Black Friday and Cyber Monday ring in the holiday season and officially commence what most retailers hope is their best time of year. Utilizing key online retail trends and consumer insights may give you the tools you need to succeed. Although people will still brave crowds that gather and line up outside locked doors in the wee hours the day after Thanksgiving, online shopping continues to gain momentum from a sales standpoint. According to a recent Forbes article, “Blurring the line between in-store price comparison shopping and stay at home shopping via the Internet, IBM reported the number of consumers using their mobile device to make a purchase on Black Friday 2012 increased by nearly two-thirds from 2011. . . . Online retailers had their biggest day ever on Cyber Monday as holiday shoppers drove sales up 30% vs. the same day last year according to IBM.”
Earlier this year, comScore asked 3,000 consumers which factors led them to shop on their computers, smartphones or tablets, to abandon their shopping carts, and to recommend retailers to friends. “Consumers have a growing number of digital touchpoints, with more ways to stay connected with their favorite online retailers through every phase of the shopping, buying and fulfillment process,” said Susan Engleson, comScore senior director. “What will set apart one retailer from another in a competitive marketplace is how well they meet the rapidly evolving needs and expectations of customers.”
Key findings among those surveyed in the U.S. include:
• 47% want a coupon or promotion sent to them on their smartphone when they are in-store or nearby
• 58% want to see a 2-3 day delivery option at checkout
• 53% want an estimated delivery date and shipping costs early in the process
• 7 in 10 online shoppers prefer to access multichannel retailers through a digital channel
• 84% of online shoppers not only use social media platforms but are also actively engaged in seeking out updates and promotions for sites they follow
• 66% of consumers review a retailer’s returns policy either before or both before and after making a purchase, demonstrating that return policies are one of the top consumer considerations when making a purchase online.
In a recent Harvard Business Review webinar, Jeffrey Rayport, Harvard professor and digital marketing expert, explained how the consumer landscape is being reshaped, and that five principles can help companies leverage the opportunities of the new reality.
1. Deliver a commanding targeted abundance of content, apps and services.
2. Socialize the brand, and forge communities of conviction based on location, identity, interest or condition.
3. Work the web by letting the outside in, and adopt “open source” thinking as an aggregator while exploiting network effects.
4. Design for occasion---allow the consumption context to drive decisions about user interface design.
5. Integrate the experience and orchestrate multichannel media content delivery to establish the best “ecosystem."
Your people and your brand are your most important assets, and we believe that brands should work as hard inside a company as they do outwardly. Our approach and tools for internal branding help clients cocreate, empower staff and engender a more unified voice. Beyond the regularly scheduled weekly project briefing meetings, we believe in the value of bringing our team together to connect inspiration to action.
Whether your business or organization is a large multinational conglomerate, regional organization or startup boutique with a handful of people, internal communications among staff is just as important as, and can help foster, outward branding.
At Designsensory, we bring individuals, teams and the entire staff of DSers together through fun and inviting ways, including potluck breakfasts and birthday celebrations, weekly sharetimes, staff-wide fireside chats, internal surveys, planned and impromptu gatherings and collaborations.
Tim Brown, lead thinker/designer at industrial design firm IDEO, shares in a recent blog that “food represents much more than an employee perk here—it’s a central part of our creative culture.”
Whether with a casserole in the kitchen or dialogue through an intranet, we continue to discover new ways to bring people together for successful internal communications. Here are a few we thrive on:
Brand style guide: We like to call this your “brand bible.” It gives your internal team the chance to bring together everything that is important about your brand, from logo guidelines to font style, ad and packaging parameters, tone of voice and other specific needs that make your brand unique.
Intranet: For larger business and organizations, intranets offer instant connectivity via a closed online platform accessible only to internal staff. Incorporating social components such as a blog and short-form posting, similar to Twitter, can enable dialogue and collaboration among staff.
Internal surveys: While one-on-one interviews provide individual feedback, internal surveys of an entire staff share the collective pulse of the group.
E-newsletters and emails: For most organizations, email is something everyone connects with multiple times daily, before, during and after work. Utilizing this platform, either through a designed internal e-newsletter or a simple regular email, adds another touchpoint of staff connectivity.
Crisis communications: During emergencies and times that call for immediate action and crisis-specific communications, our staff is united through one voice and message. A crisis communications plan outlining action and short-term next steps facilitates branding and marketing when immediate action is required.
In-person gatherings: Whether bringing staff together during a potluck lunch or a fireside chat with a virtual fireplace played through a TV (yes, we’ve done that), in-person gatherings connect us as extended family.
Clicking the play button of an online video can lead to the promise of “more”—from more time onsite to more conversions and more conversations. The power of that play button can increase by extending online videos beyond a company’s website to a broader digital presence.
