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.

Digital Marketing Tools That Will Help You Understand Customer’s Journey

 Adjaou Mohamed Adesola, MSc Digital Marketing Management


As technology evolves, the digital marketing bar is being raised higher for more transcendent usability and intuitive user interaction. For such, accuracy, speed and ease are the punch that will keep your clients loyal for the long haul. According to Gartner, consumer experience is the practice of designing for and reacting to their interactions to meet and exceed their expectations in order to increase consumer satisfaction, advocacy, and loyalty.

Highlighted below are some of the digital marketing tools that will give you competitive advantage.


Website Analytics tools

User-centered design is the first checkpoint you put your customers through. According to Brilliance, 75% of stores losses sales due to cart abandonment. So, how do you avoid cart abandonment? By having an intuitive navigation. Website navigation is like a table of content. The navigation should be organized, easy and grouped. Having complex and lengthy navigation creates confusion with your end users. For instance,

Imagine being at a new airport with 3 terminals and 6 floors and several concourses, you need to reach terminal 4A in under 10 minutes. How will you reach the gate without proper sign boards? A website without proper navigation is like an airport without proper signs. Your users will get frustrated and take off, hence leading to high bounce rate. How can you solve this issue? Create a website with a uniform design style, color scheme, and typography. Besides, include navigation tools within your website.

UX design involves creating something that users love, while analytics help designers/businesses understand what the elusive thing is. Analytics provides businesses with a measurable benchmark. There are four types of analytics.

  • Predictive analytics: Used to test scenarios and make suggestions.
  • Prescriptive analytics: Check on new trends and determine the optimal patterns.
  • Diagnostic analytics: Tracks and reveal trends over time.
  • Descriptive analytics: Indicates how many and how often.

Today, web analytics tools can perform all the above. If combined with research, measurement, and analysis, then business can create and maintain businesses that meet clients’ needs. You can achieve this using the following tools.

  1. Kissmetrics

Kissmetrics offers analytics that helps businesses increase their conversion rates and track visitors. Besides, it helps to identifying barriers to conversions. Thanks to the use of Engage feature. Engage uses behavior based data to display notifications to site visitors. Using Kissmetrics, marketers can specifically set the following behavior based actions: Lightbox, dynamic content modal, announcements, bumpers, and notifications. Marketers can design triggers that prompt these actions for instances, when a customer is idle for a certain period on the website, he/she is prompted to take some action like signup for newsletter or display related products that they may be interested in. This helps reduce bounce rate, and thus leading to high ranking. The tool is pricy and not affordable to SMEs, besides being a good tool.

Image Source: CMS Wire


Social Media Digital Marketing Tools

According to the Wall Street Journal, an average American spends 37 minutes daily on social media. Thus, every business should leverage on their marketing using the following platforms.

 

  • Twitter Native Platform

Currently, twitter has 326 million users. Do you want to get more out of Twitter and aren’t sure where to start? Creating an engaging and impactful strategy can make the difference. Firstly, you need to find your own voice. As a business, establish a well-defined brand strategy by creating fresh and original content that reflect your core business values. Besides, try and resonate with your audience in a positive way.

Planning and organization are key to great marketing. One of the best ways to get much out of Twitter is to join chats. There are chats for almost every topic. The key success to twitter chats is to be an active participant by following people, replying to their messages and keeping the relationship going even after the chat has ended. If there is no chat that relates to your brand, consider starting your own.

Although planning ahead is always great, the best tweets are created on the go. Ensure you capitalize on the trending topic and world events. However, as a caution, never use a tragedy as a branding opportunity. As a rule of thumb, don’t use one-sided marketing. Your Twitter marketing strategy should be a mix of organic tweets @replies, and Twitter Ads. Nonetheless, maintaining a Twitter account requires certain level of commitment and training. Besides, you must be weary of parody accounts, which can negatively affect your business. In 2019, businesses should watch the status updates to encourage conversation between its users.

 

  • Facebook Power Editor

 

Specifically designed to run hyper-specific advertising campaigns. The tool often issues new targeting and budget-friendly features for all users. In order to get more out of Facebook Power Editor, you must understand Ad basics. Use of catchy headlines, engaging images and strong Call to Action dictates how well your ad will perform.

