Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 17, 2019
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3min190

UK Business Awards winners indaHash, the influencer marketing platform connecting more than 900,000 digital influencers with brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and L’Oréal, has announced it is expanding its global footprint into Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Rodric Leerling is the newly appointed indaHash representative offering automated cross-market influencer campaigns with international reach. Leveraging indaHash’s technology, brands and agencies are given end-to-end solutions to work with global influencers at scale, with speed and convenience.

indaHash technology, along with their newest insight tool, indaHash IQ – powered by Amazon Rekognition – enables the analysis of millions of influencer images and videos, significantly increasing the relevant partnering of influencers and brands. indaHash focus on the internet’s ‘power users’, micro and mid-tier influencers. Campaigns however combine influencers from multiple tiers, which until now has generated over 50 million engagements on branded content.

Prior to working for indaHash – which in 2017 won the Disruptive Business Model category of the UK Business Awards – Leerling was engrossed in new media technology and projects, taking brands from traditional advertising into the digital age.

Working in Benelux, DACH, and the US, Leerling has worked for renown publishers such as Time Magazine and Nikkei Business Publications. He has dealt mostly with international brands and successfully introduced new publishing concepts such as Crowd Sourcing, Advocacy Marketing, and Online Reputation.

Barbara Sołtysińska, CEO and co-founder at indaHash, said: “With the headquarters of many international brands being in Benelux, indaHash is a solution for them to run cross-market campaigns in an easy way, thanks to our tech. We have successfully run indaHash campaigns in 34 markets for Catrice, eight markets for Sony, and many others. We have chosen further development in Europe and with Leerling’s local and global expertise, are offering clients high quality campaigns at scale.”

Rodric Leerling added: “I’m not only here to drive the growth of indaHash in the Benelux region, but also to educate, assist, research, debate and advance the progression of influencer marketing.”


Hilary StephensonHilary StephensonJanuary 17, 2019
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3min178

In today’s digital-by-default society, inclusive design has never been more important.

From healthcare to food delivery, many of our regular administrative tasks are now completed online which – overall – makes people’s lives easier and more efficient. However, those with ranging abilities are often left out; unable to use these platforms (and therefore access the services and information they need) due to poor design practices.

This is particularly relevant following news of a landmark case won against Domino’s Pizza – which must now take steps to ensure its mobile app is fully accessible to all.

Addressing this issue needs to be a priority for businesses – not just in terms of sales lost by not taking advantage of the £212m “purple pound” – but morally, too.

But how to do it? Here is our top tips:

 

  • Invite users with ranging abilities and needs to take part in usability sessions throughout the site’s design process. This will help assess how effective certain features are and highlight areas that need to be improved.

 

  • Include features such as adjustable text size, optional visual effects, close-captioned or signed videos and links in which the clickable area is larger than the surrounding text.

 

  • Constrain choices and actions so that people aren’t overwhelmed by too many options.

 

  • Make content easy to understand. Try to use the language that people use day-to-day.

 

  • Make design choices in the typography and use of colour that make your content more legible, easier to digest, and scan quickly.

 

  • Consider the digital skills of those accessing the website or app, to remove any barriers to engagement. Ask them for feedback regularly.

 

  • In navigation, give people quick routes to the information they need, and minimise the number of steps needed to complete an action so that people can achieve their goals quickly and easily.

Jeff EpsteinJeff EpsteinJanuary 7, 2019
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6min532

Forrester has predicted that this is the year “the backlash against chatbots will begin”, but you could say that it has already begun.

Headlines painting chatbots as a disappointment, and articles highlighting the funniest chatbot fails are easy to find, yet implementation isn’t slowing down. Despite early missteps, brands are eager to learn how to get it right because the upside is considerable: scalable, 24/7 customer service and a modernised, accessible experience.

So, how can companies capitalise on all that chatbots and AI have to offer while ensuring that they adhere to their core customer experience values? The key is to understand what’s keeping customers from having positive experiences with chatbots in the first place.