Video aggregators, native advertising, paid placements on YouTube, YouTube channels, Vine and soon-to-be video ads in Facebook’s newsfeed are examples of how an expanding online video ecosystem is shaping brand stories, content sharing and drive results.
A recent Forbes article, The Content Revolution: Emerging Forms of Online Video, shares that “the latest comScore numbers are evidence of just how massive this growth has been: 38.7 billion video views from 182 million Internet users in December 2012.
It’s hard to say which came first—the widespread increase in consumer adoption or the massive surge in the quality and type of video content available. Whatever the cause and effect, the end result is lots of content being viewed in new and different ways.”
Business Insider reports that, “After polling 5,000 executives attending the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Digital Content NewFronts, the IAB found that 75 percent of U.S. senior executives plan to shift their budgeting from television to digital video ads.”
Many of these video distribution avenues are economical, ranging from free to a few cents per placement up to more considerable amounts that mirror traditional media spends.
Video and rich media can help engage, connect and motivate your customers. From setting a long-term content strategy to writing, producing and editing rich media, Designsensory can help you learn more about how to integrate rich media and video into your marketing toolkit.
I'm thrilled to announce the inclusion of Designsensory on the Inc. 5000 List as one of the fastest-growing, private companies in the US. We are among 80 Tennessee companies, including 24 based in East Tennessee.
Designsensory's success comes from a passionate, super-talented team and our collaboration with strong clients and brands. Brands and businesses continue to invest in digital-centric marketing, beautiful design, relevant content and smart technology to engage customers and find new audiences. When they do, they invest in their future as well as a relationship with Designsensory.
We believe continued commitment to our client-partnerships will ensure future growth and success not only for us but for the brands we help market. Entering our 12th year in business, we look forward to a bright future as we move ever onward.
A deep thanks is due to friends and families who have supported us all along the way and continue to inspire the way we think, feel and create.
With votes tallied and winners announced for the 2013 PetSafe Bark For Your Park contest, DS is celebrating along with communities across the country. The DS team worked with PetSafe behind the scenes on an almost daily basis in the weeks leading up to and during the contest, updating elements, transitioning graphics, back-end tech work, monitoring votes and moving the phases forward. Months of preplanning, development of corresponding advertising and weekly efforts paid off with the contest gaining national media exposure alongside contestant and community momentum.
Here’s how this year’s contest played out by the numbers:
- 1,130 cities were nominated
- 88,6447 total votes
- 55,201 users voted
- $100,000 Grand Prize Winner – Texarkana, TX
- $25,000 Runner Up For Large City – Conway, AR
- $25,000 Winner For Medium Cities – Wheeling, WV
- $25,000 Winner For Small Cities – Mountain House, CA
- $25,000 Bark From Your Heart Winner – Silver Cliff, CO
Check out more on the contest results or learn about PetSafe here.
Students heading back to school shouldn’t be the only ones thinking about upcoming tests. Testing should be an integral part of the development of interactive, offline and campaign communication efforts. Within Design Thinking, ever-evolving and new iterations can be the norm when fine-tuning work, and research such as concept testing substantially helps drive forward momentum while fine-tuning solutions.
Concept testing is the process of using quantitative and qualitative methods to evaluate consumer response to an idea, product, design or interactive piece of communications prior to it going to market—and beyond.
Warren Berger, author of “The Four Phases of Design Thinking” recently shared the following points leading to successful efforts in the Harvard Business Review.
Question. Don’t just ask the obvious questions. Look deeper and don’t be afraid to rethink basic fundamentals about your business and products.
Care. Caring doesn’t just mean giving great customer service. Get to know your customers as intimately as possible. Immerse yourself in the lives of the people you are trying to serve.
Connect. Find ways to bring together concepts, people, and products. Many great breakthroughs are “mash-ups” of existing ideas.
Commit. Give form to your idea as quickly as possible. Create a prototype and begin testing it right away. This is the only way to know if you’ve touched on something truly promising.
Berger’s points bookend testing with questioning at the onset of the process and committing to testing as quickly as a prototype is developed.
Avinash Kaushik, author of Occam’s Razor, shared in a recent blog post, “There is a lot of ‘buzz’ around ‘buzzy’ metrics such as ‘brand value/brand impact’” and "’blog-pulse,’ to name a couple. IMHO these ‘buzzy’ metrics might be a suboptimal use of time/resources if we don’t first have a hardcore understanding of customer satisfaction and task completion on our websites.
There are many different methodologies to collect customer qualitative data, including:
- Lab Usability Testing (inviting participants to complete tasks, guided or unguided)
- Follow Me Homes (observing in a customer’s “native” environment)
- Experimentation/Testing (the latest new and cool thing to do, a/b or multivariate)
- Surveying (the granddaddy of them all)"
We’re firm believers in the value of using research and testing to guide the communications process, regardless of the research methodology used.