Image Source: Neil Patel

The catchy headline, and strong call to action makes the above ad more appealing to the target audience. Currently, Facebook Power Editor is only available on Google Chrome, thus, users of other browsers are not privy to using this powerful tool. Currently, Facebook is testing CTAs to be used on stories create on pages. This something to watch in 2019.


Conclusion

Customer experience requires a health check. One of the ingredients to this challenging task is knowing the ins and outs of your customers’ behaviour. In digital marketing, communicating with your consumers and anticipating their needs and problems even before they arise is what you need. Getting the right tool to address customer experience is what will give you a competitive advantage since the war will not be won on product features or price page.

 

Twitter: @AdjaouMohamed 

LinkedIn: https://t.co/rAg1jZKEzi

 

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 

Global Business Directions Conference 2019

Thursday February 7th 2019 – Location Ashley LT002, Leek Road Campus, Staffordshire University

Organisers: Hazel Squire and  Prof Jon Fairburn

Free – all welcome

Programme

9.00 Networking
9.30 Welcome and introductions  Hazel Squire and Prof Jon Fairburn
9.40 Key note speaker – Andrew Stephenson, Group People Director at Lookers plc

‘Building a customer centric organisation in the digital age’ 

10.30  Break

10.40 Salman Hamid, Director of Development at GMP Drivercare.com 

 ‘The technological aspect of today’s business’

11.30 Break

11.40  Tony Evans, Head of Leonardo and Analytics, SAP

“Digital transformation and the intelligent enterprise”

12.30 Lunchtime
 13.30 Jeanefer Jean-Charles, Creative Director  www.jeanefer.com

‘Keeping your business moving’ 

14.20 Break
14.40 Vanessa Oakes, Staffordshire Business School

‘Digital technology and new employment experiences’

15.30 Closing remarks

 

Speaker profiles

Andrew Stephenson

Andrew Stephenson

Andrew Stephenson has been the Group People Director at Lookers, one of the UK’s largest automotive dealer groups since May 2016.  Reporting to the CEO; Andrew is responsible for the HR function and people agenda for over 8,500 employees across areas in the UK and Ireland.  Andrew also leads the IT function and is responsible for customer experience across the companies 31 franchised manufacturer brands.

Andrews’ team have driven an improved customer experience through instore insight and a new online proposition.  This has been underpinned by the introduction of comprehensive monitoring of customer experience.  This independent monitoring ensures much better outcomes for customers in all circumstances and provides statistically valid measurement of customer satisfaction.  The performance on customer experience now directly links to remuneration within the group.  Andrew’s team are also responsible for the delivery of the company’s new website to support omni-channel focus on customers.  Lookers are one of the Sunday Times Top 25 Big Companies to work for in the UK and have twice featured in the Glassdoor and CMI list of the Most Inspirational workplaces.

Andrew is a Level 8 student currently completing his DBA at Staffordshire University with a study into customer loyalty. Andrew holds a MA in Strategic HRM also from Staffordshire University, is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, a Chartered Manager and Fellow of the CMI and a Fellow of the Institute of the Motor Industry.  Andrew is also a Trustee of the national body of Citizens Advice, chairing their remuneration committee and an independent advisor to the Customer Experience Committee of HMRC.

 

Salman Hamid

Salman Hamid

Salman Hamid is a Director of Development at GMP Drivercare Limited, where Salman develops and implement Digital Technologies including bespoke systems, online automotive portal with a capability of getting live prices (APIs) and AI Technologies. GMP Drivercare helps Public and Corporate Sector organisations in Fleet Management, Grey Fleet Compliance, Telematics, Lease Car Schemes, Salary Sacrifice Schemes and more (A One stop shop).

Salman is a Staffordshire University and University of Roehampton Alumni, BSc Hons in Business Information Technology from Staffordshire University, MSc Information Systems Management from University of Roehampton and MSc Digital Marketing from Staffordshire University.

 

Tony Evans

Tony Evans

As Head of Leonardo and Analytics, Tony Evans is responsible for enabling customers to leverage SAP’s innovation portfolio, to drive business transformation and operational improvement. As the executive sponsor for SAP Machine Learning and Cloud customer adoption, Tony partners with customer executive teams to promote SAP’s next generation computing platform.

Since joining SAP, Tony has led SAP’s billion dollar North American Database business and has managed the North American financial services business as the Chief Operating Officer.

