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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Digital eCommerce 2019

2019 will be an exciting time for eCommerce marketing. Customers have awesome devices (i.e. smartphones) in their hands, and marketers have a lot of wide set of marketing technology available. The key in 2018 will be bringing these two things together in order to both make shopping more efficient and your virtual cash register ring more often.
In terms of time-saving, behind-the-screen technology, nothing holds more promise for 2018 than artificial intelligence (AI). During the past few years users have spent way too much time tapping and swiping their devices in heads-down mode. With the advent of AI algorithms from operating system providers and app builders these high-touch interactions simply aren’t always necessary. Users can ‘request it and forget it’ - that is, either verbalize a query or enter it via an old-fashioned Web form - then just wait a few minutes, or perhaps even a few hours, to see the optimal answer. Increasing use of these intelligent agents will mean people will spend much less time completing common, iterative tasks, and more time interacting in the real world.
On the MarTech side, 2018 will also see more investment in concierge-like features like optimized online chat and product finders. By optimized I don’t just mean ‘added as a link in the site header’; I mean fully humanized experiences that recognize and respect the user’s browsing history, use support agents well trained in empathy and solution selling, and that appear at just the right time and place in the experience. Yes, you always want more visitors to self-serve their way to purchases, but, given that, in my experience, human-assisted sessions have conversion rates three to ten times those of non-assisted ones, your investment in competent human agents will be well worthwhile.
Finally, personalized experiences will no longer be optional, but essential in 2018. Your visitor session data already gives you a valuable ‘footprint’ of what each of your visitors wants, and where they’ve been looking, or searching, to find it. To get higher conversions, and to leave a better brand impression, you’ve got to use this data to adjust the experience, ideally within the current session, but at a minimum between sessions. Focus returning visitor experiences on what’s most relevant by doing things like showing shopped categories more prominently, making recently-used filters larger, and pre-selecting size selections.
Follow these trends and you’ll see your average order value (AOV) and revenue per visitor (RPV), your golden marketing metrics, grow in 2018 and beyond. And you’ll surely see a high return on both your human and MarTech investment."

Monday, November 5, 2018

Optimizing for Voice Search


If you’re not already using voice search, you’ve definitely seen the commercials on TV.
Each day, more people are using voice search-equipped smartphone apps and digital assistants (like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant) to handle simple tasks, get answers to questions and more — at home, on the road or wherever they happen to be.
The convenience of being able to use your voice, rather than your fingertips, means that voice search is on the rise. According to Google, 20% of all searches on mobile devices are now made using voice search and experts predict that 50% of all searches will use voice search by 2020.
In the digital marketing world, of course, this fast-growing phenomenon means that marketers must develop new ways to tailor their SEO

Strategies to optimize for voice search. Here’s a closer look at some of the ways that voice search will shape the future of SEO and some best practices on how to go about optimizing.

1. Use of Long Tail Keywords & Searcher Intent

If I were to do a text search for “best laptops for college students,” you would have no idea whether I wanted to research or purchase one, my price range or what kind of laptop I was looking for. But if I were to perform a voice search and say, “what are the best-priced laptops for college students?” this might bring up results for top 10 lists, reviews, forums, stores recommending specific brands for college students, etc. Because speaking a longer, more specific search query is easier than typing one, voice search will often give more context about searcher intent, meaning search engines can deliver more specific, relevant results in response to a query. This also means it’s a good idea to research relevant long tail keywords and integrate them into your content.

2. Recognizing Natural Speech Patterns

If you think about it, most people don’t type an email or text message the same way they might speak to you face to face. Example: You might text message a friend saying, “grab a drink after work?” But if you were to ask the same question in person you’d be more likely to say, “hey, do you want to grab a drink after work tonight?” Your natural speech pattern contains more context about your question than if you were to type or text it to someone.
That’s why the term “natural language” is used to describe queries made using voice search and longer tail keywords. Because of the discrepancy between what people are likely to type versus what they are likely to say, it is increasingly important for SEOs to understand how the nuances of natural speech patterns affect search results.

