Julie | December 6, 2013
There are few industries where trust matters more, than in pharmaceuticals and health care. Trust is so critical in fact, that it often blurs the lines between ‘customers’ and ‘patients’. This highly nuanced relationship means that even greater care must be taken when creating the experience within which customers engage with a healthcare brand online.
Trust, after all, has always been at the heart of the eCommerce challenge. The intangible aim for any brand designing a user experience is to establish a level of trust with the visitor. In the case of health care and pharmaceuticals this becomes even more important since a poorly designed checkout process will only add to a customer’s pre-existing levels of insecurity.
Healthcare purchases aren’t typically impulsive, spur of the moment buying decisions. Instead they’re highly analysed, well thought out, and conducted with great care. This means that users engaging with a pharmaceutical brand’s eCommerce interface will be paying extremely close attention to every choice they make. And brands simply have to reciprocate that engagement with great customer care.
Translating Customer Care to Online Engagement
This won’t come as news to anyone who’s worked in the industry, of course. For years they’ve been excelling at this kind of engagement in an offline setting. Some of the best customer service lessons can be learnt from health brands and the way they accommodate customers when they’re in store.
Translating that level of individual customer focus and attention into valuable customer engagement online is a whole other ball game. With most of a site’s responses being automated, brands often find it difficult to add personality to their interactions. Furthermore, there might be a certain apprehension about whether websites can go the extra mile that so many nervous customer interactions often call for.
So it’s important to remember that while the nature of such customer interactions are different, the standards are still the same, whether online or not. A good online shopping experience is as valuable as a well-designed pharmacy. By preparing a site for the different types of interactions that typically arise during the online journey, healthcare brands can actually add value to a customer’s experience.
A Consistent Experience
Take for instance, email remarketing technology. The odds of garnering a conversion from a customer who’s walked out of a store are minimal. But a sound remarketing campaign can not only identify and segment such customers in the most appropriate ways, it can also ensure the sale isn’t lost. Store assistants can’t afford to chase down every abandoning customer, but your website can.
Even more importantly, store assistants can’t identify and engage every customer at the exact moment that they have a customer service issue. But a tool like VeChat, our automated chat agent can actually increase the value of interactions by answering questions when the customer needs them answered most. In fact, it can equivalently deliver a consistent experience to every single online customer.
These kinds of relevant, quality engagements become all the more important when we consider how much customers prefer making online transactions. By eliminating the need for physical travel costs, customers can instead receive the same standard of healthcare from the comfort of their homes. Indeed 51% of customers say they’d feel more valued as a patient if they received digital health communications.
Efficiency and Empathy
There’s no doubting the value of personal touch in a store based interaction and indeed that kind of relationship won’t ever be replaced. But considering the fact that the rate of such interactions is actually decreasing, there’s huge scope for enhancing and developing the online journey. In particular for products that consumers might typically be embarrassed of purchasing in a public setting.
The private efficiency of online health care retail is fast evolving to incorporate the empathy that characterizes the industry’s physical presence. This will only ever be accomplished if the same standards that have successfully driven these offline relationships, are applied to create powerful, efficient and flexible online experiences that give customers exactly what they’re looking for.
Kathy | December 5, 2013
Whilst the Chancellor was making his Autumn Statement today, London's technology and digital communities have been anticipating good news being officially released tomorrow. Apparently our numbers have doubled in the last three years, since the Tech City initiative was announced by David Cameron in 2010, building on the initial cluster of digital companies here in east London. And word is that Tech City looks like it is ready to become the next Silicon Valley of Europe too, with a study conducted by consultation firm Genome, revealing that London leads the pack of new European start-ups, followed by Paris and Berlin for “support and entrepreneurial mindset.”
The study, due out tomorrow to coincide with the 3rd anniversary of the Tech City quango, reveals that the tech industry now employs more than half a million people in London - accounting for almost a third of employment growth in the capital and contributing towards establishing London as a magnet for top talent too.
A Tech City UK spokesman said: “Tech City has now become the nucleus of a new era of tech and digital growth which has seen clusters emerge and thrive all across London.”
