Monthly Archives: October 2017

Are Websites Obsolete? Not so fast, some says…

Websites obsolete, really? Think about it – the 1.2 billion websites are becoming outdated and out of fashion? And who is to blame? The smart phones and mobile technology? Of course; according to Damle, Aslekar and Yadavalli, (2016) 1, people are beginning to use mobile applications (apps) more than ‘traditional’ websites.

Indeed, Connie Hwong reported that data from Verto Analytics showed that there’s a correlation between the number of distinct apps that consumers use and the total amount of time they spend using their smartphone on a daily basis. That’s no real surprise.

Pappachan, Yus, Das, Mehrotra, Finin and Joshi (2015) 2 suggested that today’s internet users have an array of choices while installing apps of any kind for entertainment, utility, or education. As a result, smart phones started to replace other devices as de facto medium for online browsing, social networking, and other activities. Even more, mobile apps are replacing traditional desktop applications and websites, said Pappachan et al (2015) 2.

So, it this the end of websites? Let’s first compare websites with apps – what are their functions and where do they fit in?

Websites versus Apps

For some, there is no question that the websites are obsolete. The transition from an internet of websites to an internet of mobile apps is no longer coming — it is here, writes John Herrman recently in The New York Times.

Dan Cristo, announced (quite dramatically) in Search Engine Watch: “I’ve been preaching the death of the web in favor of native mobile apps for a while now, but many don’t see it. They can’t imagine a day when their beloved .com will go away, disregarded as a relic of the early Internet.”

But can we do without a website? Are apps making websites obsolete?

Anderson and Rainie, (2012) 3 predicted five years ago that the experience when you visit a webpage and the experience when using an app will converge, possibly to the point where there is little practical difference. They listed points for and against apps.

Points for apps:

  • The convenience – of using apps as a gateway to getting what you want meets human needs.
  • Apps are are easier to control and turn into commodities for sale.
  • The apps approach to accessing information on the Internet is perceived as “closed,” while the traditional Web paradigm is seen as “open.”
  • Apps’ ability to meet specific needs becomes a double-edged sword; they simplify life and they create “walled gardens” and a lack of serendipity.

Point against the domination of apps:

  • The rapid global adoption of narrowly targeted software applications—increasingly popular because of their ease of use on mobile devices—is negatively impacting creativity, innovation, and individuality on the World Wide Web.

websites obsolete

So, are websites obsolete?

Before you get rid of your websites and fall heads over heels for apps, read the 5 reasons Evan Rose (Business2Community) suggests keeping your websites:

  1. There is no SEO for mobile apps. For the moment, there is no way of getting more search results for your business through the mobile app. SEO is still restricted to websites when it comes to on-page keyword strategies.
  2. You cannot incorporate too many features in an app. Imagine every type of content included in your website squeezed into a mobile app. It would be a huge app which would take up a lot of storage space and it would be difficult to use.
  3. You still rely on website landing pages. Coming back to those people who are still browsing social media from their computers (there are a lot of them, and for certain niches they are the typical potential customers), your social media campaigns, ads and offers would not be effective if you send people to a mobile app instead of a web landing page.
  4. Web pages are better for blogging. Although they are very busy, people still enjoy reading a good article or blog post, even if it is longer. It is quite annoying to do that in an app, with endless scrolling on the screen.
  5. Maintaining and updating websites is less expensive. If you focus all your marketing, promotion, presentation and blogging efforts in a mobile app, you will have to apply frequent updates. This is not only annoying for the users, but it is also costly for your organization.

Concluding

I suppose the website will never become obsolete. However, it may become a niche application.  It won’t be long before we can do everything with apps that we can do now with websites. More intriguing may be an application, on a different platform, that will make apps obsolete…

Notes

1 Damle, M., Aslekar, A. and Yadavalli, V.S. 2016. Comparative Study of Online Shopping Experience With Specific Reference to Mobile Apps Based Shopping, International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, 7(4):1238-1246.

2 Pappachan, P., Yus, R., Das, P.K., Mehrotra, S., Finin, T. and Joshi, A. 2015. Building a Mobile Applications Knowledge Base for the Linked Data Cloud, In MoDeST@ ISWC, 14-25.

3 Anderson, J.Q. and Rainie, L. 2012. The Web Is Dead? No. Experts expect apps and the Web to converge in the cloud; but many worry that simplicity for users will come at a price, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Video:

Images

  1. Pexels.com
  2. StaticFlickr.com

Read also: The Big Challenge: How to Increase your Website Traffic

Retail and Climate Change – A Devastating Reality

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 in Durban. It was a lovely spring morning…; then suddenly, all hell broke loose. More than 140 mm (5 and a half inches) rain fell in a couple of hours. With that, strong winds uprooted trees and demolished roofs and sheds. For me, retail and climate change met when the massive container ship MSC Ines disengage from her mooring to block the entrance of the Durban harbor channel to shipping.

