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On the subject of Development


August 25th, 2010.

Virtual online dressing rooms

The bane of every online Clothing retailer’s life is RETURNS.

On average, the return rate is 11% for t-shirts; 25-35% for casual wear; and over 40% for fitted fashions. The return rate is higher for more expensive items. In countries like Germany, the average return rate for clothing is even higher – around 60 %. Most of the returns are due to bad fit (stats from

The returns bear a very high cost for retailers, as the average time for the item to be placed back into the sales cycle is 1-2 months. Summer apparel, sold in August, and returned in October, is difficult to be resold at any price.

This is just the nature of things – however good clothes look on screen they sometimes just don’t look so good once on one’s own weirdly shaped body!

However, it’s crucial for online retailers to minimise return rates and some have gone the extra mile in developing online dressing rooms.  Online dressing rooms have come and gone over the years, most of them having promised a lot more than they ever delivered – it’s not exactly an easy conundrum to solve.

So I have been looking into current technology. There does not seem to be a whole lot around but here’s what I found.  If you know or any others please let me know.

I hope they give you inspiration.

1. Seventeen

Hot off the press is youth fashion retailer Seventeen’s virtual dressing room

Online shoppers can now try on clothes in a virtual dressing room using a pioneering new augmented reality application that’s being pioneered by a US magazine publisher.

The application detects users’ image through their computer webcam. Then shoppers choose the piece of clothing they want to try on and see what it looks like on them by laying the clothing image over their own image on their computer screen.

So I gave it a go…….

Well this was fun, and after a bit of trial and error I began to get the idea. It’s good to be able to try on women’s clothes in the name of research though I couldn’t get the clothes to fit me though but then maybe that’s because I’m not a Seventeen year old girl.


Hmmm, couldn’t quite get my laptop angled correctly…


Not really sure if this is going to catch on….

2. Fits me:

Next up is technology being produced by Fits me  This technology takes the old formula of the user putting in their size and the computer doing its best to recreate your build and to render the product on your body. But this time it looks much more impressive.  I gave it a go and it does a nice job as far as I can tell.

First you get your shape

Then try something on

You can see it in action on, though they hardly mention it on their site which surprises me.  Click on the tiny “change my size” icon.

3. Knicker Picker

This is an old favourite and has been around now for a couple of years. This is a sort of online fitting room in that it helps you imagine how a product might look on your type of body, but it’s not attempting anything clever by way of personalising it to your actual shape.

The killer app?

Whilst serving a useful function as an online fitting guide it also doubles up as a sort of online Spearmint Rhino and has become popular with men the world over achieving viral status, which is why if you type in “knickers” in Google and this site comes number one as so many people are now linking to it.  Call me cynical but I can’t help feeling that this may have been as much the objective in the first place as helping out on the fitting issue. It’s due for an update quite soon.

4. Coast Stores

This is just a glorified (or not even that) mood board. I can’t believe anyone is really using this in any serious way. Even the demo doesn’t look very interesting. There is a laborious sign up process and you can’t even get the individual items to move around. So you have shoes pointing one way and handbags the other. Nil points I’m afraid.


Virtual Sunglasses from Brille

This site worked nicely. A bit clunky and slow and really unless you live 100 miles from an optician you’re probably going to have more fun and less waiting going into shop.

A few more editing tools might have been good so that I could rotate my head inline with the horizontalness of the glasses.  There’s nothing technologically amazing about this site but hopefully returns are reduced by giving the user the opportunity to see how they might look once on.

The separate 360 view of each pair of glasses is useful and makes up for the fact that the site can’t quite display the arms of the glasses on my head.  I guess we need some sort of 3D version here.

Anyway, I think I look good with glasses. Any opinions?

And some more just sent in bya reader

Not exactly a fitting room but more a style guide and

OK I just saw this so thought I would add it to the mix: It’s an ad by Google. Not sure it’s the future but cant be ignored.

Fashion Show with Google from Robbin Waldemar on Vimeo.

Please let me know on if you find any other good example of online dressing rooms.


August 17th, 2010.

Increase Conversion rates – advanced techniques

I spend a lot of my time going round E-commerce conferences picking up new ideas and tidbits for improving e-commerce sites.  Nearly everyone is offering software that will increase conversion rates.  It’s tempting to think that if one were to buy into all of them that conversion rates would run at 100%!

This article is aimed at e-commerce managers who have covered the basics of increasing online conversions (read article) and now want to move it up a gear.

Advanced techniques for improving conversions rely on optimising landing pages, intelligent online merchandising and recapturing people once they have left your site.  A lot of the software being offered is cookie based – that’s to say they that user behaviour is tracked using cookies and appropriate offers and products are then presented to them based on their search, click activity.

Here are a few which stand out – where possible I have suggested the sort of company that they are most appropriate for.

Intelligent Search

Most websites just have a standard search that their web developer has implemented, usually without a whole load of thought or cleverness.  This may not be out of laziness, however, as delivering a good search tool is actually quite tricky (ask Bing/Yahoo etc).

It stands to reason that if you are able to provide users with the results best suited to what they are looking for that they are more likely to convert.

Many companies specialise in providing intelligent search solutions that learn as users search, and that give users the options for how they see results.

FACT-Finder at

Celebros at

Both these companies offer a similar service whereby they integrate their search software with your data information so that when people search they receive intelligent results.

