Guest columnist Jez Walters, editor of What’s New In Publishing, on the battle to actually access the wealth of great content created by brands and broadcasters.
It’s a strange beast, publishing. If you’re not actually creating content professionally, then you’re consuming it privately. Content, content everywhere. The only time I seem to get a break is when I’m staring at the ceiling or listlessly gazing at the sea from my south coast office.
With my private hat on, I’ve never been happier with the content available to me right now. If you asked me to rate it between 0 and 10, I’d give it a hearty 9 and I might even throw in another half point or so if you find me in a good mood.
What makes today’s content so damn appealing is that I’m not being force fed other people’s ridiculous views and lazy meanderings, but rather I am able to consume the content that appeals to me. Believe me, there’s plenty of it about. For every FT, there’s a Business Insider, for every Stephanie Flanders there’s a Max Keiser, and for every dreary football report, there’s TalkSport. Today’s content is vibrant and engaging.
Despite this, I’m a deeply frustrated individual. The content industry might deserve a pat on the back for its quality but it also needs a cold bucket of water for its ineptitude. The problem? Content delivery – or rather, the lack of it.
It’s not lazy and poor quality journalism that’s the problem any more; it’s the difficulty of accessing it on a device I want to use. There’s simply no excuse for it and I’m starting to pull my hair out with the number of examples that affect me personally.
Exhibit 1: Channel 4. I switched on my Panasonic Smart TV and on a friend’s recommendation sat down to watch The Returned. Has Channel 4 made their 4 on Demand app on the Panasonic store? No. Could I go to Channel4.com and view 4oD directly? Nope. Instead, I got switched to Adobe’s website for a free error message. Just to rub my nose in it, Channel 4 did allow me to watch the trailer on my Smart TV’s YouTube app. That’s like giving a hungry dog a plastic bone.
Exhibit 2: Online football content. I sit on the web advisory board for a Premier League football club. I’m there for my professional input and also as a longstanding punter who has suffered more than any mortal should (a 4-0 defeat at Wembley being a particular non-highlight). Anyway, during the last meeting, the great and the good of Shoreditch waxed lyrical about how to get this particular club’s digital output up to par. I listened and listened.
When it came to my input, I only had one point to make: “The content’s superb, first class – but it’s useless to me. Can I view it on my smartphone during my commute? No. Can I view it on Freeview? No. Can I watch it via my smart TV’s app store? No. Can I watch it on my TV web browser? No. It makes my monthly subscription about as useful as a chocolate teapot.”
The above are just two examples of how I’m not able to consume content on the devices I want. That makes the content redundant, universally useless to me. Worse still, it actually harms the brand – because offering content that can’t easily be consumed is a tease of the highest order. I’d prefer to remain in ignorance and think the content wasn’t available.
So that’s my rant over. If you’re creating first class content, as so many of you are, ask yourself whether the individual penning this piece can consume it easily on his Galaxy S3 or smart TV. If not, you can count me out as a customer, whatever the demographics might suggest. I’ll be watching YouTube instead – now that’s an example of epic content distribution which I’ll have to leave for another day.
Jez Walters is editor at What’s New In Publishing
The secret to multi-platform communications lies is an overarching strategy to integrate brand messages, says Group FMG’s Executive Vice President David Bonthrone
Those of us who have been in the communications business for some time have slowly but surely witnessed the migration from a siloed to a more integrated approach. In our industry, integration plays out across media and creative messaging and the very talent that drives it.
When the ad business exploded in the late 1960s with the adoption of television – which enabled marketers to talk to consumers en masse – the benchmark of success for brands was ‘increased awareness’. Alongside TV advertising, out of home, radio and print were the mass media channels in which brands needed to achieve success, with numerous studies proving that increased awareness correlated to higher sales.
However, as the media landscape has become more fragmented in the past decade, marketing has become more complicated than simply using mass media to drive awareness. As the recent demise of Twinkies – a product almost universal known in the US – showed, awareness doesn’t always translate into positive brand value.
