Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Driving Improved Customer Service With Role-Based Analytics


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We’re just over two weeks into 2018. Did you make any resolutions for yourself? Perhaps you want to get fit, eat better, or save more for retirement? Many businesses have set their resolutions, as well, though they call them goals.

Like individuals, businesses set goals to improve something or to move to the next level. They might include issues like increasing efficiencies, driving profits, or improving customer service.

Individuals have a hard enough time keeping resolutions, and they are a single person determining success or failure. For businesses, it’s a lot more complex: goals are often set at the executive level and flow down through management to the individual contributor level. The ability of the business to meets its goals lies in both alignment from top-to-bottom, but also that everyone understands the goals and the impact their contribution is having in achieving them. Sometimes missing, though, is the visibility at all levels into work performance as it relates to their part in shared goals.

There is a solution to this! By embedding role-based analytics throughout the business.

Let’s say a company is trying to drive improvements in customer service, specifically around customer satisfaction scores (or CSATs). Analytics at each level of the organization can provide the correct insights to communicate and drive the change necessary.

Executive Level

At the highest level of the organization, visibility to CSAT trends is critical. Customer satisfaction is one indicator of loyalty, and as Forrester Research and others have pointed out, loyalty drives revenue.

The head of customer service is aware of this link between service and revenue. But great service comes at a cost, and leadership probably doesn’t have limitless funds to spend on service. As a result, they are interested in optimizing the relationship between service expenses–staffing, technology, etc.–and CSATs.

Their dashboard of analytics is going to reflect this interest in CSATs and costs, and the connection between them. As they invest in customer service–making funds available to management to hire more agents to answer telephone calls, chats, and emails or to implement newer, more efficient customer service technologies–they will see how that has an impact on CSATs.

Returning back to the point about how CSATs and loyalty drive revenue, another typical relationship the head of customer service–as well as the rest of the executive team–could be monitoring in their dashboard is the correlation between CSATs and sales. Of particular interest might be the relationship between the CSATs and spending of top customers, but of course monitoring the sentiment of the entire customer base and their individual spending is something also easily followed.

Management and Operations

The management level is where the more tactical options will be identified and implemented. Here, the focus is on the relationship between the problem areas affecting CSATs and the remedial actions to be taken and their result.

Let’s consider what their dashboard might look like. Management would be concerned with service level performance across all service channels, since long wait and handle times can negatively influence CSATs. They would be monitoring their team members’ individual CSAT scores, to determine which agents were delivering higher numbers and those with lower numbers who might benefit from additional training or coaching. CSATs measuring customers’ experience across all available service channels–such as automated self-service, online communities, and knowledge bases–is equally important. But that’s not all.

While numbers and graphs can provide an overall view, it’s digging into the details that help drive the remedial action necessary to improve CSATs. Review customers’ CSAT comments, and be on the lookout for remarks such as:

  • “I waited on hold for too long” (a staffing issue exists)

  • “My agent didn’t seem to know what he was talking about” (indicating a need for additional training)

  • “The agent was rude” (time for some coaching)

  • “The directions didn’t make sense” (a knowledge base article requires updating)

In The Trenches

Outside of automation and other self-service options, the agent’s work will be the biggest influence on CSATs. Some of the most important analytics to make visible to them as they work are the following:

  • Their current average CSATs–and providing them the ability to see it today and the trend over time

  • Their average compared to peers (because gamification might provide an additional push)

  • Their bearing on the current CSAT goal so they can not only be aware of the overall goal but also to demonstrate how their personal contribution is making an impact

As they work directly with customers, more in-context, relevant data can be helpful: for example, greater awareness of customer’s situation and sentiment as they assist them. Does this customer’s last reported CSATs indicate prior interactions were poor? Have they opened more cases than similar customers, on average, and might be frustrated? A little extra information about the customer disposition gives agents the insight they need to go above-and-beyond and positively impact CSATs.

Alignment With Visibility Drives Results

Setting goals is a great opportunity for a company to not only understand where they are, but where they aspire to be. But in order to be successful in achieving them, a company must cascade them throughout the organization–from the strategic to operational and tactical levels–to ensure alignment. In addition, visibility to execution at each level is needed.

A customer service organization can definitely benefit from this approach. While the executive level is focused on summations of CSAT across the larger organization and managing costs, management can monitor team performance and other operation that influence. Meanwhile, the customer service agent can see how their individual actions are impacting results. With the entire service organization aware of its shared, measurable customer satisfaction goals and each level has visibility to their performance, the correct behaviors are driven and faster, impactful change is more readily achieved. Are you making the right insights available at all levels of your organization?

Source: B2C

Leveraging Amazon’s Success To Grow Your Business [Infographic]

Amazon is a powerful force, and leveraging that proven power can help you to grow your small business greater than you could do it alone. There are many different opportunities for small business owners to forge alliances with the retail giant, but being an online seller is probably one of the most profitable. Imagine taking your corner store and expanding its reach to the farthest ends of the Earth. You don’t have to choose between being a mom and pop retailer or being a massive online retailer anymore – Amazon can help you to do both.

Most people know about things like books, e-readers, and Prime when it comes to Amazon. You know you can buy just about anything under the sun from the online retailer. But unless you are a seller too you may not realize how many people and companies make up their vast army of sellers. In fact, 40% of sales come from third party vendors, and Amazon’s cut alone in 2016 was $23 billion. There’s a lot of money to be made by leveraging one of the most powerful selling platforms in history.

It may surprise you to learn that sellers are raking in plenty of money just by selling on Amazon. Seller stats break down this way:

  • 0.6% make $50 million a year

  • 2% make $10 million a year

  • 13% make between $1-10 million a year

  • 36% make between $100k and $1 million per year

  • 49% make less than $100k a year

The top two categories are home and kitchen and toys and games, but the platform is so far reaching that any category will give you the opportunity to get your wares in front of millions more customers than you could do on your own. Learn more about how Amazon makes its money from this infographic and start thinking about how your business could leverage its power.

Infographic image source: Sellbrite

Source: B2C

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Evangeline Lilly’s The Wasp And Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man Ready For Battle In Photos Of New Costumes

Evangeline Lilly’s The Wasp and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man can be seen in a new image for the upcoming Marvel sequel. Lilly’s Hope van Dyne was forced to sit out the action during Marvel’s Ant-Man but now, for Ant-Man and the Wasp, Hope stands side by side with her comrade in arms as she assumes her mother’s mantle and gets the co-title role she rightfully deserves. Marvel fans can rejoice at the inclusion of The Wasp.

First he will be helping his fellow Marvel superheroes battle Thanos and the Black Order in Avengers: Infinity War, and then he will be shrinking back into action a few months later for Ant-Man and the Wasp.

With “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” the story is set in the aftermath of “Captain America: Civil War” as Scott Lang grapples with the consequences of his choices as both a superhero and a father. Trying to rebalance his life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he is confronted by Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym with an urgent new mission – forcing him to once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside the Wasp as the team works together to uncover secrets from the past.

Michelle Pfeiffer will play Janet van Dyne, Hope’s mother and the original Wasp. The character appeared very briefly in Ant-Man through a flashback that saw her entering the Quantum Realm, where she was presumably lost forever in its infinite expanse.

Also appearing are Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost, Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch, Randall Park as agent Jimmy Woo, Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster, Judy Greer as Maggie Lang, Bobby Cannavale as Paxton, Michael Pena as Luis, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, and rapper T.I. as Dave.