We often share stories focusing on creative projects and processes. Equally important is the best practices of project management, from initial meetings to final product delivery. Whatever the business or industry category, project management can lead to confidence and assurance throughout product development, fostering long-term relationships . . . or headaches, at every step.
PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a survey, in 2012, among more than 1,500 business leaders in 38 countries with 97% of respondents in agreement that project management is critical to business performance and organizational success, and 94% agreeing that project management enables business growth. While Designsensory has team members who, specifically, are project managers, every DSer has the ability to lead the process, share in client conversations and collaborate to move projects toward goals.
Basecamp, a web-based project-management instrument developed by 37signals, is one tool we use to facilitate collaboration, dialogue and, ultimately, project success. Basecamp developer Jason Fried, at the launch of the product in 2004, shared that the software platform “strives to provide the tools for a more human form of project management. With Basecamp, it’s not about tons of stats, charts, numbers and graphs—it’s about two-way communication, conversation, simple scheduling and to-do lists, so you don’t forget the little things." We know that projects often contain hundreds or thousands of these little things.
In a recent Harvard Business Review post, “The Dirty Little Secret of Project Management,” blogger Joe Knight remarked, “Your system can be very simple as long as it helps you do the following:
• Track key variables. Keep a close eye not just on milestones but also on factors that have an impact on profitability. The biggest variable to watch? Labor hours compared with budget, which gives you a pretty good idea of your percent complete at any given time.
• Keep your team informed. We recommend regular weekly meetings, with the key numbers posted on a whiteboard or computer desktops so that everybody can see them.
• Update your stakeholders and customers. All customers want their jobs finished on time and on budget—or preferably faster and cheaper. But if they can’t have that—which happens at times—what they really want is to be kept informed along the way. Ditto that for senior managers; they don’t like surprises, either. Share the bad news as well as the good, so there’s no outrage due to unforeseen last-minute changes, big or small."
Good communication—whether via Basecamp, email or other online communications platform, a phone call or in-person meeting—and utilizing best practices in project management will, hopefully, lead to the best project delivered and a favorable collaboration.
We’re honored, humbled and proud to share that Tennessee State Parks 75th Anniversary microsite has been recognized with a Silver National ADDY® award, ranking it among the best interactive work in the nation. The ADDY Awards represent the true spirit of creative excellence by recognizing all forms of advertising from media of all types, creative by all sizes and entrants of all levels from anywhere in the world. Matt Montgomery, lead designer on the award-winning project, answers a few questions about the site, design thinking and the national recognition.
DS: Can you share some of the background on the project, the challenges and what the client was looking for?
MM: Tennessee State Parks approached us to design a microsite to celebrate its 75th anniversary. The main goal of the site was to get people to celebrate the 75th anniversary by visiting parks across the state. To help meet this goal, I decided to balance the site’s design between inspiring people to visit the parks and giving them useful tools to find what park fits their interests.
DS: How do you feel the site stood out above others to be recognized with a national ADDY®?
MM: I’m just honored that my project was chosen among so many great websites. I think all of the nominated microsites have a merit of their own, but I’m particularly proud of the depth and breadth of content State Parks has to offer. The site features video, a social media campaign, gaming, interactive mapping and in-depth information about each park.
DS: What inspired you in developing some of the key features and design elements of the site?
MM: Whenever I begin a new web project, I consider who my users are and the best way to reach them. I feel a successful website should have a strong mix of storytelling and functionality targeted around the needs and desires of its users. If you can properly strike this balance, then you’re really on to something. The team worked toward this balance with State Parks by developing varied content to reach different users. There’s an intro video that shows off the beauty and variety of Tennessee’s Parks with the hope to inspire casual nature lovers to visit the parks. The team developed the Junior Ranger Game to teach kids more about sustainability and Tennessee’s flora and fauna with the hope to inspire the next generation of nature lovers. We also developed a highly filterable interactive map that allows users to filter parks by activity, cultural and natural features. Lastly, we added a social media component for users to share their favorite park memories on Facebook with the chance to win prizes.
DS: Going through site development, what were some of the collaborations between design, tech and content teams that helped get the site to where it is?
MM: We begin projects by having a brainstorming meeting with the tech, content and strategist on the project. Here, we lay out the user’s core needs, and bring our individual strengths to the table to best meet these needs. This is a key aspect of a successful project to me. I might have a good idea but having those other people in the room to both challenge me and add their own unique perspectives into the mix is a great recipe for success.
DS: This was Designsensory’s and your first national ADDY. What were your thoughts when you found out the site was in the running?
