Friday, 14 December 2012

ECMOD plays host to tech and social innovations

One of the main themes to come out of last month’s ECMOD Direct Commerce show was the importance of technology and this was clearly evident on the exhibition floor with the likes of software services firm Omnica, shopping cart software specialist Etail Systems and business management software company Brightpearl all showing off their latest technologies.

One piece of news to be confirmed during the show came from digital asset management specialist Aproove, which announced a partnership with marketing services company Brightsource to help improve its print management and marketing services. Brightsource implemented Aproove’s instant artwork approval tool to reduce the bottlenecks that come from managing client's work.

Some more news from the floor came in the shape of transactional data expert Abacus, which launched a new data cleaning and suppression service, DataCleanse, at the show. The new tool cleans data, merges duplicate records, updates records for customers who have moved house and removes deceased individuals or companies no-longer trading as well as flags customers who have requested not to be contacted, through the mail and telephone preference services.

There were also some very eye catching promotions on the exhibition floor from exhibitorsHavas EHS, which hit the sweet spot by giving away candy to visitors, and the Metakineticteam, who were offering free popcorn on their stand, while the Specialist Works took the crown for “smartest” giveaway with its brain stress ball.

Back onto the technology theme, some of the conference sessions stressed the importance of innovating through new channels. In the Future of TV Shopping session, Richard Burrell, director of European market development at QVC, said new technology is an “opportunity not a threat”. For example, at QVC, smartphones are now the fastest growing channel with customers watching a segment on their mobile phones and buying on the web.

Social media was a hot topic too. In a session titled “B2B: Building Customer Loyalty”, social media and mobile were heralded as the leading force in the future of b-to-b. Guy Magrath, global head of ecommerce at Electrocomponents, said that with around “75 percent” of the population estimated to own a smartphone in the future, mobile will be “the way forward”. He added that mobile “will be big in b-to-b and the b-to-c environment”.  Richard Askam, founder and managing director at Intervino, also believes social media will be big and says “people used to go into a pub to talk, but now you go into social media.”

Chloe Thomas, the author of eCommerce MasterPlan, and Martin Harvey, the founder of direct marketing performance management firm Harvey2, in their session “Does social media have a valid role in ecommerce?” explained the importance of adding social media to your website and used the example of Firebox, which displays Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and email buttons on its product pages, as well as a customer rating option.

Lucy Jewson, the founder of Frugi, speaking in a panel session on the second day of the show echoed their comments. She said Frugi uses social media to ask customers about business decisions. Frugi has launched “a secret Facebook group” where a customer can become a “crusader” for the retailer. The childrenswear brand asks these crusaders to look at new designs and give their feedback as well as getting them to trial potential new products.

Another topic to come out of the conference sessions was the importance of communicating with customers. In the session“B2B: Building Customer Loyalty” Charles Barnett, managing director at Lyco, stressed that “communication is absolutely key” when building customer loyalty—for example explaining to a customer ahead of time that a delivery may be late. The session’s chairman Steve Bright added that companies need to “take ownership of a problem” and then follow that problem through to solution.

In another session called “Helping Santa Retire”, Tom Allason of Shutl highlighted the importance of feedback and how a business can use communication to its benefit. He explained how Shutl used communication to gain responses, such as asking your customers where they heard of you and what you can do to improve. This type of communication enables your business to get vital feedback from customers about how you can enhance your service and which social channels are working for you.--JD

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