Here are some reactions on social media to the costumes of Ant-Man and The Wasp.

In the first film, forced out of his own company by former protégé Darren Cross, Dr. Hank Pym (Douglas) recruits the talents of Scott Lang (Rudd), a master thief just released from prison. Lang becomes Ant-Man, trained by Pym and armed with a suit that allows him to shrink in size, possess superhuman strength and control an army of ants. The miniature hero must use his new skills to prevent Cross, also known as Yellowjacket, from perfecting the same technology and using it as a weapon for evil.

The original 2015 tentpole grossed $519 million worldwide, including $180 million domestically. Rudd most recently reprised the role in “Captain America: Civil War.”

“Ant-Man And The Wasp” is slated to open July 6th 2018.

What did you think of the

Photo Credit: Marvel/Disney

Source: B2C

How to Nail a Behavioral-Based Marketing Job Interview

As experienced marketing headhunters, we see many candidates going in for interviews encounter behavioral interviews. Whether these candidates come from digital, e-commerce, brand or any other backgrounds, we find that our clients frequently conduct behavioral interviews. This is one of the most common job interview methodologies employers use to evaluate talent.

While behavioral interviews have been around for a long time, our marketing recruiters see a notable rise in the popularity of this approach.

Marketing Headhunters Explain How to Master Behavioral Interviews

Simply put, behavioral interview questions ask candidates to describe a scenario they’ve encountered in the past and how they managed the situation.

A behavioral interview essentially demonstrates that the organization understands what success looks like for their specific role and the types of behaviors that relate to success. The questions that you are asked are used to assess how you’ve approached challenges in the past, so the marketing recruiter can get an idea of how you perform when faced with similar challenges.

What to Expect

There are two clear giveaways that indicate you’re in a behavioral interview – if the interviewer asks to tell “about a time when” or asks for a specific example of a certain situation. For instance, a marketing recruiter or a potential employer may ask you to give an example of a time where you had to manage multiple conflicting priorities. These types of questions are used to gauge you on your motivation, leadership, and cross-functional communication.

More importantly, you’re going to encounter questions that are specific to the type of role you are going in for. If it’s a brand management role, you may get questions that ask you to give an example of a time when you took over a brand that wasn’t doing well and how you turned it around. If it’s a digital marketing role, marketing recruiters may ask you to describe a time when you went into an organization where digital was fundamentally broken, and how you fixed it.

The Details Matter

marketing headhunters marketing recruiter

If you’re answering a behavioral-based question, it’s critical to ensure that the interviewer completely understands the situation you are presenting.

This entails answering the question comprehensively and sharing specific details, so make sure to give an overview of the situation and the challenge you faced at the time. You then want to share how you broke down the problem, the things you did to solve the problem, what your strategy was for approaching it this way, and what you did tactically to execute against the solution. But most importantly, ensure to explain the results you drove for the organization and how that organization is better off because you implemented the solution.

Another critical element about answering behavioral-based questions is that you give a clear and complete answer. However, don’t spend the entire interview answering just one question – make sure your answer is detailed enough but concise so the interviewer has the opportunity to ask more questions.

Prepare Like a Pro

marketing headhunters marketing recruiter

It’s critical to properly prepare for an interview so that you’re able to go through your background and pull out key wins and successes that showcase you’re the top candidate for this specific position.

Once you’ve prepared yourself adequately, conduct research on the organization and the position. Then, come up with some sample behavioral questions you think they might ask, with answers that are based on your background, experience, and your key accomplishments so you get comfortable answering this kind of questions.

One of the major things to make sure of is that you don’t answer a behavioral-based question without providing a solid example to support your solution. Make sure that every question you answer comes with a real world example of your success and accomplishments.

When You Get Asked about a Failure

marketing headhunters marketing recruiter

In a behavioral interview, employers also want to understand how you deal with failure and how you’ve overcome situations where you haven’t been successful in the past. You might be asked to give an example of a time where you failed, when you weren’t successful, or a time when you faced constraints that kept you from moving forward.

In each of those questions, the right answer isn’t to say you’ve never failed. You want to demonstrate you’ve learned from the times you weren’t successful, and that you won’t repeat similar mistakes again.

Get the Details

Marketing headhunters recognize how common behavioral interviews are in today’s recruitment space. Thus, it’s important for marketing executives and all marketers to properly prepare. Any interview you walk into now, whether for a senior role or a junior to mid level position, could be a behavioral one. To get detailed information on succeeding in behavioral interviews, watch this video:

Bonus: Frequently Asked Behavioral Interview Questions

  1. Marketing is changing faster than ever – what have you done to make sure you haven’t fallen behind?

  2. Marketers have a lot of responsibilities and expectations put on them – how do you prioritize multiple tasks on your plate?

  3. How about a time when you fell short of a goal – what happened, and how did you cope with a failure?

  4. Tell me about a situation when you worked as part of a team to execute a mission-critical marketing project and the role you played.

  5. How did you handle negative feedback on your work from a peer, client or supervisor in the past?

Source: B2C

How to Tell Better Stories with YouTube Bumper Ads

If you’re going to be telling your story in attempts to raise brand awareness, would you rather do it in a single three minute long video, or a short video that’s kept under fifteen seconds or less? Most people would choose the longer video—it gives you more time for details, story development, and background information. They wouldn’t even think about adding on a short form video. For many businesses, however, increasing the use of short form video ads- alone or in conjunction with longer videos- has proven to be incredibly lucrative.

Despite what all your initial instincts may be telling you, short form video ads-officially known through Google as “bumper ads”- are actually an incredible medium for storytelling and brand building. Google is encouraging brands to use them more frequently, and plenty of businesses are already seeing great results from them. You just need to know how to use them correctly.

In this post, we’re going to go over how you can tell better stories with short form video and YouTube bumper ads for your business.

What Are YouTube Bumper Ads?

YouTube bumper ads are a part of Google Adwords’ ad system. They are just six seconds long, and they’re an add-on to the traditional TrueView video ads, which aren’t restricted by time limits.

They’re meant to serve as short, brief snippets of the big picture, extending the reach of your video campaigns overall. Bumper ads should complement the more long-form video ads in order to be most effective; in many cases, they’ll be used together.

What Are the Benefits of Short Form Video Ads?

Short form video ads– including YouTube bumper ads– have a lot of benefits that businesses sometimes overlook. The first one is obvious: it’s much faster and easier to make short form video ads. They don’t require nearly as much editing, script work, or rehearsals. This is a huge plus, especially considering that it will also be a lot cheaper, too.

Short form video ads can also capture users’ attention just a little bit better. Viewer retention rates can be difficult to hold on to because there’s so much competition for users’ attention online. As a result, being able to get your full-if brief- point across in a 6 second video increases the likelihood that they’ll click through to learn more than if you lost them 15 seconds into a longer one.

Sure, you eventually need longer video content in order to give customers the full picture. That being said, YouTube’s bumper ads are a great way to capture their attention and draw them in. They do this quickly and effectively– and affordably. Based on some case studies, creative use of bumper ads can help increase the reach, impact, and cost effectiveness of your video ads overall.

