Norway´s 50 most important e-commerce stores

A jury consisting of five profiled Norwegian e-commerce experts have picked out what they believe are the 50 most important e-commerce stores in Norway.

The jury:
jury

The Jury: Karl Philip Lund (t.v), Eric Sandtrø, Anne Murstad, Kenneth Dreyer and Ole Martin N. Evensmo

  • Karl Philip Lund: Leading online marketing and e-commerce expert. He´s an experienced speaker and he has worked with several successful companies (Enklere Liv, Netthandelen.no, Blivakker.no og Hurtigruten).
  • Eric Sandtrø: Managing director of Fjellsport.no and co-owner of Jollyroom. Founded and managed Komplett.no, one of Norway´s largest e-commerce stores.
  • Anne Murstad: interaction designer that has worked with e-commerce and digital channels for nearly 10 years. Prior to this she worked in sales and customer service for companies such as British Airways, Eurocard and SEB. In 2005 she started the online store fess.no, which won the “Newcomer of the Year 2006“.  She works at the Norwegian Postal service and Bring as business developer and partner responsible for e-commerce.
  • Kenneth Dreyer Passionate about technology, marketing and design. Organizer of ECommerce Day, partner at digital agency Inevo and part owner of a small shop.
  • Ole Martin N. Evensmo: Editor of Netthandel.no. Has experience with online shopping at several large and medium-sized eCommerce and multichannel companies.

Selection criteria

Defining Norway’s most important online stores is no easy affair and there is also no definitive answer. The criteria to get on the list has been an overall assessment where the jury looked at:

  • Revenue
  • Reputation
  • Ability to innovate
  • Ownership
  • Awards / honors
  • International focus
  • General impression

International online stores like Amazon.com are not on the list. The focus is  exclusively on stores that sell physical goods. Travel sites such as SAS.no, Norwegian.no, Restplass.no and Solfaktor.no are important sites, but they are not part of the list. Marketplaces like Finn.no and QXL.no have also been omitted. The focus is on the consumer market(B2C)

