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Stuart O'Brien

Selecting the Ideal Website Platform for SME Brands: Key considerations for Digital Managers

A website is often the first point of interaction between a Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) and its potential customers. For digital managers, choosing the right platform – whether it’s WordPress or Wix – is a decision that can clearly impact a business’s online presence. We’ve rounded up the key considerations when making the important decisions…

1. Ease of Use and Flexibility

The chosen platform should offer a user-friendly interface that can be managed by team members with varying levels of technical expertise. For SMEs, where resources are often limited, the ability to easily update content, add new pages, and make basic customisations without needing extensive technical know-how is crucial. Flexibility in design and functionality is also important to ensure the website can evolve alongside the business.

2. Scalability

Scalability is paramount. The platform should be able to accommodate the growth of the business, handling increased traffic and additional content without compromising performance. This means considering not only the current needs of the business but also its future aspirations, ensuring the platform can grow with the brand.

3. Cost-Effectiveness

Budget constraints are a common consideration for SMEs. Digital managers must weigh the costs associated with different platforms, including setup, monthly or annual fees, and any additional costs for plugins or extensions. It’s important to find a balance between affordability and functionality, ensuring the platform offers value for money.

4. SEO Capabilities

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is vital for increasing visibility and driving traffic to the website. The platform should have strong SEO capabilities, allowing for optimisation of content, mobile responsiveness, fast loading times, and the ability to modify meta tags and URLs. These features will help the website rank higher in search engine results, an essential factor for online success.

5. Security Features

With increasing cyber threats, the security features of a website platform are non-negotiable. The platform should offer robust security protocols to protect sensitive data, including SSL certificates, regular security updates, and secure payment gateways for e-commerce sites.

6. Integration with Other Tools

Integration capabilities with other digital tools and systems, such as CRM software, social media platforms, and email marketing services, can significantly enhance efficiency. The ability to seamlessly integrate these tools can streamline operations and provide a more cohesive digital strategy.

7. Technical Support and Community

A strong support network is invaluable, particularly for SMEs with limited in-house technical support. Platforms that offer reliable customer service, comprehensive documentation, and an active community forum can be advantageous, providing resources and assistance when needed.

8. E-commerce Functionality

For SMEs looking to sell products or services online, e-commerce functionality is a key factor. The platform should offer a seamless shopping experience, with features such as shopping carts, payment processing, and inventory management.

Whether you go for WordPress or Wix, choosing the right website platform for an SME brand involves a careful evaluation of various factors, from ease of use and scalability to cost, SEO, security, integration capabilities, support, and e-commerce features. By thoroughly assessing these considerations, digital managers can select a platform that not only meets the immediate needs of the business but also supports its long-term digital strategy, fostering online growth and success.

Are you about to embark on a new website project for your organisation? The Digital Marketing Solutions Summit can help!

CREATIVE DESIGN MONTH: Key considerations in devising your strategy 

Creative design for a campaign plays a pivotal role in capturing the audience’s attention and conveying the brand’s message effectively. For marketers, devising a creative design strategy involves a blend of innovation, market understanding, and brand alignment. Here we outline the key considerations you must account for when developing an approach, based on input from attendees at the Digital marketing Solutions Summit…

1. Understanding the Target Audience

The foundation of any effective creative design strategy is a deep understanding of the target audience. Marketers must consider the demographics, psychographics, and behaviours of their intended audience. This includes age, gender, interests, values, lifestyle, and even the digital platforms they frequent. Design elements like colour schemes, typography, and imagery should resonate with the audience, evoking the desired emotional response and connection.

2. Clarity and Consistency in Brand Messaging

Creative design must align with the brand’s identity and messaging. Consistency in design elements across all channels reinforces brand recognition. This means ensuring that logos, colour palettes, and typography are uniform and reflect the brand’s ethos. For instance, a brand known for its environmental commitment might use green tones and natural imagery to communicate its values.

3. Balancing Creativity with Functionality

While creativity is crucial, it should not come at the expense of functionality. The design must be user-friendly, especially in digital campaigns. It should facilitate a smooth user journey, from the initial engagement to the desired call to action. For example, a visually stunning website is ineffective if users find it difficult to navigate or locate information.

4. Leveraging Trends and Innovation

Staying abreast of the latest design trends and technological advancements can give campaigns a competitive edge. However, marketers must carefully evaluate which trends align with their brand and audience. Incorporating elements like augmented reality, interactive content, or bold typography can enhance the appeal of the campaign, provided they add value to the user experience.