How to Use YouTube Bumper Ads to Tell Better Stories

Just because you’ve only got a few seconds doesn’t mean that they can’t useful story-telling agents. Let’s take a look at three different ways Google recommends to use short-form bumper ads:

  • Teasing long form content. Six seconds isn’t a lot of time, but when you consider that you’ll gain or lose a users’ attention in three seconds, it looks a heck of a lot better. Use this opportunity to pique users’ interest and get them to click to the more long-form content.

  • Showcase larger parts of the whole. You could, for example, introduce each business participating in the event you’re promoting with bumper ads before sending them to the event’s full promo. You can also focus on individual products within a whole. Make up company La Mer used this strategy, focusing in on a single product in the bumper ads and ending it with zooming out to show the full product line.

  • Tell the story in small chunks. Serializing your bumper ads are a good way to go. Slowly release different bumper ads showcasing different parts of the story. Preferably, they shouldn’t have to fall in a distinct order, but each should be interesting enough to make people want to learn more about the full story. This is particularly efficient as a re-engagement strategy, where you show additional content to users who have already watched long form content through bumper ads. Halo Wars 2 used this strategy.


Can I Repurpose YouTube Bumper Ads?

Absolutely. There are two great ways to repurpose these exceptionally short-form video ads so you can get the most out of the video content you’ve created.

The first is to compile the clips, if relevant, into a single more long-form video. You can use video creation software like Shakr to help you do this in just a few minutes; just pick a template, and drop your clips into place. You can then post this on social media for organic hits. Since video is so important on all social media sites (being prioritized by both users and algorithms), it never hurts to have more to add to your video libraries.

You can also upload the short bumper videos to your Instagram Stories, and use it to send viewers to longer newsfeed Instagram stories or to your site. Since Instagram Stories can only last 15 seconds or under, 6 seconds puts you right in the sweet spot. And now, since Instagram lets you keep Story Highlights, you’ll be able to benefit from them long term instead of just for 24 hours.

Final Thoughts

YouTube bumper ads were rolled out last year, and now that brands are starting to use them more, we can see how beneficial they can truly be. They can help you expand your reach, pique interest, and get more impressions while costing less than more long-form videos, and they can also be repurposed outside of Google Adwords. There are plenty of benefits and almost no drawbacks, so test them out and see how well they work for your business.

Want to repurpose some short form videos into longer content for other channels?

Source: B2C

4 Ways Small Businesses Can Improve Cybersecurity

If you’re a small business owner who thinks that you don’t need to worry about about cyber security, think again. The Ponemon Institute’s 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity report surveyed 600 small businesses, finding not only that “no business is immune to a cyber attack or data breach,” but that a surprisingly high number of small businesses suffered cyber attacks in 2016. According to Ponemon:

  • 50% of SMBs were breached in 2016.

  • The most prevalent attacks against SMBs were web-based and phishing/social engineering.

  • 59% of SMBs have no visibility into employee password practices and hygiene.

  • 65% of SMBs that have a password policy do not strictly enforce it.

Adding to the problem is that fact that even though attacks on small businesses are up, concern surrounding the topic is low. A separate poll found that a vast majority of small business owners — 87 percent, according to Manta Media Inc. — do not feel their business is at risk of experiencing a data breach.

SMBs need to wake up and realize that they are sitting ducks — especially if they’re unprepared and of the opinion that they’re in no danger at all; an unprepared target is a perfect target. Protection against cyber attack is of the utmost importance, and preparation is key to survival in a digital world. Here are five ways that small businesses can improve their cybersecurity.

1. Run a Cyber Security Risk Assessment

Every business, big and small, should run a cyber security risk assessment. Maryville University’s Cyber Security Resources list the core concepts and principles of proper risk assessment:

  • Take stock of the system: its size, number of hardware- and cloud-based access points, partner organizations and vendors, what information is stored and shared and its sensitivity.

  • Look at potential threats: According to Sage Data Security, in addition to hacker intrusions or data breaches executed by disgruntled employees, one must also consider breaches resulting from human error, be it poor data backup, insufficient encryption and data traveling through unsecured channels.

  • Analyze the environment: This step involves the examination of controls governing factors like administrator access, user authentication and provisioning, infrastructure data protection, continuity of operations and others. How vulnerable are these individual controls to the threats an organization is most likely to face?

  • Likelihood: Consider the probability of each breach type and its point of origin. This can, depending on organizational or network complexity, involve dozens of breach/source pairings.

  • Final risk assessment: Multiply the likelihood of breach against its resultant damage to determine a risk rating. For example, if an organization is likely to experience breach attempts due to the valuable information its handling and the results of such a breach would be catastrophic, the business has an extremely high risk rating.

2. Create a Document Management Plan

A majority of today’s breaches occur because of simple human mistakes — documents sent to the wrong inbox or to a phishing email, or even physical documents discarded in the wrong bin. A document management plan keeps a vigilant watch over status of all company documents, meaning that these errors are caught before they occur. Record Nations mentions that common components of a document management plan will typically include:

  • Conducting a complete inventory of all currently-existing records

  • Designating a single employee or manager with responsibility for the record management process

  • Developing a record retention and destruction schedule—typically with varying retention guidelines by state

  • Evaluating and determining the best method(s) for storing and managing records

  • Creating, documenting, and establishing proper company procedures for record storage and disposal

  • Implementing your policy, training employees, and ensuring constant communication throughout the company on any procedural changes

  • Creating a backup disaster recovery plan in the event of a breach or other emergency to immediately minimize damage

  • Maintaining, auditing, and optimizing prevention and recovery plans to maximize efficiency and effectiveness

3. Educate Your Employees

As mentioned in the components of a document management plan, employee education after implementation is key for it to work. In reality, employees need to be educated on more than document management. In XMedius’s post, “3 Major Data Security Risks Every Business Should Know About”, the first point made is that employees don’t know how to protect data. They write:

“It’s safe to assume that unless we work for a company specializing in IT security, the average worker goes about their day handling and sending sensitive data without thinking about hackers or data loss. It’s actually the lack of security awareness and skills that makes organizations an easier target for hackers or disgruntled employees who have access to networks and admin accounts.”

The solution here is mandatory compliance training for employees working with either protected health information (PHI) or personally identifiable information (PII), as well as mandatory training sessions that teach password and workstation security best practices.

4. Have a Recovery Plan

…because chances are you’re going to suffer a cyber attack. This isn’t something most small businesses want to hear, but it’s the truth. To minimize how effective these attacks are on your business, Eva Velasquez, writing for Intuit’s Firm of the Future blog, recommends consistently changing passwords, watching out for phishing emails, and monitoring company financial accounts. Of course, prevention is only half the battle.

If you are hit by malware — specifically ransomware, which encrypts the drives on your computers and demands ransom for decryption — the only thing you can really do is a complete system restore. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a proper backup strategy, you’ll either be reverting to outdated restore images or unable to restore at all. Make sure you’re backing up everything in case of such an instance.

Beyond a backup plan, recovery plans include solutions so that your customers aren’t left in the dark waiting for products and services while you get your systems back online. Downtime reduction in recovery is huge, so make sure you’re investing in it.

If businesses heed these four simple rules, their cyber security will improve tremendously. Don’t get caught with your pants down, and make sure that you’re constantly sizing up your cyber security measures — bet your bottom dollar, cyber criminals already are.

Source: B2C

Reduce Product Friction to Increase User Adoption and Retention

Wonder why customers aren’t using your digital product? It may be time to examine product friction.

