Monday, 26 September 2011

Four lessons to learn from mobile email

Although our Direct Commerce Buzz newsletter, covering appointment news, client wins and the latest stats, has only been in existence for a couple of months, in that time we’ve been inundated with research into mobile commerce. From the findings that 87 percent of retailers believe mobile commerce will impact shopping in the next two years, but only 16 percent have a mobile strategy in place, to another study that says 11 percent of smartphone owners now shop online via a mobile device on a weekly basis, to the news that 16 percent of emails are viewed on a mobile.

With that in mind, I decided to carry out my own bit of research. I looked several emails I'd received to see how well they render on an iPhone and what lessons could be learned.

Lesson 1: The alternative view
Homeware and apparel cataloguer Orvis realised its email was best viewed on a webmail or desktop device, rather than on a mobile (see below). To help the smartphone user get the most from the email, Orvis included a link to view a mobile version of the email. Unfortunately, the theory was better than the practice.

When I clicked on the “view mobile version” link within the Orvis email I was presented with a text-based page inviting me to add Orvis to my address book, but there was no mention of the other offers. By all means strip down the email so that it loads more quickly, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater (below).

Lesson 2: The landing page

The Holding Company, a marketer of home storage solutions, did much better. The email fit within my iPhone’s screen and was simple to navigate. I had just three choices: “up to 50% off sale”, “interdesign 50% off” and “multibuy savings”. The buttons were big enough that I could click on them without having to magnify the screen. So far so good.

Where The Holding Company let me down was in the landing page. While its email was clutter-free, the same couldn’t be said for the page I was directed to after clicking “multibuy savings”. A lot of pinching and scrolling was involved to see everything on the page. You know the adage, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”, that’s true for the landing page, so think about it from all angles.

Lesson 3: The fiddly discount code
Entertainment products etailer The Hut did nearly everything right. Although the email was not optimised for mobile, it was still easy to navigate and work out the gist—I haven’t shopped for a while, here’s 10 percent off. The landing page was optimised for mobiles and getting to my desired item was easy.

Armed with my code I was ready to shop. Locating the discount box was stress-free and entering the code would have been easy too, were it not for the fact it is a 14-digit code (12 numbers, 2 dashes). Thank heavens for copy and paste. If possible, think about using more mobile-friendly codes.

Lesson 4: Beware the partial download
If there’s an email in my inbox that doesn’t get read, it’s the email which has only partially downloaded. Take this email from Tesco, for example, it has an enticing subject line: “15% off when you pre-order Harry Potter + £20 off any TomTom sat nav!”, but I’m guessing too many images in this email made my iPhone give up trying to download it all in one go.
When I clicked to download the rest of the message it took nine “flicks” to finally get to the bottom of the email. Perhaps Tesco should consider a “view this on your mobile” option? In any case, if I received this email and I wasn’t connected to Wi-Fi, there’s no way I would spend my 3G allowance on it. You’d have to have a very special bond with a customer to persuade them to spend their money just to open your emails.--MT

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Suppliers overcharging small businesses by £3.6 billion

If you’re an online retail start-up, establishing a good relationship with your suppliers early on is key. A good supplier can often become more like a partner, advising on the services best suited to your needs and helping out when you need it most. You may not have the clout of Amazon or Tesco, but you should still demand a stellar service from all your vendors.

Not all suppliers, it seems, have their clients’ best interests at heart. Small businesses are being overcharged by more than £3.6 billion by “greedy suppliers”, according to a survey produced by b-to-b group-buying website

The research found that businesses with fewer than 10 staff are paying up to three times more for goods and services than larger companies.

Huddlebuy found that small firms ranging from information and communication firms to construction companies are spending £1,285 more than they need to, with some spending up to £4,000 too much.

Small businesses are paying more than double what they should on a range of everyday services and in some cases are missing out on discounts of 70 percent, according to the study, which also highlighted sole traders, freelancers and consultants are being overcharged £2.17 billion a year, which is an average of £969 each per year.

