06-05-13 | Blog Post

IRCE 2013: Building a Complete Digital Platform with Mobile, E-Commerce & Individuality

Blog Posts

Online Tech is exhibiting PCI hosting solutions at booth #108 at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibit (IRCE) 2013 in Chicago, IL. Hosted at the McCormick Place West, the event runs from June 4-7, and is the world’s largest e-commerce event. The event draws 9,500 e-retailing executives from more than 40 countries.

When Consumers Come, You Gotta Let ‘Em In
Craig Oldham, Digital Engagement, The American Red Cross
Eighty percent of the blood drives the Red Cross puts on are completely mobile. They can set-up and tear down an entire hospital room setup in an ordinary conference room in one day.

With 13 million volunteers in a 187 countries, their mission is really about people and not the organization (90% of the workers within the organization are volunteers. This also has the added benefit of having 90 cents for every dollar going straight to the cause…instead of to the organization). The Red Cross engaged people across the country that were fans on their Facebook page asking them to share their stories and experiences with the Red Cross. The 300+ video stories thanked the individual volunteers, blood donors and the organization as a whole.

The challenge the Red Cross faced when trying to create a digital platform, was how to take all of its branches across the country and centralize them into one digital organization while maintaining their individuality. The national branch of Red Cross
didn’t have a digital presence at all, but had hundreds of local branch chapters growing their online reach organically. Each branch had already opened up individual Facebook pages and twitter accounts; while the national branch had no centralized social digital presence.

When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, the Red Cross raised $32 million via text message alone; making the big concern how they were going to be able to allocate those dollars to foreign aid. When Superstorm Sandy hit domestically, the great concern became how to mobilize digital assets, not only with fundraising, but with actual physical aid as well.

The solution to digitizing an entire organization was found in empowering local Red Cross chapters to focus on delivering targeted information efficiently while providing scalable fundraising support. Since local chapters are what makes the Red Cross what they are, they wanted to still be able to drive course enrollment and blood donations even while focusing on disasters on the national front.

So how did the Red Cross go from addressing their challenges to finding a solution within 2 years?

  1. Work on targeted messaging based on geographic locations.
  2. Personalize the experience. Enable people to easily donate or engage with the organization through blogs and mobile applications.

So what were the key takeaways in building a complete digital platform?

  • Build the experience around the business. The Red Cross made it about the local chapters individually and didn’t focus on building from the national level in a top-down model. That’s what made it successful.
  • Invest in the most important technology. They focused on the one item they knew they needed and that’s where they invested their money: e-commerce.
  • Design around Mobile. Everything about the Red Cross’ mission is mobile. In hindsight, they thought there could have been a greater emphasis on building mobile first.
  • Do things that matter. There were a lot of people saying that this or that should be done in the process of building a completely digital platform. The Red Cross separated the data from the urban legends in order to build a complete customer experience.

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