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The evolution of data reporting

By Graham Spicer (pictured), Sales Director, UK & EMEA, of SplashBI

Organisations are drowning in data. The sheer volume of data about employees, customers, suppliers, products, and results has never been so extensive and yet so crucially important. Without a thorough understanding of what data business’ collect, analyse and interpret – there could be a missed golden opportunity if a data reporting platform isn’t included in the mix.

To comprehend this, Graham Spicer, Sales Director, UK & EMEAof SplashBI explores the powers of visual reporting and how organisations can uncover data-driven insights through the evolution of data reporting via a number of different means.

Why is reporting necessary?

Without a doubt, reports are the backbone of any organisation and an integral part of business strategy. A successful data reporting platform allows you to look for opportunities and trends – a true survival kit especially in the aftermath of Covid-19. 

The aim of a business report is to provide a detailed and critical analysis of how the business is tracking in all areas of the organisation – from HR to sales, or to operational departments. Over time, reports have been progressively recognised as an important tool to guide decision-making and data-driven results for senior managers and leadership departments. Using a myriad of ad-hoc reporting and self-service reporting helps businesses to measure performance over set durations of time to analyse what worked well and what could be improved upon. 

Previously, copious amounts of paper with tables and charts used to symbolise traditional data reporting methods. With automation and visual representation of data at our fingertips and the chance to add filters and time frames, the world of reporting has been revolutionised. With the power of technology to help collate, compile and analyse data of all shapes and sizes, strategic business decisions can now be made by senior decision-makers straightway – removing the month end headache. 

The power of reporting

In recent years, the world of Business Intelligence (BI) has been turned upside down. Data became big(ger), meaning that organisations need to incorporate the advances of technology with established IT infrastructures so that they can transition to adopt cloud-based computing. This has resulted in spreadsheets taking a backseat to actionable data visualisations and interactive dashboards. Self-service reporting such as people analytics grabbed the reins and opened the opportunities for a selection of data reporting suites available to remove mundane work. Suddenly, advanced analytics wasn’t just for the analysts.

Understanding complex data analysis has now become a breeze with the introduction of self-service reporting platforms. Advances in technology alleviate the stress and labour hours of gathering, sorting, and using data to make informed business data-driven decisions. Using self-service reporting or even ad-hoc reporting has highlighted the positive impact of putting data back in the hands of individual teams, departments and management. Straightaway, this switch allows individuals to spend time exploring the meaning of the data – rather than inputting data which could lead to the possibilities of errors. In return, the rise of self-service reporting has also brought more attention to the growing necessity for modern businesses to adopt a data-driven culture. This means that decisions are made on facts and observations – and not haste or gut.

The future is bright 

As businesses ride the wave of the effects last year, senior leaderships have quickly understood the importance of viewing data in real-time. Quickly and efficiently, senior leadership teams need data that can be understood and actioned. Viewing data in a visual format across a number of dashboards helps businesses to reach targets and goals – rather than having to unpick the data at hand in spreadsheet form.

Previously, reporting requirements started off as a tool for pinpointing patterns in business’ data, but as time has progressed, requirements and urgency have grown exponentially. As time moves on, this has evolved into a robust, streamlined solution, bringing data reporting platforms alive in real-time. As technology is constantly evolving, the process of implementing any self-service reporting has become much less of a daunting task. Employees want to be able to spend time storytelling the high (and lows) of the data in front of them to senior management – rather than tracing through report after report. 

Having the implementation and adoption time almost cut in half allows employees to be more effective in the role. Now, month-end reporting is such a breeze!

Understanding D2C: What’s fuelling the move?

By Elliott Jacobs, EMEA Commerce Consulting Director at LiveArea

The direct-to-consumer (D2C) market has skyrocketed, experiencing double-digit growth to the point where it is projected to grow 19.2% this year. While D2C will have been on brands’ radars for some time, the majority have lacked the systems and processes needed to support such a move. The closure of physical retail, however, has proved a catalyst for many to make the move as they aim to reinvent themselves for the new landscape.

While the April 12th roadmap puts a return to the high street back on the horizon, we’re unlikely to ever return to pre-pandemic footfall. Together, shrinking margins, the emergence of digital disruptors and the unstoppable rise of eCommerce mean D2C is no longer a nice-to-have for many brands, but a means of competitive differentiation in the age of at-home retail.

