Category Archives: e-commerce

VendHQ Pitch Video for Cloud Connect Launch Pad

VendHQ has been picked as one of 8 semifinalist for the Cloud Connect Launch Pad, and we plan on getting it to the finals.  VendHQ is one of my projects I am chipping away at.  I write the code, design the screens, develop the strategy, put together the demo videos and make the coffee.

Check out the video and VOTE for VendHQ using this link http://launchpad.cloudconnectevent.com/vote-now/ and help a kiwi company get to the finals.

Yes I do the voice overs too ;)

Why is it so hard to pay the govt online?

I had a morning of sorting out bills, cause I really really needed to pay my car registration. I failed. Here is why.

First of all I went to https://transact.landtransport.govt.nz/

I selected the option to relicense my vehicle.

I complete the 3 step process of entering details and paying, and then after the “processing your payment, please wait” bit on the credit card payment screen (payment screens hosted by Westpac and Dialect). BAM I got this.

duh-somin-went-wrong

Note in the top right hand corner:

no-merchantThere is no merchant name. Comforting.

Also the broken nature of this page in general, with the text all over the place and strange red “x”s. This is a payment page for a friken government department! Hosted by Westpac! This gives me the heebeegeebees to be quite honest. So I tried it again, and got the same obscure error, and so I rang the call centre, to:

  1. tell them they have a problem
  2. check to make sure I haven’t paid twice for my car reg
  3. pay for my car reg.

I get hold of Jane in the call centre but she cant help me because I can not answer the 10th identity question. I have established who I am, the car rego, date of birth, and trying to establish my address, but I am not giving the correct address, so she cant help. I have got the house number correct, I have the street correct, RD1 okay, post code is correct, but they don’t have Kerikeri as my town. So Jane wont help me. “Do you get your mail?” she asks.

So I have to play Guess-the-address to figure out what town or city they have on record. After a few minutes, I guess Northland. Horray, Jane can help me now as I am obviously not an identity criminal trying to pay for someone else’s car reg.

Phew, so I proceed to tell Jane about the problem they are having with their payment page. She checks to see if the payment has gone through, and luckily it hasn’t. But the broken payment screen seems to be my problem, not their problem, so I get to talk to a supervisor, and give him the run down on what is broken on their site. At this point I have resigned to the fact that I am going to have to go to the post office to sort my registration, so I am only still on the phone trying to help them out, as a tax payer I would like Land Transport to efficiently collect the taxes. I even have screen shots of the error pages, but no one wants them. “Do you have cookies enabled?” Yes I have cookies enabled. “You didn’t take too long entering in the details?” No!

“Can I email you the screen shots of the error page?” I ask

“Hmmmmm, no. Are you using Internet Explorer?”

“No I am on a Mac and using Firefox”

“Ahh. Sorry you can’t pay online with Firefox, we only support Internet Explorer 6 and above” WTF!

So here is what is wrong with that:

  1. Internet Explorer 6 is 8 years old. It is good supporting legacy browsers (cause that is what IE6 is), but only supporting IE or better?
  2. Internet Explorer accounts for 67.40% of the user share of browsers today, that means everything else is 32.60%. That is a third of all users that are not supported.
  3. Internet Explorer is trending down in the browser stats. In the third quarter of 2008 IE was 72.22%, so it has dropped a total market share of 4.8% in six months, and like I said, this is a clear trend so it will keep dropping.
  4. If you are only going to support only one browser TELL THE USER AT THE START of the process. Why let the user go through steps 1 through 3 at all. You can easily detect the browser in use, and alert the user that they need to downgrade their browser in order to pay online.

So if this is true, then Land Transport and Westpac are failing at an epic level. I hope it is not true, and I hope Dialect are just having a bad payment processing day and just need to sort out their error messages. But there seems to still be a lot of online services that only support IE, and Wespac themselves seem to be a big fan of it. I can’t use their corporate online without IE. I think it is time some of these online services take a look at how they are not transacting online.

Oh well off to the post office.

UPDATE:

@benkepes tells me via twitter he earlier this week paid for his reg using Firefox. So why does the call centre tell people only IE is supported? Perhaps it is the standard “you are using a browser and computer we dont understand” escape hatch?

UPDATE #2:

Well on return from a very nice stroll to the post office, I find an email from info@nzta.govt.nz

<snip>

I also note you called our Contact Centre today regarding the online problems you were experiencing and were advised that Firefox is not currently supported by the Transaction Centre or POLi payment. I can confirm this information is correct.

