Individual responsibility in the modern consumption world: Case of responsible drinking

Dr Samanthika Gallage, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


The focus of social marketing is to change unhealthy behaviours of consumers by applying marketing principles such as understanding the consumer, segmentation and targeting, marketing mix, exchange and competition. Despite the success of social marketing initiatives to adopt healthy behaviours, sustaining such behavioural change has become a major challenge. This is especially complicated for consumers due to various barriers such as conflict with their busy daily lifestyles, environmental constraints, popular consumption culture and immediate environmental factors. For example, a young adult consumer who is committed to drink responsibly might find it challenging to maintain it due to a heavy drinking culture in the university environment, social life that revolves around alcohol and peer pressure.  Social marketers and public health promoters acknowledge that behavioural change cannot bring any social transformation if it is not sustained. Thus, it is important to understand the complicated nature of the behavioural maintenance. Downstream, midstream and upstream factors of social marketing is a useful framework to analyse this (Kotler et al. 2002).

Source: Adopted from Kotler et al. (2002)

According to the figure above, social marketing interventions can focus on any of these levels. Downstream social marketing interventions target individual level behavioural change, midstream interventions address the immediate environment around the consumer and upstream interventions focus on macro environmental forces. It is worth exploring the effectiveness of these interventions to understand the success of our efforts in changing and maintaining unhealthy/irresponsible consumption behaviours. Let’s take promoting responsible drinking as an example.

Downstream interventions

In this context, downstream social marketing initiatives are encouraging consumers to comply with recommended levels of alcohol by highlighting the related health issues, communicating the associated risks and holding individuals responsible for their consumption decisions. In this approach, social marketers and health educators postulate that alcohol consumption is a rational decision. However, in many instances researchers have proved that drinking is linked to cultural norms and it is considered as a symbolic consumption decision which communicates social identification, rites of passage, and the celebration of rituals and festivities (Szmigin et al., 2011). In a drinking context, a young person would easily ignore the message of “drink sensibly” or he or she would not consider the responsible drinking limits that have been advertised by NHS guidelines (Giles and Brennan, 2015). Rather, they would consider drinking to excess is a heroic, rebellious and enjoyable experience that can later be shared with friends (Gallage et al., 2018). Therefore, even if consumers decide to change the behaviour, maintaining such behaviour becomes complicated. Thus, it is questionable whether downstream social marketing interventions that focus on promoting sensible drinking could contribute to the social change we expect to achieve. Similarly, in many health and social issues such as smoking, healthy eating, physical activity, recycling, individual responsibility alone might not be enough to achieve a social transformation.  Therefore, it is worth considering the other two intervention approaches together with downstream interventions.

Source: www.drinkaware.co.uk

Midstream and upstream interventions

Midstream and upstream interventions play an important role in behavioural change. In the case of alcohol consumption, midstream influences such as parental influence, peer influence and social affiliation has been identified as significant influences on drinking behaviour. Thus, these midstream factors need to be taken into consideration when developing social marketing initiatives. Further, upstream influences on alcohol consumption are dominating institutions of commercial marketing, alcohol marketing and alcohol advertising, regulations and development of a popular drinking culture (Szmigin et al., 2011).  To address these government has initiated some alcohol advertising policies, pricing policies and laws. It is evident that these behaviours are rarely the result of a single force. They are a result of broader environmental factors. Hence, the objective of social marketing should not necessarily be limited to individual behavioural change but should move beyond that and address community-wide holistic change by altering the environment. Thus, it is important not to exclude any downstream, midstream and upstream influences. The majority of the time these three layers are interrelated. Due to the complexity of issues at hand, the interaction of these factors are complex and multiple, ranging from unconscious and biological aspects to the broader level situational pressures, social class and culture.

References

Kotler, P. Roberto, N. & Lee, N. (2002), Social Marketing, Improving the quality of life, London: Sage Publications

Giles, E.L. &
Brennan, M. (2015), “Changing the lifestyles of young adults”, Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 5 (3),
pp. 206-225.

Gallage, H.P.S. Tynan, C. & Heath, T (2018), “Out-group peer involvement on youth alcohol consumption”, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Vol. 17(1), pp. e42-e51.

Szmigin, I. Bengry-Howell, A. Griffin, C. Hackley, C. & Mistral, W. (2011). Social marketing, individual responsibility and the “culture of intoxication”. European Journal of Marketing, Vol.45 (5), 759-779

Dr Samanthika Gallage

Staffordshire Business School

I am currently working as a lecturer in Marketing attached to the Staffordshire Business School. My research interests are in the area of social marketing, transformative consumer research, subsistence market places and critical marketing. Currently I am working on youth alcohol consumption in the UK, barriers in promoting condom usage in Asia and sustainable consumption issues in the African region.

