Five challenges to prepare for the next generation of eCommerce


A recent press release from IMRG (the Interactive Media in Retail Group) suggests that £6.4bn was spent on-line in the UK during September 2012 which represents a 16% “year on year” growth and both IMRG and Capgemini are predicting an annual growth estimate of 14% for 2012. More impressively mobile retail showed a 312% “year on year” growth in September.

eCommerce growth in the UK over recent years has been spectacular. This article will explain the structural changes that have been driving this innovation in the UK and how the eCommerce industry in the UK will have to fundamentally adapt and change if it is to meet the challenges and opportunities of the emerging “Omni-Channel” eCommerce market. In the past eCommerce growth has always been measured against “High Street” decline but this is no longer a valid comparison as the “High Street” is morphing to become an essential part of eCommerce infrastructure.

Culturally the changes will be driven by mature eCommerce customers encouraged by the next wave of smart mobile technologies. A distribution market that has historically been defined by B2B, B2C and C2C sub-sectors will be redefined by a very new categorisation – “Smart” and “Dumb” distribution. I don’t mean “Dumb” in a disparaging way because in Pareto terms it will still represent 80% of the market. What will be different though is that “Smart” will probably also mean more efficient and “Cheaper” !

“Smart Distribution” will map very neatly onto the “connected” generation who expect choice and value and who are enabled by the latest smart mobile technologies. They are used to innovation in their technologies and now expect innovation to be built into their services and retail experiences.

Development of the UK eCommerce Market

In the early 1990s there was a very strong Mail Order “Catalogue” shopping culture in the UK driven by companies like Freemans, Gratton’s and Empire stores. This was exclusively B2C and had a strong regional focus. Most of the goods were distributed from large warehouses in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the East Midlands. This early infrastructure provided a sound foundation for the first moves into eCommerce which was really just about replacing a Catalogue and Phone order with an basic web ordering facility.

The attractiveness of the Web experience started to open up other B2C and B2B markets to eCommerce and then companies like eBay provided web infrastructure for C2C business. So today we have a wide range of different markets supported by the UK’s eCommerce infrastructure.

There was a huge effort to reduce costs and drive efficiency within the UK market. One of the most important catalysts were “Multi-Carrier” systems from companies like Metapack. These systems gave consumers considerable choice both in terms of “Speed of Delivery” and the choice of carrier to be used. From the retailers perspective they gained a superb insight into the delivery performance of various carriers and put them in a far better negotiating position – so carrier prices were driven down. Carrier performance has also improved dramatically and is far more consistent. I think it is fair to say that Multi-Carrier systems like Metapack have completely changed the eCommerce ecosystem in the UK.

Extreme rationalisation based on cost reduction and network optimisation has taken place in the carrier industry. Most distribution systems are now extremely lean and are driven from super-hubs based in the Midlands. These super hubs are located adjacent to the UK’s major motorway arteries which now makes “overnight sortation” and “next day delivery” the de facto UK national standard.

What is Omni-Channel eCommerce ?

Original eCommerce involved picking goods in a large centralised warehouse and then delivering the goods to a home address. Excellent economies of scale and not much precision required. For the “connected generation” this traditional model puts huge inconveniences and troublesome processes into the eCommerce model. Having to wait at home (all day) for an important delivery or having to go and collect from the parcel depot after an unsuccessful delivery attempt. These inconveniences are no longer acceptable to the “Smartphone / Social Media” generation and they want choice. They want “choice” and they are not prepared to “wait” !

They want to order “in store” and get their items delivered “at home” or “at work” at a time convenient to them. They want to order “at home” and collect “in store” at the weekend or from a “box system” at the railway station when they arrive in London next morning after their daily commute.

The “need” is obvious and easily articulated but the infrastructure demand is immense and requires a complete re-engineering of old-style eCommerce infrastructure. There are some really interesting challenges. In my opinion the 5 main challenges for the industry are as follows:

1. The Addressing Challenge The new model requires an understanding of “the individual being at an address” but the address could be @home, @work or @station. Both the person being delivered to and the addresses require to be validated. Concepts such as “moving house” or “changing jobs” need to be understood in a dynamic sense.

