = Got (88 utterances)
2. = Back (88 utterances)
4. Go (80 utterances)
5. Going (79 utterances)
Only 7% of top 100 e-commerce companies use abandoned basket emails
New research shows only 7% of the largest UK ecommerce retailers use abandoned basket emails. Not only is this a massive missed opportunity (worth £billions), but retail significantly lags behind other sectors. In a world where 85% of customers are regularly abandoning baskets this should be a no-brainer for marketers, but it appears not!
RedEye’s latest report ‘Behavioural Email Benchmark Study’ researched over 200 retail, insurance and gambling websites and email practices in November 2010. The study includes a look at the complete IMRG Hitwise list of the top 100 online retailers, the top 92 insurance companies listed on moneysupermarket.com and the top 10 worldwide gambling sites according to Hitwise.
Key findings highlight behavioural targeting is still in its infancy:
• Only 7% of retail companies use abandoned basket email triggers
• 47% of retailers don’t send ‘welcome emails’ to new subscribers or customers
• Only 7% of online insurance companies use a ‘quote not buy’ email
• While gambling websites are more sophisticated in their use of email marketing only 30% sent out a specific ‘register not deposit’ email.
Customers who register with a company and add an item to their online shopping basket, even if they don’t buy it there and then, are hot prospects. Matthew Kelleher, Commercial Director at RedEye explains: “When we tested how online retailers respond to abandonment behaviour, only 7% sent any type of follow-up communication. The question is what are the other 93% doing? Apparently nothing.”
Online usability with travel sites is rising despite continued poor customer service
The latest eTravel Benchmark results show that online satisfaction with travel websites is steadily beginning to improve. However, despite a strong performance online, overall results are still suffering with poor customer service and after sales care. he study from eDigitalResearch shows that overall online satisfaction with travel websites is slowly rising compared with the last wave, with the overall top score now standing at 83%. Yet, 48 out of the 51 sites surveyed are still providing telephone and email customer contact that requires urgent attention.
Hotel agent, Laterooms.com topped the league tables for the first time with a good performance across all areas benchmarked, providing an exceptional example of industry best practice with a logical search process and responsive customer services. Overall, hotel agents were the highest performing sector, with rival Booking.com coming a very close second but let down by the sites booking process and navigation. eading UK airlines Virgin Atlantic and British Airways both cemented their positions in the top tier of the table with an increase in satisfaction across all areas of the study. However, the airline sector saw their overall results dragged down by budget carriers, with Ryanair, EasyJet and BMI Baby all failing to provide a strong brand message and adequate email and telephone contact. xpedia have made the most dramatic improvement since the last set of results, jumping an impressive 29 places and into the top 5 after a 17% satisfaction increase with their email customer service. Princess Cruises also made a similar improvement, moving 24 places up also largely due to their email contact, cementing the vital role these touch points play.
The holiday camps and self catering sector entered the study for the first time, providing competition for other top websites. Center Parcs, Hoseasons and Butlin’s all scored particularly well finishing in the top half of the table due to informative customer services. However, given the recent popularity with ‘stay at home’ vacations, UK based companies still have some way to go to suitably rival their international counterparts online.
‘Hollow Corporations’ face communication dangers
Hotwire, the international communications consultancy, has released a report that investigates the reputation damage suffered by brands that are failing to address the increasingly diverse stakeholder environment. The ‘Hollow Corporation: The Activist Stakeholder and the Silent Majority’, highlights the ongoing growth and complexity of business influencers and presents Hotwire’s Stakeholder Quadrant to aid businesses attempting to map their stakeholder landscape. The term ‘Hollow Corporation’ has been coined to identify those organisations that ignore their wider influencer communities and the impact they have on their business.
The Hotwire Stakeholder Quadrant enables organisations to map their stakeholders to make a distinction between those that are prominent versus those that are truly the most influential. The Stakeholder Quadrant uses Hotwire’s new methodology to measure each stakeholder against key factors that determine their influence in relation to the company’s values and objectives, and who has a stake against each value or objective.
1 in 5 mobile users to register for mobile money services in some developing regions by 2013
According to a new report from Juniper Research, the array of financial services possible via mobile phones are proving so attractive that some developing countries are seeing unprecedented penetration levels of up to one in two mobile subscribers within two to three years from launch. Regionally, the report identifies that some developing regions will achieve a rate of 1 in 5 money service users over the next 2 years which is a remarkable level of adoption for such new services.
“Our research found that, money transfers, bill payments and airtime top-ups constitute the typical top three mobile money services in an operator’s portfolio. Increasingly though merchant payments are being offered and operators can, via partnerships with supermarkets for example, enable people to pay for their shopping this way,” according to report author Howard Wilcox, Senior Analyst.
However, Juniper Research’s new report – ‘Mobile Money Transfers & Remittances: Markets, Forecasts & Vendor Strategies 2011-2015’ – also warns that prospective users can be discouraged to join such services if the KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements are too onerous, or simply not achievable.
Further findings from the new report include:
• Domestic transfers, airtime top-ups and bill payments account for at least 60% of all applications
• Following the recession international mobile money transfer users will more than double by 2013, driven by migrant workers, with services launched by MNOs and remittance hubs for country specific migration corridors
The report contains comprehensive five year forecasting for all the key market parameters including users, transactions and values for domestic and international transfers, and sophisticated mobile financial services. Additionally the report highlights the conclusions from Juniper’s analysis of 22 vendors addressing the market and provides assessments of regional market attractiveness.
The Mobile Money whitepaper and further details of the study, ‘Mobile Money Transfers & Remittances: Markets, Forecasts & Vendor Strategies 2011-2015’ can be freely downloaded from the Juniper website.