Nowadays more consumers research their purchase decisions than ever before, and advertising is no longer trusted; instead, the recommendations of friends and indeed strangers online are valued more highly than any other source. This puts the consumer, and not the brand, in the driving seat. As a result we are seeing a more integrated, or holistic, approach to solving marketing challenges or maximizing a marketing opportunity. Brands are now looking to build brand value not just by increasing awareness from mass media, but also through other key elements within the purchase funnel such as ‘considering trial’, ‘increasing retention’ and ‘improving brand loyalty’. Integration across these multiple channels is essential to ensure that the same message is communicated within them all.
As the marketing services business has evolved, so have the agencies that execute these tactics for their clients, modifying and expanding their offerings. Ogilvy & Mather embraced the first 360-degree model to supply the industry’s most respected integrated offering via OgilvyOne, OgilvyInteractive, OgilvyPR and OgilvyAction, among other units. Others followed. And in some cases, as clients are driven by the need to be more cost efficient, agencies are being asked to provide all of these services under one roof.
Let’s look at the integration of creative and messaging. As integration took hold, the assumption was made that the same creative can be adapted or repurposed for a different channel. ‘We developed a great concept for TV which has to work across all media channels,’ would be the Brand Manager’s cry. In theory, this sounds like a great idea. In practice, however, many studies have shown that new creative needs to be developed for each of the channels, as marketers are trying to fulfill different consumer needs. I believe one can adapt the core creative idea to fit the needs of each channel, but that brand guidelines and identity is sacrosanct and should not be messed with.
Having talent that strategically understands the need for and implementation of integrated solutions is, frankly, rare. It is human nature to revert to one’s area of comfort and expertise. Most Chief Marketing Officers on the client side have been brought up on mass media and they tend to have been experts in disciplines such as public relations or direct marketing. Similarly, on the agency side (and because a disproportionate amount of budget is still allocated to mass media) the business leaders tend to come from that type of background. Despite this, things are finally changing – and fast. CMOs are having to realise the importance of the digital channel where the key skills are focused on being able to ‘tell’, not ‘sell’.
So what role will ‘integration’ play in the future? I believe it will be ‘assumed’ that – depending on the objective at hand – there will be a role for integrated media, integrated creative and integrated teams. Those that continue to simply pay lip service to the need to integrate will be left behind. In today’s world, marketing integration is essentially about developing core creative ideas that can be adapted across every medium. We are finding that as e-commerce continues to grow, it provides even more opportunities for integration and content creation. Obvious examples are the enormous brand value being created by the likes of Zappos, Amazon and others via the digital only channel. This will continue.
This shift to integration is opening up more opportunity for marketers and agencies alike: I believe that contextual and engagingly cost-efficient content, which is commerce enabled and lives on any medium, is a sound platform on which to build the ‘integrated’ communications company of the future.
David Bonthrone is Group FMG’s Executive Vice President. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
FMG’s Head of Content Marketing Julia Hutchison on why e-commerce content must be strategically and technologically optimised for all devices
For the past three or four years, mobile has been purported to be the next big thing for everything from publishing to e-commerce. But it is only now that it is finally reaching critical mass – particularly in terms of the profitability of mobile commerce – and making an undeniably substantial impact on the way in which we shop.
In June a report released by Juniper Research suggested that by 2017 the value of m-commerce (including tablet) transactions will exceed $3.2 trillion, up from an already eye-watering $1.5 trillion this year. The same report suggested that a number of select industries – in particular the retail, airline and financial sectors – are really pushing the envelope when it comes to their m-commerce strategies. This is reflected in the way that individual brands are now coming forward to claim that m-commerce is front of mind when it comes to overall digital strategy – in the same month, for example, House of Fraser announced that it is to adopt a ‘mobile-first’ strategy after finding that more than half of its mobile traffic now comes from touchscreen devices.
One of the key reasons for this sudden change is that smartphone penetration has ramped up significantly. There are various reports on this, but we know for sure that in the UK around 60% of adults now own one. On top of this, the popularity of tablet devices over the past two years has eased the transition from desktop to touchscreen when it comes to making transactions online – consumers are infinitely more comfortable than they were a couple of years ago with touching, rather than typing their way to the checkout. In addition, the technologies that are to become drivers of force in the m-commerce world are finally finding their footing. Near Field Communications (NFC) for example, although still in its infancy, is starting to see actual roll out from partnerships with the likes of Mastercard and Visa.