2. The Parcel Identification Challenge We will need to adopt open identification standards like ISO License Plate for parcel identification – that can be used by the entire ecosystem (including consumers). New Identification Technologies should also be used.

3. The Network Design Challenge There is a need to redesign the Warehousing infrastructure. Already some distribution companies are creating “Dark Warehousing” facilities just outside major business or population centres. Automated box systems will need to become pervasive and be located conveniently. Physical infrastructure must be “open for use” for all players in this new ecosystem.

4. The “High Street” Challenge A number of major High Street retailers have been successfully experimenting with “new concept” stores. “House of Fraser”, “John Lewis” and “Marks and Spencer” have all been running some really interesting trials. Getting good quality advice and guidance from well trained retail staff is the key. Technologies such as Augmented Reality and Contactless Payment will completely change the face of High Street retail.

5. The International Challenge There is a huge demand for Cross Border eCommerce – but the issues and solutions are not yet well understood. eCommerce Warehouses are starting to appear in countries for imported goods so that goods can be brought into the destination country at a wholesale price, “break bulk” warehousing and then “local look and feel” domestic retail ordering and delivery. The trick is to only pay customs duties on the wholesale value of the goods – not the retail value. Canada and Saudi Arabia are good examples of countries were big changes are starting to happen. The Universal Postal Union (UPU) have just launched some significant eCommerce tools that countries can use.


We are at the start of a very exciting phase of eCommerce development. Recent technology advances allow “Smart” eCommerce distribution which is now demanded by a far more discerning “connected generation” They are also demanding cheaper and greener distribution models. It would be really interesting to understand how active “Smartphone” users map onto the growth of eCommerce. I suspect there is a very high correlation.

It is clear that a “laser style” focus on “smart” distribution is needed if we are going to build and exploit the next generation of eCommerce infrastructure. It will no longer be eCommerce vs High Street. It will be eCommerce & The High Street.

Richard Wishart

Delivery Management Ltd

19th October 2012

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Extending Business Processes along your Supply Chain

There is now a real opportunity for companies to extend their business processes along their supply chain (to customers, suppliers and distributors) .  A very elegant and simple App called Starfish CI has just launched.

Starfish CI lets you build iPad replacements for your paper forms, with the ease of drag and drop. See it in action in the video. 

Why not download the app for free at and give it a try. I would really like to hear your opinions.

Starfish CI can replace a paper-based form and send the data straight into SharePoint securely, without the costs, delays and errors of reading and typing: then, business rules can trigger actions such as sending emails or alerts based on the results in the data.

Some Starfish CI customers already take photos straight from the app; then using their finger to draw annotations (eg ‘this is where the new electrical outlets are to be placed’ or  ‘this is where the fault lies’) straight on to the photo. Images, including signatures, appear in SharePoint, right alongside structured data.

I know  Mike Schorah  the technical entrepreneur behind the new product very well and had encouraged him use QR codes. I really like the way he has incorporated the QR code functionality within the overall design.  What do you think ?

Mike very kindly featured Dr Chris Thomas’s book on QR codes which I gave him in the video and I suspect that this might have inspired the really clever product design !! (you can see the book on the right of the table)

This “supply chain extension” of business processes is really simple for small, medium and large companies to implement.

My son-in-law runs a small engineering business in Ramsay and he has a sizeable contract for the repair and refurbishment of equipment.  His customer uses a very simple but effective workflow solution. He receives advance details of the items he will be receiving, on receipt he takes pictures of any damage in transit and appends it to the form, his worksheets are forms and the completion and invoicing are all forms as well.  The big benefit for him is that the complete business process is paperless, the process is robust and his overheads are slashed.

If you want include your chosen carrier more intimately within your processes you need to choose a carrier that will accept an open identifier (embedded in  a QR code) and the parcel company needs to use the open identifier as its key field rather some form of customised solution.  By doing this carriers can start to incorporate specific customer processes and improve the way that they do business.  The best open identifier to use would be the ISO License Plate.