Changing behaviours under Covid

When we think of ‘D2C,’ it’s usually the likes of Dollar Shave Club, Brewdog and Bloom & Wild that come to mind, and two key similarities run through them all. Firstly, they tend to be niche and offer a fine-tuned proposition concentrating on one category – think subscription razors, craft beers or letterbox flowers. Secondly, they are obsessively focussed on digital, whether it’s through social media engagement and user-generated content or innovative eCommerce experiences, these brands lead the way in data-driven business decisions.

The most agile, efficient and resilient businesses over the past year have been the ones which place digital commerce, data and analytics at the heart of their operations. Businesses can no longer rely solely on bricks-and-mortar, with many household stalwarts reliant on physical real estate having shut their doors for good. Spurred on by lockdown restrictions and panic-buying, many consumers are now sold on the convenience of buying directly from brands – a trend which is unlikely to change even with the reopening of physical stores. 

These behavioural changes have sprung larger brands into action, who are now launching their own D2C operations to improve profitability and take over the relationship with customers. Here, Nike has reaped the rewards of an earlier decisionto pull back from Amazon and use its website and shopping apps to build close connections with customers no longer shopping in-store. Elsewhere, PepsiCo and Heinz launched D2C offerings catering to common lockdown purchases to address supermarket shortages as a result of the panic-buying seen in the early days of the pandemic.

Acting on data intelligence 

The reason behind many of these brands adopting D2C lies in the data. Typically, CPG brands reliant on supermarkets, marketplaces and retailers to sell their products are at the mercy of these partners in feeding back the data. Retailers who take a D2C approach, however, own the entire customer journey and are well-placed to develop a 360 understanding of their customers.

The wealth of data available is substantial, providing brands with valuable insights and one singular source of truth which cannot be underestimated. Brands can then go on to optimise products, processes and communications and increase relevance to consumers in a way that isn’t possible when selling via third parties. Not only this, but control of the data also facilitates new ways of exploiting it – whether it’s running more targeted marketing campaigns or identifying shifting consumer behaviour patterns. The lesson here is that data is the future, and retailers will want to own as much of it as they can.

The switch won’t happen overnight 

A D2C sales channel should factor in every stage of the customer journey and there are myriad factors to take into account. For a start, they should consider the most effective means of competing with marketplaces, retailers and other brands for web traffic, whether it’s through social, search or PPC. From there, engaging content, immersive experiences and a seamless user experience will help brands build genuine connections with consumers and retain their custom.

Beyond this, a well-oiled D2C operation requires significant upfront investments in real estate, technology and staff. For example, any business aiming to achieve scalable online sales needs a platform that provides all the modern tooling needed to run an online business. It’s through these tools that brands gain the information required to treat customers as individuals. From a fulfilment perspective, D2C brands are in the business of sending regular packages to consumers rather than shipping bulk containers, meaning considerable changes to operating models will be necessary.

PepsiCo, Heinz and Nike have all proven the value of D2C in times of hardship. If other brands are to embark on similarly successful projects, they will need to ensure data, technology and processes can integrate and inform one-another across the entire customer journey. Those which do it right will set themselves up with a new source of income on top of the traditional wholesale channels when they return. But a cookie-cutter approach is no longer enough, and CPG brands considering the leap will have to decide whether such a commitment is right for them.

Listen to your customers: five marketing lessons 2020 has taught us

By Stefan Britton, CRO, Datasine

2020 has been a challenging year for all businesses and has certainly kept marketers on their toes. We saw massive societal change due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also with events like the Black Lives Matter movement which have had a significant impact on the mood of the nation. Brands have had to quickly pivot their approach to respond appropriately. 

So, what has this year taught us? How can marketers prepare themselves for what is looking likely to be an uncertain start to the year ahead?

  1. Brands must be on good behaviour 

In 2020, we saw many brands realise the hard way that their behaviours are just as important as their marketing campaigns, and we’re increasingly seeing consumers shun brands that don’t behave. We saw Wetherspoons meet a barrage of criticism when it withheld payments to 43,000 staff until it received the Government’s furlough payment. As a result of this backlash, the pub chain soon reversed this decision and promptly paid its staff. Fashion brand, Boohoo, was also called out when questions were raised about poor working practices in their supply chain. These claims came at a cost to its reputation, and damaged relations with other retailers who sell the brand. 