If you are interested in any research collaborations, interventions, intervention evaluations please contact me via hakmana.gallage@staffs.ac.uk.
LinkedIn profile is https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-samanthika-gallage-371a7965/

Volunteering at the British Travel and Tourism Show

Laura Walker, Tourism Management Level 6 student


The British Travel and Tourism show, also known as BTTS, is the leading exhibition dedicated to the domestic tourism industry. The show is provided for travel and tourism trade professionals who want to source new ideas and inspiration for future brochures, itineraries and tours. This year the BTTS was held over 2 days from 20th – 21st March 2019 which showcased over 270 exhibitors from all areas of the travel and Tourism industry including hotels, attractions, suppliers and destinations.

One of the exciting exhibitors of 2019 was Visit Stoke who decided to attend the BTTS to promote Stoke-On-Trent as a cultural destination. As a level 6 Tourism Management student at Staffordshire University, I had the most amazing opportunity to attend the BTTS along with Claire, Tim and Andy from Visit Stoke and assist in promoting the destination. The aim of exhibiting at the show was to increase the interest in potential groups and coach tours in visiting Stoke-On-Trent and the surrounding areas.

I went along on Wednesday 20th March 2019 where I met the team from Visit Stoke who were very friendly and made me welcome. They explained what the purpose of exhibiting was and to just talk to guests about what Stoke-On-Trent can offer. The day was very interesting, and I gained lots of experience of talking to industry professionals about what Stoke-On-Trent has to offer.

A very big thank you to Claire, Time and Andy from Visit Stoke for letting me come along and help out on their stand. I had a really enjoyable time so I’m very grateful to them, I had a fantastic day!

If anyone is interested in attending the BTTS in 2020 it will be held 25th– 26th March 2020. Visit Stoke are always working hard to promote the city of Stoke-On-Trent as a cultural and interesting place to visit as a destination and are happy to answer any questions you may have so feel free to contact them for more information.


British Tourism and Travel Show

Visit Stoke


Why Google Analytics are a Digital Marketer’s Best Friend

Ben Hocking, MSc Digital Marketing Management student


Do you have a website without analytics set up? Rather than using guess work to try and evaluate your digital presence, using Google analytics can provide you with everything you need to know about your digital marketing performance. From what your customers do and who they are, to how they got to your website and what they buy, Google analytics are essential in any marketing environment in order to improve performance. Let’s look at some of the key ways in which Google analytics can improve your digital marketing performance:

Know who your customers are

Google analytics collects data on the visitors to your site, such as age, location, gender and interests, as well as how they are accessing your website. This information is greatly beneficial in working out the customer personas of your market segment as well as showing you who isn’t purchasing from you. You can also see information such as how they use your site and how long they spend on the store, allowing you to identify any weak points in the customer experience and improve your performance. Recent changes in 2018 have also introduced the ability to create an audience of customers purchasing repeatedly from your site and create comparisons with frequent visitors who do not buy from you, bringing the features of Google analytics in line with other offerings like AdWords.

Find out which campaigns are most effective in increasing traffic and conversions

When evaluating the success of a campaign, Google analytics will allow you to track exactly who uses your website as a result of any individual piece of marketing content. Being able to see everything from click-through rates of ads to actual conversion rates, being connected to Google analytics will allow you to target your marketing budget at the better performing sections of your marketing campaign and reduce your spending on the areas that just aren’t seeing the same kind of performance. Not only does this maximise the effectiveness of your digital marketing communications, but it allows you to spend your budget more efficiently. This is ideal for everybody, from the small business owners with a budget where every penny is crucial, to international companies where one small tweak can save thousands for the business. Another recent addition that improves the effectiveness of Google Analytics even further is that the program is now able to analyse historic data to find key variables and patterns from your high-value consumers, allowing it to identify any visitors that that are most likely to convert in the future and in combination with predictive analytics, allow you to develop a future conversion probability in prospective visitors.

Use Google analytics to improve your SEO performance

Search engine optimisation is another feature in digital marketing that is crucial in determining the performance and growth of your business. By increasing organic traffic to your business, you can increase your conversions and performance without spending a penny on advertising. So how can Google analytics help? By knowing the demographics and interests of the visitors to your website, you can easily create targeted content to gain visibility during search results. You can also use Google search console in conjunction with your analytics to see which search terms are bring the most traffic to your website and see actual data of the click-through rates and bounce rates from these searches, allowing you to adapt and increase the relevance of your website from this information. Being able to see the bounce-rate is particularly important for your pay-per-click advertising, as a high bounce rate can drain your advertising budget very quickly.

