Article | August 12, 2020
Collaboration is at the heart of Agile, and we’ve all experienced the benefits of face-to-face conversation as the best means of conveying information. In SAFe we take this to the next level with PI Planning, a face-to-face event for all members of the ART to align to a shared mission and vision.
Article | February 1, 2021
AI is everywhere. In ecommerce and digital marketing in particular, it’s likely you’re using AI to support your activities, whether you’re aware of it or not.
In most cases, AI supported practices are a great benefit to the business. They enable improved efficiency, a reduced administrative burden and help create more effective campaigns and services.
But Nate Burke, CEO of Diginius, a UK provider of proprietary software for digital marketing and ecommerce solutions, believes businesses could be getting more out of their use of AI. In this piece, he explains how businesses can use intelligent proliferation to their advantage and really stand out from the crowd.
Today, just about every business that has some online activity benefits from AI. Whether that’s how they appear in search engines or their social media reach, for example, AI is practically everywhere.
Generally, it works in the background and requires little input from the business, while offering some valuable internal benefits, including greater efficiency, fewer administrative tasks and more successful campaigns and services.
But with it increasingly being integrated into just about every digital tool, it’s no longer the case that AI can be used as a differentiator or a way to stand out from the competition. However, that’s not to say it can’t be.
In order to really reap the rewards of AI and place your business leaps and bounds ahead of the crowd, it’s time to start taking a more proactive approach.
Now, this might sound counterintuitive. After all, AI is supposed to relieve some of the effort and input required from you. And while that isn’t entirely wrong, no matter how much technology advances, we are all still human. And humans require some element of emotional connection with brands in order for them to create successful engagement and interactions.
Ultimately, businesses need to find the perfect balance between artificial and emotional intelligence. Activities and decisions should be supported by both technology to make life easier, and human judgement, in order for output to be received well by customers.
And this has never been more important than in the current market.
The multichannel model
Online business is thriving. The number of digitally transformed companies, online sales, ecommerce channels and engagement platforms are increasing. And businesses and consumers are adapting.
The pandemic has encouraged more to embrace the shift. But as physical retail and face to face business opens back up, the multichannel model will no doubt become the new normal. However, as well as increasing workloads for management, challenges will also exist in creating cohesive and high-quality customer experiences.
But AI integration does offer a remedy. For instance, commerce solutions provide retailers with a single, centralised platform on which they can combine activity across all sales and logistics channels, both digital and offline.
Data from all areas of the business, including supply chain, sales channels and end user experience is then available in one place. This rich data is often much more valuable due to its quality and quantity, and by leveraging AI’s ability to analyse such data, you can turn it into invaluable business insight. When translated into digestible reports, such as trends and benchmarks, you can really optimise both the business’s potential and your customers’ experiences.
This takes a lot of the guess work out of the equation, ensuring the output is just as high quality as the input, and providing an informed basis in order to justify decisions.
But, your business is yours for a reason. It’s likely you have knowledge, expertise and experience in your industry, things that AI can’t, and shouldn’t, replace. Put simply, if you don’t maintain your core data, such as product attributes and tracking information, in a timely and accurate manner, then you can’t expect AI to make sense of your mess.
Artificial vs emotional intelligence
Although data driven trends and patterns are important when making business decisions, consumers cannot be simplified to a mere statistic. Rather, their emotions and intrinsic behaviours are better understood by humans.
Therefore, business owners and employees play a vital role in interpreting such data and trends, applying their sense and experiences to really comprehend what their customers want and why. And then using this to make better business decisions.
It comes down to striking a balance between the benefits offered by AI and our own emotional judgements. This way, we can create more personal and positive brand experiences that encourage engagement.
For instance, over recent months this might have involved digital marketing campaigns that are sensitive to the current global situation, yet delivered at a time and place the data has shown you your customers will receive it.
Or, perhaps a chatbot service that utilises AI to collect basic information from a user, then passes them onto a real customer service representative who can help resolve the issue in a more friendly and sensitive manner. While the business benefits from greater efficiency, wasting fewer human resources in the initial stages of the interaction, the customer still gets the personable service they so often need and prefer.
But AI is advancing at an incredible rate. It might not be long before the technology begins to understand more complex human behaviours through verbal or written cues for example, and it will be time to readjust our practices again. However, until then, human judgement remains pivotal, even in an increasingly digital world.
Article | April 2, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all sorts of businesses around the globe, from temporary or open-ended shutdowns to operations only under extreme health precautions. Everything might seem to be uncertain, and yes, business conditions will continue to be volatile for quite a while. However, there is one thing you can be sure about: marketing and public relations. You need them now more than ever before. During even the most trying times, prioritizing the right communication tactics rather than completely withdrawing into your shell helps keep your business visible to customers and desired target markets. Trust us, with the market downturn and skepticism everywhere, your businesses’ saving grace is public relations and smart marketing.