Businesses are clearly being held accountable for their actions by consumers – perhaps now more so than ever before – and it’s important to be mindful that it’s not just their online behaviours that are being judged. Social media has given audiences a very loud voice and long memories and good marketing can’t outrun bad behaviour.

2. A move to mobile  

New habits were formed during lockdown as online shopping became more of a ‘lifeline’ than lifestyle choice. Online sales are expected to account for 27.5% of total retail sales this year, and no doubt the impact of lockdown on the high street will continue to be felt far into the future.

The conversion rates from desktop devices are typically twice as high as they are from mobile devices, however this year, there’s been a significant shift to mobile online shopping (mcommerce) with more people being at home and using their mobile phones to shop. 

Brands need to look at the mobile experience they offer their customers because consumers expect a common experience, no matter how they engage with a retailer. Help customers engage in whichever way they want to.

3. Intelligent analysis of data

Research we undertook in 2020 showed that only 46% of marketers are using their data effectively to inform their future campaigns, yet 100% acknowledge that harnessing customer data more effectively could boost the success of these campaigns. 

Effective use of data enables marketers to move from insights to action and make quick decisions on the journey they want to take their subscribers on. Alongside this, marketers need to have a better understanding of exactly who their customers are – that’s a piece of data in itself. We frequently see big brands with multiple CRM systems and multiple points of entry for data collection, and no single view of their customers. 

Data can tell us a lot about our customers. Digging into this data more deeply will enable marketers to understand why, how, and when people make the decisions they do.

4. Tell us what you want

report from EY shows that the Covid-19 crisis has boosted technology engagement for 21% of households but less than half (44%) now feel in control of their personal online data. Consumers’ growing scepticism about use of their personal data is making access to crucial customer insights increasingly difficult. To provide customers with the personalised experience they have come to expect, many marketers are now looking for ways to engage with them more directly. 

It’s ok to talk to customers and canvas their opinion about how they want you to sell to them. If your customers know that you want to learn more about how to keep them happy, chances are they will respond. Ask them questions and opinions on the marketing activities you have planned. For example, ask them about how receptive they would be to discounts on certain products, or if they feel you need to make improvements to a current product set. 

Once you’ve embarked on this journey to get to know your customers better, keep this dialogue open and try to speak to them as often as you can. For example, you might decide to change brand identity – ask customers what they think and involve them in the decision-making process.

5. A place to listen, not just shout

Facebook is evolving as a platform, and the introduction of the Business Suite and improvements to brand safety options are just some of the enhancements we’ve seen. Next year, I expect to see more brands using the platform to create communities rather than just using it to promote products. Facebook, is no longer just a place to advertise and shout about how great you are, it’s become a platform for listening and learning more about customers.

Marketing professionals need to brace themselves for another bumpy ride in 2021, and as the only constant currently is change. If 2020 year taught us anything, it’s that it is more important than ever before to listen to our customers. 

Top trends to watch out for as marketing investment makes a comeback

By Saranya Babu, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Wrike  

There is no doubt that last year had its challenges. With the economy at rock bottom and the majority of businesses facing severe financial hardship, marketing departments across the world felt the pinch. Industry-wide cut-backs resulted in a dramatic decrease in spending throughout the year, accumulating in the fourth quarter with 24% of marketers recording a further decline in budgets as a result of the pandemic.  

However, with new vaccinations bringing the hope of recovery – both in terms of the country’s health and economy – the marketing industry is preparing to bounce back. After spending 2020 in crisis mode, many are ready to boost their investments. Earlier this month, the CMO Council found that 65% of marketers plan to increase their marketing spend in 2021.  

The challenge for marketers moving forward will be knowing where to spend that money. Despite future prospects looking bright, the road to recovery is likely to be a long one. There is no guarantee of success, and marketing teams must ensure that the tactics and strategies they choose to deploy deliver the ROI (return on investment) they need.   

Yet, with so many trends and the naturally fast-paced nature of the marketing landscape, it can be difficult to know what to focus on. Although the future is impossible to predict, there are three areas that marketers should take note of this year:  

1) The face of content marketing will change  

Content marketing has long been considered one of the most effective ways to increase audience engagement and develop a brand presence. However, in recent years, we’ve seen a noticeable shift away from its traditional written format.   