Here is the list of Norway’s 50 most important online shops

  • Apotek1.no: Apotek 1 is the first and largest pharmacy chain with a market share of about 45 percent , and todays pharmacies throughout the country . Opened Shop in 2011.
  • Ark.no: The bookstore chain ARK consists of more than 100 stores, the online shop ARK.no and a  reading app . Owned 100 % of the listed company Gyldendal ASA. If you shop ARK.no and choose their ” Click & Get ! ” Solution, so book you book and can then retrieve the selected store for an hour.
  • Blivakker.no: the largest pure online store in Norway in beauty and wellness. With effective marketing , good purchasing and selling prices , free shipping and great customer focus challenges the traditional physical cosmetics stores. Owned by Netthandelen Holding AS which owns Netthandelen.no and DrLykke.no .
  • Blush.no: Founded in 2009 and quickly became a contender for the big sister Blivakker.no . Owned by Komplett Group and investing heavily in Norway . Growing rapidly .
  • bokklubben.no Bokklubben.no 1961 was Norway’s first book club started . Today the book club book clubs of 8 , 3 series , online shops and bokkilden.no . It is the publishers Gyldendal , Aschehoug and Pax who own book club .
  • Brandos.no : Established in 2006 in Sweden , and established in Norway in 2008. Also present in Finland and Denmark. Brandos was autumn 2013 sold to powerful footway after struggling with bankruptcy ghost for a long time .
  • CDON.no : Scandinavia’s largest online store for music , movies and books. Seller also many other things such as kjøkkenuststyr and toys. Owned by the Swedish listed company CDON Group.
  • ClasOhlson.no : Launched in 2012 a new store in Norway and Sweden. Selling everything from copy paper to tools online.
  • Coolstuff.no: CoolStuff.no has existed online since 1999. They aim to offer their customers the ” coolest, prettiest and most innovative gadgets in the market .
  • Coverbrands.no : Cosmetics shop Cover Brands not match perfectly turnover Blivakker.no and Blush.no , but is a strong contender.
  • Dustin.no / DustinHome.no Dustin was founded in 1984. Started originally with mail order sales of colored disks. Have eventually evolved to become one of the largest online companies in electronics . Aim to be a complete supplier of IT products and services and has approximately 1,000 employees in Sweden , Denmark, Norway and Finland.
  • Elkjop.no: Elkjøp is one of the locomotives in the Norwegian retail and their online store is growing fast thanks to good interaction with the chain’s physical stores . Offering including customers to order online and pay and pick up in any store for two hours . One of the largest online stores. Owned by Elkjøp Nordic which is owned by British Dixons.
  • Ellos.no: Good old Ellos was founded in Sweden in 1947 , and existed in Norway since 1983. Most famous for its mail order sales, but selling now increasingly online. The range can be found primarily clothing and textiles , but also some in electronics , wellness , film and games.
  • Enklereliv.no : Easier Life is a Norwegian-owned chain with more than 30 shops and shop in Norway . Bet now in Sweden with online store Enklareliv.se and 7 shops . Is also present in Denmark online store Enklereliv.dk and one physical store .
  • Expert.no: Expert ‘ve had some difficult years , but now seems to have gotten a little bend on both their physical stores and its online store in the increasingly tough competition .
  • Flust.no: Flust.no is a continuation of online store loyalty program Trumf and has over 10 years experience in online shopping. Selling everything from kitchenware to children’s clothing. Flust.no owned by Norway’s largest trading house, Norway Group.
  • Footway.no : Swedish footway Group is very big in Scandinavia shoes. Bought in April 2013 Heppo of CDON Group, incorporated in the footway and strengthened its position in the Nordic market. In addition, the owner footway Group Brandos.no having bought the popular online store in autumn 2013. Shoes Sale online is the tremendous growth and is expected to increase from the current 6% to perhaps up to 30 % within a few years , predicts the owners of the footway .
  • Gmax.no : Gmax must endure to live in the shadow of XXL. On the web they’ll encounter tough competition from several strong players . The jury nevertheless believes that Gmax with their physical stores will eventually become a major player on the network.
  • Godtlevert.no: Finished dinner dishes where the ingredients and recipes supplied as a package , is becoming more popular amongst us busy Norwegians. Budgeting nearly 200 million in revenue in 2014 .
  • Gymgrossisten.no: Gymgrossisten is the largest supplier of nutritional supplements ,health products , fitness apparel and training gear. Owned by the listed Swedish company CDON Group. Among the contenders we find Proteinfabrikken.no .
  • HaugenBok.no: Turnover amounted to about 130 million in 2013. Started physical store as early as 1929. In 1997 they opened for sale of book content online, the following year opened the online bookstore with full search and product range . In 2009 they chose to focus solely on net and was Norway’s first pure online bookstore. In 2013 Haugenbok.no was voted best online store in Norwegian Kundebarometer examination and the total ended in fourth place in the survey that measures customer satisfaction and loyalty among 186 Norwegian companies . The shop is located in Lviv in Møre og Romsdal and proves that it is possible to conduct commerce at smaller places in Norway .
  • HM.com : Norwegians love Hennes & Mauritz ! Named Shop of the Year Bring in 2009 but a lot has happened since then . Carnegie Bank calculates that the company sells online for approximately 7.5 billion Norwegian kroner worldwide , equivalent to 5.6 percent of their total sales.
  • Ikea.no : The Swedish giant launched online store in Norway in 2012. It will be exciting to see what Ikea can get online soon.
  • inkClub.com: InkClub , including their mini – stores jerk club and battery club , is a leader in inkjet cartridges , toners , vacuum cleaner bags , batteries and similar supplies . Launched in the year 2000. Owned 100 % of the Swedish listed company Ica Group.
