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It occurred to me that amongst the Econsultancy blog team we certainly have our favourite companies as far as digital ambition and execution are concerned.
So I'm simply going to round up some companies that have done good things on this front and see if our readers get annoyed by any omissions or, indeed, inclusions.
So, here are 18 digital trailblazers. A lot of them are involved solely in ecommerce but not all of them.
N.B. I've deliberately excluded agencies and what I think of as tech companies, though that distinction is a little difficult to make in some areas.
They came, they bought, they went away and never came back.
You've driven a customer to your site with an effective paid search campaign, you've kept their attention with some beautifully persuasive design and a first class user experience.
Then by making the checkout as hassle free as possible and by offering them free shipping and a terrific returns policy you've given them an exemplary ecommerce experience... Fantastic work! Now you can go home early and watch Adventure Time.
But wait! How do you encourage your customers to come back? How do you use the goodwill fostered during that first experience into something even more meaningful?
Alright you don't have to go off and buy a boat together, but it would be great if they popped their head round the door every so often in the future. After all retention costs far less than acquisition and achieving higher customer lifetime value makes your business a much stronger prospect for the future.
The US online fashion retailer makes a rather bold statement in the about section of its website.
“Customer service isn’t just a department!” The entire organisation is built around one sole mission: to provide the best customer service possible.
A lot of brands may say that customer experience is at the core of their strategy, but how many follow through with this statement in practice?
Graham Charlton discussed what Zappos could teach us about staff and customer retention last month. It’s largely about making the working environment as happy as possible through plenty of staff recognition, trust, responsibility and plenty of perks.
For the customer it means ‘delivering a WOW philosophy’ through excellent service, customer focused metrics, surprising people through under-promising and over-delivering and remaining ever personal.
So Zappos delivers ‘happiness’ for its employees and for its website customers. How about its social channels? Given Zappos focus on customer service, does this extend to the channels where more and more consumers are expecting interaction from brands?
Founded in 1999 and acquired by Amazon in 2009, Zappos has long been admired for its attitude to staff and customers.
This focus is all about retention of customers and staff. And it saves the company a fortune on marketing and recruitment.
Indeed, Zappos can boast customer retention rates of 75%, while staff rates are 85%, figures not many other firms can match.
Companies are often more focused on acquisition than retention, but Zappos has turned this on its head, looking to market itself through quality of service.
It's worked too, with Zappos reaching $1bn in annual sales before the Amazon acquisition.
Here are just a few lessons that can be applied to other businesses...
In order to improve conversion rates and limit the number of returns, ecommerce sites need to provide customers with as much information as possible about the products on offer.
While this can be achieved through the use of copywriting, images and user reviews, videos are potentially the most effective way of demonstrating a product to the customer.
I recently blogged six examples of retailers that used product videos to improve conversion rates, and we’ve also looked at best practice tips for product pages.
But the use of video isn’t limited to just displaying products. There are a number of different ways that ecommerce sites can use video to inform and educate their customers.
So here are eight different ways that video can be used in ecommerce...
Product videos are a great way to improve conversion rates online as they reassure the customer by helping them make an informed purchase decision.
One of the main problem with ecommerce is that you can’t hold the product in your hands before you buy it, which is why offering free returns is such a great selling point.
But video is also a great way to limit the impact of returns, as it gives customers a full view 360 degree of the product.
With this in mind, here’s a round up of some stats showing how product videos have improved conversion rates for six online retailers...
Innovation. It's brought up in articles, at conferences and in board meetings. But how can we innovate in companies that still don't have the flexibility or the right mind set?
Julie Cottineau, former VP of Brand for Virgin USA, brought the idea that we are all entrepreneurs to Columbia University's Brite Conference this morning. Innovation isn't just for new businesses so how do we bring it to the heart of an established company?
Online footwear retailer Zappos has today launched an iPad app called Zappos Now, presented in the form of a digital lifestyle magazine.
It will be updated monthly, and allow users to shop directly from the app with free next business day shipping with no minimum order value.
Quick: what are some of the best way to acquire loyal customers? If you look around online, you might draw the conclusion that providing discounts makes the list.
Billions upon billions of dollars worth of coupons are distributed by brands each year, and increasingly couponing is moving to the web, where bargain-loving consumers have more power than ever to seek out the very best deals available.
In June, YouTube announced that it had hit the 3bn views per day milestone and was receiving 48 hours of new video per minute, while Garner listed online video as one of the top ten strategic technologies for 2011.
But in the staggering jungle that is online video, what can US brands do to make sure their content and distribution plans work together as an effective strategy?
Here are my top five tips...
The internet has minted a fair share of millionaires. More than a handful have made those millions buying and selling desirable domain names. Starting with the sale of business.com for $7.5m in 1999, over the years many domains have changed hands for sizable amounts -- six, seven and even eight figures.
That's not exactly surprising: domains have been likened to real estate, and when it comes to building a brick-and-mortar business, it's all about location, location, location.
Zappos knows what you did last summer. Or maybe what you did last time you were on the Zappos website. The shoe seller is just one of many companies that tracks customer activity online to serve more relevant advertising.
Such tools have has the ability to make product searches much easier online. But they also creep some people out. And behavioral targeters need to figure out the difference before regulators really start paying attention.