Best explained by copy from Celebros’s website:

The search engine can easily return accurate products to any query your customer would make:

Simple queries: Salesperson understands the product searched for and returns results with precise refinements based on your catalog

Complex Query: Salesperson understands which family of products (category) is concerned, and displays products that match the attributes queried (e.g. “dry-hairshampoo”)

Spelling Mistakes: dictionary-based. Salesperson detects and understands any spelling mistake a shopper might make

Synonyms: Salesperson automatically suggests synonyms to fit your catalog and business domain

Missing brand or product: if the shopper queries for a missing product, instead of returning the usual “no results found” page, Salesperson will offer your customer the choice of similar product

Price-based queries: Salesperson is able to handle queries with price terms and price relations (e.g. “shirts under $20)

All contribute to increasing usability and the quality of results and therefore conversions.  This also includes the display of any ancillary information on the page (i.e related products) as well as just search results.

Intelligent search solutions are for retailers with large inventories of products and particularly a range of products that have a wide nomenclature, that is products that can be referred to in many different ways e.g sofa, couch, settee, suite.

Behavioural Merchandising

Avail Intelligence

Avail Intelligence is a company so confident in its ability to give you a good return on your investment that it offers an ROI guarantee. Avail offers merchandising services geared toward your target market. Products are displayed and personalised for every single customer.

Avail Behaviour Merchandising is a tool that lets retailers automatically recommend the most relevant products for each visitor. It makes the online shopping experience more personal. Every step in the buying process is identified and handled separately.

The company promises immediate increases in conversion rates as well as higher average order values as the software helps buyers find what they want (even if they didn’t know they wanted it).

Whilst better for larger retailers, Avail have solutions starting at £200/month for smaller retailers.

Hook logic at

Hook logic

Let’s be honest. Consumers have too many product choices with very little differentiation between them, and as a result they’re much more adept at price comparisons and finding deals.

Based on user behaviour Hook Logic incentive programme allows you to feed in appropriate offers to users whilst  they are on your site thereby giving the user an extra incentive to add the  item to their basket.  See below

The Hook Logic Incentive manager leverages targeted incentives. The goal is to get more prospects to climb into your sales funnel.

According to their website Hook Logic will

  • Increase leads
  • Increase conversion rates
  • Increase average order value by 20 percent or more
  • Deliver personalised incentives through marketing channels

This solution is really geared for large retailers with high site traffic and where price comparison is easy.

Rich Media Merchandising

10 CMS

10 CMS integrates interactive overlays on your product imagery. These overlays feature live merchandising data. They transform home, category, and landing pages. They could transform your customers’ interest into a “must have” mentality.

This is done with mouse-over hotspots embedded within lifestyle media. These inspire customers and personalise options. It creates a sense of urgency and encourages customers to “buy now.”

This is a fairly low cost option and a great opportunity to respond to customer trends. It’s easy to use, intuitive and it integrates with catalogue and merchandising data for fast development. You don’t have to be a tech expert to deploy rich media content and interactive elements

Again with a starting price of £10-15k this is for larger retailers but is a nice add on especially for high end luxury brands.  They claim to have increased conversion rates by 100% for some clients.

Personalized Retargeting

My things media

My things media at

However much traffic you get, it’s likely that 98% doesn’t convert on your site.  But what if you can catch them elsewhere and bring them back to your site.  Mythingsmedia does that by re-targeting highly personalised ads to users once they have left your site  using information based on their buying and search behaviour.

This is very simply how it works:

1.  As visitors enter your website, they are tagged with a cookie.

2. If the user leaves the site and later enters one of the thousands of network sites associated with Mythingsmedia they are delivered relevant advertising based on their previous shopping and search patterns.

3. This advertising banner is served to each individual as a personalised shopping window – enabling instant conversions.

Personalised advertising is the key phrase here. The idea is to make sure every impression for every ad is optimised with relevant content based on the consumer.

For a more detailed (and better) explanation – watch their online video.

The cost is based strictly on conversions and they claim to double your return conversions.

This service is suitable for online retailers of significant size and who receive significant traffic volumes.

MyThings Presents: Personalised Retargeting from mythings on Vimeo.

Consumer Product Reviews

Feefo at

Product review are common place these days.  But there is often a niggling feeling that the merchant has cherry picked the good ones to put their site.  Feefo is an independent review service that the merchant cannot interfere with.

This is how it works.  When a customer buys from you:

If a supplier joins Feefo, the supplier commits to telling Feefo of every sale. When the customer has had a chance to receive the product or service, Feefo email them to ask what they think about the supplier. The customer responds with a very simple form on the site, and the feedback is displayed on the Feefo site (or on the client site via an XML feed) for all to see. It is a very transparent customer feedback tool, and users can trust it as the merchant has no way of “editing” poor reviews.

As well has helping conversion rates, product reviews can also help reduce return rates.  If a user has had the opportunity to research a product fully along with any potential problems then they are less likely to buy something and then have to return it.

Online review tools also help merchants can also track overall customer satisfaction rate over an extended period of time.

This is a good fit for small to mid-sized companies that are not household names and who need to build trust with their new users.

Other product review sites include


Revoo at


August 17th, 2010.

4 more ways to increase conversion rates

This article is aimed at people new to e-commerce. It covers some of the basics of ensuring that your website maximises conversion rates.