  • Interflora.no : In Norway consists Interflora of about 375 fagblomsterhandlere . They are members of Interflora Inc. , the world’s largest flower vendors.
  • Jollyroom.no : The shop Jolly Room sells children’s clothing and children’s equipment in Scandinavia. The company is based in Sweden , but with the complete- founders Eric Sandtrø , Jan Tore Kopperud and Ole Sauar owners. The latter is also the CEO of the company based in Gothenburg. Aiming for about 200 million in total revenues in 2014 and one billion revenue in the long term.
  • Kolonial.no: Started as late as fall 2013 , but the record created an enormous amount of attention paid to selling food online and their online store.
  • Komplett.no : Started selling online in 1995 and has since done very well . The largest online store with nearly 2 billion in revenue . Named Shop of the Year Bring in 2006 and 2007 . Owned by Complete Group.
  • Kondomeriet.no : Since 1989 Kondomeriet been a leader in the sale of erotic articles in Norway . In addition to the online store, 10 physical stores in Norway . 2nd place award in the ” People’s online friends ” by Bring and Post in 2013 , where nearly 13,000 voted for their favorite store.
  • Lefdal.com : Lefdal.com owned by Elkjøp Nordic. Living in the shadow of big brother Elkjøp, but still manages well in a tough electronics market .
  • Lekmer.no : Lekmer aims to become the market leader in Scandinavia selling toys online. Lekmer is headquartered in Stockholm and warehouse in Falkenberg , Sweden. Lekmer was founded in January 2006 and is currently owned by the Swedish listed company CDON Group.
  • Lensit.no: Claims at least saying that they are the market leader in Norway in sales of contact lenses online, but the market is bewildering and includes a sea of ​​competitors who Lensway.no , Extraoptical.com , Lensstore.no and Lenson.no .
  • Miinto.no : When you shop from Miinto.no order goes directly to your favorite store , which sends you the item directly. Miinto.no is rapidly growing with over 400 stores online and collect leading fashion environment in one place. Also available in Sweden , Denmark , the Netherlands and Spain.
  • MoodsofNorway.com : Clothing of the strangest shapes and colors . One of the few Norwegian companies with an international scope . Have both commerce and physical stores . Among other things named ” Company of the Year ” organized by Innovation Norway in 2013 .
  • Mpx.no : Owned by Complete Group and hence bad brother Komplett.no, but still one of the biggest online stores. Seller TVs , computers , photography , and much more in electronics .
  • Nelly.com : Nelly.com is currently one of the leading online stores for clothes for both women and men.
  • Nespresso.no: No advanced network solution , but has a simple and great mobile / tablet order which account for a large proportion of turnover. They opened the store first, then physical store . Also one of the few online stores that offer customers the ability to add multiple addresses to get the goods delivered either at work, cabin or home.
  • NetOnNet.no: Voted Norway’s cheapest online store of Hardware.no summer of 2011 and the second cheapest in the spring of 2012. Named ” year net favorite” under the direction of Posten and Bring in 2013 . Supplier mostly electronics.
  • Netthandelen.no : Netthandelen.no started with its first auction in 2002. Prior to that time Netthandelen.no was a regular store. The company started in 1997 , but in 1999 became the domain http://www.netthandelen.no registered. Owned by Netthandelen Holding AS which owns Blivakker.no and DrLykke.no .
  • Retthjem.no : Retthjem.no was originally started by ICA , but was eventually sold due to lack of profitability. Meetings increasingly tough competition from players such as Matnet.no Matbox.no , Supermarket.no , Matenhjem.no , 123levert.no and Kolonial.no
  • Siba.no : SIBA is one of Sweden ‘s leading household electronics. In a test of online shops conducted by the Times in 2012 was Siba.no voted best in test of 15 Norwegian online stores. Of the three companies that got dice 6 had SIBA best price, fastest delivery and the quickest return . Also voted ” Best Shop ” by Prisjakt.no its readers in 2013
  • Sportmann.no : The old mail order company has managed the transition to the digital world in a good way . They still have their catalog , but increasingly opt for online shopping.
  • Stormberg.com : StormBerg was named the year’s online store in 2010 and 2013 by Bring. Seller sports and Reducing use both online and through physical stores . Bet now also internationally.Stylepit.no : Stylepit.no owned by the Danish listed company Smart Guy. Among many foreign online shops selling clothes in Norway .Tretti.no : Tretti.no selling appliances and home appliances online. Big player in Sweden , but currently relatively anonymous in Norway . Owned by the Swedish listed company CDON Group.
  • Vinmonopolet.no : Vinmonopolet has evolved to become a specialist chain that many believe is among the very best. Substantial resources have been put into the opening of new shops, and eventually a popular online store.
  • XXL.no : the leading sports brand with both a popular online store and physical stores . Launched in 2012 also shop in Sweden. Challenged on the network of archenemy Gmax.no , but also a hundred other competitors , including Sportamore.no , Fjellsport.no and Oslosportslager.no .
  • Zalando.no: Zalando was established by Robert Gentz ​​and David Schneider in 2008, and its headquarters are located in Berlin , Germany. Started in Norway in 2012 and has quickly established itself as the leading players in the category ” Clothing and footwear “.
  • Zara.no : Zara is one of the largest international fashion companies. Owned by Inditex Group, one of the largest distribution groups worldwide. Opened its first store in Norway in 2006. The Norwegian online store was opened in 2011.
  • X – Life.no : Challenging the sports and fitness market . High turnover , creative marketing and skilled people.