Prior to SAP, Tony has a successful track record in driving Business Process Reengineering and change management for global organisations, including PepsiCo, Lucent Technologies and IXNet. Tony has also held senior leadership positions across Oracle, BlackBerry and SAP, where he has led organisation of sales, technical and marketing professionals, driving revenue growth through partnership with customers.

Tony is an alumni of Staffordshire University, where he graduated with BA (Hons) in Business Studies and a Diploma in Marketing from CIM. Tony has an MBA in Change Management from the University of Brighton and is a qualified Project Manager with the Project Management Institute, an organisation he sat on the board of in NYC, and represented in the Global Project Management Forum. Tony also sits on the board of a successful startup, CrowdFlik where he partners with, and advises the CEO around business strategy.

Jeanefer Jean-Charles

Jeanefer Jean-Charles

Jeanefer Jean-Charles career began working across theatre, dance, television and film, including Co-Artistic Director of her company Bullies Ballerinas Jazz Productions, touring nationally and internationally. Her work has taken her to over 20 countries.

Today she is the Creative Director of Jeanefer Jean-Charles and Associates, with over 20 years’ experience of devising, creating, facilitating and directing dance and movement for performance.

As a Mass Movement Director and Choreographer of large scale performances, opening ceremonies, stadium events, outdoor spectacles, carnivals and parades, the success of her work is in her unique process of empowering and skilling up teams of artists, whilst bringing together the talents, strengths and shared stories of communities in inspiring and unforgettable ways.

Career highlights include: Mass Movement Director for Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected 2016, Choreographer for the award winning The Return of Colmcille, Derry-Londonderry City of Culture 2013, Mass Movement Choreographer for the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace, Mass Movement Coordinator for all four of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, Movement Director for The FA Cup Final 2016 Opening Ceremony at Wembley, Artistic Director for The Rugby League World Cup Opening Ceremony in 2013.

Vanessa Oakes

Vanessa Oakes

Vanessa Oakes is a Human Resources and Leadership & Development professional with extensive industry experience including 10 years as Head of HR at an international Environmental and Engineering consultancy and 6 years as a lecturer on the CIPD’s professional HRM programmes.

Vanessa brings a wealth of experience in how digital technology will affect your experience as a candidate looking for a job, to how it will affect you in your future employment.

She has worked with Social Media tools to approach passive candidates for opportunities within her organisation, she has implemented Applicant Tracking Systems which monitor the status of applications, she has worked with online tools which recorded attendance and monitored productivity and performance and software which measures and records employee engagement. These digital tools provided essential data which allowed managers to better manage their teams, improving the overall performance of the organisation.

She will give you a clearer understanding of how digital technology will become a key part of your employment experience.

5 top tips to be successful on social media

Andrew Rizvi, MSc Digital Marketing Management Student


Planning

When mapping out a plan for social media it is always best to start with the goals you want to achieve for business standpoint and how you plan to implement them.

Using SMART for goal setting can be a successful foundation for social media marketing if followed correctly:

  • Goals must nail down exactly what is expected of the initiative. Also simply being just more active on social media is one of the quickest ways to burn valuable time unnecessary. That’s why it’s crucial to ask ‘why’ your business is on social media.
  • Measurable – Being able to definitively answer “yes, we hit the goal” or “we missed the goal by 20%” is a good goal standard. Key Metrics, Goals or OKRs that you would like to accomplish broken down into days, weeks, months, and the year.
  • Attainable – Out of reach goals are demoralizing and frustrating. Having to stretch to hit a goal is productive, but don’t go overboard with expectations.
  • Relevant – A social media-marketing goal needs to tie in to marketing’s overall goal. Is it to build an audience? Increase website traffic? Strengthen branding?
  • Timely – Dates and times keep companies accountable to their goals. Staying on track may at times be impossible, so be able to acclimatise to change is also important

Engaging with customers rather than just promoting

Social media is becoming more and more like a customer service platform. A tricky part of this is that the better you get the more difficult engagement becomes. The other side of this is that customers are more often than not the best source of inspiration, as they will often be asking the questions ‘why’ don’t you do this. Useful tools to find out what’s working on social media are Twitter List, Google Keyword Planner and Facebook Pages to Watch or even simply creating a community site. This allows a company to then evaluate and remarket itself in the future by using metrics from former campaigns.

