In this three part article, we've been looking at alternative approaches to formulating e-commerce strategy. Congratulations to you if you've read this far!

In previous articles we've looked at Goodwill & Utility, so in this article we look at the final approach, Innovation.

Increasing Innovation

Let's start our journey into innovation by examining the types of assets a business can have. They are:

The Asset Matrix - assets move counter-clockwiseEntry Assets. The basic requirements to enter your industry. A website to take orders, a delivery mechanism, a way of taking payment.

Short Term Valuable Assets. Assets that you "compete" with - however because they can be imitated, they don't stay valuable for long.

Strategic Assets. What's unique about your business, your USP's. In the meatspace, think of things like Zara's spin-on-a-dime production and distribution model. It could be tangible things like a patent you have, but it's rarely something capital (since capital assets can be easily replicated).

Asymmetric Assets. The weird things. The assets unique to your business that you haven't figured out the value of yet.

What we're interested in here, is innovating by creating a strategic asset.

What defines an innovative strategic asset? Well, have a look at Oren Harari's EMBER model.

I'm not going to recreate it here, go read it lazy!

As you would have noticed from the graphic, assets can change their type. How does this happen?

Replication. Your competitors figure out how to replicate your assets
Mutilation. You mess with your strategic assets and they no longer become of use
Redundancy. You identify asymmetries that have no potential for use, and remove them from the business.
Homogenisation. Assets become so ubiquitous, they are considered part of the requirement to entry.

And the most important move....

Value Identification. You realise the potential of an asymmetric asset to become a strategic one, and invest in it.

Give me an example here!

Well, in the case of Wiltshire Farm Foods, we had two asymmetric assets that we invested in to become strategic assets.

1) Since we produce everything we sell, we had a mine of nutritional information about each dish. We then realised the value of publishing this information online, in a searchable form.

Catalogue numbers - make use of them!

2) We are, primarily a Catalogue business. Being a catalogue business seems like an oddity, until you realise that your visitors are likely to have a list of your products in front of them, and as such they don't need to browse the site. In fact, they probably already know what they wish to buy!

In this case we developed a number of ways to assist these customers. From a simple "enter the meal number" option in our navigation, through to an entire mini-site dedicated to catalogue ordering.

Email Marketing with Tag Clouds

And in non-food land?

Well, say for example you run a fashion website, let's call it, say,

You have a vast number of engaged, passionate visitors who live and breathe your site. They love your clothes, they consider you great value, and they adore your brand.

But you don't know what to do with them. They are an asymmetric asset.

What you have here, is a large, untapped resource. Put them to work! A lot of sites could benefit from a Mechancial Turk.

In the mock-up on the left, is an example of an email I could receive from after abandoning my basket before purchasing, where the item has since gone out of stock. Having a community of users describe the products you sell can quickly create ( with moderation of course ) a large cloud of tags that you can use to drive the recommendations in your email marketing.

Turns out I might get a nice military style cardigan after all.

So that's it! Well done for reading all this, no, really. Can you believe this started out as a single post?

So this year, you don't have to constrain yourself to the traditional methods of working out your e-commerce strategy. When you're working on your next project, as yourself the three questions:

Will it increase Goodwill?
Will it increase Utility?
Will it increase Innovation?

Now, remember to leave a comment. Preferably of the Warm Fuzzy kind...

Matthew Curry

Published 21 January, 2010 by Matthew Curry

Matt Curry is Head of E-commerce for online sex toy retailer LoveHoney. He spends a lot of time working on user experience and customer satisfaction is his highest priority. He frequently has to be penetration tested. You can follow him on Twitter, although he does often talk about dildos. He also has a LinkedIn profile, where he has to act professional.

19 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (11)

Save or Cancel

Ned Wells

Thanks Matt. I've really enjoyed reading your aticles. Good job!

over 8 years ago


Mike Jessop

The Whilstshire Farm Foods site seems to have products in different categories, creating duplicate content. As far as I'm aware thats very bad for SEO i.e. a chicken pie is in Chicken results, diabetic results, low salt results etc with a different URL therefore a healthy meal maybe suitable for many categories but have several different URLs displaying the same content?

Please get in touch


over 8 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Hi Mike, indeed, it's something of a hot topic. 

On one side I have seo guys saying "oh you can't have things in more than one category, that's duplicate content"

On the other side I have ME saying "but I want to maximise visibility of my products, so limiting them to one category for the sake of SEO is insane troll logic"

We've come to a compromise now by having a system that lets me set a canonical on the "main range" that a product belongs to, which'll take me a whilst to do but should appease Google.

Although to be honest, I live to serve my customers, not Google.

over 8 years ago


Robin G

These are great articles - rare to find such good quality strategic and tactical detail online - nice job. Keep them coming pls.

over 8 years ago


Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

Hi Matthew, nice set of posts - nicely penned and insightful too, in a bite-sized way.

Most enjoyable, thanks.

over 8 years ago


veiko herne

I don't know where some SEO guys take that allowing same content to appear from different URL's is something that Google doesn't like?

If that's true, no blog running on Wordpress can't be high on SERP. Using Wordpress, you will get same content available from permanent URL, by categories and by tags.

As far I have met, some 80% of SEO guys are just bullshitting false information.

over 8 years ago



don't know where some SEO guys take that allowing same content to appear from different URL's is something that Google doesn't

over 8 years ago



don't know where some SEO guys take that allowing same content

over 8 years ago


شات الحب

don't know where some SEO guys take that allowing same content to appear from different URL's is something that Google doesn't

about 7 years ago



don't know where some SEO guys take that allowing same content to appear from different URL's is something that Google doesn't

about 7 years ago



I've seen these kinds of emails that are triggered by cart abandonment. West Elm does them with a message like... "Care to take a second look at the Blah Blah table". Any idea what service does this? is it part of a cart system? Or a third party email application? I would love to be able to implement something like this for a client. Loved the article and sent it out to Twitter etc. Thanks!

about 6 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.