The future of video is short

Back in 2011 we discussed how the use of online video was booming. Early adopters of the medium, particularly in ecommerce, were starting to reap the rewards of using it as part of their brand and content strategies.

The intervening years have done nothing to dent the power and reach of online video and the trends we noted at the time have continued apace. But a pesky little thing called social media has dramatically altered the face of digital content in recent years. Just when brands were getting their heads around using video to engage customers and increase conversions, along comes the concept of shareable, ‘social’ content. It’s no longer enough to put your heavily produced million pound TV advert onto YouTube and expect it to ‘go viral’ (unless you’re John Lewis of course), or add your corporate-comms produced 20-minute long history of the company video to Facebook, sit back and wait for the ‘likes’ to drip in.

Clever brands need to look at where their customers are playing and engage with them there, with the content they want to consume. Recent research from Forrester[1] has found that “emerging short-form social video platforms, such as Instagram and Vine, have a combined global reach closing in on 200 million users and growing quickly,”, and “apps with short-form video functionality are one of the next places into which we can expect to see brands making forays.”

For brands still mired in traditional marketing techniques, short-form video has its pitfalls. Creating an account on either Instagram or Vine isn’t enough.

In the research referenced above, Forrester’s James McDavid gives some sage advice for those wishing to give short-form video a go:

  • Keep content snappy and on brand
  • Build a consumer path for continuous engagement
  • Make use of the built-in social functionality to facilitate two-way communication

In other words, keep it simple and utilise the power of these emerging platforms rather than trying to reinvent the wheel or be overly clever. Brands need to think about what their customers want and need, not what they want to tell them. There’s so much choice out there people will soon abandon ship if they’re not being offered some value. And marketers must also remember these are social channels, which means they need to be sociable…

The idea of encapsulating brand messaging, business needs, customer needs and satisfying your CEO in 15 seconds of video may be terrifying for some. But pre-2006 who’d have thought some brands would be making great strides with brand engagement in less than 140 characters or less? Twitter is a fine example of using short form content for brand and customer engagement.

We’re likely to see some great content, and some poor content on channels like Instagram and Vine over the next few years as brands take their first tentative steps into the short-form world. It’s likely the more savvy marketers will look into how short-form videos can become more interactive and how brand communications can be augmented with user generated content to provide a completely immersive experience for the customer.

If you’d like help with content strategy or management, then please Contact Us now.


[1] Delivering Brand Engagement With Short-Form Social Videos,Forrester Research, Inc., September 2013. By James McDavid, with Luca S Paderni and Emily Kwan.

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Salmon wins worldwide IBM Beacon Award

We are delighted to announce that Salmon has won the 2014 worldwide IBM Beacon Award for Outstanding Smarter Commerce Solution.  Presented to us at the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in Las Vegas this week for delivering exceptional solutions that drive business value and transform the way our clients do business.

Selected by leading industry influencers and IBM executives from among hundreds of nominations, IBM’s Beacon Awards recognise IBM Business Partners who have demonstrated business excellence in delivering IBM-based solutions resulting in client transformation and business growth.

Neil Stewart, CEO at Salmon said, “As a recipient of this distinguished award, Salmon has clearly set itself apart for delivering innovative business solutions and client satisfaction.  This achievement recognises our efforts to deliver commerce services and solutions that help our clients increase sales and deliver personalised user experiences via today’s digital channels.” Stewart continued, “In 2014 we will continue to focus on helping our clients develop their commerce strategies, delivering world-class commerce platforms that underpin their business and support their digital transformation.”

Award Photo DSC_0749

Find the full press release here

For more information about the IBM Beacon Awards, including information about winners and finalists, please click here.

 

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It’s time for brands to establish their own ecommerce sites in China

As China celebrate the new year, we look at the opportunity for global brands to launch their own B2C ecommerce sites in China. Happy New Year !

There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.” It’s a useful reminder for brands that are reviewing the burgeoning Chinese ecommerce market and considering their next move. There’s been much conjecture about both the pitfalls and merits of ecommerce in China. Brands have been able to dip their toes in the marketplace from afar, assessing ecommerce viability via established commerce platforms and online marketplaces such as Taobao, Pai Pai and Tmall. Yet to truly understand the Chinese consumer and the digital economy it’s time for brands to go further. As the proverb suggests, it’s imperative that brands “do” business in China to genuinely “understand” ecommerce in China. As such, it is time that leading brands launch their own B2C ecommerce sites.