This news will no doubt have any remaining retailers that don’t already have a mobile optimised site running to their digital agencies. However, with commerce and editorial being brought ever closer together online, it also underlines the growing importance of ensuring that your content is optimised and appropriate for mobile platforms.
Once it was enough to have a few high-resolution images on your site and a blog to share your views, but as user experience has become increasingly important, shoppers are looking for more compelling content. Today, the sites where consumers buy the most are those that feature engaging content that keeps users coming back until they are ready to buy. These sites understand that consumers want useful information and not just a sales pitch.
This is where regularly updated magazine-style articles across a range of different media – video, audio and written – can and will play an increasingly important role in e-commerce. Not only does it allow you to build a closer bond with your customers by giving them the content that they are interested in and that reflects their lifestyles and interests, it also allows you to upsell and cross-sell to your shoppers – not that I’m in any way advocating that content should be sales driven.
The problem for retailers – and indeed anyone who publishes digital content – is that content is pretty useless unless it can be viewed across all your platforms (laptop, desktop, mobile and tablet). And it’s not just a case of whether you can view it; it’s a case of how it looks when you view it. If you have to keep zooming in and out of a page or video quality is bad on a larger screen this will actively damage the user experience.
Today, managing customer-facing content has evolved into a complex process, driven in no small part by the fact that consumer expectations have risen exponentially. To be able to cope with this, retailers and brands need to have a fully integrated approach to their content, which covers all the channels they operate in, and ensures their story is told not only in an interactive way, but also a consistent way. Once an overall content strategy has been created – which will be very much determined by the company’s business objectives – only then can they focus on individual platforms and look at how to distribute content across all channels.
A key part of this process involves putting in place a detailed editorial plan to ensure that customers are taken on an engaging journey and that the right content is pushed out across the right channels. Brands need to remember that relevancy is critical; if content isn’t relevant for any particular channel it will just get lost, or worse, ignored. And this means brands and retailers need to have a solid understanding of how their customers behave on different channels, and then ensuring that content is targeted towards this behavior.
Consumers are becoming more demanding of their online experiences across the various devices they use, and they want that experience to be consistent or they’ll just go somewhere else. The challenge for brands is to provide relevant on-site content that is optimised for any or all of the different devices that the target audience is using. Not doing so means quite literally throwing money – and customers – away.
Julia Hutchison is Group FMG’s Head of Content Marketing. You can contact her at email@example.com
Product placement in film may be about to have a renaissance, but it’s not always the most effective use of a brand’s budget, says FMG’s Head of Content Marketing Julia Hutchison
The recent release of Australian director Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby has drawn a tide of column inches. Surprisingly, however, this has not solely been for its screenplay and sumptuous cinematic experience, but also because it appears to have set a new benchmark for promotional tie-ins with luxury brands.
Visit the Guide to Style section of the film’s website and you’ll find a string of content which sees the film’s stars enthusing over everything from the Tiffany props and Mac make-up to the Brooks Brothers costumes. On top of this, the press has been spoilt with pictures of the glamorous premiere party in Cannes, brought to you by Moët & Chandon. Meanwhile, Fairmont Hotels’ flagship New York property, The Plaza, which features in both the film and the original novel, is celebrating its own tie-in to the film with a Moët pop-up bar and a weekly ‘Gatsby Hour’ delivering an immersive Gatsby experience. Also, the group’s iconic London hotel, the Savoy, has launched a special cocktail in its American Bar. Even Harrods has got in on the act with its Gatsby-themed window displays.
Of course, tie-ins like these are nothing new, but to have so many luxury brands so heavily involved in one feature is a first – and, for Hollywood, the belief is that this approach understandably represents the future. As Stacy Jones, chief executive of Hollywood Branded, who secured BlackBerry’s role in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, explained in a recent article in London’s Evening Standard: “Product placement is as old as Hollywood itself. But I think we’re about to see its heyday. You’ve got a fragmented audience, a tight financial situation, and producers realising that they need real partners – not just someone who writes them a cheque so the Chevy logo features in a scene.”
