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May 10, 2012

Simple ideas to create exceptional digital experiences for customers

As more people bring their shopping bags online, providing a personalized experience to your customers has become inevitable. If you don't do it, people will move to your competitor's website in a couple clicks of the mouse. This post will give you a quick run through features you can utilize to create exceptional digital experiences for your customers. 

1. Personalized web experience

Market research is the key to understanding your demographic. You can do this on a basic level with the help of Google Analytics and cookie placement to determine who your audience is, what they want and how they can best be pleased. Personalization in simple is customization and suggestion of content. This is all over the internet, ads that follow you, enticing you into buying things you are clearly looking to buy. Based on a customer's last visit you can build a shopping list for when the customer visits again. My favorite example actually comes from a series of apparel websites like Miss Selfridge and Top Shop. Once you select an item, they quickly suggest you other items that you might be interested in buying based on your individual style. 

Personalization is not a new term, it has its roots in old school CRM and is the key to a happy customer! As every aspect of our life keeps going digital, the importance of user personalized interface is only going to grow. 

2. Help customers navigate

Most of us are too impatient to read through and find our way around websites that are hard to navigate.    Complicated navigation can occur in many forms, you can have a long trail of links built for sub-sub-super sub categories. These are called breadcrumbs and usually appear like this: Home Page>Category Page>Sub Category

The further categories you keep building, the more complicated this menu will look.

Another issue that can hamper navigation is a horrible search feature. If you are selling products, you should have a quick search along with the option for an advanced search based on categories.

Keep consistent throughout the entire purchase cycle. Every page the customer will view should be built to create maximum conversion. This requires tweaking until you have figured out the pattern your customers generally follow. 

3. Bring some fun into the equation

Entertainment keeps people engaged. There is so much one can do to create entertaining experiences for their customers, yet companies prefer to stay risk averse. With open graph API's and wicked human imagination, you can build creative games and contests to keep customers hooked. Gamification doesn't have a long life cycle but it is good enough to create a boom! 

You can also add videos, play around with augmented reality, invite users to generate content, there's no limit to the things you can try.

4. Be human

This is something that strikes me as a sign of a company that cares. To create a truly exceptional experience in the online world (where customers don't share physical space with you), it is important to remind your customers that they aren't just dealing with robots. Provide clear contact information, respond to queries, deal with negative feedback, pull in your employees to express their views on your website, show the world that you are a company made up of human beings! A little assurance goes a long way!

May 04, 2012

Content curation for small businesses

"Content is king", it is one of those terms that has been around the web for a long time and even then it appears, not everyone is aware of the true potential of producing content. This blog post isn't a debate between what holds an upper hand, creation or curation but rather helping you find what will work for you.

You can only create content when you have something to say. It reminds me of a quote by Scott Fitzgerald- "You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say." You can outsource talent to produce material for your brand but it won't hold much weight if it can't create engagement. The reader should be able to take away something from the written piece, more importantly content isn't only for search engine ranking! Makes no point to have a hundred pages with gibberish content that provides no value, people will see through it and stop taking your efforts seriously.

So what can you do when you really have nothing to say?
You curate.

What exactly is curation of content?
Its sifting through a wide array of relevant information and publishing only the best, most informative and reliable knowledge. My twitter stream is filled with some brilliant content curators who continue to provide me with information that expands my knowledge base, information that I wouldn't have been able to find if they hadn't guided me.

1. Area of interest: The first thing you have to do as a business that is just starting out with curation is to figure out what kind of information you want to begin curating. Most likely you want to publish industry related content. You can further narrow down the scope if you feel. Play with this one based on your own passion, your business story and what you are trying to sell.

2. Tools to build your database: Subscribing to RSS feeds of blogs that interest you is the first step forward. Google Reader is my friend because I can keep up with the latest updates from websites that interest me.

Secondly, subscribe to updates from influential people on Twitter, Facebook and any other social network. On a daily basis, I come across some mind blowing information on Facebook alone. It might come across as a very unprofessional social network but a little search will help you find people who constantly post very rich content.

Register on stumbleupon or the likes, follow Pinterest boards if that is relevant to your business. The point of doing all this is to keep you in the loop.

Once you have a rich database of people who share high quality information, you are ready to go.

3. Tools to publish: You can choose the old school way of posting information on your company blog but its considered best practice to target the outlets your audiences are spending time on. So if your people are on Facebook, begin curation over there. When it comes to Twitter, apps like Buffer will assist you in automating curation. and are slightly different as they help you build your own story, magazine or paper. On a timely basis you can publish curated information, using these tools.

4. Do it the Legal way: Don't steal! Don't steal! Don't steal! Give credit to the original source.

5. Add your 2 cents: Whether content curation is endorsement or not is debatable but if you are on a platform that allows you to publish more that 140 characters, then the best practice is to add in your 2 cents to the topic. This will show your audience that you haven't blindly copy-pasted something, giving your views on it shows that you have taken the effort to read and understand the information. Furthermore, you can publish your own blog post by writing down your own take on a certain subject. Curation gives you enough material to create your own valuable content, if that is something you are looking to do.

As a content curator, you'll soon realize that curation is just as hard as creation. You have to research, spend most of your time googling facts to be sure of their credibility and only choose the best. In return, you'll end up with archives of brilliant knowledge that will not only keep your readers interested but also prove beneficial for your own business by making you a knowledgeable authority within your industry.

May 02, 2012

Taking web shopping experience to another level, a fashion website I just got introduced to 15 minutes back has worked on a really creative campaign with WireWax and the Aussie Iggy Azalea on her new video for "I Think She Ready". (Random useless info: This song has been on my playlist for a while but I always thought it was Azealia Banks who sang on it!)

Back to Iggy Azalea, this video that you can access on's website features her, FKi and Diplo (looking rather hot) wearing a bunch of luxury brands you can actually buy, simply by clicking on the video!

This takes e-commerce experience to another level.  A really creative way to engage the audience and guide them towards taking action.

While you watch the video, you can click on Shop this look and close it to go back to the video. Good publicity for the artist too.