7 steps for mobile brands to crack online retail
Starter brands are finding the UK online retail market an increasingly tough space to sell their products in.
Specifically within the consumer electronic accessories area, the saturation of the market is one of the main reasons for this. There are over 90 million live mobile contracts in the UK, resulting in increased competition due to easy access to Far Eastern manufacturing and low entry access to selling on sites such as Amazon and eBay. What’s more, the maturity of the UK market makes it comparatively tougher than other emerging markets for young brands to get their product noticed.
From our experience, brands can experience growth of up to 300 percent year on year with a strictly online strategy, often utilising the support of smaller chain and independent bricks and mortar outlets and ultimately pulling away from high street only retail. In this era of multi-channel it is more important than ever to adopt the correct channel strategy.
Here, I outline some basic principles for starter brands to follow in order to be successful online.
What’s your channel strategy?
Consider which strategy you’ll be focusing on – early. Are you building your brand solely online? Do you have an intention of expanding internationally? Does your product need an element of human contact on the high street, seeing it best suited to a multi-channel strategy? This is the first thing you should consider before even trying to sell. Without a clear direction any starter brand will become lost and a clear direction needs to be mapped out.
A gap in the market
Consider whether the consumer actually needs your product. Whether its purpose is fun, fashion or function, to be an attractive proposition your brand’s product needs to be too good for the consumer to turn down – it should sell itself. Unfortunately not every business person is in the same position as Steve Jobs in that they can simply tell us what we need!
Is the product unique enough? Whether through price point, special features or stand-out branding, does the brand stand up against similar products in the market? There is a fine balance here – too basic and you’re behind before you’ve even started, too innovative and the consumer won’t understand what they are being offered – a major turn off.
Great customer service
If feasible, offer free shipping as a basic principle. If not, be sure to charge what is reasonable in accordance with your product. Using a tracked service gives the customer confidence they will get their product without any hiccups, and offer PayPal as a payment method will cover both you and buyer from fraudulent transactions, for more peace of mind and a seamless customer journey. Part of the customer service element should always include follow-up – usually via email. Always make sure the customer is left happy that safe in the knowledge that they bought from you. Don’t be afraid to always ask for customer feedback in a public domain.
Content is king
When selling on eBay for example, having an optimised keyword rich title is hugely important to help your product stand out on a crowded platform. Be sure to utilise eBay’s 80 character limit, for a start. Make sure you associate your brand with hardware or other compatibility, so that it can be found easily. Consider what a buyer would type in the search bar when trying to look for your product and your brand, and for an extra fee it is often worth using the sub title feature that eBay offers. Images can’t be overestimated – they should include product shots as the main image, packaging shots and lifestyle stills, if the product fits that purpose. Descriptions can easily be upgraded with some basic HTML which also helps with SEO. A wider point on SEO is knowing how to position your product online without blowing your finances on AdWords!
Stock management and forecasting
It may seem basic, but plan ahead to ensure you are never out of stock – the best way of doing this is to ensure you sell only what you have. Overselling can be detrimental to feedback across all online retail, so making sure you stick to a structured approach will mean your customers will receive what they ordered in the timeframe they were promised. Collecting money and then not delivering on time is a cardinal sin for online distributors.
Work with or via Amazon
Consider working with or via Amazon. Across the industry there is a collective understanding that brands cannot ignore Amazon as a channel, even if they think they can go it alone with their own website, simply due to its sheer reach across multiple countries. Use it to your advantage! Have a strategy where Amazon is part of online and controlled to your advantage. Amazon is a good way to expand your reach across Europe with a great partner program in FBA. Brand representation on Amazon is paramount and if nothing else, brands should use it as a marketing tool.
By Vijay Kanda, online brand strategy manager at Activ8
Read the July EURO 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine.
Why Your Team Should Contribute to Open Source Projects
Much of the world’s software infrastructure, including that which underpins multibillion-dollar corporations, has been created and maintained by developers, often anonymous, who do it for free in their spare time.