Product friction is anything that represents a barrier to user adoption or retention. From an overly complicated sign-up process to difficult-to-navigate menus, if too much friction exists, customers will not change their current behavior to use your product, no matter how great it is. That’s why it is critical to detect and anticipate friction points by monitoring a customer’s journey with your product.

According to Kintan Brahmbhatt, Director of Product Management and Technical Program Management at Amazon, “When building products, you’re always either removing, adding, or masking friction.” Sometimes friction is unavoidable, but it is critical to remove as much friction as possible – and continue to proactively combat friction as your product evolves.”

There are three types of product friction:

Friction due to unfamiliarity

If a customer downloads your product and does not understand how to use it, friction already exists. This is one of the most difficult challenges when introducing a new product to users.

Friction by design

Sometimes friction is intentionally built into a product. Brahmbhatt says if your product does have a learning curve, you must design the experience thoughtfully.

Friction due to misalignment with human behavior

This friction is caused when your product fails to anticipate how consumers will use it. Examples include a poorly designed navigation or device incompatibility for those you say your product supports.

Reduced product friction results in less user frustration and higher retention – but how do you remove friction completely? In an article on product friction, TechCrunch discussed how companies such as Uber deliver frictionless product experiences that keep users coming back. Here’s an example TechCrunch shared of a frictionless product experience in action (friction points italicized below):

The Taxi Experience

  • Find a Car: Stand on the street and attempt to hail a cab. In major cities, this can be a long, frustrating experience.

  • Set Destination: Tell the driver where you’d like to go.

  • Ride: Many taxis aren’t the most peaceful drivers.

  • Pay: Take out your wallet and pay with cash or card.

  • Tip: Calculate the tip to add to your fare.

The Uber Experience

  • Find a Car: Open the Uber app and select Pick Me Up. The car usually arrives in 10 minutes or less. Users can track the location of their Uber in the app.

  • Set Destination: Add your destination in the app ahead of time to let the driver know where you’re going.

  • Ride: Almost always a quiet, peaceful experience.

  • Pay: Credit card information is added to the app ahead of time. At the end of the trip, your card is charged automatically.

  • Tip: Uber calculates the tip for you and included in the fare.

Uber has reduced all friction for the user, making it a pleasurable experience that has resulted in huge success for the company. Uber continues to keep product friction top of mind as the company grows, adding offerings such as UberBlack, which provides users with a more elevated ride experience in a high-end black car with professional drivers, and uberPool, affordable door-to-door rides that allow users to share the ride and the cost.

You probably experience friction daily and not even realize it. Consider checking out at the grocery store, paying for your morning latte, or placing an online order. Digging through your bag for your wallet or manually entering card information can be a time-consuming process. Inserting payment information on small screens can also be difficult and cumbersome. This is an experience that benefits neither the merchant nor the customer. Aimed at solving one of the biggest pain points in mobile commerce, Apple Pay hopes to eliminate checkout frustration.

With Apple Pay, users can make secure purchases in stores, in apps, and on the Internet using the Apple products they carry every day. Users can even send and receive money from family and friends directly in Messages. Calling itself “a next generation checkout solution,” Apple Pay’s seamless transactions, speedy one-click payments, and Touch ID technology decrease fraud, increase consumer trust, and reduce friction points such as the need to manually enter detailed payment information. Companies and retailers including AirBnB, Target, McDonalds, and Walgreens are already seeing success with Apple Pay for mobile conversions – and their customers are loving it. For a list of other retailers and restaurants that accept Apple Pay, check out this list provided by Apple.

One final product example comes from Columbus-based Root Insurance. Root is the first car insurance company that was “founded on the relentless pursuit of fairness.” The company uses an app to rate drivers based on how they drive – the better the driver, the better the rate.

In a TechCrunch article, Root founder, Alex Timm, discussed Root’s success and how the company’s goal is to “make the fairest, simplest product”, something that cannot be done when multiple instances of friction exist. Think back to the last time you shopped for a new auto insurance policy. Did you encounter product friction? Odds are the process to get a quote went something like this:

  • Go to an insurance provider’s website and click Get a Quote

  • Add your personal Information – a lengthy process which includes:

  1. Name and contact information

  2. Vehicle make, model, usage and mileage

  3. Driver information, including marital status, social security number, home ownership status, employment status, and education history

  4. Previous traffic violations

  • Receive quote

  • Accept quote and purchase (or continue to search for alternatives)

  • Contact previous auto insurer to cancel policy

Knowing that shopping for auto insurance is often a tedious, frustrating experience, Root set out to remake the process of applying for – and insuring – drivers. Unlike other insurers, Root’s entire process can be done from a smartphone, no need for a computer. Users download the Root app, scan their drivers’ license, and Root’s software automatically updates the insurance application with the required personal information. Before receiving a quote, users are required to take a test drive; the app tracks their driving (braking, turns, how much they drive, etc.) using the accelerometer and other sensors on their smartphones to calculate rates. If you receive a quote, you can customize and purchase your policy, make changes to the policy, file a claim, and even have Root cancel your old insurance for you, all without leaving the Root app.

As stated earlier, sometimes friction is intentionally built into a product; however, in these cases it is critical to design this user experience thoughtfully. As part of its application process, Root’s test drive takes 2-3 weeks’ time. For some users, this may be too long to wait for a quote and other competitors, despite a lengthy process, can provide quotes instantly. So, why does Root include this as part of their product design? Remember, the quote is based on how well you drive, which takes more than a few minutes to evaluate. But, is the wait worth it to users and does it ultimately improve the user’s experience with the product?

The answer, based on Root’s rapid growth and continued expansion into states across the country, is yes. By not insuring bad drivers, Root is able to save good drivers as much as 52% on their car insurance. On average, Root, can save 20% on the typical insurance policy. The lowest premiums the company has issued are $12 per month. According to Timm, “For the best 30% of drivers we cut the price [of insurance] in half. For the best 70% of drivers, we’re the cheapest in the market.”

To help you deliver a frictionless user experience, AWH – a digital product consulting, user experience, and software development firm – has created a scorecard outlining common causes of product friction. Use the scorecard to identify and address potential friction areas to dramatically improve product adoption and retention. A score of three (3) points or more may put your product at risk. A score of five (5) points or more will likely be a friction threshold that is insurmountable.

Source: B2C

Monday, 15 January 2018

U.S. Army’s New ‘Holistic Medics’ Treating Gunshot Wounds with Crystals and Essential Oils Is Satire

U.S. Army

Reports that the U.S. Army’s new “holistic medics” are using crystals and essential oils to treat gunshot wounds are false. Rumors that a new kind of medic is using alternative medical treatments on the battlefield stemmed from a well-known military satire website.

The fake claim originated on the Duffel Blog, a website known for publishing parody news and military satire. The article claimed that the U.S. Army introduced a new “holistic medic” that would employ alternative medications and aromatherapy techniques to treat gunshot wounds. It purported:

In an effort to match the broad range of medical treatments available to the civilian population, the U.S. Army has introduced a new breed of battlefield medic, the service announced Friday.

The new MOS, Complementary Medicine Specialist (69W), or “holistic medic,” will be trained in a variety of alternative medical treatments, ranging from aromatherapy to interventional prayer, and will be authorized to prescribe medications like megavitamins and homeopathic dilutions.