What can’t Google analytics do?

While Google analytics can tell you the who, how and when, it can’t work miracles when it comes to the why. You can have all the data in the world about the number of people who take a look at the website and buy or don’t buy, but other than using a certain degree of trial and error with underperforming pages, you won’t be able to discover the thought processes of the customer journey using Google analytics alone.

Another limitation of Google Analytics is that while it is able to track clicks on links and movements between web pages, it cannot track mouse movements or see what a user may be looking at on the screen. This limits how effectively it can track within the same webpage, though this opens up potential to expand analytics through the use of mouse-tracking software.

Again, when using analytics to improve your SEO performance, it can only tell you whether your marketing communications are working in improving your website traffic and search engine positioning but cannot tell you the cognitive processes and decision-making of the consumers themselves, for good or bad. Because of this, while Google analytics is a key tool in the arsenal of digital marketing weapons, it isn’t the miracle answer to all of a marketer’s problems.

Are Google analytics the answer?

So, when looking at the wealth of benefits of using Google analytics, including a plethora of other benefits too numerous to mention in one article, it’s obvious that using this platform is absolutely necessary to gain a full understanding of the consumer base of the business, and is a key component in maximising the efficiency and effectiveness of targeted marketing communications.

Experiencing International Confex

Lia Bover Armstrong, Event Management student


International Confex is the leading exhibition for event planners: delivering ideas, inspiration and a great opportunity to expand your network and create business relationships in the industry. This event is free to attend, and it provides educational seminars and debates which will enhance your professional skills and expand your knowledge.

The event has been going for 35 years and lasts 2 days, usually, in February or March and it is hosted at the Olympia Conference and Exhibition Centre in London with over 8,000 visitors from different parts of the world.

These days, when recruiting, businesses look for someone not only with a degree but also someone with experience, so as an Events Management student, I wanted to volunteer in some events to gain more of an insight into the sector and experience as this would benefit me in the future.

Confex has been the first event I have volunteered for and I thought it was a great opportunity to learn from and start getting connexions. Sometimes when volunteering, organisers cover for some or all the expenses which is good as everyone knows student life can be a bit expensive and these cases can motivate you if the event is far from where you live. In my case for Convex, they covered my train fare and gave me a packed lunch for both days.

As I had to start at 8.30 am on the first day, I travelled down to London the day before to settle in and prepare for the next day. I was staying very close to the venue, one stop away with the London Overground to be exact, so travelling the next morning was easy, however, as it was rush hour, the train was full, and you barely had any space.

As I got there, I went through the regular protocol of security, printing my badge off and being scanned in. Once I had gone through, I was told where to go and met Duncan Siegle, the Director of the event, who was very friendly and helpful.

As Duncan had emailed us prior to the event our respectful duties, he showed us the theatres that each of us had to manage and made sure we knew what do to and, in case of help, where to go to.

There was a total of 6 theatres: Keynote theatre, Key Skills theatre, Personal Development theatre, Future PA theatre and Event Management and UK VA theatre.

Our duties included scanning badges as delegates arrived for each seminar, being a microphone runner for any Q&A and tidying up the theatre.

Most of the seminars were pre-book sessions but we were allowed to listen to each of those talks and some were very beneficial as they would give tips and theories about what and what not to do.

These seminars were silent seminars which consisted in delegates having to wear headphones. I thought it was a great idea, as sometimes, when in a big event such as Confex has a lot of visitors, you can’t always hear what speakers are saying and also, I thought it was a great way to create less acoustic contamination.

Another thing that was sustainable was how at Olympia, all of the waste is processed off site and is either recycled or converted into energy, which is part of their Grand Plan.

Finally, for the last hour of each day I was able to have a good look around the event and was impressed with the amount of new event technology offered and other event supplies available.

All in all, I was very satisfied with the feedback I received, I was able to learn a lot of useful things from the seminars, met new people and learned how even big events like this still have last minute problems but with a great team, you can get fast solutions.

Staffordshire Business School (SBS) Alumni Success Stories

Dr Ahmad Mlouk, Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School


On Thursday 21st February 2019 SBS hosted a grand event in the form of a presentation delivered by two of its alumni (Business Study graduates): Mr Jason Tarry, CEO of Tesco (UK and Republic of Ireland) and Mr Mark Mackenzie, Group Sales Director of Nestlé (UK and Republic of Ireland). The presentation was primarily aimed at students but of course staff attended too. Both students and staff were very pleased that they had this opportunity to hear directly from former graduates, each with an amazing success story to tell. Not to mention here the ‘mountain of ‘Kitkat Ruby’ that Mr Mackenzie brought to the ‘party’ for all chocolate lovers to enjoy! Each of the duet reflected on his study at SBS and the time spent in Stoke on Trent nearly 30 years ago. They both agreed, perhaps the best time of their life was the time spent studying for a university degree. Like most business students, during their study, neither of them had charted his future career path. They only started to think about it after graduation but even then, they took the first job they could get.