Brands in China are still witnessing an ecommerce marketplace in its infancy. But the infant is big and growing fast. China ended 2012 with 242 million online shoppers, a year-on-year increase of almost 25 percent, according to China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a government source. In other words, China’s ecommerce audience is larger than the population of almost every other country, but it’s less than one-fifth of China’s population of over 1.3 billion.

These are enticing numbers. However, it’s important to understand that this isn’t simply a gold rush where every brand will be successful due to a huge population and hockey stick shaped ecommerce adoption rates. A backdrop of complex cultural, political and geographic factors requires understanding. Brands can’t hope to expand (or enter) the Chinese e-commerce market without giving serious consideration to their strategy, technical infrastructure and the means by which they aim to execute effectively locally.

Beyond the hype and statistics that surround ecommerce in China, how should brands begin to exploit the ecommerce opportunity in China? Here are my tips aimed for brands looking to successfully deliver their own direct ecommerce presence in China.

1.     Be aware that existing ecommerce “rules” most likely won’t apply.

Getting the right products to the right customers at the right time and for the right price is not peculiar to ecommerce in China. But ecommerce is different in China. Around 50 percent of the country’s population lives in rural areas. It will take many years and several transitions for the economy to become consumer-led and for the income gap between rich and poor to shrink significantly. Because the ecommerce landscape is changing so rapidly in China, be super analytical in your e-commerce operations straight away. Start gathering and acting on consumer data immediately.

2.     Build trust.

Against a backdrop of fake products, fake stores and replica labels there is widespread mistrust and a fear of counterfeiting and fraud. This is in contrast to a general appetite and appreciation for prestige brands. Therefore, develop a channel strategy that embraces China’s existing and popular commerce platforms, even as you develop your own direct presence. Use every conceivable means and sales channel to build trust for your brand with potential buyers.

3.     Deliver first-class service.

Chinese mainland middle-class consumers are concerned with product and service quality rather than prices, according to a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Implement interactive live help functions and integrate contact center tools with your ecommerce platform and operations from day one. Be certain to ensure that your customer services span browse, payment, shipping and post-sales support.

4.     Organize marketing, sales and logistics to reach the full market.

It’s estimated that 75 percent of China’s affluent middle class lives in so-called lower tier, smaller cities. These are places that most people outside of China haven’t heard of, but whose populations are large. There are over 175 cities in China with more than one million people. Often residents cannot gain access to the brands they crave, other than via the Internet; so they increasingly shop online. And they expect fast delivery of goods. So get your mix of logistic and fulfillment partnerships spot on, including cross-border delivery networks and local delivery partners.

5.     While thinking globally, act locally. Maximize cultural integration.

To reach a global audience, many brands are using Chinese spokespersons in their wider marketing communications; Nike’s sponsorship of champion hurdler Liu Xiang being an obvious example. But brands should ensure their technology decisions support local culture and local buying behavior as well. For instance, payment preferences are very different, with Alipay, Union Pay and also cash-on-delivery prevalent. Additionally, locate sites inside the China firewall for access and performance benefits. Lean on local service providers that have access to China’s e-commerce ecosystem and have them ensure you have the appropriate legal authorization and licensing in place. Be aware of China’s content and filtering regulations too.

6.     Develop a differentiated customer experience.

Tailor the ecommerce experience for Chinese shoppers. Adoption of multichannel and cross-channel shopping is low compared to the US and Europe, so innovative experiences should be built around mobile and social. Brands in China are experiencing rapid mobile and social ecommerce growth trajectories. China still has a relatively poor Internet infrastructure and both filtering and monitoring are widespread. Brands should seek service providers with a strong blend of technology specialists, online traders and online marketing experts.

First published in BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands 2014

BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands

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Salmon enhance Halfords customer experience with new digital platform

Salmon teams have been pedaling fast to complete the latest overhaul to Halfords existing website, which marks the next phase in the leading retailer’s strategy to drive growth online and to its portfolio of more than 460 stores nationwide.

Halfords new website

The redesign further enhances the customer experience and has been deployed across the .com and .ie websites, plus mobile and tablet optimised sites, in less than six months.