Delivery Management is a leading expert in identification and tracking technology and we are in a very good position to help companies implement these types of solution.  We are looking to run a “Google Hangout on Air” event on “extending business processes along your supply chain” – please let us know if you would like to join the event and we will send you an invitation.

If you are interested in learning more about this exciting product please contact

Mike Schorah on +44 208 1445789    or

Helen Reinson on +44 1480 4651

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Hotel, Hospitality and Food Sri Lanka 2013

Hotel, Hospitality & Food Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Exhibition & Conference Centre
27-29 September 2013

Launched in 2011, HHF Sri Lanka serves the dynamic hotel, hospitality, tourism and food businesses of South Asia. It is supported by Sri Lanka’s leading hotel and tourism associations as the business-to-business event needed at this time of growth, modernisation and rising standards in the region. Sri Lanka alone (with its population of 21 million) has doubled tourism arrivals over the last three years to around one million, creating new demand for hotels, hospitality services and new-to-market food and drink products.

Visitor Profile:

  • Hoteliers (plus clubs, bars, rest houses) – top management, owners, line managers, housekeeping, executive chefs.
  • Food service management – corporate, public sector and institutions.
  • Restaurateurs, fast food, quick service: Caterers, Architects & Interior Designers: Hospitality trainers.

Exhibitor Profile:

  • Architecture & Design
  • Bakery Equipment
  • Bathroom & Bedroom Equipment and Furnishings
  • Cafe, Club and Bar
  • Cleaning, Laundry & Hygiene
  • Food, Beverages, Wine
  • Food service
  • Catering Franchises
  • Kitchen and Catering Equipment
  • Facilities Management
  • Information Communications Technology
  • Security Equipment, services
  • Spa & Fitness
  • Swimming Pools
  • Table top
  • Training Expertise & Services
  • Waste management and recycling

The Show:

  • Held at the air-conditioned 4,000 m2 Sri Lanka Exhibition & Conference Centre in central Colombo
  • Features a professional Salon Culinaire event for Sri Lanka’s top hotel chefs
  • Attracts 3,000 industry professionals and business visitors (B2B only)
  • Co-organised by Montgomery, owners of Britain’s “Hotelympia” and “Hospitality” shows

UK Contact

Jenny Turner
+44 (0) 7525334062

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Ultra Secure replacement for all Passwords and PINs

pincode 1

Pincode 2

A good friend of mine and Cambridgeshire entrepreneur,  Jonathan Craymer has invented an ultra secure replacement for all Passwords and PINs. Like all really good ideas it is simple, persuasive and full of new new and exciting possibilities.

When Jonathan showed me how this new pin+ technology worked at the end of last year – I immediately saw a real opportunity for its use in the postal community.  It would be a superb tool for the secure authentication of people using the new range of electronic postal services and possibly even .post itself. It could be used for both over-the-counter and on-line services.

pin+ is one of those simple ideas which makes you wonder why no-one thought of it before. But then isn’t that so often the way? Instead of a fixed code the user just remembers a brain-friendly pattern on a little matrix of squares, which fills with random numbers each time – so just by reading the numbers in his/her squares, the user gets a different code every time. (Think about it – many of us already use patterns, perhaps without realising it, on phone key-pads, ATMs etc.)

Shoulder-surfing and key-logging are no longer a threat, since the matrix is never touched with the mouse-pointer or your finger, and each number is repeated several times. There are 2.1bn pattern possibilities even on the matrix shown. So the cryptographic strength or ‘entropy’ is extremely high, meaning that in theory a customer could use the same pattern to protect multiple applications.

In the example above, the one time login code is 542512 – but the next time the user is asked to authenticate, the numbers in the matrix will have randomised, giving another OTC, and so on. The company behind it, PinPlus Ltd ( says it’s the equivalent of carrying a key-fob token, only far more convenient, and something which at negligible cost could be rolled out to millions of users.

But there’s more – the team behind pin+ believes it’s ‘cracked’ the problem of hackers stealing password files, with a clever back-end which splits up the stored patterns, making stealing entry secrets (something which greatly embarrassed LinkedIn and eHarmony recently) virtually impossible.