Businesses in the London and South East best beware, as the study shows they are being overcharged by £1.3 billion a year, with other businesses in the East of England (£390 million) and the North West (£368 million) also being rip-off hotspots.

The Huddlebuy survey says that the professional business services sector is the worst culprit for overcharging small companies (£1.4 billion annually), while the property sector overcharged small companies the least (£120 million annually).

Saurav Chopra, chief executive at Huddlebuy, says, “The results of this research are simply shocking. Small businesses fighting desperately to survive in harsh economic times are being ripped off by greedy suppliers, whilst big businesses enjoy huge savings from their favoured suppliers.”

This doesn’t have to be the case. Direct Commerce is once again proud to support the ECMOD Supplier of the Year Awards. These awards, held annually during the ECMOD Direct Commerce Show (30th November to 1st December), recognise the hard work and effort suppliers to the direct commerce sector put into securing the success of their clients. This year, cataloguers and online retailers are invited to nominate those suppliers who have gone the extra mile in up to 14 categories, including a new Lifetime Achievement Award.

The beauty of these awards is that the winners are chosen by their clients, not by a judging panel far removed from the coalface. Show your support by voting. It's absolutely free to nominate your chosen suppliers; all you need to do is download the official form (, complete it and return it by Friday, 7th October 2011--JD

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Best of Direct Commerce--September 2011

This month in Direct Commerce...

The September issue of Direct Commerce lands on desks this week, if you’re a subscriber, here’s what you can expect:

A Focus on M-Commerce—including advice on preparing a mobile strategy, considerations regarding mobile payments and fraud, best-practice ideas for mobile site optimisation, and much more

Because Print Works—introducing our campaign recognising the business-building power of print in today’s direct commerce world, plus a guide to producing your first catalogue.

Website Review—our contributor assesses the website of baby-gifts seller Born Gifted

Q&A With...—we talk to Aaron Chatterley of about the company’s recent growth and where it’s heading

Plus: the latest industry news, a beginner's guide to catalogue production, tips on how to love your customers, and more.

The only way to read Direct Commerce from cover to cover each month is to subscribe. A one-year subscription also gives you full access to the website and an archive of past issues. To have the print edition of Direct Commerce magazine delivered to you, or to set up an online-only subscription, visit

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

ECMOD Direct Commerce Conference

Now in its 21st year, the ECMOD Direct Commerce Conference 2011 will feature top US speakers as well as home-grown talent. Taking place at the Business Design Centre in London on 30th November and 1st December, the multitrack conference covers a vast range of topics geared to helping direct sellers from all sectors optimise business performance.

US ecommerce guru Amy Africa returns to ECMOD this year to lead a session titled 40 website must dos on 30th November. While the following day, fellow Americans Dan Lowden of mobile commerce specialist Digby and Direct Commerce contributor and systems expert Ernie Schell will discuss making mobile work for multichannel.

Among the UK speakers, Peter Harris takes to the stage to tell the Hotel Chocolat story and respected UK entrepreneurs including Dwell’s Aamir Ahmad, Worldstores’ Joe Murray, Charles Tyrwhitt founder Nick Wheeler and Scotts & Co chairman Nigel Swabey, among others, will talk business growth in the Gallery Hall—a theatre-style space within the Business Design Centre capable of seating 600 delegates. 

Check out also the Digital Leaders track for the latest on emerging technologies. Sessions include maximising online ROI, led by Matt Curry of Lovehoney and Amberlight’s Jeremy Swinfen Green; Geoffrey Barraclough of BT Expedite, Will Dymott of Lyle & Scott and Mick Rigby of Yodel Mobile on m-commerce and Andrew Copeland of Webgains on behavioural retargeting on performance metrics. And don’t miss Facebook’s session on social commerce.

There’s plenty also on offline techniques, including profit by design, hosted by catalogue design specialists Tony Adams of TA Design and Ian Simpson of Catalogues 4 Business; the secrets of success in TV Shopping led by Mike Hancox of Ideal Shopping Direct, Pete Mills of The Broadcast House and Stuart Paver of shoe retailer Pavers. On back-end processes, Direct Tech’s Joe Palzkill will discuss optimising inventory.