Indeed, as more and more content producers – from musicians to film producers – turn to brands to help them deliver quality content to their audiences, these types of partnerships are only going to become more common across the screens of our various devices.
The problem for brands is that as Hollywood seeks to form more movie ‘partnerships’ to help fund their vast budgets, the more those brands are going to fight for air in what will become an incredibly crowded environment. And the Hollywood hardly has an exemplary track record in terms of product placement; just think of the number of films throughout history that have been panned for their gratuitous product placement.
Two of the most noteworthy examples include the Sex and the City movie that set the standards at possibly an all-time low when it unapologetically promoted 67 different brands, and the James Bond film Quantum of Solace’s partnership with Omega watches, where in one scene Daniel Craig looks at his wrist and you get a less than necessary full screen shot of the Omega Seamaster.
Undeniably these ventures will be important to Hollywood’s future, but one would hope the film industry sees fit to raise the bar a little and incorporate brands in more tasteful and interesting ways. The last thing you want as a brand partner is to find yourself battling for airtime with 66 other brands or to find your brand image tarnished by some injudicious placement. Of course, almost everyone wants to be associated with blockbuster movies, but there are now more effective options available to brands, such as creating their own digital content with integrated product placement. After all, movie product placement is still paid-for media, and who really wants to be clinging to the coat tails of someone else’s success?
As the internet allows distribution of video content to bigger and bigger audiences, brands like Chanel and Jaguar are now leading the field by working to create their own long-form video content. Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld’s association with Keira Knightley on films such as Once Upon a Time explores the brand-owned possibilities for sumptuous cinematic content to reinforce its positioning and strengthen its bond further with its target audience.
Jaguar, on the other hand, teamed up with Ridley Scott Associates and Golden Globe winner Damian Lewis to promote its new F-Type with a mini-feature entitled Desire that sets the car against an intriguingly dramatic backdrop.
Product placement will always have its place, but as video becomes an increasingly important tool for consumer engagement, the chance to actually own your own film content rather than just piggy back someone else’s opens up a whole world of opportunities for brands that they perhaps never thought was possible.
Julia Hutchison is Group FMG’s Head of Content Marketing. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Quality entertainment content and product placement are merging like never before to give brands a new edge online, explains Tim Dams, editor of Televisual Magazine
The world of traditional TV advertising and sponsorship has always been heavily regulated, and brands have learned to work within the boundaries they have been set. But although advertisers’ love affair with TV’s huge potential continues, over the past 18 months we’ve seen more production skills being poured into the regulation-free online arena. And as a result, we are now witnessing a blurring of the lines between programming and advertising.
While this lack of regulation online might seem a positive boon to advertisers, it presents its own unique challenge: finding the delicate balance between not having product loom so large that audiences completely reject the message, while also being certain of getting value for money from video where a product might only play a bit part.
The truth is, we’re in uncharted territory here and pretty much making up the rules as we go along, discovering the boundaries as and when we cross them. Obviously this means that mistakes are being made along the way, but as with everything these mistakes are a vital part of the learning process.
Undeniably, the appetite for online content is vast, and the figures speak for themselves. For example, YouTube claims that it has more than 1 billion unique users each month, over 4 billion hours of video are watched on the site each month and 72 hours of video are uploaded every minute. Yet – impressive as these figures are – content uploaded to YouTube is only going to be successful if it’s good, interesting and shareable.
What would be just as interesting to know is how much of this content is not being watched. This is a crowded market place and you have to be very creative and clever to stand out – and to do that often requires production skill and money.
This makes online content a creative and fertile area for partnership. And there are some fantastic examples of where these partnerships have worked well. For example, the promo video for ‘Sexy People (The FIAT Song)’ by Arianna featuring Pitbull, which received more than 5.5 million YouTube views within three weeks of its release, had people questioning whether it was a commercial or a pop promo. The answer of course is irrelevant as it’s a great piece of content from which both parties benefit.
This isn’t the first time FIAT has succeeded in this arena; their Motherhood promo received almost 5 million views.