[…] In lieu of conventional trauma supplies like bandages, tourniquets, and chest seals, holistic medics’ aid bags will be stocked with colon cleanse kits, prayer beads, and ginkgo biloba auto-injectors.

The report, however, is entirely fabricated. While the Army does offer alternative medicine choices and holistic treatments, the “holistic medics” and details referenced in the story are completely made-up. Duffel Bag clearly states in their disclaimer that articles are not meant to be taken seriously:

We are in no way, shape, or form, a real news outlet. Everything on this website is satirical and the content of this site is a parody of a news organization. No composition should be regarded as truthful, and no reference of an individual, company, or military unit seeks to inflict malice or emotional harm.

Here are some examples of people sharing the satirical story on social media:

Social Media Shares Satirical Story about Army’s “Holistic Medics” Using Crystals to Treat Gunshot Wounds

Have you seen the satirical story about the U.S. Army’s “holistic medics” using crystals and essential oils to treat gunshot wounds circulating social media? What are your thoughts on the military satire site? Sound off in the comments section below!

Photo credit: Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret, U.S. Army

Source: B2C

B2B Marketing Agencies: How to Choose the Best Fit

Partnering with a marketing agency is a big decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The marketing agency you choose will be a trusted brand advocate and tasked with helping you to meet your strategic marketing objectives. At the end of the day, they will either make you look good and help accomplish your goals or they won’t. In this blog post, we take a quick look at how to choose the B2B marketing agency that is the best fit for your needs.

Are All B2B Marketing Agencies Are Created Equal?

While an agency may not be “better” or “worse” than another agency, they are not all the same. Agencies range in size, approach, skill set, and service offerings. As such, it’s imperative that you find the right B2B marketing agency for your firm.

What Are Their Strengths?

Start by asking what they do best. What are their main service offerings? Be wary of B2B marketing agencies that offer everything. While you want to work with an agency that is a resource for you and can help with all your projects, you want to make sure they excel at the main things you need them to work on. For example:

  • B2B or B2C? This is the first question to ask. If they say they do both, they may not entirely understand what makes the B2B space different from consumer-focused brands.

  • Digital Marketing? If your main B2B marketing goals include online lead generation, it’s essential that the agency you work with is on top of all the latest digital marketing trends and knows which ones are most effective for B2B firms.

  • Web Design? Many agencies say they provide B2B web design services, but in truth, they end up farming it out to someone outside their agency. This can make the process slow or future edits difficult to make on the website.

  • Public Relations? There are a lot of great PR firms out there that are dabbling in the digital marketing space, including social media and web design. However, while they are superior in creating buzz and garnering media attention, they may not be able to drive results as far as lead generation as this is not the core function of public relations.

  • Lead Generation? Don’t automatically assume that an agency is focused on lead generation. Be sure that when you are discussing your plans with a potential B2B marketing agency, you are clear that lead generation is the main objective and ask how they plan to track and increase leads for your firm.

  • Industry Knowledge? Do they know your industry? Many agencies work within a handful of industry verticals as they have discovered these verticals are where they can provide the most value. If a B2B marketing agency hasn’t worked with a client in your industry or in a similar industry, they may not be the right fit.

What Is Their Experience?

We’ve all been there when a salesperson has said yes to everything we’ve asked, only to find out after the sale that they can’t deliver on half of the things we asked about. Rather than asking if they can do something, ask what they have already done. Potential queries might include:

  • Industries – As we’ve mentioned before, find out if they have any B2B marketing experience in your industry. Ask for examples of other clients that they have worked within your industry or a similar industry. They should have an organized portfolio ready to show you. If they haven’t worked with your industry, ask what companies they have worked with that are similar and what results they have gotten for them.

  • Projects – Projects vary from company to company as goals and objectives are different, however, it’s important to get an idea of what types of projects the B2B marketing firm has worked on. Have they worked on larger projects? Smaller projects? Long-term projects? National projects? Regional projects? You want to ensure they understand your objectives and are able to tailor the marketing services to meet your needs.

  • Personnel – Who works for the agency? This is a straightforward question and should be easy to answer. A lot of larger agencies will hire and lay off workers depending on their client load. While this is common, it’s not always a best practice. Ideally, you want to work with a B2B agency that is flexible and adaptable but has an experienced, core group of designers, writers, project managers, developers, and technical specialists that will be managing the day to day work on your project.

  • Outsourcing – We work in an age where borders and time zones aren’t barriers, but merely factors. As such, it’s not uncommon for agencies to outsource design, development, copywriting, technical editing or publishing. However, when it comes to your business, it’s essential to have a cohesive brand message and the more outsourced people on a project, the more fractured a brand can become. Ask what duties they specifically outsource and how they manage the process.

How Is Their Sales Process?

What it feels like to be a prospect tells a lot about what it feels like to be a client. If a B2B marketing agency has a smooth sales process that involves understanding your company and your goals, the partnership with that agency will likely be the same. However, if the sales process is bumpy and unpredictable with a lot of uncertainties, it doesn’t leave much hope for their internal project management processes.

Talk to Existing Clients

In addition to looking at their work, talk to existing clients. Seasoned, professional B2B marketing agencies will have a host of clients you are able to contact. Much like you would ask a potential employee for references, you should be asking a potential agency for references as well.

They Should Be Interviewing You as Well

In a true partnership, you both succeed. As such, the right agency will be interviewing you to ensure your firm is the best fit as well. At Bop Design, we are careful during the lead qualification and proposal phase to be sure that the potential client is a good fit for our skill set. If we don’t think our agency is the best fit, we let them know. At the end of the day, it’s on us to ensure our projects are successful, so we only take on projects where we truly believe we can deliver.


This wouldn’t be a helpful article if it didn’t include a few warnings or red flags to watch out for during the B2B marketing agency vetting process. Here are a few giant, waving red flags to keep an eye out for:

  • Agencies that promise to meet tight deadlines without reducing the scope

  • Vague proposals that don’t detail what is included

  • Vastly different proposals from seemingly similar agencies

  • Lack of follow-through in the sales process

Lastly, it’s important to find out if the potential partner practices what they preach. Are they going to be running a dynamic social media campaign for you but haven’t touched their own Twitter in six months? Will they be creating a B2B web design for you from scratch but have a website that has several broken links and missing images? A bit of research can tell you a lot about whether the agency really knows their stuff – or is just all talk.

Source: B2C

The 6 Best Demand Generation Strategies and Activities for B2B

Leading B2B marketers aren’t afraid to test new ideas, fail fast and treat everything like an experiment. However, they also employ a trustworthy arsenal of tried-and-true tactics that continue to drive results, quarter after quarter.

While you should definitely test new tactics and activities to drive demand, you shouldn’t gamble your goals by going “all in” on any one, trending strategy. Instead, create a foundation of go-to activities that you know will work and let those results provide a cushion if an experiment doesn’t turn out.

These six activities and strategies can help B2B marketers meet their demand generation KPIs today and set themselves up for innovations for the future.

Demand Generation Strategies and Activities

1. Automate Manual Marketing Processes

I’ve never heard a demand marketer admit they got into marketing to pore over spreadsheets or argue with lead vendors over returns. However, non-strategic efforts like these comprise a great deal of B2B marketers’ time.