Although blogs and whitepapers will remain an important tool for brands wanting to communicate to their customers, the majority of today’s consumers are really after something a little more digestible. This is where video content, in particular, is set to play an important role. In fact, The Content Marketing Institute recently discovered that 71% of B2B marketers and 66% of B2C marketers already use this format to connect to their audiences. Whether in the form of short tutorials or live webinars, we can expect to see even more video content moving forward.  

If this video content is to be a success, we need to apply the usual principles when it comes to personalisation and the consumer journey. Today’s consumers expect more targeted and relevant marketing than ever before, with 66% admitting that encountering non-personalised content would stop them from making a purchase. Therefore, the most successful material will target customers directly and offer true value, without trying to explicitly sell them anything.  

2) Search intent will matter most when it comes to SEO  

We all know that SEO is one of the most important ways a brand can drive traffic to its website. The higher a page ranks on a search engine, the more likely users will click on it and begin that initial interaction.   

In the past, some have relied on keyword stuffing and other dicey strategies to boost their ranking. However, Google has worked hard to improve its algorithm over the years. So much so that it can now determine the search intent behind a specific search query. Whether a user is looking for information about the weather or searching for a product to buy, Google will rank its results based on what it thinks the user wants to see.   

This, in turn, makes it really important for marketers to focus on the end user and their search intent. Regardless of what marketing collateral is being produced – whether written or video – teams need to ensure that it is relevant to the user’s search query. That might mean making sure your landing page is informational as opposed to transactional, with links to separate sales pages for those looking to buy.  

3) Virtual events will become the norm  

When the pandemic hit, in the interest of keeping people safe and limiting the spread of the virus, industry events and tradeshows across the world were put on hold. For many, the solution was to go virtual. Surprisingly, this monumental change has brought about some positive results.   

Companies have found themselves saving money and time. Meanwhile, the pool of potential invitees and attendees has exploded, as people from across the world can instantly join without even having to think about travelling. This virtual landscape also enables marketers to collect valuable feedback and measure results in order to inform future events. Speakers can insert real-time polls or surveys into their presentations and it becomes much easier to gather certain data – such as number and location of attendees – when everyone logs on online.   

Even when things do return to normal and physical events are able to go ahead, the likelihood is that this virtual trend will continue in some format. In fact, 80% of people predict that in-person and virtual events will co-exist moving forward. Therefore, marketers need to prepare themselves for a hybrid future.  

Making the right choices  

The role of the marketing team has never been more important. In today’s climate, implementing the most effective marketing tactics and strategies could be the difference between an entire business surviving or collapsing.  With this year promising an increase in budgets, marketers need to ensure that they are making the right choices and setting themselves up for future success.   

Regardless of what trend the team decides to focus on, the key will be to think carefully and monitor efforts in order to understand what works best for the wider business and its key audiences. It is only then that marketers will be ready for whatever comes next.   

Listen to your customers: Five marketing lessons 2020 has taught us

2020 has been a challenging year for all businesses and has certainly kept marketers on their toes. We saw massive societal change due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also with events like the Black Lives Matter movement which have had a significant impact on the mood of the nation. Brands have had to quickly pivot their approach to respond appropriately. 

So, what has this year taught us? How can marketers prepare themselves for what is looking likely to be an uncertain start to the year ahead? Stefan Britton, CRO, Datasine considers the lessons marketers have learnt from 2020 about customer engagement….

  1. Brands must be on good behaviour 

In 2020, we saw many brands realise the hard way that their behaviours are just as important as their marketing campaigns, and we’re increasingly seeing consumers shun brands that don’t behave. We saw Wetherspoons meet a barrage of criticism when it withheld payments to 43,000 staff until it received the Government’s furlough payment. As a result of this backlash, the pub chain soon reversed this decision and promptly paid its staff. Fashion brand, Boohoo, was also called out when questions were raised about poor working practices in their supply chain. These claims came at a cost to its reputation, and damaged relations with other retailers who sell the brand. 

