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Posts Tagged ‘social business’

Riverstone and Interpret the Future team up again with OpenKnowledge at the Social Business Forum 2016

06 Jul

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Now in its ninth year, the Social Business Forum, Europe’s premier speaker and networking event dedicated to social business, will take place in Milan on the 6-7 July 2016. Organised by OpenKnowledge, the management consulting company focused on social and digital transformation, and held once again at the Marriott Hotel in the capital city of fashion and design, SBF16 will bring together features a unique offer of visionary keynote speeches, success stories and discussion panels organized in a Free and Premium Conference. The Free Conference includes the keynote speeches in the mornings of July 6th and 7th delivered by outstanding and internationally-known experts.

The theme of this year’s Social Business Forum is the Platfirm Age: Plug your Business – Play your Future. The focus of many of the keynote presentations will be on how platform-companies, such as Airbnb, Facebook and LinkedIn, have revolutionised traditional business models and developed continuously-evolving structures where value is co-created with users / customers.

All the keynotes will be simultaneously translated by Interpret the Future, the Social Business Forum’s longstanding specialist interpreting partners. This year, the team includes ItF founder members Loredana Nano and Alice Bertinotti. Daniela Negru will also be in the booths helping the team to provide a highly professional conference interpreting service. The project is managed by Robert Dennis, director of Riverstone Language & Communications.

Find out more…

by Robert Dennis

Robert has created an online Business English course on WiziQ. Sign up for the free edition!

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Delivering on its promise: e-commerce in Italy is growing – and now even comes with free coffee

10 Sep

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Report by Sonia Trubia and Robert Dennis

“E-talia” bucks the downward trend

At their annual “E-commerce in Italia” conference, held earlier this year at the Milan Chamber of Commerce, Casaleggio Associati, presented their regular snapshot of the state of the mouse-driven marketplace in Italy (pdf available here, in Italian). It certainly makes for interesting reading; despite the continuing economic crisis and generally disappointing growth in the economy, e-commerce in the Bel Paese is growing, with the market for online sales in 2014 showing an 8% rise on the previous year. However, when set against the bigger picture of the global e-commerce market, with growth worldwide expected to reach just over 20% this year, it is clear that there is still room for improvement.

Growth 2014

The fact remains that online shoppers play an increasingly significant role in the Italian economy (with total turnover for e-commerce worth just over 24bn euros last year) and this is being driven progressively by mobile, which now accounts for 13% of online sales (up from only 5% three years ago).

The two online behemoths, eBay and Amazon, with their vast and ever-expanding range of products to tempt the consumer, their competitive pricing and above all their reputation for reliability – essential for wary purchasers flexing their plastic or using online payment services such as PayPal – continue to dominate the Italian e-commerce market. (63% of Italian online shoppers use Amazon while 57% of customers use eBay.) Despite their relatively much smaller presence, other players, such as the French Pixmania (PixPlace) and Buy-me.it (part of the Mail Boxes Etc. group) are making themselves felt. Additionally, China-based Alibaba and Etsy (which focuses on handmade and vintage items) are gaining a toe-hold.

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We called while you were out…

Overall then, the proportion of consumers using e-commerce in Italy is up and the trend is set to continue. But making purchases online is actually only half the story. The really tricky part is getting those products into the hands of the consumer after they have pored over the screen selecting from all the desirable goods on offer and clicked on the final “PAY NOW” button. Completing orders and delivering the merchandise should be straightforward, but this is often where the real frustration begins – both for the vendor as well as the consumer. Most couriers, for example, only deliver parcels during working hours, which, obviously, is inconvenient for most people, especially workers who won’t be at home to take the delivery. If no one picks up the parcels after several visits, then the courier the has to return it to the closest post-office or the delivery centre where it was dispatched from – and the hapless online buyer will have to go and pick it up themselves.

