Making Waves – eCommerce After COVID

Making Waves – eCommerce After COVID

“We are in the midst of a seismic shift in business and society.  Understanding platform strategy will be vital to grasp tomorrow’s economic model.”* –Aditya Basu, Strategy & Marketing – CEO Office.

As tectonic shifts sink continents and elevate swamps into mountains, the tsunamis unleashed leave those in their path with a single question: how will you survive?  Thus we are reminded of Andy Grove, the former chairman of Intel and author of “Only The Paranoid Survive”(1996), the subhead of his book being “How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company”. 

Grove is credited as the “Father of OKRs” by legendary investor John Doerr, but was also a mentor to Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz and many more.  Though “Objectives and Key Results” are worthy of their own article, “Strategic Inflection Points” (the theme of “Only the Paranoid Survive”) seems a more urgent read as the “return to the new normal” looms like a tidal wave eager to flood the COVID-wasteland that left businesses marooned and our cities desolate.

A Strategic Inflection Point is the moment in a company (or person’s) trajectory where they have the opportunity to weather a crisis and soar to new heights, like a phoenix reborn, OR plummet to new lows like an ostrich with its head in the sand.  These inflection points are often prompted by “10X forces”; a force that is outside the norm of what may even be considered possible.

Grove introduces the 10X force in the context of six forces known to affect businesses, originally introduced by Professor Michael Porter of Harvard.  The forces as paraphrased by Grove are: the power, vigor, and competence of 1) existing competitors, 2) potential competitors, 3) suppliers, 4) customers, 5) complementors (other businesses from whom customers buy complementary products; products that are used in tandem or required together — like cars and gasoline, or from an online merchant’s perspective: an eCommerce site-build and fulfillment services for the products to be shipped), 6) the possibility that your product or service can be built or delivered differently.  

A 10X force could be any of the normal forces, but an order of magnitude larger than what is expected.  Dramatic examples of before and after general “inflection points” might be: Commuting to work: by horse, then car, now computer.  Entertainment: by video rental, then mail, and now streaming.  Shopping: from retail to online.

As referenced by Aditya Basu, we see examples of 10X forces as evidenced in the McKinsey Digital Report 2020 (DigitalCommerce360): “We have seen a 10 year growth in a mere 90 days for US eCommerce penetration.  Online spending represented 18.6% of total retail sales for the first two quarters of 2020.” And in the BCG+ Deloitte Digital Report:  “Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with US retailers in 2020, up 44% from 598.02 billion in 2019.”

Basu also reveals that 66% percent of B2B leaders now believe eCommerce solutions are essential, up from 48% pre-COVID.  He emphasizes: “what may be most interesting is: the shift in numbers serves as a dramatic example of the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ of a 10X force.  When you consider ‘10 year growth in 90 days’ and ‘a $260+ billion dollar increase in sales’ you begin to get an idea of the sales velocity reached by business leaders that were able to steer into the storm and capture the 10X force. As for those who were blown off course, or completely knocked over — there may still be time to get it right, but you need to be decisive, and can accelerate your rebound by partnering with those who navigated the crisis early.”

Grove explains how 10X forces may sneak up in plain sight to capsize your business before you even realize what’s happening.  He also explains how to be nimble so you can be better prepared for the squalls, and not only come out on the other side, but far ahead of the beached wreckage and flotsam left behind.  Strategic Inflection Points are essentially the moments where the future is made. But since it’s hard to predict which way the wind blows, or whether a breeze will turn into a gale, it is often difficult to separate the signal from the noise when it comes to 10X forces.  Grove makes suggestions on questions to ask yourself in the context of competitors and complementors (Chapter 6 of “Only The Paranoid Survive”), as well as recommending the importance of looking to middle-management, and sales (from the ground to C-suite) to get a “barometer” on what storms may be brewing.  