In addition to a new venue, this year’s ECMOD is colocated with Data Driven Business Week’s exhibition and Conversion Conference, eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and Predictive Analytics World conferences. A specially designated zone of the ECMOD Direct Commerce exhibition floor will feature Data Driven Business Week sponsors and exhibitors—providing added value to delegates and visitors. The exhibition is, once again, free-to-attend and visitors can preregister by visiting

When: 30th Nov – 1st Dec 2011
Where: The Business Design Centre, Islington, London

August Catalogue Log

This September, Direct Commerce launches its new Because Print Works initiative. The campaign’s aim is to ensure that print catalogues, inserts, press and magazine advertising and customer magazines get the full attention and credit they deserve as vital components in the marketing mix for successful multichannel businesses. Happily, to coincide with the launch, last month’s catalogue volume was the highest it’s been for the month of August since we began writing the Catalogue Log.

Offers promoted on August covers
We received 87 catalogues last month, compared with 61 catalogues in August 2010, and 71 catalogues in August 2009. The reason for this uplift? I’ve noticed that in August cataloguers sent a sale catalogue and a new-season mailing. Lakeland, for example mailed a gardening-themed sale catalogue and its 128-page Autumn book, a similar tactic was employed by The White Company and Museum Selection.
Another strategy was to supplement a mailing with inserts in the national press, something Thompson & Morgan did last month. Or to send catalogues in product despatch. I received the main Nisbets catering equipment catalogue in the post, and then received a sale minicatalogue with my order—a pair of tough kitchen scissors, if you’re wondering.  I also liked Dwell’s strategy to send its main furniture catalogue and complement it with the smaller “Decor” title, showcasing its range of home accessories.

Dwell Decor

Also noteworthy was that even with the additional volume the sale and minicatalogues provided, 40 percent of all catalogue covers in August did not make any mention of a special offer. Compare that with July, when the figure was just 31 percent out of 64 catalogues. Of the catalogues that did promote a deal on their covers, a sale or discount was the most popular promotion. Offered by 39 catalogues, or 44.8 percent, discounts ranged from Argos’s “less than half-price” offers on student essentials to Dell’s “save up to £520 on selected systems”. My favourite offer was a Sunday Times insert from Boden, which offered readers 15 percent off, free delivery and returns and a free wash bag for new customers. Regular Catalogue Log readers will remember Boden did the same this time last year and the year before.


No prizes for guessing that the next most popular special offer was free delivery, now commonly teamed with free returns. Promoted on 18.4 percent of the covers we tracked, free shipping was marginally less popular in August than in July (21.9 percent) and appreciably less than in August 2010 (23 percent).  To curb the costs of offering free delivery, many of the cataloguers arriving in our offices offered it over a certain threshold—apparel catalogue M and M Direct, for example, set a £50 minimum order value, while charity catalogue Traidcraft only required customers to spend £15 to qualify for free delivery. At Prelude, the Scotts & Co/Alexon catalogue, customers could enjoy free shipping if they order before 23rd September, a trick to encouraging an early influx of sales.

In contrast, free gifts were more popular in August than they had been in July. In fact, it was the highest figure we’ve noted since April. The offer was promoted on 14.9 percent of catalogue covers, predominantly by gardening and b-to-b mailers such as Van Meuwen, Spalding, Rajapack, and promotional products catalogue IGO Post, which gave customers the choice of a free gift or a £75 discount. Other catalogues touting a free gift were Cotton Traders (a free roll neck with a jacket), Healthy Living Direct (multifunction pocket tool and “two surprise gifts”) and JML, which offered me a free super slicer worth £9.99, if I spend more than £50.
On a side note, we also received our first Christmas catalogues in August—from Findel’s 24Studio and N Brown’s The Brilliant Gift Shop. Interestingly, both these catalogues offer customers the choice to buy on credit. They mail early presumably to encourage customers to spread the cost over the next four months.  Whether “cash-with-order” catalogues will follow suit with early mailings remains to be seen; as we all know, Christmas is getting later every year…--MT