Over 500 visitors in three weeks to my blog!

As a marketer it is important to keep abreast on what I publish.  Thus, I keep checking what you are reading, how many of you visit, and where you are based.  Tonight, after I returned from dinner at a friends house, I just checked the stats on my blog, and found that I have just crossed over 500 visitor to my blog! Not bad, considering I just started several weeks ago. You are visiting on average 3.01 visits per individual visitor with each visitor reading an average of 3.52 pages.  Considering I have posted 4 real blogs, this means that people are reading all of my stuff. The most popular countries are:

1. United Kingdom
2. United States
3. Pakistan
4. Canada
5. The Netherlands
6. Germany
7. Norway
8. Latvia
9, Russia
10. Costa Rica
11. Spain
12. Australia
13. Switzerland
14. Denmark
15. Ireland
16. Italy
17. South Africa
18. New Zealand
19. Rest of EU.

I would like to thank all my readers for visiting and reading my blog. I hope to continue to keep you informed with interesting stuff in the future.  Please do keep the comments coming in.

A dance company redefines customer experiences

Last week I went to experience arts from a whole new perspective.  I was so impressed that I thought I would blog about it, and share with the world.  Para-Active is a small dance/arts company based in London.  They perform various works of art with a focus on Brazilian & African dances.  While I’ve seen different performances across the globe, what made this one different was the fact that the audience does not sit and watch the show as an observer.  Instead, the audience becomes a part of the the show itself, and hence taking us to a whole new level of experience (from observational to active participation).

As a marketing consultant with the company, I was invited to experience a dress rehearsal for “Hotel Medea” a performance that the company is currently doing at the LIFT festival in London (http://www.liftfestival.com/events/lift-2010/introduction).  The show itself has an interesting format, where it starts on the banks of the O2 arena.  Participants are taken via boat to the performance area, and from there the show begins.  As soon as the participants land actors start engaging with the audience, by asking questions about their expectations, etc.  As the show begins, performers come out in creative costumes, depicting a marketplace setting.  At this point the audience is encouraged to walk through and interact with the ‘sellers’ in this marketplace.  The evening progresses with the marriage of Jason and Medea.  During this time again visitors are encouraged to join in the dancing and the singing in the various parts of the show.

At the end of the first part of the show, I interacted with some of the other participants.  Like me, they were all in an awe, and amazed at what they had just experienced.  The only thing one person could say was, “WOW,” and that really sums up the experience.  If you are a fan of the arts, or are in charge of customer experience at your firm, then I would recommend that you must go and see this performance.  What this little firm has done is simply amazing.  There are many lessons for CE Managers to be learned from this.

This firm has been able to take experience to the next level.  They did not just go up a notch, instead they shifted the whole ball game.  From a CE perspective, we also need to search for that next level.  Settling for good enough will not create that wow effect!

Exploiting the power of Online Social Media through Group Buying

While attending the IQPC Conference on Online Customer Experience, I realized that there was a great potential to bring back group buying web sites.  Just in case you don’t know what that is, I though I would paste portions of an article I did for a magazine on group buying…

What is group buying?

A while ago a few friends and I went out to purchase a particular brand of a digital camera.  We went to the vendor and asked him to reduce the price since there were five of us purchasing the same digital camera.  This beautiful concept, known as group buying, helped us get a good discount on the camera.  If any one of us had acted alone, we definitely would have had to pay the full retail price.  Interestingly enough the vendor was not at all displeased when selling the cameras at a discount.  In fact he was really happy to see a bulk quantity of his product being sold in one go.  One of my friends commented on how wonderful a concept this was, and unfortunately it did not apply to the internet.  Interestingly, just about any type of business model you can think of in the physical world does exist online.

The group buying model works on the concept of large groups of people purchasing products.  The larger the pool of buyers, the greater the amount of discount will be available to the consumers.  Group buying sites work slightly differently than the usual online shop.  First a customer visits a web site, and selects a product.  The consumer is then given a few choices for the price he/she wishes to pay for the produce.  For instance, with the camera, it would have its original price, a discounted price if 10 people were to purchase, and even a lower price if the number of people willing to purchase were 25.  If a consumer chooses the lowest price, then he/she will have to wait till 25 people sign up to purchase that particular brand of camera.

The obvious benefit is that the consumer gets a discounted price.  Perhaps the lowest price in the market will be offered at a group buying web site.  Moreover, the consumer doesn’t need to know 25 people to get a group buying discount.  People all across the globe can join the group buy.  The site selling these products also benefits from this model.  They are able to negotiate a discount from the manufacturer or the supplier.  The web site keeps a certain profit margin and passes the rest of the discount on to the consumer.  Therefore compared to the regular online shop, a group buying shop is far better, since the site is able to sell a larger quantity and make a bigger profit.  The manufacturer or the supplier also is happy with the deal.  They are happy because they sell in bulk quantity, and often times are able to dispose off excess inventory through these types of web sites.

The major downside to group buying is that the buyer has to wait till the required number of people signup.  This may take anywhere between an hour to weeks.  Therefore if a customer is looking to purchase a product and get it delivered immediately, a group buying site will not be the best place.  Moreover group buying sites come in two different variations.  Each variation has its own merits and demerits.

Why Now?

