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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Social Commerce: The Case for and Against Facebook Commerce: Part 1

There is a lot of buzz around social commerce. Retailers are trying different strategies to get hold of shoppers. Till now, retailers in India see social commerce as a customer engagement and retention tool rather than customer acquisition. The numbers (Q2 2010 survey) below will explain you why:

Average Facebook metrics
Click through rate
Conversion rate
Average friends per account
Average impressions per post

In sum, the effective conversion rate is less than 0.02%.

So how are retailers utilizing social websites like Facebook and Twitter? As I see it, there are 3 ideas that retailers are experimenting with:

1. Ads, creating stores (yes, a full fledged mini store on facebook!), fan pages, running deals and promotions and peer to peer contacts within facebook. Some retailers are organizing trivia quiz, "do you know" stuff, "answer a question and win an all expense paid trip to the moon (no mention of return tickets here!)".

Take a look at these promotions taken from facebook.

And, if you are lucky to win a contest like this one -

You will be a -

But don't be too happy yet because you may end up asking a question -

Ok, enough of fun and back to business.

BigCommerce brings the products from your catalog right into your facebook page! If you want to sell on Facebook, check out this application:

In short, everybody wants to ride this big boat called social commerce. It seems they all have a strategy, but somehow, it feels a big chaos.  Let us see which way the wind blows.

Have you  been bitten by the social commerce bug yet and want to go beyond? Are there more smarter ways  to engage your customers? More discussion on idea number 2 and 3 in the days to follow. You can get a notification when the next blog article is published by submitting the "Follow by email" form below.

Tags: Social commerce, sell on facebook, Ecommerce facebook twitter,  utilize facebook, social media, promote business on facebook.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Framing vision statement - Guide with some examples

This article spells out vision statement of some well known companies and details a step by step guide to form your own vision statement.

For any company, be it a large corporation or a startup, the vision statement is of great importance. It is like the light house on a dark night, the north star in difficult times. It is the few words that you just don't speak to your customers, but live and serve by it.

So, if you are starting a company and need help in framing a vision statement, here is a collection of visions statements from well known companies.

At Alcoa, our vision is to be the best company in the world--in the eyes of our customers, shareholders, communities and people. We expect and demand the best we have to offer by always keeping Alcoa's values top of mind.

Caterpillar - "Be the global leader in customer value."

Amazon - "Our vision is to be earth's most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online."

ICICI - "To be the preferred bank for total financial and banking solutions for both corporates and individuals."

Hero Honda - "A mobile and an empowered India, powered by Hero Honda."

Pfizer - "We will become the world's most valued company to patients, customers, colleagues, investors, business partners, and the communities where we work and live."

Sears  -  "To be the preferred and most trusted resource for the products and services that enhance home and family life."

So, when you are ready to craft a vision statement, start by:

Step 0.   This is not part of the process but Always keep your customers in mind while forming the vision statement.
Step 1. Getting a piece of paper and writing down few key words about your company's products and services. Ideally, 4-7 words are enough. Spend 15 - 20 minutes with your team on this.
Step 2. Next, think about where your company would be 15 - 20 years from now.
Step 3. How would your customers remember and think about your company?
Step 4: Combine the words realized in step 1 and 2 with phrases formed  in Step 3.
Step 5: Combine all the ingredients to create that perfect "Vision Statement".

Let us work with an example. Let us say, you are starting an online retailing business "" which deals in many product categories.

Step 1: Pick the words - shopping, destination, customers/guests.
Step 2: Think about the future - value, experience, innovation.
Step 3:  "I like shopping from", "Great value for money", "I am impressed with 's customer service".
Step 4:  "Preferred shopping destination", "Deliver outstanding value", "Great/Exceptional customer experience"

And finally, combine these phrases to form a coherent vision statement. So here we end up with something like this - "To make '' he preferred shopping destination for our customers by delivering outstanding value and an exceptional customer experience by  consistently fulfilling our 'Delighting you always' promise."

Hope this article helped you form a vision statement. Feel free to share your company's vision statements in the comments section below to help other budding entrepreneurs.

Good luck!

Tags: Visioin statement, creating vision statement, vision statement example, vision statement sample

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Opportunity: Help desk, customer support, support ticket system

If the idea is to support and engage on line customers, and you run an e-commerce (B2C) business, are there any good open source software to help you out?

A good solution will have these characteristics/features:
  • Customers can ask questions and the site owner can respond. 
  • A FAQ, report bug and "Thank you" section.
  • Business owner can make announcements. 
  • A Web 2.0 admin panel where business owner can administer the sections mentioned above.
  • Easily integrated with the main B2C website. 
  • Implementation/Integration with a ticketing system.
  • A dashboard
  • Hosted or downloaded software 
There are a few hosted (SaaS) solutions available like Zendesk, but there are some problems with such a solution like:
  • Vendor lock in. 
  • Vendor can increase the pricing; the good old ‘bait and switch’. Zendesk did it recently.
  • What happens to your data if the provider decides to shut down? 
There is an opportunity here to create a product that can fulfill these requirements and yet be reasonably priced.

Such a software would be an alternative to Zendesk/GetSatisfation/Uservoice. And if it is available under open source, that would be simply great. I will surely dedicate a blog for it!

Tags:  Open source, help desk, customer support, support ticket system

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Turn Traffic Jams Around

I am an avid follower of "The speaking tree" on Times of India (TOI). The quality and content of this newspaper has considerably gone down, but this section in TOI gives me lot of hope. I am sure others find it the same way.

Look at the graphs below. You must have seen them before. In two words, we can summarize them as "growth" and "decay". But of what? Decay of happiness and growth of negativity in our lives. For different people, the slope of the curve will be different, but the trend is common.

