5 Tips for Success for B2B eCommerce Retailers

5 Tips for Success for B2B eCommerce Retailers

Last week’s blog post, centered around the rise of B2B eCommerce outlined the immense potential traditional business retailers have by adopting a digital-first strategy. In this article, we’ve gathered our top 5 insights B2B brands can leverage to further develop and grow their B2B offering, to take advantage of the recent surge in online transactions.

Attract customers using organic and paid marketing

An organic, as well as paid marketing media strategy that involves an SEO strategy, will help drive relevant users to your website. This could take the form of social media marketing, display and banners ads, emails, and press releases to drive traffic and generate leads using content offers.

Focus on stellar customer experience

Traditionally, a B2B purchase involves far less emotional appeal compared to a B2C one, and they also involve many more stakeholders in a relatively standardized purchase journey. However, rest assured that customer experience is still at the top of the list of important factors to lock in a B2B sale. 

  • A fast, responsive and easily navigable website that offers intuitive search results that can also be accessed from multiple devices is key. Optimization for mobile is a trend in B2B eCommerce that most organizations are adopting to reach the millennials involved in the purchase process. An omnichannel strategy can also help in gathering data around the customer’s preferences. W. W. Grainger, which scores in the top tier on distributor B2B surveys, recently introduced a visual search on its mobile app1
  • Order approval workflows should be able to accommodate multiple parties and roles in the buying committees.
  • Personalization and user journeys are equally important to take into consideration. Unique personal content such as personalized product catalogs will appeal to your customer’s needs. Further, adjust cross-selling and upselling suggestions based on the user’s purchase history. 
  • Sales teams have to be rearranged. With marketplaces taking a chunk out of traditional B2B sales, sales teams have to be reconfigured to offer personal connection, advice, broader expertise and build relationships2. According to a Forrester Research study, 68% of B2B buyers prefer doing business online versus with a salesperson, and when they engage with sales, they want that experience to be in a more problem-solving, consultative manner3.
  • Take customer feedback into account. Reliable customer support both during and after-sale is vital. Existing customers are a goldmine of feedback. 
  • AI and automation are increasingly being put to use to take the drudgery and paperwork out of the purchase process. Chatbots that are available 24/7 and also upsell and cross-sell products. At Genesys, the chatbot feature resulted in a whopping 50% less cart abandonment4
  • More information on product pages, different product views, and supporting information such as videos are even more important in B2B eCommerce, especially if you’re selling in bulk. More information will reduce communications, returns, and complaints5.

Pick the right B2B eCommerce technology platform

The architecture for your site is based on both customer need and maturity. Is it commerce-led, content-led, side-by-side or a pure headless model? Choosing the right platform that can handle all your needs can make or break your online offer. Developing an MVP (minimum viable product) can also shorten time to market and leave room to develop features based on feedback from customers. 

Flexible ordering, payment and pricing options

B2B customers need much more leeway with their ordering and custom pricing options as opposed to B2C customers. You have to be able to take purchase orders and credit applications into account and offer digital invoices, various payment methods, and a real-time snapshot of inventory. Incentivize new customers with free trials, reduced shipping costs, or a money-back guarantee. You can entice existing customers with easy order replenishment or loyalty rewards for repeat purchases such as discounts, tiered incentives, access to new features or a complimentary service.

Use social media marketing and user-generated content

Social media can not only be used to drive customers to your site but also for customer engagement. LinkedIn and Twitter are highly popular with B2B companies in regard to connecting with their audiences through text, podcasts, and video, gaining insights via feedback, providing thought leadership, and learning about their buyer persona. They can help funnel the customer from the education and awareness stage towards actual promotional content. Intel (@Intel) with its 4.8million followers is a great example of a B2B Twitter presence6. Publishing customer reviews are another way of establishing authenticity and credibility by driving user-generated content7.

As a leading systems integrator for platforms such as SAP Commerce Cloud, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Adobe Commerce, BigCommerce, Shopify Plus, commercetools, VTEX, and Elastic Path, BORN Group is well-qualified to assess and advise you on the best platform to meet your unique needs.

For more information around BORN Group’s B2B offerings, please visit here.

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Footnotes

1. Grainger eyes a big future for its new mobile visual search tool, Nov 2019, Digitalcommerce360.

2. In 2021, B2B Marketing And Sales Become More Human, Thanks To Tech, Forrester Research, Nov 2020, https://go.forrester.com/what-it-means/ep193-b2b-marketing-sales-predictions-2021/

3. The Death Of A (B2B) Salesman, Forrester Research, May 2017, https://go.forrester.com/what-it-means/ep12-death-b2b-salesman/

4. The Total Economic Impact of the Genesys Omnichannel Engagement Centre Solution, Forrester, Feb 2016, https://genbin.genesys.com/old/resources/TEI_Case_Study_Genesys_-_2052016_FINAL.pdf

5. Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey, LinkedIn, https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/marketing-solutions/global/en_US/campaigns/pdfs/rethink-b2b-buyers-journey-v03.09-eng-us.pdf

6. 5 Top B2B Brands Delivering Exemplary Twitter Engagement, Toprankblog.com, Sep 2019, https://www.toprankblog.com/2019/09/exemplary-twitter-engagement/

7. The Rise of B2B Product Reviews,  https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/marketing-solutions/resources/pdfs/linkedin-crowd-b2b-product-review-book.pdf

The Rise of B2B eCommerce: Why Traditional Business Retailers Are Headed Online

The Rise of B2B eCommerce: Why Traditional Business Retailers Are Headed Online

Business-to-business (B2B) is a commercial transaction that is conducted between businesses, as opposed to B2C which is a transaction between a company and its customers. B2B transactions might take place between, say, a manufacturer and a wholesaler, or a wholesaler and a retailer. 

