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Blending Ecommerce and Customer Experience with Twinings Tea

August 14, 2017

Blending Ecommerce and Customer Experience With Twinings Tea 

By Jim Panagas | Aug 14, 2017

CHANNEL: Digital Experience

Tea seller Twinings is betting on a future where smaller brands can compete with the big brands by providing immersive experiences

You would think that after selling tea for more than 300 years (Twinings’ flagship store opened in London in 1706), just about everything having to do with tea would have been said and done. 

But somehow, the UK’s iconic tea brand keeps finding ways of reinventing itself and re-discovering teas — with great fanfare and business results.

Breathing New Life Into Twinings.com

The company was actually a latecomer to the digital world, launching its first website years after the dot-com boom. But all that changed rather dramatically about three and a half years ago when Twinings engaged the services of London-based digital experience agency Ridgeway.

“When we first met them,” began Stuart Gibson, Ridgeway’s head of production, “Twinings had two sites: one was focused on content, blogs and recipes, and the other was a fairly basic online shop.” He continued, “Not a lot of attention was paid to the sites after they were put up. Neither site had a particularly strong following.”

Taking a British Icon Digital

On the face of it, the challenge was to merge the two sites, apply more contemporary web design principles and breathe some new life into the redesigned Twinings website. But it wasn’t long before the project took on a life of its own. That’s when it became mission-critical to create a digital world for Twinings that would complement its real-world, iconic brand status.

“As we got to know them, said Vikki Robins, digital consultant at Ridgeway, “we recognized that Twinings was much, much more than a tea company. It was a company with a heritage and a rich history.”

Twinings Creates a Destination Website 

“Twinings knew the flavors, the aromas, the history of each blend like no other business. That depth of knowledge, that intimate insight into the tea experience, that passion had to be shared and experienced by customers every time they visited the website. That quickly became our mission,” she enthused.

Even though the commercial goal of the site redesign was to sell more tea, the online store quickly became interwoven into the Twinings story. People started going there not just to buy tea, but to learn where teas come from, how they are made, how they are graded and even the best food pairings to go with specific teas.

Following the redesign, the Twinings website became as much about educating tea drinkers as selling tea

Accompanying that factual presentation were all sorts of in-depth articles, covering topics from ‘How to Make a Cup of Tea Perfectly’ to ‘Redbush, Rooibos or African Red Tea Explained.’ 

Creating a Tea Lover’s ‘Digital Utopia’

But wait, there’s more. There are more than 10 tea flavors to peruse on the Twinings site, from Chai, Darjeeling and Earl Grey to Mint Tea, Signature Blends and White Tea. And naturally, tea needs to be served in teaware, from teapots and mugs to tea strainers and tea storage. 

That led to recipes for brunch, afternoon tea and iced tea breaks. Then there are notes posted from various tea tastings. And perhaps most popular of all, there’s a whole section on gifts and confections. The content is fresh, engaging and constantly changing. It’s a tea lover’s digital utopia. 

Seamlessly Linking the Real and Digital Worlds 

“What they’ve succeeded in doing,” commented Ridgeway production head Gibson, “is successfully linking the real world to the digital world and allowing customers to move seamlessly between them. It really is a fantastic example of a well-thought-out and comprehensively designed digital experience — and one that’s having a very positive impact on the business.”

Mastering the Emotional Experience

Since launching the new, customer-experience-focused website in July of 2014, Twinings has seen a 20 percent uptick in revenue and a 30 percent improvement in conversion rates from its website visitors. And that lift has really allowed the company to spread its wings as a global brand.

“Twinings has been very savvy,” observed digital consultant Robins. “They have moved beyond just selling product. They have begun to master the emotive experience. So when a customer someday walks into their London brick and mortar store, he or she can go and sign up for a Twinings tea tasting course and become a certified Twinings expert. Customers can really be part of that whole concept and the ideology and the excitement and all that exclusivity around the brand. And it all starts with this digital reality that Twinings has now created.”

She continued, “The more that companies and brands start to think differently about what it is that they are offering their clients, the more they will succeed, because they are thinking and being creative, rather than just fixating on the end product, which in this case, is a box of tea. Those companies and brands that truly innovate are going to be the survivors. They're the ones who will still be around in five years' time.” 

Going Beyond Technology to Embrace Customer Needs

“The technology that's coming out now is all about personalization, and it's opening up opportunities for companies like Twinings to extend their reach outside of the UK and more globally,” noted Stuart Gibson.

“But this movement is about far more than technology. It's about understanding the business, what you’re trying to achieve and what your particular KPIs might be. Then determining what technology best supports the delivery of those key objectives. The technology shouldn't be the driving force behind the decision. It's about building something that meets the customers’ needs.”

