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Just before Xmas I was invited to speak at the Creative Entrepreneur event at Media City in Manchester to share insights into how online retail is changing. In-between speaking, it was great to listen to other online retail experts to hear their thoughts about where things are heading. So we can take a look through some of the discussions points in this blog post.

Creative Entrepreneur December 2014

 

ASDA

First up we heard from Dom Burch, the serial speaker and senior director or marketing innovation and new revenue at Walmart UK (Asda). He shared his insights into how some of ASDA’s recent campaigns have been hugely successful in many aspects online and offline.

Dom’s first tip was around innovation and the importance of innovating throughout your entire business, regardless of how big or small you are. Innovation is key to long term and sustained growth. Simply dipping a toe in the water isn’t going to cut it here, Dom advised that you need to be giving projects at least 6 months to succeed (or fail!) so that you can be confident that you have exhausted all possibilities for the idea and had the time to gather data and assess the results accurately.

With all innovative ideas, you are starting with a goal of some kind for the business. Starting with ambitions to “become a big business” is equivalent to starting with the idea of “making a video go viral”. It’s simply the wrong approach to take and will inevitably lead to disappointment as goals are not hit. Instead, start with goals that are relevant for your business, goals that are in-line with your customer demands and goals that you can actually influence.

In between these ideas, Dom shared a few interesting statistics about ASDA;

  • ASDA FM listeners have more people listening that Radio 1 and Radio 2 combined
  • There are over 18 million customers who visit ASDA stores weekly
  • ASDA’s website has over 300 million impressions every month

These are quite similar figures to what was announced last year at a digital marketing conference in Manchester.

With ASDA spending over £100 million per annum on broadcasting adverts, Dom’s approach was to get the PR team using Twitter, which was quite a challenge. Spending as little as 2 hours per week on Twitter, the newbie-to-Twitter PR team were already having a conversation with the editor of Vogue within 2 weeks. Where else could you get this kind of conversation going in 2 weeks? It simply wouldn’t be possible.

Another tip came in the form of doing something yourself first so that you know how to do it. This is something that I firmly believe in personally and in business. If you don’t at least understand what is happening, how can you ever hope to really manage this process? This is not to say you need to be an expert in every aspect as this would be impossible. Instead, it is hugely important to get a good grasp on every aspect within business and digital so that you can fully understand why things are being implemented and the reach they will ultimately have.

 

Build Measure Learn Iterative Process

 

The simple process above will help you to build fast, fail quickly and innovate throughout your business at speeds you have never done before. Ideas are worthless, implementation is key and the only way to see what does and doesn’t work is to loop through the process as fast as possible, while giving every idea the time and energy to succeed.

Have a think for a moment, what are the 10 ideas that you have been talking about in your business last year? I can guarantee that there will certainly have been more than 10 ideas, but what were the 10 most important ideas? How many of these have you actually implemented, 5, 3, 1, none? Start the year off as you mean to go on. Run through these 10 ideas and measure everything to see how they impact your business. Capture the data and make informed decisions about the success of each campaign or idea.

For established businesses like ASDA, they aim to spend between 1-5% of their marketing budget on what Dom called “Trial and Error” campaigns which may or may not work. For businesses within the SME market, I would suggest this should be much higher as you are often still in the stages of experimenting with campaigns to see what works for your business. We naturally review and manage a lot of campaigns in the day to day work we do, although even we cannot tell you with 100% accuracy what will or won’t work for your individual business. We can certainly take into account the years of expertise and make a highly educated decision, although every business and every customer is different.

ASDA know that 74% of their customers are on Facebook, 20% are on Twitter and 15% of their customers watch YouTube daily. This information allows ASDA to invest their digital marketing spend in the right areas and not simply spend money on ‘more followers’ with no engagements. Their YouTube strategy focuses on how-to style videos and researching products which are broken down into 3 main groups;

  • Hygiene content: Something that is core to what you do and for your core target market
  • Hub content: Regularly created content designed to push this in front of your audience
  • Hero content: Large scale campaigns to raise brand awareness, think about the epic Volvo Trucks campaign

The next of ASDA’s campaigns that was shared was with the involvement of Tanya Burr. Who you ask? Ask your teenage daughter if you have one. If you don’t, like me, then I also had to Google her to find out a bit more about her! She is described as a “Beauty, Fashion, Baking, Lifestyle Blogger & YouTuber” in a nutshell. And more than that, she has 1.2 million followers on Twitter. This is the reason ASDA worked with her, to reach this huge audience. The reach that ASDA’s products gained on social media was astronomical, just take a look through the number of views for each video that they produced together and you will start to understand how collaborations like this can pay off. Where else could you gain that kind of reach? To put things into context, Game of Thrones receives around 1.3 million views every week, which is less than what ASDA managed to reach with this collaboration. Likewise, Tanya Burr has more followers on Twitter than Sheryl Cole, Madonna and BBC Radio 1. Just because you have likely never heard of people like Tanya, doesn’t mean that they aren’t hugely successful.

