So we’ve implemented hybris, what’s next?

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With hybris leading out as the most widely selected enterprise e-commerce platform more and more organisations have moved to implement the platform into their business.  This job is often no simple undertaking, but with the promise of great rewards both in terms of functionality and future proof capability, it will have driven your passion and rigour to get the first instance of hybris into your business. However once the platform is there up and running, where do you turn your strategy and thinking to?

Naturally the answer should be trading, merchandising and optimisation.  This in itself is an ongoing job that will continue for the next 5 years and will involve constant testing and evolution.  However if I’m a CIO, is their a roll for me to think outside this cycle of improving sales conversion and optimising revenue.  To understand this it is essential to understand the capability of the platform and how it can play a much bigger role within your business. The following is a number of useful considerations to help you formulate your strategy;-

1) Owning the product landscape.

Put a price on your product data. During your journey to implement hybris you would have taken inevitable pain processing, restructuring, understand, designing and enhancing your product data.  You will probably have a set of clear integrations to get your data into the platform and a good set of processes to enrich that data making it a single source of truth for all product information and its associated assets.  This journey ended up in you being able to display that product information in a nice new e-commerce platform for consumers to buy from.

It, however, shouldn’t end here.  We have created this single source of truth of product data and now hybris is the owner of all your enriched product information.  You need to create tools to expose that data to other services.  Whether that’s omni channel feeds to sales apps, pos platforms, mobile apps, omni channel environment or even print channels.  The first step is to make this openly available to your business by developing a set of simple api for subsidiaries, partners or even other departments to call to consume that data.  What this gives you is control, reuse, savings, quality, consistency a single source of truth.  Get this right and you are unlocking one of the biggest benefits of hybris. Get this wrong an you will see your hard work un done with data duplication by other system as your organisation digital evolution continues.

2) Development of a master consumer view

Once hybris is up and running and you are generating sales data you will start to develop a consumer data set.  Each of your consumers will be requested to create an account within hybris.  You may have implemented a loyalty programme alongside hybris again collecting more information on the user’s buying habits or profile.  You may be using hybris’s advanced personalisation module, again collecting more profile information.  This is an important next step in putting hybris at the centre of your single consumer view.  Each hybris consumer needs a dedicated account and because that account is where money is changing hands with the consumer it is one of the most important touch points with your customer.  Hybris will therefore have more authority over other consumer data that is collected within your organisation and ultimately if you are collecting other consumer information elsewhere you are more than likely to drive those consumers back to your commerce platform.

It therefore essential that hybris should look to own the master consumer model, even though the actual data may existing elsewhere such as SAP or a leading CRM platform.  Once this principle is established you should look to extend the master consumer model beyond the basic e-commerce profile, this can be done by considering the following;-

  • Create a global consumer passport id using hybris authentication via an open standard api as as open id.
  • Extend the profile data to authenticate with leading social platform therefore allowing us to harvest their profile data.
  • Extend their profile through loyalty programmes
  • Extend their profile trading and analytics data
  • Extend their profile through third part services and apps
  • Look to create api’s into hybris to allow other services to access key consumer information and also to contribute to their existing profile

I believe that extending hybris to own first the id and then the consumer profile makes it a much easier step to then integrate the data collected back into a global CRM platform. If you where to approach this the other way round or via an independent signon technology you would be left with a much greater integration challenge.

3) Protect your CMS

hybris is an enterprise e-commerce suite, with it comes a comprehensive set of core products such as a pcm(product content management platform), a cms(content management platform, a customer services cockpit, search engine as well as the e-commerce platform itself.  With such an extensive enterprise toolset you will no doubt have challenges to it as a one platform fits all.  Most of the challenge to hybris will come from the traditional content management vendors who themselves have expanded their customer engagement capability as well as their ease of use and agility in handling campaign based content. The two can naturally complement each other with one focussing on customer acquisition and the other focussed on conversion into sales.  However they do not naturally sit well together from an architecture perspective.  For example you cannot unpick a commerce platform so that it is wrapped via a content management platform with the cms platform handling the entire presentation layer.  If you do this you risk breaking the roadmap of each product and cutting out most of the advantage of the e-comm platform for marginal gains in functionality.  There is however a case where the two can exist as long as the boundaries are clearly marked and more importantly respected. So how is this done?