3. Impact on Local SEO

According to Moz, voice searches are three times more likely to be local-based than text search because most smartphones today search for local listing results. A smartphone knows your location, the weather outside, or whether there’s traffic ahead on the highway. All of these factors help to narrow down your search results for better and more accurate results. Examples of such searches could be “where is the nearest fast food, gas station, department store, etc., near me.” Most local searches are geared around “Where?”, “What?” and “How?” phrases like the examples above.
What does this mean for your local business? You should restrategize your approach to local SEO to make sure you are picking up on voice searcher intent for keyword groupings around your business or industry. Simply put, structure your keywords around the 5 Ws (Who, What, Where, When and Why).
Also, since much of voice search is occurring on mobile devices, it’s more important than ever to make sure your mobile experience is as user-friendly — and as speedy — as possible.

Looking Ahead — 2018 and Beyond

Looking ahead, one thing is for certain: People are adapting rapidly to the fact that voice search is destined to become more of a factor in our everyday lives. As with the release of the iPhone back in 2007 and the subsequent explosion of smartphone technology, voice search is the wave of the future — and the present. This means that businesses (and theDigital Strategists who work with them) must be ready to tackle this new search optimization challenge to stay ahead of the competition.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Essential Cloud Services for Small Businesses (Mostly Free)

 Leverage the Cloud

At 2 Create360, we love Cloud based services and how they can be leveraged to create efficiencies for SMB's. Here are some of our favourites.



MailChimp Email Marketing

MailChimp free for a limited amount of campaigns$10.00 at Mailchimp is the most popular and most capable email marketing service regardless of your price level or technological savvy. It offers a rich, free plan; tons of third-party integration (much of which is available at the lowest price levels), and it's got many email templates that help you fire off emails at a rapid clip. You can even take advantage of a decent amount of email analytics to let you know whether or not your messages are falling flat.

Agiloft Contract Management

AgiloftFree at Agiloft offers nearly unlimited customizations that bend and twist to how your company typically handles its contract management. There's a free option that's capable of supporting companies with less than five contract administrators. If you need to go bigger, then you'll have to upgrade to the enterprise edition (which is a bit pricier). Either way, you're working with the best contract management solution on the market, one that's limitless in its potential to automate and simplify how you create, manage, and store your contracts.

Zenefits Z2

Human resources (HR) software and management system ZenefitsFree at YourPeople, Inc offers excellent benefits administration, integration with most of the industry's popular payroll tools, and its own regionally-based payroll tool. It offers a sleek UI and benefits marketplace designed to look like an e-commerce portal, both of which encourage users to take advantage of the tool rather than run away from it (as with other HR tools).

Hootsuite

If you're more interested in managing your social campaigns than you are in measuring them, then try HootsuiteFree at Hootsuite. This tool scales as you grow by letting you pay for extras (rather than bundling everything into one price package). Hootsuite offers the most comprehensive package of listening, publishing, and third-party integration options for businesses of all sizes.

Spiceworks Network Monitor

Managing your technology infrastructure shouldn't be a task exclusive to large enterprises. If you need to understand how your apps, servers, and websites are performing, then Spiceworks Network MonitorFree at Spiceworks offers incredible network monitoring at no cost. It obviously doesn't have the complexity and extensibility of paid tools, but it's serviceable enough to oversee your network processes and alert you to issues before they become disasters.

Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BIFree at Microsoft takes business intelligence—what is normally a very complex and very expensive task—and turns it into something even a tech novice can accomplish. It's a free tool that lets you drag, drop, customize, and analyze data, up to 1 GB. If you need more storage, then you can upgrade for just $10 per month to increase your data tenfold. This will also give you access to custom content packs and the ability to interact with other Microsoft Office 365$6.99 at Microsoft users.

