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.

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 

eCommerce 101

eCommerce 101

It seems as though we’ve transacted online forever, but really it is only in the last three decades that eCommerce – that is, the buying and selling of goods via online services or the Internet – in its current form has been around.

The History of eCommerce

The germ of the concept dates back around forty years though, to well before the Internet became ubiquitous.

Encryption technology around telecommunications and the semiconductor industry advanced enough that in 1979, English inventor and entrepreneur Michael Aldrich demonstrated the first ‘online shopping system’[1] using a modified television set connected to a transaction processing computer via a telephone line in the UK. He enabled automated business-to-customer or business-to-business transactions in a closed, secure loop that could be shared by third parties, which would go on to become what we called eCommerce today.

In 1982, Boston Computer Exchange, an online market for people to sell used computers, became the first eCommerce company.

eCommerce stores and marketplaces

It took another 10 years till Book Stacks Unlimited debuted as an online bookseller, using an dial-up bulletin board. In 1994, it moved over to the Internet at books.com, today owned by Barnes & Noble.

In 1995, Amazon also launched as an online bookseller before converting into to a broad spectrum eCommerce store in 1998, and finally evolving into a marketplace that also accepted third-party sellers in 2000. Also in 1995, eBay was founded as an auction site which has gone on to become a giant of online retail globally. The takeup of broadband internet connections in the first decade of this century had a big part to play in this trend too.

Amazon set many of the standards for modern-day eCommerce by offering features that mail-order couldn’t, such as one-click shopping, comparison shopping across retailers, product reviews, quick and sometimes free delivery as well as easy returns.

In 2005, by adding a membership component with Amazon Prime that allowed for two-day shipping and later, access to its streaming service, and building warehouses across the US to be closer to the customer and cut delivery times, it revolutionized the supply chain management and fulfillment side of eCommerce. Etsy, the marketplace for crafts and small sellers, was also launched in 2000.

Membership is also how music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer and operate – as premium subscription services – though actual streaming of music goes as far back as 1881 when the Theatrophone allowed listeners to listen to opera and theater performances via a telephone line. Netflix and Disney have, of course, done the same for video streaming, which has turned them into a club-type good.

While Amazon is the largest eCommerce store and marketplace globally in terms of revenue and market capitalization[2], Alibaba (founded 1999), Rakuten (founded 1997) in Asia and Mercado Libre (founded 1999) in Latin America are significant players in their markets.

Payment Infrastructure for eCommerce

In 1998, though, another important part of the eCommerce ecosystem, that of the payments that power it, launched when Paypal (originally Confinity) was founded. Paypal is now owned by eBay.

Since then, the proliferation of other digital wallets and peer-to-peer payment processing platforms such as Google Pay (previously Google Pay), Stripe and Apple Pay have made mobile payment even easier and more widespread.

Afterpay, Klarna and Paypal Credit are introducing customers to the idea of buy now, pay later, the practice of paying for eCommerce purchases in three or four installments like in actual retail, making it more widely accepted.

Anyone Can Have a Webshop

With customers not necessarily confined to a geographic location, there needed to be a way to reach them. Google Adwords, introduced in 2000, fulfilled that need. It allowed eCommerce businesses to advertise to people using Google search.

The arrival of Shopify in 2004 upended the till-then expensive coding and equipment necessary for the development of a webshop and point-of-sale systems and democratized it to allow anyone with an account to set one up using available templates. Shopify has built up a 20% market share in the US with WordPress plug-in WooCommerce themarket leader with 26%[3].

Types of eCommerce

Business to Business, B2b The traditional route where companies buy and sell goods and services with each other.

Business to Consumer, B2c This is the route when companies sell to consumers.

Business to Business to Customer, B2b2c A route where larger businesses sell to smaller entities who resell the product & services to a customer. A good example would be an HVAC company selling air conditioning equipment to a contractor who services the end customer.

Marketplaces This is where suppliers (business vendors and individual sellers) sell to buyers (businesses or consumers).

Consumer to Consumer (C2c) eBay is the best-known example of a platform that allows consumers to sell and buy products to each other.

Social, mobile and voice eCommerce applications

The future of eCommerce is all about shopping using mobile devices and apps and increasingly, voice. 81% of visits on Shopify sites is from mobiles[4]. SMS marketing is therefor becoming increasingly important. Social shopping has also taken off with brands using sponsored stories on Facebook and shoppable posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to reach customers.

Choosing an eCommerce platform

BORN Group has been around since eCommerce was in its infancy. Today, we are integrators for the major systems including SAP Commerce, Salesforce Commerce, Adobe Commerce, BigCommerce, ShopifyPlus, Commercetools, VTEX, and Elastic Path. To make informed platform decisions, we use something called a 5C methodology as part of our technical roadmap that we call the Feature Value Matrix at BORN. These include:

Conform We identify requirements that can be supported to conform to out-of-the-box features in a platform.

