How to sell, the things that sell, online?

One year after Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet in 1990, the American National Science Foundation allowed commercial activity via the web. The first registered webshop, De Pizzahut (a Dutch Pizza deliver company), went online in 1993. Two years later, from 1995, an enormous boom in online stores started (e.g. founding year of Ebay and Amazon). Now, we are more than 20 years later, but still too many webshop-owners do not know how to sell their products successfully online. Retailers fail to put their customer central on this web, are impolite and awkward. In this blog, I will give practical tips to become a great online retailer: enabling you to sell, the things that sell, online!

Shop-owners are impolite and sometimes even offending their customers online. This is mainly due to ignorance. Retailers are often solely educated for selling products is physical stores. Selling products online is an entire different world. However, certain rules can still be applied:  “The customer is king”, be polite towards your visitors, offer help proactively and ensure personal contact to let the customer feel comfortable to buy. In 4 basic practical tips, I will help you to translate these general rules to online practices.

  1. Never say Welcome!
    People visit your website with a certain action in mind, which is most of the time getting information or buying/downloading a product. Since a visitor want to act as quick as possible, you need to make all the space of your front-page as useful ass possible. Main questions you have to answer on your first page: What is this website for? and Why should I visit this website and not any other?amazon
  2. Add a Call to Action button.
    Visitors want solely one thing, and preferably very quick. Therefore, you should identify the main activity on your website (e.g. make an appointment or buy a products). On your front-page, you should add a large button (that stands out) with a link to your main activity. For example, Amazon want visitors to sign in as soon as possible, hence the button.
  3. Write readable pages with the internet-style.
    Traditional writing styles do not work on the internet: they are impersonal, have a wrong structure for the internet and has to long sentences. Visitors want to see the most important information at first. It frustrates people to get through an introduction or a too polite welcome-word. Hence, use short sentences, bullet points (easy to read), clear page-titles, bold highlighted words and hyperlinks (people like to click). As guideline you can use the story-telling style. People remind things better when text is accessible and personal.
  4. Cut the deal with a trustworthy page
    Your entire website should lead to the action-page: a form to sign up, a product to buy or a piece of information. Make sure that this action-page seems trustworthy, since this is the page where you want your customer to e.g. buy your product. Hence, show personal information, clear sentences, customer-reviews, logo’s of your partners and everything else that could make your customer feel comfortable to make the transaction.

The tips I gave in this blog are just about the basics. If you want to know more about how to make your webshop more effective, I recommend you to read the following book: “Don’t make me think by Steve Krug.” Moreover, you could visit for more information. The video below will also give you some more practical tips. If you want to track your progress, please ask your webmaster to install Google Analytics to monitor your improvement!


A different way to help the victims of the Nepal Earthquake

Crowdsourcing is ‘the act of taking a challenge faced by a firm and, instead of asking internal research and development departments to solve the challenge, the firm broadcasts an open call to individuals with relevant expertise outside the firm to become involved in solving the challenge’(Howe, 2006). The recent Nepal earthquake has left ‘thousands in need of shelter in a country little able to cope’ (The Guardian, 2015). According to the Guardian, the region called Gorkha, was closest to the epicenter. Their source claimed that about fifty percent of the houses and schools in this region have collapsed.

The problem for emergency workers now is how to reach the victims of the earthquake.

‘The reason that it is important, is we don’t know what we don’t know’

Kevin Bullock (director of product management at DigitalGlobe), to the Denver Post (Denver Post, 2015).

Due to the earthquake, some roads might be blocked. DigitalGlobe, a company that collects satellite data, has provided access to the satellite images (before and after the earthquake), in order to help emergency management and humanitarian workers (DigitalGlobe, 2015). Furthermore, DigitalGlobe has activated ‘Tomnod’. Tomnod is ‘a crowdsourcing platform that allows web-connected volunteers around the globe to help disaster response teams by mapping the damage from the earthquake’ (DigitalGlobe, 2015).