MM: I was very excited to say the least. I’ve been working as a professional for over four years now, with two of those at Designsensory, and this was my first national award. The fact that it is Designsensory’s first national ADDY as well makes it all the sweeter. I love the energy and level of collaboration the team was able to bring to this project. I didn’t design State Parks, or any project for that matter, with the intention of winning awards. I poured my passion into it because Tennessee is a beautiful place and, as a nature lover, I want everyone to know just how great it is. Winning awards is icing on the cake.
DS: Knowing that this site is award-winning, what are some things you’d like to bring from it into other projects, either from the design of the site itself or from the design thinking process?
MM: I think the biggest takeaway is collaboration. I didn’t win this award by myself. The team won this together. I’m a strong believer that the sum is always greater than the parts and when you bring several great people together to work on a project you’re always going to end up with something much better than you could have done on your own. I also think this project was successful due to strong branding and content. State Parks allowed an update to its identity while staying true to its core form; we were free to explore headline typography and imagery. This allowed work without constraints, bringing the highest quality aesthetic to the project. As to strong content, the photography really makes the design sing and robust information about the parks gives users a reason to frequent the site often.
DS: What’s your favorite Tennessee State Park and why?
MM: Tough pick! I’ll have to go with Roan Mountain. I grew up about an hour away, in Kingsport, and my family would go every year to see the Roan Mountain rhododendrons bloom. The Appalachian Trail cuts over the mountain, as well. Hiking over the balds of Roan Mountain is one the most beautifully serene experiences I’ve ever had.
Almost every superhero has an alter ego, and that transition from mild-mannered to hero usually takes place in the blink of an eye. I got the opportunity to do some fun photo retouching to one dog’s photo who won the people’s choice to be the PetSafe Bark For Your Park Hero Dog. The Facebook contest, held before Bark For Your Park kicked off, allowed dog owners and pet lovers to submit pictures and stories of why their dog should be the face of the Petsafe dog park giveaway.
I don’t have a fortress of solitude but I can still give you a behind-the-scenes look at how I transformed the challenging, user-submitted photo and brought to life the PetSafe’s Hero Dog with my retouching expertise.
With the Hero Dog contest ending days before Bark For Your Park launched, we didn’t have time to get high-resolution, custom photographs so I had to create our own dog. The winner, ;‘;’Sweet Pea, was a mixed breed, shaggy-haired sweetheart who is blind in one eye. When we found out she was the chosen as Hero Dog, I wanted to make sure I crafted the most accurate likeness of her. I started with a stock photo of a dog that had a similar face and size to Sweet Pea but the resemblance ended there. Everything else was Photoshop magic. In the end, I had a beautiful high-resolution photograph to utilize on everything from the website to yard signs.
The Hero Dog lives in the imaginary and immersive world I created for the PetSafe Bark for Your Park contest. The PetSafe brand is all about featuring the best moments between an owner and pet, and the Bark for Your Park contest is making that happen for the third year with a combined $200,000 worth of cash prizes to build dog parks! I created a surreal landscape out of vector elements, photo textures and overlays, shadows and highlights. Mixing vector drawings and photography is one of my favorite styles to work in. Beyond the city and landscape, my favorite elements I got to customize were the dogs. Now, go Bark for Your Park!
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone about a subject that you want to know more about but you couldn’t understand the person or the subject because of the complexity of the long-winded, talking-over-your-head explanation?
Those same challenges can creep into curated content, design and brand conversations across platforms and programs, diminishing the value of websites, videos, print ads and social posts, among other engagement opportunities. Regardless of whether you’re in a B-to-B or the B-to-C sector, people want to connect with other engaging people and brands that are easy to understand, memorable and unique.
With the recent unveiling of of iOS7’s minimalist design aesthetic and the continued growth of microblogs, consider your brand in context to these shifts toward elegantly simple design and conversational content.
Fast Company’s Co.Create reported on a University of California research study “Major Memory In Microblogs.” According to the study, people are one-and-a-half times more likely to remember individual social posts than any other form of written language. The author of the study defines this conversational style as “mind ready” content.
Harvard Business Review blogger and author of Six Pixels of Separation Mitch Joel shared in Marketers Are Not Publishing Enough Content, “Woe the brand that is not creating, publishing and curating relevant content, yet many brands struggle with precisely that. They struggle with everything from its creation to its strategy to its editorial content, and even the best places to publish and share it effectively." Joel concludes, “Through the years, the smartest content marketers have understood not only the pulse of their network, but how to distribute their content in a way that fits the audience.”
Harnessing effective, conversational and elegantly simple creative, design and content techniques is useful in almost any field, with any customer or end user to drive action and build relationships.