Engaging with your target audience by using free or low-cost brands, such as Buffer Reply or TweetDeck. This allows for a more interactive service that can help with providing insight to customers as well as the business. For example, everyone person on Twitter has 100 friends that follow them, and those 100 friends have 100 friends that follow them. Even if only 5% of the total friends share the content, that’s still a massive number of shares and impressions. Crafting content unique to each platform is critical and is why planning is so important to keep a constant stream of customer engagement for marketing purposes.

Boost organic content to a targeted audience

Unless you would have a big team overseeing your social media with the ability to invest a lot of time, you can end up wasting a lot of money on paid advertising. Organic social media posting is the perfect testing ground for paid ads and boosted posts. In other words, you’re using organic reach to determine what posts you should put money behind and use this as an opportunity in disguise. And therefore, being able to use A/B testing can help use company resources wisely regardless of the size of it.

That opportunity is paid social media advertising. Even if you only have £5 to spend on boosting a Facebook post or promoting a Tweet, it will effectively get that content in front of hundreds of potential customers. That is why looking out for posts with high engagement but low reach as a good barometer for potential success and is something that should be checked regularly by using analytics, to ensure that the content will be maximising its possible target audience.

Using a combination of Facebook Audience Insights and Twitter Audience Insights to learn about your audience and create personas. Once you have an idea of who they are, use those insights to create highly targeted ads that will resonate with users.


Measuring Your Results

A clear and fundamental part of this is holding up the results against the goals you set at the beginning to compare. This gives a clear indication as to what is working and what is not. The main providers of gaining this information can be found using tools such as Sprout Social, Google Analytics, Iconosquare and Snaplytics to make sure that resources are being spent wisely and how they can be better placed elsewhere if not.

  • Followers. Total up the number of new followers each social media platform received, and compare this number to the goal set. This can be achieved using analytics tools such as Sprout Social to measure the success.
  • Likes/shares/comments. Measure the amount of engagement the audience has with the posts. Note which type of content gets the biggest responses for future strategies.
  • Leads. Ultimately, successful social media marketing increases the number of qualified leads for the company. This is the metric that tells you the most about your efforts. Therefore can give the biggest indictor as to where it was a success and where it can be improved.


Create an Editorial Calendar

Last but least, an important way of keeping on track of everything and staying ahead of the game is to have a ‘content schedule’. If there’s a common thread between the biggest brands on social, it’s that they post on a consistent basis.

Chances are that when doing it, juggling multiple social channels and trying to tick as many boxes as possible is incredibly challenging. This is why having a content calendar can make the process much easier by:

  • Allowing you to fine-tune each post for each platform without having to jump between sites.
  • Timing posts to maximize engagement, keeping you from having to constantly post in real-time.

Taking the time to make a schedule does double duty of keeping your social media presence organised while also maximising your contents’ reach. This inevitably helps a company reach its potential, whilst being able to continuously funnel information to a specific target market.

 

 

 

Unflitered: The Truth about Influencer Marketing

Leah Mahon, MSc Digital Marketing Management student


Influencer Marketing (IM) is the latest marketing trend to take the digital plethora by storm – one like and re-post at a time. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, IM combines the use of old and new marketing strategies, and turning it into modernised content fuelled marketing campaigns through collaborations between brands and “influencers” who set up their own social media pages and create their followings.

For businesses – big and small – it is worth getting to the know the person behind the filter before letting them influence which directions your business goes down. Here are a few things to keep in mind…

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guidelines came into full force after numerous followers of popular YouTube and Instagram accounts were collaborating with brands and not making aware that they were receiving a profit in return from their content. To ensure transparency among the audience you’re trying to reach through your Influencer, clarifying that a simple #ad or #sponsorship can save them and your business some major thumbs down.

Beauty Vlogger Zoella

Clear communication is key between your business and the influencer you choose to work with. Popular beauty vlogger, Zoella, faced backlash from her fans and their parents last year after her collaboration with Boots and her 12-day advent calendar, containing a bauble and cookie cutter, saw it priced at £50.00 – putting her good girl next door image a risk. She stated, however, that the final cost of the product was not her decision, and given the many loopholes it takes for a product to make it on shelves whom has the final say is usually obvious. However, businesses need to remember that every detail from the price to the packaging will affect the message sending out to their new audience in some way – and ultimately both parties pay the price.