“Grove’s 10X force on retailers is important from a competitive standpoint, but we often find that organizations are sometimes competing against themselves because they are not efficiently operating the three most important levers to ensure an excellent Customer Experience; those levers being Brand, Behavior, and Book of Record Experience.  Customers not only interact with your company’s Brand, revealing Behavioral insights, but also with Back Office operations.  Customer experience defines the digital economy and goes beyond creative design and content management.  All three experiences must be tied together to drive consumer engagement.” says Amanda Volz, Vice President of Sales at BORN Group.  She continues, “In today’s world customers expect retailers to provide them a seamless shopping experience that’s safe, efficient, but most of all omnichannel. In other words, retailers must be experts in ALL the ways their customers shop: online, mobile, brick and mortar, in order to keep up with the behavioral shift that COVID has forced on both retailers and customers.  Those who are able to accommodate all of these models have had the most success in navigating the last 18 months.

Basu offers further advice on how an eCommerce strategy is pivotal to making sure you do more than tread water: “In order to have the most leverage to seize short term opportunities and win new digital-first shoppers, you must conceptualize how to build and scale your eCommerce blueprint. You don’t need to get it perfect, but planning for contingencies, good and bad, makes it possible for you to at least be prepared for whatever comes next. Though it’s impossible to be ‘prepared’ for everything, you can set yourself up to handle challenges robustly, or even be in a position where every obstacle can become a step higher on the road to success.”

Basu continues: “Ultimately, the big question when dealing with inflection points, 10X forces, and planning ahead in general is: what to focus on? In life, as in business, weathering a storm is not just about navigating a crisis in realtime, but the preparations that make it possible for you to do so.  As the conditions of an actual storm, pandemic, or other crisis make it impossible to simulate and predict, the best you can focus on, in the now, is 1) to make sure everyone works together efficiently, that you have the people willing and able to rise to the occasion when one presents itself.  2) to make sure that all your “instruments” are in tip-top shape, and that your crew operates them expertly.  This might come in the form of certifications, cutting edge tech, best practices and data management.  3) have a compass to make sure your organization is always aligned onward and upward; at BORN we embrace the Stella Framework (as referenced by Amanda Volz above) which keeps the Customer Experience (CX) front and center.  While an individual’s customer’s experience may be unique, the sum total of all experiences combined represents the pulse of your company, and how it can stand up to unforeseen stresses.”

At BORN we’re like a racing yacht, crewed by seasoned and certified professionals with a love of the sport, helping you get where you need to go, fast and in style… we can turn on a dime, equipped with the best-in-class partner solutions like Arctic Fox for Salesforce, Bulldog for Adobe, Eagle for SAP, Bison for ShopifyPlus and more.  We also work with the sharpest partners in the world so we can always see beyond the cloud; through our sister agency Pininfarina we offer physical design.

“The retail experience must continue to evolve while focusing on the magic mix of the tangible and intangible. eCommerce and the online experience is a fundamental part of the equation in creating a strong and recognizable Brand personality in the market.” says Paolo Trevisan, Vice President of Design at Pininfarina of America. “While we continue pursuing our passion for timeless design solutions across various verticals including automotive design, transportation, industrial design, architecture and interiors, the synergy with BORN can allow for an experience-focused digital approach that will continue to push the boundaries of our human-centered approach.”

Wherever you are, and wherever you’re going,  BORN helps you capture a 10X force to fill your sail and ride the wave.

*”eMarketplaces: Unlocking The Value of Platform Economy” read Aditya Basu’s original article in its entirety here: (https://www.borngroup.com/views/emarketplaces-unlocking-the-value-of-platform-economy/

**”The Three Most Important Levers” … read about The Stella Framework here (https://www.borngroup.com/news/the-stella-framework-2/)

Draw Them in with Content: Enabling Buying Decisions through Visual Commerce

Draw Them in with Content: Enabling Buying Decisions through Visual Commerce

The content that goes behind selling a product has rapidly scaled over the past decade, with more and more features to capture user-generated content and professional footage to sell products. This trend has been styled Visual Commerce and is a key part of the buyer’s journey – approximately 75% of internet users search for visual content before carrying out a purchase1.