About 6-8 years ago, several group buying sites took off.  Unfortunately none of them became very successful, and most perished.  At that point in time the idea for group buying was, perhaps, ahead of its time.  However, right now may be the best time to get into this.  Why?  Well, now consumers have the power of the Social Media.  The average consumer is linked to over a 100 people!  For instance, I have over 600 in my various networks!!!  So getting the desired number of people to purchase a produce will be much easier and faster than it was 8 years ago.  Therefore I believe that it is the right time to start the group buying business model.  If you have an Online Social Community and are not sure where to take it, or how to get the most out of it, they is one thing which may be of use.

Who can use this?

Well really anyone can do this.  Group buying works for both B2C markets as well as B2B markets.  In a B2B market, SMEs can team up to buy raw materials or goods in bulk and get a cheaper rate, allowing them to compete with the bigger businesses.  In the B2C market, just about any business can start doing this.  Have extra stock, or would like to move things in bulk, or not sure if a product will sell.  Just create a group buying page for it.  This can be in addition to the usual goods you sell, and can be done on the same website as the one you currently have!  For example, if you’re CVS (US) or Boots (UK) and are not sure if a new brand of vitamins will sell.  Why not offer it as a group buy good.  If you get enough order, then you will know that there is more demand for this product.  Hence, avoiding the risk to pre-order stock!  This concept can even be used on a greater level.  I get to speak with managers from companies that are fed up with the dirt cheap prices of lower quality goods from China or India.  Well, how about a buyers forum where companies from the ‘smaller’ countries get together to obtain raw material, and hence reach economies of scale?

There are numerous applications of group buying.  I have done much work on this topic and published a number of articles as well as a couple of research papers.  If you’re interested to know more, get in touch.  If you would like for me to talk about a specific topic, please do let me know.

Bring back groupbuying

Due to the busy schedule I haven’t been able to post a proper Blog, which I hope to accomplish tomorrow on an interesting topic related to Online Social Media.  While at Customer Experience Online event, Dean and I were chatting before our presentation, and an interesting concept hit me.  Group Buying sites in today’s world.  They failed in the past, but how about if we were to revive it.  Online Social Media would play a key role!  If you don’t know what I’m taking about, then please log in tomorrow for the full story, or follow me on Twitter to keep updated on the posts.

Here’s what I’ve been up to and some of my future commitments:

These past two weeks have been busy.  I presented on Best Practices in CEM at the CSTA/SOCAP event in Nottingham, as well as on Best Practices in CEM from an Online Perspective at the IQPC Exchange Customer Experience Online with Dean Van Leeuwen.  I must say, Dean is a great presenter, and it was fun working with him.  My future commitments include Presenting on Customer Loyalty (how to build & manage) in San Diego in October, at the IBAM conference.  I will also be presenting at the ICRM conference at Henley Business School, September, on a CEM model which can be used to build excellent experiences.  Furthermore, I am due to present a paper on Loyalty in the Tourism Sector in September.

From the CSTA/SOCAP event, I already got the feedback, and its pretty good.  Got excellent reviews.  I thought I would share some of them.  Overall I got a 7.8/10, which is not too bad.

  • Really engaging and fascinating model on customer experience
  • The model is something that I will definitely share with the team
  • Lovely style/Direct/lots to think about, good facts
  • Excellent speaker very informative
  • Interesting presentation & good examples used
  • Useful model
  • Quick pace, interesting topic - would like to know more.
  • Really informative
  • Information was helpful & gave a good overview of why businesses are successful.
  • Really interesting content – would love to see more

Please feel free to post comments to the blogs.  If you’re interested in me writing about a particular topic, then drop me a line at o.khan@cibmp.org.

B2B Loyalty, is it really possible?

I’m off to present at the CSTA event in Nottingham.  Before I leave, I thought I would share my views on an important topics, which many have been discussing with me in the recent past, loyalty in the B2B domain.

Although over 90% of the commerce in the world is in the B2B domain, little attention has been paid to building loyalty for B2B firms.  Many question if loyalty is really possible, given the nature of businesses.  Others wonder if ‘true’ loyalty is possible within this framework.  Both of these are valid questions, and fortunately I found some answers to these questions in my PhD dissertation at Bradford.

First, if we look at the nature of loyalty, traditionally its been examined from a B2C perspective, where a customer becomes loyal to a brand or a company.  Experts believe that these customers then become ‘truly’ loyal or emotionally attached when these customers fall in love with the brand, and hence behave irrationally.  Meaning, they are willing to pay more money to get the same product or service and willing to forgive mistakes from the supplier!  For businesses, the process is slightly more complicated.  The decision making unit is much larger, complex and more formalized.  Moreover, businesses usually behave ‘rationally,’ i.e. they will go for the cheaper product given the same level of quality, and would not compromise on the quality of the products or services.

However, in my research I found best practice firms that defy these notions and have developed high levels of loyalty.  These companies belong to a number of different industries and have all types of customers.  However, what is common to them is that they all have high levels of loyalty, ranging from 80-95%.  Hence there are companies out there, which have been able to achieve high levels of loyalty in the B2B domain, but what about true loyalty or emotional attachment.  This is slightly more complicated for the B2B world, however it is possible to achieve a certain degree of this.  However the research points to much lower levels of emotionally attached customers in the B2B world.

Overall, from this research we can conclude that loyalty is something which is very much attainable in the B2B domain.  Companies should develop strategies and plans and work towards building relationships with other firms.  My research also found a important characteristics that were common in all of the best practice firms.  Based on which I’ve developed a model which others can use to build & manage loyalty!  I shall share this model with you in near future.

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