What if the entrance of the harbor remains blocked for a long period of time?  That may simply means that most retailers in South Africa may soon run out of merchandise. But that’s not all. Most of the warehouses were flooded and damaged in the storm, also not helping. Can you imagine grocery stores with empty shelves and frustrated customers?

This is an extraordinary scenario where retail and climate change have met. But where else do they meet…

Retail and climate change are meeting in the stores

Remember the good old days when we still had seasons? I mean like summer, winter, fall and spring? Maybe the days are gone when winter clothing fashion shows caused a stir late summer and visa verse with summer fashions.

I suppose that’s way Arthur Zaczkiewicz asked in WDD: “Is Climate Change Killing the Seasonality of Fashion Apparel Retailing?” According to Arthur, one easily noticeable effect of the impact of climate change on fashion apparel and retail are sales of outerwear. Last year’s lack of “sweater weather” caused by record warmth during October, November and December, resulted in excess inventory of sweaters, jackets and coats.

In fact, results from a doctoral study done by Islam Molla (2016) 1 in the US revealed that change in temperature affects the impact of wholesale sales on retail sales during the months of June, July, and August. Therefore retailers need to implement some strategic managerial decisions to reduce their inventory as well as their cost, suggested Molla.

But climate change is not only affecting the fashion retail.

Retail and climate change – a challenge to keep food on the table

An even bigger threat of climate change concerns food security. Most of us has probably experienced shortages of certain food groceries because of a severe drought or flooding. In South Africa, for example, the recent drought had caused the price of meat to rise with about 17% since January 2016 (Colleen Goko, Business Live).

Some foodstuffs can become scarcer or disappear altogether. This may be because climate change makes it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and same places as we have done in the past (EPA). Should we get used to grocery stores displaying half empty shelves?

What about the effect that climate change has on infrastructure?

Infrastructure, retail and climate change

Retailers are heavily depended on workable infrastructure to get customers into the stores and to fulfill orders. Storms and temperature extremes can damage or destroy infrastructure. Indeed, that’s what happened in Durban recently.

Apart from the harbor entrance that was blocked, roofs were blown off warehouses and factories. As result thereof, merchandise were damaged and production at several factories ceased. Roads were destroyed and power lines were swept away. Moreover, the signal towers of mobile phone networks were damaged.

Indeed, retail and climate change met in a devastating dance that day…

Regulating climate change

So, climate change can’t just carry on disrupting our lives forever one should think? No, we all have a government to make laws to contain the beast. But how will the regulations and laws affect us?

To begin with, the laws and regulations to reduce the effect of climate change were introduced halfheartedly and not globally. Even the USA recently backtracked on the Paris accord. The Paris accord is a voluntary treaty that allows signatories to set their own pace of decarburization, so long as it is consistent with limiting global warming to 2 ᵒC.

If the leading nations don’t care about climate change, then not only retail but the existence of humankind is in danger…

Concluding

It seems that much had been said about climate change, but little has been done. I suppose it had do with egos and politics. Should we as retailers not start introducing steps to minimize the effects of our businesses on the climate? Maybe then retail and climate change can dance to a different tune…

Note:

1 Islam Molla, M. 2016. Impact of weather on US apparel retail and wholesale sales, Doctoral dissertation, University of Missouri–Columbia.

Images:

  1. Maritime Executive
  2. Flickr.com
  3. Wikimedia

Customer Centricity – Now is the Opportunity to know your Customers Better

Customer centricity means that retailers should align products and services with the needs of their most valuable customers 1. Said Peter Drucker more than 50 years ago: “it is the customer who determines what a business is, what it produces, and whether it will prosper.”

Although Drucker’s rationale was spot-on, until recently, adopting customer centricity was a step too far for most companies.  Historically, firms have tended to be product-centric.  As a result, firms were more internally oriented, with their attention focused on selling superior products rather than on being oriented toward the purchasers and users of those products 3.

However, the advent of the internet and Web 2.0 all changed that.

The digital disruption provides an opportunity to focus on  customer centricity

The impact that digitization has on the retail industry is recognized by most commentators as “disrupting”. In fact, retailers have to reconsider the impact of technology on their usual business strategy and aim at implementing digital transformation; otherwise, chances to succeed are miserable, according to ELEKS writing in Medium.com.

The digital disruption is however not always bad news for the retail industry. Digital technology has made it easier to remove the friction points customers have with your business. As a result, the processes are more seamless, straight-through transaction path agnostic of the engagement medium, says Grant Pattison, Senior Manager, Marketing & Sales Technology, IAG.

Retail shoppers are treated with digital surprises when visiting their favorite stores. They ‘re overwhelmed by all the new gadgets and retail technologies such as touch screens, smart fitting rooms and augmented reality that make their shopping experience better. Indeed, data collected via IoT devices and sensors inside the store will help retailers track shopper movement, predict behavior and develop more interactive experiences that appeal to all the senses, concurs Alison Wiltshire, guest author in Internet Retailing.