Joanna Shields, chief executive of Tech City also praised the wider impact of the tech industry: “No one who looks at the figures can dispute that the tech and digital economy is powering UK growth. We are living through an amazing period of technology-driven creativity and innovation that holds the potential to transform society, culture and business on a mass scale.”
Ve’s certainly all about technology-driven creativity and innovation, and we are intent on building something of value and sustainability. Our Co Founder & CEO David J. Brown explains: “ We’re all about creating strong foundations and scalable products here, ones that solve problems for the marketplace.”
Behind the scenes, we are also investing heavily in our people and our infrastructure, and are creating an entrepreneurial working environment. “Technology companies often get stereotyped as having short-term exit plans that influence their strategic decisions and culture, often leaving them juggling balls just trying to keep clients satisfied,” continued Brown. “Here Ve, our future is in the hands of our prolific innovation and development division, and our focus is on our clients needs. I therefore have every confidence that we are one company that can make a positive and long-lasting mark in Tech City's evolution.”
And we’re hiring! So if Ve Interactive's entrepreneurial ethos appeals and you want to join our ranks, and build something special, check out our careers page! We'd love to hear from you.
Caroline | December 4, 2013To show our on-going love and support for our charity partner Concern Universal we got ourselves suited and booted and took part in the national fundraising Suits You Santa campaign.
The aim is to raise money for the Water is Life awareness campaign, which is allowing Concern Universal to take safe, clean water to communities in Malawi. The money raised will be used to buy a borehill drilling rig and give these communities access to clean water in the future, on their own.
So what did we do? With a little help from Concern Universal we bought some santa suits and spent an afternoon thinking what a VeSanta would get up to if he was here a few weeks early...
He’d hold a board meeting to discuss the POA for the next few weeks…
He’d check the servers were working….
…So all Christmas lists could be processed online
He’d organize afternoon tea…
He’d check out some nice winter coats before the January sales…
He’d find the perfect handbag for the Mrs in The Clerkenwell Collection!
He’d head to the bar to finish a hard day's work.
Shoot some pool...
...And drink some beer!
Anyone can take part in the Suits You Santa campaign. Have some fun this Chritmas for a good cause and sign up today...
If the noughties are to be characterized by anything, it will surely be the amazing rate of invention and innovation that the internet and new technology have accelerated. Indeed, the motivation for many of technology’s biggest players today is a return to the style of widely endorsed, bold innovations of the 1960s that saw men landing on the moon.
Corporations’ willingness to innovate, experiment and sometimes fail at big, bold projects is arguably greater today than it has been for several decades. But corporations being corporations, their motivations must always align with a critical mass of consumers who will directly or indirectly endorse their willingness to create.
In today’s business landscape, that group would be the so called ‘Millennials’. The demographic might be broadly characterized by several things such as their level of education, their date of birth and where they’re from. But the key feature of their lifestyle for today’s innovative companies is their willingness to adopt new technologies and adapt their lifestyle to changing paradigms.
And so we have the somewhat embryonic, yet highly valuable, Internet of Things.
Like millennials themselves, the Internet of Things is difficult to define. The name itself was coined in 1993, but it’s most pertinent examples are only being created now. From wearable tech that analyses your health to alarm clocks that automate your home, the boundaries of the term are as limitless as its potential to solve problems. When Big Data meets little things, we’re practically back on the moon.
Take for instance, the success of Pebble, the smart watch created with the backing of about $10 million from Kickstarter. It was only after Crowdfunding proved a sound litmus test to gauge market response that products like the Samsung Galaxy Gear suddenly popped up. The Internet of things is hard to predict because the lines between innovation and insane have started to blur.
After all, history is riddled with inventions that were functionally valuable yet widely considered commercial failures because they were simply ‘ahead of their time’. Bold steps forward that ended up looking more like clumsy stumbles.
Permission to Innovate
And yet this is the arena of the iPhone and Jawbone. Tech without precedent. Innovation is pointless without people willing to adopt it and the sheer amount of so called millennials means brands can take bigger risks. This is a group of people with an appetite for new ideas and technologies.
