The Systems Behind the Growth of eCommerce are Evolving

Years ago, much of the Tech industry’s efforts focused on developing packaged software for business applications purchased by copy, or multiple license copies, and installed on organizations’ in-house computer systems. The process of upgrading to newer versions and updating in-house systems proved to be a disruptive process, fraught with frequent costs associated with the purchase of newer versions, and inconvenient installation down-times that generated unwelcome barriers to a company’s ability to be agile and responsive to constantly changing competitive environments. Today much of the interest and capital investment in the software industry is occurring in Software as a Service.

Software as a Service (SaaS), a software delivery model purchased through a license arrangement and accessed by the user through the web based internet cloud, promised to resolve many of the complexities of on-premise applications. Today the SaaS delivery model is the preferred method for office and messaging software, management software, virtualization, infrastructure, platform and desktop software.

Gartner projects the SaaS market will grow 19% this year following a 20% increase in 2017. New and Mature software firms are reinventing and disrupting the industry. The move to cloud-based SaaS subscription software has made software more affordable and accessible, but many of the challenges of customer usability remain.  A recent survey of over 500 business and IT executives by TrackVia revealed that a lack of customization, mobility functionality, limited integration and compatibility was having a negative effect on the growth of businesses across the spectrum of commerce.

A new generation of SaaS application platforms is taking aim at the enterprise software paradigm by promising to simplify and speed up application creation, configuration, integration and deployment for enterprise software. These new low-code platforms are predicted to grow from $3 billion today to $15 billion by 2020 according to the technology analyst firm, Forrester Research. The traditional enterprise software market is struggling to keep up with businesses’ growing demand for faster, more agile and mobile solutions.

The greatest challenge is with slow application development and deployment, too little customization, and difficult integrations with other applications. According to recent research, current software solutions still don’t address businesses’ top priorities or pain points. In fact, today’s slow and inflexible enterprise software often hold businesses back by forcing companies to change operations and processes, which negatively affects enterprise agility and growth.

“While this migration to the ‘cloud’ in the form of SaaS addressed some of the distribution and financing hurdles associated with enterprise software, it failed to fully address the more fundamental end-user challenges,” says Julie Gareleck, CEO of Junction Creative Solutions (Junction). While eCommerce is expected to reach $4 trillion by 2020, the systems behind eCommerce are evolving as users demand the ability to transact in real-time with their customers.

Junction recognized the need to provide Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions to its clients. “As online purchase behavior shifts, it’s critical to understand the purchase path. Junction invested in developing a Custom SaaS Platform that its clients are able to customize and white label as their own system,” said Gareleck. “Benefits for our clients include a cost-effective approach to an otherwise costly platform and improved time to market. Our experienced team of developers and designers is able to roll out custom solutions in 3-5 months as opposed to lengthy development cycles of 12-18 months.”

Having a partner who understand trends in technology and who has the capability and agility to modify a system to meet customer demand is critical to developing a successful SaaS strategic engagement. The fatal mistake that many entrepreneurs make is assuming that once the site is live, the work is done. The reality is that the process takes consistent, ongoing effort to ensure that the technology works as the client’s business scales.

For more information on how the Junction team is experienced and adept at building and fully implementing smart and customizable digital platforms, call 678.686.1125.

Know Where You’re Going. Not Every Road Will Get You There

Perhaps one of the most used but underutilized terms in business is strategy. Add to the word planning, and the phrase tops the chart of importance in business success. It seems so simple and is unarguably a truly great example of common sense. Knowing where you want to go, mapping out a route and preparing to overcome the inevitable obstructions that may impede your progress along the way, seems like a true “no-brainer.” Having a clear vision is critical to starting and growing a business and while many celebrate the importance of the visionary in the start-up process, developing a clear and concise strategic plan to map the road to business growth and sustainability is often the most under-engaged promise. The fact that 50 percent of all new business ventures fail within the first three to five years is a testament of many of those businesses adhering to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland fantasy strategy: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

“While most business owners agree that strategic planning can provide a roadmap to drive their business growth, long-term survival and profitability, many fail to devote the necessary time, energy and resources to do it right, if at all.” Taking the time and making the investment to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for success involves establishing your value proposition; identifying and focusing on a market of customers; establishing a mission; setting forth a goal; enumerating your objectives; engaging the plan of action; measuring its progress and adjusting the plan along the way to address changes to original assumptions.