Most of us got into marketing to engage people, develop sophisticated strategies and campaigns, and create compelling customer experiences. Some left brain-dominant marketers perceive demand generation as a number-filled quest for unique knowledge and insights.

No one is here because they enjoy the tedium of manual data entry and the secretarial-like work of staying on top of vendors. Nor do such tasks generate big gains in demand gen program ROI.

There are plenty of demand generation tools that automate manual tasks so you and your team can focus on the strategic initiatives that result in more customers and revenue.

2. Co-Create Content

Whether it’s working with the brightest demand marketing pros in the industry to co-create an eBook filled with actionable B2B marketing advice or developing a new animation video with the amazing video production team at BrightTALK, the Integrate team loves working with other brands and thought-leaders to take a content project from idea to inception to creation.

When you share resources with other brands that offer complementary products or services, the product is going to be superior. Plus, your organization gains the benefit of shared promotion and greater organic audience exposure.

3. Build Integrated Marketing Programs

You know those photomosaic puzzles where each piece contains its own picture, but zoom out and the hundreds of individual pieces build a new, single image?

That’s what integrated marketing programs are like.

It’s about balancing the micro-experiences with the macro-vision. Each marketing asset within a B2B demand generation program should act as a unique, stand-alone touchpoint. When threaded together, they form a full-funnel customer journey.

The most effective demand marketers know how to zoom out far enough to see the big picture, but they can also zoom in far enough to fine-tune the details.

4. Interview Your Customers

IBM, the century-old technology company, faced serious crisis in the early 1990s. For the first time in around 80 years, their revenues were a cause for concern. To make a long case story short, Lou Gerstner was appointed CEO and he managed to turn it all around.

Gerstner implemented an exercise in empathy known as “Operation Bear Hug,” in which IBM’s top 50 leaders were tasked with visiting at least 5 customers in-person. Sales were strictly off-limits in these meetings. Instead, the leaders were tasked with listening to their customers and thinking about how IBM could pivot to help.

Demand marketers can benefit from the same type of exercise, even if they’re not trying to turn a struggling brand around.

Interviewing your customers and prospects can reveal a lot and yield several different benefits:

  • Fresh ideas for content

  • Supports brand loyalty among prospects and customers

  • Expands reach by providing content sources who may share your content

  • Creating in-person connections

5. Explore New Metrics

Demand generation is continuously evolving. Certain success metrics, such as marketing-attributed revenue, are likely to remain a core component of effective demand marketing for a long time. In other cases, the way we analyze performance must evolve to keep up with changing strategies.

The movie Moneyball is still one of the best-known case studies of analytics-driven performance measurement. Baseball team manager Billy Beane didn’t have much budget to lift the Oakland A’s to a winning season, but he did have an unconventional desire to measure anything. His wild approach worked, and pro sports changed how teams recruited, traded and compensated players.

Demand marketers don’t always see what’s working or failing immediately. Marketing experiments can yield surprising results, and due to our own bias, we tend to measure what we know. Measure everything and invest in tools that allow you to aggregate intelligence across the top of your marketing funnel.

6. Know When (and When Not) to Sell

We’re not talking about stocks and bonds. We’re talking about customer relationships. Knowing when you should not try salesmanship is just as important as when you should.

Consumer trust has evolved in the digital age, and it isn’t for the better. eMarketer reports that just 20% of consumers trust brands as an accurate source for product information, compared to 40% who put trust in online reviewers.

As a demand marketer, you’re tasked with building authority and trust by providing unbiased, high-quality information.

Research reports, webinars and other forms of demand generation content are generally not the time to sell anything.

In contrast, there are times when you are called upon to cast your product in the best light possible – such as in-person events, bottom-of-funnel webinars or sales decks while still maintaining objectivity.

Demand Marketing is Evolving, But Some Strategies are Too Solid to Change

While demand generation tactics may be evolving quickly, certain strategies are unlikely to change. Customer empathy mattered to IBM nearly 30 years ago and it matters to your organization today. Co-creating content and automating heavily manual processes are two other concepts that may take different forms quarter after quarter, but are almost always solid pursuits.

The organizations that succeed at B2B demand generation are likely to be the ones who pursue new tactics, but keep fine-tuning what works – from working actively to better understand their customers to reducing manual effort to make room for more excellence.

Learn new demand generation marketing tactics directly from three pros who are changing the game. Join Maria Pergolino, Scott Fingerhut and Beki Scarbrough for an on-demand webinar: 3 Winning Demand Marketing Strategies.

Source: B2C

How to Assess and Improve Human Resources Practices in 2018

The beginning of a new year can feel like a fresh start, but for business leaders seeking continuous improvement, the past cannot be ignored. This is especially true for the HR department, since even a minor issue in this area can send negative shockwaves throughout an entire company. With 2017 officially in the books, it’s the perfect time to evaluate your HR department in an effort to improve its function and provide better support to your organization.

Was Risk & Liability Managed Appropriately?

Evaluating how well your organization managed risk and liability is perhaps the most important aspect of an HR review. While some organizations should be commended for escaping 2017 without a single violation, that can invite a false sense of security. Was a year of zero violations due to having a meaningful strategy in place, or was it pure luck? Today, claims of harassment and discrimination seem to be at record highs as reports flood the news each day. Yet, it’s not just actors, musicians, politicians, or other public figures who are placing their employers in dangerous situations.

Having an effective compliance training program in place is the absolute best way to reduce your organization’s risk and liability. It cannot be stressed enough that a single compliance violation can devastate the profits and image of a business. For many companies, the issue is that it’s simply difficult to keep up. Instituting a training program takes time and is difficult to do without prior experience. Additionally, keeping track of local, state, and federal law changes is a nightmare for many HR professionals.

How Effective Were Training Programs?

While having some sort of compliance training in place is a good start, the best organizations go further than just doing what might be required by law. Having an effective, all-encompassing employee training program in place is the best method for ensuring a well-rounded, safe, and productive workforce. Instead of grouping all employees together, it’s most effective to tailor training programs to roles and experience levels.

For example, executive coaching can refine a CEO’s ability to communicate to subordinates, maintain a high-level view of operations, and grow overall as a leader. Likewise, managerial training can improve a manager’s effectiveness in managing their department, resolving employee conflicts, and recognizing disengaged employees before they become too disgruntled. Finally, soft skills training can round out the skill set of every employee, especially since spending long periods of time in front of computers has hurt communication skills. If your organization was lacking in any of these areas in the last 12 months, then it may be time to overhaul training procedures.

Were Employees Disengaged?

Organizations often become well-oiled machines, keeping processes moving along year after year. While that sounds great on paper, falling into a pattern of doing things the same way often results in failing to ask the right questions and potentially missing brewing problems. Unfortunately, 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work. That means there are a number of managers who don’t even realize they are supervising disengaged employees until that employee’s frustration builds up enough for them to put in their two weeks’ notice.

Creating effective employee surveys is a great way to assess the engagement level of your employees. However, disseminating surveys just to make employees feel like they are being heard will be quickly seen for what it is. It’s necessary to appropriately evaluate all survey results and, most importantly, take action in overcoming negative feedback. Doing so can enhance employee morale and retention, which in turn will boost the recruiting process as positive word of mouth and employer brand improve.

How Efficient Were Operations?