Freshdesk

FreshdeskFree at Freshdesk is simple to use, with an advanced feature set, at an affordable price. Freshdesk excels is in its ticket management, which allows helpdesk tickets to be assigned to individual agents depending upon what work is required. The system itself can do a good job of automatically performing certain tasks based upon what an incoming ticket requires, which means those commonly asked questions can have useful replies automatically generated and delivered by the system.
Freshservice
FreshserviceFree at Freshservice isn't the most well-known helpdesk software but it's an ideal tool for small businesses that don't need all of the bells and whistles of better-known tools. What is most appealing about FreshService (especially for SMBs) is that it offers a free plan that's good enough to help you get started. No, this isn't a free trial; it's an actual free service that requires no payment whatsoever. With that, you'll gain access to online help and tutorial videos that will show you how to get started and optimize your service operation.

HubSpot

If you're looking to turn your email and CRM practices into long-lasting customer engagements, thentool. HubSpot is easy to use, scales as you grow, and, though not inexpensive, is nevertheless affordable at every experience level. Additionally, HubSpot lets you add basic CRM and sales tools to your marketing automation software at no extra cost. This is a wonderful feature for startups and small companies that are just getting their operations off the ground.

Zapier

If your small business isn't very tech-savvy, then you'll love , FREE for 5 Zaps or $15.00 at Zapier. This tool is designed to connect disparate apps to let you run automations (or "Zaps") without having to write any code. Although there is a free tier available for very small businesses and freelancers, the company's Work account connects more than 750 apps and lets you run multi-step automations across three or more different tools. So, if you use three or more of the tools in Zapier's roster, then you'll be able to push and pull data from one to the other to build automated processes. For example, when your marketing automation tool's lead form generates a contact, a Zap will push the contact's data into your CRM tool. A second Zap will add the contact's social media credentials to a social listening tool, and a third Zap will push a chat message to a salesperson asking him or her to reach out via Twitter.

IFTTT

Similar to Zapier, IFTTTFree at iTunes Store connects 400 apps and services without requiring you to know how to code. IFTTT stands for "if this, then that," which is how the company's "Applets" help you automate actions across software (similar to the scenario I detailed earlier). IFTTT is as capable and as easy to use as Zapier, but it has about 350 fewer tools to connect than Zapier. So, when you're deciding between these two automation powerhouses, make sure you run down their rosters to determine which one contains more of your favorite apps.
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How to run a great project discovery workshop

Ask the Right Questions.



A common cause of project failure or an unhappy client at the end of a project is that the client didn’t get what they thought they’d be getting. It’s no one’s fault in particular; clients can find it hard define their briefs and as agencies, we can be guilty of not being clear about what we’re actually delivering. So how can we ensure that we’re all on the same page?

It starts off during the project kick-off meeting and continues in the discovery or project initiation phase of a project. In the initial project discovery workshop, we need to ask the right questions to provide our clients with the opportunity to tell us all that the things they meant to, but perhaps forgot about. At the start of any project, we can easily get bogged down in the detail of one particular area rather than thinking about the project in its entirety and asking questions that cover strategy, user experience, content, creative, technical and PM requirements.

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.”  – Francis Bacon

The key is  for us to ask the right questions, at the right time. We need to know what questions we should be asking, when. The purpose of this article is to explore some of those table stake questions during a project discovery workshop – a checklist to capture basic project information so that there are no big surprises mid-way through a project. The goal is to understand one another’s unwritten assumptions.

Simon Ash has a helpful framework for understanding where we should start: “The good news is that the core questions needed are actually embedded in language.  The seven basic interrogative questions of what, where, why, when, who, how and which are the triggers needed to unlock any problem; it is then just about understanding their application.”

Below is by no means an exhaustive list, nor a structure for a workshop, but intended as a starting point for conversation during initial discovery workshops. This list isn’t meant to be used as a questionnaire for clients to complete, but as a framework to help understand our clients’ customers’ needs, and their business problem so  that we can properly architect an appropriate solution.

Strategy
Goals – Why are we doing this? What are the goals for this website? What are the KPI’s? How will we measure and evaluate success? How will it help your bottom line? What does it need to achieve from a business perspective? What should it accomplish? How do the business objectives align to unmet consumer needs?