There are essentially two main obstacles to chatbot success: failing to define the scope of what a bot is expected to do, and striking a balance between bots and human agents. If companies want to succeed where others are failing, they must address these two key areas.

Defining scope and communicating functionality

Bots often fail because of poor design and a lack of defined scope. In order to have a successful, well-received chatbot, companies need to have a clear purpose in mind for a bot, understand what that role entails and then ensure the bot is equipped to execute.

Internally, companies must effectively plan and map their bot’s content and then make sure that externally, customers understand what the chatbot can do – especially if it has limited functionality. A bot should introduce itself and give customers a rundown of its functions so customers understand its capabilities. By giving users clear instructions on how to interact with a bot, companies can keep their customers on track and asking appropriate questions. 

If companies clearly communicate what a bot is capable of and equip it accordingly, escalation to a human agent is needed less frequently, leaving agents available to handle more complicated queries that require a human touch.

Striking the balance between bots and human agents

Even with a well-defined scope, bots can’t stand in for a human in every scenario, and inevitably a chatbot will be asked to do something beyond its capabilities. A primary reason why customers find chatbots to be barriers – rather than gateways – to easy communication is a lack of clear and effective escalation from chatbot to human agent.

We’ve all experienced an annoying phone menu that didn’t offer the option we were looking for and found ourselves repeating the phrase “speak with a human!” until at long last, we were connected with an operator who could help us in a way the automated system could not.

But solving this problem effectively isn’t as simple as including a “chat with an agent” option. While that might seem like an easy fix, it will likely result in too many chats escalating to agents and compromise the goal of automating a meaningful portion of frontline customer service.

The unpredictability of customer interactions makes it impossible to design a frustration-proof bot, but allowing customers to chat with an agent whenever they want isn’t the answer. Chatbot developers need to give brands the tools they need to add a layer of intelligence to the bot-agent relationship.

Bots need to know when to seek help from a human agent – for instance when a customer starts to get frustrated (detectable via sentiment analysis) or when a conversation starts to veer into uncharted territory (e.g. repeated attempts at asking the same question).

Once agents are notified, they can keep tabs on the conversation and take it over if necessary. This way, brands can have confidence that important conversations are routed to agents, and those that aren’t are being handled comfortably by the bot. 

Chatbots have a bad reputation due to poor design and lack of intelligent escalation, not because the technology doesn’t work. If companies get these aspects of chatbots right, they can prevent backlash against their bot. Scoping bots correctly and implementing an escalation process that provides a positive customer experience will help brands avoid frustrating customers while maximising the ROI on their chatbot investment – and those are outcomes that help everyone win.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 7, 2019
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3min364

In an age where marketers look to enhance and differentiate their digital offering, 68 percent of consumers are crying out for brands to keep their experience simple, while 92 percent want mere convenience, a new report has shown.

Experiences have become too complex in a multi-channel, multi-device world, consumers argue, with 47 percent admitting they struggle to find what they want on a brand website, and 57 percent finding it hard to interact with brands online altogether.

In fact, the majority (56 percent) of consumers feel brands are behind the times with how they interact with customers online, and 70 percent notice that the brands they buy from provide a different or inconsistent experience across different channels.

These are the UK findings from Acquia’s inaugural annual report entitled Closing the CX Gap: Customer Experience Trends Report 2019, which assesses the state of Customer Experience.

Sylvia Jensen, VP of EMEA marketing at Acquia said: “Look at Uber, Deliveroo, Netflix and Instagram – these companies create amazing digital experiences, and at the core of all of them is simplicity and convenience.

“But with other organisations, marketers are often guilty of passing on their martech disfunction on to their customers when they look to expand and integrate new channels and technologies. Marketers must therefore keep ease and convenience front of mind when designing and planning new experiences. It’s not easy to integrate martech seamlessly, but if it’s done poorly, customers will just go elsewhere.”