Businesses are clearly being held accountable for their actions by consumers – perhaps now more so than ever before – and it’s important to be mindful that it’s not just their online behaviours that are being judged. Social media has given audiences a very loud voice and long memories and good marketing can’t outrun bad behaviour.

2. A move to mobile  

New habits were formed during lockdown as online shopping became more of a ‘lifeline’ than lifestyle choice. Online sales are expected to account for 27.5% of total retail sales this year, and no doubt the impact of lockdown on the high street will continue to be felt far into the future.

The conversion rates from desktop devices are typically twice as high as they are from mobile devices, however this year, there’s been a significant shift to mobile online shopping (mcommerce) with more people being at home and using their mobile phones to shop. 

Brands need to look at the mobile experience they offer their customers because consumers expect a common experience, no matter how they engage with a retailer. Help customers engage in whichever way they want to.

3. Intelligent analysis of data

Research we undertook in 2020 showed that only 46% of marketers are using their data effectively to inform their future campaigns, yet 100% acknowledge that harnessing customer data more effectively could boost the success of these campaigns. 

Effective use of data enables marketers to move from insights to action and make quick decisions on the journey they want to take their subscribers on. Alongside this, marketers need to have a better understanding of exactly who their customers are – that’s a piece of data in itself. We frequently see big brands with multiple CRM systems and multiple points of entry for data collection, and no single view of their customers. 

Data can tell us a lot about our customers. Digging into this data more deeply will enable marketers to understand why, how, and when people make the decisions they do.

4. Tell us what you want

report from EY shows that the Covid-19 crisis has boosted technology engagement for 21% of households but less than half (44%) now feel in control of their personal online data. Consumers’ growing scepticism about use of their personal data is making access to crucial customer insights increasingly difficult. To provide customers with the personalised experience they have come to expect, many marketers are now looking for ways to engage with them more directly. 

It’s ok to talk to customers and canvas their opinion about how they want you to sell to them. If your customers know that you want to learn more about how to keep them happy, chances are they will respond. Ask them questions and opinions on the marketing activities you have planned. For example, ask them about how receptive they would be to discounts on certain products, or if they feel you need to make improvements to a current product set. 

Once you’ve embarked on this journey to get to know your customers better, keep this dialogue open and try to speak to them as often as you can. For example, you might decide to change brand identity – ask customers what they think and involve them in the decision-making process.

5. A place to listen, not just shout

Facebook is evolving as a platform, and the introduction of the Business Suite and improvements to brand safety options are just some of the enhancements we’ve seen. Next year, I expect to see more brands using the platform to create communities rather than just using it to promote products. Facebook, is no longer just a place to advertise and shout about how great you are, it’s become a platform for listening and learning more about customers.

Marketing professionals need to brace themselves for another bumpy ride in 2021, and as the only constant currently is change. If 2020 year taught us anything, it’s that it is more important than ever before to listen to our customers. 

Tips for successful customer journey mapping

By Leanne Coker, Service Design Lead at dxw 

Approach mapping in the same way you would any other design task – by starting with user needs and testing it.  Recognise that the formats we’re used to as designers (blueprints, journey maps, and the like) are not always familiar to the intended audience and in fact may not align with their mental model.

Make time at the start to think about who the map is really for – is it for the team, internal stakeholders, external stakeholders? It’s probably likely to be a combination. Think about their needs and accommodate them. Create different versions if you need to.

Before you’ve invested too much time in creating a work of art, test your idea with different audience members. It might be a blank or partially complete template but there are still valuable things to learn by showing it to people. Ask if it makes sense to them? Can they work with the format? This will save time reworking things down the line and help make the map more effective.

Don’t feel constrained by templates and prescriptive formats

There are standard map formats and templates, and they are really helpful. They prompt us to think about the right things, save time, and overcome blank sheet paralysis. However, there are some pitfalls to watch out for.

For example, a project brief might ask for a customer journey map or service blueprint because it’s the done thing. But without a clearly understood purpose and audience it might not add value. Other traps to avoid are letting our thinking become constrained by the boxes and lines on a map template or getting bogged down trying to populate all the sections with detail that’s not useful.

We might start with a template but then tweak the structure to fit our particular needs right now. Sometimes we may only be interested in certain rows from that blueprint, or we might want to create a hybrid map that’s a user journey/service map mashup. We might want to create something totally new and that’s okay too. Freestyle mapping can land us at the most elegant and impactful result.