It should also be read alongside  12 quick ways to increase conversion rates.

For more experienced e-commerce managers please see this article on advanced techniques for increasing conversion rates.

1) Minimized Navigation on Shopping Cart/Basket Pages

There is nothing more frustrating for an online retailer than an abandoned basket. Why did the user go all that way and then lose interest??

It’s fair to assume at the check out stage that a user does want to buy something.   So our advice is to minimise the navigation available on your shopping cart pages. Keep wording short, simple, and to the point. Do not allow any distractions that could potentially pull your customer away or cause a delay.

By adding in lots of last minute deals and offers you risk diverting attention and losing the sale.  Not everyone subscribes to this method, however at Datadial we believe it to be the best option.

An example:

2) Clear and Upfront Notification of Delivery Charges

Tacking on fees on to a final price without notification early in the buying process is the quickest way to lose a potential sale.  Numerous surveys have revealed that hidden delivery costs are the number one reason for people to abandon a shopping cart.  Notify your customers upfront if they will be required to pay any shipping or handling fees. This is a great way to increase conversion rates and build customer loyalty.

3) Clearly Display Trust Elements for Consumer Confidence

Remember, quite often users do not know who you are, where you are or really anything about you.  Therefore it’s crucial you do everything you can to gain, nurture and keep your customer confidence in order to increase conversion rates. Here are a few ways to do this:

Clearly display “trust elements” on your website. Trust elements can include:

a. Credit card logos. Use only approved, high-quality logos representing the types of credit cards you accept. This helps customers feel more secure in knowing you are a legitimate business. It also shows the user that they can buy from your site. It may not be obvious otherwise.

b. Contact information. Whenever possible clearly display your companies contact information. Customers need to know they will be able to contact you if they have a problem, questions, or need more product details.

c. Real employee names and a company director. When people shop online they like to know with whom they are dealing. Displaying real names and titles of key company employees will help consumers feel more secure in knowing there are real people running the show and not just computerised robots or answering machines.

d. Photos of faces and places. Include photographs of the people with whom your customer is dealing. If appropriate and applicable, include very short biographies about the smiling faces on your website. Consider using photographs of your business location if applicable. This helps people understand yours is a legitimate business with a real location and that you aren’t likely to disappear in the night.

e. Visual verifications of claimed approvals, affiliations, and other credentials. If you have the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for example, proudly display it in a prominent place. If you have earned awards for business-related, and sometimes personal accomplishments, tell your consumers with a quality image and link that leads to more information.

f. Push any special customer services you have to offer. If your customer service representatives are bi-lingual or speak multiple languages, find a way to let potential consumers know from the get go.

Multiple Payment options

Most of the time one payment option on your site is totally adequate.  But in the interests of maximising conversions you might consider adding other payment vehicles to your site.

The most popular alternative is PayPal.  Some users only ever use paypal as they are comfortable with it and trust it.  PayPal offers your customers options. They can pay with major credit cards, or can pay directly from their own PayPal account.  It also has the advantage (depending on how you look at it)  that Paypal store your credit card so that you do not have to re-enter it each time you visit a site offering Paypal.  Paypal is also great one for small and start-up businesses that have no established a financial history with their banks. It’s fast and easy to register, display on your website, and capture funds that can be transferred right to your bank account.

So why not add it as an option?

Well it’s expensive with commission rates around the 3% mark (and 20p per transaction).  Paypal also have a knack of siding with the buyer in the event of  dispute meaning that refunds are issued on request, leaving merchants frequently out of pocket.

It’s an extra administrative thing to manage but if adding Paypal helps get an extra % sales conversion on your site then maybe it is worth it.

Google Checkout also offers easy solutions for start up merchants and small businesses. Google checkout claim to increase leads and create more conversions with a fast, easy, convenient checkout process.

You can also sign for basket abandonment alerts so you can recapture customers who wander away without buying!

The main advantage that Google Checkout has over Paypal is that its icon appears in Adwords results – so naturally drawing your eye to merchants using it, resulting in a 10% uplift in conversion rates according to Google.

However, Google Checkout has many drawbacks.  Its interface and design are distinctly amateurish and this influencers trust building for users on their site.  (Having said that Paypal’s interface is not much better).  Also it’s only possible to link Google Check out to credit card accounts and not bank accounts.

Since its launch Google checkout has not taken off in anyway like Paypal before it and struggles for market penetration.

But, as above, if it means a small increase in sales conversions, and you can put up with the extra administrative hassle, then maybe it’s worth having Google Checkout as well as Paypal as well as normal Credit Card payment facilities.

Like Paypal, Google Checkout is suitable for small and larger merchants alike, though brand aware and high end merchants are unlikely to be found using either as there is undoubtedly something “cheap” looking about both!


July 22nd, 2010.

A glimpse into the future of E-tailing over and beyond traditional e-commerce

I recently went to a talk on the different forms that e-tailing is taking over and beyond the traditional e-commerce site.

Below is a distilled version of the talk with just the best bits.  A lot of these examples are only availabe in the US at the moment but by reading this  you are getting ahead of the curve!