According to the same report, 71 percent of consumers abandon a brand for a competitor if the online experience is poor, and 76 percent of consumers would switch brands after the first bad experience alone.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 18, 2018
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2min624

The 2019 UK Digital Experience Awards is now open for entries, as the countdown gets underway to the finals which will be held in London.

Now in its fifth year, the awards celebrate the ways cutting edge digital tech is used to enhance Customer Experience. The event provides a platform for brands, organisations, and individuals to showcase the digital innovations which have bolstered their customer-centric culture.

Taking place on July 12 at London’s Park Plaza Riverbank, the awards finals also provide a unique opportunity to share best practice and network with a multitude of cross-sector organisations.

Hosted by Awards International, the awards are judged by an independent panel of professionals through both a written entry and a live presentation on the day of the finals, with many of the presentations being open to spectators.

Back as Judging Chairman for 2019 is Paul Blunden, the CEO of UX research and design experts Usability 24/7.

The scoring criteria is endorsed by Cranfield School of Management, and every finalist receives a post-event feedback report. The UKDXAs – which is sponsored by children’s charity Barnardo’s – has been accredited with the prestigious Gold Awards Trust Mark from the Independent Awards Standards Council.

Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “To win or be shortlisted at the UKDXA is a great honour that identifies you as superior in your industry. This year’s awards are taking place against a backdrop of rapidly growing DX, where digital innovation is changing the Customer Experience landscape in so many exciting ways.

“Excitement is high about what our finalists will bring to the event, and competition is likely to be fierce.”

Entrants can take advantage of an Early Bird offer, which runs until February 22. Click here for further details.

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 17, 2018
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2min481

Adobe has announced a new President of the firm’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) operations. 

Paul Robson joins directly from his role as President for Adobe of Asia Pacific (APAC) and has a wealth of experience in leading business and digital transformations at executive and operational levels across multiple regions and sectors.

Paul joined Adobe in 2011 and under his leadership, Adobe APAC has undergone significant growth and further expanded into new markets, including India and China. Paul also established and built APAC’s Digital Experience businesses, which contributed to total global Adobe Experience Cloud revenue of $2.44 billion in FY2018, representing 20 percent year-over-year growth. Prior to Adobe, Paul was Vice President and General Manager for HP’s Networking Division across Asia Pacific and Japan.

Adobe Executive Vice President of worldwide field operations, Matt Thompson, said: “As President of APAC, Paul has done a phenomenal job setting and driving our strategy in this important market. I am confident he will make a significant impact on our business in EMEA.”

Garrett Ilg, who has been with Adobe more than ten years in leadership roles and was most recently the President of Adobe EMEA, will return to the US to take on an executive position within Adobe’s worldwide field operations.

This announcement follows Adobe’s release of its Q4 and FY18 earnings. In fiscal year 2018, Adobe achieved record annual revenue of $9.03 billion, which represents 24 percent year-over-year growth.


Julian FisherJulian FisherDecember 12, 2018
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7min641

The current division of the high street and online shopping experience is compelling customers to decide between making a purchase online or offline.

This siloed approach to sales might not be the best way for retailers to go about things owing largely to the high street’s instrumental role in driving online sales.

For a large number of retailers, their high street stores are beginning to act as a showroom to which a customer visits to experience a product. Later, this then enables them to make a decision as to whether they go back to the store to purchase the item or go online to gather more information and view a wider product range. With the high street store playing such a pivotal role in online sales, isn’t it time retailers merged the two channels to their benefit and that of their customers?

An integrated approach

There has long been the concept that online and offline retailers must compete against one another for business, even if they are, in fact, part of the same company. By pitting the two against each other, the high street has long fallen short and struggled to keep up with online retailers and the merits of high street stores have been forgotten.