Configure BORN identifies requirements that can be supported through configurations made to the platform.

Customize We determine the necessary customizations that will need to be built into the platform.

Compromise The configuration and integration of third party tool or systems such as ERP, OMS and CRM systems that cover tax systems, loyalty programs, payment gateways, fraud detection, affiliate programs, email campaign systems, and user reviews

Connect Identifying all requirements that are supported through integration and offer accelerators for a shorter time to market at a reduced cost.

Through optimization of the 5C’s BORN Group is able to pinpoint your businesses specific needs and map those requirements to the most efficient solution.

eCommerce: Even more potential

Currently, only around 14% of retail sales is e-retail[5]. Moreover, 4 in 10 people worldwide don’t have an internet connection and over half the world doesn’t have a smartphone[6], so there is still a huge amount of potential with regard to eCommerce. Expect to see more omnichannel experiences, personalization, and artificial intelligence-enabled shopping.

The situation with Covid saw eCommerce sales accelerate around the globe – the US alone saw a 30% growth[7] – and is expected to touch USD 476 billion in 2024[8].

To know more about how BORN is leading the charge to merge usability with shopability by making informed platform decisions  to drive consumers online, click here.


[1] Michael Aldrich Invents Online Shopping, Historyofinformation.com,

https://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?id=4068

[2] Global Amazon retail e-commerce sales 2017-2021, Statista,

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1103390/amazon-retail-ecommerce-sales-global/

[3] Ecommerce Platform Marke Share in the USA, Oberlo, https://www.oberlo.com/statistics/ecommerce-platform-market-share-in-usa

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

[5] E-commerce share of total global retail sales from 2015 to 2023, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/534123/e-commerce-share-of-retail-sales-worldwide/

[6] How Many People Have Smartphones In The World?, https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/how-many-phones-are-in-the-world

[7] US Ecommerce Growth Jumps to More than 30%, Accelerating Online Shopping Shift by Nearly 2 Years, emarketer, https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-ecommerce-growth-jumps-more-than-30-accelerating-online-shopping-shift-by-nearly-2-years

[8] Retail e-commerce sales in the United States from 2017 to 2024, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/272391/us-retail-e-commerce-sales-forecast/

6 Tips for the WFH Warrior

6 Tips for the WFH Warrior

We’re nearing one year into the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while in some ways we can begin to look towards an incoming ‘next normal,’ or post-pandemic world, we still must take every precaution we can to stop the spread and reach that finish line. We here at BORN are still committed to protecting our employees by enabling them to work remotely and only return to the office once it’s safe to do so.  

With over a year of remote work, the fatigue of not seeing colleagues and co-workers does take its toll. We’ve connected with BORN Group’s Director of Human Resources, Jamie Weisberg, to review some of the most effective ways to promote mental health and wellbeing while working remotely. Together, we’ve put together six tips to cultivate a better work from home experience.

  1. Remember to recharge.

“One of the best things you can do is step away from the computer and take time for yourself.” 

Working remotely often means working from home, which can create a blurred line between work and home. When coupled with the many lockdown rules and COVID-19 precautions that can create difficulties in finding daily recreation, it’s essential to remember to take time for yourself and recharge when possible. It’s perfectly healthy and expected to schedule breaks throughout the day to eat and check in on yourself. Even if travel is not available to the extent it was prior to the pandemic, it’s still important as well to take advantage of vacation time to reflect, disengage, and come back more revitalized.

  1. Connect face-to-face whenever possible.

“Not being able to see the facial expressions of co-workers can have an effect of isolation. Whenever possible, in team or client meetings, take advantage of the camera to read another’s body language while you communicate.”

The pandemic has had a sweeping effect on society by disconnecting us from one another physically. Those of us who live alone and don’t get the opportunity to see people at the same intervals as prior may especially feel a sense of isolation from work. It’s a great change from the past to be coordinating on projects and working to the degree that we do without the level of communication that body language provides. Thus, it can go a long way to utilize video conferencing wherever possible. Whether it’s a team meeting, client meeting, whenever possible, take advantage of the camera to better communicate, understand another’s tone and intent, and generally ease your conversation.

a collage of photos of a group of people posing for a photo
A snapshot from one of BORN’s virtual Town Halls. Video conferencing can go a long way toward building community!
  1. Dress for success.

“Brightening your appearance even while at home can set you in the mindset of mindful work.”

Another healthy practice that can fall into neglect via remote work is to tend to one’s appearance daily. The rituals of trimming, make-up and skincare, and the regular haircut as well as dressing presentably and geared to work all have noted effects in getting us into a mindset of work and stability. Ruts in life can be magnified by neglecting one’s appearance and it can help make you more inclined to break out of them with the sort of self-care that lets you feel eager to tackle the day and presentable to anyone you might come across. Carve out the time – work will always be there, and taking care of oneself is a key priority.