(The talk was by the big cheese at Pod1 – Fadi – so credit to him for researching it all)

E-commerce via Apps
Start accepting cash and card payments with Square. No contracts, monthly fees, or hidden costs. Effortlessly manage the money you take with an easy and intuitive interface. US only at the moment and only for payments less than $60 but one to watch for sure.

See corporate video

And a review on how it works

Google shopper (Android only)

This APP allows you to scan barcodes, the co

vers of books and media, and even search by voice – the app will tell you where you can buy the same product and at what price.  Pretty nifty if it works!


It took 12 months for the location-based social network to attract one million users and by stark contrast; the second million only took three months. Ever since February 2010, the site has been registering over one million ‘check-ins’ a week.

See how it works:

New e-commerce software


Vendr create POP-UP shops – They say that you can create your e-commerce site within 15 minutes.   These are basic obviously sites now but I guess they will improve. In any event they will probably do for many home based businesses.

from their site: “Works with your current website:  Add a “store” button to your blog or website, and your store will simply pop-up over your content — no more sending your customers elsewhere to make a purchase. Vendr functions as a part of your existing site. ”


Alvenda software allows you to create e-commerce shops within sites such as Facebook – Alvenda’s first customer,, launched during the Mother’s Day holiday in 2009 and recognized a 10.5x lift in shopping activity by making it easier for people to shop.

New E-Tailing concepts

Cutting out the middle man – Harnessing the power of social media to revolutionise product manufacture and pricing.

For furtniture design and manufacture: You choose what makes it into our collection. Vote for your favourites and the most popular will be made available to order.

Buy early, pay less
The earlier you buy an air ticket, the less you pay. Now you can do the same with wine. Save £££!

Car Rental

WhipCar is the first service in the world where a car owner can rent out their vehicle for money, whenever they are not using it. WhipCar pairs sensible drivers with spare car time


April 22nd, 2010.

12 Quick ways to increase your conversion rate in 20 minutes

If one of your business goals for 2010 is to increase your conversion rate then here are some basic conversion tips, which amazingly so many website still fail to pay attention to.

Example of a product page

1. Include calls to action. Make sure the home page makes visitors want to move deeper into the site and that the home page reflects exactly the kind of business you are.

2. Keep your site relevant In order to gain trust and loyalty from your visitors it’s important to keep your site up to date. For example once an event is over it should be removed from your site straight away and then updated with all forthcoming events/news.

3. Know what’s visible. Your most important information should go “Above the Fold”:  Anytime a customer has to scroll down a page, they’re doing so to view content that lies “below the fold”.  I still recommend putting all your biggest selling and most profitable products above the fold so your customer doesn’t have to scroll to find it.

4.  Buy it now What happens when a visitor decides to buy a product? They add it to a shopping basket. How do they add it? They click a button or link (usually a button)and if they can’t see the button they will go elsewhere. There are still plenty of sites out there with buttons that are too subtle, or don’t say the right thing, or are hidden away at the bottom of a page. It is important to have clear buttons that also tell the customer what will happen next once they have clicked.

5. Importance of good images and design should always have visitor usability and appeal in mind.  A beautiful, funky or attractive looking web site will not help your ranking but it will help secure client interest and entice sales.

Example of a payment page

6. Keep it short make sure the checkout process is not long – if your site has a lot of pages to complete before checkout you risk the visitor giving up half way through due to time.  You only need to ask for the relevant fields to complete the purchase and follow-up with further details later.

7. Good product description should have a headline and an opening hook designed to get your reader to click on the item and find out more.  The most important elements for product description pages are:

  • Headline
  • Opening hook
  • Overview of benefits
  • Closing the sale

8. Convenience is key Visitors to the site often say how tired they are of having to open another account and having to remember another username/password.  A way around this is to offer a one page checkout process which captures customer details, but does not open an account.

9. Keep them informed When customer buys something online, they want to know when it’s going to arrive at their door. People are impatient. Giving them an estimated delivery date during the checkout process is a good start. Emailing them when their product is dispatched is great. Giving them a tracking number if using a delivery service that supports online tracking is even better. Keep the customer informed at every step of the process, before and after sale, about as much as you can.

10. Points Of Contact Many visitors to your site dislike making contact online so it’s helpful to have your phone number clearly on the contact page if that’s one of the ways you can expect to convert visitors into customers.

11. Payment options? Customers these days need a few options in order to buy online. Not everyone has a Paypal account or a credit card. You need to offer your customers as many payment options as possible, or you could risk losing potential sales. Make the user’s life easy and give them as many payment options as possible.

12. Highlighting offers and sales on your website will encourage an increase both visitors and revenue.  In your headline one should feature different benefits as this will have a huge impact on your sales.  This is often the first thing visitors to your site see so it must capture their attention and entice them to buy the product(s).


September 13th, 2009.

Avoid expensive rebuild costs and improve your existing site conversions

At business school I was taught the way to make money was to make our assets sweat. I think they meant to get the most out of everything you owned and to make sure it was being worked night and day to maximum effect.  And so at Datadial we try to do the same for our clients’ websites by making sure that they are focused on developing websites that maximise sales levels by being search engine friendly and that convert users in to buyers.

The usual reaction in squeezing more out of a website is to rush into a redevelopment exercise.  Redeveloping a website is expensive that is often undertaken on a whim and without real research into what is working and what is not on the current website. Indeed it’s often the case that the current site is perfectly capable of delivering many more sales and that it just needs refining to improve the user experience.

