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Get real with Augmented Reality

February 15, 2010 by Ben Dyer

One of my all time favourite films of the last ten years is the futuristic action movie Minority Report. I remember watching in fascination as our hero John Anderton passed through a shopping centre of the future. The whole sequence was brilliant. Billboards and advertising changed as people walked past, tannoy systems in shops welcomed you back and asked how your last purchase was working out. It was both a scary and tantalising view of the future. 

Minority Report was released in 2002 and only eight years later Augmented Reality (AR), the blending of the real and virtual world, has exploded into popular culture. Some of the highlights include iPhone apps that use the camera to overlay directions to your nearest Starbucks, and interactive kiosks demonstrating yet to be manufactured products at trade shows. For business in general, and retail in particular, it seems that the opportunities are endless.

I have a t-shirt at home with a slogan "RL has rubbish FPS". Translating, this means that real life isn't as good as virtual. Sadly my t-shirt is right, the real world is still light years away from the possibilities of Minority Report. Where are the interactive billboards? Where is the personalised voice?

However, with smart phone adoption going stratospheric, developers are finding new ways to supplement real life. For retail, my current favourite augmented app is Google Goggles. Goggles allows you to take a picture of a product, logo or landmark and look it up on the web.

Surfing the web via real life items is a revolutionary concept. Not only will this allow you to look up online pricing while arguing with the sales person in your local garage, but it also means that you can discover more about the sculpture and its creator while on a museum trip, just by taking a photo.

The ecommerce world is getting in on the act too. Several major online clothing companies are rolling out the "Magic Mirror" feature. It allows you to try clothes on via your webcam from the comfort of your own home. This Christmas Hugo Boss also trialled an impressive online and offline marketing campaign based around a game of blackjack, using both the real tangible items and virtual pixelated content. And we’re just at the start of the possibilities.

Why don't you see for yourself and give one of the following augmented experiences a go:

  • - A free application for your mobile phone. This shows what is around you by displaying real time digital information on top of reality using the camera on your mobile phone.
  • Watch a YouTube video about the augmented reality and motion capture shopping application

I am not yet expecting my embarrassing shopping habits to be blurted out over a loud speaker as I walk into Tesco. But some aspects of the future have definitely arrived already. Brace yourself for the ride, it’s going to be exciting.

Ben Dyer of Actinic

Q&A: Like Minds conference organiser Scott Gould

February 11, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Marketing Donut will be bringing you live blog coverage of the second Like Minds conference on Friday 26 February. To whet your appetite, we caught up with the social media conference organiser, Scott Gould, to find out more about his Like Minds journey and what to expect at the forthcoming event.

How did Like Minds come about?

SG: It started when Trey Pennington and I arranged a meet up when he was over in the country. He suggested we start a "social media club" in the style of what he'd been doing across the United States. I got to work on the idea with Andrew Ellis (who became my partner in Like Minds) in August 2009. Andrew challenged me to make the event highly accessible and affordable rather than expensive and exclusive, with the idea of reaching a wide range of people who were also thinking with an eye on innovation. Hence the name, Like Minds.

What did you take home from the first Like Minds event which focussed on ROI?

SG: It takes investment in the first place to ensure a return on investment. Then you've got the work of social media, engagement, policies, guidelines. And measuring all of this is no 'one tool fits all'. It takes work and careful analysis to have measurement that is meaningful. All of this is effort.

Of course to core business activities, this is how things have always been. But there's this misconception that social media is free and easy. It isn't.

How will Like Minds 2010 format be different from the first event in 2009 (workshops etc)?

SG: We've worked hard to bring multiple ways to get inspired, to learn and connect with each other into one event. Whilst we still have keynotes and panels, like we did last time, we've first of all been able to welcome speakers and panellists who are world class leaders in their respective industries.

We have then created an innovative lunch time workshop format in partnership with local restaurants that allows delegates to talk over specific subjects with our speakers. This means they get workshop time with these experts to get first-hand integration advice. Integration is a big focus for us this year, hence we are also holding free workshops hosted by our sponsors during the week leading up.

You pride yourself on the low ticket price. If that isn’t enough to convince a small business to attend, what is?

SG: Yeah we're proud about the price, but even more proud about the incredible line-up of people we have coming. Our keynote speakers and panelists consist of a range of backgrounds, cultures, industries, sectors and experience. We have the world foremost social media thought leader speaking, Chris Brogan, and two other top ten social media bloggers and Orange's head of internet.

Then when it comes to networking and lunchtime you'll find out how many incredible and successful people are just coming to attend. Some of the delegates flying in from America and Europe are worth the ticket price just to meet.

The theme for this year is People-to-People — tell us more about this.

SG: Social media have introduced a more personal form of business communication, which is replacing the anonymous corporate communication that has tended to prevail hitherto. Thus, the lines between the organisational voice and the individual voices of representatives of organisations have become blurred – to a large extent it’s now the individual voice that prevails. B2B, B2C, consumer, prosumer and owner forms of communication now follow a more socialised model; collaborating and conducting business in a way that is fundamentally different to ten years, and even five years ago.  

Understanding this is vital. We have keynote speakers and panellists talking from such a wide range of experience and expertise that most business types and sectors will be covered at the conference.

  • The Like Minds conference takes place on Friday 26 February. Half day tickets are still available and full programme details can be found on the Like Minds website

How can creating an individual customer view add real value to your data?

