2 min read

UK marketers ‘must focus on innovation’


Despite ambitions to grow over the course of 2014 in line with the improved UK economy, British marketers are insufficiently focused on the use of innovative technology, according to a new report from the Cranfield University’s School of Management.

Although 87 per cent of respondents hope to expand their operation and attract new customers in the coming 12 months, above the 75 per cent figure for the rest of the world and the highest figure recorded for the last three years, this outcome-focused approach may lead to a lack of focus on correct process.

Worryingly, UK marketers also feel more fiscally constrained than their international rivals, with 59.4 per cent feeling they have sufficient resources compared to 66.3 per cent on a global basis.

Report authors Dr Stan Maklan and Dr Radu Dimitriu say it paints a picture of “willing the ends but not the means”, highlighting the need for efficiency and technological innovation within British businesses keen to attract new customers.

Tactically, CRM dominates as the main area of investment for UK respondents, although this was not the case abroad. However, enhancing customer experience was identified as a priority across the globe.

Taking advantage of technological opportunities remains the number one functional priority for marketers, indicating just how much advances in big data analysis and consumer targeting have altered the face of the industry.

Cranfield are concerned that this investment may not be sufficiently well-planned, meaning that businesses will not see the return on investment they are aiming for.

“We therefore worry that the UK’s top marketers need to show a broader leadership stance in promoting the degree of innovation and export-led growth demanded by today’s situation and to invest in building the capabilities their departments need around Big Data, technology led change and sustainability,” the study concluded.

Although having the right people in place is clearly important, this study highlights just how important utilising next-generation tech is when it comes to attracting customers, both in B2B and B2C marketing.

2 min read

Digital and mobile ‘outpacing TV’


The marketing industry has undergone major changes over the last decade, with new technologies fundamentally changing how consumers (and businesses) engage with brands and service providers.

This has been highlighted by a new report from eMarketer revealing that the time Britons spend with digital media – laptops, tablets and mobile phones – is finally set to outpace the time they spend viewing TV.

A host of experts told Marketing Week this could mark a radical shift in the way companies publicise their goods and services, meaning that integration and synergy are becoming increasingly crucial.

According to the eMarketer study, the average British adult will spend more than three hours and 41 minutes per day online via laptops or phones this year, compared to three hours and 15 minutes watching the television.

Interestingly, laptop and computer use is ‘plateauing’ while much of the rise is coming from mobile and tablet use, suggesting that multi-screening (watching TV and tweeting at the same time, for instance) could be one factor in this shift.

Mark D’Arcy, chief creative officer at Facebook Creative Shop, told the news provider that this new data quantifies a trend that the marketing sector is already anecdotally aware of.

“The shift now for marketers should not just be ‘people are spending more time here so I should shift more money this way’ … but to recentre around how people live their lives … to not reinvent is not just a missed opportunity, it could be a serious missed opportunity,” he added.

Mr D’Arcy said many marketers are now keen to make mobile “their centre of gravity” in order to take advantage of the number of consumers accessing content through these kind of platforms.

While there are a host of factors in how well businesses can prepare for this brave new world, CRM software is one way of ensuring that data can be integrated across a number of different media.

It can also ensure mobile customers are offered a personalised approach.

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How will digital develop in 2014?


The digital marketing sector is one of the fastest developing within the advertising industry, with technological and cultural changes meaning that organisations need to constantly update their approach if they are to stay ahead of the curve.

According to the Adobe Digital Trends Briefing for 2014, published earlier this year, found 20 per cent of firms across the globe consider improved customer experience to be the biggest trend over the next 12 months.

With increased investment in customer relationship management (CRM) processes and the growing ability for firms to take on information about prospective buyers through big data analysis, it is clear there is a major opportunity for tech-savvy companies to alter their approach.

Content marketing, mobile, multi-channel campaign management and personalisation were also cited as potential trends.

In the world of b2b, producing high-quality content is likely to be the focus over the course of the year, while b2c marketers are likely to concentrate on developing their mobile policy.

Adobe found that both areas are also keen to work on developing the experiential elements of their marketing policy – by utilising CRM and big data, businesses can personalise their approach for each consumer or buyer.

However, it is crucial that firms are able to deal with this shift, as coping with a large amount of data can be somewhat daunting even for companies with the right kind of talent and experience in place.

Ken Fitzpatrick, chief executive of the Digital Marketing Institute, recently highlighted the pace of change in the industry.

“The world continues to speed up, real-time advertising is just around the corner, and digital marketing disciplines are devolving and specialising as they mature. Marketers are going to have to be continually adaptable, and tradi­tional education models simply cannot meet the pace of change,” he warned.

This was also underlined by Adobe, which recently released data showing 76 per cent of marketers feel the sector has changed more in the last two years than it had done in the 50 years before that.