This doesn’t need to be an expensive exercise. The key to successful marketing is to consistently test and measure everything that you do. Delivering fantastic conversion figures is within reach for us all, no matter how small the budget.

Here are four ways that we have carried out for some of our clients to help increase their onsite conversions at virtually no cost.

1) Online surveys

What better way to really understand your customers than to ask them for direct feedback?  What is it that makes them want to buy from you rather than your competitors?  How did they hear about you?

Carrying out market research will enable you to build on what you’re doing well and make any necessary adjustments and help you to grow.  You will be surprised by how many people are willing to take the time to reply to surveys.

We recently did a survey for one of our clients which gave vital insight into user behaviour.  Coupled with Click Tracking report (see below) Design911 have been able to fine tune their website to respond to users’ expectations and behaviour.

Below is a sample of the survey results  that were produced.



2) Mouse tracking

Why do other sites make it so difficult to buy anything from them?  We’ve all experienced a confusing website at one point or another.  But could your site also be suffering from usability issues?  Find out where the sticking points are with Mouse tracking.

You may also find that users are trying to click on things on your site that are not designed to be clicked on.  We found this with Design911:

With design 911 we found that that very few people clicked on the middle of the page and that lots of users tried clicking on ads on the right handside of the page which were not actually clickable.  We found too that the search box was being under used as it was below the page fold and that users were taking at least 60 seconds to make a click on key navigation items.


3) Study your analytics

It’s all too tempting to gloss over your analytics reports – these reports contain vital information which reveal where users are getting stuck, turned on or turned off.  Seems obvious to say it but unless you take the time to check what is going on on your site you will never be able to intelligently amend your site and measure the effect of your changes.

There is a mass of information to look at but here are 3 basic things to do

Check Bounce Rates: Bounce rates tell you if a visitor who has been directed to your site via a search engine or Adwords likes what they have found.  If they leave the site immediately this is called a bounce.  If this happens you need to question if you are showing the right products for the keyword search  and if you could provide better information, or if they had come via  Adwords, are your Adwords set up correctly.

Funnels: You can set up funnels to determine where people are dropping off over a series of pages (typically the shopping cart process).  Different funnels can be set up for different goals.

Compare to previous periods: There are a number of trends such as time on site, the number of keywords that you are being found for, the number of pages per visit that are good to compare from onen time period to another so that you detect trends.

4) A/B Testing

Having pawed over your analytics you can then start making intelligent changes to your site.  How will you make more people fill in your enquiry form?  How can you get them to add one more thing to their basket.  Take a look at the forms below and guess which one had the higher conversion rate.



This company carried out A/B testing on their sign up form and increased their conversion rate by 10%.

This is called A/B testing or Multivariate testing which we use to determine which images, copy and design most appeal to your customers and which version increases conversion.  You can have as many or as few variables as you like when creating your A/B testing.  Ideally you would set it up to automatically serve different versions of the page to alternate users but to save money you can do it on a week on/week off basis.

We helped Conference Genie increase conversions on their site by altering the sign up process.  Interestingly we did it by making their site more complicated.

Weirdly the problem on this site was that it was too easy to use.  Users could not believe that they could just dial a default number, punch in a code and start a conference call.  So we made the site appear to generate a specific telephone number and a unique code for them.  Turning a one step process into a two step process actually increased conversions.


Making small changes instead of wholesale changes was also recently backed by Peter Fitzgerald, who leads Google UK’s retail industry division.  He said that the whole area of analytics – that’s technical jargon for examining the ways that people navigate websites when they shop online – has taken on new importance to retailers.

Simple changes can make the world of difference, particularly since statistics show that 50.1% of online shoppers who place items in their shopping carts still do not buy them.

By subtly altering a website’s layout based on how people use it, websites can increase sales significantly.

“There is often a lot of unimportant information on the top of a web page. If you move this information out of the way it can make a huge difference,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

For example when Comet, the electricals retailer owned by Kesa, the listed stores group, removed two bits of text from the top of its web page (saying ‘top checkout tips’ and ‘you’re safe with us’ respectively), its conversion rates increased by 6.7pc.  “Online retailers are spending more time on analytics to see where things are going wrong,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

Department store group Debenhams recently tested the message and positioning of an online sign-up form for its Beauty Club.  Improvements to it increased the number of customers the chain signed up by over 89pc.  Little such tweaks are being made by online retailers as a means of gaining incremental sales. Experts say that the results of the small changes can be seen almost immediately.

Google’s Mr Brittin said: “By interpreting analytics data and continually testing their sites, retailers can really understand what consumers are looking for online. Often very small and seemingly obvious tweaks can boost sales significantly.”

All of the above exercises can be implemented fairly quickly and inexpensively.  However, don’t underestimate the time you need to truly get to grips with your findings.

By constantly analysing the results and carrying out appropriate changes you will be able to squeeze every last conversion out of your site without incurring expensive redevelopment costs.


July 6th, 2009.

Just how social was Compare the Market campaign


I attended the Online Marketing show at Olympia on Tuesday and listened to “How to implement a social media campaign” By Amelia Torcode, Partner and Head of Digital Strategy, VCCP.

VCCP and Amelia are now the darlings of the social media world following their successful Compare the Market/ Compare the Meerkat campaign.  Anna picked up an NMA award last week for the campaign.