  1. Exercise throughout the day.

“A lot of real world issues have magnified the effect of the pandemic over the past year, and taking the time to remember to breath and walk can serve as an excellent stress reliever throughout the day.”

With the torrent of difficult news this past year, the effects of isolation are often magnified with malaise and frustration at the world’s problems. It’s important to take the time to avoid burnout by putting aside some time throughout the day to breath mindfully, walk mindfully, and let your mind refresh, to help mollify stress and keep health a priority. Burnout as a whole is huge, especially in the tech industry, and it’s essential for senior leaders to give their team the space to get projects done while in the best state of mind.

  1. Take advantage of office resources for wellbeing.

“Employees at BORN had already set the precedent of working remotely prior to the pandemic, but one of the challenges of building a work from home culture was reminding our team to take advantage of whatever resources they needed for wellbeing and health.”

Coming up with strategies for teams to check-in and avoid burnout has played a key role in the path of building a work from home culture here at BORN. Without the ease of interaction from physical connections, there’s an increased need for all teams to be visible with the array of resources we offer to help support our employees throughout this intensive time of their career. Being accessible and accommodating to our team is what gets us moving forward each time, and on the employee side, it can go a long way to take advantage of the office resources in context to mental health and wellbeing. Here at BORN, one program that we instituted to help decompress was a biweekly virtual yoga session. 

  1. Continue to build team culture.

“Encouraging teams to connect in a remote time can build the camaraderie that makes work so fulfilling. It’s vital to take the time to build and be creative as a unit.”

Much of our fulfillment from work comes from the work we can do together as a team. While conventional events like company-wide happy hours have proven difficult to execute on virtually, we’ve seen team leads come up with innovative and disrupting ways to keep the team culture moving forward. Scheduling one on one meetings wherever possible, going for “walk and talks” as an alternative to the happy hour, or relegating a time for social connection within the team all will yield their own returns in fostering a mindful and productive culture.

A Marketplace for All Reasons

A Marketplace for All Reasons

Before the advent of the online retail marketplace as we know it, there were B2B marketplaces that came out of the dotcom bubble such as VerticalNet, CommerceOne and Covisint. They helped businesses with online auctions at the one end and with procurement on the other, which involved complex transactions such as requests for quotations, information and proposals. They have mainly been subsumed into and are used these days as part of complex enterprise resource planning systems in major corporations.

However, the online marketplace model has persisted, driven by consumers seeking the convenience and broad assortment that marketplaces provide. In fact, online marketplaces now represent 57% of global web sales, totaling more than $2 trillion annually[1]. B2Bs are catching onto the marketplace trend as well: Gartner says that “By 2023, at least 70% of the enterprise marketplaces launched will serve B2B transactions”[2].

The origin of the modern marketplace trend can be traced, in part, back to two companies that did survive the dot-com bubble: Amazon and eBay. Amazon was founded in 2000 originally as an online marketplace for books before expanding into multiple categories and becoming a behemoth that is one of the biggest economic forces in the world[3]. Alexa, itself an Amazon company, ranks it the third-most visited website in the United States after Google and Youtube.[4]

eBay, founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, evolved from being an auction site to becoming an online marketplace with its ‘Buy it Now’ feature. eBay has grown to become a multibillion-dollar organization so big that the payment services provider it owned at one time, PayPal, had to be spun off.

eBay is present in over 30 countries but in China, where the consumer-to-consumer (C2C) platform Taobao – founded in 2003 by Alibaba – is the market leader, it couldn’t make a dent. Just like how eBay felt the need to own a payment services provider, Alibaba also owns Alipay, an escrow-based online payment system which is the most-widely used third-party payment solution in China.

In 2010, its service AliExpress connected Chinese manufacturers directly to international visitors, a move that would go on to radically change the offerings in many marketplaces today and give rise to retail fulfillment practices such as drop-shipping, where sellers don’t stock the product but instead buy it from a third party and have it mailed it out the customer. Taobao’s B2C platform Tmall is the third-most visited site globally.[5]

In Japan and Southeast Asia, eBay runs one of the main marketplaces Qoo10, in a joint venture together with another early C2C marketplace platform GMarket, founded in 2000 in Korea. The leader is Japan is Yahoo’s Paypay Mall, which was built on the success of the PayPay payment app and modeled on Alipay and Taobao, followed by Rakuten and then Amazon.[6]

The success of these digital giants has accelerated the adoption of the marketplace model across industries and regions, and marketplaces are being adapted to a variety of uses. We’ve begun to notice a myriad of them that can be labeled under the below categories.