June Dennis, Dean & Angela Lawrence, Head of Department, with Jason Tarry and Mark McKenzie

Over a presentation that lasted about 2.5 hours (including Q & A time), Mr Mackenzie and Mr Tarry, each profiled his journey, especially during their study and the early days/ years after graduation, in a manner that is relevant to all students regardless to whether they have just started their study at university or are heading to graduation in few months.

Mr Mackenzie and Mr Tarry delivered and amazing presentation that every participant learned something invaluable from.

“Believe in yourself, and go for it!”

One of Mr Mackenzie’s advice. A message that is so relevant to every student and indeed, every individual. Meaning that hard work, resilience and determination will pay off nicely.

“Care about what you are doing.”

This was Mr Tarry’s advice and it is simple, students must care about their study.

A further advice from the CEO of Tesco (UK & ROI) is this:

“Want to keep learning and developing.”

I take this to mean that the learning journey does not end upon one’s completing their course or degree!  Indeed, the more serious learning begins at the point when a student finishes a course of study!

In conclusion, the messages imparted by both guest speakers could not be more similar, loud and clear, that resilience and hard work will pay off, one must believe in herself/ himself and one must keep learning and developing.

Introducing Professor David Etherington our new Professor of Local and Regional Economic Development

First, I am extremely pleased about joining Staffordshire University as Professor of Local and Regional Economic Development.

My background originally was as a Senior Planner working on urban regeneration in local government for nearly 17 years. The last 10 years was in Sheffield City Council under David Blunkett, the Leader of the Council. It was an interesting time to be in a Labour controlled local council which was taking the lead on the campaign against rate capping and austerity imposed by the Thatcher Government. I moved from academia to take up a Senior Lecturer post at Huddersfield University and then Middlesex University as a Principal Researcher working on employment skills and welfare policy.

Soon after I arrived at Huddersfield, I was contacted by Martin Jones (now at Staffs) in connection with some research I was undertaking on the Danish welfare reforms and labour market policies in the early 1990s. I am interested in the concept of the inclusive labour market, and the Danish model offers some interesting and innovative examples especially given the lead role trade unions play within welfare and labour market policy. This work has spawned a long term comparative research work on the UK and Denmark.[1] My recent research focus on devolution and employment inequalities stems from work I originally undertook at Middlesex University (2005-2007) on Devolution Regional Governance and Deprived Areas as part of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) Transforming the Prospect of Places Programme,[2]  and for the European Commission on the Quality of Work and Life in a Changing Europe (2006-2009)[3]. In 2014, when Martin arrived in Sheffield, he contacted me about developing joint work that could dovetail with his ESRC WISERD project. We worked for the last three years on analysing the impact of austerity on devolution and welfare reform in Sheffield[1] (2016) and Greater Manchester (2017).[2] We found that:

  • between 2010 and 2014, there was a £1.19b loss of income from the SCR through the combined reduction in welfare and local government funding, which needs to be compared to the Sheffield devolution promise of £900m over 30 years.
  • The extent of low paid work within the Sheffield City Region comprising the largest proportion of workers paid below the living wage.
  • Leading policy actors disagreeing with these findings claiming that the regeneration of the economies as a result of devolution will compensate for this.[3] However, the devastating nature of these cuts will undermine any devolution deal.
  • We were invited on to the Royal Society of Arts Inclusive Growth Commission Research Advisory Group[4]  making submissions derived from work in the UK and Denmark.

As a result of the Devolution work Sheffield TUC as part of their Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise Campaign (SNAP) approached me in 2018 to work with Sheffield Hallam University (also involving Martin and David Beel from Staffs) to undertake an evidence review to support their campaign. The research involved:

  • A conference was organised in June 2018 to disseminate the interim findings which was attended by over 50 people.
  • That low pay and precarious work is prevalent in largest employing sectors such as retail, fast food, social care but also in higher education
  • Universal Credit and benefit cuts has a major negative impact on low paid workers
  • One of the outcomes was STUC co funding a new union organiser, recruited and employed by BFAWU (Bakers Union) and trained to use their highly successful organising model. The Organiser works with Sheffield TUC and Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise Campaign on a number of different targeted workplaces.
  • Interim report of research (carried out by Middlesex, Sheffield Hallam and Staffs Universities) “Forging an inclusive labour market – empowering workers and communities: an interim report on low pay and precarious work in Sheffield” [1] is currently being edited with a view to launching early in 2019.