Meanwhile, a recent Pepsi commercial featuring Beyoncé racked up over 11 million views as the brand sought to move away from traditional celebrity endorsement with an online video featuring an excerpt from the singer’s then un-released single Grown Woman, and also included an entirely new dance routine.
If you want something a little more cerebral, check out Jaguar’s Desire – a 12-minute mini feature film created in collaboration with Ridley Scott Associates and starring Damian Lewis, Shannyn Sossamon and Jordi Mollà and featuring music by Lana Del Rey.
Since the dawn of commercial TV, viewers have been fed content via a fixed schedule with regulated advertising seen as an acceptable interruption to programming. Online, the situation is different. People are actively searching out their own content, and as such seem to understand that producing good content is difficult without good partners.
Even without regulation there has to be guidelines, and for brands looking to ride the content wave the focus should be about looking at how they get people’s attention and encourage them to watch their content. From there, it’s a case of looking at how they weave their message in without destroying the experience.
As we get closer to full convergence and the internet becomes the central hub of the living room, perhaps the idea of regulation online will come to the fore. However, for now this new ‘wild west’ frontier of content creation is a hotbed of creativity and excitement where necessary mistakes are being made. But in between, we’re seeing some staggeringly good examples of successful content.
Tim Dams, editor of Televisual Magazine for Group FMG
Televisual can justly claim to understand the disparate needs of the UK production community as well if not better than any other commercial media. Launched with the birth of C4 in 1982, Televisual has evolved and grown in to the magazine of record for the production community.
FMG’s Head of Video Rob Crombie looks at what you need to do to get the most out of your video
With video content becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix, brand owners are finding themselves faced with an almost bewildering array of options when it comes to choosing a production partner.
Do you approach a traditional agency? Do you approach a video production company? Or do you approach a freelancer directly?
There are pros and cons to each choice. A traditional marketing agency can oversee the whole project, but is perceived by many to be complex and expensive. And while a video production company may offer more specialist production skills, there are so many of them that making the right choice can be daunting (a new client of ours told us they’d Googled ‘video production companies within half-a-mile’ and discovered there were no fewer than 15 of them).
And while working directly with a freelance producer can reduce your costs, you need to consider whether you are sacrificing the peace-of-mind you’d have using a more established company.
Today, it seems that if you have a DLSR, a laptop and Final Cut, you’re a video producer – and why not? A quick look at Vimeo will illustrate the vast amount of outstanding freelance and even amateur talent working today across all production disciplines.
As fun as this may be to the amateur or aspiring video professional, the democratisation of video production has misled brands into thinking that to fulfill their video requirements they can cut costs by recruiting freelancers direct and procuring purely on price.
Of course, price is an important consideration, but in reality procuring on this basis alone is akin to saving money by hiring dozens of individual contractors to build a house without using an architect. In today’s hyper-connected marketplace, creating a brand video is not just about the actual physical execution of an idea. It’s the strategy and distribution behind the idea that really brings it to life.
One recent production we completed with a high-end department store offers a case in point. The retailer was looking to commission a series of animations illustrating its vision for 2013 and the project was being handled by the department head’s of both Graphics and Design – probably the two most senior people in charge of the brand’s look and feel. To fulfill this requirement, they initially approached a freelance designer directly via Vimeo on the strength of their work.
So far, so straightforward.
But as the project developed, it became clear the client required a lot more support than a lone – albeit highly talented – designer could contribute. They needed consultation and advice to help clarify and articulate their vision, an original creative idea, scripting, storyboarding and assistance in presenting that vision internally to get people on board. On top of this, the deliverables needed to align with other initiatives across the company, be re-purposed for different platforms and securely archived in order that they could be amended in future as information changed. All this meant that a wider creative and strategic input was necessary, backed up by a more robust production infrastructure.
In this particular incidence, the freelancer they approached happened to be someone we regularly work with, and once they realised the additional expertise required, suggested the brand involve us. Our team – including the original freelancer – went on to complete the project successfully, making for a very happy client.
For me, this is a the perfect example of a client’s journey from thinking a low-cost, purely executional production service was required, through to understanding the value of the strategic thinking behind the actual production process. Fortunately, for the client, in this case the end result was a success.