Smaller Stores, Growing Digital Experiences

Vikki Robins’ closing thoughts were about the future, and where all of this digital experience technology is going to take us. “I think we are going to see a movement towards small is beautiful. We're starting to see evidence of that already. Some of our big stores, grocery stores here in the UK, are scaling down. They are becoming the local stores,” she observed.

“You see brands like IKEA opening micro stores. Brands are recognizing that they have an opportunity to build an immersive experience where you don’t go in and choose from 100 different lamps, for example. Rather, you walk into a room and you see a lamp in context with other items in the room. So the buyer experience is no longer just about the lamp. It becomes about the room and a brand that’s presenting its ideas and items to complement what you’re already looking at,” Robins continued.

“I think these big item stores have had their moment, but I think the real future is going to be smaller stores supported by an ever-growing digital experience.”

About the Author

Jim Panagas is a Boston-based marketing and communications professional who has served as high as the VP Marketing level. His accomplishments include founding and managing a marketing agency serving technology clients exclusively.

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Leveraging Marketing Personas: Differences Between "I want" and "I Need"

August 07, 2017

By / Lucie Ostrcilova / In Best practice /

Marketing personas characterise target users or potential customers and sum up all their key information – and segmenting a database by personas has been proven to increase uptake. Here’s how to create and leverage this sales and marketing tool for best effect.

Effective use of marketing personas directly correlates with business success. They are one of the core tools for product design teams as used in major brands such as Salesforce and Atlassian. Sales teams report they help them to focus and reach revenue. A Cintell study of B2B companies found that 94% of businesses that exceed lead and revenue goals say they segment their database by personas. This suggests that businesses would be crazy to ignore personas. But what are they, exactly? A set of cards with cute graphics on them? Well, yes and no.

Personas can be viewed simply as a tool to ease collaborative work on creative projects. Basically they identify the target users or customers and sum up all the key information about them. This is crucial to enable effective critiques, design decisions, and feature prioritisation.

To decide whether you actually need this tool, the first step is to look at team size. When you’re working alone or working in a small team and are able to easily disseminate information on your own, personas are a waste of time. But when there are more people that need to understand the user or the customer, especially if the team is more distributed, they’re definitely worth the effort.

Sadly, there is no magic formula to ensure the ideal balance of usefulness against cost. However, clarifying these questions beforehand helps you to make relevant, useful and cost-efficient personas:

Two types of persona

When looking at personas through the lens of the project on which you’re working, there are two main types: buyers and users.

Buyer: When defining a marketing strategy or working on improving sales, you need a buyer (marketing) persona. It represents your target customers and those involved in the decision-making process. Your sales and marketing people will work with it.

The marketing persona describes demographic information, buying motivation and preferences, media habits and the type of marketing message the persona responds to. It can also dig deeper into the ‘whys’ of the decision-making process of purchasing a product or consuming content.

However, the marketing persona won’t tell you what the product or service should be, how it should behave, or how to prioritise its development. That’s why we need the user persona.

User: User personas have a different purpose to marketing personas. Not understanding the difference is a common cause of persona abandonment. While marketing personas tell you what people want, user personas tell you what they need.

When you need to come up with a product (such as an application), a service (e.g. a training tutorial), or even a single feature, user personas are your best friend. You need to know what the people do, what their workflow looks like, and what their frustrations, fears and obstacles are. To understand the big picture, you also want to know what tools they use and how their environment looks. Only then are you able to understand correctly what they need and want and define a remedy for these needs and wants.

Personas can be a powerful tool in the right hands, yet it’s important to know their limitations. No matter how well crafted a marketing persona is, it won’t give you the information you need for product design. Similarly, the most expensive user persona won’t help you with selling.

Relevant characteristics

Scope and purpose are other factors that predetermine the usefulness of a persona. Deciding on them won’t take long, but is as crucial as picking the right type of screwdriver to loosen a rusty screw.

When it comes to scope – typically, personas are created for the whole product, website or company. The reason behind such an approach is to unite the team effort and to target the same audience. Nevertheless, in some cases, it’s useful to zoom in and create a project-specific persona.

Imagine you’re working on a company-wide system and need to redesign a feature for one specific user role. Of course, you’ll be better off with a persona that represents that particular role rather than one that represents the whole department. This persona describes the buyer or user characteristics relevant for the project in greater detail. It is more relevant and thus more likely to be useful.

Time and budget

As already mentioned, if you have a larger team, your question shouldn’t be whether to create a persona or not. Question instead how in-depth it needs to be and the desired quality.

Imagine the persona quality as a slider; at one end, there is an educated guess, on the other, rigorous research with careful processing of extreme cases. At the same time, the slider illustrates the cost and time required.