[1] E.g. Etherington D (1998)
From welfare to work in Denmark: An alternative to free market policies? Policy and Politics Volume 26, Number 2, April 1998, pp. 147-161 Etherington, D. and Jones, M. (2004)
Beyond contradictions of the workfare state?: Denmark, welfare-through-work,
and the promises of job-rotation, Environment and Planning C: Government and
Policy
22, 129-148 .Ingold, J. and Etherington, D. (2013) Work, welfare and
gender inequalities: an analysis of activation strategies for partnered women
in the UK, Australia and Denmark, Work
Employment and Society
, 27(4):621-638, 

[2] https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/political-devolution-regional-governance-and-tackling-deprivation

[3] https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/78671/factsheet/en

[4] Etherington D and Jones M (2018) Re-stating the post-political: Depoliticization, social inequalities, and city-region growth, Environment and Planning A http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0308518X17738536
https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.645005!/file/SSDevolutionPolicy.pdf

[5] http://www.staffs.ac.uk/news/new-study-reveals-that-austerity-and-cuts-undermine-the-northern-powerhouse-and-greater-manchester-devolution-plans-tcm4293826.jsp

[6] https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/council-leaders-defend-devolution-deal-over-austerity-claims-1-8142434      
Guardian letter published 8 November 2016 on austerity, deindustrialisation and disadvantage
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/08/areas-of-confusion-in-britains-benefits-system

[7] https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/reports/emerging-findings-of-the-inclusive-growth-commission

The Wonders of Chatbots

Ben Hocking, MSc Digital Marketing Management student


Chatbots are one of the key items on the marketer’s utility belt. Riding the coat tails of the increasing popularity of private messaging apps, chatbots are creating a new way to communicate with customers. If used correctly, this technology will allow you to get ahead of the competitors. If used successfully, there are a number of benefits that chatbots can have on your marketing activities:

Chatbots are very strong at this moment in time, due to the targeted engagement with customers that email marketing isn’t able to achieve. This is because Chatbots can be set up on your website or Facebook messenger and don’t get activated until a user is on a relevant page, meaning that there is a good chance any messages from the bot will be relevant and useful. By being in the right place at the right time, chatbots can be more effective than email marketing, with open rates of up to 98%, and a click-through rate up to 12 times higher than through email. In addition to this, the popularity of Chatbots has risen very recently, with Facebook discussions of Chatbots alone increasing by nearly 6x the volume on previous years. This means that you get in on the ground floor of Chatbot usage and use them to gain an edge on slower competition.

You can use chatbots to improve your customer service skills, assisting customers in understanding your services and products, and can provide instant assistance whenever they need it. Not only does this improve your interactions and the customer experience but using chatbots is significantly cheaper than having a dedicated team of staff, especially during out of office hours. The caveat to this is the limited functionality of chatbot technology. While they may be able to change a booking or give information about a product, they won’t be able to deal with that unusual request that a human would be able to resolve immediately. Despite these limitations, the use of chatbots in the first instance with a human assistant on hand for any more complex issues can vastly improve your customer service experience, as well as reducing the demand on human assistants by resolving the majority of issues without the need of human intervention.

The next benefit of using chatbots is how they can improve the customer journey. Through the use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning technology, chatbots can take the whole context of the scenario into account and even provide a personal shopping experience for customers visiting your website, as 83% of online shoppers have reported needing help during and online shopping experience. This can range from helping them find the correct item for their needs, to upselling other items and accessories based on the customers shopping habits. Again, this service isn’t perfect. While some consumers may appreciate this level of support, casual shoppers and those who may not have a specific need may just want to experience uninterrupted browsing, and the presence of an intrusive chatbot trying to upsell every time they open the website may be seen as a nuisance, and even go so far as to drive traffic to competitors with better customer experiences. With this in mind, the use of chatbots, when limited to relevant and specific situations, can be an ideal way of improving the customer experience, but care must be taken into the aggressiveness in which they are used within your marketing communications.