The path to a sale has never been easy. Buyer journeys at a brick-and-mortar store always included some amount of comparison shopping and brands tried to influence buyers by helping them visualize their product on a mannequin or styled as part of a setting, or having a sales associate available to talk to. 

With eCommerce becoming all-pervasive and accelerating faster than retail these days, brands need to take over even more of that visualization in order to provide a seamless omnichannel experience – that is, to persuade a buyer to make an informed purchase decision without being able to touch and feel it. 

Visual commerce is about using compelling content in context to attract, influence and convert buyers on their journey. In short, heightening user engagement to drive sales.

High-quality content for product visualization

What they need is a step-up from static 2D product images. What they need is a branded visual experience, one that incorporates interactive content that is engaging as well as informational and is consistent in its messaging. 

Lookbooks and digital catalogs using large, high-resolution photos and livestreaming videos that show 360° views, as well as entertaining content such as GIFs and memes, are included in this list.

Add curated user-generated content as well as shoppability layers to visual assets to create shortcuts in the sales process. 

Immersive content using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can project a homeware product into the users home or help buyers visualize an accessory as part of a look in 3D. IKEA’s AR app goes as far as helping the buyer design entire rooms2. The more diverse your media, the higher the search engine rankings

User-generated content provides social proof and builds trust. According to a Bazaarvoice survey in December 2020, nearly two-thirds (62%) of consumers from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the US said they were more likely to buy a product if they were able to view customer photos and videos. Roughly a quarter of them were influenced by UGC on or used Facebook to make purchases based on UGC3. In fashion, up 9 out of 10 shoppers trust an influencer more than traditional advertisements or celebrity endorsements and this, alongside peer reviews (55%) and social media (74%) impact purchase decisions4.

There exist tools and platforms that allow you to

  • aggregate posts from your users on multiple social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest
  • curate the best content for your site
  • tag your products on their posts
  • display them as galleries or besides specific products, and
  • study the analytics of user engagement. 

Such shoppable posts can take users directly to the payments page and avoid extra time till purchase. 

Besides providing fresh and eye-catching imagery at low cost, using UGC and reviews also is a badge of authenticity, develops customer loyalty and builds trust. Would-be buyers can also see the context and the lifestyle in which the products are being used.

Product discovery through a personalized experience 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are the ever-evolving technologies that underpin the rich personalization features of visual commerce. They help brands offer ever more individualized and dynamic content, offers, and recommendations to customers based on their demographics, preferences as well as past and present behavior. Content works harder over more buying journeys.

AI-powered visual search improves product discoverability. This feature enables people to go straight to a product using pictures clicked on their mobile devices, thereby increasing engagement, conversion rates and consequently, customer lifetime value. ASOS is a good example of an eCommerce website that does this well.

Visual configurators can also give a 360° view of the product and empower buyers by offering them options to change or personalize details. Allow them to point to a part of the product or use icons rather than use naming conventions that they may be unfamiliar with. Allow them to save and start over.

Gucci configurator for knitwear

Easy and seamless experience

The end goal of visual commerce is to reduce friction in the buying journey. The experience overall needs to be easy and seamless, else it will result in abandoned carts. IKEA users, for example, don’t love that they have to open up the IKEA website or app, besides the AR app, to complete the purchase. Amazon, on its part, had a consumer camera called the Echo Look, which enabled users to take videos and selfies, before folding its functionality into the Amazon shopping app.

Visual commerce for a digital world

Fashion shows are being reimagined as heightened visual experiences for a digital tomorrow, to market to buyers who are not there in person5. Even in B2B industries such as manufacturing, the lack of trade shows and exhibitions have given a push to visual commerce, showing that visual commerce is here to stay6

For more information about BORN Group’s expertise in brand and customer experience, click here.