Besides these 50 online shops , there are of course many others that are very important . Among online shops that did not reach all the way up , we find Adlibris ,Bildeler.no , Boozt.no , BR.no , Bubbleroom.no , Byttdekk.com , Cubus.no, Deal.no , Epla.no , Fjellsport.no , FotoVideo.no, Getinspired.no , Gina Tricot , Handysize.no , HifiKlubben.no ,Houseof.no , Illusion.no , iPet.no , Jernia.no , Kitchn.no , KomplettFritid.no , Ludostore.no , Onepiece.no ,Oslosportslager.no , Pixmania.no , Platekompaniet.no , Room21.no , Skittfiske.no , VNP.no , Magasinet.no , Rørkjøp.no , Lensway.no , Vita.no , Putfeetfirst.com , Royaldesign.no , Tilbords . com and Toysrus.no to name a few.If you disagree with the 50 online stores jury selected ? Feel free to use the comments below and tell who you miss and preferably who should give way . Preferably with a brief explanation .

See the list of Norway´s 50 most important stores here

Speaker prep notes

According to world renowned speaker Guy Kawasaki, 99% of presentations suck. To help fight the epidemic of bad presentations, we´ve put together a set of speaker prep notes. Feel free to share.

  1. Read PresentationZen. Get the basics right: Show up on time, know your stuff, be yourself and more.
  2. Tell a story. If you want your presentation to be remembered – tell a story!
  3. Learn from the best. The 5 best presentations in the world – what makes them so special?
  4. Nail the first 60 seconds. If you want to captivate the audience – nail the first 60 seconds!
  5. Avoid the obvious mistakes. Watch this 2 minute video and NEVER make these mistakes again.
  6. Really BAD powerpoints. Avoid  powerpoint mistakes.

If you don´t have time to review the above sources, please at least make sure you avoid the basic mistakes in the world´s worst presentation! Feel free to add your best advice and share with conference organizers around the world. If you attend a boring presentation, feel free to share this post with the presenter. Don´t be rude, just help them become better presenters.

 

Other resources:

Will Google ask the Syrian government to hide their chemical weapons?

Last week Norway´s largest newspaper Aftenposten published an article with the headline  “Google asks online stores to ‘hide’  weapons” . The article tells the story of how Friluftsmagasinet, the largest hunting and fishing store in Norway , was suspended from advertising on Google. The reason being that they sell hunting and fishing equipment – weapons – that obviously can hurt animals.

This week Google is threatening to shut down Norway´s largest online cosmetics  shop because of UPS Revitalash . Google claims this word/product is an illegal supplement . What are the people in Google´s global policy team thinking?

Global Policy or Local law?