Oprah’s contradictory Tweet

The Influencer has to believe in the brand and the product or service it is promoting. Microsoft collaborated with world-wide influencer, Oprah Winfrey to endorse their new Microsoft Surface tablet. Social Media Today describes how Oprah sought out Twitter to promote the new technology – only to do so via her iPad, one of the product’s direct competitors. Despite her global influence, not even she could increase sales if her influence doesn’t even believe in the product itself. It’s important for businesses not to collaborate just for the number of likes and followers, but what the Influencer believes in too. Right down to what tech they like to send their Tweets and DMs off.

At the heart of this new industry trend is authenticity amongst the audience that follows. In a time when filtered photos begin to look just like that, picking an Influencer that is transparent with their following from the start and for you to harness their honesty well, can be the deciding factor for a like or dislike.

The Future of Facebook Marketing

Ben Hocking, MSc digital marketing management student


Facebook is going to be one of the main places to focus your social media marketing for the foreseeable future. But will you be marketing in the right place? For a while now, the news feed has been the place to be to engage with consumers, using display ads and chatbots. However, these methods had varying success due to them being easily overlooked and being a nuisance  when posted too frequently. In response to this, 2018 saw an update to Facebook’s algorithm in order to reduce the amount of fake news and improve the reputation of the platform. As always, with the changing of Facebook algorithms comes a change in marketing culture within the platform. In an environment that has ever increasing scrutiny on user content by employers and relationships, users are experiencing a shift from news feed-based engagement to an increasing popularity of private messaging and stories.

With Facebook messenger becoming increasingly popular with 1.3 billion users a month, a huge new market is presenting itself. Thanks to copying of the original innovation by Snapchat and the subsequent success of stories on Instagram, stories (short videos and images that appear temporarily on a user’s social media) are becoming the next big thing in social media, with users clearly finding more comfort in the creating limited time content that can be forgotten about much easier than a public post on social media. Social media platforms are predominantly buying in to having stories on their platform, even with private messaging groups such as WhatsApp making the transition. Always attempting to be remain the leader of social media platforms, Facebook have clearly thrown their metaphorical hat into the ring and transitioning Facebook into a more story-oriented experience, and in typical Facebook fashion, making it bigger and better. These improvements are much needed for Facebook, as when it comes down to private messaging, it still lags behind WhatsApp by hundreds of millions of users.

One of the main changes to Stories is how the platform now uses the story cards (a collection of images taken from the stories of other users that provide a link to their complete story). Bigger cards, easier access and constant reminders: Facebook is clearly showing its cards on how it wants users to engage, and we can understand why. By using stories to market to users, pages can post as often as they like without filling up the news feed of their followers and risking being branded a as “nuisance” content. From a marketing perspective, this allows advertisers to place ads in the middle of a stream of content more seamlessly than before interruptive. Even if you scroll past the initial set of stories, there is no escaping them. After every few posts on the news feed there is another opportunity to engage with stories, this time Facebook even doubles down with the amount you can choose from on your screen.

Interestingly, Facebook is clearly playing the media platform game and winning. On mobile, stories are king, but switch to desktop like over 30% of users, and we are greeted with the same old Facebook we know and love. Other than stories being available along the right-hand side when you first open your news feed, their presence is very limited, showing that the ease of image-based content curation that mobile provides has been accounted for when transitioning, as well as accommodating desktop users in the changes. (Need to find data for older audience not engaging in stories).

So, you’re probably asking yourself why the predominance of stories is so important in shaping the future of marketing. Well, by using stories you can combine all your posts into one convenient little package to, believe it or not, tell a story about your product. Stories let your content be consistently viewed in the order you decide you want it to, allowing you to engage your audience with the correct posts without the risk of them missing the good bits. They also allow you to get the users invested in your content before presenting them with your long-form marketing through the stories themselves and the ability to swipe and tap to take them from Facebook to your website effortlessly, and the best bit- they already know they want to go there, reducing bounce rates and encouraging good quality engagement with your content. Another amazing feature of Facebook stories is the integration between the Facebook platform and the messenger app, with stories appearing seamlessly between the two platforms as is typical for Facebook messenger. This will allow advertisers to target any users from either platform with meaningful content.

The final trick up the marketer’s sleeve with Facebook stories is the ability to embed polls and links within the story itself. Want feedback on a new service? Add an emoji slider and let them show you how happy they are, the possibilities are endless. And this is only the beginning, with the increase of popularity for Facebook stores expected to overtake news feeds as the primary way to share on social media in 2019. With more than double the users of Instagram, Facebook may have been late to the party, but they are soon going to be the life of it.