SEOdamian's Blog

Helping others understand & share about technology, search

Will Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Still Matter in 2017?

 

Google has changed its algorithm to four (PPC) pay per click ad’s for some SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) back in February 2016. Some wondered at the time about the SEO impact. The result has been a reduction in available ad space by removing the right side ads. This has led to increased pay per click inflation rates. This has increased the urgency to rank for those that understand the business impacts.

The other day, I spoke with David Dalka of Fearless Revival about this issue. He stated, “With pay per click inflation on the rise, SEO matters more than ever. SEO can have profound positive cashflow effects over time. It is important that Chief Financial Officers and Chief Executive Officers need to understand these concepts to manage marketing effectively. They can then manage their marketing teams to the right success metrics.” David brings up a good point. Digital marketing channels have distinct business and P&L (Profit and Loss) impacts.

SEO will continue to matter in 2017. Some of the reasons it will be significant:

So yes, SEO will continue to matter in 2017. Google has been reinventing itself to provide relevant experiences on mobile phones. But, at the same time, management teams need to move away from using only technical SEO. They need SEO that focuses on the customer and brings relevant monetizable traffic. Web traffic that can be tracked on the P&L sheet. To do this, the role of the CMO needs to be reconsidered. Questions? Contact me to discuss.

 

August 29, 2016 Posted by | Social Media | Leave a comment

Data vs. Information, Same Thing Right?

In the ever changing world we live in, I notice that the distinction between data and information is often blurred. One of my recent projects was to focus on helping a scientific research institute create greater results by moving its data from a collection of facts to actionable steps. As we started to determine some processes internally, here are some aha points we came across:

  • Data is ‘raw’ and needs interpretation. Individual ‘bits’ of data provide no insight without context. What are the conditions of the situation that the data was collected, is it reproducible, when conditions change how will other data change and more.
  • Information is interpreted. Data with some quantity and context allows for information to be interpreted.
  • Information needs to be something that can be acted upon. Collecting enough data and adding enough interpretation allows data to mature into information. Information is the beginning of something that can be acted on.

We developed a process for converting Data to Information

  • Collection of individual points. These need a process to understand what the conditions where when the collection occurred.

 

  • Data is a grouping and aligning the collection TaosGS2013in a meaningful way (think rows and columns) to allow for looking at it. This is when notebooks become charts. When it is important to list your units (especially if you are working in a team) and specifics. When you list a time is that UTC or headquarters time or agency time? When you count sales is that in USD or local currency? Are you listing every transaction or just completed sales or completed sales and returns within 7 days

 

  • Analysis – once individual points are Social_Network_Analysis_Visualizationorganized enough to call it data, it is time to start to review and determine some core issues. What is the correct scale to measure, What data should be tossed out (150degree room temperature may be an error when it was 50degrees yesterday and the day before), What data is missing (what is the outside temperature relative to inside temperature?

 

  • Interpretation – What are the trends, Lle_hlle_swissrollWhat should we measure next, what data is missing, what conclusions can be drawn, what suspected ideas can be seen. Typically it is the ideas, theories and hypothesis that are real at this point, but in the business world, they are often listed as conclusions. Business will label them conclusions because they ‘were true’ at the time with the given data. Science would still label them ideas.

 

  • Sharing – Taking these ideas and converting them into a presentable format. Tables, sparkline_twittercharts and slides. Here you are purposefully slanting the data to show your conclusions but with enough footnotes that others can question your conclusions. The tools and best practices here continual to evolve at a rapid rate. But it becomes a fine balance between over geeking and stripping any real information out at this point and just showing the conclusions without the data behind it. Edward Tufte has moved this aspect of data communication vastly forward.

 

  • Discussion – Now the collection of individual points have been aligned, reviewed and presented. But your may not be perfect, so time to start reviewing with others. What was missed, what was ignored, what is the ‘truth’ behind  the data points.