And then I read an article by Shri Nimishananda which gave a precise answer to this life's perennial problem. Excerpts from his writing:

"We are moving along with the current of our desires, our own goals, aims and agendas. We are constantly thinking of negative things, having a sense of fear unnecessarily and constantly expecting the worst to happen. Negativity and adversities are attracted by our negative state of being and they come and settle in us, making our mind a garbage bin.

Many a time we feel that everybody is victimizing us for no fault of ours, making us feel very pathetic and ordinary. Instead, when we don't unnecessarily assume and presume the above, we value and feel that life is precious, auspicious, esteemed and extra ordinary. Meditation brings about this awareness to make our life extra ordinary.

Even if you are caught in a traffic jam, relax and enjoy the respite from driving. Resolve that "I will now convert this traumatic situation into a blissful one". Then, evolve by chanting a mantra, singing a bhajan or praying for someone whom you think is suffering. Then, you convert an ordinary moment into an extra ordinary moment of presence of mind and wisdom.

So, rejuvenate and refresh your soul. Don't worry about the traffic ahead or behind. Till the traffic moves, you can not move anyway! So, just relax and use this time to touch your inner core; accept the traffic jam as being inevitable."

So,  what is important is to acknowledge and address it and finally invert the graphs above! Have a nice weekend!

How to Teach Physics to Your Dog

This is about the book "How to Teach Physics to Your Dog".

A guy named Chad Orzel with an interesting blog about physics wrote a book about teaching physics to your dog. He was asked about his book. The following conversation followed:

So, why do you talk to your dog about physics?
Lots of reasons, but the main one is that I'm a physics professor. Talking about physics is what I do. Sooner or later I talk to everybody about physics.

OK, but why the dog?
Talking to the dog about physics is worthwhile because it can help me see how to explain physics to my human students. Humans all come at the subject with the same set of preconceptions about how the world works, and what "should" happen, and it can be very hard to shake those off. That's a big barrier to understanding something like quantum physics.

Dogs look at the world in a very different way. To a dog, the world is a never ending source of wonder and amazement. You can walk your dog past the same rock every morning, and every morning, she'll sniff that rock like she's never sniffed it before. Dogs are surprised by things we take for granted, and they take in stride things that would leave us completely baffled.

Can you give an example?
Well, take the dog's bowl, for example. Every now and then, we put scraps from dinner in the bowl when she's not looking, and she's become convinced that her bowl is magic-- that tasty food just appears in it out of nowhere. She'll wander over a couple of times a day, and look just to see if anything good has turned up, even when we haven't been anywhere near the bowl in hours.

This puts her in a better position to understand quantum electrodynamics than many humans.

It does?
Sure. One of the most surprising features of QED, in Feynman's formulation, is the idea of "virtual particles." You have an electron that's moving along, minding its own business, and every now and then, particle-antiparticle pairs just pop into existence for a very short time. They don't stick around very long, but they have a real and measurable influence on the way electrons interact with each other, and with other particles.

You're making this up, right?
No, not at all. One set of these interactions is described by a number called the "g-factor" of the electron, and this has been measured to something like fifteen decimal places, and the experimental measurement agrees perfectly with the theoretical prediction. If there weren't electrons and positrons popping out of nowhere, there's no way you could get that sort of agreement.

So, what's this have to do with the dog?
Well, like I said, the dog is perfectly comfortable with the idea of stuff popping into existence out of nowhere. If a great big steak were to suddenly appear on your dining room table, you'd probably be a little perturbed. The dog, on the other hand, would feel it was nothing more than her due.

So she's perfectly ok with the idea of virtual particles, unlike most humans, who tend to say things like "You're making this up, right?" She was already convinced that there were bunnies made of cheese popping in and out of the backyard, and just regards QED as a solid theoretical justification for her beliefs.

So that's why people should teach quantum physics to their dogs?
Exactly. Also, it's just about the coolest thing ever.

Hope you enjoyed the conversation!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The 'New' Internet & Mobile Association of India website

Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI)

I have been using this website for few years because they have good reports on Internet usage in India. Till few days back, I could download a report without any hassle.

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to see their revamped website but more so when the website asked me to login. Filling a long form, I registered, but then to my dismay, I saw this line on the "Reports" page -

"All the reports which are more than 15 days old are available on nominal payment as mentioned against each report."

With a small hiccup, I decided to click on the report "Digital Commerce: March 2011". The next page advised me - "To download file Pay Rs. 2206.00!!"

Wow, I could not believe this. AFAIK, these reports are sponsored reports and have been available for free for the last few years. I absolutely hated this. I tried to download a 2010 report titled "Mafoi Survey" and even that report was priced at Rs 2206! A 2008 "I Cube report" was also available at the same price.

I really don't understand this. First of all, is the new IAMAI website only for corporates who can pay this 'nominal' amount? Why was a nominal fee put in place? If I am a student doing a research in this space, how is this 'nominal price' going to help me? Why are all the reports available for this magic price of Rs 2206? Why is their no decay in price for old reports?

My suggestion is that the reports should be priced for corporates. For individuals, it should be free.

The website still has some errors on the homepage, some UI and some javascript errors, loads slow and looks a beta website. But I am willing to overlook, if I get access to the reports for free.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Interesting Facts - Amazon’s Hidden Empire

I came across this interesting article about Amazon. It is worth a view!

Although, all the latest buzz on the web is mostly around Google, Facebook, Groupon and the new age apps that have gained quick popularity but one of the oldest players of the web, Amazon is a giant that not many would have noticed. Amazon’s businesses are spread across retailing, devices, content, analytics, hosting and many more. Here’s an interesting slide deck on Amazon’s Hidden Empire.