However, the customers are paying for their experiences. Every time they enjoy the technology, they give something away about themselves to the retailer. The data that the retailer gathers is like gold dust. In fact, retailers are now using predictive analytics and other technologies, along with new organizational structures, to both anticipate and influence customer behavior 4.

So retailers that adopted digital technology have all the means to achieve customer centricity. Not really…

Moving from a culture of product centricity to one of customer centricity

It doesn’t make sense for retailers to use the latest technology to improve their customer’s shopping experiences when everything they are doing is centered round their products. It’s not the products that are important; it’s the customers that are most important!

The true essence of the customer centricity paradigm lies not in how to sell products but rather on creating value for the customer and, in the process, creating value for the firm 3. In other words, customer centricity is concerned with the process of dual value creation.

Your customers rather want to learn that your products add value for them instead of being suffocated about the benefits of the products. Therefore retailers need to communicate their value proposition in the omnichannel; through their websites and in social media networks and in store, suggests Douw G Steyn, Bricks2Clicks.co.za.

So how do you get your company to focus on customer centricity? Ehssan Abdallah article in Heidrick & Struggles’ blog mentioned five essentials of customer centric cultures:

  1. A customer-centric talent agenda. Executives need to determine how to build and sustain their company’s capacity to deliver customer service aligned with the company’s purpose.
  2. Meaningful customer service values. Retailers should ask the following questions to frame and define the organization’s customer service values but also better ensure that employees at all levels can understand and articulate how their actions contribute to success:
    1. What are our customers telling us they need?
    2. How can we harness analytics to drive day-to-day behaviors and processes?
    3. How can we connect customer service values to our organization’s purpose?
  3. Empowered employees. Employees should be encouraged to use their authority wisely, and thereby sending a strong signal to all the stakeholders of the company’s “whatever-it-takes” philosophy to delight its customers.
  4. A strong sense of accountability. In moving toward an empowered customer-centric culture that leverages talent effectively, leaders must select indicators to gauge performance and track progress for both behaviors and outcomes.
  5. Leaders who “walk the talk”. When executives promote customer service values, it sends a strong signal throughout the organization that management recognizes the customer as central to its existence.

Strong, customer-centric cultures offer organizations an organic, and sustainable, avenue to better results. Not according to some commentators.

Reasons why customer centricity may not be working (a different opinion…)

Jack Springman, a director at Digital Springboard didn’t make customer centricity part of his objectives this year. Here are his reasons:

  1. Customer-centricity is too vague a term to be useful. What does customer-centricity mean, specifically? How do you define it? How do you know when an organization is genuinely customer-centric?
  2. Customer-centricity is not measurable. If you can’t measure it, you can’t deliver it. So how do you measure centricity? You can’t.
  3. It’s a means, not an end (and one that could be counterproductive). Improving the customer experience is an end; customer-centricity is a means. So even if you could measure centricity, which should be subsidiary to what you are trying to achieve.
  4. Staff-centricity versus customer-centricity. There is a relationship between staff satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Unhappy employees may battle to be customer centric.
  5. Customer value requires all stakeholders to be looked after. Of course, no business can exist without customers, but nor can any but the very smallest survive without staff or suppliers or perhaps partners.
  6. Reduced prioritization in the strategic agenda. Think about the impact in other parts of the organization, especially as customer centricity is supposed to be an organization-wide commitment.

Jack suggests that in place of customer centricity, firms should create value for customers in a way that also creates value for the business.

Concluding

After all of this, it’s not about the company. It’s about the customer. Jack Springman rightfully said that no company can exist without customers. So, if you want to keep your customers and get some more, you must know what their needs, wants and demands are. Of course, if you add value for your customers, then they will return the complement.

And yes, with aid of digital technology unsurmountable bits of data are collected from our customers for us to utilize.  After all, customer’s first point of interaction is mostly nowadays a machine or robot…

Shouldn’t we rather have a customer/ robot focus from now on?

Read also: The Value Proposition for Bricks and Clicks Retailers

Image: Flickr.com

 

Notes:

1 Lemon, K.N. and Verhoef, P.C., 2016, Understanding customer experience throughout the customer journey, Journal of Marketing: AMA/MSI Special Issue, 80:69–96.

2 Drucker, P.F, 1954. The practice of management: A study of the most important function in America society, Harper & Brothers.

3 Shah, D., Rust, R.T., Parasuraman, A., Staelin, R. and Day, G.S. 2006. The path to customer centricity. Journal of service research, 9(2):113-124.

4 Van den Driest, F., Sthanunathan, S. and Weed, K. 2016. Building an insights engine, Harvard Business Review, 94(9):64-74.