5. Multichannel Approach

In today’s digital age, marketing campaigns span multiple channels, from traditional print to social media and digital platforms. A creative design strategy must be adaptable to various formats while maintaining a cohesive look and feel. This requires an understanding of the nuances of each channel and how audiences interact with them.

6. Measuring Effectiveness

Finally, the success of a creative design strategy should be measurable against the campaign objectives. Metrics such as engagement rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and social media interactions can provide insights into the effectiveness of the design elements. Continuous monitoring and the willingness to tweak the strategy based on feedback and performance data are essential for achieving the desired outcomes.

When devising a creative design strategy for a marketing campaign, marketers must balance artistic expression with strategic thinking. By understanding their audience, maintaining brand consistency, embracing innovation, and adapting to multiple channels, marketers can create compelling designs that not only capture attention but also drive tangible results. As the marketing landscape continues to evolve, those who skilfully blend creativity with strategy will emerge as leaders in the realm of effective communication.

Are you on the hunt for Creative Design solutions for your organisation? The Digital Marketing Solutions Summit can help!

Photo by Jeroen den Otter on Unsplash

What does the notion of ‘sustainability’ mean in the minds of consumers?

When a company claims to be ‘sustainable’ consumers feels this relates to ‘circularity’ and ‘naturalness’ and/or ‘social equality’ commitments, according to new research by Vlerick Business School.

Companies can benefit from actively including the operational indicators behind these associative concepts in brand positioning & marketing communication efforts towards consumers. The research reveals 19 elements that consumers associate with sustainability. These are bundled under three factor components based on the results of an exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis on the data collected.

‘Circularity’ bundles the associative elements in consumer minds that relate to avoiding exhausting natural resources and re-using materials (e.g., ‘circular economy initiatives’, ‘recycling programs’, ‘restoration/replenishment of natural resources’).

‘Naturalness’ bundles elements related to the use of non-artificial production methods and resulting products. Examples are ‘no chemicals in production’, ‘no pesticides for vegetables’, ‘no production of GMOs’.

‘Social equality’, finally, bundles elements that relate to the need to ‘care for people’. Examples are ‘gender equality’, ‘fair wages’ or ‘good labour conditions’.

These findings come from research conducted by Frank Goedertier, Professor of Marketing at Vlerick Business School, together with his co-authors, Joeri Van den Bergh, from Human8 and Vlerick Business School, and Bert Weijters and Ole Schacht, both from Ghent University. The researchers wanted to understand what operational associations (in terms of hands-on practices) are triggered in the minds of consumers when a brand claims to be ‘sustainable’.

To do so, the researchers surveyed over 5,500 consumers, across seven different developed countries: France, the UK, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, the Netherlands and Australia in two data collection waves. 19 separate hands-on practices were identified, as well as the extent to which consumers associate these with the ‘sustainability’ notion. The researchers grouped these into three categories (social equality, circularity and naturalness). An extensive literature analysis preceded the survey data collections.

“Sustainability is being increasingly proposed as an overarching goal for transforming the way we live, work, and consume, and more and more consumers want to purchase from brands that they know are sustainable in their practices”, said Goedertier. “However, it is unclear what hands-on practices consumers actually associate with (or expect from) a brand that claims to be ‘sustainable’. Our findings reveal specific notions that can allow companies to position their brands on sustainability in a way that reflects the hands-on practices and aspects consumers associate with it.”.

The researchers say that the findings are particularly interesting as previous literature focuses on separating both social and environmental factors when it comes to sustainability. In this study, consumers clearly group both together when it comes to identifying a sustainable brand.

By shedding light on how consumers view sustainability, the researchers hope that the findings will help companies generate more impactful and consumer-relevant sustainability communication and actions – highlighting the key areas consumers view as sustainable indicators.

Do you specialise in Online Strategy? We want to hear from you!

Each month on Digital Marketing Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on different parts of the print and marketing sectors – and in December we’ll be focussing on Online Strategy solutions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help marketing industry professionals find the best products and services available today.