The educated guess is useful for projects on a tight schedule; it saves a lot of time, but might be double-edged. Educated guesses are often affected by biases and beliefs of the ‘psychic’. To mitigate these risks, negotiate enough time and budget to run some research with real people. Going for an educated guess for business or socially critical projects is very dangerous and can be harmful for more than just your reputation.

Communicating marketing personas

Communication of personas is sometimes ignored. While designers and marketers are often into the data from day one, what they tend to forget is that they are not the only ones that should absorb the information within personas. Sales teams, product managers, developers – they all need this information. That’s why you need to help personas make the final step – to be beautifully crafted and available during critiques, prioritisation and vetting decisions.

The larger your team, the more you want personas to look great, be easily accessible,and a topic of discussion. Communicating personas properly is something companies struggle with. Only 8% feel that at least three-quarters of their organisation could name their personas. At the same time, just 21% share them as PDFs or a similar highly static format (according to Cintell).

So document and popularise your resources and analytical process. You might have noticed by now that you haven’t used some of the useful information for the persona creation. Don’t throw it away – this information will come in handy. One or two sceptics will be more likely to trust your suspicious little cards if they have more background!

Next steps

Once you realise the need to update your personas, and before you start designing your research or searching for an agency to help with the task, heed this last hint: Typically, B2B businesses are not interested in the personal stories or after-work activities of their target audience, as these do not have any influence on buying decisions. Instead, B2B marketers will focus on information – such as job role, day-to-day tasks or previous experience.

But B2C companies usually want to learn as much as they can about their audience, from their personal background, age, number of children, marital status, buying interests and more. B2C marketers should put this information together because they may all have a huge effect on the whole buying process and behaviour of people on your website.

Meet Evan the Evaluator

Let me now describe one of our Kentico buyer personas, so you can better understand how they help us with content creation. ‘Evan the Evaluator’ works as a CTO on the side of a potential Kentico partner agency. He is the person responsible for selecting the new content management platform the agency will start building websites with. That’s why he visits the kentico.com site. His main objective, then, is to evaluate whether Kentico is a suitable candidate for his agency.

In the table below is a full description of the Evan the Evaluator persona. As you can see, the way we described Evan is a little different to traditional marketing personas. Our persona does not provide you with demographic data, does not give you details about Evan’s personal background or the day-to-day tasks in his job. We are a B2B company, thus these are simply not important to us.

What matters the most, in our case, is his objective. We focus on his actions and the steps he takes to evaluate our web content management system. Based on all this information, we are able to create the right content to help overcome all his challenges along the way.

Here’s a summary of his profile:

Evan the Evaluator

Thinking ahead allowed us to run cost-efficient research and look at our website through someone else’s eyes as soon as possible. To be able to make significant changes in different sections of the website, such as Licensing or Pricing, we focused on Evan’s journey. That helps us prepare content that answers the questions he has during the whole evaluation process. This way, we make the buying decision easier for him. At the same time, storing the information about him as an editable online document helps our content team to stay focused on the creative part of their job, rather than tedious discussions about whom they are targeting.

Please join in the discussion: the GMA is a community of data driven marketers and YOUR opinion counts.

 

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Gartner Magic Quadrant for WCM 2017 ... Who's In Who's Out?

July 31, 2017

It is that time of year again when Gartner migrates those little dots around to guide companies that are in the process of evaluating a Web Content Management solution for their business, by providing an in-depth analysis of leading vendors. This article will not only discuss who’s in, who’s out, and who jumped from one category to another over the past year but it will also include exclusive comments from the leading vendors' execs on their inclusion as well as the cautions that the Gartner analysts pointed out. Here's a glimpse into the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management:

First things first, for those who are not acquainted with Gartner’s report, the “Leader” quadrant includes the vendors that are “prepared for the future with a clear vision and a thorough appreciation of the broader context of digital business. They have strong channel partners, a presence in multiple regions, consistent financial performance, broad platform support and good customer support." 

Bloomreach is the New Kid on the Block

Last year, as you may recall, Gartner deposed OpenText, SDL, and HP from the leader's quadrant. This year, however, all the vendors that were named as Leaders, including Sitecore, Adobe, Acquia, Episerver, IBM, and Oracle, kept hold of their spots in this category. Have being said, there is a newcomer to the report and the Leader quadrant, as a matter of fact, a newcomer to the WCM market thanks to its acquisition of Amsterdam-based open-source Hippo CMS which already made a significant move from the Niche Players to the Visionaries quadrant in the Gartner’s Magic Quadrant last year. With the integration of BloomReach’s Relevance Engine into Hippo’s WCM, they have created the first self-learning, digital experience platform that learns from the context behind every customer interaction, whether is it online or offline, in order to utilize that knowledge to deliver personalization to any digital experience. The reason behind the vendor’s significant upwards movement in the report, in my opinion, is the fact that BloomReach DXP semantically understands content and comes with its own set of algorithmic intelligence and core data sets so users can understand demand expressed by consumers throughout the Web. According to the Gartner report authors Mick MacComascaigh and Jim Murphy, the merged capabilities of Hippo CMS and Bloomreach “resonates highly with selection scenarios for WCM in the current market, and will continue to be strong.”