Offering 30,000 product lines, the website holds Halfords’ most comprehensive range, directs many customers into stores for service delivery and captures information used across the business.

Halfords Digital Director, Clive West said:  Our new website represents a real commitment to Halfords online offer.  More and more of our customers want to use the web as part of their purchasing trip with us.  We’ve consulted extensively with them and believe the improvements we’ve made will increase the ease and enjoyment of shopping with Halfords.com

Neil Stewart, CEO at Salmon said: “With a very tight deadline for this project, the Salmon and Halfords team have delivered a huge amount of work in a short space of time.  This has only been possible due to our innovative ways of working and the team’s commitment to delivering for the client.  I am pleased to say that this has allowed us to deliver the new site on-time, on-budget and Halfords to achieve their business objectives.”

So what’s new, and leading to a much happier shopper experience?

 

Halfords.com now features:

  • Inspirational visuals
  • A no-fuss layout and easier navigation, simplified into four key pillars: Cycling; Motoring; SatNav and Audio; Camping and Touring, with a different shopping experience across all four
  • A new streamlined checkout with fifty per cent less checkout steps
  • Integration with Google Maps
  • More products, less text and only the key features while shopping
  • A much more friendly, engaging and informative “voice”, reflected in text alerts and emails, 4,500 product description and 50 advice articles have been rewritten
  • 170 product videos and 50 new How To videos have been added and optimised for tablet viewing
  • Simplified the customer proposition so that ALL orders placed online for collection at one of Halfords stores can be paid for in-store, instead of only some of them, combining products which are stocked in-store with items coming from the distribution centre or courier deliveries

The full press release can be found here  and details of Salmon’s other work with Halfords can be found here.

Some other interesting facts about Halfords:

Online Halfords product range is in total around three times larger than their superstores with around 10,000 product lines in stores, increasing to around 30,000 lines online.

Halfords latest Half Yearly Profits, show Pre-tax profits rose 5.2% to £44.6m for the six months to 27 September, with total sales up 7.7% to £490.6m. Online Retail revenues grew by 16.9% and represented 11.5% of total Retail sales (H1 FY13: 10.5%).  A consistent 88% of online orders were collected in store during the period. More here

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Salmon ranked third in The Drum’s Digital Census Financial Poll 2013

This year’s Digital Census, published by The Drum, demonstrates a positive picture of UK agency performance. Salmon continue to perform very well, ranking third overall, out of 32 agencies classified as having over 100 staff in the large financial poll, behind DigitasLBI and Sapient Nitro.  Salmon’s digital fee income* of £34,208.000, and digital fee growth of £7.8m, sees us rise up four places on 2012, when we ranked in seventh place.  Salmon’s 2013 digital fee income per head comes out at £108.943 ranking Salmon 8th and suggesting we are also one of the most efficient agencies in the UK.

The Drum Digital 100 financial survey June 2013 financial poll

Here are some of the other interesting findings:

32 digital agencies with over 100 digital staff had a combined fee income of £699m and an average fee income of £21.9m.

Overall, out of the 172 agencies present in the financial poll, 151 (88 per cent) expressed positive growth – confirming that the industry continues to grow at an exponential rate.

The 172 agencies analysed for their financial performance grew by a total of £202m and although the >100 staff size group claims the majority of digital fee income and fee income growth, the 51-100 digital staff and 1-50 categories also showed positive trends overall.

Total fee income of the 172 agencies researched was a staggering £1.086bn, up from approximately £900m in the previous financial period, providing a final growth figure of approximately £186m.

For more information on the Census or to find report pricing and download the full report go to. http://bit.ly/1fC37Yb

* The Drum’s financial polls are ranked on four metrics:

Digital fee income: Amount of income an agency retains for providing digital services, minus pass through costs.

Digital fee income growth: The growth between the two financial period figures.

Digital fee income percentage growth: The growth in percentage terms between the two financial period figures.

Digital fee income per head: Fee income divided by digital staff headcount.

 

 

 

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5 tips for website performance testing

Key performance indicatorsAs we approach the busiest trading period for retailers, I caught up with two of our performance specialists and asked them for some tips for eCommerce website owners embarking on performance testing.