  • Hybris must take the lead, it is the core platform and engine behind your commerce site.  It therefore must take the lead in delivering all content and presentation for the commerce journey, product display, navigation and search. Breaking this will fundamentally undermine your architecture.
  • The content management journey must focus on the engagement of the consumer, whether higher up the conversion funnel via campaign activities.
  • Architecture of the two platforms needs to be clearly planned in advance.  Reliance on apis will cut out the value of both technologies.  Whilst apis do existing in both technology sets you cannot fall into the trap of assuming that they will deliver all elements of functionality that the product suites deliver.  They are there to expose data only not whole suites of technologies such as checkout processes and merchandising capability. Ignoring this will see expensive and constant cost with you initially building swathes of functionality and then later maintaining it to keep it in sync with both products roadmaps.

4) Be wise with mobile

Mobile is overtaking desktop browser environments.  hybris has traditionally been fragmented with accelerators having a clear split between mobile and desktop versions.  More up to date implementations of hybris have led to the partner community adapting one or more of the accelerators and making them more responsive templates.  However this may still lead to older implementation of hybris requiring the need to revisit the front end templates. Our view is that can be done efficiently and not require a major rebuild of the front end.  At Amaze we have utilised the Jeet Grid System into our templates which works fairly effortless with hybris.  Other approaches include Bootstrap and the Foundation framework.  Where to start this process is key,  we do not favour looking to redesign existing templates, we only look to design the degrade options for smaller screen sizes. We then work with existing css elements to ensure they will interoperate with the framework. Our recommendation around mobile is not to open a can of worms which will involve a complete redesign. Work with existing accelerators and your chosen responsive framework as a starting point, do not go back to the drawing board or photoshop as it will lead to an expensive redesign of all templates.

If you are starting out avoid the mobile accelerators for the time being.

5) Reporting

Reporting will be an ongoing theme for you as you get to grips with your data and trading activity.  Reporting will always include a mixture of services including hybris, ERP and your analytics platform.  You will however find all of these services fairly static and as you start to digest your data you will want to dynamically cut and dice that data.  This is where data reporting such as Business Objects, Tableau and Mixed Panel come into the equation.  However when you start to consider such projects you need to understand your data.  In order to do this we recommend grouping your data into pools and investing in the export mechanisms to get the data out of each platform. Again architecture and approaches need to be carefully thought through here as there is a place for an abundance of technology to process your data.  So we recommend not trying to do this adhoc look to create a service to pool all your data flow and maybe combine that with a central data warehouse.

6) Complementary Products

Once hybris has been implemented we need to keep a close watch on the vendor landscape.  There are lots of complementary services that are coming online that enhance hybris capability.  These are either hybris partner product or wider services from the e-commerce market place.  The early winners in this space are the A&B Testing toolsets that look to optimise trading content and merchandising.  Optimizely is a winner in this category and can work well with hybris.  But there are so much more that can benefit your implementations.  My recommendation is to talk to us first, we can demonstrate some up and coming tools and services that may benefit you.

7) Advanced personalisation

Following on from our master consumer view, a natural progression with hybris is through the advanced personalisation module.  This cannot be taken on until you have a clear strategy around your master consumer model.  However once you have an answer to this then hybris advance personalisation module can aid;-

  • An increase in your average order size by collection customer information from all sources, comparing it to adaptable targeting rules, and providing a personalised shopping experience.
  • The definition of meaningful customer segments and dynamically assigning customers to those segments based on online behaviour.
  • Support for behavioural targetting across multiple channels including online, offline and mobile.
  • Monitoring of outputs from rules to assess results and gain insight into customers and their online behaviou to adjust the product mix and develop effective marketing campaigns.

Again looking at the capability of this module within hybris can further underpin the necessity to keep hybris at the core of your digital estate rather than diluting it via competing cms technology, because personalisation can only truly be achieved via the platform that controls the product and pricing data which in all case is your commerce platform.

