global search awards 2020

2020 Global Search Awards judge

It’s an honour to announce that I will be judging the 2020 Global Search Awards

…The Global Search Awards were created to celebrate the best in PPC, SEO and Content Marketing from across the globe (from agencies > campaigns > individuals)

Dates to pencil in:
Entry deadline – June 26th
Shortlist announcement – July 17th
Awards Ceremony – September 8th

If you’re interested in entering these awards find out more on the Search Awards site.

Global Digital Excellence Awards Judge

It’s an honour to announce that I will be judging the virtual Global Digital Excellence Awards

…a virtual awards that unites business and celebrates excellence when we need it most during these unprecedented times.

Dates to pencil in:
Entry deadline – May 29th
Shortlist announcement – June 12th
Virtual Event – June 23rd

…..Enter the Awards here.

5 Impacts of Coronavirus on Digital & Marketing

At the time of writing this article the full impact of Coronavirus is yet to be felt however it is wise to debate how society, and business specifically, will deal with the new world.

As this blog focuses on ‘Digital’ this article will focus on digital, marketing and ecommerce in a ‘post’ coronavirus world.

…To do this I have split out this post into 5 themes as to how coronavirus will impact digital, ecommerce and marketing:

1/ Recession & Organisation Strategy pivot

The economic outlook was already looking challenging and now it is likely we will be in a worse recession than the one seen in 2008/09.

After only a few weeks of Coronavirus hitting the UK; GfK consumer confidence is down, vacancy rates down, UK GDP output down, unemployment up, government gilt issuance up (debt), economic output down, etc (facts here).

Whilst we will see a bounce post us being ‘released into the wild’ (broad consumerism up, infrastructure development kickstarts, Keynesian-esque government stimulation, etc) it will be a challenging period, and the recovery will most likely look less like a ‘U’, ‘V’ or ‘W’ bust/ boom cycle and more like a Nike logo (where the start of the tick is more dramatically downward, and the start of the upward tail of the tick is more jagged due to some consumers/ sectors being in and out of government imposed confinement).

The above, coupled with uncertainty around Brexit (though I’d imagine the date of which will get put back again), will clearly result in challenges for many businesses and will result in many companies having to pivot their pre-coronavirus strategy.

I posted about a 10C Digital strategy framework previously and this for many will have to change; for example the likes of ecommerce growth and culture shift might accelerate whilst others such as product launches and wider non ROI driven digital media will likely fall away in the short-medium term. Digital marketing can absolutely help businesses thrive in a recession (examples here) though it isn’t going to be easy and only the smart and adaptable will thrive.

2/ Decline in Retail & a new Low touch world

The “Death of Retail” has been grossly exaggerated previously however I see many small and medium sized businesses (and some large organisations) without cash reserves not surviving this period that will lead to a visible impact (dearth of shops; examples here) on our high street.

A new low touch post coronavirus world will likely emerge that “will change how we eat, work, shop, exercise, manage our health, socialise and spend our free time”.

If retailers for example are not offering an experience (and one, that for some needs to be hands off such as app payment enablement or the Amazon Go model; example here) + one where you can essentially get the same products and services online then there will be a major contraction of this type of high street offline retailer and those Brands which have adapted taking market share

3/ Ecommerce enablement & engagement

Ecommerce will be turbo charged in a number of sectors as a result of coronavirus (example here)

With this ecommerce growth will come more online competition though and only those with advanced customer and engagement strategies will prosper with decent ROAS > ROI.

At present the ecommerce infrastructure isn’t right for many (degree of automation, just in time methodology paradox, drivers to deliver > CX focused path from purchase and beyond the last mile into people’s homes) and so businesses need to put in some hard yards behind the scenes to make it physically possible + to maximise ROI. Volume will both be a curse and a blessing and those that have built their infrastructure from the ground up for ecommerce will win (think Amazon and Ten Cent).

As we saw at the start of the coronavirus outbreak there was a real difference between growing and declining eCommerce categories globally (examples here) and these give a window to a world where more companies may change old ways of working/ monetisation and adopt new areas of growth e.g. micro payments, product subscriptions, products made for the 4P’s of ecommerce globally, etc

4/ Leadership, Brand & Trust

Leadership (enabling more remote working, working agile, using tools such as Slack/ Teams, etc) will help businesses survive over the coming 12 months (as we move in and out of staged confinement before a vaccine is developed & global disseminated).

Leadership will also come from those Brands who offer real humility, enabled true employee advocacy and not an onslaught of promotional emails and false advertising during the particularly tough first 6 months of the outbreak.