Why else use chatbots? Nearly two thirds of smartphone users wont download any new apps in a month. Because of this, rather than expending the time and resources in developing a companion app for your website, you can use chatbots to tap into apps your consumers are already using, such as Facebook messenger, allowing you to take your services to places already inhabited by your target audience. Not only this, all of the data collected by chatbots can be pumped into your analytics, allowing you to gain even more insight into the consumer behaviour and purchasing patterns. You can even take this one step further, using chatbots to collect feedback both pre and post-purchase, collecting opinions with a much higher success rate than through more traditional methods such as email marketing. If we look at the potential success of chatbots used effectively, a simple glance at amazon can show how effective they can be, with the sale of echo units numbering over 30 million units worldwide. While primarily marketed as an assistant, these are in essence chatbots that allow you to seamlessly purchase from amazon without even needing to pick up your phone or turn on your laptop. The potential of chatbots to grow and change is huge, as even now they can do everything from appealing parking tickets to collecting symptoms of illnesses to reduce strain on healthcare call centres, meaning that the scope for innovation with chatbots is not limited to marketing purposes and can be used in any number of ways to assist your business with the right setup.

Having looked at both the benefits and drawbacks of using chatbots in your digital marketing communications, it is clear that despite the potential for issues to arise if the technology is used incorrectly, the ability to reach such a broad audience with automated personal engagement and provide a high level of service and advertisement with very little expenditure is clearly an essential tool in the arsenal of the digital marketer.

Ecommerce development trends to watch out for in 2019

David Beyeemang , MSc Digital Marketing Management


The E-commerce market is one that has been thriving year after year. Ecommerce refers to commercial transactions conducted online. This implies that whenever you buy and sell something using the Internet, you’re involved in e-commerce. According to Smart Insights there has also been an overall growth in this sector by 17% in the UK in 2018.  In this blog will be highlighted the hottest trends to pay attention to in the coming year.

Advanced Product filtering

Implementing advanced product filtering enables your customers to locate exactly what they need faster, with more options when searching. Filter features such as colour, size, price material etc help your users narrow their search which again ideal for them as it meets specifics.

Quick Tips: Advanced product filtering should hold up again 4 benchmarks of performance

  • Available filters – how many filters there are?
  • Filter logic – Is it in order and does it flow naturally for the user?
  • Filter Interface – are the filters easy to select/sort
  • Applied filters – do the filters work together and not against each other?
Image by The Iconic

Using the image above provided by The Iconic as an example – we can see they provide a varied range of filters, the logic follows, the interface works well and lastly, users can easily combine filters which will

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality

Regarding blurring the lines between the physical and the digital, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are doing so by introducing new ways to see our world. For online retailers, this is providing your customers with different ways of experiencing products outside of a physical store.

There are major differences between augmented and virtual reality. Augmented reality refers to technology that imposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the world, which creates a composite view.

Image by: IKEA Place

Augmented reality provides an opportunity for brands to enhance their customer’s experience in the purchase consideration phase. A study showed that 71% of shoppers said they would often shop at a retailer if it offered augmented reality. An example as seen on the left is IKEA’s Place app which enables you to virtually ‘place’ furniture in your space. These products are true to size, helping customers make better choices.

Virtual reality, on the other hand, is a computer-generated simulation of a 3D image. Users are engrossed with this digital world and can generally interact with it.

Image by: Samsung Gear VR

Virtual reality experiences allow customers to see products or activities in realistic settings.  Best Western is an example of a company that has already started offering 360-degree tour “taster” experiences for its customers to enable them to have an inside look into their properties which is in-turn attracting more customers.

VR is still at an early adoption stage, therefore moving forward brands have the opportunity to serve as digital pioneers and improve the experience they are offering.

Machine Learning and AI

Machine learning and AI have already began having an enormous impact on several major business areas.

Machine learning is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. It can deliver a better user experience based on your previous data or buying behaviours and therefore completely makes sense in e-commerce as everyone has different choices and preferences.

For instance, just like in an actual physical store where you’re a regular customer, the shopkeeper knows what kind of clothes you like, ecommerce will make you feel the same in upcoming years.

Mobile first-Commerce

More and more people shop on their phones in today’s digital world. The term mobile-first simply implies considering mobile design and implementation at the initial stage of website development, as it can’t be an afterthought anymore due to customer demands.

According to Forrester, by 2022 smartphones will account for $175.4 billion in retail sales. Mobile first doesn’t have to be tasking, as a first step, review your mobile checkout process and ensure its user-friendly. If you are looking to take it a step further, accelerated mobile pages (AMP) is something you can implement. AMP is a framework that enables you to create incredibly fast website pages across mobile devices.

In terms of its benefits, Google and Wompmobile working together analysed their eCommerce clients and recognised that clients which used AMP pages increased conversion rates by 105% and decreased bounce rates by 31%. Those are without question impressive stats to think about for 2019.