Messaging – What key messages to be communicated? What’s the one thing that we want people to think / feel / do? What can we say to make them do it? How does this fit into the broader marketing and communication strategy? How does this stack up against competitive positioning? What are we communicating that’s different; what’s our unique selling proposition (USP)?

User Experience
Audience – Who are we trying to communicate to? Who are your primary/secondary/tertiary audiences? Why? Is that different from your desired audience? What are their demographics? Why would they come to visit? When do they come? Why would they come back?

User journeys – Who are the users of the site? What are their different needs? What do we want them to do? What are the current barriers? How can we increase customer satisfaction? How can we generate loyalty? How can we drive conversion?

Functionality – What types of functionality beyond static content pages is required? Browser detection? Geo-IP detection? Multilingual support? Shopping cart or eCommerce? Data capture? Forms? Print screen? Cookies? Dynamic content? Interactive maps? Store locators? Blogs? Events calendar? Jobs listings? A feed for frequently updated content? A photo gallery? Social integration? Why is it needed? How will this functionality achieve our business objectives?

Usability – What are the requirements for us to do user testing? What devices are we supporting? What browsers are we supporting? What platforms are we building for? What is the minimum screen size we should develop for each? What are the requirements and standards for accessibility compliance?

Content
Types – What is the content we will load onto the site? Is it repurposing old content or creating new content? How many sections of content will there be? What pages are required? What are the different content types we need to support? Why is it needed? What will it achieve? How will the content be meshed together? How does the content relate to other content?

Management –Who will write it? When will it be ready? Who will load content onto the site? Who will maintain it? What workflow and permission levels, approvals are required?

Localisation – How many markets need to be supported? How many different languages within those markets? What are the content differences between different markets? When do the different markets need to be launched? What other market specific requirements should we be aware of?

Creative
Look & feel – What creative have you seen that you like? What don’t we like? Why?

Assets – What branding work has already been done? How popular is it internally and externally with customers? Where can we find brand assets – logos, brand guidelines, photography?

Brand Guidelines – How well defined are the brand guidelines? How rigid is the existing style guide?

Tone – Are there existing websites that you like that would provide creative insight into a desired look and feel? Is there an emotional end-state we’d like to have your audience walk away with?

Technical
URL – What is the URL for this site? Who is the current domain registrar?  How will we support multilingual markets?

Hosting – Who is hosting the site? IIS or Apache Linux or Windows or other? What is the current load on the server? Are databases being used, if so, what type? Are there database preferences? What backup mechanisms are required? Will there be spikes in traffic requiring a content delivery network (CDN) like AWS, Akamai or Limelight?

Legacy integration – What existing systems will this website need to connect with?

Security – Will we need to create user accounts? Will encryption be required? Will there be password-protected areas? What personal data will we need to store and secure?

Development preferences – Are we building on a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal or Sitecore? Is there a development framework we need to use? What devices, browsers and platforms need support?

Tracking – What are the KPI’s? Will we track using analytic tools like Webtrends, Google Analytics or other measurement technologies like ClickTale or something more comprehensive like Adobe SiteCatalyst?

Project Management
Process – How does this project relate to other live projects? What’s the project plan? What are we going to do (SoW)? What is the running order for activities (methodology)?  When (timing plan)? How much will it cost (budget)?

Communication – What are the best communication channels to use? Who needs to be involved, when? What tools will we use to communicate, collaborate and share?

Governance – How are we going to manage the process? Who are the stakeholders? Who’s responsible, accountable, consulted informed?  How will we manage any changes in requirements?

Approval process – How will we effectively manage the project team and the stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle?

Project management – How are we tracking progress to ensure we’re meeting the defined requirements, running on time, and keeping to budget? When is the deadline for live date? Why? What is driving the requirement to meet that date?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cloud Computing: Evolution in the next year or so.