Speaking to CMS-Connected, Arjé Cahn, CTO of BloomReach Experience said: “Being designated a Leader in this year's Gartner MQ for WCM is a great acknowledgment of our product vision and a confirmation that we have taken the right approach in focusing on building an open & intelligent platform. We are proud to be recognized for our ease of integration with third-party systems, our versatile deployment capabilities, and for giving both Marketing and IT teams the freedom and flexibility to innovate at the leading edge of digital marketing. Our product is built with a best-of breed approach in mind and interoperability at its heart, which makes it the right choice for any future focused enterprise.”

Bloomreach’s inclusion marked another change in the report, taking the reputation of being the only open source leader away from Acquia. Speaking of which, open APIs and open source have been very popular, especially among buyers who are on the lookout for a WCM that provides flexibility and interoperability to be able to rapidly create and move quickly. In fact, during one of our recent interviews with Chris Wiborg, Vice President of Product Marketing at Alfresco, he also told me about how important open source is becoming to develop solutions being designed to keep up with the pace of change and said: “Open source has become sexy all over again!”

On the flip side, working with an open-source software (OSS) requires considerable technical expertise thus organizations considering deploying an OSS should carefully assess their resources in advance of final selection.

The Returning Leaders: Acquia, Epi, Sitecore, Adobe, Oracle, and IBM  

Since we started off with open-source technologies, let’s move on to the other open-source leader, Acquia who has been recognized by Gartner as a Leader in the 2017 Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management report for the fourth consecutive year. The compelling combination of open source and cloud has been the main driving factor behind the vendor’s unprecedented growth. Acquia’s winning strategy that focused on API-first delivery and secure cloud deployment landed the vendor in the “Leaders” category, in both Gartner’s MQ and Forrester’s WCM Wave.

On the hot heels of the report, I reached out to Christopher Stone, Chief Products Officer at Acquia, to inquire about the driving factor behind, as the report cites, “being the best-known provider of cloud capabilities”: “As the leading open source, cloud-based DX platform, Acquia continues to deliver best-in-class enterprise solutions for massive organizations around the globe. Beyond our core open source, cloud-based offerings, we’re also bringing cutting-edge personalization and commerce solutions to the market.”

Considering not all the comments cited in the report are rosy, I also wanted to pick Christopher’s brain on one of the pitfalls Gartner suggested that as far as a marketing strategy goes, the strong emphasis on its product's technological prowess and not enough emphasis on the business contexts may hurt marketing effectiveness. Here’s what he had to say: “The WCM landscape has evolved since Acquia launched 10 years ago. WCM buyers have shifted from technical leads to heads of marketing and the C-suite, a group that’s overwhelmingly concerned with the entire customer journey. Acquia’s sophisticated technology has been our differentiator from the beginning—it’s at the core of everything we do—and that tech expertise is more important than ever as we address the needs of the marketer. We’re continuing to adapt our platform for this market, and as we do the evolution will become clear.”

On the other hand, according to my understanding from the recent reviews of the most respected reports like Gartner and Forrester and user forums, organizations have lately found Acquia's marketing geared primarily toward the digital marketing effectiveness use cases.

EPISERVER

Episerver retained its spot on the leaderboard, once again. In my opinion, Episerver’s recognition as a Leader in the report for the third year in a row mostly comes from the vendor’s significant investments in social commerce and machine learning-based personalization technology as well as its laser-focus on digital marketing effectiveness and delivering highly contextualized experiences. The Stamford, Conn.-based research firm also acknowledges Episerver’s “timely and well-executed acquisitions” in the report.

“We’re super proud to be recognized as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for WCM for the third year running, which aligns with our high-growth trajectory over the past few years, as well as the delivery of our vision to infuse our content management applications with intelligent personalization and omnichannel capabilities,” James Norwood, Executive Vice President Strategy, CMO at Episerver, told CMS-Connected. “It’s also good to be credited by Gartner for timely and well-executed acquisitions and for doing more than most WCM providers to equip, encourage and enable customers to exploit the cloud. However, we feel it’s our laser focus on delivering transformative digital experiences for business as opposed to technology that has resonated most with the Gartner analysts and our customers.”

