Thursday, 18 December 2014

Online retail and Christmas shopping: what’s occurring?

General Questions

Are you at the panic buying stage yet? Have you bought the majority of your own presents online? Do you expect better bargains online or in a shop? Do you like the traditional experience, look and feel approach, of high-street shopping? Do you research online but buy offline based on your research?

Professional Questions

Did you appraise your online retail clients of what was necessary for their online shopping sites to make the most of the November, December and January online shopping frenzies? Have your online retail clients been caught out with low stock, inadequate delivery mechanisms, off-putting customer service reputation, uncompetitive offers, and the rest? Are you and your colleagues running round like headless chickens to fire-fight glitches with online code and/or load-testing? Are all your online retail sites working well in the frenzy so that you can enjoy the Christmas spirit?

These are fundamental questions for now and the answers reflect what is happening with consumers. It’s important to remember you are also one of them. Your experience with online sites matters although you need to take your ‘expertise’ into account as possibly being ahead of trend perhaps. It’s wise to take on advice so see, Catching the Christmas Trade: 10 Tips for Online Shops, by Frank Breuss at Digital Marketing Magazine (4 December 2014).

With online shopping increasing 20% year on year but with Black Friday now out-performing even the Christmas rush, it’s a hard, competitive market. (See the Telegraph’s story reporting John Lewis Stores 17 December 2014).

There’s a lot to think about at a manic time for most. If you’re a stats person and you have clients across the retail sectors you might like to keep up with more general reports of ecommerce at

Happy shopping experiences – whether online or off!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Virtual teams and collaborative working

The communications landscape for all businesses has changed significantly since the electronic revolution. Our sector, iMedia, might well have been first to use collaborative working in a virtual world with cross-functional teams, but now this has spread into general business. We might have more experience of what it means, but we aren’t known for refining and sharing these insights. With us it has been more like the rest of our environment – try, refine and move forward.

It’s refreshing then to find that the virtual team dynamic is being analysed as part of general management and business. And, just because we have the experience, it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others observations.

With this as the premise, here are a few links to some team analysis that may prove useful for your company – even yourself.
Pam Jones, 17 November 2014, Ashridge Business School, makes the point that although communication might be technology driven, it is ‘... the human aspect of communication that requires attention’. She offers 4 building blocks refined from top-performing team leaders. These are:
  1. Develop a clear communication strategy. 
  2. Develop a network of shared responsibility. 
  3. Building trust and belonging. 
  4. Growing and learning together. 
It may well be the fourth point that we have been doing on the fly, so to speak. It’s a bonus that she gives credit to dealing positively with conflict and cross-cultural understanding, both of which have featured in this blog as important aspects of team success.

Compass’ is a business whose job is to optimise team working. Hey! Yes, they exist! ‘Compass’ place the emphasis on choosing the right tools and techniques to suit the virtual team in question, but first they decide HOW the team need to work together. Then they choose the tools etc. They give six suggestions on how to optimise team working.

The Guardian’s Small Business Network blog, Successful remote collaboration: tips from those in the know 24th April 2014, takes a different angle. It recognises that remote collaboration allows many forms of meetings to take place thereby cutting travel costs and the time needed. Both mean saving money. This blog mentions technological tools that are available to help such as: SKYPE, Google Hangouts, Pop-up Office, Evernote Business, and Elance, among others. Their tips relate more to keeping the data shared between teams secure by auditing devices and data that will be shared. They take for granted that your company/clients are working openly through the cloud.

It’s a shame we may not have passed on our experiences. Such is the truth for many entrepreneurs. But you’re never too old to learn. (Don’t even think of quoting, ‘You can’t teach and old dog...’ back at us!)