Cloud computing has been developing rapidly since the term was coined in 2006. It’s played an integral role in the transformation of many businesses over the last decade, particularly valued for the reliability, scalability and versatility that cloud technology brings compared to traditional dedicated servers. And this race to the cloud will only gather pace as technology matures.
Having the ability to understand, evaluate and implement cloud computing is crucial for today’s business leaders, regardless of whether they operate in IT or not. As business needs evolve, so too does cloud infrastructure. There has been a strong growth within the private and hybrid cloud computing market, and in the next twelve months we can only expect that the technology will gain further importance and adoption. Research company IDC’s findings back this prediction up, by pointing out that a year ago traditional data centres accounted for 62 per cent of IT infrastructure spending, while public cloud captured 23 per cent and private cloud, 15 per cent. Illustrating a rapid shift, IDG predicts that by 2020 data centres will represent 50 per cent of the market, with public cloud forming just under a third of the market and private cloud making up 20 per cent. In simple terms, data centres’ importance is diminishing, while public and private cloud technology’s value and usability is growing and gaining traction. As the current cloud landscape is changing, what can we expect from this market in 2018?

Hybrid cloud computing will gain traction

Going back to basics, a hybrid cloud enables businesses to use a combination of different cloud model types. For example: a public cloud with a private cloud, or one private cloud with another one, or one public cloud with a second public cloud. Some businesses see hybrid cloud use as a way to deal with IT demand peaks, while others view it as a central management experience. Many companies tend to start working with hybrid clouds to complement their present investments. For instance, as most businesses usually use a sliding scale for what aspects of their operations are most crucial, some would place the less valuable or security-demanding areas in the public cloud. Meanwhile, other aspects that need more control and safety would be directed to the private cloud within that hybrid cloud space. This way, they can control and oversee their operations and systems management. With the increasing adoption of hybrid cloud computing, we will see the market grow steadily.
While last year was important for experimenting and learning about the technology, cloud vendors will continue to crystallise their strategies throughout this year. One vivid example is Microsoft’s launch of private cloud platform Azure Stack, the purpose of which is to mirror the Azure public cloud. Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services partnered with platform virtualisation giant VMware, to offer a new hybrid cloud extension. Further, Oracle and IBM now have their own hybrid cloud offerings. These are only a few examples of how, as major cloud vendors’ strategies are gelling, they will gain momentum as their clients continue to seek the best ways to manage their public and private clouds.
Another important development will be the optimisation of connections to the cloud. Very few companies use only one cloud model – many have both public and private clouds. This means that if a business uses a hybrid cloud, it can certainly benefit from access to an optimised network connection to that cloud. This need has led to a growth in the interconnection providers market, known as multi-clouds, and as hybrid cloud computing becomes popular, businesses will need to prioritise creating, maintaining and optimising such connections.

The emergence of multi-clouds

With the increased exploration of hybrid cloud, people will also start turning their heads to emerging options such as multi-clouds, which are naturally evolving from hybrid cloud use. Multi-clouds enable the use of multiple cloud computing services in a single infrastructure. For example, a company can use separate cloud providers for its infrastructure and software services, or it can use a number of infrastructure providers for a variety of workloads. This is when multi-cloud architecture comes into play, as it enables businesses to increase their cloud operations’ availability. So, if one of the cloud vendors in the architecture is experiencing a problem, the business can switch workloads from it to a different vendor’s infrastructure.
There are a number of reasons why multi-clouds will become increasingly powerful and valued. They enable the complete integration of all the prevalent public clouds like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. They also optimise multi-cloud management into one sole activity, by allowing a wide-ranging cloud network to exist in a single platform. Furthermore, multi-clouds enable the automation of IT networking, which makes it easy to connect to and switch between public and private clouds. More importantly, centralised cloud networking management enables a business to access, control, analyse and trace faults in all its cloud resources in one unifying place. This can bring business optimisation and increased efficiency – and what business doesn’t want that?
All of this means that the emergence, and eventually adoption, of multi-cloud computing focuses on connectivity and therefore brings more relevance to networking and to the easier ways of managing networks. Having looked at the emerging cloud options and the changing landscape, we also need to consider the reasons why more enterprises turn to cloud providers.