What’s Indabox?

logo_IndaBoxThis was exactly the dilemma that two friends from Turin, Giovanni Riviera and Michele Calvo, wrestled with – and came up with a uniquely Italian solution to the problem. At the end of 2014, they launched an app called Indabox, which allows users to look for a convenient delivery spot in their area and have the parcel delivered there, without having to worry about anything else. Indabox now has a steadily expanding network comprising more than 2400 drop-off points, including bars, supermarkets (they are in a partnership with Carrefour) and tobacconists. These business were chosen as drop-off spots because they can be found throughout the country, thus giving users a much greater chance to find a convenient place to have their purchases delivered. Bars are the most popular option, because, unlike other shops or supermarkets, they often close at 10pm, if not later. RelaisColis, the French equivalent of Indabox, is a very successful enterprise, and has a huge network of drop-off  and pick-up points (over 4000).

Come_funziona

The service offered by Indabox is also affordable. The first Indabox pick-up is free, but from the second time onwards you have to pay a €3 fee (€1,50 goes to the business and €1,50 to the startup itself) each time you pick up your parcel. It’s a price users are willing to pay for the added convenience.

Of course, Indabox is not the only option e-commerce customers have. A less personal alternative is that of using a “locker”, similar to the luggage lockers that used to be a feature of every central station and airport. In Italy, the most active network of lockers is operated by Inpost. Inpost is a “click-and-collect” service allowing online buyers to have deliveries made at specific locations with automated lockers, where they can collect them 24/7. However, while in other countries the locker system works very well, in Italy it hasn’t proved that popular or practical. Inpost, for example, only works with one courier and its network is not as extensive as that of Indabox.

Inpost

Moreover, Indabox and RelaisColis have a twofold advantage over other apps such as Inpost.  On the one hand, they have an interesting social angle, which is not only a key component in disruptive technology startups but also a critical factor in this highly socialized country. Popping in to your local bar to pick up a package naturally enough leads to personal contact, however short or shallow, with shopkeepers, bartenders and other customers. But most importantly for the drop-off points themselves, they can have a knock-on effect in terms of sales. As one of the Indabox founders recently told Wired Italy:  “Maybe someone decides to pick up their parcel, which was dropped off at a bar, during their lunch break, and then perhaps they decide to eat a sandwich there or to have a coffee, hence boosting the bartender’s turnover and making a contribution to the domestic market.”

Thanks to startups like Indabox, gaps in the online shopping experience are being filled and the whole process of buying and receiving goods is becoming that much more comfortable and convenient – it certainly avoids the need of staying at home in case you miss the courier or making an unnecessary to pick up your products from an out-of-the way warehouse or post office. And if collecting your online deliveries is also an excuse to enjoy a drink and chat, then so much the better. (Indabox even has an “IndaCoffee Card” which allows you to get every fifth coffee free from participating bars in the network.)

(c) Milan Business English Network, 2015

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About the authors:

Sonia Trubia is a freelance writer and translator based in Genoa. She speaks Italain, French and English and is currently completing an MA about the British novelist A.S.Byatt.

Robert Dennis is the founder of the Milan Business English Network and Director of Riverstone Language & Communications, which provides English language training and translations.

 

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Money in motion: how mobile payments technology is changing the face of retail

18 Jul

Danielle Dalkie is a Co-founder and Director of Social Commerce & PR at Waspit, the groundbreaking mobile payments service. In this series of blog posts for NetworkMilan she will be writing about  mobile payments technology, social commerce and trends in the tech startup sector with a focus on the Italian/European market. To kick off the series she Danielle starts by looking at the big picture of what the mobile payments environment looks like from her uniquely well-informed perspective!

Danielle Dalkie

Payments and mobile technology in Europe have always been ahead of the American market. I am not sure when the idea started that the US is better known for adopting technologies at an early stage: stateside mobile networks are about 10 years behind those of Europe – and their payment methods also lag those of the “Old World” by a decade, too.