 

  • Process – Great data, nice interpretationrefineryflow but So What? This step is where we take the conclusions that were discussed and use that in future work. Whether it is ‘when it is going to be hot outside, turn the AC on earlier’ to ‘when there is a festival, start selling T-Shirts with the band names 2 weeks before the concert’ or 94 days before Christmas hire 5 new shipping clerks so they are full up to speed before the mad rush happens.

 

  • Implementation – Once we define the process, there are many steps on how to implement that process. That is where data has become Actionable Information (and hopefully increased profits).

 

So no, Data is not information. Data leads to information. Data is only the 2nd step towards being able to have real information. And that is just part of the journey to the implementation of that information.

Hopefully, you found this information informative…

November 5, 2015 Posted by | How To, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Monetate – A Multivariate Platform for Ecommerce

IRCE 2012 log 8th annual Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition, by far the world’s largest e-commerce event,

held at Chicago’s McCormick Place West on June 5-8, 2012

One of the great parts of a trade show is being able to quickly see trends. You can see what companies are going after similar markets. You can see what companies are just getting starting in meeting a customer’s need and who is well along the development cycle. Internet Retailer-2012 gave me another chance to see an industry developing. Monetate is a single company represents new trends multivariate

Monetate is a single company represents new trends multivariate ecommerce platform optimization.

At IRCE 2012 (Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition) at Chicago’s McCormick Place this week, I was able to how the cost of computing continually dropping is affecting how we merchandise (1st on line, but you know the wisdom will be carried to bricks and mortar stores as well).

One of the booths I got to see was Monetate. What stood out for me was how much computing is being done in real time  and in an anticipatory fashion. In essence,

monetate's logo of a human puzzle piece and the name monetate registered trademark

Monetate from Pennsylvania

they are taking your shopping cart system (which may in all likelihood is probably a very large collection of SKU’s, Descriptions, media assets) and creating variations of it for all sorts of testing. They can test –  by what city you come from, or if it is raining today. They can test or present –  based on your past history with you, or how close you are to a Walmart. They can even handle compound testing: if you are a repeat customer on a rainy day, in a media market that is inexpensive, and there is a festival this weekend in town.

Watching the monetate’s demo and remembering their presentations, I am reminded of when I used to run scenario’s and forget to limit the sample size to ‘reasonable

Mainframe days when computing cycles were expensive and measured for chargeback to departments

When computing cycles were expensive

number’.  I would get my manager bringing my report the next day, He would show me the chargeback cost (in the mainframe days) that exceeded both my and my manager’s cost for a year. Monetate’s system lets me create these scenario’s on an ongoing basis either as test, or production – in real time.

What I see here is the magic of being able to move as much computing power before the web customer shows up. It also is able to quickly identify what the identity of each visitor is.  This allows responding much more like a human store clerk would – making many decisions with ease because once you know the ‘rules’ they are easy and ‘obvious’. A store clerk seeing a visitor show up on a long skateboard is probably more interested in snowboarding then ski’s or toboggans. A customer wearing a $4,000 watch is probably not looking at the costume jewelry in the corner of the store. These snap judgements are what allow us to determine which of the thousands of cars we pass on our way to work will be a problem, and which are just going along in our lane that can be ignored safely.

We have been trying to get computers to have this same ‘artificial intelligence’ for decades. And we are still a long way from AI. But increasingly, we are able to in small domains, define experiments that let us test and tweak. Testing what is the best way to present information or experiences for website visitors that meet their needs on their terms. Monetate is helping that become incredibly easier for online shopping.

One of the other keys I see in Monetate (and similar tools), is the ability embrace Lean Startup methodology. The concept of iteration. The key is understanding that now that your cost of experimentation is lower than analysis, the best approach is lowest cost in revenue optimizing is different. When each computer batch ran on a mainframe cost thousands of dollars and days of time, it was far more effective to spend more time ‘bench testing’ ideas. We would sit around and using human power to determine the best approach. But, when a computer can now not only check your theory, but create a method to retest against different data (be it a Texas visitor over an Oregon visitor, or this month’s customers over last quarter’s customers), it is poor use of resources (especially human) to think about what the results are, and ‘just do it’. Let the system or computer or software do the testing and provide the results.