The hyperscale of cloud providers

Amazon, Microsoft and Google’s cloud infrastructure is on such a large scale, that we talk about them as a hyperscale cloud, as opposed to a mere cloud. While they offer a hosting service that is safe, scalable and global, they are also constantly innovating and collaborating, ensuring that they’re experiencing immense growth because of it. Hyperscale providers are in a features arms race, the latest battleground being the creation of machine learning and artificial intelligence platforms, steadily revolutionising these spaces. Over the next twelve months we can be certain to observe a further consolidation of their services, with hyperscale providers building platforms that are easy to consume and reduce operational costs. This will naturally lead to decreasing cloud expenditure as these become more mature, more accessible and easier to work with, driving a further decline in traditional computing.
Companies’ digital transformations have come a long way, but as cloud platforms continue to innovate and as machine learning and artificial intelligence become increasingly efficient, businesses need to carefully evaluate what is right for them long term. This is not a decision that can just be taken by the IT team any more. Consequently, many organisations, wondering where to start, turn to managed service providers accredited by hyperscale cloud providers, as they can design and deliver bespoke cloud computing solutions that are tailored to an organisation’s specific needs. Using the help of a trusted expert and solution-led infrastructure company is often the best way to solve a business challenge with technology, and to be safely guided through the journey to the cloud.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Experience Design

The Art of Experience Design

"Making technology easy to use."




Experience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, omni-channel journeys, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions.



A meta discipline, experience design draws from many other disciplines including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architecture and environmental design, haptics, product design, strategic design, information design, information architecture, ethnography, marketing and brand strategy, strategic management and strategy consulting, interaction design, service design, storytelling, agile, lean startup, technical communication, and design thinking.

A design practice focused on human outcomes, in particular the level of engagement and satisfaction that the user derives from a product or service and the relevance of the experience to their needs and context.

Nailing down precisely what experience design is and how it relates to design as a whole isn’t simple.

“The terminology is still very new and its definition is in flux,” explains Deloitte Digital's experience designer Jani Modig, who considers the field “the bridge between business and design, combining organisational strategies and different design disciplines from UX to service design”.

David Eveleigh-Evans, chief creative officer at international experience design firm Method, has a similar take, calling it “an approach to design that enables you to think about the connection between business and its customers by defining the relationship they have”.

If this all sounds very abstract - and experience design often is - it's useful to cite some concrete examples of this all-encompassing approach to it. One often-quoted of how broad experience design can be is of the bank whose new website's online services were designed to replace many branch services, and so what branches were for - and therefore their design and branding - had to change to reflect business services replacing tellers.


Another example that always comes up on conversations about experience design is Apple. Seen as being at the forefront of experience design, the company's brand and approach to customer experiences defines what products it develops and how they work through to the minuitest detail of even purely digital apps.
A key reason, then, for taking an experience design approach is the increased interconnectedness of everything. “Customers don’t see differences between channels — mediums of interaction — and so jump from one to the other and expect the same seamless experience everywhere,” says Jani. “Experience design allows organisations to think where, when and how an organisation interacts with its customers.”

This can happen in the most mundane of places. Dan Harris, service design director at service design consultancy Fjord, says because people increasingly use social networks and web-connected services, their expectations of things like banks are now radically different, and so such institutions must change how they work internally and through interfaces (including websites and apps) to meet that challenge — “a huge area of design opportunity, because we can go out, understand what people value and see where their expectations truly lie, and help clients provide that experience and that service”.

David says this extends to countless products and services that have a disconnect with their brands: “They have a certain market image, but your expectation isn’t met when using the product. They have less quality and are poorly executed. Even Apple struggles with its huge ecosystem”.


A key experience design benefit for a business is to ‘fix’ this, and have everything driven from brand intention: “The promise of a brand and delivering that as a pure, clean way of creating the experience, through engagement and relationship to the customers — at every point of interaction.”