US society still seems to be largely cash-based. Compare that with Europe, where today 6 out of 7 transactions are made using a card. But the difference goes even deeper. The technocrat government of Italy, in particular, has declared a war on cash: Prime Minister Mario Monti wants the country’s vast army of self-employed entrepreneurs, including landlords, plumbers, electricians and small businesses to stop making large transactions in cash, which critics say simply facilitates tax evasion. On 4 December 2011, the Italian government reduced the maximum limit for cash payment from 2,500 euros to 1,000 euros. The rationale for this reduced limit on movements of cash is that Italy desperately needs to increase its tax revenues and views its anti-cash measures as a means of cracking down on tax evasion, which “costs” the government an estimated €150 billion annually. However, with an eye-watering €1.9 trillion of public debt to its name, some commentators have described this kind of punitive measure as “too little too late”.

Against the backdrop of a general tendency towards the “cashless society”, the recent announcement by American Express that they have just released their roadmap for Europay MasterCard Visa (EMV) got me thinking about the state of the payments environment and how this technology could develop in the coming months and years.

Now, let me stick my neck out and say that I for one didn’t actually think the US should have made the switch over to EMV, since it has been used in Europe for the past six years and the technology itself – at over 10 years old – is well past its sell-by date. It would have made much more sense for the US to bypass EMV altogether and move straight to near field communication (NFC), which allows consumers to make electronic payments by simply waving their NFC-enabled phone near a payments terminal . Yes, EMV has security benefits, and it has helped to substantially decrease fraudulent transactions throughout Europe, but this should have been apparent to the US retailers and federal authorities 6 years ago. Why wait until now when more flexible and innovative technologies have superseded it?

One saving grace is that at least this switchover will force merchants to upgrade their terminals. Each of these upgraded system devices will also accept NFC and mobile transactions, which is a fantastic opportunity for companies operating in this space, especially startups and smaller, independent companies who (unlike the credit card giants) do not have the funds or capacity to influence terminal and Point of Sale (POS) technology or upgrades.

Waspit: social banking for students

The innovative startup company I have been involved with over the last 18 months, Waspit, uses MasterCard PayPass technology and will be accepted by card-capable merchants in the US by 2017, by which time the proposed switch-over will be completed. This is clearly great news not only for consumers but for mobile payment startups, such as Waspit, generally. With merchants on board, socially-oriented financial services like ours will be able to focus on winning new customers and offering a wider range of related services and benefits

However, not all mobile / NFC payments technology are problem-free. PayPass, for example, and other card networks for mobile and micro payments, charge merchants 0.15% plus 0.025 Euro in the interchange every time a transaction is made. This means that if you’re buying a relatively low-value item , such as a 2 Euro ice-cream, the merchant is not actually making a profit. These increased costs may force small businesses to raise prices, or face margins being squeezed as they are unable to compete with larger retailers who enjoy greater economies of scale. (The European situation could also be affected by the recent $7.25 billion settlement by Visa and MasterCard of a class action brought by retailers in the US over interchange fees.)

From the merchant’s point of view it makes sense to bypass the credit card networks completely and go with the closed loop solution. The market has woken up to this fact with every tech company and startup offering some sort of mobile wallet, or mobile payment solution. You can now buy a latte with your Starbucks app , and even use your PayPal account in selected stores. But here’s the irony: all of this cashless technology is supposed to be making life simpler – except it’s not!

Behind the scenes, the situation is even more complicated, with the reliance on technologies such as those of the Trusted Service Manager (TSM) and over-the-air personalisation. When NFC handsets go mainstream and there is no longer a need for plastic at all, that is the moment when we will truly be in the era of mobile payments. But at present TSM is also in a state of flux. The mobile networks themselves are going to be the main players, but will Vodafone, Three, Orange (3 of the main UK operators) and the others be more flexible than the credit card companies, who currently control the scene? And the system will still rely on the infrastructure of the credit card companies, so interchange is still a factor. It is going to take a lot of hard bargaining, regulation and hammering out standards the key players in the industry can all agree on. No-one can say for sure how the situation will pan out – or how smaller players are going to get access to the chips that are vital for mobile payments to become the norm.