Yet, while online retailers continue to see increased growth, there are several aspects of the retail experience that can only be provided by bricks-and-mortar stores, such as smelling, touching or tasting items. Therefore, with the majority of retailers in possession of both a high street and online presence, it is in their best interest to merge the two so online and offline activities aren’t viewed as disparate entities challenging one and another.

In 2019, this is something we will begin to see as retailers begin to use their online platforms as a tool to encourage consumers to try and buy instore. By using online mechanisms, stores can provide all the benefits of online, namely information which in itself provides the shopper with ‘confidence’, together with all the advantages of a high street store – the means to sample, try and experience the product.

Through the provision of digital information whether fixed via a podium and a large touchscreen monitor or an app which can be accessed on a customer’s mobile phone, the ability to learn what they need to make the purchase there and then.

However, should they decide not to purchase the item from the store and later, say from home, go to the store’s website, I would argue that the sale should still be attributed to the physical store. It is my view, shared by many store managers, unsurprisingly, that sales should be assigned to the place where the customer made their initial enquiry.

And if this is not achieved through programming, customers can be asked the question ‘where did you first see the product?’. For example, if a customer goes into a store to enquire about and try on some items, but then uses the retailer’s website to make the final purchase, the sale should ‘belong’ to the store. This is owing to the fact that it is where the purchase originated and where the necessary information needed to influence the decision was derived.

Again, it is only my view, but retailers must start to ask questions where the business came from, where the customer saw the product and where they got the information and inspiration from to buy it in order to correctly identify the impact bricks-and-mortar stores have on online sales. I think they will be astonished by the results.

What does 2019 have in store? (pun intended)

Within the next two years, we will begin to see more and more companies exploiting the fact that they are a merged business. As the online and offline shopping experience become unified, high street retailers will use their stores to focus on creating better shopping experiences and opportunities for the consumer, so that when they do come to the store, a larger percentage will buy rather than just browse.

This can be achieved largely through the implementation of new technology to provide product information and the use of AI to offer customers a more personalised shopping experience. With this change in strategy, online and offline will be seen as one and the same, and whether consumers buy in the store or through the retailer’s online presence will make no difference.

In my opinion, the phrase “the death of the high street” will also cease to be used as online and offline stop competing against each other. Instead, we will talk about an “adjustment of the high street” as it adapts to the changing ways in which society shops and retailers take a more holistic approach. With the two channels no longer vying for the same sales, high street stores will be able to focus on getting customers back into the store by improving the customer experience and thereby increasing sales, whether they are made instore or via their online platforms.


Neil McIlroyNeil McIlroyNovember 28, 2018
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9min703

Can we foresee a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) recommends who people should have children with, where they should live, and what their next job should be?

This is not the fantasy of an over-stimulated script-writer. AI, fuelled by ever more powerful algorithms, is capable of constantly updating its knowledge of individual consumers’ patterns of behaviour, private lives, hobbies, likes, and dislikes.

Using such information and cross-referencing it with masses of other demographic data it has the predictive capacity to make recommendations with high degrees of confidence. After all, dating apps and websites use algorithms to match their customers as effectively as possible or to give them advice on how they can improve their chances of finding the perfect partner.

In reality, few citizens want their private lives governed by algorithms, however sensitive. But in the decisions they make as consumers about what to buy or where to go on holiday, AI (an umbrella term that includes natural language processing and machine learning) is already a force to be reckoned with and is set to become far more influential.

Analysts at Gartner predict that 20 percent of citizens in developed nations will use artificial intelligence assistants to help them with an array of everyday, operational tasks by the year 2020. Millions of consumers are already enjoying the benefits of using voice-activated devices. In the UK, Ofcom reports that 13 percent of households use an AI-driven smart speaker such as Amazon Alexa.

The growth of consumer-facing AI solutions is putting greater power in the hands of the customer contemplating the purchase of goods and services. He or she can interrogate the solution and rapidly get a comprehensive picture of what is available, and where and what other consumers think.