So, if you specialise in Online Strategy and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Kerry Naumburger on

Dec – Online Strategy
Jan 2024 – Content Management
Feb 2024 – Lead Generation & Tracking
Mar 2024 – Email Marketing
April 2024 – Digital Printing
May 2024 – Social Media
Jun 2024 – Brand Monitoring
July 2024 – Web Analytics
Aug 2024 – Conversion Rate Optimisation
Sept 2024 – Digital Signage
Oct 2024 – Brochure Printing
Nov 2024 – Creative & Design

Brits to shell out up to £1,000 this Christmas, with local retailers set to benefit

Over 45% of Brits will be spending the same this Christmas, with 33% spending more, despite ongoing cost of living concerns.

That’s according to new research from local gift card champions Town & City Gift Cards, which surveyed over 1,000 consumers, employees and organisations.

28% of people said they’ll be spending £751-£1000 this Christmas, with the need to purchase gifts for friends and family given as the reason for Christmas spend staying the same or increasing.

But finding the perfect gift isn’t always easy with a huge 73% of Brits worrying about finding the perfect gift. The research also revealed a move towards more ‘useful’ gifts that offer choice with 89% planning to buy at least one gift card this Christmas. 92.9% prefer giving a gift card to cash with 77% saying this is because it encourages the recipient to treat themselves.

And, naturally, gift cards are a Christmas present that people want to receive too, with 89% saying they would like to receive a multi-store gift card that can be spent at more than one business and 94% preferring gift cards that can be used in various sectors, such as retail, hospitality and leisure.

Support for local is higher than ever with 98% keen to support local this Christmas and 87% saying supporting local businesses helps to keep them open. 60% say shopping local offers a better experience.

Colin Munro, MD at Miconex, the firm which provides the technology for the Town & City Gift Card programme and said: “The research revealed changing attitudes towards gifting with a greater emphasis on gifts that can be used in a practical way and offer the recipient choice.

“There’s also a really strong awareness of the need to shop local because people realise the impact it has on their community. Local gift cards wrap up choice and support for local in one gift card, reducing the pressure and worry of finding a perfect gift as the recipient can choose exactly what they want from all types and sizes of local businesses.”

Marketers experimenting more to fight economic downturn

Almost half of marketers (44%) are actively investing in experimentation as a direct response to the UK’s current economic slump.

That’s according to new research from Optimizely, which reveals marketers are using experimentation in the face of cutbacks as a way to deliver personal experiences that drive revenue, boost customer retention and deliver growth.

The Personalised to Personal report, based on a study of 100 UK marketing leaders and 1,000 UK consumers, explores the financial benefit of delivering targeted experiences that are “truly personal.” The research shows that an overwhelming majority of marketers (75%) believe it’s “more important than ever” to find new ways to optimise their personalisation strategy during tough economic times.

70% of marketers say they are marrying personalisation with experimentation to get ahead of the competition and deliver content that will stand out. Optimizely’s report argues that this is a smart move, at a time when 65% of consumers are more loyal to brands that get to know them at a personal level.

“At a time when UK consumer spending power is at its lowest levels due to high inflation, it’s more important than ever for brands to deliver online experiences that demonstrate they understand consumers, including their preferences and needs,” said Shafqat Islam, Optimizely CMO. “Experimentation is one of the smartest investments a brand can make. It allows companies to properly understand their customers’ behaviours and make decisions based on data, rather than assumptions, in order to provide the tailored experiences that customers love – driving loyalty and boosting brands’ bottom lines.”

Photo by Alex Kondratiev on Unsplash

CREATIVE DESIGN MONTH: Exploring key trends in creative design and the impacts on marketing strategy

Creative design within the marketing sector has seen significant shifts, influenced by technological innovation, evolving consumer preferences, and a greater emphasis on sustainability and inclusivity. As these trends shape the visual and experiential facets of branding and advertising, they not only redefine the aesthetics of marketing but also underscore the strategic approach businesses must adopt to remain competitive and relevant.

One of the most prominent trends is the rise of bespoke typography. Brands are moving away from generic fonts to create unique, custom typefaces that embody their identity and values. This customisation adds a distinctive character to marketing materials, offering a subtle yet powerful tool for brand recognition. Monotype’s bespoke typeface for the Tate Gallery is a prime example, reflecting the museum’s contemporary and innovative ethos.

Sustainability in design has also taken center stage. The use of eco-friendly materials in packaging and print marketing is no longer a niche appeal but a widespread expectation. Companies like Unilever and Lush Cosmetics are leading the charge, employing recycled materials and reducing waste in their packaging design. This shift is a response to consumer demand for environmental stewardship and the UK’s aggressive sustainability targets. Consequently, marketers must weave eco-consciousness into their design narratives.

