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The Future of Ecommerce is Knowing All About You  

:: Wednesday, March 23, 2005 ::

Some time back I wrote an article about what's been bothering me about ecommerce and its lack of creativity and ability to convert past the same old ways. We're still learning how to sell online, how to persuade buyers to purchase and how to track and measure results.

I continue to have these nagging feelings, as if I know design can be better for customer service online, but not knowing exactly how to make it so.

I'm not alone.

Creative Good's Mark Hurst talks about it in Some Business Effects of Customer Experience
"One of the most common questions I get about customer experience is how to see its results within the organization. Sure, the stakeholders have bought into the concept - focus on the customer! But how will the team know when it's succeeding?

An article, which he refers to, is fantastic. It's discussing what I've been feeling restless about. And, it reminded me of some questions I've also had.

E-Commerce Gets Smarter by Robert Buderi

One fascinating example:
"On any given day, somewhere between backpacks and winter socks, a man and a woman who are soon to be married will be roaming the aisles. One will be carrying a handheld device about the size of a cell phone and pointing it at something he or she likes. The device is an infrared reader: push a button, and a laser beam reads the bar code of the targeted item. When the reader is synched with a specially equipped cash register, the item is added, instantly, to the couple’s online REI gift registry. Eric Thorson, operations manager at the store, smiles when he thinks about the couples he’s seen. “We have one scanner per couple, and we’ll have the future wife run upstairs to women’s clothing, and [the groom] wants to be downstairs in the climbing department picking out an ice axe,” he says. “It’s almost like it becomes the ultimate shopping adventure for the two of them rather than thinking about what would be a practical wedding gift.” The scanner can record some 300 items, but, Thorson notes, “I’ve seen scanners come back that we have to upload and send back out because they filled the memory.”

It may seem strange, but those couples traversing the aisles—downloading, uploading, and somehow fusing in-store interactions with website maintenance—are the future of e-commerce. Other retailers provide similar scanners, but the resulting Web registries must be manually ­updated. REI is one of those making e-commerce far more interactive—automating updates and using the Web to make registries available to all its stores and business channels."

The article is talking about ecommerce site procedures for companies that have both a web site and physical store.

Another quote from the article:
"Some of what customers want can be deduced from their activity alone, but when a store can get people to willingly tell it what they are seeking, its returns can be even better.

This is in line with what search engines are saying they're also doing. What we're going to be seeing more of, in the future, is the emphasis on personalizing the visitor experience, whether it be for search or purchase, or for that matter, the browsing experience once someone lands on a web site or is walking around the store.

Online applications that are programmed to be more intuitive are in demand, but I'm not sure how the general public feels about customizing the online experience. For example, the public are leery of toolbars that suck up private information, cookies, spyware, and so called "innocent" software that's really watching your every move quietly in the background.

The news in the US lately has been talking about how hacking is no longer about the ego or bragging rights. It's about money, and who can get it, by robbing people via hacking and privacy invasion.

How does ecommerece stand to progress when it also seems like there's this undercurrent of foul play?

Are you excited about customization for your own experience, and/or that of your online customers?

Have you tried anything that works to increase sales...any surprises or lessons to share?

Discussion

:: posted by Kim Krause Berg on 3/23/2005 02:53:00 PM

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