Article | February 10, 2021
It’s common for brands to become stagnant, rooted in their ways and too set on a specific course which restricts their ability to adapt to change. It is the classic example of the “That’s the way we do things around here” mentality.
But over time, competition increases, markets develop and consumer needs shift. Consequently, very few industries have remained static over the past year let alone the last decade, which has created an urgent need for businesses to evolve.
This notion is backed by Matthew Hayes, Managing Director of Champions (UK) plc, a strategy-led growth agency in the brand, digital and communications space. In this piece, he explains how digging up a business’ roots can actually help sow the seeds for a successful future.
Letting go of your roots
Resistance to change is one of the greatest barriers to a business’s long-term success. This resistance is often the result of a business becoming too attached to its roots, which can sometimes be so deep that they begin to act as an anchor, weighing the business down rather than enabling its growth.
These roots can be categorised as values, goals and characteristics of a business that define how it operates, the messages it communicates, the way in which it conveys them, as well as how consumers perceive the brand.
But as times change, it is common for business roots to become outdated and unsuitable for the current commercial climate. And as a result, businesses begin to face difficulties in keeping customers engaged and in turn, achieving a profitable financial return. To see this in practice, we only need to look at the demise of some the biggest named brands in recent times.
For example, the Arcadia Group is one of the latest victims of digital transformation, a trend that has been gradually impacting the retail space in recent years, and that has only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The digital shift has been led due to the need to meet changing consumer expectations and behaviours, with online sales are increasing year on year, and even more customers are expected to be shopping with a digital-first perspective following the pandemic and its related disruption.
Instead of responding to the change in the market and embracing online opportunities, businesses operating as part of Arcadia Group continued to do things as they had always done. And it was this lack of focus on their digital offering, particularly when compared to competitors such as PrettyLittleThing, boohoo and Asos, that ultimately resulted in their commercial downturn.
Although not so great for the individuals effected in the process, the case offers other businesses a vital lesson in the importance of letting go of outdated roots and adapting to change.
Taking a risk
But due to the deep-rooted nature of such characteristics, there is a perceived risk involved with letting them go. It’s understandable as it will no doubt involve a significant change to business as usual. But, any risks can be mitigated if businesses take a strategic approach in their decision to make change.
For instance, by undertaking branding exercises, such as a brand audit and the formalisation of a value proposition, stakeholders can gain an in-depth understanding of the business’s current position, its offering and their consumers’ expectations, through the creation of audience personas and its market via detailed industry insights and competitor analysis. From here, there will be a clear view of which aspects are not appropriate for the current commercial landscape, and where there will be opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labour once change has been implemented.
Once a new proposition has been established in theory, it then needs a detailed project plan to role it out in a practice, combined with an effective communications strategy. Taking a look at an example from our own experience. We rebranded Delta Global, a packaging provider for luxury retailers that, at the time, was doing great things with regard to innovation, technology and sustainability but was failing from a branding perspective to communicate its capabilities in those areas.
Our branding exercises helped to redefine the business’s values, creating a four pillar model that communicates them much more clearly. Formed of innovation, sustainability, luxury and ecommerce, clients and stakeholders can now, at a glance, understand exactly what the business does and how it does it.
And to ensure the business and its position only benefited from the activity, it was complemented with a robust communications strategy. This gained the brand exposure in industry-leading titles, including Forbes, WWD and The Sunday Times, as well as a greater presence across social media channels.
This helped mitigate the risk of unsuccessful change through use of effective communication targeted at new audiences, existing customers and internal stakeholders, who now understand the new direction but also be on board with it.
Is change always necessary?
In short, no. Change for the sake of change can actually be just as damaging to a brand as staying consistent. This is because sometimes, the deep-rooted characteristics of the business form a vital part of the audience’s understanding of the brand and its offering.
This might include family-run business values or branding elements that are connected to the location a business was founded in, for example. Often, it’s unlikely that these elements will be hindering the business’s growth potential, but are instead, adding value to it by acting as a USP and differentiating it from the competition.
However, in these cases, while the message does not need to change, the way in which it is communicated might, as often, it is the methods of message delivery that become outdated. For example, this might mean making better use of online marketing channels such as social media, content creation, SEO and email promotions to support both online and offline activities.
It’s all about making well thought out changes in order to remain relevant, rather than constantly altering your messages and offerings, which could actually cause confusion and disconnect between the brand and its consumers.
Ultimately, businesses need a solid footing upon which they can build on. But while these foundations are important for business growth, like a tree’s roots, some often go off at a tangent and become stuck in the past, anchoring the brand to where it used to be rather than allowing it to move forward into the future.
Put simply, if you don’t evolve, you die.