If brands have a clear requirement, have planned and arranged all the elements, and are looking for someone to simply carry out an existing plan, then freelancers and small executional production companies are the perfect, cost-effective solution. However, although many brands know they need a video component to their communications, they frequently don’t know what that should be, how it should be implemented or how it can be distributed to maximum effect, invariably this means working with a bigger, more established partner.
As video is only going to become more important, brands will increasingly need to define the long-term strategy behind their video content, including planning for consistency, creativity and quality. On top of this, they will need to have a clear vision of how it fits into their wider strategy. By working with the same partner over time they can create an archive of valuable and informative content.
It’s here that the difference between price and value becomes apparent.
A good video partner should be able to work with you on all of these objectives, helping you maximize your return on investment and develop a video content strategy that fulfills not just the requirements of the brief but the wider requirements of the brand, too.
Rob Crombie is Head of Video at Group FMG and manages our specialist video arm Sneak.
Get in touch with Rob at email@example.com
The science of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has changed dramatically since the early days, where it was de rigeur to employ a series of techniques to attempt to fool – or at east second-guess – the search engines. And this can only really be a good thing for everyone using the internet, as it makes results more relevant to the searcher.
Google has been at the head of the pack as across the board, the search giants have upped their game in terms of weeding out those sites that have resorted to an array of “black-hat” tricks to improve their search ranking. The upshot of all this is that a successful SEO strategy has to be underpinned by a solid content strategy.
Having said that, there is still a generation of content producers and marketers who remain entrenched in the SEO doctrine of a decade ago. And this explains the still frequent emails in circulation that offer “an ideal” reciprocal linking or link sharing opportunity.
Search engines have been onto this tactic for some time, and cheap links, especially in any quantity, are easily detectable. Of course, good quality links are still a powerful SEO tool, but anyone foolish enough to resort to “old-fashioned” link harvesting techniques is more likely to find they have a negative effect on their search ranking. So, while it is still crucial to make sure that basic SEO best practice is followed in the design and creation of a website, today the key weapon in a brand’s SEO armoury is content.
But not just any content.
Your focus has to be on creating good, quality content that is engaging for its target audience. This means that an over-reliance on keywords and SEO-dictionary constructs that say very little to anybody are out. Whereas content that centres on relevancy and reality is very much in. The importance of investing in strong, link- and share-worthy content cannot be overestimated. And the right editorial resource will know how to write for an audience, and not just for a search engine.
Relevant content and real people is the backbone of Google’s approach. This was highlighted by the fabled ‘Penguin’ release of last summer that promised to downgrade the rankings of companies that are seen to deliberately outrank the ranking algorithms.
We live in a world where supposedly half of Justin Beiber’s twitter followers are inactive accounts, and Facebook’s monthly active user measurement continues to take significant hits both in the US and UK, as spam, spurious and suspicious accounts are weeded out the system.
So, if they’re closing in on faked social media, surely that means that all conscious SEO efforts are also on decidedly shaky ground. Except that is for the writing, designing and recording of relevant, real and rewarding content that is created with a specific audience in mind.
So the new SEO message is simple: “keep it real”. And lets leave the cowboys where they belong – in stories.
Choosing an e-commerce platform can be a very complex and painful ordeal and have left many with “buyers remorse”. The reason why companies falter is primarily because they rely on some very old and traditional techniques in selecting commerce platforms
The traditional parameters that are applied by business and technology executive have followed classical approach that has proven acceptable when it comes to enterprise wide systems like ERP, CRM packages. The decision-making framework is usually based on 3 key points
In the classical approach the process of selection and the complexity of balanced scorecard depended on the size of the initiative, budget etc. but essentially addressed – which system/platforms gives me functionalities and features I need to run the business at the least possible cost (total cost of ownership) on a technology that is scalable and would be easy to source for professional services
The key to success in traditional technology selection was primarily based on how good the executives grasped their business requirements, budgetary constraints and their understanding of the technology landscape. The chances of going wrong minimized progressively as companies and executives traversed the learning curve.
The roles that business and technology executives played in the traditional platform selection was also very well defined, business laid out the functional requirements and features, while technology folks focused on technology, architecture and professional services. The budgeting exercise was collaborative in many cases or left to technology executives to be approved by business executives
When Conventional Approach is not Enough…
So it was but natural that business executives leaned on the same model and their friends in IT department of the company when it came to implementing e-commerce platform.