One of the caution points that the Gartner analysts cited in the report, claiming that “Episerver requires considerable product-specific and .NET expertise.” I was also curious about James Norwood’s take on that one, and he splendidly addressed Garner’s comment with all of the transparency we know him for. “Episerver’s platform provides a comprehensive WCM solution for mid-sized to larger organizations and so does require an implementation partner or internal technical resource to help implement. However, once it's up and running, one of the biggest benefits of the Digital Experience Cloud is that it's easy for marketers and merchandisers to use. We strive to empower people at each of our customers to be the digital heroes of their brands, so helping them to be super-productive is what we are all about,” said Norwood and added: “In fact, you would expect digital commerce WCM use cases to be the most involved, just by their very nature, yet Gartner stated that 'a large majority of reference customers found it easy or very easy to implement and customize, whereas all reference customers reported high overall satisfaction with both Episerver and its digital commerce platform,' as recently as this April. It’s reasonable that customization would require some degree of technical expertise, although configuration once a marketer is trained is straightforward. At the end of the day, content marketers can be productive with Episerver in a matter of hours.”

Gartner also gave Episerver credit in terms of its cloud strategy, indicating that Episerver is standing out from most WCM providers when it comes to encouraging and enabling customers to exploit the cloud. Given the vendor has recently rolled out a new set of data connectors between Episerver Commerce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP solutions, all of which can be deployed to a single cloud service in Microsoft Azure, Gartner's accolades for Episerver in its latest report seem to be spot-on.

SITECORE

It is time to move on to another vendor that has recently expanded its partnership with Microsoft is Sitecore which has landed in the Leaders’ quadrant for eighth consecutive year. What’s more, Sitecore, once again, won Gartner's heart for "Ability to Execute" which rates how well a vendor sells and supports its WCM products and services globally, according to Gartner.

Speaking to CMS-Connected ahead of the recognition, Ryan Donovan, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Sitecore, said: “At Sitecore, we are honored to be placed as a leader on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for WCM for the eighth time in a row. Over the past year, we’ve worked hard to ensure our platform remains the most effective and equips our customers and partners with the technology and insights required to meet their evolving needs. One of the ways we’ve done this is by re-architecting our platform to run natively on Microsoft Azure in a server-less PaaS deployment model. This results in much faster time-to-market, easier and quicker deployment, as well as the ability to scale automatically as needs grow.” He also added: “The biggest customer impact is ensuring that PaaS is the right answer for them. Some due diligence is definitely needed, however code-wise unless someone has taken some egregious Windows dependency in their custom solutions, our structure should continue to run without change.”

Previously, many analysts have been critical of Sitecore’s cloud strategy as they claimed that the vendor has fallen behind its competitors in their shift to the cloud. However, Sitecore has lately stepped up its game so the latest enhancements seem to have a potential to put them further along. Additionally, their expansion of a longstanding partnership with Microsoft has built a solid ground for their ongoing cloud strategy as the new expansion addressed many challenges that customers are faced with, including time to market and scaling. In an another interview, Ryan Donovan told CMS-Connected that the vendor has removed a number of the pieces and parts from the stack by going native Azure Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) which results in “a significantly simpler infrastructure for customers and partners.” Being one of the earliest vendors to focus on the customer journey, Sitecore has a laser-focus on meeting their customers’ need for greater speed and agility for businesses.

ADOBE

Adobe has been running neck and neck with Sitecore in the ‘Leaders’ quadrant, to earn the top spot in the Web Content Management space for the past eight years. This year, once again, Adobe has been named the top leader in terms of "Completeness of Vision" which focuses on the vendor's potential and points to its future chances of success.

Last April, the vendor rolled out a new umbrella product, called Adobe Experience Cloud that is comprised of Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe Advertising Cloud, and Adobe Analytics Cloud. When we interviewed Adam Justis, Director of Product Marketing for the Adobe Experience Cloud at Adobe to discuss the differentiating factors of newly announced Adobe Experience Cloud, he said: “The ability not only to have the tools delivering personalized experiences in real time but to augment and accelerate those through artificial intelligence capabilities. When you look at Adobe, we probably have over four dozen algorithms driving functionality in Adobe Experience Cloud today. That’s our differentiator.” According to Adam, the platform allows people to fuse content and insight together so not only they have insights but also they are able to take actions on those insights and have a meaningful way of delivering those compelling experiences. Therefore, he believes, that kind of continuum has helped Adobe get recognition for being able to enable our customers to satisfy their customers in the digital age.

Adobe has recently released the latest version of its web content management system, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) 6.3 in an effort to help organizations deliver experiences through “affiliated properties” like partner websites, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and mobile apps. Additionally, Adobe also announced a Fluid Experiences for Retail capability through its Adobe Experience Manager, in order to enable retailers to create and manage omnichannel experiences across any touchpoint, including in-store associate apps, social channels, physical signage, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and smart-screens. Fluid Experiences automatically edits and resizes images and copy based on the channel, so the content gets optimized for each touch point. On that note, Garner warned organizations considering this solution to devise a thorough sourcing strategy and not to underestimate the effort and complexity of an Adobe Experience Manager implementation, especially in the initial phases. 