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Footnotes

1. Visual Commerce 2017: How Image Recognition and Augmentation Are Changing Retail, eMarketer, https://www.emarketer.com/Report/Visual-Commerce-2017-How-Image-Recognition-Augmentation-Changing-Retail/2002059

2. IKEA’s Revamped AR App Lets You Design Entire Rooms, Wired, 20 Apr 2021, https://www.wired.com/story/ikea-revamped-ar-app-design-entire-rooms/

3. User-generated visual content can influence purchases, eMarketer, 21 Feb 2021, https://www.emarketer.com/content/user-generated-visual-content-influence-purchases

4.  The State of Fashion 2018, McKinsey and the Business of Fashion,  https://cdn.businessoffashion.com/reports/The_State_of_Fashion_2018_v2.pdf

5.  5 Digital Artists Reimagining The Fashion Show, Vogue UK, 23 May 2021, https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/digital-artists-reimagining-the-fashion-show

6.  COVID-19 Driving Visual Commerce Accelerator for Hand-Selected Manufacturers, Manufacturing Tomorrow, 2 Jun 2020, https://www.manufacturingtomorrow.com/article/2020/05/covid-19-driving-visual-commerce-accelerator-for-hand-selected-manufacturers/15326/

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/

Tapping Into the Developer Ecosystem: The BORN Associate Training Program

Tapping Into the Developer Ecosystem: The BORN Associate Training Program

Across the tech industry, employee turnover year over year stands at a stiff 13.2%, a high among verticals that reveals how volatile finding and keeping the right talent can be1. It only gets more difficult when capturing developers in specialized fields like eCommerce given that the space requires individuals well-versed and certified in the wider platform ecosystem. As an agency, we soon realized the challenge in matching our rapid growth with an equally rapid hiring process – there were only so many developers that were certified for the use-cases we needed. 

That’s why we here at BORN Group have developed the Associate Training Program to cultivate talent internally and broaden our hiring capabilities. The program found its beginnings with BORN Group’s Head of Recruitment, Tiffany Ingersoll, who felt the acute pain of trying to cultivate a consistent stream of eCommerce-versed developers. Prior to BORN, she and Chris Connell, BORN’s SFCC Technical Lead, and Davis Devries, BORN Back End Developer, had experience in building Associate programs to hire and train more general developers to fill needed roles.

With the support of BORN Group’s Managing Director, North America, Minna Rhee, we were able to launch the program at the end of Q4 basing the initial launch out of BORN’s headquarters in New York, with a goal of welcoming new hires biannually. Prior to joining the program, our new team members were well versed across JavaScript, React, and other baseline skills, and then engaged in workshops to further their knowledge across the platforms we focus on.

With over sixty applicants, we ultimately hired 8 to participate in the program. Our new team members are a collection of curious and talented individuals, driven for the chance to polish their skill set and learn from BORN. The new program has proven to be an invaluable success that we look forward to replicating across other sectors of our business.

One participant of the Associate Training Program, Adam Weissman, spoke highly on the new opportunity citing, ‘I could not have imagined a more awesome kick-off to 2021 than this; since the moment I first learned about BORN and Tech Mahindra, what they’ve done, what they do, and the trailblazing work they’ll do in the future… I viewed them not only as a company but as something of a destination.’ BORN was a place that Adam felt he could be a brand evangelist from the get-go, and it is thanks to the Associate Training program that we have him with us today. 

With the Associate Training Program accepting its first round of applicants, we’re excited to see how we can better foster talent throughout the greater developer network. Adam’s words as well as the work of the team at large have proven to be a great milestone into fully fleshing out a process for internal hiring and education. We’re looking forward to the next round of our Associate Training program, slated in Q2, to cultivate new Business Analyst talent for the year.

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Footnotes:

1 Employee Attrition Rate, March 25th, 2020  https://devskiller.com/attrition-rate-in-tech/