I’ve got to say that I was a little disappointed by the presentation, especially on behalf of the delegates who had actually gone along in order to learn about Social Media Marketing.  All they got was a self indulgent “aren’t we wonderful” lecture on the Meerkat experience, along with a repeat of some of the adverts just in case you hadn’t quite got the message yet.  The talk cost £40 to attend so you would hope to learn something in return apart from how wonderful VCCP are.

But my main beef with the whole thing was actually the question of whether this was in fact a successful Social Media Campaign at all.  At its simplest VCCP came up with a cute idea, paid a huge amount to advertise it, set up a Twitter account and Facebook page and then encouraged the banter on these and other sites.  This has created incredible awareness and has kept a lot of people happy.  Site traffic has gone up 80%,  but still way below Succesful quotes have gone up 20%.

But was this really a social media campaign in its truest sense?  Could they have achieved a better result at a fraction of the price? Did they essentially miss the point of social marketing?

Social media is a method of generating discussion about your product or service within social network platforms seemingly without any effort being made by yourself.  In short you start a story, others pick it up and pass it around because its either funny, interesting or useful  If you get the story right you don’t need to spend any money because the “network” does the work for you. In VCCP’s case they (must have) spent a fortune on the development of a separate website and on the TV campaign, and in the process killing the average cost per conversion, although Anna claimed that this had come down by 21% but it was not clear that this took into account VCCP cost.

The point and beauty of social media is that you don’t need a TV campaign, the network does the work for you.  The message is passed on because people feel the need to.  And the number of people who link to your site ultimately help the Google rankings.  The actual spike in traffic is an irrelevance compared to the long term effect on Google rankings

On the point of search engine rankings, in her talk Anna started off by saying that Google was the benchmark around which the whole campaign was based but then did not mention Google from that moment in.  When I questioned her about the traffic from Google she was unable to answer as she had no stats and there was a separate agency altogether dealing with natural SEO. In fact any discussion about Google rankings or PPC had her flummoxed. I found this astounding.

I don’t want to knock Anna or the the meerkat campaign but it’s really interesting seeing the different approach that an Advertising agency can have to Social Media compared to a proper Online Marketing company. Advertising is all about brand awareness.  SEO is all about driving sales via the website.  As an SEO consultant myself I could not imagine implementing a campaign without keeping Google and other search stats at the forefront of any analysis of the campaign’s success.

Also I would have questioned a totally separate site, to be the backbone of the campaign.  Any self respecting SEO will tell you that for a social media campaign to be successful is to get people to link to your client site voluntarily which in turns helps rankings and therefore sales.  In this campaign as the majority of the new links will be pointed at the stand-alone Meerkat website.  In my opinion this is a huge miss of the campaign.  1000’s of lovely links all going to the wrong website – how depressing!

The only solution would be to 301 the meerkat website one day when no one is looking, though this is a huge social media faux-pas and could potentially lose them a lot of trust and goodwill.  Undoubtedly VCCP have been successful in raising awareness of CompareTheMarket but I am unconvinced about the benefits of the long term online presence.

If I was new to social media I would certainly have left none the wiser after this talk.  If I had been giving the talk I would have attempted to reveal the theory behind succesful social media marketing, explained how stories got picked up and spun about the web, how a traffic spike in itself is not important but the links that it brings, how the ultimate prize is rankings.  In short I would  have talked less about myself and more about how to help others, especially if I was charging £40!


June 26th, 2009.

12 things to check for your SEO Christmas checklist


Christmas 09 is only 4 months away.  No doubt you’ll already have your products organised and maybe some ideas on offline marketing but what about online marketing.

Because online marketing can take 4-6 months to “kick in” there’s no time like the present to activate your Christmas strategy.   So below are 12 timely reminders on what needs to be in place to ensure that your site delivers this Christmas in a way that would make Santa Claus proud.

1. Blogging – sounds similar to ‘tobogganing’ and is just as much fun

  • Simply, unless you are willing to put the time into adding useful and interesting content on your site then there really is little chance that the search engines will bother ranking you for anything more than your domain name.  You have to deserve to be number one.

2. Social Media – it’s time to get social (both online and off line) – and we don’t mean just churping along with the robins

  • Marketing is no longer a one way monologue.  It’s all about dialogue now and if you’re not up for a chat then users won’t listen.   If you say something  interesting then others will refer to it and pass it onto their friend – if it isn’t then they will talk about your competitors products instead.

3. Link Bait – lay the foundations now and reap the rewards by Christmas

  • How would you like say 500,000 more visitors to your site. Content will go viral if written properly – but before it goes viral make sure that your website can take the strain of the increase in visitor traffic.

4. Mouse tracking – discover how your customers behave online and throw them a lump of cheese…

  • Find out where people are clicking on your site and where they are getting confused. You’ll be surprised by how quickly and easily people get lost and move on elsewhere.  Make sure buttons like “Add to Basket” are big and easy to find (and look like buttons)Â

5. Cross-selling – if your customers have a basket, fill it!

  • Seems pretty obvious thing to do but many companies still miss this easy opportunity to up the customers’ spend by 10% or so.  Ask your web programmers to implemenet basket based offers.

6. Communications – ensure your data management system is working for you and send glad tidings to all your customers

  • I’m presuming you already have an email database.  If not, why not?  But continue to refine your database so that you can target relevant offers at different people.