Another trend transforming creative design is the integration of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These technologies offer immersive experiences that elevate traditional marketing into interactive adventures. For instance, IKEA’s AR app allows customers to visualise furniture in their homes before making a purchase, blending utility with engagement. As the costs for AR and VR technologies decrease, more businesses are likely to harness these tools for interactive campaigns.

The push for diversity and inclusivity in design has also become a pivotal trend. Marketing campaigns are increasingly showcasing a broader spectrum of races, body types, ages, and abilities, reflecting society’s diversity more accurately. This inclusivity not only resonates with a wider audience but also aligns with the UK’s progressive stance on social issues. It’s a powerful statement that authenticity and representation matter in every aspect of business, including design.

Lastly, the trend towards minimalism and functional design continues to influence marketing materials. Clean lines, ample white space, and restrained colour palettes underscore a brand’s message without unnecessary clutter. Apple’s marketing is the epitome of this approach, where the focus is on the product and its features in a sleek, understated layout.

As these trends converge, they prompt a re-evaluation of the role of creative design in the marketing sector. It’s no longer just about aesthetics; it’s about creating an authentic, engaging, and socially responsible brand experience. Marketers must navigate these trends with a keen understanding of their audience and the cultural zeitgeist, ensuring their strategies are not just visually appealing but also resonate on a deeper level with consumers’ evolving expectations.

Are you on the hunt for Creative Design solutions for your brand? The Digital Marketing Solutions Summit can help!

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Join the industry at the Digital Marketing Solutions Summit next May

The Digital Marketing Solutions Summit will be back once again in 2024, with London playing host to the annual gathering of the UK’s most influential marketers and its best suppliers.

Unlike large expo’s, this intimate, hassle-free event allows you to build beneficial business relationships through your own itinerary of 1-2-1 meetings, with solution providers that match your current project/business requirements.

No hard sell, just a chance to meet and explore your options.

8th May 2024 – Hilton London Canary Wharf

Book Today

As one of our VIP attendees you will benefit from:

– The opportunity to meet with providers that can support your projects, plans, and events.
– Insightful and educational seminar sessions.
– Networking opportunities with peers who share your daily challenges.
– Lunch and refreshments throughout.

All the above will be included in your complimentary place, – contact us today if you have any questions at all.

Here’s what’s it store…

Unlike large expo’s, this intimate, hassle-free event allows you to build beneficial business relationships through your own itinerary of 1-2-1 meetings, with suppliers that match your current project/business requirements.

No hard sell, just a chance to meet and explore your options.

8th May 2024 – Hilton London Canary Wharf

Book Today

As one of our VIP attendees you will benefit from:

– The opportunity to meet with providers that can support your projects, plans, and events.
– Insightful and educational seminar sessions.
– Networking opportunities with peers who share your daily challenges.
– Lunch and refreshments throughout.

All the above will be included in your complimentary place, – contact us today if you have any questions at all.

Survey reveals UK AI skills gap and how it could impact marketing

A survey of 2,000 UK workers commissioned by digital marketing agency Add People shows that the majority of people in the UK have never used AI at work.

The poll, conducted by OnePoll, reveals that 70% of UK workers have never used AI tools at work. Given that the UK is aiming to brand itself as a world leader in AI technology, with Rishi Sunak organising an AI summit at the beginning of November, Add People says it’s surprising to discover that the majority of Brits are yet to experiment with tools like ChatGPT in their workflow.

Here, Peter Marshall, chief marketing officer at Add People, discusses some of the other findings of the survey and what they could mean for the UK’s position on AI….

As a digital marketing agency, many of our staff have started to experiment with AI tools to support their daily work tasks. While we can see that they are certainly not in a position to replace the work of actual humans, there are many uses for these tools that would bring great benefits to workers in every industry.

2 in 5 people think they will use AI tools in the future

The study also found that Only 38% of people believe they are likely to use AI tools in the future, with 34% of respondents deeming it unlikely. Despite ChatGPT reaching 100 million users in the second-fastest time for any app, it’s still not properly utilised in the workplace.

This suggests that many workers need to be made aware of how to use them effectively and potentially whether they are allowed to use them for work. Some solutions to this are training sessions, establishing AI champions at work to pioneer processes and establishing guidelines for how and when to use AI tools.