We’re also finally in the fabled 2000s that had promised us flying cars. There may not be any floating hover boards or personal jet packs like films from the 80s had promised, but there is Google Glass and who doesn’t want a piece of that? Tech leaders close to the forefront of innovation are now considered heroes and revered.
In demography, we often see large groups as being passive and generic amongst themselves. But it is the dynamism, mobility and open mindedness to change of millennials that is driving so much growth for the tech industry.
Rather than sticking to the tactics of caution and risk aversion that other demographics might inspire, brands targeting millennials should take advantage of the additional slack they’ve been cut. Even if it isn’t a manned mission to the moon, now is the best time to go out on a limb and try something crazy.
Graham | December 2, 2013
Predictions of the best Christmas in years for UK retailers look to be bang on the money, as record numbers of people are parting with theirs over the recently indoctrinated Black Friday/Cyber Monday period.
What was originally a follow-on from the US post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy dubbed Black Friday, Cyber Monday has crossed borders to become one of the landmark days for all ecommerce retailers. And this year is set to further cement the world’s love of ecommerce.
Today countless online retailers will be offering significant discounts to entice buyers to get the most out of what for many will be their final pay cheque before Christmas. Additionally as the period has fallen early this year, many online retailers also saw a spike in sales last Monday (25th November), with IBM recording a growth of 33.5% in online sales against the same Monday last year.
Although the day is not yet out, all signs point towards unprecedented online sales figures in the UK, even out-doing last year’s substantial Cyber Monday growth. Last month in China, lucrative ecommerce event ‘Single Day’ smashed global records by clocking up the highest amount ever spent in one day online, offering further hope to UK retailers.
Given that each online retailer is now jostling for position in the customer’s decision process, this enormous surge in demand gives further incentive and importance to the efficiency of any ecommerce website. With the stakes so high, online retailers must look at optimising their sites to make buying as simple and fast as possible.
The masters in a fluid, hassle free online experience, Amazon, are leading the way in sales again this year, having sold a total of over 4 million items from their UK site last Friday at a staggering rate of 41 items per second.
Further incentive for retailers to make the user journey a priority has come in the form of the latest Black Friday mobile/tablet trends. IBM have reported that 42.2% of traffic and 31.8% of sales came through either mobile or tablet use last Monday (25th November), so unsurprisingly experts are predicting a spike in the early evening during many people’s commute home from work. This punctuates how crucial it is that ecommerce retailers offer a seamless, pan-platform shopping experience.
As year on year digital sales figures continue to expand, and user expectations heighten, the message only grows bolder – online efficiency is now non-negotiable, and retailers must continue to strive to offer an excellent customer experience in order stay competitive.
Diana | November 29, 2013
Mobile technology has caused quite a stir this year. Not only have the developments in smartphones and tablets been exciting, their usage has been pervasive too. Nearly half of the UK will have started using smartphones by the end of this year and tablet penetration is estimated to have grown to one third of the population. With consumers wholeheartedly jumping on the mobile train, businesses have taken notice.
Publishers in particular have felt the surge of mobile usage with 42% of them earning 20% of their traffic from mobiles and 16% from tablets. That being said, both platforms only contribute a respective 3% and 6% to their revenue. But that’s all about to change if you believe the buzz around a new approach called ‘Mobile First Publishing’.
So what is Mobile First Publishing?
Well, that’s a little hard to define seeing as there’s no actual consensus on what the approach is supposed to mean just yet. For some publishers, it means focusing their collective efforts on distributing their content through applications and smartphones. For others it’s about creating responsive design layouts. There’s hardly even any consensus about whether this relates to content formatting or marketing.
All we know for sure is that across demographics, people are consuming content from mobile devices and the publishing industry has taken notice. And it’s not a moment too soon either as 28% of British internet users have already bought entertainment using their mobile devices. Publishers urgently need to start feeling as comfortable with these new technologies as their consumers already do.