Multiple B2B transactions take place in a supply chain where a manufacturer might buy raw material or components that can be used in the manufacturing process. The end-result is the finished product. Much of the purchase process occurs through electronic data interchange (EDI) currently. EDI is well suited for large, recurring orders. B2B eCommerce can also include electronic products such as websites as well as software to increase business efficiencies. 

Learning from B2C

Spurred by the success of eCommerce in the B2C space, many organizations are gradually moving to the Internet and applying some principles and practices from that sphere to that of their supplier or wholesaler and retailer relationships. In 2019, global B2B eCommerce gross merchandise volume (GMV) amounted to 12.2 trillion U.S. dollars, up from approximately 5.83 trillion U.S. dollars in 20131.

Just as an eCommerce shop uses the power of the Internet to allow people to find out more about the company’s products or services and purchase them, online product or supply exchange sites allow other businesses to find out about the products and initiate procurement via an interface. B2B eCommerce sites also allow for more information, images and product descriptions that allow for cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

B2B vs B2C

While B2C involves more impulse buying, B2B solutions purchasing is more thoughtful and planned. B2B relationships are long-term and ongoing and purchases are usually recurring, and for this, the customers expect reliable deliveries along with attractive and dynamic prices and terms

It is no wonder then that B2B purchasing has become even more complex with more stakeholders involved and deliberating in the purchase process2. These developments have become imperative to make the process itself easier. A smooth customer experience is paramount, even in a seemingly standardized B2B purchase journey3.

B2B eCommerce Marketplaces

Leveraging an eCommerce platform, companies can set up marketplaces and online directories specializing in certain industries or products that facilitate B2B transactions. Besides Amazon Business which uses very similar principles to its B2C business, some of the most well-known B2B marketplaces include:

  • Horizontal marketplaces: An early pioneer of a horizontal B2B marketplace was Alibaba. Launched in Guangzhou by Jack Ma in 1998, Alibaba filled a need – to connect Chinese small and medium-sized businesses and wholesalers with clients overseas. Like Amazon, it charged a subscription to sellers who wanted to customize their shop. Unlike Amazon which leveraged its logistics network, Alibaba remains a platform player. Similar generalist marketplaces such as ThomasNet in the US and Tradenet India also exist. The other elephant in the room is Amazon Business. Like Alibaba, an Amazon Business account is a one-stop shop that enables a company which purchases corporate items and supplies to save costs and makes the process efficient. Amazon Business is set to top US$31 billion in revenue and US$52 billion in gross merchandise volume by 2023, including sales by third-party sellers on the marketplace, according to RBC Capital Markets4.
  • Vertical marketplaces: Vertical marketplaces have been around in industries such as automotive and healthcare for a couple of decades but new ones such as Makers Row for fashion, GoDirect Trade in aerospace, CheMondis in chemicals, FastMetals in iron and steel, and Farmers Business Network in agriculture are proliferating. Today, there are more than 70 B2B marketplaces in more than 13 diverse industries, according to research compiled by Digital Commerce 360 B2B5.
  • Service marketplaces: Service marketplaces such as Upwork (for freelancers) and Fiverr (micro-services), where the buying process is different from that of physical goods. One does not choose a supplier or offer but instead sends a request for quotation through the system, and receive offers from all the service providers. Buyers generally can’t browse seller profiles.

B2B eCommerce Trends 

  • Mobile: Mobile transactions for B2B eCommerce are becoming increasingly popular as more millennials drive the purchasing process. Given the 90% increase in B2B executives using mobile devices to research business purchases, mobile sites are now an essential business tool6. Mobile B2B eCommerce requires dynamic pricing and stock indications as well as real-time discount calculation.
  • Personalization, user personas and user journeys: According to Salesforce, almost 75% of business buyers expect vendors to personalize engagements to their needs and 8 in 10 say that the experience is as important as the products and services themselves7. These are high-level decision-makers with complex priorities and speaking to them about their pain-points, roles, goals, and objectives cuts through the noise.
  • AI-driven features: Tools powered by machine learning such as search enable the customer to find what they are looking for faster, with features like auto-suggestions, as well as fuzzy, partial and faceted searches, only added to the utility of the site.
  • Content marketing: The General Electric (GE) B2B experience is held as the gold standard of how to communicate with customers in a B2B environment. Using innovative videos, blogs, user-generated content and collaborations with influencers, GE uses content marketing to demystify its business products and build its brand8.

B2B at BORN

For a North American machine tool manufacturer, BORN implemented a sophisticated solution whereby when a part of a client’s machine goes down, an automated email is sent and the unit is reordered and replaced. This was a vast improvement from the previous system that consisted of multiple steps executed manually.

In another use case, BORN developed an innovative and efficient eCommerce and service experience for client Nestlé Starbucks and its Starbucks Branded Solutions by delivering a best-practice, extensible, global eCommerce framework leveraging an enterprise-grade platform and other key systems to amplify the growth of the online channel.

Over the years, BORN has worked with leading enterprise eCommerce platforms with a focus on B2B commerce, as well as associated applications such as order (OMS), content (CMS) and product management systems (PIM). Powering many of BORN’s solutions are B2B accelerators such as the first-ever SAP-certified accelerator for SAP Commerce Cloud, Eagle. Eagle is our eCommerce framework built exclusively by BORN for SAP Commerce Cloud (B2B, B2C & Custom C2C). In addition, Bulldog is BORN’s Adobe Commerce accelerator which includes pre-built extensions, B2B custom UX & UI features, and special B2B enhancements to essential functionalities.