Easier Checkouts

Providing easier checkouts has never been more essential. Brands must make sure this process and as simple as possible as your customers will go to competitors that give them an easier purchase path. A 2017 study found that the main reason for cart abandonment was to do with extra costs, however, one of the other top reasons was due to the actual checkout experience. 28% said that the checkout process was too complicated, this in effect is leading to brands losing out on lots of income.

Here are therefore a few quick tips to provide an easier and quicker checkout experience:

  • One-page checkouts
  • Use appropriate input fields
  • Autofill fields
  • Don’t force registration

Below is a fine example from The Iconic who use an easy to understand, one-page checkout:

In 2019, think about how you can make your customer’s checkout experience easier.

Limitations

E-commerce although on the rise has some disadvantages. E-commerce sites record all the important details about the customers which are to be kept secured as it includes details like names, addresses, phone numbers and, bank details. If in these case sites don’t implement rigorous cybersecurity quantity, implications could be severe to customers and businesses alike.

Conclusion

For your businesses to stay ahead of the competition, it would be beneficial to implement some of the discussed actionable e-Commerce trends so as to prepare your online store for 2019. If you haven’t already started exploring these trends, the above listed could be a useful audit tool.

How to Speed up your WordPress Website

Xinyu Zhang, MSc Digital Marketing Management student


Plugins can often help us implement some specific functions so that people who don’t understand the code can also add features to the website, thus avoiding re-development. WordPress, as a mainstream content management system with many themes and plugins, makes its extensibility to the fullest extent. Currently, many famous blogs, news media, music sites, Fortune 500 companies and celebrities are using WordPress, such as favourite blogs like TechCrunch and BBC America on WordPress. How do you get the best performance out of your WordPress and let it fully demonstrate the benefits of your content in modern web pages centring on speed, search engine optimisation and user experience? This blog will introduce some new plugins.

Ready to work

After we use WordPress to build a website, as the website develops more and more visits, we often encounter unsatisfactory opening speeds in the foreground and background, and even exhaustion of memory. Aside from the speed of the network, there is still a way to improve performance from the WordPress. Since WordPress only allocates 64M of memory by default, we have to modify this default parameter; otherwise, it is easy to cause an error: “fatal error, allowed memory size of xxxxx bytes exhausted”.
First, you need to open the WordPress WP including a directory to find the file of default-constants.php.

The first is to increase the memory limit for running WordPress and the second chart is to raise the memory limit obtained by the background supporter. This grade is more appropriate for modern server’s hosting services.
It is modified and saved.
Restart the server to see the effect.

Add AMP functionality to WordPress

Recent changes with Google search techniques will make Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) increasingly important (Dopson, 2018). AMP is Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages.

As the name suggests, it is to speed up the loading of the mobile web to enhance the experience.

From the official statistics, the webpage average speed has increased by 4 times after use it. At the same time, it is Google’s AMP Project advocating a solution for speeding up mobile networks. WordPress provides full support for AMP pages. You only need to download two plugins and enable them to add an AMP version to your WordPress website.

Even if it is a free version, you can get quite a bit of structured content, including site names, individual text tag translations, logos, GTM, GA, structured data, etc.

You can also add a cache for WordPress

Having a slow-loading site is a serious problem because it can be catastrophic to your bounce rate. As is well known, if websites are not loaded quickly and reliably, they are more likely to leave the site. 47% of Internet users want to load in the site within 2 seconds. It is worth mentioning that a delay of one second can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions.

WordPress occupies a massive amount of CPU resources. Generating a normal page often involves dozens of SQL queries and second-level runtimes. Hence, dynamic page statics for WordPress is the best choice for optimising performance.

This is Autoptimize critical. Such a plugin not only combines various scattered JavaScript and CSS in the page but also optimises the order of loading locations, which can significantly reduce the number of HTTP requests and the problem of repeatedly rendering pages. Meanwhile, this plugin will generate some custom JS and CSS files.

Optimise WordPress images

Website image optimisation has always been a significant content. Compressing images can not only make the website faster but also improve SEO optimisation. Therefore, I recommend a WordPress image optimisation for the friends of WordPress website. Plugin ShortPixel is a full-featured image optimisation plug-in based on image compression, which provides a very comprehensive image optimisation option, including:

  • Image Compression
  • Picture cropping
  • Picture adjustment
  • Image backup recovery
  • PDF compression

All the work can be handed over to ShortPixel, and it will do the job for you in the background supporter.

Automatically add related articles

To help a website improve its Google ranking, “visitor stay” can be extended by highlighting additional topics the readers might be interested in (Dobson, 2018).