ORACLE

Among the returning leaders, Oracle had the most significant change in its placement over the past year as the Redwood City, Calif.-based vendor surged forward from IBM and Episerver compared to the last year’s report and narrowed the gap on Acquia in terms of “ability to execute.”

The company has also introduced a new digital experience platform, the Oracle Content and Experience Cloud to help organizations manage and deliver content to any digital channel so enterprise content marketers can initiate more effective engagement with customers, partners, and employees. In conjunction with this release, Oracle also announced a plethora of AI-powered capabilities across key Oracle Customer Experience Cloud offerings, including Marketing, Service, Sales, and Commerce, in an effort to enable users to deliver better, faster and more personal experiences. With its new single cloud-native platform for content production, management, and delivery across all lines of business, to me, Oracle seemed to take on Adobe’s Experience Cloud. What’s more, integrating Data Cloud into other Oracle products is a smart move, considering there are a collection of more than 70,000 attributes and six billion consumer and business profiles available in the Oracle Data Cloud. Due to all these enhancements, Gartner gave Oracle significant credit and also cited that “Oracle's strategy moves beyond the typical role of content management.”

A Dual-Product Strategy Dilemma

IBM has again been named a leader in the Magic Quadrant report. However, according to Gartner, IBM’s dual-product strategy with its Watson Content Hub and IBM Web Content Manager creates some confusion on the buyers’ end, mostly because of the significant difference in product maturity. Have being said, the research firm also acknowledges IBM’s efforts to integrate Watson Content Hub into Web Content Manager, and moving forward, Gartner expects IBM to pursue this hybrid approach.

Speaking of a dual-product strategy, Kentico, which is referenced in the MQ report as a Challenger for the second straight year, is another vendor that Gartner concluded, the company’s dual-product strategy with Kentico EMS and Kentico Cloud creates “a dilemma rather than a useful alternative to current customers and prospects.”

To elaborate on this comment, I reached out to Kentico’s CEO Petr Palas, and he thoroughly explained me: “I understand the dual-product strategy may look confusing at the first sight. In the past, we saw several CMS vendors acquiring competing solutions and offering them side by side. However, this is a very different situation. The CMS industry goes through a major change as it‘s finally moving towards a true SaaS model and looks for a better way how to manage content for all the newcoming channels and devices. The traditional CMS vendors cannot adapt to such major change by making incremental changes to their existing monolithic products.” He also added: “As I see it, Kentico, together with IBM, is the only traditional vendors who react to this major shift and decided to invest into developing a new solution to make sure they have a strong offering for today’s innovators. These customers think cloud-first, content-first, API-first and want to build their applications using a modern microservices architecture. This is no mirage – we talk to such innovative customers every day and they say a traditional CMS architecture doesn’t meet their expectations anymore. In short, having such a dual strategy is not about having two competing solutions, but about giving a choice to customers with different preferences and different stage of innovation.”

My POV

I certainly agree with the conclusion MacComascaigh and Murphy made in the report: “The WCM market isn't what it used to be.” Have being said, the MQ hasn't changed much over the years. I think the reason behind it is the fact that none of the major vendors in this space rests on their laurels. They all keep innovating, acquiring, and teaming up to make their platforms more modular, granular and atomic. Below I put together the past four Magic Quadrants as a brief demonstration of how little change has happened in the report over the past four years.

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Enhancing newsletter open rates with the right subject line

July 14, 2017

By WAYNE JASEK

Operating in a highly competitive environment – where more brands are trying to reach the same audience at the same time for ongoing promotion – has never been harder, nor has it been more important for SMEs to engage with their intended audience through the communication touch points (such as a newsletter) that actually reach them.

Importantly, the way in which local SMEs’ target audiences gather industry information and news is changing and having your voice heard in this environment is becoming increasingly complicated. Faced with a fragmented communications landscape, it is critical SMEs not only grow their own communities (and databases), but also engage with these audiences in a meaningful way.

Topical newsletters are a great way to for SMEs to promote their products, industry perspectives and company news. Through the use of reader analytics, you can monitor which newsletter stories readers are opening and what is attracting their attention, which helps inform ongoing content ideas and even wider sales and marketing activities.

While many businesses simply assume that the success of a newsletter comes down to the quality of the content, the accuracy of your database, the design and strength of imagery; what should not be overlooked is the importance of the newsletter subject line itself.

The email subject line plays a huge role in every email sent. It is the very first thing (and in many cases, the only thing) that your subscribers will see in their inbox and influences whether they open the email or not. This is even more important for newsletters. These days, newsletters are everywhere. You order some product from an e-shop, and it is very likely that you will be asked to sign-up for an ongoing newsletter. This near overwhelming level of competition for readers means that your subject line is more important than ever.