Efficiency within an organization can be difficult to measure precisely, but it can still be easy to spot problems in this area. Were company leaders able to focus on their business expertise in the industry, or were they stuck dealing with payroll errors, employee conflicts, or other distracting HR duties? If the C-suite spent as much time putting out fires as they did strategizing for their product or service, then efficiency may be questionable. This mentality extends throughout the entire organization, whether it’s hiring managers who are losing great candidates due to long recruiting processes or department supervisors who struggle to inform their employees about the intricacies of health care open enrollment.

Improve Human Resources in 2018

HR doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, and yet the strength of the HR department has a significant impact on the overall health of any organization. Issues here will spread throughout a business rapidly, upending productivity. By reviewing and improving risk management, training procedures, employee engagement, and overall efficiency, an organization can revitalize HR processes and business operations as a whole.

Source: B2C

Shark Tank: Boobie Bar Accepts $150,000 Offer from Daymond John

Next up is Wendy Colson of Boobie Bar, seeking $150,000 for 10 percent equity.

Boobie Bar is an herbal lactation bar perfect for busy, new mothers. According to their website, the bars “were created for busy moms who are looking for a delicious healthy snack packed with superfood ingredients which have been used for years to help nursing moms boost their milk supply in Just ONE Bar.” The flavors include oatmeal chocolate chip, gluten-free peanut butter and blueberry coconut. A six-pack of bars costs $17.99.

The sharks think the bars taste very good and Daymond John admits that he would eat them every day “if [he] had knockers.” Guest shark Sara Blakely thinks the product is interesting, but Mark Cuban worries about claims versus actual proof. In two years, they have done $778,000 in sales.

Mark Cuban sees the need but is concerned about the bar’s claims. He goes out, followed by Lori Greiner over the lack of clinical testing. Blakely has the same concerns and goes out. Kevin O’Leary loves the sales and offers $150,000 for 20 percent. John doesn’t have the same credibility concerns and offers $150,000 for 20 percent with a focus on licensing. Ultimately, Colson accepts John’s offer.

Social Media Reacts to Boobie Bar’s Appearance on “Shark Tank”

Each week on “Shark Tank,” budding entrepreneurs have the opportunity to pitch their emerging businesses to multi-millionaire and billionaire investors, known as sharks: Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks; Daymond John, fashion mogul and founder of FUBU; Kevin O’Leary, self-proclaimed Mr. Wonderful and founder of O’Leary Financial Group; Barbara Corcoran, real estate maven; Lori Greiner, queen of QVC; and Robert Herjavec, technology guru and founder/CEO of the Herjavec Group.

Philanthropist and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Spanx founder Sara Blakely, Skinnygirl Cocktails founder and Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel, Vitamin Water founder Rohan Oza and former MLB player Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez are also slated to appear as guest sharks this season.

“Shark Tank,” which is based on “Dragons’ Den,” is produced by Mark Burnett and first debuted in 2009. To date, the sharks have invested more than $100 million in various companies after engaging in numerous bidding wars and shark fights. A new episode airs each Sunday at 9 p.m. on ABC.

Would you try the Boobie Bar? Sound off in the comments section below!

Source: B2C

Shark Tank: Pandaloon Accepts $60,000 Offer from Daymond John

Last into the tank is Eugenia Chen of Pandaloon, seeking $60,000 for 20 percent equity.

Pandaloon offers adorable animal costumes for pets. According to their website, the pet-apparel company’s “favorite panda bear gift ideas come from our love of adorably cute and fun panda fashion. From panda bear hats with paws to panda bear slippers, we want to outfit you with the best panda gear from head to toe.” Pet costumes include walking panda, teddy bear, polar teddy bear and lion getups, in addition to cute harnesses and shirts. Prices range from $12.99 to $49.99.

The sharks all agree that the costumes, which provide plenty of laughs in the tank, are adorable. The panda costume started out as a viral hit, accumulating more than 140 million views on YouTube. An entire business was built from there.

Guest shark Sara Blakely thinks the costumes are high quality and thinks the pricing is perfect. In three years, they have done $300,000 in sales and are profitable. They hope to get enough inventory together in time for Halloween with an investment from a shark.

O’Leary doesn’t understand the concept of dressing up dogs and goes out, followed by Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner. Daymond John, however, likes the costumes and offers $60,000 for 35 percent, 10 percent of which will go towards animal charities. Blakely then jumps in with an offer of $60,000 for 35 percent. Chen questions whether they would partner, but John declines. Ultimately, she accepts John’s offer.

Social Media Reacts to Pandaloon’s Appearance on “Shark Tank”

Each week on “Shark Tank,” budding entrepreneurs have the opportunity to pitch their emerging businesses to multi-millionaire and billionaire investors, known as sharks: Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks; Daymond John, fashion mogul and founder of FUBU; Kevin O’Leary, self-proclaimed Mr. Wonderful and founder of O’Leary Financial Group; Barbara Corcoran, real estate maven; Lori Greiner, queen of QVC; and Robert Herjavec, technology guru and founder/CEO of the Herjavec Group.

Philanthropist and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Spanx founder Sara Blakely, Skinnygirl Cocktails founder and Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel, Vitamin Water founder Rohan Oza and former MLB player Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez are also slated to appear as guest sharks this season.

“Shark Tank,” which is based on “Dragons’ Den,” is produced by Mark Burnett and first debuted in 2009. To date, the sharks have invested more than $100 million in various companies after engaging in numerous bidding wars and shark fights. A new episode airs each Sunday at 9 p.m. on ABC.

Would you buy a Pandaloon costume for your pet? Sound off in the comments section below!

Source: B2C

Sunday, 14 January 2018

What is Yammer, and Is It Right For Your Team?

There are many ways to keep in touch with your team at work: text, email, collaboration tools, a paper airplane to the head. As a project manager, you need to be up on all of them.

Ideally, you’ll find one place where your entire team can connect and share their knowledge while working on projects.

While social media has the potential to distract, there’s no denying its commensurate (at least) power to connect.

If your team is already using channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram outside of work, why not borrow some of their best features to build a social network for the workplace?

That’s the idea behind Microsoft’s Yammer.

As founder David Sacks wrote on the Yammer blog, “We were looking for a tool to keep our company connected. Something like an enterprise version of Twitter would have been ideal, but it didn’t exist. So we built our own.”

Below, we’ll dive into how Yammer became a part of the Microsoft family and gained hundreds of millions of users, as well as how it could be useful (or not) for your team.

What is Yammer?

Despite its name—defined as talking persistently and loudly—Yammer is, at its heart, a collaboration tool and social network meant to bring teams together, especially if your team is remote.

An introduction to Yammer

Unlike traditional project management software—which includes features such as budget management, task management, and time tracking—Yammer is all about collaboration and networking.

Though some project management tools include collaboration features like chat or file sharing, they are built around project management features first. Yammer is meant to be used alongside project management software.

Yammer has an interesting background. Now a Microsoft product, it started as an in-house communication tool for genealogy website Sacks and co-founder Adam Pisoni eventually realized that Yammer was unique and useful enough to become a mass-distributed business tool on its own. Once it was opened up to the public, the software attracted about 5 million users in only four years.

That got Microsoft’s attention, and the software giant purchased Yammer for $1.2 billion in 2012. Yammer is now integrated with Microsoft’s Office 365 suite, meaning that if your company uses Office 365, you already have it tucked in with Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and all the other apps included in the suite.