The challenge will be not in saving the last CPU cycles to run one more test, but how to let our creative juices loose again to see how to continually improve the solutions we are trying to build. One of the big challenges for many in ‘corporate’ is to understand that website visitors are individuals. The market of potential customers need to (as much as possible) be treated as individuals. As we learn to look at our visitors as having different mindsets, often determined by factors we can identify, we will be able to create better experiences for our customers.

There is a whole other dimension of visitor privacy that enters into this, but I am not going to tackle that one today.

Logo for Internet Retailer Convention and Exhibit 2012 in Chicago IL


As usual, monetate’s solutions are an incredible toolset that lifts one burden from the ecommerce manager allowing a much larger responsibility to rise to the top –  looking at the world from the customer’s perspective. It was never – not the top priority, but now, there are a many fewer excuses as to why we cannot focus on the customer’s view point.
What would you test on your website, if there were no limitations?

September 21, 2012 Posted by | Chicago, Large SKU site, tools, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

’20 Under 20′ – Peter Thiel’s paradigm shift?

This week on CNBC was a 2 part series on Peter Thiel’s business accelerator 20 under 20. Watching this lead me last year into a variety of paths in looking at business accelerator and trying to start one focused on sustainability in Colorado called Best of The Best (BOTB) concept. It has not been created yet, but will someday.  Anyhow, there is one more showing on Sunday night (I think 7pm and 8pm MDT) you might want to set your DVR for it. It might be worth recording / transferring to tape or DVD for use in helping others understand some of the ideas  (obviously NBC’s production values are going to be higher then we could create) when the time is appropriate. Peter’s model is one of a foundation that is well funded, in contrast to BOTB. They are not taking any equity or IP rights, but I think there are some models for how to run a competition, and examples of what to expect.

In tripping around looking for this background I found this interesting lecture of his:

This is a class by Peter Theil – who is changing thoughts on education and entrepreneurship: http://blakemasters.tumblr.com/post/25149261055/peter-thiels-cs183-startup-class-19-notes-essay

I have not had a chance to look at other class notes of his lectures (yet) but here they are: http://blakemasters.tumblr.com/peter-thiels-cs183-startup

So what are your thoughts on ‘skipping college’ to go straight into bringing your passion to life?  What are your thoughts on our education system?

I got wound up and wanted to help illustrate the slight change in education costs in asking the question to frame it for conversation.

Education Tuition graph shows how costs have increased 11 times the cost of 1980 compared with 2.5x increase in CPI or consumer price index.

The housing bubble looks like a statistical abnormality compared to the education bubble.

Here is a graph showing Peter’s point of there is an education bubble:

Or you can look at Bloomberg’s version which shows it relative to the ‘out of control’  health care cost increases of the recent past, and housing price increases that many on both sides of the aisle feel will kill this country.  – http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-15/cost-of-college-degree-in-u-s-soars-12-fold-chart-of-the-day.html

If you want to see the individual data points and see if the problem is 2 year colleges (or community colleges) or 4 year colleges or combined, the data is listed here from the department of education. Here is a chart mapping out college costs over the last 30 years – http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76


SOURCE
:U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). Digest of Education Statistics, 2010 (NCES 2011-015),Chapter 3 .

 