Those that can engage and showcase their Brand credentials (particularly around key themes such as paying their fair degree of tax, Buying British > buying local, etc) will also have a distinct advantage.

Meaningful connection with consumers and consumers voting with their feet to those who helped them/ society in the crisis and those who did not. A lot around trust and enabling it (my G.O.O.D X Trust framework is a good place to start)

With my first point around recession and the impacts this deep initial dip will cause will also result in a change of media consumption (examples here) that Brands will need to adapt to. As global advertising spend will be broadly down (though those who cut marketing during downturns see an average profit drop of -0.8% during the recovery, whereas those who increased activity saw a +4.3% increase. Facts here) businesses will need to think of innovative ways of engaging (going back to my point above around ‘enablement and engagement’) and also several businesses will as a result of reduced budgets focus on marginal gains (James Clear definition)

As much as I will espouse digital transformation (below) and exacerbated ecommerce development (above) now will also be the time to focus on marginal gains/ iterative developments of SEO, CRO, PPC, tracking & attribution, stimulating product/ service reviews to aid Trust, marketing automation, Digital > CRM improved integration, etc.

5/ Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation will be important to many over the coming months > years.

Before coronavirus truly took hold I was due to talk at an innovation leadership summit on digital transformation (it got cancelled due to coronavirus)…

Whilst it is clear digital transformation initiatives will be hit (more businesses going bust, reduced cap ex budgets, less disposable income for innovation and appetite for £failure, etc) now will be the time for integration of digital technology into all areas of your business, fundamentally changing how your business operates and delivers customer value.

Digital Transformation will be an area that will allow some businesses in the medium-long term to gain competitive advantage and win.


Nice article on post coronavirus novel economy and the 3 phases from recovery > prospering

Messy Middle

I was at a Google event today in Leeds and whilst I found several areas of interest the one that stood out to me was ‘The Messy Middle’ (note: this does not relate to the messy middle book by Scott Belsky; vaguely related though not the same)

…Google’s own research found that while brand remains important when shopping for a holiday for example it is not the defining influence.

Personal observation: The following ‘messy middle elasticity’ will differ greatly depending on areas such as degree of product differentiation, brand elasticity to target audience, etc

The Google research studied the ‘messy middle’; the elongated phase of buying between initial inspiration > purchase. This phase is sometimes overlooked as some brands focus on ‘branding’ (TV, Press, above the line) or chase sale signals much deeper into the sales/ acquisition funnel (where Google normally plays a key role with the likes of SEO, PPC, retargeting and programmatic)

The unconscious factors that were scientifically proven (sample size: 100,000) to determine why people make buying decisions are numerous and include:

Mere-Exposure effect – people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar

Social norms – views and recommendations of friends/ influencers

category heuristics and Authority Bias – help customers shortcut decision making by using industry body kitemarks or awards

Power of free – added value benefits such as free additional extras

Reciprocity – when someone gives us something, we feel compelled to give something back in return (think an email address for a % discount of the price)

Scarcity – people are motivated by the thought that they might miss out on an opportunity (flights are a perfect example of this)

(For further information check out Dr Cialdini and the Psychology of Persuasion).

For me the above really highlights about getting your ‘offer’ (4 X P’s) ‘right’ (and right means constantly CRO testing to different target segments/ inputs by the utilisation of advanced techniques such as AI and marketing automation).

UK Content Awards 2020 Judge

It’s an honour to announce that I will be judging the UK Content Awards 2020

The awards celebrate excellence in content marketing and rewards agencies and in-house teams across the UK.

Due to Covid-19 the awards ceremony has been put back to 20th October 2020 with the entry deadline extended until 31st July. For more information on entering visit the UK Content Awards site.

V.U.C.A & Digital Transformation

I attended a Digital Marketing masterclass today and there was a brief mention pertaining to V.U.C.A (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) and living in V.U.C.A times (everything from Brexit > #fakenews).

It made me think how we can embrace Digital to ‘deal with’ V.U.C.A, capitalise on opportunities, overcome the competition and maximise the value creation zone.

Digital transformation is a great way of powering areas such as communication/ marketing, production, connectivity and maximising ROI from people/processes/tech.

As Digital leaders we must embrace V.U.C.A and make this the new digital normality. Continuous agile innovation that drives organisation wide change will be key for all brands.

I studied a mini MBA on Digital Innovation last year hence for further reading please see my articles on how the 5 V’s and HINGE can provide frameworks for dealing with a VUCA world.

5 Digital & Marketing trends for 2020

Note: I’ve not missed 5G, edge computing, dark social challenges over measuring social ROI, cloud connectivity, etc however felt a need to slim the list down to the top 5 key digital and marketing trends for 2020 hence here goes….