Not surprisingly they’re getting interest from everything from Government security agencies to financial services. In my opinion it could be ideal for those using post office branches for financial and other transactions where strong authentication is needed, but without the high cost and inconvenience of customers having to carry additional hardware. pin+ can be presented to customers on browsers on in-store kiosks or their own PCs or devices, which massively raises the bar over fixed codes. Or if regulations insist, it can be used on phone/device apps for more traditional ‘two-factor’ authentication.

Customers could authenticate themselves in branches, or even on delivery drivers’ devices at the door, and it would also work with NFC apps on phones.

Thought-provoking or what?

If you would like to learn more about the pin+ security authentication system, or find out how Delivery Management can help you with your innovation and technology strategy, see the contact details below:
Learn More About pin+

Delivery Management Consultancy:
Call: +44 (0) 7972 152548

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Social Conferencing


This is a “step by step” guide on how to engage in “Social Conferencing”  As far as I am aware this could be a new term to describe the use of “video” within Social Media. It will be a highly disruptive development and is really exciting.  early adopters will be at a significant advantage.  My experience suggests that you need to follow a 5 stage core process which can be really quick – and there are 3 other optional processes that will significantly enhance the experience.

1. Set yourself up on Google+  The easiest way is to set up a “skeleton” profile with only the basic information. Name, Position, Company and Portrait photograph.  Photograph is important. You will also need a device equipped with voice and dynamic image capture.  This could something like the new Google Nexus 7 which is built to support Social Conferencing or a Webcam and microphone attached to your Desktop.

2. Next set up a “one to one” video call with one of your friends. Select their profile on Google+ and connect. Simple as that. Oh and did I mention that you need friends – an essential ingredient for social conferencing. Then play!

3. Set up a 3 or 4 way standardised Google+ hangout by either inviting your friends on or inviting one of your circles on. You now need more that one friend !! Then play !

4. Now you are ready for Hangouts on Air.  Go into Google Hangouts a look for one that interests you and join. Initially maybe just watch and listen and when you think you know how it works join in the conversation. Now you can have hundreds or thousands of friends!

5. Join a scheduled Hangout on Air.  A good facilitator will create a calender event well in advance and you will be invited to join the event. When you sign up you can see the other people who have signed up and you can chat in advance of the event, during the event and after the event. A HOA has two types of membership – the speakers (up to 10) and the participants which can be unlimited (if set up this way)  The panel discussion and live presentations are played within the Event and can be replayed on a post event Youtube recording.

These 5 stages are really straightforward and although they may sound difficult when documented – they are really instinctive.

The Optional processes that I would highly recommend are

6. Complete your profile – which will only take 30 minutes and make best use of the image options. Google+ is by definition a visual medium and it would be a shame not to take advantage.

7. Learn how to use Chat and Talk. After that you will only need an old fashioned telephone to talk to people who are not connected

8. Learn how to set up and run your very own Hangout on Air.  How do you engage an audience for your event before, during and after the actual scheduled meeting time.

9. Social media now provides a superb tool set but it rises to a completely new level when you synchronise “Time Window”, “Geographical Region” and “Topic or Interest”  It moves from a broadcast to a real-time discussion.

If you would like to engage with “Social Conferencing” I would be happy to help. I am hoping to put together a video tutorial for each of these stages

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Google Technology


My “big” technology update is now complete and I have now moved completely to a “Google” technology environment.  The big strategic choice is whether to go Apple, Microsoft or Google – I have decided to go Google because I like their open approach and innovation trajectory.

So I have moved my business over to Google Apps for Business in a native Chrome and Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) environment. It terms of hardware this means:

– A Google Nexus 7 tablet with “Face Recognition” unlocking and built in Near Field Contactless (NFC). The Tablet has WiFi but no 3G

– An O2 MiFi  which I keep in my briefcase enables the Nexus 7 to be continually connected to 3G when I am travelling or out and about.  The Tablet will automatically default to trusted WiFi hotspots rather than 3G so that mobile data charges to a minimum.  The O2 MiFi is great as it can support 3-4 users at a time – so I can share the WEP code with people that I am meeting.