Total tuition, room and board rates charged for full-time undergraduate students in degree-granting institutions, by type and control of institution: Selected years, 1980–81 to 2009–10
Year and control of institution Constant 2008–09 dollars1 Current dollars
All institutions 4-year institutions 2-year institutions All institutions 4-year institutions 2-year institutions
All institutions
1980–81 $7,685 $8,672 $5,526 $3,101 $3,499 $2,230
1990–91 10,518 12,185 6,300 6,562 7,602 3,930
2000–01 13,263 15,843 6,693 10,818 12,922 5,460
2001–02 13,709 16,430 6,888 11,380 13,639 5,718
2002–03 14,161 17,020 7,370 12,014 14,439 6,252
2003–04 14,942 17,855 7,734 12,953 15,505 6,705
2004–05 15,444 18,487 7,935 13,792 16,509 7,086
2005–06 15,780 18,820 7,800 14,629 17,447 7,231
2006–07 16,281 19,423 7,850 15,483 18,471 7,466
2007–08 16,385 19,592 7,744 16,159 19,323 7,637
2008–09 17,012 20,385 8,238 17,012 20,385 8,238
2009–10 17,464 20,986 8,451 17,633 21,189 8,533
Public institutions
1980–81 $5,881 $6,320 $5,023 $2,373 $2,550 $2,027
1990–91 7,625 8,403 5,558 4,757 5,243 3,467
2000–01 9,300 10,609 5,933 7,586 8,653 4,839
2001–02 9,633 11,078 6,189 8,022 9,196 5,137
2002–03 10,021 11,537 6,603 8,502 9,787 5,601
2003–04 10,666 12,312 6,935 9,247 10,674 6,012
2004–05 11,046 12,795 7,139 9,864 11,426 6,375
2005–06 11,277 13,062 7,003 10,454 12,108 6,492
2006–07 11,618 13,457 7,166 11,049 12,797 6,815
2007–08 11,735 13,616 7,073 11,573 13,429 6,975
2008–09 12,256 14,262 7,568 12,256 14,262 7,568
2009–10 12,681 14,870 7,629 12,804 15,014 7,703
Private institutions
1980–81 $13,555 $13,861 $10,663 $5,470 $5,594 $4,303
1990–91 20,693 21,218 14,911 12,910 13,237 9,302
2000–01 26,197 26,795 18,130 21,368 21,856 14,788
2001–02 27,000 27,581 19,064 22,413 22,896 15,825
2002–03 27,512 28,039 20,926 23,340 23,787 17,753
2003–04 28,404 28,918 22,560 24,624 25,069 19,558
2004–05 28,903 29,403 22,500 25,810 26,257 20,093
2005–06 29,006 29,467 22,836 26,889 27,317 21,170
2006–07 29,905 30,409 21,329 28,439 28,919 20,284
2007–08 30,680 31,207 21,988 30,258 30,778 21,685
2008–09 31,532 32,090 22,726 31,532 32,090 22,726
2009–10 31,876 32,475 24,248 32,184 32,790 24,483

1Constant dollars based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis.

NOTE: Data are for the entire academic year and are average total charges for full-time attendance. Room and board were based on full-time students. Data through 1995-96 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). Digest of Education Statistics, 2010 (NCES 2011-015),Table 345.

August 15, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Branding and Collaboration

The blog ChurchMarketingSucks had a recent post on creating your congregation’s brand. Here is my response to their key questions of:

Should you find your church in need of an effective brand management strategy, here are three questions that I submit as points to start the dialogue:

    1. What is your church’s brand?
    2. Who is specifically responsible for managing your church’s brand?
    3. How do you effectively communicate your church’s brand internally and externally?

Another way to put the concept is, how can you meet the needs of your audience. For example, if visiting seekers are looking for your services, what can you do to help them understand what you have is what they are looking for?

The post’s questions are a great start. Let me just highlight that branding is not a one step effort but an ongoing process. You don’t just put up a sign with a simple logo and call it done. You don’t just put a logo on the bulletin and call it done. You need to do more then add a color to the name tags to be finished. Branding is a process of communicating what the values, ideal and aspirations of an organization through symbols as well as words. Do you know any other process that has been ongoing for say about 2000 years?

Communicating the truth of your services will take time and effort. You need to put it in the language of your seekers, not the internal shorthand of those inside. You need to share the joy and fun of joining. But then some causes are worth a little effort aren’t they?

photograph of a billboard showing $1 drinks at McDonalds featuring coca cola

Both Coca Cola and McDonald’s worked co-operatively for common goals – get more followers.

The idea of working in collaboration has been around for a while, and CharlotteOne has a great idea. Notice how well McDonalds and CocaCola have been working together for a few years. Both win by meeting the needs of their customers.