I’m no expert on the law , nor on Google policy. I like Google and I think it is positive that Google prohibits advertisements for alcohol, tobacco and chemical weapons , but where should Google draw the line? Is it possible a large American company to keep track of all local laws and regulations in all countries? Is it really Google’s responsibility to ensure that businesses worldwide have appropriate ethical guidelines? If that is the case :

Google’s core values

In the Aftenposten article, the issue is whether Google should abide by the Google global policy and/or local laws and culture. I admire Google and how they operate in the marketplace, but in this case I think the search engine company have ignored the Google core values . Here are some of Google´s core values: (with my comments below):

Google core value #1: Focus on the user and thus solves the rest by itself

Comment: Focus on the user has been a mantra at Google since its inception. This user centric approach has turned Google into one of the world ‘s strongest brands.  In this case Google is not focusing on the users (local Norwegian businesses and local consumers ). Instead Google employees are acting like bureaucrats referring to the the great “Global Policy”.  Where´s the critical thinking?  Are lawyers and bureaucrats  running Google now?

Google core value #2: It is best to do one thing really well .

Comment: Google is good at search technology . Google should continue focusing on search. It is impossible , even for a large American company (even with some assistance from the NSA ;)) to keep track of all local laws and regulations worldwide. Perhaps Google’s central policy department should hand over responsibility for policy to those of its employees who are really good at NORWAY ?

Google core value #4: Democracy on the web works

Comment:  Why should a central body in Google determine what is legal and what is illegal in democratic countries. Shouldn´t a democracy decide? Why not create a system that gives people the opportunity to decide what should be allowed in each country ? Give users the opportunity to complain about the ads ( Facebook does it already) . If enough people complain, a  local Google representatives in consultation with local authorities and NGOs should decide whether ads should be banned. Look to Wikipedia. Their system seems to work quite well!

“Do no evil” or abide by Googles global policy?

Google´s mantra is “Do no evil”. But what happens if the notion of “evil” is different in countries where Google operates. Who defines evil? If someone within Syria had created an Adwords account with the sole purpose of identifying the location of chemical weapons in Syria, how would Google´s central policy team react? Would they blindly follow the Google policy? Would they apply critical thinking? Would they notify the Syrian Government about a potential national security breach or would they ignore it and let a foreign state bomb the locations? My point is that Google should strive to let their core values determine what they do – not a global policy that is forced upon all the countries in the world. I like Google, but I don´t think Norwegian hunters agree that an American company should that decide what Norwegian companies should be allowed to advertise for!

5 specific tips for business leaders to succeed on Facebook

Alot of business executives are asking the same questions these days. What should we do on Facebook? How can our company take advantage of Facebook and other social media platforms? How can we improve relationships with customers/partners/employees/suppliers using new technology? How can we use Facebook to sell more, improve processes and cut costs!!

The principles for success are simple. The  challenge is (and has alway been) how to implement in real life!

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave us some advice when he was asked at the World Economic Forum in Davos a few years ago about how companies can succeed with Facebook. Here´s a revised summary of Zuckerberg´s response:

“Your customers, employees, partners, suppliers already doing what they want to do. What you need to focus on is to make it easier for them to do what they already do.” (Details are on page 48 of the book WWGD written by Jeff Jarvis).

Facebook can help your business in many ways. It’s not about creating Facebook pages. It´s not about writing status updates, posting pictures and running competitions. Don´t  outsource the task to  “social media experts” and communications advisers. As a business you need to focus on how you can make life easier for your customers, employees, competitors and partners to “connect”.

Your job as a leader is to point out the direction, make sure you have the right people on the job and move in the right direction. Management Guru and longstanding CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, says that strategy is about choosing a general direction and implement like hell. This mindset has worked for many companies for over 30 years. It will work well for your  Facebook activities as well. The details will fall into place after the first activities have been implemented! Therefore, the main advice is to get started! Just do it!

If you don´t know what to to, here are five specific tips for business leaders who want to succeed with Facebook.

1. Don´t block Facebook for your employees

How can your business succeed on Facebook, if you deny your employees access? Some companies have chosen to block Facebook for employees at work because they think employees waste time on Facebook or because IT says it´s a security problem. This is almost never smart. If you treat your employees like kids, they will behave like kids.Denying access to Facebook can become a frustrating annoyance – especially for young people. Most people have smartphones where they can use Facebook anyway. If you want motivated employees you should treat them as adults. If your employees are spending too much time on Facebook, Facebook itself may not be the problem!