Consumer-facing businesses will have to respond. They will have to optimise their entire operations by integrating data such as internal sales and customer records, competitive intelligence, trend analysis and social media preferences. Instead of keeping all the data in separate departmental pools, they will need to bring it all together in a data lake where it can be analysed. Then they can create customer profiles or personas that bring them closer to customers before providing hyper-personalised services, recommendations and updates that are intensely relevant to what individual consumers want.

Is word of mouth changing?

One important source of insight is often overlooked, which is customer sentiment. Every day millions of customers leave opinions about services and products that offer a wealth of insights to fellow consumers. That covers almost every aspect of buying, receiving and using electrical goods, clothing or car parts, or the quality of service provided by legal firms or estate agents. Smart, AI-powered, highly agile customer insight platforms are giving consumers rapid access to the accumulated wisdom of thousands of real fellow-customers.

AI is able to filter out the particular aspect of the product or service that most interests them or to provide an accurate insight into sentiment about a product or service. This is a very potent consumer tool. Research among 2,000 UK consumers by Feefo conducted this year found that 94 percent of respondents now turn to online reviews before buying products or services.

Consumers can get the information they want more quickly than ever

AI will rapidly analyse the information to keep consumers informed in real time. Take a national double-glazing company, as one example. Customers in Bristol may suddenly have started experiencing difficulty obtaining quotes or find installation is shoddy, whereas customers of the business elsewhere in the country are happy.  If you live in Bristol that information is likely to be critical to your choice of supplier.

Equally, two retailers selling the same model of washing machine may generate very different levels of satisfaction in their respective sets of customers. Consumers can quickly drill down and find if these problems are serious enough to affect whether they go ahead and buy a new appliance with a specific retailer. Gone are the days of relying simply on word-of-mouth.

In the travel industry, AI is giving consumers greater levels of insight that they use before deciding on a significant purchase. Smart insight platforms give the millions of consumers contemplating a weekend away or a month in the Maldives, the ability to extract key information from thousands of reviews about any aspect of a holiday, from whether a particular hotel is suitable for their age group or a villa genuinely has disabled access. The power is at the fingertips of the consumer.

Transforming the service sector

The same forces are at work in the service sector. Smart insight platforms provide job-seekers with accurate and up-to-the-minute feedback on how agencies and individual recruitment consultants perform. Candidates can see for themselves whether an agency is suited to their needs, relying on information that comes from real clients and is on a reputable platform operating nationally across multiple industries. They are more likely to put their faith in such information than in the opinions of a limited number of relatives and friends.

In myriad ways, AI will hand power back to the consumer, enabling them to make smarter decisions more quickly than ever. To respond, any customer-facing business will need the ability to detect trends in sentiment and how they relate to specific aspects of their products or services. Research has found that while 78 percent of businesses monitor the “voice of the consumer”, less than a quarter feel they have access to the insights they need to transform their organisation.

That must change. All businesses and professional services organisations need to take customer insight more seriously and use AI-powered platforms to obtain intelligence about their customers that will give them a major competitive advantage. From supply chain managers to online helpdesks and store assistants, access to this information in real time allows everyone to meet the requirements of a much more demanding market of consumers using AI to shape their decisions.


Antony EdwardsAntony EdwardsNovember 8, 2018
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6min806

Today, customer data, knowledge, and insights are more valuable and of more strategic importance than ever before.

Customers have more options, greater access to pricing information, and greater means to share their experiences with others, both good and bad, yielding more power, choice, and influence than ever before.

Companies that succeed in this environment are those that become obsessed with understanding their customers – Amazon is a wonderful example. It goes to great lengths to exceed customer expectations by leveraging information and insights and can identify cohorts of users such as iPhone users vs Android through to different locations and usage patterns. It uses this information to test, compare, contrast and respond accordingly and is the literal opposite of a ‘one-size fits all’ model.