The addition of related articles has allowed some users to stay longer on the website. Some topics cannot be clearly explained in an article, and readers are able to understand it through related articles better. I recommend Related Posts for WordPress. This plugin works best, which can go to the other articles cited and then recommend according to the label and classification.

According to the reports, the number of Internet users using search engines has steadily increased, so that search engine optimisation becomes more important than ever. Yoast is known as the best SEO plugin because of its various powerful features: Internal link suggestion, Redirect manager Keyword report, XML site map, content and page analysis tools. As a simple and easy-to-use SEO plugin, Yoast SEO can provide webpage snapshots for search engine optimisation, evaluation of page readability, content length, alt attributes, keyword, title tags, meta descriptions, outbound links and URLs, etc. Furthermore, the basic optimisation elements can be easily done with Yoast SEO.

The Yoast plugin, like an advanced version of the plugin, offers a freemium model. However, most users still prefer to use the free version. There are a lot of advertisements and sales information on the free version. Although it does not affect the use, seeing it for a long time is still annoying. I will provide a plug-in for advertising to use or hide the back-end advertising content of SEO Bloat hidden Yoast free SEO plugin.

 

LinkedIn: Zhang Xinyu 

Lecturer’s top tips on what NOT to do when blogging and how to read

Andras Kenez, Lecturer at Staffordshire business school


This is the most important rule of content marketing for bloggers: use data to understand your readers.

The data-driven content marketing is a way of continuously measuring the user data to develop the content.

Here is an interesting fact I found whilst researching different target groups and reading about different segments of the society, trying to understand how they react to content:

We can’t read anymore.

Mankind has lost the ability to work with complex texts. It is not just Generation Z – it is all of us. We are not able to read texts as we have before. We live in a faster world where information is unlimited.

The bottom line is we do not have time for reading. Our brain and reading habits are adapted to this environment. We can see the world through videos and images, we have experts and politicians to explain us what we see, there is no need for reading anymore. Even the interfaces are different: it is not the same to read on screen than on paper.

  • Almost 50% of the people have limited reading skills. They know the alphabet and have the basic reading and writing skills, but they might have problems with understanding texts beyond a basic, simplest level. They do have problems with reading long emails, articles, blogs. One of three of your colleagues are functionally illiterate, no matter where you are: schools, universities, newsrooms are no exceptions. Look around, if you don’t know who it is, it’s you.
  • Skimming is the new reading. Based on online analytics, we spend less than a minute to read articles and blogs online: we get the keywords and the most significant points (those with bold font or the first few words after the bullet points) quickly, without processing the information. Skimming and scanning are effective techniques to get a general overview immediately. Why bother with the details? Therefore, I can write whatever I want here: no one will read this part. I could even call the editors idiots: even they won’t read (and delete) this. Students use skimming and scanning methods to speed up assignment writing, bloggers use this to save time on research. The problem is: we never go the next step (deep reading) after getting the point.
  • Reading is not critical anymore. Readers are not able to manage conflicting information. As the neuroscientist, Maryann Wolf writes: “My research depicts how the present reading brain enables the development of some of our most important intellectual and affective processes: internalized knowledge, analogical reasoning, and inference; perspective-taking and empathy; critical analysis and the generation of insight.” (Such a long sentence!) Serious (deep) reading is paying attention, working with the content, thinking, and using your brain. Reading requires time.
  • We have no dedicated time for reading. Reading articles and blogs: we do it in our fragmented time (these are the small breaks, in-between moments). During the day, when there is some free time to read: at lunch, on the train, during lectures, in waiting rooms, in bed before sleep. We do not dedicate time for reading, we try to find time for it. Digital devices make it possible to read anytime and anywhere. This is an and endless opportunity and a total game changer.

During the time of the Brexit debate, it is extremely interesting to see this “development” of reading. Propaganda also understands this: telling a lot of contrasting information makes us vulnerable as we have lost our ability to critically evaluate.

To build a new argument here I tried to reread the Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose – but I Kant, it is TL;DR (too long, didn’t read). I used to like it, but now it is too difficult to read. By the way TL;DR: we do not even write sentences anymore. Shortening, abbreviation and simplifications everywhere. Not just ideas but words are too long as well. But TBH, TLA (especially in CTA) is bad for UX and CTR. KISS.

In my last piece here, I have argued to be sceptic with the information you see, now I advise you to read. Spend time deep reading. Reading is like language skills: if you don’t use it you’ll forget it. PRACTISE DEEP READING each and every week.

And if you write a blog, do not forget that you’re writing for people with reading difficulties. Readers like to skim, not chew.

 

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