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Carmudi’s CTO on Infrastructure, Processes and Achieving Scale

Jean-Jacques Borie, chief technology officer of Carmudi, recently spoke to Babar Khan and shared how his knowledge has allowed him to go from global architecture as well as helping developers in deep coding issues. His role, as we will learn more, goes beyond engineering and Jean contributes to corporations’ strategic visions and alignment with IT. Edited excerpts of the discussion follow.

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Please describe the scope of your role at Carmudi.com and the impact of your work.
My role is to manage the technical teams to have a scalable platform that is reliable, fast, secure, easy to maintain and cost efficient at a global scale.

My teams are composed of experts in the field of web and mobile development as well as infrastructure. It is my role to ensure that the entire IT is aligned with the strategy and goals of the enterprise, to remove blockers that could slow the company down. I also need to make sure that current decisions don’t evolve into problems later.

A CTO in a start-up like Carmudi needs to have a solid knowledge of global scalable architecture. He needs to share his vision and then ensure that the team is committed to achieving it. However, it also needs to have great coding skills to quickly fix issues and make the right decisions when there is an emergency situation.

Building a project like Carmudi can be complex. You want to have a platform that is faster than any competitor’s in any country you are present. The internet connection quality can vary a lot. You have to optimize your application as well as to find the right connectivity solution for your markets. You need to work closely with your product team in order to challenge, optimize and simplify new features.

What advice do you have for aspiring tech entrepreneurs in terms of scaling companies to be globally successful?
Rocket Internet’s approach is very good and I suggest following their 4 pillars:

Infrastructure
Unparalleled experience in scaling world-class Internet businesses globally
• Deep technical and operational expertise
• Strategic partnerships and framework agreements

Processes
• Highly structured / best practices
• Centralized IP with regional execution
• Repeatable and scalable

Rocket Network
• Founding 10 new companies p.a. on average
• Consistent returns across network of companies

Technology
• Proprietary technology platforms allowing rapid global deployment
• Comprehensive KPI analytics driving continuous optimization
• Provision of shared services to jump start new businesses at low cost

To conclude, what would you like our readers to know about the culture at Rocket Internet and what fresh incumbents can expect to experience?
On your first day working as CTO for Rocket and also the following days, you are immersed in their culture. You have an internal CTO’s channel of communication where every venture shares its experience, gives feedback and explains the problem it is facing and are trying to get rid of.

You have to understand that every venture is growing at a very fast pace, which from time to time can lead to some technical challenge and can count on help of an internal network. Rocket shares best practices with their ventures therefore minimizing risk. You have a standard process methodology to handle production. We have KPis defined on every team with target to achieve thus at central level as well as local level.

Venture’s start with a first release of a product done by Rocket-Internet that you have the freedom to adapt it and re-factor once is endeavor to you.

Thanks for sharing your time with us, always a pleasure.

How Crescent Textile Mills Achieves 3% Conversions

Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of Ogilvy UK, once famously said that when everyone else shouts ‘paper’, the rewards go to the man who shouts ‘scissors’.

Crescent Textile Mills is engaged in the business of textile manufacturing comprising of made ups, processed fabrics and yarn made from raw cotton and synthetic fibers. Like most fashion, apparel and textile companies in Pakistan, they launched a flagship brand by the name of Cres Home Store this year and their director, Ahmed Shafi, sought out an agency specializing in conversion marketing. In June 2014, they hired MWM Studioz.

CHS

Monitoring
In what Sasha Strauss calls “the time before now”, agencies create strategies and execute them to the letter. They created a creative calender to plan out what would be broadcasted (often one way) to the target audience. Their clients approved this, felt safe and in control. Not so much anymore.

Now agencies (must) recognize that users want a conversation, not a monologue. It can be a debate, and one where listening is prioritized over speaking. Agencies must also realize that external events occur, far outside their control. So when the city where your market is based has an Ebola crisis, will you insensitively continue promoting two-for-one offers? Sports wins, innovation announcements, competitor strategies are outside our control. Are they and the behaviors they create accounted for in the creative calender?

“Strategy does give you a direction, but it should not shackle you into one box,” says Ahmed Shafi, “we don’t know when or who will score a touchdown in the Superbowl. So will you fixate social engagement around a pre-created calender? Conversations occur in real time. You can go in with your ideas, but in the end, listening matters (and is rewarded) more than speaking.”

eCommerce Bounce Rate

Measuring
While most agencies focused social and digital engagement consider conversions as the number of buyers divided by the number of visitors, MWM Studioz instead considers what was spent against what was earned in numbers.

“Likes are, for the most part, worthless.” proclaims Ahmed. “They are at best a perception building tool. But what brands forget is that customers are smart when it comes to social and digital. They know fans can be bought. They know not to judge a book by its cover. They know to associate value and purpose with themselves. The CEO of MWM Studioz, delivered on this and focus on conversions.”

eCommerce Average Order Value

Synchronizing 
Industry experts shared that customers in this category seek quality and Crescent, with its 500 to 700 thread count products, has delivered for decades. The product cycle is such that on average sheets are purchased every 3 to 4 months. Crescent’s are purchase every 8 months and are slow moving items. So the sweet spot is between new and returning customers.

Danish applied behavioral economics to translate offline in-store browsing & buying behavior into the online space. Crescent’s product quality, compared to others, for example with 500 and 700 thread count.

Research in this space shows that the average order value at competing eCommerce stores in the high end category is PKR 2,200 to PKR 2,500 while Crescent’s is between the PKR 5,000 to PKR 6,000 range.

In light of this success story and its unorthodox approach, its worth noting that Dr. Jules Goddard of London Business School attacks the idea of ‘best practice’ since and notes that if everyone does the same thing, you get clutter and get commoditized in your offer and brand perception. To conclude, no-one benefits from this: not consumers, not businesses, not share-owners.

Further reading:

2013 internet trends by Mary Meeker & Liang Wu

The internet changed marketing by enabling a completely new service and transaction channel. Then came social media along and changed the way how people communicate and share experiences. Then came the mobile internet, apps,… and the change just accelerates.

This Mary Meeker’s and Liang Wu’s presentation, a rather comprehensive one, is about the current state we all need to be aware of. (original presentation at http://www.kpcb.com/insights/2013-internet-trends)

The velocity of market change has never been as fast as it is now and the speed just continues accelerating and everything becomes more and more connected, bundled, interdependent. Connected world support a new strategic approach: Symbiosis Strategy. The idea of Symbiosis between customer and company can be described with levels of synergy: a) product centric b) customer centric c) symbiosis
Symbiosis also comes in many forms:

  1. Shared Value = Symbiosis between society and business
  2. Platform/standard based = Symbiosis between platform owner, partners and customer
  3. Co-created = Customer & company
  4. Coalition = Several companies working together for a customer

As the velocity of change accelerates further, it becomes more and more difficult to keep up with it alone. Symbiosis strategy represent a great opportunity. Learn more about Symbiosis strategy here.

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

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