Why D-Commerce Matters

Electronic commerce is king….but for how long?

For 15 years, businesses large and small have embraced the concept that e-commerce, primarily through the Internet, has fundamentally changed the way that goods and services are transacted.  As late as 1997, people still used the Sears catalog, the Yellow Pages, or an airline timetable to conduct business.  Not any more.

But there is a change underneath the feet of e-commerce that companies need to be preparing for, now.  Clockwork is focused on this next change, what is called digital or d-commerce, and how it can affect your prospects for growth, efficiency, and success.

My first experience with an e-commerce environment came in the transportation industry, where a web site was seen as a means of moving people from a higher cost per transaction (i.e., having to buy a ticket with an agent at the counter) to a lower cost of sale, by having them perform the same basic keystrokes through a computer.  A customer didn’t need to be trained in the duties of an agent, as the web site performed many of the same tasks behind the scenes.

Fast forward to 2012.  A travel customer wants more than the ability to book a ticket.  He or she also  wants gate information, hotel bookings, car rentals, upgrades, on-board snacks…and not from a personal computer, but a phone, or a tablet, or a device at their seat.

The simple act of commerce electronically is evolving into a much more customer-focused and customer driven process.  If companies aren’t responsive to that change, they risk losing the very customers who so effortlessly (and at very little cost to the client) migrated to the new platform.

It’s also more than just buying something.  Consumers increasingly see commerce as a fluid process, and want one means—one payment process, one refund process, one consumer interaction process—to drive their product decisions.  iTunes is one example of emerging digital commerce.  Netflix is another.

It’s still a little too much for some customers to get their hands around, however, and the industry isn’t doing its part to make it simpler.  I visited a marketing web site that attempted to define what they did in the d-commerce space.  They wrote:

 “Our proactive and practical advice targets the unique challenges created by the integration of customer-centric solutions into the technology landscape…We create immersive, loyalty-inspiring, consistent and persistent branded experiences that bridge platforms, devices, location and spontaneity.   And we do it while remaining true to project parameters including budgets, resources, timeframes and revenue projections.”

(In English, please. Our customers do not speak advertising-ese.)

“We build engaging customer experiences across multiple touchpoints that use the breadth and depth of technologies available in the commerce ecosystem.”

(Yes, much better.)

Digital commerce is about a range of islands in the consumer stream—awareness, shopping, purchase, post-purchase, repeat business, customer loyalty and ultimately retention—that expect  the same level of service in one as they get with any of the others.

Plenty of companies offer great sales experiences online and next to no post-purchase support, little or no customer loyalty, and little chance at retention.  The concept of “churn”, the marketing buzzword of the 1990’s which reflected the inevitable loss of customers to better-positioned opponents, does not apply in d-commerce.  If you do it right, you keep your customers for the long haul. Apple gets this. Dell, unfortunately, does not.

Digital commerce has significant consequences for today’s business climate, and it’s more than just building a web site.

The king is dead.  Long live the king.

Have Phone, Will Travel (Part 2)

 Mobile_ClockworkAs airlines move customers to mobile ticketing, similar opportunities for rail, bus, and transit offer even more economies of scale to the traveling public, if the industry standard as a whole can overcome three distinct hurdles to converting to a mobile standard.

1. A mobile device is not a web site.  Customers don’t need a mobile site to learn about legal terms and conditions, they need “the three Bs” — book, buy, and board.  To an increasingly tech-savvy audience, simplicity sells.

2. A mobile site can’t be a vanity project.  To embrace economies of scale, m-commerce must be fully integrated with existing ticketing and payment systems.  Building a mobile site and simply treating it as a “one-off” misses the point.  The success of Boltbus, a deep-discount carrier in the Northeast which leverages mobile and web ticketing together, allows it to be more competitive in the market with the established legacy carrier, Greyhound.