For more information surrounding BORN’s B2B offerings and case studies, please visit here.

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1. Global B2B e-commerce gross merchandise volume (GMV) 2013-2019, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/705606/global-b2b-e-commerce-gmv/

2. The New Sales Imperative, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-new-sales-imperative

3.  New B2B Buying Journey & its Implication for Sales, Gartner, https://www.gartner.com/en/sales/insights/b2b-buying-journey

4.  There’s a unit inside Amazon that will be a $31 billion business in four years, RBC says, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/06/amazon-business-a-b2b-unit-to-reach-31-billion-revenue-by-2023-rbc.html

5.  Why marketplaces occupy center stage in B2B ecommerce, DigitalCommerce360, https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2020/03/05/why-marketplaces-occupy-center-stage-in-b2b-ecommerce/

6. The Changing Face of B2B Marketing, ThinkwithGoogle.com, https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-trends/the-changing-face-b2b-marketing/

7. Young Buyers Are Driving B2B Expectations of B2C-Like Experiences, Marketingcharts.com, https://www.marketingcharts.com/industries/business-to-business-83757

8.  GE Raises the Bar for B2B Content Marketing, enveritasgroup.com, https://enveritasgroup.com/campfire/ge-raises-the-bar-for-b2b-content-marketing/

Inside Project Management at BORN Group with Anita Sforza

Inside Project Management at BORN Group with Anita Sforza

Project management is a skill that can be found in almost every career. To deliberate with and lead a team to achieve a particular objective while navigating constraints is a talent found across verticals and throughout life. That broad, multifaceted skill can be a lot to unpack for someone outside the space, and even outside the particular industry they intend to project manage for. That’s why we’ve reached out to Senior Director of Project Management & Delivery at BORN Group, Anita Sforza, to gain insights into what project management looks like in the eCommerce space, and what skills and concepts are most essential to find success in that community.

Anita has a unique path that cultivated her passion in project management – at nineteen, she worked part-time at a multimedia agency that specializes in higher education in app development. After beginning to help pick up calls by various educational publishers to ease work among the smaller team, her work developing apps soon transitioned into the role of development and project management. From there, she began to build on her experience in project management in the tech sector.

“Project management is a multifaceted discipline that demands a combination of strategic and technical skills, working with the development team as well as clients,” began Anita, recognizing how many different talents that the solutions demanded of PMs in the space – namely technical experience, analytical skills, and passion for process improvement. The financial components and skill cannot be understated as well, as project managers are tasked with overseeing budgets as well as the project itself. Tying these talents together is a key foundation of risk mitigation and risk management – complications can emerge at any step of the journey, and it’s essential to be able to reorient.

On a broader level, project managers should try to see themselves as product owners to help cultivate the right end goal. Product owners think and breath the requirements of what they are building, whether on an app or website in the eCommerce space. Envisioning what the requirements are, how one executes on them, and how one delivers are shared between the product owner and the project manager – it is just on the project manager to execute. Balancing technical and creative skills comes a long way in envisioning how to execute in the shortest path possible. Partnering up with your team and leaning in on their expertise is also one of the biggest assets one might have as a PM practitioner. When some people think of PMs, they assume someone who exclusively builds timelines around client expectations, but building out a project execution while consulting and continuously validating with one’s own team can ensure a seamless experience.

Anita then followed up, noting how, “first and foremost, a successful project manager understands that knowledge of the area they are working in is key to their success.” Project management as a whole is platform-agnostic, there are project managers in construction as well as in healthcare, or any given space where work needs to be overseen. Given BORN specializes in eCommerce, anyone seeking success in BORN project management should have that background and interest in eCommerce, and understand that relevant platform knowledge goes a long way. 

In context to BORN and most digital agencies, project managers should be familiar with agile and sprint planning. It takes a lot of skill to look at an implementation project and create a development plan for your team based on targeted agile development KPIs. That development plan process can be broken down into a few major components, beginning with calculating the total team capacity via its raw allocated time. A couple of those KPIs consist of the overall team capacity and the velocity that is needed to achieve on-time delivery for our sprint goals. The velocity is one KPI that’s generally a moving target that is measured sprint-by-sprint. Not every team works at the same pace, and the variety of skill levels in a team should be accounted for. The simplest way to gauge team velocity is to set baselines and expectations early on. Measuring and adjusting sprint by sprint is the mark of a good project manager, who should pace tickets to accelerate or decelerate velocity to avoid blockers and missed deadlines. With all those points in mind, a project manager can effectively capture large implementations and integrations at a healthy speed, mindful of capturing weighted features first with the right talent to take them on.

Project management is a field that inspires leadership and teamwork to deliver a client’s task. When it comes to exploring Anita’s particular role at BORN as Senior Director of Project Management & Delivery, one sees all the above skills and techniques at full display. Anita manages a series of project deliveries for her portfolio with oversight from BORN, reviewing teams internally and externally, while scoping, budgeting, and resourcing to capture a holistic view of client objectives.

For those aspiring toward project management in eCommerce, she advises that project management is “a rigorous field that rewards collaboration, honesty, and creativity” and those interested are best to do research to gain a deeper understanding of the artifacts that go into the job. Building out one’s experience and having the best foot forward is key – don’t be afraid to apply for project management jobs where you might only have 20% of what is asked, so long as you are willing to demonstrate an effort to learn and adapt. Everyone has an inner project manager within themselves, and it is an intense yet rewarding field that can provide dividends in one’s personal growth and career, especially in the eCommerce sector.