Especially because new publishing brands know that a mobile first strategy is the bare minimum. Brands that have already established themselves as stalwarts of print (or even the old web) have all sorts of legacy issues they need to first contend with. From understanding customer expectations to redefining internal systems, there is a great deal to be accomplished before any momentum can be gained.
Beyond the organizational trials of pivoting a publishing business towards a mobile first approach, there are several challenges that will arise from optimizing content. It’s crucial that brands understand the user’s journey before getting started. Instead of treating mobile users as independent from tablet or laptop users, it’s important to realize that quite often the same user might use 3 separate screens.
This cross screen experience is quickly becoming the most important consideration in this regard. Someone could start reading an article on their phone and then return home to finish it on either there desktop or tablet while watching TV. Across all three mediums, the experience must be at least consistent and at most continuous.
Focusing solely on any one of these will disrupt the rest of the user journey. So for instance, completely revamping only the mobile experience will create a level of dissonance on other devices. Instead, responsive design should be adopted so that content is optimized for every possible screen, giving publishers a greater level of flexibility when adapting their sites.
So it’s more important that publishers revert to the strategies that have always worked. That is, a mobile first approach should not preclude a ‘customers first’ approach. Especially because a customer centric approach to optimization will inevitably lead to a mobile first strategy. As a buzz phrase the approach may not succeed. Adopted with the aim of enhancing the user experience though, it can only succeed.
Mobile first is only a sound strategy if it accounts for the evolving nature of cross screen experiences and aims to deliver a smooth user journey between mediums.
If treated as a buzz phrase or a fad, it isn’t likely to get very far at all. But then again, more than most, publishers have seen fads come and go. So they’re bound to know that buzz worthy as it may be, mobile consumption is no fad. It’s the future.
If you'd like to continue the conversation, please find Diana here on Twitter.
Alex | November 27, 2013
It’s the end of November, meaning that Christmas is just around the corner! Consumers across the world are heading to the shops – whether to their local high streets or online, to make sure that Christmas gifts are bought, and/or arrive, and are wrapped in time. The biggest e-commerce events of the season are Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which were initially developed in the US but later were successfully exported in the UK and other markets as well.
Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving in the United States, (tomorrow), and is often considered as the beginning of Christmas shopping in the US. Since the mid-Noughties, many major American retailers have opened extremely early on that day and offered promotional sales to kick-start their Christmas shopping season. Black Friday is also a day off for many government employees in some US states (including California), which increases the number of potential shoppers too. Since 2005, Black Friday has been the busiest shopping day of the year in the US, but recently Black Friday promotions were started in other countries, including Brazil and Russia. And while Black Friday initially started as a high street and mall event, it has been increasingly moving online in recent years.
Cyber Monday is the first Monday after the American Thanksgiving and it came about following the success of Black Friday sales. The term was the brainchild of marketing companies trying to persuade customers to shop online. Cyber Monday debuted in 2005 and quickly turned into one of the busiest days for online shopping in the US.
This year Black Friday is arriving on November 29 and Cyber Monday is marking the start of next month on December 02. Ahead of these big e-commerce dates, we employed VeInsights, a data-driven product by Ve Interactive, to the results of last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
According to VeInsights data, in the United States, online sales, (measured by the number of online transactions our solutions captured) on Black Friday 2012, was 36.5% higher than daily average for late November. Interest in online shopping, (measured by the number of shopping baskets), saw a bigger uplift – by 38.4% above the daily average. Cyber Monday was even more spectacular. While interest in online shopping was 52.9% higher than average, the number of actual online sales doubled, (it was 100.2% higher than the daily average), proving that Cyber Monday measured up to its name.
On Cyber Monday 2012 in the US, the number of online sales of clothing and footwear was 142% higher than daily average, sales of specialty retailers – 101% higher, consumer electronics –79% higher, beauty products – 97% higher, while food and drink – were 271% higher than the daily average.
Interest in online shopping saw a significant increase too, though less than of actual sales: basket abandonment on Cyber Monday in the US was markedly lower than usual. Total baskets in clothing and footwear saw an uplift of 109%, among specialty retailers it was 24%, in consumer electronics – 29%, in food and drink – 251%, and in beauty products – the uplift was 27%.