I also remind others that defining your brand can be a significant effort. Especially for those not practiced in brand development work. But the beginning approach is to look at what the value is to a new guest to your house. Consider how their needs can be met better, or more uniquely then the other choices a visitor has. Every town has a variety of churches sharing the word of Christ. Again the key is to look at it through the visitors perspectives. Your perspective can provide hints. But more importantly look at what you valued when you 1st entered your congregation and what your needs were then. Consider what you were looking for, and how you choose to attend.

Branding can be  a great way to define what your value can be to a new seeker. This effort can be lead by others or used as a team development project that can truly inspire all to greater sense of clarity to what the value is to the seeker.

June 22, 2012 Posted by | copywriting | , , , | Leave a comment

Are You Getting Paid Fairly? UBM’s IT Salary Survey for 2012

Those of you working for others, or considering hiring others, probably are interested in what the going ‘rate’ is. How much will it cost to create your eCommerce channel? How much will it cost to maintain my help desk and answer all those questions? How much should I pay my CIO (chief information officer) to herd all the parts of my technology infrastructure to manage my website and more?

Well the short answer is either ‘it depends’ or ‘as much as you want to pay’. But neither is real helpful without context. So I find it helpful to see what other companies are doing with their IT staff and management. In the information management industry UBM has created a long term name for themselves as understanding what is happening in the IT world with their variety of publications including Information Week, and analysis services. Granted their bias is heavily towards enterprise work, but they try to segment their data whenever possible. They have been doing annual surveys for quite a while, and recently their 2012 salary survey came out.

To get your own copy of the survey in PDF go to: here or here  UBM’s form is a quick lead collector with the chance to register for some useful webinars.

The survey is based on over 1,300 responses in large and small organizations, with much slicing and dicing to allow you to see how your staff matches. But it also helps to understand the mindset of employees, and to see how other businesses structure their IT teams. That is part of what I find useful in reviewing the survey and looking at it across the pages. Looking at regional differences and major city compared to a region has some insights as well.

I was most focused on some friends who have vast experiences, but are currently working in the help desk area. Here are some of the insights I collected from the data (all numbers are in thousands of US dollars per year):

  • Typically, salaries are 1% or 2% more then last year in information technology after a flat 2011.
  • To double your salary – jump from help desk work to management. Help desk is always viewed as the lowest common demoninator, and is paid accordingly low. If you want to increase your pay, look for something ‘simpler’. Or at least something that is labeled differently.
  • page 41 – Seattle average staff base $99k vs. Chicago $88k. Seattle is probably offset by higher total package with more benefits and bonus.
  • page 43 – Midwest average staff base is $79k vs. Pacific region $92k (after ‘subtracting’ average for Chicago, means that outside of Chicago (all the way north to Kenosha) is way lower.
  • page 45 – Manager pay though the swing in higher pay switches in the Chicago dual with Seattle. With Chicago, manager average is $118k for base salary vs. Seattle $110k. This may also incorporate that Seattle may tend to have more ‘working’ programming managers rather then ‘stand alone’ management, creating almost a hybrid rate (lower pay for split duties).
  • page 49 – 73% expect 401k match next year.
  • page 51 – 48% attended paid company training last year.
  • page 59 – shows how many companies that IT people have been at. 29% have worked at 3 or more companies in last 10 years. It is not clear how many have been with multiple companies while sitting at the same desk, but corporate takeovers changed the sign at the parking lot. I once worked for 3 companies in the space of 4 months at the same desk.
  • page 82 – less then half have a bachelors degree (or higher). The percentage is even lower if you are in management.
  • page 85 – Many people are working in  jobs with companies with annual revenue under $50million – 38% of jobs are with these smaller companies. Not all jobs are enterprise jobs.
  • page 87 – 20% of jobs are in companies with less then 100 total employees (total, not just IT).
  • page 88 – shows which industries tend to pay the most – in terms of total packages non-profit is lowest. In spite of what Governor Walker says, government is 3rd lowest after education (which is still typically a government job). For those that feel that government employees with defined benefits packages should look at these numbers. This goes against your pension frustration. It infers that government employees are taking a $15-30k cut in pay per year for the better pension. The time value of money is an interesting analysis.  Is it fair or not?  The defined benefits of government positions is in contrast to 75%  of all IT employees expect a 401k program with an employer match on page 49.
Here is some older salary suveys:
Of course Salary.com is another great resource for looking at ‘how much it costs’ but this direction is also helpful, with a background in the industry older then Salary.com has been around.