For further insights on BORN Groups and Anita’s project management in action, check out our recent case study on Nestlé Purina here.

Best Practices: 10 Trends in ERP Implementation

Best Practices: 10 Trends in ERP Implementation

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software has undergone significant changes since its earliest incarnations. ERP has historically consisted of monolithic standalone systems dedicated to specific business processes found, for instance, in early Manufacturing Resource Management (MRM) systems1. These implementations were limited in scope and restricted to local instances unlike the distributed systems in use more recently. That sort of system did not last in the fast-paced world of today’s digital agencies.

Current ERP solutions are more flexible and configurable than ever, with many ERP vendors moving to cloud-based solutions. These systems can be upgraded and configured on the fly with little to no need for on-site support. Alongside this shift toward configurability and flexibility afforded by cloud solutions, we’ve also seen a broader movement to integrate a range of innovative contemporary technological paradigms. For instance, with the use of the cloud, many vendors have begun to conceive of ERP as a SaaS rather than a traditional licensing model. Other offerings include increased integration of data and analytics, which can help improve productivity, more tiered ERP services, security features, support for mobile devices, the Internet of Things, and the use of Artificial Intelligence.

Overall, many of these trends can be attributed to a significant change in the landscape of the ERP vendor industry. Particularly, we’ve seen a movement away from yesterday’s monolithic ERP behemoths and toward the possibilities introduced by smaller industry players and startups. It is because of these “disruptors” to traditional ERP solution models that we’ve seen ERP integrate many of the advances that erupt in other areas of the tech industry while also offering novel innovations that stand on their own. Here we outline ten of the top trends occurring in the ERP landscape today, especially as they apply to digital agencies.

1. Cloud solutions 

With the fast-paced nature of today’s digital landscape, the ability for your ERP solution to be distributed, scalable, and configurable on-the-fly has become perhaps more important than ever. Recall, for instance, Forbes’s recent description of today’s ad industry as The Agility Era,2 a phrase that poignantly captures the industry’s need for flexibility and on-demand configuration. This designation comes into particularly sharp focus when choosing an ERP solution. You need to be agile and flexible. The cloud helps to facilitate this need in unprecedented ways.

Note, that the shift to cloud-based ERP solutions didn’t fall out of the sky. The trend has been emerging since the mid-1990s wherein, rather than concentrating on enhancing core functionality, ERP companies are moving toward reconfiguring their systems for cloud compatibility. As Frank Scavo, president of management consulting firm Strativa, explains, “Many companies are finding it easier to add in cloud-based point solutions for things like human capital management, CRM [customer relationship management], expense management and other functions.”3 With the cloud, such improvements can be thrown in ad-hoc with minimal to no downtime.

2. SaaS systems

As part and parcel of the move to the cloud, many ERP solutions have begun to operate through a software subscription model or as a Software as a Service, or SaaS. For digital agencies, this adds an important layer of convenience and flexibility over a traditional software licensing model. With ERP delivered as SaaS, many of the time-consuming software pitfalls like site-wide upgrades, security issues, and costly user provisioning, are reduced or eliminated altogether. As Pcmag explains, “Traditional ERP applications are stored on your servers, which means you’re responsible for upfront hardware costs, long-term hardware maintenance and expansion, and data backup and recovery. SaaS-based apps are stored on cloud-based servers, which are much less expensive, much quicker to update and scale, and don’t take up any valuable office space”4. By using a multi-tenant SaaS model, your ERP is fully scalable and grows as your agency increases in size, impact, and productivity.

3. Data Utilization

The move to the cloud has also allowed the broad-level use of data to improve ERP functionality. Imagine a customer relationship management software that is capable of building sophisticated models of your highest performing customer demographics and then integrate this information across your agency’s business operations. Or perhaps you’d like to base a proposed HR investment in business development on analytics that relate BD employee performance with overall profit figures. These are only a few of the applications that become possible with a robust ERP solution that integrates powerful data sources for a competitive advantage.

Such possibilities based on the integration of data in ERP solutions will only continue to expand. As TriCore Solutions CEO Mark Clayman noted, “Having powerful, cloud-based platforms allows companies to use predictive analytics and analyze business operations more closely.” He continues, “Companies are just now skimming the surface of what’s possible when aggregating data from outside their company—pooling information from suppliers, for example—to make real-time operational adjustments”5.The best advice for marketing and ad agencies: start utilizing data in your ERP solution today.

4. More tiered services

As digital agencies grow, some will adopt multi-tiered business structures. If your agency does not already have an HQ and subsidiaries, the prospect may be just around the corner, or it may remain for some time a distant goal. Traditionally, ERPs have not addressed these tiered structures directly; ERP functionality was generally the same regardless of which business hierarchy was using it. Over the years, though, many have asked how an effective ERP solution could better support such a tiered business structure. Thankfully, ERP systems have begun to fully support such tiered structures, for instance, by offering specific services to the top-tier headquarters and others as designated for the operation of subsidiaries6. Regardless of the size of your agency, you’ll want to seriously consider the benefits of future-proofing your operation by choosing an ERP solution that supports tiered services.

5. Security

Alongside the increased dependency on cloud-based connected ERP solutions, the need for intelligent and reliable security has grown exponentially. Importantly, the shift toward cloud-based ERP solutions has occurred alongside a sharp increase in security threats across the board, creating a potentially alarming demand for security as an integral component of an effective ERP solution. Cyber attacks, in general, cause immense irreparable damage. Estimates have put the total global cost of cybercrime at roughly $6 trillion by the end of 20217. A trend that will be increasingly important for agencies is the prevention of such cyber attacks, especially where an ERP system is involved.

6. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI has been a driving force of the rapid transformation of technologies across industries, and the ERP landscape is not exempt from these changes. Broadly speaking, AI is a field of computer science that is concerned with the modeling of human cognitive processes for use in any and all computational applications. The implications for ERP systems are innumerable, in that virtually every ERP component can utilize AI for performance enhancements and improvements in integration and productivity.

Take, for instance, the use of AI for improving customer relationship management. According to a noteworthy CIO article, “An AI-enabled ERP solution for customer service integrates the customer interaction with the work order management process. The AI solution understands and learns from historical inspection reports and work orders.” The article explains further, “Depending on the nature of the customer inquiry, it gives a proposed answer to the service agent. The AI solution assists with the planning and scheduling of the work by finding the earliest possible date to dispatch a service technician,” which is possible because the AI agent knows the required skill set and availability of the required parts.

7. Mobile device support

For those of us who have used smartphones on a daily basis now for years, it may be somewhat difficult to comprehend why mobile support is considered a new trend for ERP solutions. Why is it that seemingly every other form of computing and communications tech has received a mobile treatment, while ERP mobile support has been scarce to nonexistent? To understand this, one must keep in mind that Enterprise Resource Planning software is, first and foremost, enterprise software. This means that some of the trends found in modern consumer products are applied to a different timeline in the enterprise world. Fortunately, the time for ERP to support mobile devices like smartphones and tablets has now finally arrived.

8. Internet of Things (IoT)

Not unlike artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things has had profound implications for almost every sector of an industry. IoT refers to the proliferation of devices, products, and objects that are connected to the internet. What this means for ERP systems is that your entire infrastructure—including hardware, physical systems, and even employees—can be monitored and tracked. The data produced through this process can then be integrated into the functionality of the ERP system. Want to track how often a workspace is used in your ad agency to help determine future infrastructure plans? A room equipped with sensors and biometric tracking can provide real-time analytics to help with critical resource allocation decisions. Such a scenario represents only the beginning of possibilities that will arise with IoT.

9. Startups

Many of the recent and forthcoming innovations on the ERP landscape’s horizon, as noted above, can be attributed to the dynamism introduced by the increased presence of startups. The push toward cloud-based solutions, for instance, has come to a large extent from smaller ERP startups whose cloud-based features have, in turn, influenced larger vendors to follow suit. This is an example of the phenomenon that occurs when a smaller company is able to use their flexibility to their advantage by fulfilling a unique position in the marketplace.

“The bigger vendors are increasingly trying to be everything to everyone, which creates opportunities for startups to fill unmet needs in specific industries or functions,” Panorama Consulting founder Eric Kimberling has explained. “In other words, they are often able to use their focus to position themselves compared to the larger players uniquely.”[8] Such a situation is doubtless a boon to marketing and ad agencies, who continue to benefit from the kinds of rapid innovation we see regularly from startup disruptors.

10. Empowered users

Enhanced ERP features related to cloud-based services, SaaS systems, data integration, tiered services, security, AI, mobile devices, and IoT all mean that ERP users are more empowered than ever to make smart choices in selecting an ERP solution. With the introduction of new startups to an ERP landscape formerly dominated purely by large-scale vendors, the result is a more rapid turnover of new features and competitive functionality.

An equally valuable shift is the decrease in cost for ERP customers. As Amit Patel, managing director in the enterprise solutions business at Huron, has explained, “ERP vendors are being very aggressive in protecting their core offering and, as a result, pricing models are being updated to ensure they remain competitive9. This means that customers now get not only the best features but also receive comprehensive ERP features at highly competitive prices.

For more information on BORN Group’s service offerings across ERP, please visit here.


[1] http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/Manufacturing-resource-planning-MRP-II

[2] https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2014/08/27/how-a-creative-cfo-will-save-advertising/&refURL=&referrer=#2607740412ea

[3] http://searcherp.techtarget.com/feature/The-top-seven-ERP-trends-for-2017-and-beyond

[4] https://www.pcmag.com/article/351807/5-enterprise-resource-planning-erp-trends-to-know-in-2017

[5] http://searcherp.techtarget.com/feature/The-top-seven-ERP-trends-for-2017-and-beyond

[6] http://blogs.ramco.com/10-emerging-trends-erp

[7] https://www.csoonline.com/article/3110467/security/cybercrime-damages-expected-to-cost-the-world-6-trillion-by-2021.html

[8] http://www.enterpriseappstoday.com/erp/7-cloud-erp-startups-to-watch.html

[9] http://searcherp.techtarget.com/feature/The-top-seven-ERP-trends-for-2017-and-beyond

9 Tips for Creating Exceptional Digital Content

9 Tips for Creating Exceptional Digital Content


It takes a potential B2B customer seeing thirteen pieces of content on their journey before they decide to commit to a product, according to a FocusVision study1

In an omnichannel retail world, customer experience and engagement are paramount. Content that can be used to engage customers at various touchpoints in their buyer’s journey is an essential part of an organization’s digital strategy. The creation of these digital assets can be resource-intensive, and there is a lot of competition vying for consumer attention. Below are nine tips to help laser-focus your content in order to reach maximum return.

1. Define Your Goals

Setting out what you want to achieve is a great start – your profitability depends on it. Different kinds of content serve different purposes. A case study might build the credibility of a brand while a shoppable social media post exists to drive lead generation through the sales funnel. 

2. Customer-focused Content and User Discovery

Once you know your audience along with their interests, needs, and challenges, you can show them content that is valuable to them in that context. If they like it enough, they might even share it. Know where and when they congregate, so that you can map their personas to the channels they prefer, and the content or stories they are likely to engage with. Moreover, it’s critical to create content that can evolve with its intended audience.