2. Create an informal intranet for your employees on Facebook

Most of your employees are already on Facebook without you having to invest in expensive IT systems, boring training sessions and costly internal meetings. Take advantage of it. Create a closed Facebook group for your employees and let your employees communicate with each other there. You will be amazed by the benefits. Suddenly old and new employees can get to know eachother easier than before. People who know each other work better with eachother and often deliver better results (ref: Goretex and Dunbars number ). Just like there are formal and informal rules in the lunch room, you can introduce some simple rules for the closed Facebook group.

3. Create closed groups for better collaboration

E-mail is the biggest time waster in many companies. E-mail is, believe it or not, an outdated form of communication. Facebook (and other social platforms) work better in many cases. Think how many times you’ve received an e-mail CC and a long discussion dialogue on e-mail. Is it effective? Also check how your kids communicate on Facebook. A simple “like” is often easier and better than responding to all that you have read and agree but you have some questions. An e-mail from you can often end up stealing several hours working time from your staff! Explore how your business can use the modern social tools (not necessarily Facebook) instead of wasting time on e-mail!

4. Create open groups for your customers

People are talking about your company and your products already. Your business can use Facebook to gather customers in one place.  Pick up valuable feedback from your customers and use the feedback to improve your products, customer service and marketing. There are of course other ways to do this, but why not use a tool that most people are familiar with already? You don´t need to invest in complex IT systems and expensive contact management software. Test it out on Facebook. If it works on Facebook, you can consider other options. Create an open group for your customers.

5. Create a Facebook page for your business

A company Facebook page is the tip of the iceberg. Facebook gives companies opportunities to market products and services. To get started with this you need to register a Facebook page and start producing relevant content for your audience. The content will often come as a result of the first 4 tips in this article. When people begin to communicate internally, relevant content and good ideas often bubble up to the surface.

Good ideas alone are worthless. To be successful, both the ideas and the capacity to implement be present. So therefore: Point out the direction and follow up with an extreme focus on implementation. This is according to Jack Welch, the recipe for success in business. Success on Facebook is about the same principles.

Focus on implementation: Make it easier for people to do what they already do!

Sources:
* Bringing elegant organization to the work place: http://tribes.no/2012/11/02/bringing-elegant-organization-to-the-workplace/
* Ideas are worthless without action: http://stammen.no/effektivitet/ideer-er-verdil% C3% B8se-no-action
* How to get 100,000 fans on Facebook: http://www.inma.no/ARTIKLER/Blogg/innlegg/Hvordan-fa-100-000-Facebook-fans-pa-under-ett-ar

Norwegian newspapers instruct consumers how to get rid of Facebook ads

During the last few months, two large Norwegian news organizations (Adresseavisen and TV2) have published articles where they explain how to get rid of ads on Facebook. From a consumer stand point this makes sense, but in a time when newspapers are struggling to find profitable revenue models online, should they be sabotaging the revenue model of a competitor?

And if removing unwanted ads is considered newsworthy for the readers, shouldn´t the news organizations also publish articles on how to get rid of ads on their own websites? Or should Facebook be treated differently?

Facebook: Ultra Local newspaper or direct mail?

Per Ravne Bugten the Consumer Ombudsman apparently believes that Facebook should be treated differently. He believes that Facebook should be covered by the same rules that apply to e-mail marketing and text messaging. The quote in the article indicates to me that he does not understand the underlying nature of the Internet. By definition everything that happens on the internet is direct marketing (if you define that all the information from commercial interests as advertising).

Facebook is a combination of ultra-local newspaper and a personal messaging system. It is completely voluntary to use Facebook and users accept the terms and conditions when they register. If Facebook is to be covered by the same regulations as e-mail marketing and text messages, it is quite natural that newspapers (Aftenposten, VG, TV2 and other advertising-funded agencies) are also covered by this legislation.

Individuals, media and advertisers must cooperate relevance.