Mobile payments

Consumers want to use electronic and mobile payments – and when the technology is fully rolled out I don’t think it will be hard getting them on board. However, in the industry we have been talking about this for a while. The flip side is that this is not good for merchants , especially small ones. Either the credit card companies need to come to the party or something needs to shake up the whole space. There needs to be more unity and maybe regulation, but this should not be dictated by the giants who dominate this space.

Consumers are clearly voting with their smart-phones: there is increasing demand and enthusiasm for making mobile payments more widespread and easier. Retailers – especially smaller, independent ones – could stand to benefit; and even government revenue-collecting agencies governments would welcome the introduction and greater use of this type of technology (with concerns over privacy being taken seriously, of course). There is also an urgent need for business itself, trade and consumer bodies, as well as national governments and the EU to co-ordinate their efforts to ensure that the consumer has a choice of easily accessible, safe and efficient payment methods to choose from. And, of course, there needs to be a level playing-field for innovative creative startups such as Waspit to develop services that give consumers the flexibility and freedom that this revolutionary technology could bring to people’s lives.

Read Danielle Dalkie’s next blog post on NetworkMilan – coming soon!

UPDATE (AUGUST 2012): Danielle has recently founded Network Roma, a sister group of the Milan Business English Network. You can become part of Network Roma by joining their group on LinkedIn.

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NetworkMilan welcomes Danielle Dalkie, mobile entrepreneur and PR /Social Media expert

12 Jul

We are delighted to introduce our first guest blogger, Danielle Dalkie, who has a fascinating background as a mobile payments entrepreneur and is currently planning a strategic move to Rome. In this article she talks about her experience in setting up Waspit, a social banking service, and how she plans to use her PR and social media skills in her new life in Italy.

Danielle on the Digital Mission Stand at ad:tech NYC Conference and Expo 2010

Ciao! I am really pleased to be writing for NetworkMilan.com – and I am looking forward to sharing some of my ideas and business experiences with you. I’m also really excited about coming to Italy! I am an Australian who grew up in New Zealand and for the past two years I have been living between London and New York. And now I am moving to Rome!

I am Co-Founder of a startup called Waspit, a social banking platform for students. More specifically, it combines traditional banking features with social platforms to create a more intuitive and enriched experience for users. In essence, Waspit is “Banking 2.0”, and I have been involved in product development (right from the conception of the company) and more recently realigning the product to suit the target market: I have also been doing some business development and I aided the company in raising its first round of venture funding in New York.Waspit is designed not only to provide all the latest banking capabilities including mobile payments, but to enable for the first time a dynamic communication between users, their friends and the merchant on how and where they choose to spend their money.

Waspit lets you plug in all your social media platforms into one place so that you no longer have to manually check-in on Facebook and foursquare or post separate reviews to Yelp, Twitter and your other networks.

Social banking for students

For the more traditional ‘bank-like’ transactions Waspit is accepted in-store and online anywhere MasterCard is accepted; cash can be withdrawn from most ATMs; and students can pay their bills using ACH (Automated Clearing House) or Billpay. The FDIC* insured account also has a traditional routing and account number so students can receive their wages and allowances.

In the social world, students can easily, securely and instantly send and receive money between friends via Facebook, Twitter or mobile phone. Making quick payments in store is as simple as tapping your mobile phone over any MasterCard PayPass terminal. Students can even use the iOS, Android or Facebook apps to split restaurant bills or request money from their parents.

My own background is in public relations and social media, however. I have been involved in developing and implementing customer acquisition strategies in the tech, digital and social sectors. My skills include traditional PR such as managing press releases, publicity, social media, online content, corporate events, conferences and creating brand awareness.

I also specialise in social marketing and developing viral strategies (including guerrilla marketing efforts), as well as many successful viral and online campaigns in the both the US and UK. In addition, I develop comprehensive campaigns which rely heavily on social media and social marketing.