In this fast paced, technology driven world of commerce, competition is agile and refined, and the marketplace dynamic. While change has always been inevitable, today change is occurring at warp speed. Staying focused and tuned into the competitive environment is critical to survival and sustainability. Look to your competition to define what they are doing right, emulate their most successful actions and focus your strengths on doing those things your competition is unable or unwilling to do to meet the expectations of a new tech savvy consumer. The more specific the plan, the more likely it will be successful.

Many new ventures freely invest in infrastructure and tools of production. Far too few invest in the human talent necessary to meet the demands of growth. Some organizations fail to hire qualified employees to connect directly with their customers. The strategy should be to acquire people who are motivated and inspired to share the organization’s vision and who are dedicated to follow the path to accomplishment. Imagine if a restaurant were to purchase top of the line equipment but hesitate to effectively invest in the culinary and hospitality talent needed to produce an appetizing experience for customers. Don’t go cheap on attracting and inspiring the talent necessary to transition your vision into a reality.

A strategic plan should be a living, well-worn document. Its focus should be on where you want the business to be over time. Establish short term benchmarks of progress every 12 months to 24 months and long term, five year goals.  Be proactive; evaluate the strategies’ effectiveness over time. Support those efforts that are working and abandon those that fall short. Anticipate the failures, they are inevitable. Expecting them will make it easier to offset the negative impact they have on achieving the vision. Be mindful that there are forces in the business world that are beyond our control that may derail even the most insightful plan. Don’t overreact and make major changes based on any one day, month or quarter of events. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Never forget that the competition is always watching your progress and maneuvering to obstruct your mission.

In a recent Inc. Magazine/Kauffman Foundation study, researchers found that five to eight years after appearing on the list, roughly two-thirds of the companies that made the Inc. 5000 list had shrunk in size, gone out of business, or been disadvantageously sold. Resolve not to be one of them.

To learn more about preparing a strategy that seeks to innovate product offerings and processes and take advantage of new opportunities to grow and sustain viability, profitability and long term growth, contact the experienced team of business development specialists at Junction Creative Solutions at 678.686.1125.

Wasting the Opportunity to Connect the Brand with the Consumer

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the only trouble is, I don’t know which half,” said John Wanamaker, the turn of the 20th century American merchant, proponent of advertising and pioneer in marketing. More than a century later his words still ring true in the minds of every marketer who privately wonder whether the now huge sums of capital invested in advertising drive purchasers or profit to their organization. Certainly if he were alive today, Mr. Wanamaker would be dismayed that his estimation of half wasted advertising dollars would, in fact, be woefully understated.

A study by Ehrenberg Bass suggests that around 86% of all ads are either ignored completely or, if noticed, unconnected to the brand sponsoring the message. The data predicts that almost nine out of ten ads are, literally, a waste of money. It has to be shocking news to those who create, produce and pay for the entertaining and much touted advertising campaigns that can cost millions of dollars to air during major sporting events. Even though a 30 second spot on the 2018 Super Bowl Game commanded a cool $5 million, it has been found that 64 percent of viewers were unable to connect the most memorable ad to the brand. Communicus, the consultancy responsible for the data, indicated they also found that less than 20 percent of Super Bowl ads had any impact on consumer brand selection.

Jerry Thomas, author of “Advertising Effectiveness” a White Paper published by Decision Analyst, said, “In our experience, only about half of all commercials actually work; that is, have any positive effects on consumers’ purchasing behavior or brand choice. Moreover, a small share of ads actually appears to have negative effects on sales.” Clearly, little has changed since John Wanamaker first uttered his doubts about the effectiveness of his advertising efforts. So, why is so little being realized from such major investments of time, talent and dollars?