This is the open-source software movement: software whose source code anyone can use and edit. It has united developers from all around the world to create, improve and iterate on flagship software: from well-known consumer products like Firefox and Android, through to key tech infrastructure like Kubernetes.
Open source has served as the training ground for a generation of programmers, developers, and software engineers. It has given them the opportunity to improve their skills and to self-direct, and get involved in projects that they find interesting and meaningful. In fact, according to a new survey, open-source skills are more valued than proprietary ones.
Around 30 years ago, open source-driven innovations were often academic endeavours, sponsored by university IT departments, where students were encouraged to contribute and learn software engineering skills while simultaneously benefiting the university and the wider world.
However, over the last ten years, the world of open source has changed. Today, open-source is seen as the innovation engine across large, forward-thinking enterprises. Organisations are increasingly eager to adopt open-source projects like Linux or Jenkins, whereby they not only leverage technologies but also provide resources to create and contribute to projects. For example, Facebook, Google or LinkedIn embrace open source by creating and building innovative software as communal projects. In fact, open-source technologies and influencers are seen as rock stars in industries from global banking to retailers.
We can see open source everywhere. Projects like Linux, Kubernetes, React.js, or Tensorflow are becoming ubiquitous in IT departments, while open source technologists are quickly becoming the most highly sought-after talent. Innovative organisations are clamouring to build open-source credentials to draw in the best talent to cope with the increasing digital demand on businesses.
Why we all benefit from open source
The ubiquity of open source software means that your organisation is probably already using some of these technologies, many in business-critical applications. By encouraging community participation, organisations have the opportunity to drive change that matters to their business today as well as drive technology innovation forward. Participating in open source helps in-house teams stay motivated and at the cutting edge. Developers want to work on projects they are passionate about. Letting them do this can improve morale, and allowing them to take on challenges they may not face when working on in-house software can help nurture creativity and new approaches.
What’s more, companies that are seen as supporters and leaders in open source are seen as innovators in their industry, increasing motivation internally and visibility externally. In addition, these organisations find it much easier to attract the best IT talent to their businesses in a virtuous cycle of innovation driving innovators.
In the end, there is a clear economic reason to get involved with open source - in 2018, open-source software added between €65 billion and €95 billion to the European economy. It is in everyone’s long-term interest to cultivate and nurture open source projects that can do far more commercial and social good than siloed in-house teams could alone.
Today’s challenge to the open-source movement
While the benefits are clear, some companies don’t see the immediate benefit in letting their teams contribute to open source projects and believe all of an employee’s productive energy should go into work that directly generates revenue. Some organisations have discouraged the use of and contribution to open-source projects in-house or even prevented employees from contributing outside of work.
However, even if companies don’t restrict their out-of-work activity, many developers with full-time jobs simply don’t have the time. Getting seriously into the weeds of an open-source project means a lot of time and energy on coding and fielding bug reports and support requests - often in numbers that an overwhelmed developer minority couldn’t possibly manage completely.
In her book, Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software, Nadia Eghbal notes that almost half of contributors across 275 popular GitHub projects only contributed once - accounting for under 2% of overall ‘commits’.
Helping open source communities helps us all
We all benefit from ensuring that open source projects retain their guiding hands and most experienced talent from a mixture of employed and volunteer contributors. While there will always be a new generation of younger programmers willing to build up their skills and take the reins of open source projects, full-time developers who are motivated and supported by their employers can leverage their experience to take these projects to the next level.
Open source communities should be considered as shared assets. Their engagement provides short- and long-term benefits for companies, contributors, and society as a whole. When it comes to open source communities, we should always keep in mind the classic problem of the tragedy of the commons - it is a shared space that benefits everyone, and we have to actively work to ensure that both developers creating and companies using open source software put in and take away a balanced contribution. The very companies that put the most energy into helping the open-source movement stand to gain the most from it flourishing.