3. Digital Content Creation

The creation of digital content involves a few processes:

  • Audit the technology, workflows, processes, and resources involved in your current content creation to see if there are any gaps that can be filled, or to identify and improve existing content.
  • Create a relevant and useful pipeline of content. How does one come up with digital content ideas? Collect, curate, and schedule topics that would be interesting to your audience and group them in clusters. An SEO Strategy involves using Google and other tools to come up with popular and valuable keywords and keyword phrases. Ideally, the content should be evergreen so that it doesn’t need to be updated often. Metadata needs to be included in the backend. Non-search methods include published articles about research analyses or survey results related to your industry. New products, technology or brands can be introduced via text or video. Good storytelling is still very relevant in digital content creation.
  • Content templates and outlines are important to keep up-to-date with the trends in content creation and align with the overall marketing strategy.
  • Curate, refine, and publish at different times of the day or on a pre-set schedule. 

Once you have a list of topics, let’s look at the forms the content can take. 

4. Types of digital macro and micro content

  • Written content: Blogs that are regularly updated are the most common form of written digital content. They can be interspersed with long-form text-based content such as guides, white papers, press releases, case studies and eBooks.
  • eNewsletters and eMagazines: Besides blogs, scheduled newsletters sent by email are one of the most effective forms of digital content.
  • Infographics: A well-placed infographic can tell a story better than a thousand words.
  • Animation & videos: Animation and videos are visually compelling elements that can be embedded in or used alongside both social media as well as written content. Video is considered to be the number one form of content creation2.
  • Podcasts: Podcasts are increasingly being used both in B2C and B2B environments to tell stories.
  • SMS: eCommerce transactions are increasingly done using mobile devices and apps3. 81% of visits on Shopify sites are from a user’s mobile device. SMS marketing is becoming increasingly important. 
  • Games: Gamification tools such as polls and quizzes expand the repertoire of ways in which to engage with your audience and help gain insights to what they are thinking.
  • Website/Microsite/Intranet: Corporate or eCommerce sites are not the only ways to present a company to the world. Large companies have Intranets and brands have their own sites too, even if just for a short while.
  • Social media posts: Depending on where your audience is, you could post sponsored stories, shoppable posts and other content across any or all of the top social media apps or pages – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok et al. They could take many of the forms above. 
  • User-generated content: Last but not least, user-generated content (UGC) such as reviews or posts published by satisfied customers have a far greater reach and impact than out-bound only content created by brands. 2.4 times, in fact4. Any brand that is present on social media channels should also have a UGC strategy to showcase that content on its other platforms.

5. Visual appeal and/or readability

Optimize layouts, chunk text, use color contrasts and introduce microcontent elements such as images, graphics, animation and video where appropriate for visually stimulating and easy-to-digest content. Smart content can personalize pages to groups of customers. Above all, the content should still reflect the brand values. 

6. Conversion

The whole point of the digital content is to gain more conversions, either in terms of engagement or sales. Call-to-actions such as links to relevant pages or social media buttons are important in all of the content being created.

7. Digital content marketing

The promotion of content is as important as its creation. It is a way to reach out to your target audience – or let them find you. It also can build brand awareness and a deeper relationship with your customer– ultimately encompassing advocacy and brand loyalty. Digital content marketing includes techniques such as search engine marketing, pay-per-click (PPC), optimization for search engines (SEO) and social media marketing.

8.Track and analyze 

Engagement statistics for digital content provide multiple data points that can be analyzed. Currently analytics can extend as far as evaluating online behaviors of individuals viewing specific pieces of content. Page views and likes as well as using the right keywords in the right places and building backlinks could get you a higher ranking in search engine results. However, search engine algorithms change, so constant re-evaluation and fine-tuning of topics, statistics and search intent is necessary to maintain or improve rankings.

9. Digital content creation in the future

While currently popular forms of digital content will persist for a while, the future is already here in terms of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML). These cutting-edge technologies are already enabling content creation where the viewer has an active role and is not just the spectator.

With BORN Group’s roots in content production, we have expertise across content strategy, consultancy, production, and more. Visit here to learn more.

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1. Content Really is King: Content Consumption in the B2B Buyer’s Journey, FocusVision, https://cloud.kapostcontent.net/pub/ed24339d-0b16-4341-8fef-c4d921903f8c/whitepaper-marketing-content-consumption-study?kui=lrDgMQf8fFSSJ0tc_I4n7w

2.  Not Another State of Marketing Report 2020, HubSpot, https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/53/tools/state-of-marketing/PDFs/Not%20Another%20State%20of%20Marketing%20Report%20-%20Web%20Version.pdf

3.  Shopify Announces Third-Quarter 2019 Financial Results, Shopify, https://news.shopify.com/shopify-announces-third-quarter-2019-financial-results

4.  Stackla Survey Reveals Disconnect Between the Content Consumers Want & What Marketers Deliver, Businesswire, https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190220005302/en/Stackla-Survey-Reveals-Disconnect-Content-Consumers-Marketers


Best Practices: Why Search Engine Optimization Belongs in Every Marketer’s Toolkit

Best Practices: Why Search Engine Optimization Belongs in Every Marketer’s Toolkit

Searching online via a browser is the main way potential customers discover a brand’s or organization’s website. Making it easier for them – with paid ads or otherwise – to find your site is one of the most effective ways to draw more traffic and awareness to your site. 

Designing, writing and coding your website with this in mind can not only increase the volume but also the quality of visitors to your site. 