– With the new technology you need to understand which devices are good for “content creation” and “content access”

– My Home Office environment comprises a “Google Box” from Samsung, a large screen Sony Bravia Smart TV, a Logitech Camera and Speakers and a HP Photosmart 7510 printer.  Also a Wireless Keyboard and Mouse from Logitech.   All the kit is wirelessly connected and the printer has a remote ePrint facility so I can email documents to print.  If I choose to ePrint a photograph the printer will select the photo paper tray by default. The Chrome Box is connected to the Smart TV with an HD lead (1080p) but I can also run digital feeds direct from the Internet WiFi into screen windows.

– Using the Chrome Box is fantastic. Instant on provides a 5 second boot up to the point you were at when you switched off.  The whole native Chrome interface is very intuitive and very much simpler than the Windows that I used to use.  I am having to unlearn a lot of the more complicated things that I don’t need any more.

– One of the major changes is the use of Google Drive and the understanding that most of my IT infrastructure is now in the cloud. What I had not understood about cloud computing was that I can still work even when I am not connected.  The trick is “persistence” and the fact that I was still able to work on my Nexus in Flight mode !!

– A big issue for me is the vastly improved communication that Google Talk, Google+, Hangouts and Hangouts on Air provides. Conference calls have changed from being formal and difficult to everyday.  I can conference call on my Nexus on the train or in HD on my Smart TV – completely ad-hoc and on demand.

– Like most innovative businesses I am a significant Social Media user. Google+, Linkedin  and Twitter are my platforms of choice and YouTube is becoming increasingly important.

– Google Apps for business provides superb integrated applications for less than £3.00 per seat per month with no limits on numbers of employees

I still have a great deal of learning ahead of me but I have successfully made the switch to a completely new technology environment.  Not nearly as difficult as I had thought.  The feeling is very similar to when my parents upgraded from a Black and White Television to Colour in the 1970s. I think it is a Quantum leap.

I will be presenting on this topic at Camjelly at the Hauser Forum in Cambridge on Friday 30th Nov 12







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Global Monitoring System RFID Tender has been Issued


The Universal Postal Union has just released a tender for the RFID associated with its Global Monitoring System.

The purpose of this tender is to upgrade the Smart RFID readers and RFID tags that were deployed four years ago, extend the deployment to more countries and implement a comprehensive RFID Network Management system. This could be part of the “Cloud of Things” unveiled by MIT last week.

The links below will take you to the 3 documents that were published

GMS RFID Tender 5 Nov 12

GMS RFID Requirements 5 Nov 12

UPU Terms and Conditions 5 Nov 12

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) is a specialized agency of the United Nations which
has been charged with improving the global performance of international mail. A link
between letter mail quality of service and the payments made between countries has
been agreed as the method for achieving this objective. A Global Monitoring System
(GMS) to provide the neutral and independent measurement for such a scheme was
implemented in 2009 and is now active in over 50 countries.

Panellists use test-letters equipped with passive RFID technology to covertly monitor
mail pipeline performance. This is a well-established technique between Industrialised
Countries and the objective of the GMS is to extend these mail measurement techniques
to all 191 UPU member countries.

The UPU will be re-tendering for the RFID infrastructure to support GMS in November
2012. There have been significant improvements in RFID technology over the last
four years. This Call for Tender (CFT) is designed to discover the most cost-effective
and innovative RFID technologies in the market capable of meeting the demanding
requirements of GMS.

The official size of the global letter post market is 368.4 billion items (UPU estimate for
2011). The Universal Postal Union (UPU) is a specialized agency of the United Nations
which has been charged with improving the global performance of mail. A link between
letter mail quality of service and the payments made between countries has been agreed
as the method for achieving this objective.

There is a need for a Global Monitoring System (GMS) to provide the neutral and independent measurement for such a scheme. 70% of GMS countries measured continuously in 2010 and 2011 improved their quality of service. There are already 21 countries performing above their quality target for 2012.

To register your interest in responding to this tender and for an invitation to the briefing webinars to be held later this month please contact Richard Wishart – the UPU’s RFID expert for this process.

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