According to Microsoft, 85% of Fortune 500 companies collaborate via Yammer. That number isn’t surprising when you consider that Office 365 is the most widely used enterprise cloud service in the world.

You don’t need an Office 365 membership to use Yammer—anyone can log in for free with their work email address and find their coworkers—but an active Office 365 subscription does give you Enterprise access, which basically means that your company gains administrative rights.

Why use Yammer?

What is Yammer?

The Yammer homescreen

If you’re familiar with Office 365, you may be asking why (and if) the suite needed another collaboration tool when it already includes Delve, SharePoint, and Teams. And that’s not even counting the wealth of non-Microsoft alternatives out there.

More choices can be better when we’re talking about lunch spots or vacation destinations, but when it comes to getting your team to buy into a new communication tool, too many choices can be counterproductive.

Think about trying to navigate a conversation happening concurrently across email, chat, and whatever other collaboration tools you’re already using. It’s a nightmare of miscommunication.

As Gartner analysts Jeffrey Mann and Mike Gotta wrote in their report, “Help Employees Select the Right Office 365 Productivity Tools” (full report available to Garner clients):

  • Microsoft continues to add tools with communication and collaboration capabilities to Office 365 without making it clear how they relate to each other. Making effective use of them is challenging for organizations.

  • Overlapping capabilities between tools—exemplified notably by Microsoft Teams—cause confusion as employees are left trying to decide which tool to use for a particular activity.

  • IT organizations are being asked to provide greater levels of guidance on tool selection, but are themselves struggling to identify clear-cut application scenarios to help business areas.

In response to these challenges, Gartner suggests that change managers determine what context their teams will be using these tools in and provide guidance, rather than “make all the tools in Office 365 available and hope for the best.”

In other words: learn about the options, compare them against the way your employees communicate, and figure out the best fit for your team.

If the bulk of your team is comfortable using Facebook, Yammer is a great fit because of the interface similarities.

However, if you manage a group of software engineers who want nothing to do with Facebook, a tool designed for programmers—like GitHub or SourceForge—would be better.

Who should use Yammer, and who shouldn’t?

What sets Yammer apart is its ability to seamlessly integrate with the rest of your business operations in Office 365. From within a Yammer conversation, you can schedule a meeting in Outlook, open a Skype video conversation, pull documents out of OneDrive, and work on a Power Point presentation.

The question “to use or not to use” really comes down to this: if your teams are part of the Office 365 ecosystem, Yammer is a great and seamless way to collaborate, and the product will likely continue to see new innovations.

If your team uses an alternative business suite (like G Suite or Apple iWork), there are a myriad of other cross-platform internal social network tools to choose from, such as Podio, Wrike, or Slack.

Do you Yammer?

I’d love to hear what you think about Yammer. How is it helpful? What would you change about it if you could? What are your tips and tricks for getting the most out of Yammer? Let me know in the comments below!

Source: B2C

5 Bold Predictions for E-Commerce Tech in 2018

Fifteen years ago, the existential threat to many major retailers was a small online bookshop. Ten years ago, the medium that drives 60% of online retail traffic didn’t exist. Five years ago, personalisation was a nascent technology experiment being conducted by a few enterprise retailers. One year ago, the term “retail apocalypse” didn’t even exist.

With the pace of innovation in e-commerce technology, predicting how retail tech will shake out in 2018 is the ultimate fool’s errand.

1. The golden age of customer experience will shine brighter

Today’s e-commerce professionals aren’t just thinking about changing colours on banners and buttons. The conversation has shifted to thinking about the entire shopper journey and how to optimise every element of it.

As barriers to entry in e-commerce crumble, there are scores of e-commerce start-ups in every category competing for your affection. Concurrently, there are thousands of marketing technology vendors trying to sell these companies technologies to help them deliver superior digital experiences.

The competitive landscape is fierce, breeding incredible innovations in every corner of retail from supply chain and logistics to in-app augmented reality. With smart people competing across the internet to capture our attention, the end experience for the end user will continue to get better and better.

2. Artificial intelligence will finally make a real impact, but with little glitz and glamour

With honorable mentions to “growth hacking” and “storytelling”, no buzzword was more abused in 2017 than “artificial intelligence”, or AI. It’s replaced big data as the new teen sex with everyone talking about it and nobody doing it.

However, the problem with adoption of AI in e-commerce has not been limitations of the technology itself. It’s been in access to data to help the machines learn. In order to meaningfully impact the customer experience, machine learning algorithms need to ingest vast amounts of data; machine learners are ultimately only as good as the school supplies you arm them with. However, even for tech-forward retailers, this data often exists across a myriad of software programmes and dusty basements of servers making it impossible for them to create unified profiles of their customer.

Low hanging applications of AI in retail lie in solving unsexy problems, such as which recommendations strategy to serve new visitors to an e-commerce website. While AI won’t upend retail anytime soon, practical applications of machine learning to common e-commerce problems will proliferate in 2018, benefiting brands that adopt the technology.

3. Retail’s middle class will face its toughest year yet

Already eviscerated, retailers and department stores that sell to the middle class will encounter even tougher market conditions in 2018.

All of the feel good articles saying that a lemonade stand can compete with Amazon leave out an inconvenient truth – most of the brands successfully competing with Amazon sell really expensive goods. The median household income in America simply can’t buy Away luggage, a Rent the Runway subscription or $150 shoes from Rothy’s.

Quietly, the retail apocalypse has also been a boom time for hyper discount retailers such as Dollar Tree, who can still compete with Amazon on the basis of price. Incredibly, one company, LA-based Hollar, has successfully managed to take the dollar-store experience online, blending competitive pricing with sophisticated supply chain and digital technology.

Expect Hollar to become a true household name in 2018 and beyond and a company that delivers real value to the e-commerce ecosystem.

4. Amazon will meaningfully enter fashion by way of acquisition

Last time Jeff Bezos couldn’t crack a niche e-commerce market, he simply bought out his competitor, Vito Coreloning diapers startup Quidsi. Look for Amazon to bring back this playbook in 2018 to finally break into fashion.

Amazon whisperer and NYU professor Scott Galloway predicts that Nordstrom will join the Amazon empire next year to plug this gap. An even bolder prediction from Gene Munster has Amazon buying Target in 2018 for about $40 billion. While Amazon has shown a willingness to swing big with the Whole Foods acquisition, I’d look for slightly smaller stores with high margins, nouveau riche clienteles and chic brick and mortar presences to be prime targets. Amazon can buy a retailer with less than $1bn in revenue with pocket change while avoiding pesky antitrust concerns.

Bold prediction: Amazon unites the South American topographies by making a bid for Patagonia. Bezos picks up a socially active brand beloved by millennials while Patagonia does the deal to lower prices and to provide financial cover for even more political activity

5. Brands will have less value than ever

While Amazon’s shadow looms everywhere, retail’s old guard is also being hammered by the fact that more shoppers every month are simply ambivalent about the logo on their clothes. For many millennials, the $12 black polo with no logo is just as good as the $70 Lacoste polo with a cute little crocodile.

Perhaps nothing is more telling than the fact that one of the VC darlings in e-commerce is literally called “Brandless”. In 2018, expect a lot more nice apparel from no-name brands to flood the market, increasing pressure on many iconic brands to win on the basis of customer experience rather than brand equity.

This post originally appeared in Fashion and Mash.

Source: B2C