1. Start measuring your site’s performance

If you’re not already doing this then start measuring your website performance.  You can’t fix what you can’t quantify, so this is an important first step. The ideal is to understand what real-life site visitors are experiencing, rather than some approximation of this, so we’re interested to see the development of real user monitoring tools which attempt to measure this.

2. Test mobile and tablet performance

For 2013, look especially closely at site performance on mobile and tablets. Make sure that your testing includes the full range of components used by these devices, for example, embedded web browser engines and APIs that link to back-end or third-party services.

3. Test based on business scenarios

Its important to test and tune a website based on this year’s likely business scenarios, not last year’s.  While some of the cloud-based performance testing services may be attractively priced, double-check that they will test likely scenarios and not just the Home Page. eCommerce sites are complex, so the testing needs to reflect this. Develop scenarios that aim to mirror real customer behaviour and are based on your marketing plans and technology trends.  For example, are you running any new promotions that will cause a hot-spot on a particular page, category or product ?

4.  Test new functionality

What new features, functionality, integration points or services have been added since last peak? Make sure these are covered in your test scenarios.

5. Think end-to-end

Test end-to-end to check that all systems involved in the customer journey are able to cope with the likely volumes and patterms of usage, not just the actual website.

For more details on how to ensure tip-top website performance during this year’s holiday and Christmas season, check out Top tips for website performance.

If you’d like to find out how Salmon can help get your website in tip-top shape for peak season 2013 and beyond, there’s more information on our Performance Optimisation Services here or you can Contact Us.

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DFS transforms its business with new multichannel platform and websites from Salmon

stylefinder

Customers are now receiving a seamless integrated journey from inspiration to purchase.  DFS carried out extensive research to understand how consumers wanted to use the online environment to help them find their perfect sofa.  Insights showed that customers increasingly seek inspiration, gather research and compare designs, colours and value online, before they visit a DFS store.  And yet, just as when people purchase a car, they rarely commit to buy until they’ve sat in the front seat – or in DFS’s case on the sofa.

Analytics also showed that the increase in consumers use of tablets as they search for a new sofa, for example, is increasing at a tremendous rate, showing a massive increase from 10% to greater than 30% in website traffic in the last 6 months, a figure likely to rise as tablets grow in popularity.

DFS responded with a significant investment in digital transformation to put the customer right at the heart of its business. Salmon implemented IBM WebSphere Commerce to be the foundation of DFS’s sales and marketing operation and to support all its customer touch points including tablet, PC, web, mobile, telephone sales and stores.

Russell Harte, Head of Multichannel Development & Delivery at DFS said, “We now have a world class platform underpinning our business and supporting our digital transformation.  It contains all our product details, customer information and orders and is supporting our multichannel operation.  Our customers are now able to interact with us through whatever channel they choose, which is leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty and will ultimately drive DFS sales.”  Read more here

 

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GAME prepare for biggest trading year ever with help from Salmon

GAME homepg 428x241Salmon, has helped GAME.co.uk, the UK’s leading games specialist, prepare for what is anticipated to be the retailer’s biggest trading year ever.

In 2012 Salmon successfully migrated Gamestation’s online platform to GAME.co.uk, following GAME Retail Ltd’s decision to provide their customers with one unified brand.  Since then Salmon have delivered a number of enhancements to GAME’s omni-channel strategy and are currently carrying out extensive performance testing and upgrading software to equip them for a record-breaking peak period.

Andrew Grainger, GAME’s Chief Technology Officer, commented, “With two new consoles, the Xbox One and PS4, and some stunning new games being released before Christmas we expect our website will come under an exceptionally heavy workload.  Preparing now will ensure customers continue to receive a positive experience through both the website and mobile site.”

Using WebSphere Commerce’s Extended Sites functionality, Salmon have developed and enhanced GAME’s multichannel offering providing customers with a seamless, personalised experience whether on the web, in store or on mobile.

Andrew Grainger, GAME’s Chief Technology Officer, continued, ‘As an omni-channel games specialist, it is important for us to continue to deliver excellence and value for gamers across all our channels. Salmon has helped our online proposition stay strong and with the collaboration, we look forward to continuing to provide access to the best range of games and products, growing our digital market share and delivering excellence to gamers.’