The well-know Norwegian entrepreneur, Idar Vollvik and Netthandelen.no, a large Norwegian e-commerce company  buy ads on Facebook in a similar fashion as they and others are buying ads on TV2 and VG. The difference is that Facebook requires that companies be  more personal in their communication. In addition Facebook has obtained a massive amount of voluntary data from their “readers”. This allows for extremely targeted advertising far beyond what the newspapers will ever be able to.

The challenge for Facebook is that people have an expectation that Facebook should be personal and without advertising. This will change over time as people get used to advertising on Facebook and Facebook fine tune the way ads appear on. If you do not want advertising on Facebook, you can simply opt out or decline to login. It is not solely the advertisers responsibility to protect people from advertising! The advertiser, consumer and media must take responsibility for how advertising is presented.

Is all advertising bad?

The most critical people would argue that ALL advertising is undesirable and that companies should stop advertsing.

Thankfully most people have a more nuanced view on advertising. When you ask people: “If we stop advertising, how will you learn about new products and services?”. The answer is as often. “I will search for it online .. “Or” I hear about stuff from friends .. “. Google takes care of the first (search), while Facebook has made it easier to get news / tips / suggestions from friends and acquaintances.

In reality, Facebook is an improved newspaper where your friends are the news and your friends produce news for you. It is also a place where you can more easily get to know about products and services from commercial operators. It’s annoying that commercial messages are popping up increasingly mroe in the news stream. It’s also a bit scary that this news platform (and data) is controlled by a major U.S. company. These are the issues we need to continue to focus on! Let’s do it in a constructive way.

Bringing elegant organization to the workplace

Many people ask me how companies can take advantage of “social media”. In this blog post, I present some examples of how how you can bring “elegant organization” into the workplace.

In 2009, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the head of a powerful news company asked Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook: “How can we start a community like yours?”

Mark Zuckerberg answered: “You can’t.”

Zuckerberg went on to explain: “You don’t start communities. Communities already exist. They’re already doing what they want to do. The question you should ask is how you can help them do that better. Bring people “elegant organization“.

Strategy

Before I dive into Zuckerbergs concept of elegant organization, I want to share the single most important factor for delivering success in the business world. It is a quote from Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electrics for 20 years.

He says:

“In real life, strategy is actually very straight forward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.”

This means that you don’t need a perfect plan before you begin, you just need to point out a general direction, get people on board, and start implementing like hell.

As you get started, things will change and you will see the results and new opportunities. If you never start, you won’t succeed.

This is the single most important factor to win in business. When you implement something, you motivate others to take action as well.

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.

Back to social media and the concept of “elegant organization”

Bringing people elegant organization

During the last few years, we have seen developments in several social services:

Facebook for Personal networks

Facebook enabled people to do organize their social networks; who they are, what they do, who they know and what they look like. This is what Mark Zuckerberg calls elegant organization of people´s social network. It´s not complex – people are just not used to it.

Linkedin for Professional networks

Linkedin has made it easy to organize our professional networks; who you know, how you want to be contacted, what you´ve done and what you want to do in the future.

Facebook and Linkedin have changed the way we manage our personal and professional networks. Now it´s time to apply the concept of “elegant organization” inside companies. It´s not rocket science and it may overlap with existing methodologies, but I am not aware of any article that takes a practical approach to Mark Zuckerberg´s thoughts about elegant organization.

Elegant organization at work

Most of us work in an office, we have colleagues, customers, partners and suppliers. The social network at work already exists and we must apply the concept of elegant organization to our community at work.

We have a work description and we do stuff at work. We sit by our desks, we answer e-mails, we attend meetings, we talk on the phone, we report to our superiors, we work with partners/customers/vendors. We plan and execute activities. We send instructions to co-workers/partners/vendors. We take breaks and throughout the day we communicate and we produce. How can we bring elegant organization into our daily worklife?

Elegant organization: Practical use

Hurtigruten is a Norwegian cruise company. It has existed since 1890 and has been through some tough times of reorganization and cost-cutting. In 2009 we began an online journey. Since the cruise industry is a bit behind, we chose a general direction and started implementing like hell based on experience from other industries. We wanted to make things better for customers and for people internally. Here are some of the things we did to bring “elegant organization” to Hurtigruten:

1. Making it better for agents and customers to book online

Our first focus was to make online booking for our customers and travel agency partners better. The current Hurtigruten booking engine is far from perfect, but we were able to launch it and then improve it. The numbers show that we made online booking better.