3. A mobile solution is not independent of an overall strategy.  The additive costs of technology, from scanners to wireless accounts, must be part of the total cost of ownership.  Simply building an m-commerce site will not meet expectations for revenue collection and recognition that are not easily quantified after the fact.  The ability to balance this opportunity with existing operations remains a challenge across many travel providers.

Lastly, the industry must not underestimate the transformative power of GPS in m-commerce.  E-mail opened a significant B2C opportunity, but it pales in comparison to knowing where a customer is at any one time.  This is especially valuable for partnerships in the hotel and tourism sector.  GPS will make today’s web marketing obsolete, and the time to talk about it begins now.

An AT&T commercial shows the parents of a future U.S. president meeting on a train, but only after re-booking the ticket on a mobile phone.  This isn’t science fiction–embracing mobile thinking today can literally change an industry (and a nation) for the next generation.

Take a look at your m-commerce strategy.  How many of your customers are missing the train?

John Reagan is a senior consultant for mobile solutions at Clockwork Technology, LLC, Plano, TX.  Reach him at john.reagan@clockworktechnology.com


See the previous post in the series here: Have Phone, Will Travel (Part 1)


Have Phone, Will Travel (Part 1)

Over the past decade, the travel industry has been fundamentally changed by technology–a perfect storm that reconfigured the buyer-seller relationship, pulled back the curtain of price elasticity, and consigned the downtown travel agency to an endangered species.

Lightening is about to strike twice.

Not that long ago, an “e-ticket” meant a ride at Disnelyand.  Today, it is the accepted mode of travel for tens of millions of air passengers and an increasing number of bus and rail consumers.  Now, in the midst of a move to mobile, transportation companies must be careful not to repackage the past, but to build to the future.

The expectations of the mobile generation are not to read a web site on a phone, but to embrace app technology and personalization.  Without it, travel sites are missing the forest from the trees.

Too many airline mobile sites can best be called a “screen scrape”, displaying a web-based page on a phone but little else.  These sites struggle to build share and reach.

It’s more than just airlines, however.  The combined traffic of rail, bus, and public transit in the U.S. exceeds 300 million trips a year, much of it relying on paper tickets and labor-intensive processes.  It’s not a question of when mobile will energize this sector, but how.

As airlines move customers to mobile ticketing, similar opportunities for rail, bus, and transit offer even more economies of scale to the traveling public, if the industry as a whole can overcome three distinct hurdles to converting to a mobile standard.

In part 2, we’ll discuss these three hurdles and how Clockwork Technology can help you get a “jump” on your competition.


John Reagan is a senior consultant for mobile solutions at Clockwork Technology LLC, Plano, TX.  Reach him at john.reagan@clockworktechnology.com


American Bus Association 2012

Thanks to all those who stopped by our booth at the 2012 American Bus Association convention. There are a lot of exciting developments in transportation technology and Clockwork has the resources and industry knowledge to get to work for you.

Clockwork Technology was founded by former Greyhound IT managers with expertise in implementing technology solutions across a wide spectrum of the motorcoach industry—from line haul to express, operations to payroll, back office to customer-facing systems. Whether it is converting legacy systems, integrating to off-the-shelf products, or implementing web and mobile options to improve the customer experience, Clockwork understands the bus business and what is needed to do the work—on time, on target, and on budget.

Missed the show? Visit our web site to learn more about what we offer and how we are able to help.


Clockwork at American Bus Association conference (ABA Marketplace 2012)

Clockwork Technology will be welcoming 2012 at the American Bus Association conference this weekend (Jan. 7) in Grapevine, TX, or about a half hour from our headquarters here in Plano. This will be a great opportunity to reconnect with many of you in the bus industry and talk about some of the new opportunities Clockwork can provide for field and corporate technology solutions in the ground transportation industry.

Visit the Clockwork booth (#1300) at the Gaylord Texas exhibit hall this Saturday , January 7th at the ABA Marketplace One-Day Product Pavilion!