The picture in the UK however, was more complicated (see chart). First, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday generated smaller uplifts in both online sales and e-consumers’ interest in shopping. For instance, the number of online sales on Black Friday in the UK was only 15.8% higher than the daily average, and the number of total baskets was mere 7.8% higher. British Cyber Monday was somewhat more pronounced – with a rise in sales by 17.9% over the average level and a 15.6% increase in total baskets.
Strongest sector movers for Black Friday in the UK were travel and tourism – with sales of 45% above daily average, food and drink – 26% above, and beauty products – 11% above the daily average. Cyber Monday was boosted by sales in travel and tourism – 30% above average, publishing and entertainment – 19.2% and beauty products - 22% above daily average.
An interesting story for the UK though was the presence of a third peak – on Wednesday 28th of November. That day the number of online sales grew by 10.6% above average, while the number of total baskets – by 8.6% above average, (the latter figure was higher, than for Black Friday). Sales experienced a boost across the board – from clothing to beauty products, and from consumer electronics to food and drink. One possible explanation for this uplift is the fact that 28th of each month is a common payday for many employers across Britain, particularly in the public sector. Which means that UK e-commerce saw a triple effect of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and “Pay Day” Wednesday.
Zubair | November 26, 2013Forty percent of B2B businesses now spend at least half of their procurement budget online. Progress indeed, yet at an excruciatingly slow pace with many in the space still reluctant to embrace or prioritise ecommerce. Our B2B digital consultant, Zubair Khushi, explains how catching up online is more about retention than acquisition.
The B2B world has been engulfed by articles, blogs and talking heads all imploring those involved to follow B2C into the world of ecommerce. Each one preaching of the importance of the ‘customerisation’ of the user journey online - considering the search functionality, precise navigation, cross-sell options, product recommendations, product page descriptions etc.
While all valid components to a well-oiled ecommerce site, the response from the B2B digital dissidents always tows a similar line - Trust, loyalty, and above all else strong relationships have always been more valuable in B2B, and a straight comparison with B2C generates a false equivalency – apples and oranges, in other words.
And they are correct, to an extent. B2B transactions are different, and the guiderails for selling online for businesses in this space shouldn’t be lifted directly from the B2C handbook.
For a start, most B2B purchases are made by returning customers, and often through pre-existing customer accounts. A stark contrast to the fleeting loyalty of quick browsing and impulse buying so often seen in the retail sector for instance. Also low value orders are far less common in B2B, pointing toward a more complex buying process where suppliers are carefully assessed before a purchase is made.
Defense over Attack
However each of these arguments stem from a customer acquisition stand-point. They question the value of digital in attracting new customers. But what B2B customers must recognise is that ecommerce is more about defense than attack. What’s tolerated today, may not be tomorrow, so even the most loyal customer will be tempted by a better user experience elsewhere.
As previously covered, the B2B market is built on loyalty, in-depth understanding, and close working relationships – in other words excellent customer service. The fear for many companies is that migrating online could dilute these vital relationships - diminishing their clients overall customer experience by putting distance between them.
Yet embracing ecommerce doesn’t constitute a fall in customer care, it’s just a response to the shift in buying habits. Customer expectations have been heightened dramatically over the past decade, changing the parameters of what falls under the term ‘customer service’.
The New Customer Service Standard
Today, how well your e-ecommerce platform can deliver advanced search capabilities for example, is as important as the telephone support in terms of the customer experience. The comfort and speed at which a user can negotiate a supplier’s website is now vital, especially within the B2B space where a drawn-out, complicated buying process costs customers not only time, but money.
Providing this seamless online customer experience is fast becoming the industry standard, and from that point on standing out will become the challenge. Check out our range of products that provide multiple customer touch points online, while ensuring that your B2B ecommerce site is as efficient as it can be in attracting new customers - while crucially keeping existing client relationships intact.
Eileen | November 25, 2013The Web Index 2013 was launched here in London last Friday and the clear focus at the event was that increased surveillance online is threatening the democratic nature of the web.