It takes practice to create eye-catching email subjects, but even then, you can never be sure that the subject will work for your entire audience. For example, an SME’s subscriber base can be quite varied and contain different groups of people, which makes thinking from all of their viewpoints near impossible. So what is the best way to ensure that your newsletter subject line works for the widest share of your audience?

A/B testing (sometimes called split testing) such as that offered by leading marketing automation providers like our company, allows SMEs the ability to test multiple versions of an email subject to a sample of its audience to ascertain which subject performs better and which headline is most likely to encourage audience engagement. A/B testing can help SMEs decide if:

Shorter, or longer subject lines work best for their audience?

Subject line personalisation works for their audience?

A question, or a statement, achieves better engagement?

Even the best marketers can only assume which email subject would be the best and, as you want to ensure the best possible open rate, it is far better to rely on actual data than gut intuition. To specifically A/B test an email subject line, you will need to use the same content as the original email, but each test variant will have a different email subject. Then select a portion of your newsletter database as your sample – note that the larger the sample the more accurate the results – and send out the different versions. Two hours following the send out, you should be able to see some pretty accurate results from the test and hopefully have a clear idea around which email subject is encouraging higher levels of engagement, ensuring that the actual full distribution of your newsletter will be a success.

Wayne Jasek, Director of APAC Operations, Kentico

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Integrating Content-First and Commerce-First Approaches

July 13, 2017

By Venus Tamturk

Content Management System, ecommerce, Enterprise Content Management, kentico, uCommerce

With the release of Kentico 11 being just around the corner, Kentico announced an integration between its Enterprise Marketing Solution (EMS) and Content Management Solution (CMS) and Ucommerce, a fully featured .NET based e-commerce platform. The vendor contended that with the introduction of Kentico 11, scheduled for release in November 2017, customers will have the option to upgrade their e-commerce to Ucommerce.

During my conversation with Karol Jarkovsky, Director of Product, at the Kentico Roadshow Boston event, he actually gave our audience the early signals of this integration by saying: “The e-commerce solution will see some improvements with Kentico 11, and these improvements will be more focused on integrations. We are planning to work with market leaders in the e-commerce space on delivering the optimal solutions for those organizations that are looking for the best of both CMS and e-commerce.” Knowing Kentico EMS and Kentico CMS come with a built-in e-commerce solution, why would Kentico roll out an integration with other commerce platforms, you may ask? According to Kentico, there are always organizations which want to use standalone best-of-breed e-commerce solutions, and the vendor wants to make sure they get everything over to its customers that they need.

Following up on that conversation, I was fortunate enough to sit down, once again, with Karol Jarkovsky to discuss Kentico 11 with integration to the Ucommerce engine. Here’s what he had to say:
 

Karol explained the motivation behind this particular partnership: “We have noticed there is a gap and an opportunity in the market to deliver a B2C and B2B platform that would combine a content-first and commerce-first solution. When we met with Ucommerce, due to the way they think of the market, the way they are positioned in the market, and their vision - even things like company culture that they have, we felt the instant click so we decided to talk about this opportunity.”  He also stated that what appealed to Kentico was Ucommerce’s vision as they believe that it goes beyond proving fundamental e-commerce capabilities to optimizing sales and increasing revenue through recommendations powered by artificial intelligence technologies.

Even though Kentico’s e-commerce module is designed specifically for midsize companies in the $10M - $500M range, the platform has increasingly been capturing the attention of Fortune 500 / Global Fortune 500 companies as well.“While our native e-commerce capabilities are more than sufficient for small, medium-size, and even larger businesses, we recognized that larger corporations, particularly multinationals, have very specialized needs when it comes to e-commerce,” said Kentico CEO Petr Palas in a press release. “So rather than re-invent the wheel, we have opted to work with Ucommerce, a company that is both well-known and highly regarded in this space.” Even though Kentico’s e-commerce module is designed specifically for midsize companies in the $10M - $500M range, the platform has increasingly been capturing the attention of Fortune 500 / Global Fortune 500 companies as well.

To inquire about the synergy between the two vendors and how uCommerce will add value to Kentico’s existing e-commerce module, we also reached out to Søren Spelling Lund, Founder and CEO at Ucommerce. “I am so excited for this opportunity for both us and Kentico because with the launch of this partnership, we will bring the best of both worlds: CMS and Ecommerce,” Søren told CMS-Connected. According to him, one of the cool things about this partnership is that uCommerce is heavily focused on the e-commerce side whereas Kentico’s heavy focus is on, as Soren puts it, “what they do great” which is content management. Therefore, Søren believes that the partnership is “a perfect match".