The mapping process is as important as the outcome

Co-creating maps with the team or wider stakeholders can be a great way to gather information and generate a shared understanding. It also supports collaboration and effective decision making. But it’s not always best done in this way and the decision to co-create or not will depend on why you’re producing the map as well as access to information, people, and time.

If you’re creating a map on your own, the process can still be a learning experience. It helps us organise and synthesise our own thoughts. It will generate important questions and discussions. Make sure you don’t lose them. Write them down and follow them up.

Get comfortable with imperfection

A map is only ever going to be a representative model of the world so don’t get hung up on perfection. Our maps are only ever drafts too, as the world and our thinking are constantly evolving. So, when the time comes to share a map we’ve been working on, we can stick a date on it and be happy that this is the best model we have right now.

We shouldn’t feel limited by the fidelity of our maps but instead appreciate the clarity that a simplified view of a complex world can bring.

Describe it properly

It’s essential to properly label the map and provide a description of its purpose and what it’s trying to communicate.  Make clear whether it’s a map of the current or future state and at what stage of the project it was produced. A good map should be based on reliable source information from user research or other documentation – make sure this is referenced too. It’s also good practice to add the names of the creators and make it clear who owns and maintains it.

Be aware of the pros and cons of doing this work remotely

Lots of us are missing sticking post-its on whiteboards and other physical artefacts right now. While virtual whiteboards have been a life-saver for many in 2020, they have pros and cons. These tools can add a layer of complexity and constrain creativity when doing service mapping. For some, working on a small screen can feel claustrophobic and mean that we lose some of the context or zoomed out perspective. Being aware of these limitations when choosing a mapping approach is helpful.

Covering a wall in our own home with post-its might help to overcome some of these challenges. Others won’t be there to see it but we can take a photo or digitise and share afterwards.

Remote service mapping does have its benefits too though. With whole teams and organisations working from home, more people are becoming familiar with online mapping tools and this can create new opportunities for collaborative mapping and visual thinking.

The Future of Retail: Online-First

At the beginning of June we saw the UK government starting to lift lockdown measures, including enabling non-essential retailers to open their doors to high-street footfall. The idea that things would return to normal was somewhat of a fantasy for anyone who believed it, the high street was already facing big challenges pre-Coronavirus and the same applies once lockdown 2.0 is eased.

Those who shopped in bricks and mortar stores solely for the ‘experience’ can, in many cases, now have a better customer experience online than in store. Social distancing, facemasks, queues, one-way systems, and a lack of confidence among consumers doesn’t make the high-street shopping experience a pleasant one.

Jonathan Bellwood, VP at Descartes, explores the brands that have failed, those that have triumphed and that the key differentiator for success is an online-first approach...

The Tangible Experience

Brands with physical stores have been clinging to the argument that consumers want a great customer experience, and this is what keeps the high-street alive. Of course, there is a place for these types of stores, but it’s limited to areas where there is high foot traffic, places like Covent Garden, London, for example. And during the current pandemic, even the stores that used to perform well, based on the physical store experience, have taken a massive hit. We’ve witnessed this with Victoria’s Secret going into administration, John Lewis closing some of its stores and Cath Kidston shutting all 60 of its UK stores. These are all brands that had a great emphasis on the in-store experience.

In the future, post-Coronavirus environment, it’s not to say that there isn’t a place for some physical stores. But it has to offer a truly unique experience, something that is bespoke and something that consumers can’t have all the time. Gymshark, for example, one of the UK’s modern retail success stories and a consistent performer atop the Fast Track 100, hit the nail on the head when it opened its first pop-up store in London’s Covent Garden earlier this year. The store opened for a limited one month run, creating much hype among its fitness fanatic followers on social media. The experience even included a variety of free gym classes across its three-story store. This limited opening strategy creates buzz, exclusivity and demand. It’s a chance to have a physical encounter with your much-loved online brand, and in a competitive marketplace, these interactions drive both engagement and brand loyalty.