When looking at YouTube videos specifically, always keep an eye out on the engagement levels and not simply the number of views of a video. Any brands that have a lot of views yet very few likes/dislikes means that they have likely paid a lot of money to drive traffic to the YouTube video and no-one liked it so they just bounced straight back out again. High engagement levels allow you to listen directly to your customers in ways like never before. ASDA’s videos with Tanya weren’t simply ‘buy this product’ videos, that’s boring and a fast way to drive customers away. Instead, they focused on food, health and wellness, beauty and style.

ASDA took this whole campaign one step further by creating the Mums Eye View YouTube channel which linked together their partnerships with Tanya Burr, Zoella and the Lean Machines. Google them all to grasp the scale of what is being achieved with strategic partnerships. This is a very young audience that ASDA was targeting here and one that has clearly paid off. With reports of as little as 2p per view of a YouTube video, 70% retention rate, 4 minutes minimum viewing time with an average of 7 minutes in length per video. You could only achieve these results with effective digital marketing that focuses directly on your customers. Not once did ASDA think “let’s make this video go viral”. What this also shows is that people like long form content on the web. No more do videos have to be 2 minutes in length, don’t be afraid of pushing the boundaries to meet customer demands.

This brings us nicely onto newspapers and traditional newspaper advertising. Quite frankly, no-one reads newspapers anymore, and I don’t say that lightly. Ask yourself, when was the last time you bought a newspaper? Personally, I can’t remember the last time I bought one, other than on the occasional times when I’m featured in one to keep as a little memento. Keep everything into context, could you seriously generate a response of someone looking at your advert for 4 minutes in a newspaper? I don’t need to answer that for you, it is clear. For ASDA, they know that 4/5 people don’t shop in ASDA and that is OK. So why spend £150,000 on a single press release in a national newspaper when 4/5 people of the people still reading newspapers aren’t ever going to be interested in ASDA anyway?

The summary of Dom’s keynote speech was that brands and businesses need to take a step back and see what is happening in the world. It’s time to start creating more content that relates to your audience.

 

Cyber Security

The next session was all about cyber security and the steps you can take to protect yourself. You need to look no further than the recent headlines about how many companies have been hacked into last year with millions of customer details stolen; eBay, Sony, Moonpig and endless more including 273 million customer details stolen from Yahoo and 250,000 customer details stolen from Twitter.

Some interesting statistics announced around cybercrime included that it costs the UK economy over £6.8 billion per year and the global economy £238 billion annually. With 81% of large businesses having experienced security breaches in 2014. The cost of a typical breach is now at £1.15 million, up from £600,000 in the previous year.

Some of the most common attacks are due to very basic hacking just after Update Tuesday. Windows PCs are updated every Tuesday with security patches that have been identified to keep your system and data safe and secure, yet so many people either ignore the messages on their computers or simply turn off the automatic updates. This is mad! As part of the weekly update from Microsoft, the hackers use this information as a shopping list of exploits on computers around the world they can attempt to get access to. If your system isn’t up to date, then you could be at risk.

Moving onto more sophisticated attacks such as DDoS attacks, which stands for Distributed Denial of Service attacks, these can bring down websites with ease. To the point at which you can actually purchase an attack on the black market to target a specific website for a specific amount of time. Unlawful and illegal hacking is turning into an underground commercial business. DDoS attacks are actually quite simple;

 

How DDoS Attacks Work

 

This method for DDoS are often using thousands, hundreds of thousands if not millions of computers from around the globe. For example, here you can see a short visualisation of a DDoS attack happening in real time on my personal blog a couple of years ago;

 

 

Have a read more about the full details if you are interested. The exact same thing happened to Mastercard, Visa and PayPal when they decided to stop sending funds through to the hacker group Anonymous. Whether you agree or disagree with this is another discussion all together and one that doesn’t have a simple answer. The important point here is that DDoS attacks are a real and present threat for businesses. While it is unlikely that you will encounter the wrath of some of the more prolific public hacking groups, the reality is that a lot of business websites for SMEs are hosted on cheap and nasty web servers that are poorly configured and have very little security built into them. Make sure your web server has the right protection in place to at least minimise the chances of DDoS attacks affecting you. The unfortunate reality is that if someone is determined enough to bring your website down, they will do. You can make it harder for this to happen though by having the right infrastructure in place for your website.  Aren’t sure if your website and web server is protected? Then get in touch and we can review to check for vulnerabilities.

Moving away from hacking and looking at other types of data breaches now. Some of the most common data breaches often come in much simpler formats and often due to human error, aka. lack of awareness about threats. Threats including basic passwords on mobile and tablet devices to avoid automatic access to cloud based file storage systems for your company if a device is lot of stolen, to a deeper understanding of programming languages to avoid rookie mistakes.

Website vulnerabilities in particular happen for a number of reasons including unpatched software/content management systems/plugins, poor coding practices, poor server configuration, unencrypted data and more. Getting all of the above right is the absolute minimum businesses should be doing. Simply having a website built and not thinking about on-going updates is madness with how easy it is to exploit unloved websites. Every website should have regular and on-going maintenance to keep the website, content and data secure.