Neil Stewart, CEO at Salmon, said, ‘The GAME brand has proven strong through recent changes. It’s been a pleasure working with GAME since the original WebSphere Commerce multichannel platform delivery in 2011, executing the Gamestation migration and providing consulting support for trading initiatives.  We’re pleased to see that our trading and usability services have helped GAME increase online sales.”  Read the full press release here.

 

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Lack of online integration holding back international revenues for UK B2B organisations

According to newly released research jointly commissioned by Master Data Management company Stibo Systems and ourselves, B2B organisations are struggling to extend their online footprint abroad, despite success selling through existing channels.

The research findings revealed that 72 per cent of UK B2B organisations sell internationally, but only 40 per cent were doing so online. The same research revealed that 67 per cent of UK B2B organisations already had online offerings, highlighting that, though many businesses have invested in online, they had not yet taken the step of extending it overseas.

The research, commissioned in order to explore the latest trends in ecommerce for business-facing organisations, questioned 100 senior UK decision-makers in manufacturing and wholesale companies about the current stage in their adoption of ecommerce. Part of this research was to find out how ecommerce operations were expanding internationally, and what challenges businesses faced in implementing successful ecommerce strategies.

The findings provided an insight into some of the challenges B2B organisations in the UK face when operating internationally. The most significant challenge was the cost of service to trade, which 87 per cent of respondents listed as the problem encountered most often. Trading overseas for any business has significant cost implications ranging from logistics, a concern to 49 per cent of businesses, to lack of market knowledge at 58 per cent.

Yet the development and tailoring of an international ecommerce offering that fits into an existing UK solution can significantly reduce the costs of doing overseas business and serve as a business growth opportunity.

Commenting on the report, Simon Walker, director, ecommerce innovation at Stibo Systems, said “British businesses are innovative and dynamic, as this research shows, and have expanded considerably overseas in recent years. However, this research has highlighted how this expansion is being stifled by the cost of doing business. By channelling the local market and cultural knowledge developed by selling through existing channels into online operations, the cost barriers to international expansion can be significantly reduced. By utilising centralised tools such as Master Data Management as part of a business’s ecommerce infrastructure at home, it can in turn power online offerings abroad, significantly reducing the costs of operating overseas.”

Craig Harper-Ashton, head of multichannel at Salmon, added “Growing ecommerce offerings abroad should be a key consideration for any B2B organisations looking for growth. As this research shows, the main barrier to growth internationally is the cost of doing business, which can be immediately reduced by selling online. Optimising sites for international markets and utilising existing expertise gained in the market, is a simple way for UK businesses to expand their international footprint, driving growth.”

Whitepaper and infographic

Further information on the research can be found in the form of a whitepaper and an infographic

Methodology

The survey was conducted by Coleman Parkes Research in February 2013. The sample consisted of 100 senior business decision makers in charge of ecommerce development and delivery for a mix of large manufacturers and wholesalers (1,000+ employees) that either currently have an ecommerce operation or are planning to implement one. All interviewers abided by the MRS code of conduct.

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The 6 Es of Everywhere Commerce for retailers, brands and B2B businesses

  1. Execution Now that everyone agrees that eCommerce is strategic, executing at speed is the major challenge for large businesses. An agile approach will help deliver business benefits quickly, while remaining open to future change.
  2. Easiness Make it easy for all shoppers to shop with you, anytime, anywhere, any device.
  3. Excellence Customer experience excellence is highly correlated with improved customer loyalty, and better financial performance. Structure the business to deliver this efficiently and consistently.
  4. Experience Bringing the in-store experience online can help retailers offer a differentiated proposition. Brand owners can use digital channels to create emotionally engaging experiences for their end consumers (and collect valuable data) even when the purchase transaction is completed elsewhere.
  5. Emergence An emergent approach to strategy will help keep you aware of evolving trends and technologies. Innovative ideas can come from anywhere inside or outside the company and an emergent approach allows these to be incorporated in the company strategy.
  6. Exploitation Be careful not to introduce new technology for its own sake. Focus first on understanding customer behaviour and then how technology can enhance this.  Exploit existing technology before buying new.

If you missed the previous Upstream post, ‘eCommerce becomes Everywhere Commerce. Brands face stark choice: adapt or die’, you can read it here.

First published in BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands in 2013

BrandZ Top 100 2013

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