In this the second annual Web Index Report, which was launched to measure the societal impact the internet has on countries around the world, Berners-Lee strongly criticised countries demonstrating ‘excessive state surveillance’.
Predictable comments in the wake of this year’s spying revelations brought to light by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Yet the report went further to warn major countries that this ‘growing tide of surveillance and censorship’ would put their roles as web innovators at risk.
The Index, produced by the World Wide Web Foundation, reported that Scandinavian countries again top the charts in terms of web readiness, web use and the impact of the web, alongside the UK and USA. Sweden were ranked first for the second year running, with Norway in second, Denmark in sixth and Finland in seventh - the UK, the USA, New Zealand, Iceland, France and South Korea completing the rest of this year’s top ten.
The UK hung onto their place in third position, performing very well in ‘availability of relevant content’, but poorly in terms of privacy rights. However disappointing, the UK were not alone on this front with the report claiming that 94% of the countries surveyed failed to meet best practice standards for checks and balances on ‘government interception of electronic communications’.
A more positive finding was that in 80% of the nations covered, social media played a significant part in public mobilisation last year, and in half of these cases, it was cited as a major catalyst. Political mobilisation and grass roots action facilitated by social media was, according to Anne Jellema CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, very evident in the last year - both her and Sir Berners-Lee referred to events in Egypt and the Philippines ‘anti-Epal’ movement as examples of this.
The Philippines itself achieved top score among developing countries – 20 places higher than its GDP ranking – and it was clear that those connected are very active and creative users, who are facilitated by a positive environment for free expression online. Anne Jellema also pointed out that since Typhoon Haiyan struck, social media and the web have been enabling local communities and government to take charge of the relief effort alongside international agencies. The web played a vital role in coordinating the proactive response and will help to avoid the disempowerment that happened following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
The panel following the launch included Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Impossible founder Lily Cole, social innovator Bright Simons and internet freedom activist and writer Rebecca MacKinnon. The discussion amongst the panel centred around two main themes, that of surveillance and that of education; both education in how we continue to use the web and how it is vital that it be used to educate more freely. Jimmy Wales stated that one of the objectives at Wikipedia is to have the free encyclopaedia for everyone in the world in their own language.
Although the main issue highlighted by the Web Index 2013 is that we all must work together to reverse the rising tide of online censorship and surveillance, there was an underlying current of positivity that Sir Berners-Lee urged us to take away;
“To not focus on the negatives but rather that you take away with you all the positive changes that using the web has achieved, and the positive changes we are now making to protect it.”
A shared responsibility indeed.
Kathy | November 22, 2013Roll back the clock to the beginning of this year and I was lucky enough to interview some extraordinary people for our blog, from all walks of business and the third sector too. One of whom happened to be Jeremy Gilley, the inspiring founder of Peace One Day.
A few subsequent brainstorms took place and now a few months later, I am proud to announce that a brand new Peace One Day site has just gone live, built and donated to the awesome organisation by our team here at Ve Interactive!
‘Thanks to the pioneering work of Ve Interactive, the new Peace One Day website is now more interactive, intuitive, and international than ever before. It is fully compatible with mobile devices, such as tablets and mobile phones, and is available in all six official UN languages, as well as Brazilian Portuguese. I am incredibly grateful to Ve Interactive for helping to providing Peace One Day with such an outstanding launch pad for our future campaigns, helping to put us on track to reach more people than ever before with the message of Peace Day. Check out the new site here.’ Jeremy Gilley, founder of Peace One Day
A huge project for all involved. I am extremely proud of the production team at Ve, who have worked imaginatively and tirelessly on it, on top of everything else that they do. I would also like to extend congratulations to the Peace One Day team too, who have been busy behind the scenes, plugging in amazing (and copious) amounts of Peace One Day content. It's been an extraordinary example of teamwork across the Thames divide and just like Peace Day itself, it shows the incredible power of collaboration.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller.
You can read more about Ve and Peace One Day here, but please do visit the new site, and help us help them spread awareness about their important peace work.