7. Seven swans a-swimming – (well we had to give some reference to the twelve days of Christmas) Will your customers be able to swim through your site without any hold ups?

  • Should you really be making your customers register before purchase?  Are you hiding your delivery charges? (Hidden delivery charges are the 2nd most cited reason for people abandoning a shopping cart). Is it obvious how to make the order?  All these issues will effect conversion rates.  Get friends to perform specific tasks on your site and see how they perform. You’ll be surprised.

8. Content management system – check that your system will enable you to do everything you require. We’re still working on a turkey cooking programme but we are happy to cover off everything else.

  • Got a great idea for a Christmas offer? Have you checked that your e-commerce software is capable of handling this type of offer.  Find out now and don’t leave to last moment.

9. Reputation management – discover if you are featuring on your customers’ Christmas wish lists this year

  • Find out what people are saying about you with Datadial’s reputation management software and then respond to these comments and start a dialogue.  See how Love Film responded to a post I wrote about them – this was a classic bit of Reputation Management whereby they quashed my negative comment about them.

10. PPC – Pretty Perfect Christmas?  We believe Pay Per Click is the icing on the cake of an online marketing strategy (never the key ingredient)

  • Multi channel marketing includes PPC as well as snail mail.  PPC is expensive if implemented incorrectly.  Get this sorted before the Christmas rush starts.  Do all your experimenting with what works and what doesn’t or else you’ll find all the money coming in one end is going out the other end.

11. Online PR – You don’t need to bring frankincense and myrrh but if you’re doing anything quirky or different then let the blogosphere know about it

  • Do not presume that your PR company can do online PR.  Online PR is an entirely different science to Offline PR and most PR companies do not have a clue about how to create buzz on line.

12. Online optimisation – creeping round every corner making sure everything is as ‘friendly’ as possible

  • This is the most important thing to get right – If your website is not optimised for search engines then it has no chance of being ranked for its keywords.  Ask us to provide a website analysis for you.  If you ask nicely we might even do it for free, seeing as it’s nearly Christmas!

If you’ve got it all covered then you can join our happy Santa on the beach



June 21st, 2009.

Boring but important – Changes to “place of supply” for VAT

VAT – are you preparing for new ‘place of supply’ rules?
Major changes in VAT legislation are on the way and it is essential that all businesses are prepared in advance to meet the requirements and avoid any possible financial penalties.

From 1st January 2010 there will be a change to the basic rule regarding the place of supply of services. This is the rule which identifies the country where services are deemed to have been ‘supplied’. Currently, if a supplier has established its business in the UK, then the place of supply will be deemed to be the UK and any services charged for will be subject to UK VAT. There are, however, numerous exceptions to this rule. Establishing whether a service falls under one of the exceptions – and if so, which one – constitutes a major headache for businesses.

The new basic rule states that if the recipient is a business customer then the place of supply is the country where the recipient belongs. Therefore, when the new rule applies, if a UK business supplies training services to a business customer in Spain and delivers the training in France then the place of supply will be Spain and the reverse charge will apply. The existing rules dictate that the place of supply is France, with the result that the UK business may need to register in France.

The new basic rule also states that if the recipient is not a business customer then the place of supply is the country where the supplier belongs.

As is now the case, there will be some exceptions, but these exceptions are in many cases different from those currently in force. It will be important to ascertain just how your business will be affected.

The changes may affect businesses which receive services from abroad. Such businesses may already account for VAT using the reverse charge mechanism, but may in future have to do this in situations where the reverse charge currently does not apply.

Another significant change, which is being introduced as an EU anti-fraud measure, relates to EC Sales Lists. Businesses supplying services to commercial customers in other EU countries will be affected. Currently, EC Sales Lists are required only for supplies of goods. Although this comes into force on 1st January 2010 you should be preparing now to collect the necessary data.

 The above was copied from an email sent to me by UK Training (Worldwide) Limited

Registered Office
4/5 The Mayflower,
Liverpool Road,
L37 6BU.

Tel: +44 (0)1704 878988
Fax: +44 (0)1704 832124

I have no association with them but the information is important to digest for anyone trading online.

As ever Datadial are here to assist you in implementing your e-commerce sites to the specification you desire.


November 10th, 2008.

New E-commerce launch –


We took a dogs dinner of an old website and transformed it into a work of art that converts users to buyers. As always the project was delivered on time and on budget.









Yapp Wine Merchants website now has a fresh, modern design, packed with tools to help you find the wine you need.  It is unfrightening and designed to cater to Yapps broad user base.  We’ve made searching for wine fun and easy whilst retaining Yapp’s connoiseur edge.

Everyone has their own ways of looking for wine so we implemented 4 ways to navigate the site:

  • The Easy Wine selector uses dynamic searching
    Watch your search results change dynamically with easy to use search sliders. Have a play.  The great advantage of this is that it all happens on one page with no hopping backwards and forwards to and from search results.
  • The Food and Wine selector allows you to search for wine by Food Type by clicking on images of different food types.  This is not rocket science but is dis-armingly useful.
  • Advanced Search - for those who really know what they are after.
    Search by Regional maps
  • “You recently looked at”
    Isn’t it annoying when you look at lots of different items and then have to re-find them by re-doing the searches.  Well we eliminated this problem with the “You recently looked at section” so you dont have to re-do previous searches.
  • Tell a friend / Bookmark tools
    Not strictly a navigation tool but so simple and effective.  How else can you let your loved one know what you want for Christmas?  Simply post your choices to your Facebook page and invite others to have a look.