For brands that have been forced to shut up shop and pivot to online only, it is therefore crucial to consider how they are able to take the ‘magic’ of their stores and translate that into the digital world for every single customer. Consumer demands haven’t gone away, they have pivoted too: It is brands like Gymshark and Lounge Underwear that have reset the standard within the online only world. To keep pace, luxury brands, for example, need to ensure that the aesthetic experience isn’t lost, when the parcel arrives, the final consumer experience is unwrapping a hand tied ribbon enclosed around a scented shiny box – something that can be filmed and shared on social media.

Beating The Competition

The less-tangible ecommerce experience needs to be exceptional too, for all brands. This is especially true with the surge in demand for online transactions and rising customer expectations, particularly around fulfilment, delivery and returns. The need for ecommerce businesses to be ever more efficient and seamless is crucial.

Order fulfilment is the key part of the chain that must be flawless to keep the customer satisfied. This can be achieved by utilising smart software that operates in real-time to automate the most efficient delivery route and to ensure it will work in the real world, allowing for traffic and time.

By providing the customer with complete visibility of the order fulfilment process from picking, shipping, location of their delivery van, alerts for delays and confirmation of delivery road transport operators can support their retailer partners in not only maintaining customer satisfaction but also increasing mutually efficient business operations and revenue growth.

Modern, integrated sets of systems, if applied throughout the supply chain, can also be used to make the returns process as transparent as the order process, again providing status updates in real-time and getting inventory back into the sales channel as quickly as possible.

In the ever-growing competitive ecommerce space, returns need to be treated with the same priority as the order and delivery process. Those retailers that are able to connect all parts of the end-to-end supply chain through technology and automation will win over new customers, keep existing ones loyal and, ultimately, optimise profits. If the online-first approach is successful, there may be a demand on the highstreet for them, but not in the traditional form as we once knew it.

How intelligent technologies are helping marketers predict challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond

By Saranya Babu, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Wrike

Marketing is undeniably one of the most important aspects of modern business strategy. Whether it’s developing a unique brand image, or carrying out specific campaigns to attract the right audience, the activities of the marketing department are at the centre of driving growth and revenue within any organisation. 

This year, marketers have been presented with an entirely new and unexpected challenge – how to navigate a global pandemic. The economic uncertainty surrounding this ongoing crisis has forced many businesses to redefine their brand identity, in order to distinguish themselves from their competitors and survive. 

While many businesses are accustomed to crisis management, the scale of this pandemic calls for a more comprehensive approach. In order to truly speak to their audiences during these unprecedented times and beyond, marketers must focus on developing a meaningful and consistent brand image, with each and every project being a success.  

Make no mistakes with integrated insights

With businesses of all shapes and sizes facing a long road to recovery, tough decisions are being made across the board. Unfortunately, many marketing departments are bearing the brunt of industry-wide cut-backs. In fact, dips in business revenue have resulted in the largest ever decline in spending, with over  41% of UK firms  reducing their marketing budgets in the third quarter of 2020 as a direct result of the pandemic.  

During this time of turmoil, instant access to real-time performance metrics within existing work management platforms is essential for marketing teams, especially given the speed at which things are changing. The ability to examine the progress of ongoing projects and campaigns, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as potential areas for improvement can improve the chances of a successful outcome. 

After all, marketing is dependent on the ability to juggle several tasks at once. This is a lot easier said than done when multiple ads, email, and social campaigns are running simultaneously. Operating on outdated information – even by a day or two – can adversely affect the final outcome of a project. Moreover, as the remote work era continues, visibility will become more important than ever before. The lack of face-to-face communication demands accurate performance metrics in order to track and analyse a campaigns’ progression at any given moment.  

Ahead of the game 

Many different things can derail a project. Additional costs, failure to meet deadlines, or unplanned modifications can all have a negative impact and, ultimately, cost a business – especially in our current landscape. In order to increase the likelihood of success for a project and limit any potential risk, marketing teams should look to predict and plan for a series of different possibilities from the offset.  

This is where modern technologies – such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – come into play. These technologies can pinpoint at-risk projects and provide an early diagnosis, so that teams can take necessary action to minimise risk and solve any potential challenges before they even occur. By recognising signals and patterns based on hundreds of factors, including past campaign results, work progress, organisation history, and work complexity, the insights provided by these technologies can help to salvage entire projects. 

With intelligent insights readily available, marketing teams can work towards prioritising matters of high-importance, such as mitigating and managing risk. This can be done by evaluating a project’s ‘risk tolerance’. In other words, how much can you allow before you need to act. This is a crucial step in any project management process, enabling marketers to choose the most effective response and ensure that resources are being used in the most effective way.  

