Product information management

I had a little bit of a light bulb moment today when discussing product content and e-commerce. We are increasingly getting drawn into conversations around e-commerce, digital asset management, saas based system, master data tool sets and content management. All enterprise level platforms that require lots of thinking and organisation to get right. Most of the conversation is based around 1) product display and 2) integration.

Surely the core hub here is product information management. This is the only tool that hooks everything together. Once its dealt with the rest falls into place. Your e-commerce strategy, your content management strategy, your digital asset management strategy and you fulfilment and order management strategy.

Get you PIM right and the rest flows from there. Go the other way and you will be left forever integrating and making platforms work together. Of course this only applies if you have a lot of product data to deal with.

If you are thinking PIM. Hybris seems to be coming up trumps time and time again without even trying.

Near field communication, can it make life more convenient?

I’ve been looking into near field communication and possible applications for it.

Its and interesting technology and there is certainly lots of application ideas for it. Obviously the biggest break through will be a move to cashless society using your mobile phone to pay for things with a simple swipe of a sensor. Oyster cards and ticketing are also a logical route especially for people like me who keep loosing their Oyster cards. But there are lots of other applications which will make life simple and convenient.

I’ve been working with NFC with my new blackberry. I’ve just taken delivery of my first batch of sticky sensors. First thing I wanted to do is stick one on my desk. I wanted my out of office and other services such as social network status to change their status when I arrived at work. It proved really easy a simple swipe and my app did the rest. It switched my out of office off and the checked me in on facebook.

Next the car. One sticker on the dashboard, out of site, mind. One swipe. The phone was configured to turn its bluetooth on and switch off the bleeps from my email to save it catching my attention whilst driving.

Saved one sticker for home. Obviously the house isn’t fully automated but I could update some settings. Much more work here.

I guess when you start thinking about convenience and applications there are a lot of things you can use the technology for. Think about it being rolled into all your favourite shops, in the packaging of product, advertising boards, hotel checkins, door entry, flight boarding, immigration, business card exchange, time keeping systems and many more such instances.

Roll on iphone 5 we need to start building apps now.

Building a viable e-commerce business model

For the last week I’ve spent my time on helping produce a viable e-commerce business model using latest enterprise class commerce platforms, a well informed seo and media strategy and a decent runway to break even. This is not the first time may I add, but it does take into account some new challenges.

The saas world, e-commerce 2, global markets and the improved use of pay per click have made it even more a numbers game to make the business model work. Obviously your product needs to be good, but if it is and you have the right partners in place and the right technology it is simply a case of playing the numbers to get a return on investment? Sounds easy? Not quiet that easy. Its a fine art, where you need to apply your skills and know how to finally tune your system to get the most out of it. Its only through experience and through having the right partners can you guarantee the numbers game will work.

To get it right depends on your conversion path and this starts by having a coordinated approach between brand, traditional advertising, pay per click, social channels and traditional product channels. All need to be identified and a strategy developed to create a buying conveyor belt to your e-commerce cart. It doesn’t start with just your site its starts a lot earlier.

Choosing the right platform and partner to route this conveyor belt through the buying process will lead to successful conversion.

The platform needs to be able to take the feeds of potential customers from all these conveyor belts. It then needs to show case the product well, display options and link to other products to engage the user and stimulate their buying emotions. This is where saas platforms that have one model to fit all fail to deliver. They fail to capture the channels and trigger the buying responses. A wholly owned platform tailored to your product, brand and customer will win hands down when it comes to maximising conversion. It requires multi channelled approach to commerce and there are only a few platforms out there that do this well.

So if you are looking to play the numbers conversion game you need to be in full control of the whole engine from advertising spend, ppc, seo to platform and design. You need to control it all in order to fine tune the animal. This I believe is critical to achieving your business plan. However think SasS when you implement.  Build the As A Service element for your global markets but own the technology yourself.

Can social really predict the future?

With the London mayoral contest being accurately predicted by social network sentiment analysis, should business really start to rely on the intelligence collected from social networks to help plan their business models?

I for sometime have taken a balanced view of key trends emerging from social networks to predict what’s going to be hot in the technology space. Most of the time its been accurate even though most of the time its been predicting the rise of social networks.

The key thing though is blending the intelligence gathered with authentic sources to get the balance right.

Analysis of intelligence from the social graph can help inform your thinking, but if you are doing something new you need to lead the pack. You could follow Steve Job’s mantra and tell your customers what they need. But to do this you need to be brave.

Its important to get the right tools setup to give you the necessary intelligence gathering capability from the social graph and the wider internet so you can bring all the information together in one clear dashboard for you to study and make your own decisions.