Tomnod has a few projects where you can contribute, for instance floodings in Chile, a missing catamaran crew and now the Nepal earthquake. Users are instructed to find damaged buildings, major destruction or damaged roads. After a short instruction, you can start exploring map tiles. Some of these are unfortunately cloudy, but other tiles clearly show land. Tomnod keeps track of ‘your campaign’, and gives you direct feedback: it shows you how many tiles you explored, how many tags you made and what your consensus score is (, 2015). Tomnod collects the tags, and uses a special algorithm to identify interesting locations with maximum agreement of all taggers. According to Tomnod, it is true wisdom of the crowd!

You can use Tomnod without an account. However, Tomnod encourages users to create an account: it helps them improve how they determine overall team accuracy. Furthermore it makes it easier for Tomnod to inform you about new campaigns. On Facebook, Tomnod has over 61.000 likes. The amount of people contributing seems to be a lot higher: according to the Guardian (2014), about 2.3 million ordinary internet users used the Tomnod website to help find the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in 2014. However, the sad truth is that this campaign was not successful, as the plane was never found. The Guardian (2014) also warns that online crowdsourcing campaigns are sometimes unsuccessful, also referring to the thread on Reddit that hunted down the wrong people for the Boston Marathon attacks, resulting in the names of innocent people trending on Twitter.

Whether this Tomnod campaign will be successful, only time will tell. I do not see much harm in participating (as no humans are hunted down, but damage is marked on the maps). When disasters like this happen, many people feel the need to do something, and Tomnod facilitates us in contributing a little bit of time to help. If you want to contribute, please visit


– Denver Post (2015), ‘DigitalGlobe launches map crowdsourcing to assist Nepal quake relief’, by Laura Keeney, last accessed 28-04-2015,

– DigitalGlobe (2015), ‘DigitalGlobe opens access to satellite data to support disaster response efforts in Nepal’, last accessed 28-04-2015,

– The Guardian (2015), ‘Nepal earthquake: thousands in need of shelter in a country little able to cope’ by Jason Burke, Kathamandu. 26th of April 2015, last accessed 28-04-2015

– The Guardian (2014), ‘Tomnod, the online search party looking for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370’, by Carmen Fishwick, last accessed 28-04-2015,

– Howe, J. (2006) The rise of crowdsourcing. Wired Magazine 14(6). (2015), last accessed 28-04-2015

The Grid: A revolutionizing way of creating websites

Here is an interesting perspective: the internet itself is one of the largest, if not the largest, collection of consumer-created content. We all use the internet, and the majority of us participate in creating content for it as well, be it simply through updates on social media or actually creating websites or blogpost such as this one. If we follow that logic, then one could argue that the process of creating web content is a service that could be designed to optimally support co-creation. This is exactly the way the Grid looks at the internet as well. This start-up is building a new way to create websites and content, by focusing purely on the simple needs of the content creator.

So what exactly is the Grid? In its simplest form, the Grid allows website owners to only concern themselves with the content they want to put on their website, the Grid will take care of the rest. And for this ‘rest’ part, the Grid has designed an artificial intelligence system which will analyse the content you would like to place, and designs your website optimally according to both the new and already existing content. It for instance looks at colors in a picture you want to post and then changes the colors surrounding that picture on your website to match them. It will adapt to the purpose of your website as well, be it a blog, corporate landing page or a webshop. Basically, as a website owner you do not have to posses technical and design knowledge to be able create content. And this is important, since this allows more people to actually create content. As is also mentioned in the paper by Randall et al. (2005), when customizing goods (or a website in this case), some user might be able to deal with parameter-based interface, where you can adjust every detail but do need to posses some expertise to understand all the details, however not everybody is capable of this. For them, need-based interfaces are better, which might not offer all possibilities but are a lot more user friendly. The Grid is basically a needs-based interface for content creation.


The Grid’s A.I. system basically makes recommendations to improve your website, 24/7. However, while in normal recommendation system these recommendations are made as suggestions, the Grid’s A.I. skips this step and executes the recommendation right away. In order to do this, there has to be a certain level of trust between the user and the system. Due to the Grid continuously running A/B tests in order to find the design best suited for the visitors of that specific website, the Grid’s A.I. learns and builds that trust relationship.