2 min read

Oil and gas sector ‘facing challenges’


The UK’s oil and gas sector is facing a major challenge over the coming years, with levels of exploration dropping – only 15 new wells were drilled last year, according to industry body Oil and Gas UK.

That was despite strong levels of investment, reaching a record in 2013 and sustained so far in 2014. Production costs are up by 15 per cent, while exploration drilling was down by 44 wells when compared to six year ago.

British utility company Centrica recently announced plans to focus on markets in Norway and North America rather than the UK, citing rising costs as a major factor in its decision, reports BBC News.

The average cost of extracting a barrel of oil was up by 27 per cent over the last 12 months, reaching £17, according to the survey. Furthermore, the number of fields with a cost per barrel above £30 has doubled in the last 12 months.

Levels of investment remained high in known reserves, however, and are expected to reach £13 billion over the course of the year.

Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, said the amount of cash being pumped into the sector is positive but warned that soaring costs could yet have a major impact.

“Even if currently planned wells proceed, the rate of drilling is still too low to recover even a fraction of the estimated six to nine billion barrels yet to be found,” explained Mr Webb.

“Britain’s waters contain an abundance of oil and gas yet to be found and it is critical we find the means to turn the current state of exploration around. Rig availability and access to capital are the two main barriers noted by our members.”

With these concerns on the horizon, firms will need to take advantage of what they already have, which is where customer relationship management (CRM) systems can come into their own.

CRM processes can help firms take advantage of their data to better engage with the market and make informed decisions, which could be crucial as prices continue to rise.

2 min read

Business mobility ‘crucial to growth’


Large companies need to concentrate on mobility if they are to succeed over the coming years, according to a new report from Accenture. The company revealed its latest study at the Mobile World Congress currently taking place in Barcelona.

Some 43 per cent of firms ranked mobility as their top or second-highest priority for the coming years, while 77 per cent placed it in the top five. Big data analytics was next on the list, with 72 per cent putting the new trend in this category.

Connected products – tied into the growing development of the Internet of Things – was also one of the priorities for respondents to the Accenture survey.

Microsoft Dynamics consumer relationship management (CRM) offers a mobile service that can be accessed on mobiles and smartphones, with a growing number of companies demanding the ability to access their important data while on the move.

As flexibility and mobile capabilities become more important, the democratising impact of CRM could become central for many businesses – its ability to make information available to all corners of an organisation ties neatly into this trend.

The increased demand for convergence is also linked to CRM – over one third of the global enterprises surveyed by Accenture anticipate further connections between social, mobile, analytics, cloud and connected products.

While the complex data that this process will involve could seem daunting, CRM will allow firms to manage it more clearly and ensure they keep on top of the information they are tracking through their converged systems.

Jin Lee, global managing director of Accenture Mobility, said the way businesses approach mobility will affect how much advantage they gain from it.

“Any successful technology implementation requires certain ingredients, but this research demonstrates that in the case of newer, digital technologies it’s not just about actions, but about attitude too,” he declared.

Companies that do it right are likely to see a major return on their mobile investment, concluded Mr Lee.

2 min read

Technology ‘can help financial services firms’


Consumer relationship management (CRM) and other technologies can help businesses take advantage of opportunities and react more quickly to changes in their environment, particularly when it comes to the financial services industry, a new study has suggested.

According to the report from Ricoh Europe and the Economist Intelligence Unit, only one in ten British finance firms – including retail, corporate and investment banking as well as insurance – feel they are prepared to respond to unexpected changes in the future.

Given the extended period of flux that has characterised the financial services sector in recent years, this could prove to be something of a concern.

Carsten Bruhn, executive vice-president at Ricoh, said: “Juggling so many obstacles, while at the same time trying to focus on client services, transform internal processes and ensure regulatory compliance is a monumental task. It’s no wonder that financial services leaders are feeling under pressure.”

According to Mr Bruhn, embracing the possibilities offered by new technologies can reduce the stress facing finance chiefs while ensuring their businesses are as flexible and effective as possible in the current economic and regulatory environment.

Processes such as “customer communication management services” can improve the relationship businesses enjoy with their clients while automating a relatively time-consuming and expensive part of the operation, driving up efficiency levels within the sector, he posited.

The Ricoh study found the most crucial areas where financial services firms need to change their approach to be in the field of adopting new technologies, attracting and retaining customers, and improving core business processes, in that order of preference.

While 54 per cent of respondents said they have many ideas about how they can change their approach in the future, they also admitted to lacking the ability to implement these concepts at the moment.

Concerns are also in place about changing processes too quickly, which can result in losing customers, the study revealed.