How does this survey compare to your experiences? Do you find any surprises, please share in the comments section?

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Chicago, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

IRCE 2012 – MONETATE – an multivariate platform for ecommerce site

IRCE 2012 log 8th annual Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition, by far the world’s largest e-commerce event,

IRCE2012 held at Chicago’s McCormick Place West on June 5-8, 2012

One of the great parts of a trade show is being able to quickly see trends. Monetate is a single company represents new trends multivariate ecommerce platform optimization.

At IRCE 2012 (Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition) at Chicago’s McCormick Place this week, I was able to how the cost of computing continually dropping is affecting how we merchandise (1st on line, but you know the wisdom will be carried to bricks and mortar stores as well).

One of the booths I got to see was monetate. What stood out for me was how much computing is being done in real time and in an anticipatory fashion. In essence they are taking your shopping cart system (which may, well is probably, very large) and creating variations of it for all sorts of testing. They can test by what city you come from, or if it is raining today. They can test or present based on your past history with you or how close you are to a Walmart. They can compound testing if you are a repeat customer on a rainy day in a media market that is inexpensive.

monetate's logo of a human puzzle piece and the name monetate registered trademark

Monetate from Pennsylvania

Watching the monetate’s demo, and remembering their presentation, I am reminded of when I used to run scenarios on large multimillion dollar data centers, and forget to limit the sample size to ‘reasonable number’. I would get my manager bringing my report the next day (reports only printed a few times a day, but when you busy the machine all night it takes a while) showing me the chargeback of the mainframe’s cost that exceeded both my and my manager’s cost for a year.  Monetate’s system lets me create those scenario experimentation on an ongoing basis either as test or production – in real time.

What I see here is the magic of being able to move as much computing power to SaaS before the web customer shows up. It also is able to quickly identify what the identity of each visitor is.  This allows responding much more like a human store clerk would. Making many decisions with ease because once you know the ‘rules’ they are easy and ‘obvious’. A store clerk seeing a visitor show up on a long skateboard is probably more interested in snowboarding then ski’s or toboggans. A customer wearing a $2,000 watch is probably not looking at the costume jewelry in the corner of the store. These snap judgements are what allow us to determine which of the thousands of cars we pass on our way to work will be a problem, and which are just going along. It is a wondrous marvel of evolution to survive in the complex world we live in. And computers can just do a fraction of it.

We have been trying to get computers to have this same ‘artificial intelligence’ for decades. And we are still a long way from it. But increasingly, we are able to in small domains define experiments that let us test and tweak what is the best way to present information or experiences for website visitors that meet their needs on their terms. Monetate is helping that become incredibly easier for online shopping.

One of the other keys I see in monetate (and similar tools), is the ability embrace Lean Startup methodology. The concept of iteration. The key is understanding that now  that it your cost of experimentation is lower then analysis, the approach that is lowest cost in optimizing is different. When each computer batch run cost thousands of dollars and days of time, it was far more effective to spend more time ‘bench testing’ ideas. Sitting around and using human power to determine the best approach. But when a computer can now not only check your theory, but create a method to retest against different data (be it Texas visitor over Oregon visitor, or this months customers over last quarters customers), it is poor use of resources (especially human) to think about what the results are and ‘just do it’. Let the system or computer or software do the testing and provide the results.

The challenge will be not in saving the last CPU cycles to run one more test, but how to let our creative juices loose again to see how to continually improve the solutions we are trying to build. One of the big challenges for many in ‘corporate’ is to understand that website visitors are individuals. They need to as much as possible be treated as individuals. As we learn to look at our visitors has having different mindsets, often determined by factors we can identify, we will be able to create better experiences for our customers.

There is a whole other dimension of visitor privacy that enters into this, but I am not going to tackle that one today.