As competition rises and budgets shrink, marketing teams are under increasing pressure to deliver. Connecting with desired audiences through brand consistency, strong messaging, and impactful campaigns is still important. However – thanks to the increased pressures brought by the pandemic – there is no longer any room for error. Therefore, guaranteeing all activities are on course and risk is at an all-time-low must be a priority. While there isn’t a single ingredient for success during these unprecedented times, integrated insights and AI and ML technologies could play a significant part in enabling marketing teams to predict and mitigate any possible risks ahead of time. 

Online Strategy: Join your online and offline worlds instantly with QR Codes

By Go Inspire

The QR code now provides the perfect mechanism for joining your online and offline worlds, whatever the desired digital action. In this short article, we discuss the numerous benefits to your online strategy of incorporating them into your tangible communications.   

In 2020, society’s need to be ‘contactless’ accelerated somewhat. So much so, the humble (and previously much maligned) QR code has experienced an exponential growth in adoption. 

With in-built QR reading capability on all modern phones and tablets, scanning a QR Code is now a much quicker journey than launching a browser and attempting to accurately type the URL – or searching for a brand in Google, landing on their homepage and hunting out the relevant page or piece of information, that you actually wanted. 

Reduce PPC Costs by driving direct traffic 

On the subject of paid search, QR Codes allow you to reserve PPC spend for the searchers who truly need a nudge, by creating a direct link between your offline communication and digital destinations and you could save your business a considerable about of marketing budget.

Many users will google your brand name, click on you paid advertising and cost you money – remove this possibility by simply adding a QR code. 

Bridge your online and offline worlds with a new level of dynamism for print

Direct Mail has time and time again been proven to offer superior cut through, with recent figures from JICMail’s Q3 2020 report showing a 33% increase in in digital actions prompted by mail – but how many of these responses were driven by a QR Code? 

With all the above advances, QR Codes now offer you the chance to present a seamless transition into your online world, moving your customers from offline consideration into online action and conversion. 

Consider the power of an abandoned basket mailing received 48 hours after browsing and featuring an enticing offer and QR codes for the individual products browsed. 

One simple scan and your customer is online, reviewing their ‘basket’ and just a click away from checkout. 

Generate a multichannel view for more effective digital marketing 

Creating a link between your online and offline worlds will also fuel your digital marketing efforts – customers or prospects who previously hadn’t engaged online may now do so, identifying themselves via their device and enabling retargeting and programmatic display advertising. 

Collect valuable insight through reporting 

Knowing who scanned, when they scanned and the region of where they scanned is incredibly powerful insight, which enables you to capitalise on live opportunities as you know who is in market, right now.

Reporting such as this also enables continuous improvement, as response data can power enhanced targeting of your door drop and partially addressed acquisition campaigns. 

Bring Your Customers Together with QR Codes

Like many, your customers may be feeling a level of uncertainty over whether they will be able to see friends, family and loved ones this Christmas and beyond; as the fight to control COVID-19 before the roll out of vaccines continues and restrictions on social gatherings and travel so frequently change.  

Our range of flexible options means you can either add QR codes to your existing format, or for added effect, incorporate them into one of our many innovative and engaging direct mail formats, as a gift tag. 

The process is simple:

  1. Your customer visits the PURL printed on their mailing
  2. Records their video message on their chosen device
  3. Uploads their video message into their PURL
  4. Applies their QR gift tag to the present, before posting
  5. When the present is delivered, the recipient simply scans the QR code which then automatically to watch the video message

Find more information here

Test a QR Code and receive an incentive discount on your next campaign!

Why not take advantage of a live incentive and include a QR code on your next Advertising Mail or Business Mail campaigns, for 15% and 30% discounts respectively?

Below are just some of the endless possibilities for driving your customers to take digital actions:

  • Drive to coupon
  • Visit web site
  • Send to Geo-location
  • Play an mp3 jingle or message
  • Visit product page
  • Drive to data capture page
  • Link to event details
  • Get a review or rating

Get in touch If you’d like to speak to our expert team and discuss how QR Codes can help you engage with customers online, we’ll be in touch shortly!