A savvy digital marketer who cares about one of the first touchpoints in the customer journey needs to have a search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in his toolkit. 

Search engine marketing

Search engine marketing is the branch of digital marketing that relies on both paid advertising and organic techniques that don’t involve payment – the latter falling under the term SEO – to increase the visibility of websites in search engine results pages (SERPs). Globally, Google is the leading search engine by far, accounting for over 91% of searches, followed by Bing and Yahoo!1. Google also owns Ask, the sixth-largest search engine. Baidu and Yandex are the most popular search engines in China and Russia, respectively, making up around a percentage each of searches worldwide.

Besides SEO, SEM encompasses the following: paid inclusion or sponsored listings placed within the results of search engine queries using Google Adwords or Bing Ads, pay-per-click (PPC), article submissions, and search retargeting. With search retargeting, display ads target searches made on other sites by customers who have never visited your site. 

Getting on the first page of SERPs

SERPs include paid ads on top as well as organic results below them in an ordered list. Traffic that comes through SEO are referred to as ‘organic search results’ to differentiate it from traffic that comes from paid search. The higher up on the list your website can get, the more traffic it will receive. 

A Sistrix study that analyzed over 80 million keywords and billions of search results found that the first organic result in Google search has an average click-through rate of 28.5%2. The second and third positions have only a 15% and 11% click-through rate respectively. The tenth position in Google has a measly 2.5% click-through rate. Rarely does anyone even click to the second page. 

What is SEO and how does it work? 

Search engine optimization (SEO) sounds as though it’s mainly about the search engines. Search engines do play a starring role as the medium through which the search is conducted and routed and their algorithms used to direct the customers looking for information. An example is how Google ‘crawls’ through the web to find and analyze new content, pages or websites to index them even before you search one word. Then its famed algorithms – which is tweaked regularly – matches the searches that users put in to match them to the entries in its search index3

However, SEO is also about your customers. It is just as pivotal to understand what they are seeking, what the words they use when they seek it and the type of content they consume. It is using that knowledge to differentiate your website from that of your competitors’ so that potential customers are led to yours instead of theirs.

SEO techniques

SEO techniques to optimize content can be divided into three categories: on-page, technical and off-page.

On-page SEO relates to the content on an individual page or website.

  • Identify and optimize keywords and opportunities
    • Research the best terms and phrases (keywords) that might generate traffic to your site as well as their intent. Creating and publishing high-quality content that includes those target keywords in all the right places is the next step. 
    • Copywriting for the web keeping SEO in mind uses writing techniques such as the inverted pyramid of information with the conclusion first, ‘chunking’ text to keep readers interested and uses calls to action and instructions.
  • Metatags are snippets of text which are included in the source code of the webpage that help search engines understand the content. These need to be reviewed and updated over time.

Technical SEO involves the technical elements of a website beyond content. It not only improves the site’s readability for crawlers but also improves the user experience, so it is doubly important.

  • Speed and site performance The speed at which pages load, how pages respond and if they are mobile-friendly or relevant to local or international users are directly connected to user engagement. With voice search exploding, being optimized for voice is becoming more important too.
  • On-site coding implementation This relates to the placement of elements on the page as well as the HTML source code. On-site SEO helps search engines as well as users understand what a page is about and identify it as relevant to the search query or keywords.
  • Ranking report & tracking There are a variety of tools that track metrics such as a rise or drop in the value of keyword rankings and SERP features such as snippets and Knowledge Graphs, 

Off-page SEO is about amplifying the authority and influence that your website has in relation to other sites. 

  • Link building High-quality links that point to your site from relevant and authoritative sites show search engines that your website is a trusted source, that it is established and valuable to many others. 
  • Social optimization also involves using social media outlets and communities to generate awareness for your site and your products and services.

As you can see, there are many moving parts to an SEM/SEO strategy. As an unpaid alternative, SEO may be cost-effective, but it is very tricky to get right. The strategy also needs to be monitored and reviewed constantly. This is why a site redesign is the ideal time to involve an SEO expert to optimize your website for search engines. 

Find out more about BORN’s expertise in digital marketing and behavioral experience.

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1. Search Engine Market Share Worldwide, Dec 2020, Statcounter Globalstats, https://gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share

2. Why (almost) everything you knew about Google CTR is no longer valid, Sixtrix, July 14, 2020, https://www.sistrix.com/blog/why-almost-everything-you-knew-about-google-ctr-is-no-longer-valid/

3. How Google Search works, Google, https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/

Bringing the Left Brain and Right Brain Together within Agencies

Bringing the Left Brain and Right Brain Together within Agencies

A typical digital agency contains highly diverse personnel, each with a refined set of talents, abilities, communication styles, and ways of thinking. Generally, these roles can be divided into two categories: administrative or executive roles and creative roles. The first category is often thought of as primarily organizational. They are in charge of assembling productive teams, defining the company vision, securing short and long-term funding, and planning and executing long-term goals. Such a set of tasks and responsibilities is generally considered to involve a high degree of logical and analytical thinking. Conversely, the second category of roles in an agency demands a host of creative skills such as aesthetic expression, emotional intelligence, and imagination. These attributes are often found concentrated in the roles of creative directors, copywriters, art directors, designers, web developers, production artists, and storyboard artists. 