Regards

Contact Response Team

So the policy is to not support Firefox. However I am getting mixed info from people some saying that they can pay online with non-IE browsers, and some can not (perhaps a Mac flavour vs PC flavour thing), however it is obviously policy not to support Firefox at least, but it may not prevent some things being “technically” achieved, if you are lucky.

I have also been reminded by a few people of the horrible online toll payment system (also LTNZ) where to pay by internet banking(?), you need IE and an ActiveX control (note: this is just internet banking, not credit card processing. You can pay by credit card fine if you can find your way through the user interface). I always thought internet banking was something you did with your bank via your banks website? Why do you need to download software that only runs on a PC (note: you can get the ActiveX control to run in another browser using various 3rd party tools, but this may not work and is unsupported)?

Then I found this at http://www.landtransport.govt.nz/transaction-centre/index.html

It is designed to perform best with Microsoft Internet Explorer (up to version 6.0 ) or Netscape (up to version 6.2 ). Other types of browser are not currently supported.

Now when it comes to taking money from customers, I would have thought the first rule would be to have as few barriers in the way that would prevent them from giving it to you. So eliminating one third of the total browser market is not a wise idea. Sure, the majority of that third are windows users, and can fire up IE should they need to. But they choose not to use IE. Plus, they only support up to IE 6. Not 7, not 8. I am beginning to suspect that the policy is outdated, and it possibly suits them that way.

I could be missing something here but there are no technical limitations preventing any other mainstream browser from processing financial transactions online. So why make the concious decision not to support every mainstream browser?

UPDATE #3

Well I have been trying to pay the road toll, on my prepay account, for a recent trip to Auckland via LTNZ’s toll site to no avail. The service has been taken offline due to technical problems. This morning I learn that the service has been taken down due to a glitch where prepay customers were being charged up to 20 times per trip. Hundreds of thousands of dollars was debited that should not have been. No no no no no! This is no way to earn the trust of the public, who are probably not overly entusiastic about a toll road to start with. Not to mention all the other things wrong with the toll road payment systems, and the website itself. LTNZ seem to be dropping the ball both with policy and execution of their online systems in general.

Ferrit, an expensive lesson.

Two years ago I wrote about the relaunch of ferrit.co.nz (with an actual shopping cart this time) and predicted that despite all the things wrong with the site, that eventually Telecom would get there because they have quite a considerable war chest to throw at it, and they will bludgeon into submission the public with advertising. But I actually thought (out of despair) they would get their act together and actually spend the money on delivering a better online shopping experience to the public. But two years later, (three years after first launch) what have they done?

Spent money (predicted $36M), did no innovation targeted for the consumer and built a site does what it did two years ago.

Where did they go wrong?

PEOPLE ARE NOT THAT LAZY: Ferrit fell for the misconception that people will shop online in their undies because they can and it is less work than going to the shops. People are not that lazy. People love shopping. The trend is to research online and then buy in store. The exceptions are books, DVDs and music and similar. But if you are shopping for a chrome toaster, people like to look at their reflection in it first. So to change this behaviour you need to give some incentive.

NO MOTIVATION OR INCENTIVE: There was no reason to actually buy from Ferrit. It is as simple as that! You could get everything in store, or even from the retailers website direct.

PRICING: If you are shopping online you would expect to get a discount, not pay the same as you would in store. Especially when you have to add shipping.

NO COMMUNITY: After the toaster review fiasco, any chance of community fell apart. At best Ferrit just became a directory of retailers and a catalogue of their products.

ANNOYING ADS: Those TV ads were a shocker. They were funny at first, but then got really annoying really quickly.

BAD COMMERCIAL MODEL: Looking at the retailer agreements Ferrit had with it’s retailers, they expected some pretty sizable commissions from the sales, and this varied depending on the type of product being sold. On top of the Ferrit commission, the retailer needs to make a commission too, so where is the room to give the consumer a good deal. There is NONE. Ferrit became just an extra clip of the ticket.

THEY FORGOT ABOUT THE CUSTOMER: I kinda get the feeling Ferrit thought the retailer was the customer, and forgot about the people who will actually part with their cash.

What amazes me most is that they ignored all the advice and criticism that came from the industry. Everyone, but Ferrit it seems, knew their model was a failure. And they didn’t adapt.