2 min read

CRM and the Internet of Things


So far in 2014, the Internet of Things looks to be beating off competition from big data to be the tech and marketing industry’s favourite buzzword. As with its predecessor, the concept’s ubiquity can reduce it to a kind of meaningless white noise, but the reality is that this development could mean major changes for many industries as it continues to expand.

Fundamentally, the idea is that analogue devices such as cars and ovens – as well as more complex tools such as those used in the oil and gas industry – will become connected to the web, allowing them to be more responsive as well as making it easier to collate data on particular processes.

For consumers and businesses, this could offer the capability to, for instance, have locks that open via a smartphone or thermostats that are remarkably responsive to changes in the atmosphere.

This is likely to improve convenience and standards of life for many people, but it also poses a number of challenges. For one thing, companies utilising this new technology will need to be extremely confident in their cyber security – the more connected the internet becomes to the physical world, the more costly any kind of unexpected or malicious breach could be.

Additionally, marketers will need to ensure they have the right tools in place to deal with the spike in consumer information that the Internet of Things will create.

Processes such as consumer relationship management, because they automate many of the systems needed to deal with this kind of data, could enjoy a spike in popularity as more devices get connected to the web.

Yves de Montcheuil, vice-president of marketing at data management company Talend, recently told Computing: “Let’s say you’re a just-in-time manufacturer. Being able to do capacity planning based not just on historical statistics but based on the instant availability of information about the health of the manufacturing chain is extremely valuable.”

This possibility could be an extremely useful one assuming firms have the capacity to take advantage of it.

2 min read

Digital marketers ‘to invest in CRM’


Plans are afoot for further investment in consumer relationship management (CRM) processes over the course of 2014, according to a new report from Econsultancy in association with Responsys.

The Marketing Budget 2014 study found 49 per cent of firms to be planning a CRM investment in the next 12 months, making it the most popular area for spending, with business analytics (47 per cent) and new email platforms (40 per cent) following closely behind.

Digital marketers are increasingly needing to invest heavily in new technology simply to keep up with their counterparts as the pace of advances in the sector continues to grow, the survey suggested.

Furthermore, economic trends do not appear to be affecting this willingness to spend – around 70 per cent of respondents are planning to up their investment this year, the same amount as intended to do so when first asked in 2011, despite the fact that the overall business outlook is considerably rosier in 2014.

More than 600 companies, mainly from the UK, participated in this research. The number of firms planning to spend in the CRM field was up by four per cent since 2013, indicating that the technology is gaining further traction when it comes to forming relationships with customers.

Marketing automation also proved popular with businesses, suggesting that there is an ongoing trend among digital marketers to move towards more efficient, technology-driven processes – this can save cash, which is still important in straitened economic times, and also ensure that workers can spend their time on more productive or engaging tasks.

Only two per cent of respondents said they planned to decrease their technological spend in 2014, meaning this expansion looks unlikely to have hit its peak.

Simon Robinson, managing director with Responsys, said: “Overall, the report paints the marketing landscape in an interesting light. Technology will continue to challenge brands to interact with consumers in new and interesting ways.”

The biggest challenge will be capitalising on the opportunities provided by this innovation, he concluded.

2 min read

Business marketers ‘changing their approach’


The traditional approach to B2B marketing will no longer cut the mustard, with many companies changing their approach and adopting elements of the b2c model in order to stay ahead of the competition, an expert has claimed.

Simon McEvoy, planning director at Tangent Snowball, argued that the old-fashioned system of direct, down-the-line marketing aimed at forming a close personal relationship with a business customer is no longer effective.

Writing for Brand Republic, he suggested firms with large B2B customer networks are beginning to find this style of advertising ineffective.

“Expectations within the business community have increased. A generation of business owners … have grown up with the sophisticated use of web technology and emotionally charged advertising campaigns,” he declared.

Agencies have also played a major role in encouraging conservative b2b firms to adopt more innovative measures over the last few years, added Mr McEvoy.

Furthermore, the economic downturn over the last few years “has caused the B2B landscape to become incredibly competitive, so businesses are looking for ways to acquire and keep B2B customers which go beyond price or offer-led messaging”.

But what does this mean for companies? How can they develop their approach beyond the old-fashioned remit of linking up with interested customers and integrate elements of b2c marketing into a more complex, modern strategy.

Utilising technology is vital – social media platforms are becoming increasingly important, with b2b customers sourcing goods and services via Twitter and other sites more regularly.

Customer relationship management (CRM) can play a role in this process – not only is it able to link up with social media sites automatically, it also helps firms store the kind of data they need to produce effective, well-targeted marketing campaigns.

According to Mr McEvoy, it’s important that companies think carefully about their brand before embarking on a new style of advertising – after all, what works for one firm might be ineffective for another.

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