Types of Marketplaces

  • Horizontal Marketplaces: where vendors offer a broad range of good and services across multiple categories, for example, Amazon or Idealo (the latter a price comparison site launched in 2000 in Germany that also offers sales of goods).
  • Vertical Marketplaces: where vendors offer products and services specific to a defined category or market. Etsy for arts, crafts and vintage items (founded 2005) or Airbnb for rentals (founded 2008) are prime examples.
  • Product Marketplaces: offering physical products such as Amazon or Walmart and even the tech marketplace Newegg.
  • Virtual Marketplaces: offering virtual products. Gaming marketplace G2G or cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance and Coinbase fall under this category.
  • Service Marketplaces: carpooling marketplaces Didi Chuxing, Uber, Lyft Line, Waze Carpool and Blablacar are some of the most popular. TaskRabbit is a marketplace for handymen while Udemy offers online courses.
  • Hybrid Marketplaces: offering both products and services. The subscription box marketplace Cratejoy offers extra services such as subscription-specific logistics, fulfillment management and shipping, tax-smart checkout, and resource guides. Houzz connects people with interior designers but also sells products for the home.
  • Niche Marketplaces: covering only a small part of the market.

From eCommerce to Marketplaces

Traditional eCommerce websites have to deal with challenges such as a limited product range, inventory, multiple sales channels and lack of control over the customer journey. This has led to many of them converting into marketplaces, where the owner then can take over the customer journey, allowing for a seamless customer experience.

The model is also more profitable than the conventional first-party eCommerce model. Because marketplace operators do not have to source, purchase, or warehouse inventory, they mitigate the cost & risk of inventory, and can adapt and scale their assortment in response to inevitable fluctuations in consumer demand throughout the year.

Marketplaces also Offer Many Advantages for Sellers

  • Access to a Broader Customer Base: A whopping 56% of searches start on Amazon[7]. Amazon Prime has 112 million members in the US alone and over 150 million worldwide.[8] [9] In December 2019, 214.8 million users visited Amazon’s websites per month, while second-ranked Walmart could boast of 138.3 million unique visitors during the same period.[10]
  • Reduced Time to Launch: Marketplaces allow new sellers to generate revenue straight away while building awareness for their brands without worrying about driving traffic to their sites.
  • Established Infrastructure and Support: The most popular marketplaces have established programs to help sellers get their products out to customers in terms of marketing, sales and fulfillment. Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and eBay’s Global Shipping are two examples of them.

The ubiquity of marketplaces has been powered by technology companies such as Mirakl, a best-of-breed marketplace technology solution on the market. Founded in France in 2012, Mirakl was built on the expertise of its co-founders, who launched, scaled, and sold Splitgames, the first omnichannel online marketplace for video games in 2005.

Retailers, manufacturers, and wholesalers have built their online marketplaces on Mirakl’s cloud-based software. Mirakl counts customers in over 40 countries, including Carrefour, H&M, the Kroger Col, Urban Outfitters, and Best Buy Canada.

They have also made a foray into B2B marketplaces for procurement or bulk buying of parts such as Astore by Accor Hotels, as well as clients such as Airbus Helicopters and Toyota Material Handling. Mirakl even runs a “marketplace of marketplaces” called Mirakl Connect, where sellers, marketplace operators, and technology partners connect to identify new opportunities in the marketplace ecosystem.

Marketplaces have changed the way we discover products and services. Indeed, they may have changed the way we live by bringing a wide range of these directly to our devices and reducing inefficiencies by lowering the cost of acquiring information about the sellers’ products.[11]


[1] What are the top online marketplaces?, Digital Commerce 360 https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/article/infographic-top-online-marketplaces/

[2] 1 Gartner, 11 Imperatives When Building an Enterprise Marketplace Business, Sandy Shen, Jason Daigler, 10 December 2019

[3] The Amazon effect on the US economy, Investopedia,  https://www.investopedia.com/insights/amazon-effect-us-economy/

[4] Top Sites in the US, Alexa.com. https://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/US

[5] The Top 500 Sites on the Web. Alexa.com. https://www.alexa.com/topsites

[6] Online Marketplaces in Japan: Rakuten, Amazon and PayPay Mall, Webretailer,  https://www.webretailer.com/b/online-marketplaces-japan

[7] Report: Google beats Amazon for product-search reach, but rival sees greater loyalty, Searchengineland, September 2017, https://searchengineland.com/report-google-beats-amazon-product-search-reach-rival-sees-greater-loyalty-282570

[8] Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/546894/number-of-amazon-prime-paying-members/

[9] Amazon Prime tops 150 million Prime members https://variety.com/2020/digital/news/amazon-150-million-prime-members-1203487355/

[10] Most popular retail websites in the United States as of December 2019, ranked by visitors, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/271450/monthly-unique-visitors-to-us-retail-websites/

[11] A Strategic Analysis of Electronic Marketplaces, J. Yannis Bakos, ACM Digital Library, https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/280324.280330