Rome calling (Image: Trevi Fountain by Fod via Wikimedia Commons)

But the big news is… I am relocating to Rome this year and I am currently looking for a suitable position and some cool social media projects to work on (so please get in touch with me if you have something I might be interested in!)

I am also involved in setting up the Rome Business English Network – the first sister group of the Milan Business English Network to be based in another Italian city. (Visit Network Roma for all the latest news about events and networking for people speaking, learning and doing business in English in the eternal city.)

NetworkMilan.com have invited me to write a series of blog posts on how mobile commerce is changing the way we interact with companies and its wider implications for the digital economy. I hope you enjoy these articles and find them useful, too!Read Danielle Dalkie’s next guest post, coming soon on NetworkMilan.com:
Money in motion: how mobile payments technology is changing the face of retailClick here to find out more about Waspit and social banking.

*Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: A US federal agency that insures deposits in member banks.

UPDATE (AUGUST 2012): Danielle has recently founded Network Roma, a sister group of the Milan Business English Network. You can become part of Network Roma by joining their group on LinkedIn.

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How to make business more social: the 5th annual Social Business Forum in Milan shows the way

07 Jun

It’s not all doom and gloom in Mario Monti’s Italy: this week in Milan the leading social business event in Europe saw hundreds of delegates descend on the city to discuss ways of making business better for companies and customers. The Social Business Forum 2012 was organised by OpenKnowledge, an international consulting firm that specializes in helping large organizations realize their business potential through open and collaborative approaches based on the Social Business paradigm. With keynotes from the likes of John Hagel, Co-Chairman of the Center for the Edge at Deloitte & Touche and Rawn Shah, Social Business Strategist at IBM, the SBF provided fresh thinking and lively debate, as well as some great networking opportunities.

Discussion and debate at the SBF in Milan

Now in its fifth year, the Social Business Forum has established itself as a regular fixture on the business innovation calendar and continues to attract not only the big name speakers, but an impressive gathering of key players and professionals from companies large and small – not to mention a healthy sprinkling of consultants and freelancers. The sumptuous surroundings of the Marriott Hotel in Milan provided an imposing backdrop to the event.

With an Open Conference running alongside the Premium Conference, the number of people who could enjoy the event was maximised – and everyone had a chance to visit the Expo Pavilion, where leading enterprise social software technologies were showcased.

Rosario Sica and Emanuele Scotti present the Social Business Manifesto

This year the Social Business Forum coincided with the launch of the Social Business Manifesto, a seminal text produced by OpenKnowledge and published with the Harvard Business Review Italia. As well as being a clarion call to business, the Manifesto contains 59 “theses” or propositions that are both observations and challenges for finding new ways of making business more about customers and employees and less about the companies themselves or their managers. (The Manifesto was written in Italian and sections are being published in English at regular intervals.)

Rosario Sica and Emanuele Scotti of OpenKnowledge presented a dialogue on the Social Business Manifesto and the theses, which include such nuggets as “The weak point of knowledge management is the management” and “Organizations react to stimuli in their market with a speed that is inversely proportional to their size”.

The Interpret the Future team

With so many international visitors it was crucial that as many of the insights and ideas being expressed could be shared. To this end, a special mini-project called “Interpret the Future” was established by OpenKnowledge and communications consultant Robert Dennis (the founder and editor of the Milan Business English Network). Interpret the Future brought together a crack team of young interpreters eager to gain additional valuable experience of conference interpreting. The project also aims to help the team explore new ways of promoting themselves as freelance professionals in a highly-specialised field of communication. A blog (called Interpret the Future) was set up by the team and they were able to use the occasion for networking as well.

The Social Business Forum lasted for two very busy days and covered a staggering range of topics related to the central theme of making relationships in business more human and personal and less process-oriented and target-driven.

You can find a wealth of background information and extras relating to the Social Business Forum on the main SBF website.

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