Very few business executives (marketing and sales organization) and even fewer technology executives realized that in selection of e-commerce or multi channel commerce the business requirements are neither easy to articulate or finite. There are endless possibilities, which are only constrained by time, and money it would take to implement/incorporate. The traditional framework in selecting such platforms will not work because
- Business requirements are hard to define and are amorphous
- One time cost of implementation dwarfs in comparison to ongoing cost of keeping the platform aligned to business needs
- Technology criteria though still same (scalable, easy to find etc.) is not that complex since most of the platforms are either Java based or ZEND based and can interface with any or most 3rd party system
In our experience we have found that applying inverted of traditional framework will usually give companies better result
Here is how this works
- Figure out the budget
- Prioritize your business needs
- Select platform and allied professional services that gives you maximum bang for your investment
Cost of platform is finite and many a times one time or annual and its capabilities in terms basic functionalities will not significantly alter over its lifetime, the most volatile will be professional services and its associated cost.
The good news is that you can always change your professional services vendor. What to look for in a professional services vendor is a story for some other day, but for now let us focus on selection of platform, and it doesn’t take a genius to guess that a platform that gives you the flexibility to customize, integrate and extend at the lowest cost of ownership and which is based on a technology that is easy and inexpensive to procure
Never implement something that is too expensive to change (customize), integrate and implement. Don’t be tempted by open source systems as it may end up costing you a limb to implement and maintain, further it will be entirely up to you to keep on adding functionalities that you believe are critical for your success, again at a relatively higher cost than you would get from a packaged platform
Don’t spend all your money in implementation, allocate at-least 50% or more of budget to upgrade and enhancement of the system on a ongoing basis, you will see that such a strategy will help your system be in line with your business goals. E-Commerce system is not an ERP, which does the same thing every single day; it is a dynamic platform that you use to sell your products and services to your customers
Don’t get blindsided by the technology it is overrated
It may seem like a bold claim, but the days of budget-busting ecommerce partnerships, where an international retailer would be expecting to pay in the region of 20%-30% of its revenue to a large roster of agencies and technology companies simply to keep its online presence running are over, all thanks to the rise of digital integration.
Up until now, there has been a fundamental disconnect within the ecommerce industry. The problem being that while creative agencies can design a great-looking site with good content, they are let down by their technology skills when it comes to actually building the site. Meanwhile, tech companies and ecommerce platform providers can build a secure, reliable and functional site, but often, despite many claiming to the contrary they have little eye for the creative or more importantly ‘the’ perfect user experience.
On top of this you have another problem, the multitude of smaller 3rd party solutions that now compliment the traditional ecommerce platforms; social, mobile, private sales, market places, personalisation, outfit builders, in store assisted selling, shoppable digital catalogues, mobile payments, the list goes on and on and believe me neither the creative agencies or the tech companies can design or build all of these solutions to the degree of quality that’s needed to succeed in todays uber competitive online economy.
Oh yes and by the way, who’s going to drive traffic to the site once it’s built.? Who’s going to run the digital marketing in it’s dozen or so different guises: PPC, SEO, affiliates, email, retargeting, links, video, social, etc. that’s another half a dozen companies for the poor unfortunate aforementioned retailer to work with.
Is anyone keeping count..?
This leaves brands facing either an inevitable compromise before they’ve even started, or the looming spectre of having to work alongside a minimum of 8 best-in-class agency and tech companies to cover all the essential aspects of ecommerce: platform build; creative; content; mobile; and digital marketing. An often costly and resource consuming avenue for them to pursue.
Panic over, new companies are appearing in the market – like Group FMG – that offer a full end-to-end ecommerce service, which enables retailers to keep everything from defining online strategy, planning and creating content, to building the multi channel solution including its many various components and then helping to run it – all under one roof.
And this would appear to be reflecting a global brand-side trend. In the past 6 months we’ve seen a growing number of client pitches looking for a single agency to handle all content production and then it’s distribution across multiple channels, by one team and from one central location.