The trouble with customers

While a trailblazer, Amazon is not alone. There are other companies that are masters at turning data into insights, and making decisions and changes in faster feedback cycles – brands like Netflix, Coca-Cola and adidas. In other words, they find out what’s working and what isn’t and adjust appropriately at lighting speed.

The trouble is, retaining customers is harder than ever in the age of dying brand loyalty. With so much competition in the modern market, consumers can always find a brand that delivers the same products and services – just cheaper and faster. It is also becoming harder and harder to create genuinely positive experiences for customers when the cost to serve them is high.

Strides in mobile technology mean marketers are facing more and more challenges as dissatisfaction with a product or service can be voiced instantly. But, as we know, social media is anything but one-sided. While consumers have high expectations from businesses attempting to engage with them on social channels, the flip-side is that brands have the opportunity to reach millions of potential customers, many of whom may have once been out of their grasp.

Trial and error

A vast as it is, social isn’t the communication channel of choice for the world. Some customers prefer to communicate by email and phone, though both have flaws with long wait times, spam low open rates and customers often being transferred from department to department. This is especially true at the point of purchase. Today, people don’t believe they have bought something until they get the confirmation email from the store. Good ones come through instantly, bad ones send in two hours.

In fact, this element of the transaction is constantly under review as it is perceived as critical to the post-sales experience. However, the moment a retailer sends an email or text, they’re trying to link one session to another. This has greater likelihood of failure as customers expect good experiences and efficient communication by means they already use.

The juxtaposition here being that businesses need to test each part of the sales process, even after the point of sale, and experiment with the testing teams to ensure that the website and processes survive this jump from one channel to another. This in itself is part of a constant experiment, like changing homepage or the number of products shown within a search term, to continually test and improve the customer experience.

Keep up!

Building customer trust and loyalty is vital for businesses that want to succeed. With so many options out there, consumers won’t shop with or stay with a business that doesn’t make them feel valued or where they have lingering concerns about privacy and security.

Any business facing issues with customer retention should look at different personas and test for them and have a view across the end-to-end user experience. It should be asking itself “How can I be more Amazon?”. If traditional companies can innovate digitally and offer some element of self-service, instant responses and flexibility to existing customers that want it, they’ve got a better chance of keeping up with a new digital world and retaining customers who might otherwise shift to the dark side.

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 8, 2018
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3min625

While online sales continue to grow, people still find the digital shopping experience lacking, with four-in-ten consumers saying they’re unable to differentiate between one online brand and another, research has found.

According to a survey of over 1,500 UK consumers by e-commerce search and discovery firm EmpathyBroker, many believe retailers struggle to build an authentic digital brand identity, with 46 percent of respondents saying retailers still have more of a brand personality in-store than online. What’s more, 48 percent of consumers felt that online shopping experiences are often more impersonal than when they shop in-store.

EmpathyBroker founder Angel Maldonado said: “For online retailers, the pressure is on. Differentiating in the sea of brand websites and marketplaces is more difficult than ever, which is why it’s perhaps unsurprising that 23 percent of the shoppers surveyed said they didn’t have a favourite brand to shop with online.

“Creating a connection with a consumer relies on more than just grabbing their attention with product discounts or special offers. It’s about making each person feel like they’re getting a unique, tailored and joyful shopping experience. Brands that make consumers feel special, that really understand and get their customers are able to create an effortless and memorable online experience that leaves shoppers fulfilled, happy and loyal.”

Black Friday and Christmas are just around the corner, and the survey shows that 65 percent of UK consumers said they were more likely to shop online at Christmas than any other period; 40 percent during the summer sales; and 39 percent while hunting for bargains on Black Friday. Mother’s Day (23 percent) and Valentine’s Day (18 percent) were also special dates that demonstrated a higher volume of people turning online.

The ease of finding the products they were looking for (55 percent) was cited at the most important aspect of an online experience with good product images (52 percent) and a nicely designed and displayed website (34 percent) coming in second and third respectively. Conversely, innovation came in last with only five percent of consumers valuing it.

 




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