ITAC Online - The Digital Commerce Issue - May 2012
In ITAliCs

To Be or Not To Be Digital Is No Longer the Question

Our world today is becoming increasingly digital. We have computers in our cars, our homes, our workplaces and even in our appliances. Many of us also have mobile computers in the form of a smartphone or a tablet. Technology is empowering us in unprecedented ways.

This is not a fad but a growing trend because as human beings we crave social interaction, want to belong to social groups, and be a part of something social. Being connected wherever we are means that we can network with friends, family, peers and the businesses we support anytime we want to. We can research products and services based on the experiences of our peers in real-time, and in turn, share our experiences with everyone else. Our networks now are more expansive and efficient.

ITAC, as a prominent advocate for the expansion of Canada's innovative capacity and for stronger productivity across all sectors through the strategic use of technology, supports this trend. As a result, in this month’s ITAC Online you will find out how PayPal is continuing to push e-commerce; how Dell uses social media to turn complainers into converts; and how Salesforce.com is helping governments to adopt social media standards.

For more information, contact Denise Shortt, dshortt@itac.ca.

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Dell’s social turnaround

Cory Edwards, Global Marketing Director for Social Media, Dell Cory Edwards, Global Marketing Director for Social Media, Dell

It’s not every company that can take a negative situation and turn it to its advantage. Prompted by a particularly bad spate of publicity in the mid-2000s, Dell Inc. adopted social media with a vengeance, and now prides itself on turning “ranters” into “ravers” at a remarkable rate of 34 percent.

“If somebody posts something negative about an experience they’ve had with us, we reach out to them to resolve their issue,” says Cory Edwards, the company’s global Marketing Director for Social Media. That one-in-three number doesn’t just represent those who end up satisfied; those are people who actually post something about how impressed they were with how Dell handled the situation.

It’s a far cry from the stony silence the company maintained in 2005, in the wake of online griping by influential blogger Jeff Jarvis, who launched what became known as “Dell hell” after his new Dell laptop malfunctioned. Jarvis’ online onslaught was amplified in 2006, when a Dell laptop burst into flames at a Japanese conference.

“Those two incidents combined with the return of Michael Dell to the role of CEO (on January 31, 2007) prompted us to get us involved in social media in a big way,” says Edwards.

“Michael really began to push the group to take advantage of the social opportunities that exist. Communicating directly with our customers has always been in Dell’s heritage, and the various social channels that have evolved have given us the opportunity to extend our brand, and have greater, direct interaction with our customers.”

Dell had launched its own blog—Direct2Dell—in June 2006, and shortly after the company’s founder returned as CEO, IdeaStorm was born. An online community for crowdsourcing ideas, IdeaStorm has attracted some 16,000 submissions, more than 400 of which have been implemented.

“It’s a great model of collaboration between a company and its customers. The last thing we want to do is tell customers that we’re the only ones who know anything about technology. We recognize that great ideas are out there, and we want to give credit where it’s due. One of the early ideas that came in was to create backlit keyboards. Today, it seems like a no-brainer, but that came to us through IdeaStorm.” The site is now being revitalized and modernized as Ideastorm 2.0

In addition, the company dedicates significant resources to staff the social outreach services that maintain that impressive conversion rate of Dell “ranters.” The two streams—@DellCares and @DellCaresPro—support 12 languages and boast a 98-percent rate in resolving customer issues.

The foundation of Dell’s proactive networking is its Social Media Listening Command Centre, which was launched in December 2010 to monitor the 25,000 online conversations about Dell that flow through public channels each day.

“We needed a better way to mine that daily talk, and find out what the trends were so we could interact more effectively with our customers. So, now we have this facility in Round Rock, Texas, with six screens and a small team that follows what’s happening on the Web. It’s not just a tweet here and a tweet there, but our system groups conversations by topic.”

Using those topic threads, staff at the command centre can produce reports on business units, verticals, products or individual campaigns.

“It’s really like an early warning system for us,” says Edwards.

Overall, he says, Dell’s goal is to weave social media into the fabric of what the company does.

“What you won’t find here is a centralized social media group that every program runs through. We do have a small governance team that helps to ensure our approach is consistent, that employees are using it the right way and have the training they need, but apart from that, each organization in the company is empowered to use those channels in the ways that fit them best, and to ensure that they find the appropriate metrics model that reflects how social media affects them.”

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Transforming transactions

Darrell MacMullin, Managing Director, PayPal Canada Darrell MacMullin, Managing Director, PayPal Canada

In the hoopla surrounding the introduction of polymer banknotes and the demise of the penny, the most significant monetary developments this year have been somewhat obscured. In March, PayPal took two big steps in the direction of the cashless society.

At South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, the eBay company introduced its revamped digital wallet. Two days later, it rolled out PayPal Here, a small plug-in card reader that allows merchants to process payments on smart phones and tablets.

“Our position has always been to provide a safer, faster, easier way for people to pay and get paid online and on mobile devices,” says Darrell MacMullin, Managing Director of PayPal Canada. “I think, broadly, our vision is to enable PayPal payments and a transaction to happen anytime, anywhere and any way.”