Will anything fill the gap, well is there a gap? I think Trade Me have it pretty much covered. Otherwise, if you are a retailer wanting to sell online, then there are plenty of plug and pay shopping tools that you can plug into your own site. Then you can keep the Ferrit commission, or you may actually want to give the consumer a deal, and an incentive to buy from you online.

BeIntent – Product Launch

Today a client of mine, Be Intent is launching their on-line business, www.beintent.com. It is a fantastic idea. It is a collection of great computer health exercises, motivational and goal tracking tools to help you achieve what you want from your lifestyle. It sounds a bit touchy-feely and cuddly, but they are already getting interest from a number of NZ’s large corporates and ISPs.

How does it work, well there is plenty of on-line inspiration over at www.beintent.com plus there is a fantastic down-loadable app they call the Dreamscreen, which is your own personal life coach that keeps you motivated throughout the day.

Check it out and share your thoughts? Could this help you and your staff? They do promotional giveaways too, and a membership would make a great xmas gift for your clients.

Tourism goes 3.0

Today we (Vianet) made an exciting announcement with Trade Me that we are building “the next big thing” in online tourism, and so we will be showcasing our tools to the New Zealand tourism industry. This is exciting for me for one simple reason. We are making online tourism work. That’s not to say people have not been doing business online until now, but we can now enable ANY tourism provider to do business online at an extremely low cost. In fact it is free other than a booking commission for successful sales of product.

People have started talking about our tools as being the web 2.0 for tourism ,but actually we are more in line with the 3.0 “movement”. Why? We not only provide simple to use online tools for anyone to use, like our LemonSqueezy booking engine, but we also aggregate our data to business partners wanting to use it, like we have done in the case of Trade Me. Secondly we manage and extend the coverage of our online network without boundaries. We make it easy for business to connect with other businesses online. A tourism operator can sell their product without barriers through retailers using our free tools. It costs nothing for the retailer and it costs nothing for the tourism operator. We maintain the technology they use, the network they participate on and we look after the relationships between us and the retailers and providers of tourism product. Retailers can focus on attracting travellers, and operators can focus on providing great experiences. We take care of the rest and so everyone can concentrate on what they are good at.

It is so simple and that’s what makes is really exciting.

Can Ferrit pull one out of its…

It’s shopping on the Internet. Now with an actual shopping cart so you can actually shop!

What is Ferrit? Urban Dictionary defines the word Ferrit as:

An overrated over advertised website which is only designed to make people buy expensive crap they don’t want.

Now there have been a lot of people quick to knock ferrit.co.nz, and I have been one of them, but has Telecom turned it around? Unfortunately I think they might have. Not because Ferrit is a good idea, in fact Ferrit has already changed its business model after one year of operation which would suggest they got it wrong first time (no, really). Now they actually have e-commerce, yes a shopping cart, 12 months late and only 2 weeks before xmas.

Telecom has let the world know they have spent 12 million already on Ferrit and was planning another 12 in the next year. I have seen money spent better and got more in return, but by all accounts it seems the majority of the cash has been hosed into the now infamous ad agency that tried to convince the world Ferrit was the uber review site for toasters.

So what are the compelling reasons that justify Ferrits existence? Why will Ferrit work, why will it succeed?

A unified shopping cart? I am not convinced shopping on the Internet is like mall shopping where in one visit you want to get as much as you can to save gas. It’s the Internet, its always there and always on, unless you are on ADSL broadband of course. I guess there is some convenience if you are on the hunt for 2 or more things, but still a lot of the Ferrit retailers funnel the actual purchase to their own websites with their own shopping carts. Not Ferrits. Until the unified cart is unified it is just not useful.

Free shipping? Until xmas! no.

Reviews? That toaster does look good mind you, but no.

Price comparisons? The majority of products are from one retailer only which makes comparison somewhat usless but I bet the pricing is competitive! Nup.

The search! A search for a new Nintendo Wii actually found the console on page 5 of the results. Surely they have thought to weight the relevance of search results.

The ads? Yes the ads. As long as Telecom have the cash tap twisted all the way to full squirt, the promotion of the site will be what wins it in the end. Hell they can’t spend the whole 24 million on product development. As long as the punter is hammered with banner ads, msn ads, tv ads, ads, ads, and ads, they will come and they will shop. Three months ago I asked everyone I knew if they knew what Ferrit was. It was no surprise to find that most had no idea (except its some kind of rodent). Today someone in the office suggested looking on Ferrit for something they couldn’t find in the stores. The message is getting out there and to be honest there is no competition. So whether I like it or not, Telecom will get there in the end.