Now what the Grid is doing is really interesting, as it’s a completely new way of looking at website creation. However, it also makes me wonder about the next step. Perhaps in time, it might be possible that every website customizes itself to a specific visitor. For instance, if your computer knows you have bad eyes, or like pictures, your websites will be displayed with larger headings or with more focus on images. In a sense, you would create a personalized internet. Food for thought for sure.

For more info on the Grid, check out this website.

The role of multidimensional social capital in crowdfunding: A comparative study in China and US

With the rise of web 2.0 technologies, it empowers firms to outsource their business tasks to the individuals or crowd, who are capable to complete these tasks for them. On the other hand, the crowd can also invest some money to the business idea and project that initiated by entrepreneurs who do not have enough money. And this is crowdfunding (Zheng et al. 2014).

The word crowdfunding actually comes form crowdsourcing, which is defined as “the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call.’’ (Howe, 2006). Instead of collecting ideas or solutions, crowdsourcing can be used to collect monetary and financial resources (Howe, 2006). This type of crowdsourcing which crowd is an investor who invest the project, is called crowdfunding (Zheng et al. 2014).

According to Zheng et al. (2014), they only focus on one type of crowdfunding, which is called reward-based crowdfunding. the definition of this type of crowdfunding is “the crowdfunding involves an open call, essentially through the Internet, for the provision of financial resources either in the form of a donation or in exchange for some form of reward and/or voting rights in order to support initiatives for specific purposes’’ ( Schwienbacher, 2010). different from crowdfunding, social capital is a multidimensional concept. based on Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998), the social capital has three basic dimensions: structural, relational and cognitive. To be more specific, the structural dimension is the structural characteristics, which are vital for the development of social capital. the relational dimension is the capital derived from the obligation, expectation of the social network. last but not least, the cognitive dimension suggests that shared language could actually help people gain the social capital in the organization.

In this article, Zheng et al. (2014) studied the moderating roles of culture on the social capital in two different countries and the relationship between the relational dimension and crowdfunding performance.

1. Structural dimension: social network ties

The fundamental proposition for the structural dimension is the network ties provide the access to resources, like knowledge and funds. Moreover, Mollick (2014) found that the personal network of an entrepreneur helps predict the success of crowdfunding. in this case, the degree of an entrepreneur’s social network ties is positively associated with crowdfunding performance.

2. Relational dimension: obligation

The relational dimension of social capital can be seemed as the strength or quality of the relationship, and this can be evaluated by trust, obligations and identification (Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998). On the perspective of crowdfunding, an entrepreneur may feel such an obligation in the crowdfunding initiative. In this case, the obligation to fund other entrepreneurs is positively associated with crowdfunding performance.

3. Cognitive dimension: shared meaning

Shared meaning plays an important role in the cognitive dimension of social capital (Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998). Based on Lehner (2012), the crowdfunding is a co-production process in which investors and entrepreneur are in the close relationship which are cooperative and active in the development of the crowdfunding project though word-of-month. In this case, shared meaning about a crowdfunding project is positively associated with crowdfunding performance.


J. Howe, Crowdsourcing: A Definition, 2006

J. Nahapiet, S. Ghoshal, Social capital, intellectual capital, and the organizational advantage, Acad. Manage. Rev. 23 (2), 1998, pp. 242–266.

E.Mollick,The dynamics of crowdfunding: an exploratory study,J.Bus.Venturing 29 (1), 2014, pp. 1–16.

O.M. Lehner, A literature review and research agenda for crowdfunding of social ventures, Presented at the 2012 Research Colloquium on Social Entrepreneurship, University of Oxford, Skoll Center of SAID Business School, UK, 16–19 July, 2012

T. Lambert, A. Schwienbacher, An Empirical Analysis of Crowdfunding, 2010

Zheng, Haichao, et al. “The role of multidimensional social capital in crowdfunding: A comparative study in China and US.” Information & Management 51.4 (2014): 488-496.