Monday, December 31, 2007

Another whimper of things past … and a sniff of things to come!

I saw this article today and it reminded again of just how much things have evolved in the 15 years since I started my odyssey in the internet industry. The articles tells how the Netscape Web Browser, the universal browsing client which transformed the way we thought about finding, accessing and interacting with information and services, is no longer going to supported from the 1st of February 2007. Things have moved on – IE (now in version 7), Firefox (thankfully which had its genesis in the same community which spawned Netscape) and the likes of Safari, Opera and others have come to dominate the browser space.

As one icon passes, we can prepare ourselves for the next big evolution in the way we present and interact with information online. This year, keep an eye out for the rise of the "browser free" internet application. These are self contained, internet based, rich media applications designed to reach specific consumers with very targeted, sophisticated and highly graphical, rich media content and services. I know I have mentioned this before, but I see the passing of the technology which made this all possible, which paved the way which brought the potential of the internet onto the computers of the masses, as a fitting signal of the next big thing.

Technologies such as Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight (we at Hyro have just launched the ABC TV Video Player in Silverlight – a real market leading innovation) and the next generations of programming technologies such as AJAX and JAVA will once again transform the way we reach, engage, do business with and service our customers. There is REAL money to be made here for those companies who get it right. The right combination of content, marketing and commercial grade technology will create new, valuable channels to market and it is great to be part of a team who is leading the way in delivering this capability.

Finally… thanks to both readers for their support this year. While I don't get too many comments, I do get some respectable traffic. I remain committed to having my say on the things which delight, inspire, surprise or just get me thinking through 2008. Happy New Year and I wish you all health, happiness and prosperity in 2008.

Friday, December 21, 2007

This isn’t a game …..

Articles like this highlight for me a recurring theme that I am sure both readers are getting a little weary of. Once again I find myself railing about the fact that major corporations sometimes don't seem to comprehend the commercial significance of initiating any sort of digital activity. In this case, a major US retail group has announced that a systemic security flaw in their online systems has allowed hackers to gain access to customer confidential information and payments data for something like eighteen months. It has been described in some articles as the "biggest hack ever!"

I won't go on for ages, but will quickly comment to state the obvious. Initiating digital channels should be something which is well planned, well architected, well funded and well tested. Any digital channel is a dynamic path to market which exists in an environment which is changing all the time. New technologies emerge, new hacking techniques get created and new risks to the business continue to emerge.

This is not something which you can afford to "set and forget," nor is it something you can afford to leave in the hands of anyone but an expert. The day you turn on your new online store, mobile portal, online campaign or customer self service system, you enter into a new commitment, a commitment which requires constant and dedicated focus. The risks emerge due to the nature of the medium. Any potential hacker, malcontent or miscreant has the advantage of time, anonymity and resources to plan, trial, test and execute their initiatives. I think many corporations fail to fully RESPECT these people; they are very smart, very experienced and very capable and managing the risks a well executed hack may present demands an appropriate plan which duly considers the capabilities of your foes.

As we go into the New Year, most corporations will be looking to kick of their latest digital initiatives and it is a time to think carefully about who you partner with to deliver these. Sure your ad agency might deliver some great campaign ideas and some cool creative, but do they REALLY understand and can they really manage the technical, operational and environmental risks, challenges and opportunities.

2008 is the year for getting even more serious about digital initiatives and it is the year to work with a specialist, dedicated, full-service digital services company.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Online Shopping's got everyone hopping...

The press has picked up a few stories about the surge in online shopping this year and of course, the most timey statistics are coming from the US. A quick search for online shopping data shows that the level of online shopping occuring in the US market is up almost 20% on the same time a year ago. Good coverage can be found at and others.

Looking into this statistic a little highlights just how far we have come in a few short years. Do a search on online shopping statistics and you see mention of expectations of daily revenue topping US$800m on a single day before Christmas. This is VERY serious business, particularly when one considers that these growth statistics are being sustained of increasingly higher bases.

You also see mention in some of these articles of some of the consequences of a lack of commercial foresight on the part of some of the participants. There is much talk of sites crashing under the weight of traffic and for me, this is just unacceptable. These companies are IN THE BUSINESS of online shopping and these days of on-demand computing, massive scalability and great advances in software, data management and online marketing, there is just no excuse for your core business platform failing. The only possible reasons could be under investment, holding onto legacy technologies or just bad management.

Thankfully, we are seeing many of our clients getting on the front foot and suggested investment levels for 2008 are refreshing (and exciting for the business). There is growing acceptance of the importance of digital channels as a permanent and significant part of the "go to market" mix now and the strategies, investments and the work at hand ae reflecting this. This is not just an "online advertising" story. The investments are coming in the way our customers, attract, engage and transact with their customers as well has how they maintain relationshps once the initial transaction has occured. The thinking is sophisticated and the business opportunities are exciting.

Every year I look back at this time and think about how far we have come in just a year and this year is no different. Looking forward to next year though, I feel as though we will see even more change and the view back in a years time will contain even more (positive) surprises.

We really ARE changing the world!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

And then a million more....

This week saw the news that the number of domain names issued under the .au namespace as surpassed the ONE MILLION mark. Quite an achievement as it suggests that there is one domain name for every 21 of Australia's population!!

There is a lot in these two statistics. The sheer number of domains means that marketing and branding in this very crowded environment is just getting more and more difficult. All of the intuitive domain names are long gone (and worth a lot of money - albeit that many seem to be retained by early-age domain prospector who registered them years ago and don't have the money or business to fully leverage. Never mind, one of the big guys will no doubt eventually buy them). In fact, it is getting more and more difficult to register phonetically practical domains with under about ten letters in them. (There are businesses out there who just register tonnes of domain names and hold onto them in the expectation that someone will want them one day and will need to buy it from them!!). So .... just registering the domain name and expecting the money to flow in is well and truly "last century."

Making your domain work for you is increasingly the job for sophisticated professionals. These people bring together the right mix of marketing, creative, content, user experience, technology and ongoing management to turn a domain name into a working, commercial business. Many a dollar has been wasted by companies failing to address all of these elements in appropriate proportions.

The second message for me is that 1,000,000 domains on the little old .au namespace sends a clear message. EVERYBODY is doing this. It might surprise both readers to hear that there are STILL companies in Australia, New Zealand and Asia who do not see digital channels as the core platform for marketing, customer engagement, customer service and commerce. My job is to keep pointing out the obvious ... if you haven't doubled (or more) your allocation of your marketing and customer service budgets to digital services in 2008 then prepare to lose market share.

Your competitors ARE doing this and they ARE throwing serious money at it. They are working with significant professional specialists (and not asking their ad agency or traditional technology provider to try and be something they are not) and they are getting commercial results ...... and once you have worked out that you too need to follow suit .... drop me an email.