Another advantage for using the right tools is to amplify your message to back you up as an authority in your world. Amplify the positive statistics in realtime backs up your messaging. What the social graph can give us is an instant poll of a large targeted constituency without actually polling them. Doing this enables you to get realtime assurance around your decision making process. Social graphs will never make the decision for you but they will give confidence and backing to your ideas.

Learning Platforms Heading East (but not as we know them)

I’m heading out to Slovenia today to the Smart / Steljes launch in the Adriatic’s, thanks to my friends at Steljes we are piggy backing on their growth into this territory.

UniServity have been looking at Eastern Europe for some time.  They seem to experiencing the same growth and appetite to education technology investment that the UK enjoyed some ten years back.  Most of it is derived from European Union investment but there is a big appetite to invest at a national government level.

Its giving us a real test to see how Learning platforms are seen in today’s climate and we are getting some interesting feedback which helps understand how we should target new markets.  My findings so far see a tie up with mobile devices and the ability to distribute content, learning activities and tasks to students on mobile / tablet devices. Lots of money is being made available for shiny new devices to replace books but there is also recognition that books cannot be one way any more, they need to be more interactive and community focussed in their new digital format.  Its virgin territory heading east, however the learnings are helping for our emerging market offering and also to test some of our vision before rolling out mainstream back in the UK.

Tablets and digital content are definitely driving growth as they offer the means for digital text books.  Learning platforms are certainly heading to become the infrastructure behind this new world but only if learning platform company’s continue to invest in R&D.  Guess what we are working on behind the scenes.



Big data can we make sense of it all?

With Big Data becoming increasingly talked about, are there really solutions out there that can maximise intelligence within this data and make it clear enough for businesses to make sense of it and act on it?

My view is that its not as simple as just rolling out clever analytical inference tools like Autonomy as this just creates another layer of data. What I feel is needed is a set of communication skills that are inbuilt in most digital agencies.  Combining these skills with technology, business knowledge and your business requirements will enable us to produce clever and clear dashboards with your organisation’s data.  Whether its a set of analytical reports or e-commerce conversion statistics, we can design the tools and dashboard to manage your KPI’s, present the information to your team, collaborate on the actions and get moving with the necessary change. Technology alone won’t solve Big Data, but technology combined with a good set of communication and design tools can produce clear answers to your company’s big data challenge, more importantly it will help you and your colleagues make sense and make better decisions.

Thinking about the clouds

UniServity is gearing up to make its technology available to partner organisations overseas. The Life learning cloud has been up and running for over 18 months now and its first wave of users are now fully deployed. We have been working with these user communities to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our platform and we are increasing R&D spend to further enhance the platform and provide more innovative features.

However we are gearing up to make our technology available to our partners. UniServity Life is already licensed through our Australian distributor Learnology. Learnology has helped with the success of this partnership and the rollout of the platform to a substantial number of users in Australia, we are now turning our sights to extend this model.

Next week UniServity are making available a licensed version of the learning cloud to partners, enabling Life to be provided by our partners and allowing those partners to add their own educational value to the product. What does this really mean? The life community will be enhanced and will provide different flavours to the educational community. We will start communicating more over the next few weeks. But watch out for announcements in Eastern Europe. More to follow….

What is a Blackberry for?

Mobile still continues to be one of the driving factors behind the majority of web development growth within the sector. Smartphones and their browsing / app capability are mainly responsible for the majority of this growth. However you have to ask the question, what is your Blackberry for? And is it really possible to fall back in love with it?

I guess I have to admit I’m one of Apple’s biggest fans particularly when it comes to mobile devices. But I’ve recently found my Blackberry starting to grab my attention again.

Why? It can’t even compare with my iPhone and doesn’t even come close to a rewarding easy to use experience. However it does serve a relatively simple purpose. Blackberry should have never tried to become a smart phone or a browsing device. Its just a simple two way pager a simple calendar and a great keyboard that just allows quick and easy access to the basics of communications. It just works and works well in the business world.

I believe Blackberry should focus on simple business utility tools, where productivity is key. Organising conference calls, sending emails checking your diary, collaborating with your team and getting simple updates from your business processes. It should not try to do more.

It should try and be a partner to the iPhone, but allow iPhone to stay cool and understand that most users will probably have two phones. Stick to the basics. The little red light that catches your attention when an email arrives and a really great keyboard to hammer out your rants and responses.

It does work well with the wordpress app which is also a bonus.

But what about web design and app design on these devices? Keep it functional and keep it to business. Users will browse your website and you may be required to build apps for the device, but keep it simple and keep it to business. You will get Blackberry users accessing your stuff so you need to not ignore them but don’t try and compete with the Smart phone world.