How, then, can the differences between these two kinds of agency team members be categorized? One way of conceiving the differences between executives and creatives is through their left- brain versus right-brain dominance. This notion comes from the popular (yet largely debunked) notion that for each individual, one side of the brain is more active. Those with left-brain dominance (or simply “left-brained” individuals) often excel at logical, analytical, and objective problems. On the other hand, right-brained individuals, as the theory contends, succeed in creative tasks that demand spontaneity, visual-thinking, and invention. So-called left brain/right brain theory contends that everyone’s brain dominates in only one of these two regions. But in reality, this theory represents, at best, only half of the truth. Indeed, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Roger W. Sperry, extending from his research into epilepsy, suggested in 1981 that language is controlled primarily by the left side of the brain, while spatial information and visual thinking occur in the right hemisphere.1 Yet, while this separation can to an extent be verified, virtually all neurological activity happens across both sides of the brain. As science writer Carl Zimmer explains, “No matter how lateralized the brain can get, the two sides still work together.”

That being said, the separation of agencies into left-brained and right-brained remains a useful strategy to assemble more productive teams. Even though team members consistently use both sides of their brains, the kinds of personalities that gravitate toward such roles are almost guaranteed to contain the kinds of distinctions that pertain to the theory of left brain/right brain dominance. Here we can outline a series of best practices for digital agency team members that pertain to collaboration between business executives/managers and creatives. The first section begins from the perspective of the CFO and provides advice for working with creatives. 

Through a combination of disciplined management and open-ended flexibility, CFOs can get the most out of agency creatives by understanding their right-brain proclivities. The subsequent section (“Tips for Creatives”) proceeds from the vantage point of the agency creative and explains useful methodologies for working effectively with CFOs, management, and executives. By using clear communication, anticipating misunderstandings, and attending to details, creatives can continue to meet and exceed management’s expectations. All in all, each of these perspectives will take into account the practicalities of today’s agency landscape, which prioritizes on-your-feet decision making and flexible workflows. 

Cultivating the Creative

Creative types often thrive in open-ended environments in which structure and rules are undefined or perhaps do not even exist. Designers, for example, often need unstructured time to experiment with new ideas, and try out different approaches to an upcoming project deliverable. Of course, such open-ended activities must also occur within limits: a copywriter can’t spend two months brainstorming ideas for a campaign that is due to the client in two weeks. This is why many managers explicitly build in time for “discovery.” During this dedicated period, creatives can iterate over multiple versions and explore different directions before committing to specific determinations, which may be made later in consultation with the client. This way, creatives are given a kind of “sandbox” in which they can feel free to experiment and put forth their most adventurous and innovative ideas without feeling constrained, at least at this point, by impending deadlines and other restrictions In addition to cultivating flexibility within limits, effective facilitation of the work of right-brained should also include tried-and-trusted project management techniques. 

It may seem obvious to industry insiders, but it’s worth reviewing the power of good project management when it comes to working with graphic designers, copywriters, creative directors, and web developers. Most importantly, each of these team members should be aware of all of the important project dates and goals. So, how can project managers keep creatives up to date on important dates and timelines, especially when these data points often change in the middle of a project? One helpful practice is to keep a calendar, which is accessible to all team members, in a place that is centrally located. For such a location there is often a default reference page, or dashboard, on every major project management software package like WorkBook or Confluence. Another technique, which should accompany centralized date-keeping, and which is no less important, is the practice of reiterating important dates, especially those that have recently been modified, in all internal and external communication. Sending a brief check-in email to your designers? Why not include a table reminding the team of upcoming deliverables and their respective due dates? Thankfully, such information can be conveniently stored on your project management dashboard. So a quick copy and paste is all it takes. 

Executing the Design

Switching roles to the perspective of the creative, many of the same principles apply when considering the task of designers and artistic directors collaborating with CFOs and project managers. One way of describing this shift in perspective is to simply invert the advice we covered above. For instance, if managing dates in today’s agile advertising industry is a challenge for those in organizational roles, as a creative it should be considered a primary responsibility to help project managers keep track of timelines.

Imagine two designers. Both are great at their craft, but Designer A spends more time following up with the client following their design meeting. Designer A asks key questions to confirm the direction of the project, along with how the project works with the client’s overall vision. Rather than spending this time following up with the client to clarify the direction, however, Designer B immediately goes to work and spends twice as long as designer A on the initial wireframes. It should go without saying that designer A was, by far, more successful with the client. And, more importantly, designer A saved the agency a significant amount of profit by using fewer work hours while, ultimately, delivering the project ahead of schedule. The moral of the story for creatives? Communicate, communicate, communicate! Ask for clarity when anything seems less than completely transparent. Creatives should anticipate any potential misunderstandings among themselves, the rest of the team, and/or the client. Parts of the project that seem less certain in terms of the timeline should be highlighted. Where are the “known unknowns”? What are the “unknown unknowns”? No designer should be too proud to inquire and inform their team of vital information.

Synchronizing Together

The disparities between right-brained creatives and left-brained, executives, and project managers may at first seem insurmountable. These personality traits relate to cognitive abilities that become encouraged, perhaps at an early stage of life, and then become reinforced through professional specialization. Despite a lack of scientific support for the left brain/right brain theory, there is plenty of social evidence for its continued relevance—especially in today’s advertising industry. One excels in math early on and is then admitted into a fast-track MBA program, only later to become a highly successful CFO. Or, one shows a talent for drawing, is accepted into design school, and then becomes an all-star designer for a top agency. In neither of these cases is anything said about the ability of either personality type to deal effectively with the other. But when considered carefully—whether you are a creative looking to collaborate better with CFOs, or an executive looking to relate more directly to your creative team—there are specific strategies for crossing the seemingly unbridgeable divide between cognitive hemispheres.

Whether right-brained or left-brained, together we can make the digital agency world a better place to work. 

1 https://www.verywell.com/left-brain-vs-right-brain-2795005 

2 https://www.verywell.com/left-brain-vs-right-brain-2795005