9) Better search

Hybris utilises the Apache SOLR search engine.  It is fully integrated within hybris and provides a rich set of search and navigation capability. However it can be improved through extension and customisation or via considering other complementary technologies. Enter SDL’s Fredhopper search platform.  The strength of this technology, combined with hybris is its ease of use for merchandisers.  It is a technology for consideration but only with close respect to the overall technology architecture and not to replace the hybris presentation layer.

10) Finally revisit the full specification capability of hybris.  T

There’s some great documents in hybris’s wiki.  You will find functionality and capability that you did not even know existed.  Ask Amaze to show you something new.

Well Microsoft you might just have something(but is it cool enough)

I’ve been waiting for this one for some time.  We got a glimpse of some preview technologies earlier in the year, over at Redmond and I suspected the emergence of this little beast.  Not sure how your OEM partners are going to view it though.

It looks like a good attempt and is certainly better than most of the devices coming out of south and east asia.  However does it have the cool factor?  Its a bit like business men in polyester shirts.  Theyare just not cool.  However they are business men and that may be Microsoft’s game.  I think the device will makebig headway amongst the standard mundane business world away from the image conscious brand people. The stylus will make it a great note taking tool when combined with one note or even evernote and I think MS Office will be one of the biggest reasons for using the device.  Cool accessories, like the key board approach seems to really think about productivity.

ImageI think, Microsoft, you might just capture marketshare here.  The I.T. departments of the world will surely like to take this as a standard.

But I’m afraid its still not cool enough.  I’m going to keep my iPad but I might just purchase one, for those productive days where I don’t need to be as creative in my thinking.

 

Passbook cleverness

Trying wifi on American airlines for the first time somewhere over Arizona. Anyway I was excited to see Apple’s passbook launch as part of ios6. Great little feature to the iPhone and starts to help our little mobile assistant become even more key to our lives. I see the convenience and simplicity approach as a great killer application for the iPhone.

I’m going to check out the api capability and see how we can start to build features directly in to passbook. It looks pretty straight forward. I love the way we can trigger your data/functionality to be accessed and pushed at the user, based on location, calendar event or time. It’s great for the obvious such as flight bookings and coupon based activity. But we are more excited about the possibility for retail and event based promotions.

Going to do some digging.

Really keen to see where Apple go next. I.e. NFC integration. I love the approach with QR codes I.e. flight boarding passes but surely NFC in the next iPhone is going to be a real killer.

Will report back once we’ve done some prototyping.

Really excited about retail with this one.

PHP and Lamp with iOS

So I tweeted some time ago about moving away from Microsoft server technology and in particular .NET.  I’ve spent most of my professional career building server solutions or leading teams using the Microsoft stack.  I’ve loved it for so many years and have spent the same years justifying its scaling credentials. We’ve even got many proven successes out their being used in anger. One success above all is the new Life platform that we’ve developed for UniServity.  The scaling capability is proving itself  over and over again and therefore my view of Microsoft server technology  remains unchanged.  However I’ve had my head turned slightly by simplicity in the last few weeks. Also by the increasing costs of licensing.

I’ve just started building a series of iPhone and iPad apps with a server / cloud component.  I naturally turned to Microsoft for the answer, however the thought of opening up Visual Studio architecting this fantastic multi layered app with an MVC architecture fills me with dread, when all I need to do is build something simple that will access a database and scale. I’m also using a Mac now-a-days have have been for the last 5 years.  So we now need to boot up parallels start up visual studio and get coding.  All a bit much for my mac book air.  (sorry slimmed down the hardware due to all the traveling)

So I dreamed of the days of Perl and CGI using BBEdit on my original macintosh to edit simple scripts.

PHP gave me the answer and when you start to dig a little deeper it really does provide a viable answer.  It scales well, Facebook proves that with its 540 billion page impressions and its simple to get coding.  I can use my mac as my server and I know it will easily port to a linux or unix platform in the future. I’ve downloaded some simple editing tools and with mysql i’m building my simple cloud based service for my iOS apps.  Except its really not that simple any more.  Its amazing how quick you can progress. Its also like riding a bike, you never forget the technology’s roots and you find that its back down to natural programming techniques.  Rather than even more layers of abstraction you get with .NET.

AND above all no license fees and no policy of requiring even more hardware to run your software.  It does scale very well I have to say and it does spark that programming geek in us all.

More to follow as I progress.

 

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.

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.