Not only are new markets coming online and opening up all the time, but consumers are becoming increasingly demanding in terms of their shopping experience. This means that retailers have to focus on taking a creative and inspirational approach to their sites. And by this we don’t just mean building a pretty and well presented website, this is about driving inspiration into the shopper journey. Ultimately bringing the online and offline shopping experiences closer together. The economies of scale offered by taking an integrated approach mean that retailers’ ecommerce budgets can be pushed elsewhere to help them do this.
Thankfully, today, working with a truly integrated ecommerce partner means that inspirational, interactive, multi-channel, multi-national retail no longer has to cost and arm and a leg; providing of course that you are prepared to think smart.
Geoff Wright is the head of ecommerce at Group FMG/Pod1
The explosion of tablet usage is having huge implications for any industry that relies heavily on content – both online and offline. However, for the publishing industry it represents possibly the biggest challenge it has faced since the arrival of desktop publishing in the eighties. The impact of the tablet could well not only completely change the way publishers work, but also offer a real lifeline for what is a struggling business model.
Recently released stats by The Guardian show the scale of the shift, with 35% of its site visits now coming from mobile and tablet platforms – up from 10% less than two years ago. Of these, 94% are on the iPad.
From a pure production perspective, this means that it has never been more important for publishers to offer users a tailored and quality tablet experience. However, simply replicating a magazine on the tablet is not the way forward, not least because the smaller format means users find themselves zooming in and out to read the pages. Ultimately, this becomes a cumbersome and unrewarding experience.
On the other hand, completely redesigning a magazine as a bespoke iPad app can be hugely expensive and also time consuming; almost prohibitively so. This lack of choice has been extremely restrictive for publishers particularly if they have to do this on a weekly or monthly basis. But it is clearly something that they need to address, and fast.
Having worked closely with a number of leading publishers for many years, importing magazines over to this new format is an issue we have been helping brands solve with increasing regularity. One client, What Car? magazine, has been looking to embrace the growth of tablets for some time and is currently replicating a version of its magazine using a basic ‘page turner’ for its iPad app. The publisher has been forced down this route due to not being able to justify the cost of creating a bespoke app on a monthly basis.
However, we have been able to create a third alternative, which rather than replicating the magazine’s content, enables the title to repurpose what it already has and optimise it for use on the platform – both in terms of physical fit and in terms of the integration of interactivity. This creates a much more engaging experience for the end user, and the result is a product that has 80% of the interactivity of a bespoke app, but is created with 20% of the effort.
Although some titles may be able to warrant the cost of producing a bespoke app, the reality is that the vast majority of magazines can’t invest the necessary levels of cash upfront. This means publishers are crying out for a solution that enables them to ease themselves into the app market and decide whether they can afford to create a bespoke app. However, for those looking to effectively handle this shift, at the moment it’s not about replication or redesign, it’s about repurposing.
Of course, the shift to tablets is also having a huge impact for advertisers. As a case in point, a few months back News International announced plans to roll out a new advertising model – which it described as “a pioneering approach … that breaks down traditional barriers between print and digital”. The idea being that the publisher will automatically translate print creative to digital format allowing print advertisers access to its “full range of digital editions”.
While there are huge efficiencies and cost-saving opportunities in automating this process, the move seems to still be missing a further opportunity, one that stretches beyond simply taking an ad and automatically dropping it into a digital publication. That is for the advertisers to be able to do more with these ads.
Most people in the industry realise that the advent of digital ads in mobile environments is a real game changer for the whole industry. However, simply presenting cut down versions of print ads is only the beginning of the story and the start of the opportunity in terms of what can be done, because of the different way people interact with a digital publication compared to a printed version.
By making ads interactive or linking them to other content, or even directly to e-commerce channels, publishers finally have the opportunity to start to give advertisers answers to challenges that they have been setting since day one; namely proving a return on investment.
Our role is to guide publishers as they adapt to the changing needs of their audience and make sure that when they do manage the transition from print to digital they ensure that what they produce – from ads to editorial content – is fit for purpose. And this is without doubt the biggest challenge they have faced in some time.
Andy Berg is commercial director – publishing at Group FMG
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