As of this year, there will be new EU Data Protection legislation that will be coming into force that businesses must adhere to. All of which is designed to move the current legislation into the digital age where customer data is collected at an alarming rate, often with very little visibility about what is being collected. This is likely to include full disclosure when data breaches happen so that customers are aware of what has happened. Far too often, businesses try and sweep large data breaches under the rug and hope that no-one will notice.

During the session, a live demonstration was given showing how easy it is for someone to steal your details – Even with my background, I was surprised at the level of things that can be done to steal personal details without you ever knowing what has happened. For example, simple things like clicking a link in an email can allow hackers to steal all of your saved login information in your browser. It really is that simple. Likewise, downloading a seemingly normal looking file from an untrusted source can result in a Key Logger being installed on your computer which will then be able to ‘read’ every single key you press, including your online bank account details and email passwords.

You may have heard about the infamous Stuxnet virus that swept the world almost by stealth last year. If you haven’t, you really need to read a few articles about this serious security threat; Wired, Business Insider, Wikipedia and what is even more worrying is that the source code for the virus is now publicly available on certain websites.  As a quick overview if you haven’t come across Stuxnet before, the virus was designed specifically to find a physical controller located in power plants that controlled the heating/cooling of the nuclear material. As you can imagine, hacking into this and reporting an incorrect figure would lead to catastrophic results. This shows how sophisticated hacking has become. Some sources say that the virus was created by the US to target Iran’s nuclear facilities – how true this is, I don’t know. Other notable viruses including Duqu and Flame again highlight the level of sophistication that is happening right now.

Other common hacking attacks include the likes of SQL Injection attacks and Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attacks. Have a read up on these, again hugely important issues to be aware of and protect yourself against. Inexperienced and junior people working in digital are often oblivious to all of this type of information and most importantly how to protect against it. Always work with a company and people who are professional and have a very deep understanding of the industry they are working on. Remember the quote “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur”.

Now can you see why it is important to keep your systems, website and servers secure? Good, I’m glad the message has been received. If you don’t know what to do next, then get in touch and let’s have a chat.

 

Online Retail Panel

Online Retail Session 3

Next up was the panel that I was part of alongside three other digital agency owners in Manchester and London along with the Head of Online Retail for Iceland Foods, Andy Thompson. The session took a rather interesting turn to talk around a lot of digital topics about business growth through online retail, internal communication challenges and solutions along with some blindingly obvious opportunities for large brands to improve their sales online. The talks should be going online once they have been edited which you can look forward to watching, so for the meantime, here is a quick summary of the whole event and more information can also be found on the website;

 

 

Online Retail Panelist

Digital Marketing, SEO and the Internet of Things

The last few sessions of the day are combined within this section. We heard from many different speakers and panellists in the final sessions with lots of great tips for businesses. One key message that is extremely relevant for the SME market is that you simply can’t have social media accounts without creative content. You need to be creating your own content and sharing this socially along with utilising other great content around the web to fuel your social media channels.

 

The Tales of Things by Oxfam

Oxfam was involved in a very interesting project with the University of Salford titled The Tales of Things. Oxfam have invested £1.4 million over the past 3 years with the aim of revolutionising business systems and processes through the use of digital technologies. The Tales of Things project was a very interesting one and one which I believe we will start to see more of over the next few years.

The idea was around selling donated products that also have a QR code attached to them. Customers looking at the item would then scan the QR code to listen to a short story from the person who donated the item. Oxfam found that this actually increased sales by 57% in the Manchester shop. They then extended this into Selfridges in London where celebrities donated items with the same concept behind. Within 14 weeks, they had this technology applied in 10 Manchester shops. This is ultimately a historical archive for objects that are traded, thus turning an object into something more than an object as it has a story behind it.

Personally I hate QR codes with a passion due to the way that they are misused in 99% of circumstances by businesses. Although in this instance with Oxfam, this is a really great way to bring things to live and genuinely adds value to the product being purchased and the customer experience.

This project has been on-going for a few years now so have a good read about the finer details over at the BBC, Oxfam and Tales of Things.

 

Cool Tech

Where would we be without a blog post talking about some cool technology that is on the horizon? Here is a really cool digital air hockey game that Tom Cheesewright and I played (which I think I won, Tom may disagree, not that I’m competitive in any way! );

 

Digital Air Hockey - CreativeEnt

Image courtesy of Aleksej Heinze

 

And this was even more amazing, a 3D holographic projection (apologies for the poor quality, it was taken on my smartphone);

Summary of Event

Overall, the event was excellent with lots of great tips and advice to take away and implement. I’m sure there are a lot of questions about what you need to be focusing on in your business after the security discussions and digital marketing opportunities discussed above. Get in touch and we can talk things through with you to see how we can support the growth of your business.

Keep an eye out for next year’s event

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Michael Cropper

Founder & Managing Director at Contrado Digital Ltd
Michael founded Contrado Digital in 2013. He has experience working with national and multi-national brands in a wide range of industries, helping them achieve awesome results. Michael regularly speaks at local universities and industry events while keeping up with the latest trends in the digital industry.