Flexibility is at the core of the digital wallet offering. Users will be able to create parameters for different types and amounts of expenditures. For example, when your purchase exceeds $500, you might want to establish a rule that the funds flow from your credit card that yields Aeroplan points. No problem. Change your mind about how to fund a purchase after you’ve brought it home from the store? A 5-7 day grace period gives you time for second thoughts. Want to extend a large-ticket purchase over three payments? The option is yours.

Users can also apply different types of funding sources—gift cards or loyalty points, for example—seamlessly, and view all of their digital receipts in one place. The final part of this rollout will be enabling wallet access from anywhere: desktop computer, TV, smart phone or other mobile device.

MacMullin sees the new offering, which will be introduced throughout this year, as part of a continuum.

“Conceptually, the PayPal account is really the original digital wallet, which acted like a universal adapter for payments on the Internet. A key point is that members pay without ever having to share their financial information as part of a transaction. That becomes more and more important as we move into different devices like mobile phones.

“Merchants are very enthusiastic with the idea because they’re not having to take on any sort of risk or burden. If we can essentially create more demand and drive purchase intent—whether that means getting discounts, coupons, having access to other funds or more financial flexibility—we’re willing to provide that. Merchants are more than willing to accept that because it will help drive more sales without them having to figure out how it all works. All the merchant needs to do is accept PayPal as a form of payment; they don’t even see what the funding mechanism is.”

Combining the digital wallet concept with the fully encrypted PayPal Here extends those benefits to merchants on the move, whether they be mobile food vendors or trade show booth personnel.

“A customer can check in with their PayPal account through their mobile phone and pay a merchant wherever they are.”

But if PayPal provides flexibility, there is no shortage of other players—including Visa, Google and Rogers—who aim to offer choice with their own digital payment services.

“There are going to be a lot of people vying for consumers’ wallets,” confirms MacMullin. “They’re going to come at it from all types of different experiences—whether it’s a carrier looking to use their SIM card on the phone, a credit card company looking to stuff their credentials on a chip, or our approach.”

PayPal’s approach has been to remain staunchly technology neutral. “We have not taken a bet to say we’ll rest our future on an Android platform or an NFC chip. Our bet is that customers, if they truly want to replace the physical wallet with the digital one, need to have constant access to it, and they want to have access without risking their financial or personal privacy.”

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Helping government go social

Renny Monaghan, Vice-President of Marketing, Canada, Salesforce.com Renny Monaghan, Vice-President of Marketing, Canada, Salesforce.com

As the 20th century faded from view, and federal government IT specialists caught their breath after the Y2K scare, they faced another challenge: How to standardize Internet usage across the public service.

Twelve years later, the Government of Canada is studying a next-generation issue of how to effectively employ social media.

“We recognize social media as a powerful way to engage in meaningful dialogue, and bring about better, more responsive government for our citizens,” said Treasury Board President Tony Clement at a February event, noting that modern tools and technologies are essential to attract and retain creative employees.

As a leading supplier of collaborative, cloud-based tools and expertise, Salesforce.com has a deep understanding of the challenges facing Clement and Canada’s senior bureaucrats.

“One of the biggest challenges is having and creating a cohesive strategy," says Renny Monaghan, Vice-President of Marketing, Canada, Salesforce.com. “What you really need to do is take a look at it from a holistic perspective. Social impacts how your employees work together and collaborate. It impacts how you engage with your constituents and stakeholders. It very likely changes how you deliver your services. But how do you bring it all together? How do you deliver your services or information end to end?”

The company is increasingly focusing on the public sector, and Monaghan points to the recruitment of Vivek Kundra—the U.S. government’s first-ever chief information officer—as Executive Vice-President of Emerging Markets as proof that Salesforce.com views government as a large growth area.

“We’re looking at helping organizations prepare themselves for this social era…. Just as government embraced web technology in order to provide more transparency and access to information, people are now further along. Now, they’re all on mobile devices, using social capabilities. As well as determining how they shift to social media, government organizations need to decide how they will listen to and engage with their constituents.”

Monaghan says that one of the keys to making effective use of social media is to understand how to monitor the traffic and measure what is going on. For example, he says, “a solution like Radian6 provides an instant view into what’s happening. Things now show up in social media before journalists report it. It allows you to stay ahead of what’s happening.”

So far, the public sector has shown particular interest in the company’s collaboration suite. “It allows you to transform collaboration across organizations on a cloud-based platform. That same platform allows organizations to build applications that are customized specially for them, cheaper and faster than before.”

For companies that sell their services to government, Monaghan thinks the burgeoning evolution of social media holds significant potential.

“The nice thing about the social enterprise is that it applies to organizations of all sizes. If you are a company selling into the public sector, you are obviously going to benefit a lot from this by being more competitive. If you’re selling into a small division, a small team or even a larger ministry, social is going to make a big impact to your clients. It’s the biggest change in our industry since client server and cloud computing. The adoption of social is a tidal wave, and it’s combined with the mobile avalanche.”

Looking at the future, Monaghan says one other element is essential if government wants to move its capabilities forward successfully.

“It needs to be open. All of the different systems need to be able to work together. Whether it’s built on Java, PHP or Ruby, or run on top of our platforms, everything needs to be social, mobile and open.”

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ITAC Events

May 9, 2012

Temporary Foreign Worker Seminar

May 23, 2012

Doing Business with SAP Canada

May 29, 2012

Public Sector Business Committee


For a full event listing, and to register for ITAC events, go to: itac.ca/event_cal

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