Logo for Internet Retailer Convention and Exhibit 2012 in Chicago IL


As usual, monetate’s solutions are an incredible toolset that lifts one burden from the ecommerce manager allowing a much larger responsibility to rise to the top –  Looking at the world from the customer’s perspective. It was never not the top, but now there are a whole fewer number of excuses as to why we cannot focus on the customer’s view point.
What would you test on your website, if there were no limitations?

June 13, 2012 Posted by | Chicago, Large SKU site, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

IRCE 2012 – Logistical Tools like Refund Retriever

One of the great parts of a trade show is being able to quickly do the ‘who are you and why should I share my secrets’ dance. On the phone, it seems to take forever. In email it feels like you never get real trust and open communication. And websites always feel distorted from the reality of what really happens at a company.

At IRCE 2012 (Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition) at Chicago’s McCormick Place this week, I met Brian Gibbs of Refund Retriever. One of the many logistics services company looking to assist businesses in the ecommerce channel. As you may guess Refund Retriever audits your shipping bills with FedEx and UPS.

One of the takeaways for me at trade shows is learning what you should be concerned about in your business. If there is a business performing a function, there is a good chance it is an issue that should be looked at. If you are shipping and don’t know your costs, it seems logical that you are not paying attention to a major cost center. While UPS and FedEx have incredible world class IT systems, there are still incredible number of hands in the system that can make mistakes. The amount of speed means that mistakes can and do happen. That is OK is there a need to audit?

What does become clear is that all businesses need to spend at least a few minutes looking to see what if they could improve their shipping costs, or reduce their error rate, or improve on time delivery. All of these can be improved by improving correct addressing. So while not the core of Refund Retriever, it is an idea to consider.  So here are the different ways Refund Retriever will look at your invoices:

  • LATE DELIVERIES (GSR)
  • BOGUS ADDRESS CORRECTIONS
  • RESIDENTIAL vs. COMMERCIAL SURCHARGE MISTAKES
  • INCORRECTLY WEIGHED PACKAGES
  • UN-SHIPPED/UNINVOICED PACKAGES
  • DUPLICATE INVOICES or CHARGES.

But there is also the question of auditing your bills in the 1st place. Most services do it on a split of the refund, so the cost to your business to keep UPS and FedEx ‘honest’ is not a cost to you but a savings. Typically the auditors will use your account information to review your information online to perform the audit. Refund Retrievers is different from other auditors in that they are more focused on the low hanging fruit of just these two vendors. As a result they are better able to work with smaller ecommerce concerns. There is no minimum, since their model uses a simple account set up. Other auditors have a lot more effort in getting set up for each company that affects overall price. I have not had a chance to use them yet, but will be curious to see how they actually perform. Additionally, they have helped me in understanding what I should be doing on my shipping auditing by who ever I use internally or externally to manage my customers satisfaction.

 

Another perspective to look at for every business, is how would a service affect the customer. In this case, I would suggest that for every error caught, to pass on the savings directly to the customer. Lets face it, you really did not loose anything, your customer did. I would send a gift and or a refund to every customer that did not end up with the excellent service you intended when you shipped your product. Even if the customer did not complain. It is a way to show your customer that you care about them, not their money and orders.  When you care about your customers, they will be far more likely to care about you.

So what do you think, is there value in auditing your vendors to keep them on the straight and narrow?

June 12, 2012 Posted by | Chicago, Large SKU site, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

IRCE 2012 – Global Response

One of the great parts of a trade show is being able to quickly do the ‘who are you and why should I share my secrets’ dance. On the phone, it seems to take forever. In email it feels like you never have full partnership.

At IRCE 2012 (Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition) at Chicago’s McCormick Place this week, I was able to get past the dancing and have much more open conversations with vendors. Sure, we still have secrets. Sure we did not show all our cards. Sure there is still room for negotiations when we get to that point. But, we can start from an understanding of who we are, what we are looking for and how to work in partnership with each other.