1/ User need, CX and Context

More emphasis will be placed on understanding consumer product evaluation and the influencing factors that drive purchase decisions. Making sense of this Qualitative data coupled with Quantitative Big Data sets around engagement & purchase decisioning will then create better CRM, loyalty/ LTV, referral and conversion opportunities.

Using the example of Financial Institutions I like some insight from Accenture on next generation banking.

Here Accenture talks about The “Intelligent Multichannel” bank, the “Financial/Non-Financial Digital Ecosystem” bank and the “Socially Engaging” bank.

Digital can absolutely support these 3 models and enhancing the multichannel experience to engage customers, offering improved mobile technology to place the bank at the centre of an ecosystem that sells financial and non-financial services and then improving customer intimacy through 1-2-1 social media engagement…

2/ Influencers – Storytelling > Social Commerce

The influencers and peer groups poles of my customer and engagement cycle will become ever more important in 2020.

However whilst the likes of influencer networks such as Brandnew, famebit, magiclinks, takumi and Tribe will continue, by the end of 2020 switched on Brands will have built on these with much more trust

During 2020 there will be a rise of truly engaged micro influencers, niche communities and grass-root community campaigns and integrated native advertising whilst conversely ‘generic’ sponsored content (the likes of Outbrain & Taboola) will start to die off due to a lack of believable storytelling, engagement and ultimately sales.

Heightened Social Media engagement (particularly video, photography and genuine reviews) can truly drive engagement > sales; the likes of KLM and Easyjet with Inspire Me are good travel case studies and we will see more of this type of activity integrated into social commerce (think of the enablement from the likes of Instagram checkout and paid Pinterest pins in 2019 > seamless social commerce in 2020).

3/ Visual & Voice Search

Visual and voice search will evolve brand engagement and ecommerce; such as demonstrated by Google, Snapchat and Amazon (from the usual suspect of mobile in particular but also from the growing number of voice assistants that have infiltrated our homes). I believe Voice search and visual search (AR > image) will become much bigger during 2020>

Utilisation of Neuro Linguistic Programming & AI will also mean chatbots and creativity communication with consumers via audio and voice activated formats will also become bigger for 2020>

4/ Digital Marketing ‘traditional’ channels

Whilst social media has been a focus for many marketers in the last few years we must not forget the impact more ‘traditional’ digital channels have; in particular affiliate/aggregators, PPC, SEO, programmatic display that should in turn be underpinned by adaptive design to MVT/ CRO.

There is still great innovation in the above stalwarts and many businesses will still rely on them for micro moments that matter + to generate the lions share of sales during 2020>

Check my articles on customer lifestyle touch points and customer engagement and influence cycles for more information around the importance of these channel interplay.

5/ Consumer Data Analysis + AI & Machine Learning

From the chips/ functionality that were built throughout many phones in 2019 to enable AR > brands that are starting to adopt AR experiences to overlay over their Brand experiences (everyone from Ikea to BMW) > connected watches (Uber to health advice) > industrial innovation > Voice > The likes of AI aiding Ecommerce sales optimisation we will see advanced technology being utilised in 2020.

Data is key to businesses making better decisions about products, services, employees and more and this will be used to an even greater perspective in personalisation of channels including email, content, social media & CRO. I attended a Google event in 2019 where they were very much focusing on the age of smarter marketing being powered by AI; my big caveat here though is that you still need data analysts/ scientists + a well-integrated tech stack to make the most of AI in your organisation.

Linked with the above you will see more use of tools in areas such as Sentiment analysis e.g CriticalMentionRepustate, BrandWatch or Lexalytics to reveal what people think about your brand that can in turn enable you to tune your product offering, price tiers, sales, marketing, social media and content.

BONUS THEME: Culture and Digital Transformation

To enable true organisational change + the above businesses must first look at its beliefs, ways of working, structures, silos, and culture to see if it is set up to succeed in the Digital Transformation world of 2020> (‘Culture’ being a key part of my  10C Digital Strategy framework)

An example of an area this will be felt in will be Commerce (again featured in my 10C Digital Strategy framework) as benefits of understanding interests, behaviours and attitudes > cultural change to deliver against this commerce need online.

Areas such as growth hacking (“rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business”) will increasingly infiltrate traditional businesses leading to new ways of working (alpha > beta dev becomes standard, user testing becomes the norm, social media R&D greatly impacting new products developed for shelf, Proof of Concept initiatives impacting longer term marketing, etc).

And let’s not forget we are entering an increasingly V.U.C.A world; I will be speaking on the topic of Digital Transformation during the recessional times to come in a few months.

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