Bringing Content-First and Commerce-First Approach Together

Now that we are clear on the fact that this integration represents a Kentico-specific solution provided by Ucommerce rather than a replacement of Kentico’s baked-in e-commerce capabilities, let’s find out what the additional values of this option are for customers.

Kentico has seen the gap between what the vendor can possibly offer at the moment and its customers’ increasing demand for larger, more specialized e-commerce capabilities. In recognition of this need, instead of saying my way or the highway, Kentico made a strategic partnership with Ucommerce to elevate its customers’ e-commerce projects through brand-new, high-end capabilities.  

Hot on the heels of the integration announcement, once again, we wanted to pick Karol Jarkovsky’s brain on Kentico 11 with integration to the Ucommerce engine and asked him what the biggest strengths for Kentico integrated with Ucommerce are. “We take a Content-first and Commerce-first approach to commerce, which means companies can take advantage of the core strengths of a full CMS and Online Marketing platform in combination with a fully-fledged commerce platform,” he told CMS-Connected. Additionally, he listed some specific capabilities that Kentico and Ucommerce together provide:

Built-in PIM capabilities - allow companies to manage and distribute products across multiple channels easily.

Highly flexible and extensible rule-based discounting engine - allow companies to create virtually any type of promotion to attract more customers and boost sales

Advanced order management integrated - allows companies to take full control over the order processing workflow (split shipments, payment processing - refund, partial payments, etc.)

Flexibility and extensibility (from B2C to B2B, from retail to kiosks with touchscreen).

We also inquired who their core clientele for this integrated commerce platform are. Karol explained: “Target segment for Kentico integrated with Ucommerce are MEB and global companies with multiple stores/brands with multichannel strategy in place, where a high level of flexibility and extensibility is required - both on commerce logic and store design, navigation, and structure.” According to Karol, the integrated platform is the right choice for businesses looking for a highly flexible, best-of-breed, multichannel e-commerce solution. When it comes to pricing, Karol stressed that Kentico Ucommerce integration requires a valid Kentico and Ucommerce license. On that note, Ucommerce price is EUR 5,999 per server per year.

Given that even the best idea can be improved upon, we also wanted to discuss with him about the areas of improvement that Kentico and Ucommerce will be addressing in the near future. “Ucommerce is a B2C platform first and foremost. Because of its extensible nature, B2B is supported as well for B2B/B2C scenarios in one, but it requires some customization to get there,” said Karol Jarkovsky. “Another area we want to improve on is digital merchant productivity. Managing huge lists of products, orders and customers every day needs a super-easy back office UI and ability to get things done quickly. At the same time, back office UI has to be flexible and extensible to fit specific needs and business workflows. All these topics are part of the upcoming Ucommerce update that helps all digital merchants to be more productive when dealing with day-to-day operations.”

My POV

Kentico’s collaboration with Ucommerce is addressing the increasing demand for being armed with a rich content management system (CMS) around a commerce engine. Besides its technical advantages for customers, from a business perspective, I see this integration as a very-well played strategic move as far as problem-solving goes because the vendor has, with all of the transparency, acknowledged the fact that some of its customers are in need for more nimble, tailored, and cutting-edge e-commerce capabilities than Kentico’s current native e-commerce module could offer, and to address those very specialized needs, it decided to give its customers an option to replace Kentico’s native E-commerce solution with the unique, Kentico-specific solution. After all, e-commerce is a laser-focus for Ucommerce. With more than 3,000 active websites running on uCommerce worldwide, more than 100 certified implementation partners and over 1,000 certified developers, the platform is widely utilized by e-commerce service providers and well-known global brands, including H.J. Heinz, BIC, British Library, Faber-Castell, Emirates, and Reebok.

To receive some market share from this unprecedentedly emerging e-commerce space, many CMS and CRM vendors are heavily investing in providing very viable e-commerce solutions either through acquisitions and strong partnership or from building the capabilities in-house. The main purpose of the partnership between Kentico and Ucommerce is smoothly integrating these two platforms together so end-users can get a unified view of content and commerce and they can manage everything from a single place without feeling the transition between the two environments.
 

VENUS TAMTURK

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.

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Better Brand Advocates: User Generated Content in the Digital Age

July 05, 2017

By Duncan Hendy, Content Strategy Manager at Kentico Software
 

Today, the reach of a truly engaged community is something no company can achieve on their own Companies that allow others to interact with their brands and advocate on their behalf not only encourage loyalthy and enable quality content creation, but also increase their reputations and grow mutual respect. In an era of crowd sourcing and funding, user-generated content (UGC) makes perfect commercial sense. Digitally perceptive consumers are happy to take guidance on what to share, yet only a small minority of brands provide any guidelines on what to write. The ability to provide guidance on what UGC the company embraces can help businesses spread their message further and let others be their mouthpiece,

(Read the conclusion of this article online by clicking the link above)

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