Or not. I find a trade show is a great way to see if the message of the booth and the message of the literature and the message of those working the booth match – at least someone gets it. But more likely they are 20 times more likely to be who they say they are.Logo for Contact firm Global Response

Global Response passed the test. They are a call center (and contact center) handling inbound and outbound. What I enjoyed in our conversation, was a willingness to share their stories, how they excelled, and where they were not a match. It is always a challenge to ask someone ‘what do you do well’ and the reply is ‘everything’.  1st they probably don’t even understand what excelling in an area is, and 2nd they probably don’t know how broad the industry is. Global did not take this route. They have a three of U.S. based call centers. Points for setting up their 2nd and 3rd one’s in an economically depressed area. But that has turned into a win-win – greater loyalty, happy staff with lower turnover (one of the greatest challenges of any call center) then normal.

Their clientele are a mix of non-profits and larger corporate clients. Their rates are not the lowest for domestic, but seem reasonable. They seem to have a good understanding of one of the keys to a call center relationship being successful – training of the trainer, and ongoing communications. Certainly working in the different modalities of a call/contact center is a challenge.

Different vendors will split on the philosophy of whether to have all modalities in one team or separate teams (phone, email, chat, social media). The challenge is do you train 3 or 4 teams on a product/service line with members that specialize in best practices of each modality? Or is the best way to have one team of superstars (hopefully) that need to learn all four modalities, and juggle appropriately?  This becomes a nuanced discussion with a larger project/volume. But becomes very key for smaller contact center volume, where having multiple teams for low volume can really throw the numbers off.  Global has chosen to go with modality teams (one for phone, one for email/chat) for each project.

Call center of Global Response in Marquette MichiganOf course how you handle shared resources as an adjunct to this can help with the compromises in either choice (single team per client or single team per client and modality).  Global Response seems like a good candidate for a RFP request for contact center where domestic service is appropriate.

I could go more into how to best choose a contact center, but I will let Global Response’s list be a fair starting point in this changing and flattening world where technology is changing the game economics quarter by quarter.

What to look for in a call center/contact center

June 11, 2012 Posted by | Chicago, Large SKU site, Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

IRCE 2012- X Verify

So many booths, so little time at the IRCE2012. One of the booths that caught my eye, but I did not get to spend much time as is a local (Chicago area) vendor called XVerify.

Logo of Xverify - real-time data verfication

Real-time data verfication from IRCE2012 show at McCormick Place, Chicago IL

As a SaaS, they will verify your data as it comes in from forms (API call, XML return) or files:

  • Email
  • Phone
  • Address
  • Name
  • IP Address
  • Score your leads

Like other solutions I talked to, pricing starts at a penny ($.01USD) per verification and goes down with quantity.  The need for solving the age old problem of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) becomes more significant now that we can base entire campaigns and strategies based on data that may or may not be valid. Everything we can do to remove bad data from our warehouses is as important as removing the bad apples from our barrels. Our data warehouses can be corrupted by untrustworthy data just like our inventory warehouses can be corrupted by mice.

A cost effective solution that helps keep the bad data out of the warehouse in the 1st place can save us money for years to come. Imagine not mailing to a just 100 bad addresses for 5 years at 1.15 per catalog quarterly. Now imagine how your reputation will improve by not frustrating that bad address for 5 years and the other 3 people that tend to see each mailing and think your organization is inept. Imagine not calling that wrong number for years and bothering the wrong person.

But that is only looking at it from our perspective. From the users perspective, what if you can be helpful and let them know they made a mistake. Before the order is shipped to the wrong house. Before they never get the email you promised them. Before you are unable to call them back and they are waiting for your call. Before you disappoint them one more time and destroy the relationship before it ever gets started. Customers know you are tracking them. Most assume you have great skills to look into their credit card, because sites are tracking them around the Internet. If you don’t verify the simple stuff, how will they trust you with the important stuff (credit card number). Verification is coming (just as AMEX who bought Accertify), so start looking at the solutions now and planning or even start implementing.

These tools have great potential. Of course nothing is perfect, but the accuracy of your checker is key. I have not had a chance to test XVerify out yet, but I look forward to it and plan to report back when I can.

June 10, 2012 Posted by | Chicago, resources, tools | , , | Leave a comment