Only a quarter of people trust AI

Trust in AI is a major issue, particularly at work as an issue with generative AI reflects badly on the person using it. Longform results from ChatGPT and Google’s Bard aren’t of the highest quality and some initial experimentation by workers may have led to a loss of interest.

To be good at anything takes practice and the same can be said of AI. Encouraging your staff to experiment with these tools and report back on their results could help them discover new and effective ways of utilising the tools in their day-to-day lives.

14% of businesses have officially implemented AI tools

Though we’re still in the early stages of generative AI, some hesitance to use it at work could be compounded by silence from senior management on when and how to use it. Our survey also found that a third of people who have used AI did so without their boss knowing.

To encourage use of generative AI that is supportive of productivity without affecting the quality of work, some policies or guidelines around what kind of tasks can be completed, what kind of information shouldn’t be shared, etc. can be helpful for your staff.

Given that 60% of people want AI regulation in the workplace, this is a chance for businesses to get ahead of the game and showcase themselves as innovators.

Marketing budgets in the UK remain on the up

Total UK marketing budgets were revised up in Q3 2023, extending the current sequence of upward spending revisions to ten successive quarters, according to the latest IPA Bellwether Report, which reveals that this quarter’s overall growth was driven by upward revisions to the main media category.

The report also reveals that there was, however, a moderation of the upturn as persistent inflationary pressures, further increases in borrowing costs and a subsequent deterioration in the UK economic outlook drove some companies to be more cautious with their budgets.

While 21.1% of Bellwether firms increased their total marketing spending in the three months to October, a sizeable 15.8% registered a downgraded budget. This resulted in a net balance of +5.3%, pointing to the weakest quarter of total marketing budget growth since the final quarter of 2022 (down from +6.4% in Q2).

According to panel members that registered growth, marketing activities were deployed both as a defensive and offensive manoeuvre, with some hoping to reinforce their brand’s position in the market ahead of a downturn in the UK economy. Efforts to seize additional market share was seen at companies who were seeing key competitors prioritise short-term cost-savings over long-term business growth.

Supporting this, the main media advertising category was the strongest-performing segment of the Bellwether survey in Q3 as a robust net balance of +7.4% of companies upwardly revised spending in this crucial segment at the strongest rate in a year-and-a-half (-2.5% previously). This contrasted markedly with the Q2 report, where sales promotions budgets drove the upturn as cost-of-living pressures drove companies to provide support to cash-strapped customers. Within main media, other online advertising methods that aren’t captured by the other sub-categories rose sharply (net balance of +9.1%, vs. +8.3% previously) as companies engaged with new innovative tools such as artificial intelligence. Video (+0.9%, from +3.2%) and published brands (+0.8%, from -5.0%) were the other areas of expansion within main media, whereas audio (-10.8%, from -8.0%) and out of home (-12.1%, from -7.1%) saw contractions accelerate.

Events continued to be an area of marketing budget growth in the third quarter, continuing its strong sequence of expansion seen in every Bellwether Report since the opening quarter of 2022. A net balance of +5.9% of companies saw an increase in spending in this area (from +9.8%), with anecdotal evidence indicating a resilient appetite for engagement with clients and prospects face-to-face.

Other areas of budget growth included direct marketing (net balance of +4.3%, from +7.3%) and public relations (+4.0, from -1.9%). In fact, PR spending rose at the strongest pace in five years.

Meanwhile, spending cuts were recorded in the final three segments of the Bellwether survey. Other modes of marketing activity not accounted for continued to see budgets cut in the third quarter (net balance of -7.9%, from -6.8%), as did market research (-1.5%, from -2.9%). Notably, after a record expansion in the previous quarter, the latest data indicated a renewed reduction in sales promotions spending (-1.5%, from +13.4%).

Paul Bainsfair, Director General at the IPA, said: “Against a backdrop of economic stagnation and ongoing elevated levels of inflation in the UK, coupled with increasing global geo-political volatility, the trading environment for companies is unquestionably tough. But instead of seeing a re-run of last quarter’s slightly concerning results where companies revised up their short-term sales promotional activity to record amounts while reducing their main media spend, this time we are buoyed to see a more considered, reverse state of affairs. This quarter, those companies that can are heeding the evidence that in general, investing more in main media will help to steady them through the uncertain times and help to ensure the longer-term health and profitability of their brands.”