February 10, 2010 by Phil Capper

Companies are generally very good at collecting customer data. They have processes and systems in place to record every touch point a customer has with them. Whether it be in-store, online, through an email or direct mail campaign or via telesales and telemarketing, behaviour is tracked from various sources and saved into various systems.
However, all too often this data is not integrated, it is stored in different locations or departments (web databases/offline databases/telesales databases etc) and is never consolidated into one central location. As a result companies fail to create an individual customer view and ultimately miss seeing the value of their data.
This is because segmented customer data can’t be analysed for trends or buying habits and opportunities to cross sell or up sell are missed. Most importantly, you cannot build a relationship with your customer without knowing everything about them.
By using an intelligent data management solution that will automatically pull customer data from your various sources into one central database, you can start to build an individual view of each customer, learn everything about them and begin to build valuable, meaningful relationships.
When you can see, on one simple interface who your customer is, their browsing and buying history, what messages they respond to, how they respond, at what time, what they like and don’t like you can communicate with them in a relevant and targeted way, learn about them and understand how they interact with you. By doing this you begin to add real value to your data.
The next step needs to be taken in data capture and individual customer views need to be created to ensure trends and behaviours aren’t missed or ignored and businesses can begin to learn about every aspect of their customer.

Phil Capper of Parker Sandford Ltd

What makes up a brand?

February 10, 2010 by John Hayward

So if it's not just your name and logo what is it? A brand will be made up of a collection of different perceptions that will have been built up after exposure to every aspect of your business. This can be a myriad of different things:

  • Product design and experience
  • Packaging
  • Sales experience - your sales people or distributors
  • Service experience - during the sale and after
  • Advertising messages and straplines
  • The way you look and sound - imagery, colour, fonts, personality and tone
  • Your website, blogs or mentions on social networking sites
  • The price, and how you discount
  • Your reputation
  • The shop, office or factory experience
  • Uniform, badges, vans and trucks 
  • Your people
  • The logo
  • Your name

Any one person could be exposed to all or just one of these variables, that when mixed together form the brand in their mind. There are many ways you will be able to influence what the brand means to people, so you can steer its direction.

Left untouched and uncared for, without clear direction, your brand will take a course that will lead to fewer and fewer customers. So have a think about the list above – and see what sort of brand you’re presenting across the board.  Is it all working to a common direction and goal?  Is it the direction you want it to take?  If not, you may just need to get clarity and some help setting the direction.  It doesn’t take long and will be well worth the effort.

John Hayward of Brand Glue

Seven tips on how to choose the right design team

February 09, 2010 by Sara Drawwater

The benefits of quality design are often lost because it’s so easy to choose the wrong designers to work with. However, if you choose wisely and get your design and marketing team right your business will communicate professionally, consistently and dynamically. The result of such a winning formula is what we all want – increased business. Follow our seven top tips to choose the right designer.

  1. Go for a broad skill base. You need to partner with a designer who understands the many ingredients that come together to make successful communication tools – a designer who is creative AND understands marketing, communication and business principles. You should be looking for skills that include design, copywriting, marketing, ability to produce web and paper based communication tools and project management. For example, there’s no point in having the snazziest website design if the navigation is so poor people never get past the home page or if the word content of the site switches viewers off!
  2. Portfolio’s speak. Look for a range of design solutions for an assortment of clients. A broad portfolio shows a designer can do what they’re meant to do – successfully communicate different messages to varying target audiences.
  3. If a designer asks lots of questions that’s a good sign. To produce good results, a designer needs to fully understand your business. To find out everything they need to know they need to ask you the right questions. So don’t be put off when a designer asks to meet you, clarify things or even comes up with a design questionnaire!
  4. Go for price confidence. Designers that know they provide profitable solutions are price confident. They won’t shy away from a price discussion but neither will they throw a random price at you without assessing what you need. And they won’t offer massive price discounts as soon as they sense any hesitation from you, rather they will be able to explain what value they offer you.
  5. Be impressed with a detailed estimate. There’s nothing worse than a big black hole swallowing your money. Rather, a quality designer will understand that you want to know exactly what your investment is getting you. Before you invest make sure you know what is and isn’t included.
  6. A good designer will stay in touch. It’s difficult to know if a designer will do a good job of keeping you informed during a project if you’ve not worked with them before but you can often tell from the standard of communication during the early stages of the project discussion and proposal submission.
  7. Testimonials serve as a good guide. It shouldn’t come as a shock to a designer for you to ask them for some testimonials. If they’re any good they should have loads! In fact they should be readily available either on the designers website or submitted in their proposal.

Follow these tips and you should be well on your way to finding the right designer to partner with on a long term basis – a designer who will positively affect your profitability. If you’ve got this far then, well, we tick all of the above so you can always choose us!

This blog post by Sara Drawwater originally appeared at

Shoreditch brews up a dis-loyal community

February 08, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Shoreditch’s bustling café society is thought to be the first place to offer customers a disloyalty card in order to drum up business for local independent baristas and reward customers for trying new places in the area.

The loyalty card is a well-established consumer psychology tool but the idea of collecting stamps from eight different coffee houses in order to gain a free coffee was dreamed up by award-winning barista Gwilym Davies to combat the homogenised high street coffee culture.

The reason behind teaming up with fellow independent coffee shops arose due to the overwhelming demand and lengthy queues at Mr Davies' shop on the back of winning the World Barista Championship.

Initially he tried suggesting nearby alternatives that he recommended on a whiteboard, something that might be the last thing a small retailer might want to do in a very competitive and cost-sensitive industry. But as a supportive gesture for fellow traders and to help satiate the increasing lust for good coffee, it still wasn’t enough and so the disloyalty card was born.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, Mr Davies' business partner, Jeremy Challender, said: “There are a lot more places opening, and as prices are the same, it seems a shame a lot of people haven’t experienced high quality coffee. It’s totally different to what you get in a high street chain.”

The partnership has seen eight independent coffee shops join in with the venture which, if successful, could see the consumption of 45,000 coffees and a new culture of using local coffee traders and award winning baristas that are passionate about the content of the cup they vend.

As a retailer, would you try a similar scheme with fellow businesses?

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