Search engine friendly

As always with Datadial, the site is built to be search engine friendly
All pages from the old site have been redirected to the relevant new pages.
The site uses Friendly URLs so instead of


Integrated stock control – the site is integrated to draw stock levels from Sage accounts.
The site is fully content managed, giving Yapp control over all aspects of the site including creating offers, mixed case offers and product information.
The site is also integrated with Datadial’s email marketing system.


July 20th, 2008.

Design Patterns

Design Patterns are an essential tool for any object orientated programmer who wants to take his/her skills to the next level. Understanding the specifics of Design Pattern practices and methodologies will help developers uncover reoccurring patterns in software development and give them the tools to apply the correct solution.

For every difficulty encontered during application development, chances are this problem was encountered before (and solved). Design Patterns represent key programming practices that have been proven to get the job done in the most efficient, reusability and extensibility. This greatly increases efficiency of code and helps to break an application down into loosely compelled manageable chucks.

As a .Net developer you may have used some of these patterns without even knowing. A design patterns name captures the basic concepts that govern its use and a common practice is to include the pattern name in the name of the object that implements it.

You may have come across the following names while working with the .Net framework:

  • Proxy
  • Adapter
  • Command
  • Factory

The deeper your understanding of Design Patterns the more you’ll be to understand the .Net framework and how it can leverage you applications.

Main Design Patterns Concepts

  • Use interface inheritance over concrete base class inheritance
  • Create loosely coupled objects to promote code reuse by keeping object small and specialised
  • Defer / Delegate responsibility to specialised objects using composition

Choosing the correct pattern
The best way to decide which pattern is fit for the jobs it to break down your development specification into each requirement. If these requirement exhibit certain characteristics that relate to a design pattern then apply it. E.g. If you application is responsible for monitoring a file system and reporting changes back to a number of objects you are most-likely to implement the Observer pattern.

Once you have gained an understanding of object orientated concepts you should be ready to tackle Design Patterns. You will be surprised how many patterns that are already familiar to you and how much the put things into perspective. You’ll also find that the more you learn, the more you’ll see application development from a different perspective (almost like seeing the Matrix!!). To truly understand the benefits of Design Patterns you have to apply them to your application development. This will improve your object reuse and make future program changes less painful!

List of Design Patterns LINK:

  • Adapter Pattern
  • Command Pattern
  • Composite Pattern
  • Decorator Pattern
  • Factory Pattern
  • Flyweight Pattern
  • Intepreter
  • Model-View-Controller
  • Null Pattern
  • Observer-Observable
  • Singleton
  • State Pattern
  • Strategy Pattern
  • Template Pattern
  • Union Pattern
  • Visitor Pattern


July 20th, 2008.

Introduction to Developing .Net Mobile Applications

There are many tools on the market for creating application for mobile phones and portable devices. This blog post investigates the technologies necessary for creating Microsoft related ASP.Net mobile applications.

Window Mobile (OS)
Window mobile is a compact operating system for mobile devices. These devices include Pocket PCs, Smartphones, Portable Media Centres and on-board computers for cars. Windows Mobile has been designed to be similar aesthetic to Vista and is currently at version 6.1 with a new release scheduled for 2010.

.Net Compact Framework
The .Net compact framework is a scaled sown version of the .Net Framework and uses some of the same class libraries with a few additional libraries designed specifically for mobile devices. This can be integrated with Visuals Studio 2003, 2005 and 2008 to develop impressive mobile windows form based and web based applications.

ASP.Net Mobile Controls and the Microsoft Internet Toolkit
Developing applications for mobile devices can be a challenging as there are certain limitations, which include:

  • Different mark-up languages for PDAs, Cell phones or Japanese phones.
  • Devices have a varying number or display lines, horizontal/vertical orientation and screen colours.
  • Different network connectivity
  • Capabilities, display resolution and ability to make phone calls.

All these factors must be taken into consideration when developing applications for mobile devices.

This is where the Microsoft Internet toolkit comes in, as it addresses these issues so that developers can build one mobile web application that delivers the appropriate mark-up for a wide range of mobile devices.

The mobile toolkit contains:

  • Mobile web form controls which are similar to ASP.Net controls as the generate mark-up code
  • Mobile Internet Designer which integrates with Visual Studio .Net IDE to provide a web application design environment
  • Browser Capabilities which makes it possible to run ASP.Net functionality on mobile devices
  • Quick Start Tutorial with sample code
  • Developer Documentation
  • Device adapter code samples

Using a combination of the Windows Mobile operating system, .Net Compact Framework, and the Microsoft Internet Toolkit applications can be written to run on a wide range of mobile devices in a similar manor to that of regular browser base applications.

These are the three basic tools that are necessary to start building applications that target mobile devices.
Mobile devices are becoming increasingly popular as people continually want to stay connected when they are away from their desk. Microsoft has developed a cohesive little package of products that integrate well together and provide an infrastructure similar to their full blown application development environment. This will hopefully encourage developers to venture into the world of mobile application development.

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