We created an ad-hoc global web team. Our goal was to maximize online revenues, take advantage of global synergies and make life more fun for customers, fellow workers and ourselves.

The team consisted of people from France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Estonia and the US. We worked across time zones and we worked with multiple vendors. We were forced to be effective and creative.

2. Skype chat rooms to communicate better internally

Most people know Skype for free calls on the internet. Few people know that Skype is excellent for  group chat at work.

At Hurtigruten we used Skype for a variety of tasks. We reduced number of meetings, e-mails and phone calls by gathering all team members(developers, web team and support) in different chat rooms.

When issues arose, we posted a question in the chat room. Within minutes, you would have an answer. This was much better than e-mail or phone calls because it doesn’t interupt people and you take advantage of crowdsourcing.

Each person chose when they wanted to contribute and when they wanted to interupt their “flow”. Nobody was on Skype all the time, but someone was usually responsive. This solved issues quicker and reduced number of unnecessary meetings.

We also created ad hoc chat rooms when needed. During the ashe crisis, a team member created an adhoc chat room so that everybody could easily communicate. We avoided lots of e-mails, reduced waiting time and all relevant people got the information quickly.

We thought about creating one chat room for all people involved to take full advantage of crowdsourcing, but we didn´t figure out how to motivate people to contribute. In many ways, a crowdsourcing chat room internally in a company is similar to how Twitter(or Yammer) works.

3. Blogging makes it easier to share, discuss and inspire

People sometimes laugh at blogging, but the web team blog has been a platform where we could share stories, practice our writing skills, publish news and discuss ideas. Major stockholders and people from senior management contributed to the discussion. Suddenly one of the blog posts was published on 37Signals product blog and we had 140 readers in one day. It´s interesting to note that research shows that people that blog at work are actually more productive than people that don´t blog!

Other advantages of blogging:

  • It motivates people, because they can share expertise
  • It explains to people internally what we do
  • It improves internal communication
  • It documents and summarizes our work for future team members
  • It shows people externally that we are working on improvments
  • It helps us develop our writing skills
  • It´s a great way to keep the staff curious about new developments and improvements

4. Basecamp – better than e-mail

Basecamp is a project management tool that helps us eliminate CC e-mails. Whenever you CC a person on an e-mail, you steal some of their time. With Basecamp, Messages are connected to projects and you drastically reduce the number of e-mails being sent. It’s much easier to follow discussions and it seems that people are more likely to contribute. We used Basecamp in connection with our bi-weekly global web meeting. Before each meeting, each team member would list 3 completed activities and 3 upcoming activities. We saved meeting time by doing personal updates in the order the updates were listed in Basecamp. We shared documents, designs and more. It’s was easy to upload and comment on performed work.

5. Snapengage – better for agents

Snapengage is an online chat tool that makes it easier for travel agents to get immediate assistance in our travel agency booking solution. We know that the main reason why people prefer offline booking is because they prefer dealing with people. In fact 59% of offline bookers state that they prefer offline booking because they want to deal with a person. By offering chat in addition to our online booking, we made it easier for our travel agent partners. Agents are more comfortable with our Agency solution because the chat makes what they do easier and better.

6. Superoffice Ejournal

Superoffice Ejournal is an e-mail support system that makes it easier to handle  high number of e-mails from customers. The system gives every incoming message a reference number and routes the e-mail to the right person. By using the system it´s easier for management to staff up with the right number of people and get accurate statistics on the e-mail volume.

In summary:

Many people ask me how companies can take advantage of “social media”. Facebook´s founder suggests we start focusing on making it easier for people to do what they are already doing. This applies to all aspects of business and in this blog post, I´ve presented some examples of how how you can bring “elegant organization” into the workplace. The strategy is simple.

  • Choose a direction
  • Get people on board
  • Implement like hell
  • Help people do things better