“Too many companies create advertising and marketing material that passes the target consumer by because it literally does not look like it comes from the brand. Constantly changing creative, overly clever executions, arrogant agencies trying to stamp their signature across the work – everything adds up to ensure that most advertising is a constantly changing carousel of confusion that is usually ignored by the customer,“ says Professor and Marketing Week author Mark Ritson.

Entertaining, well produced television advertising has been around for as long as the medium itself. For those old enough to remember television without color and surround sound, “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh what a relief it is” brings back memories of the little character with the funny tablet hat, if not the promised relief. Declarations like “Where’s the Beef” and a hundred-member strong, world chorus singing praises of peace and harmony from the hill top are some examples of timeless brand advertisements elevated to iconic status among their creators and sponsors. Can you connect these ads to their brands?

We live and operate our businesses in a new, consumer run world where social media dominates the conveyance of messages. Entertainment is not enough anymore and sporty jingles and comedic skits no longer work. It is a time for story-telling and a time when consumers expect brands to demonstrate social consciousness and not just spout product or service features and benefits. It’s about having a shared conversation about consumers’ values and how they connect to the brand. Brands must project themselves as socially responsible. However, crude and disrespectful attempts to tie advertising to popular social actions can backfire.

Pepsi’s recent attempt to increase soda sales by co-opting a popular social justice movement resulted in embarrassment and failure, and equating the importance of selling trucks with the historic message of an iconic figure resulted in this year’s biggest Super Bowl advertising debacle. Perhaps the best way to market a brand through a cause is via event sponsorship.

In this dynamic, multi-channel world of advertising, connecting with customers is more about the quality of the brand’s message and the conversation, not about changing the world.

Junction’s Sales Automation Platform Can Streamline Your Sales Cycle

Sales automation is fast becoming a critical need in today’s hyper-competitive business environment. The process of managing sales efforts has long been fraught with challenges. Identifying premium sales targets, making a meaningful connection with the individuals who yield the most significant buying influence, presenting the pitch and closing the sale has always been a time-consuming process that routinely failed to produce optimum results.

Technology is providing a unique opportunity for companies to streamline and economize the sales process while increasing the quality and productivity of the overall sales and marketing effort. An integrated, customizable software platform, sales automation provides a set of tools designed to generate leads in target markets, track customer interactions and measure the success of the overall sales cycle. To achieve success, it’s critical to align all marketing and sales initiatives, whether traditional or digital, reaching target audiences where they are looking for information. “Junction Creative Solutions’ (Junction) Sales Automation Solution is a proprietary solution designed to automate sales prospecting utilizing social media platforms. Within the solution, we execute sales campaigns to view, visit, connect, and engage potential sales prospects with the intent on setting qualified meetings with these prospects,” says Julie Gareleck, Junction Founder and CEO.

Initiation to Junction’s Sales Automation process begins with a strategy workshop where key stakeholders meet to discuss: Mission, Vision, Goals, Stakeholder Insights, Target Audiences, Existing Sales Metrics and Initiatives, Performance History, Future Performance Metrics, Content, Milestones, Time Line, and Tactics. Junction’s experienced team will audit the client’s content inventory to identify critical opportunities and content gaps with the intent on developing additional content assets if needed to support sales automation efforts.

Customized databases, based on the requirements for each identified target audience, are utilized to design, develop and execute a singularly focused campaign. Based on the Content Audit, Junction will develop custom content for each stakeholder campaign in the Sales Automation Platform.

Junction conducts periodic testing prior to the launch of each campaign to insure accuracy and compliance to Junction’s strict quality standards and the client’s goals and objectives.  Inclusion of an optional, third-party application that syncs with the client’s calendar and allows prospects to schedule meetings directly with the client is available. Regularly scheduled meetings follow each engagement to review campaign performance and metrics.

“Since launching its Sales Automation Solution, Junction has worked with various companies across industry verticals to improve visibility in the professional marketplace, drive lead generation, and increase qualified business opportunities,” says Gareleck.

“As the sales and marketing landscape changes and consumer expectations evolve, it’s critical to remain ahead of trends,” concluded Gareleck. “Regardless of industry, Junction can provide a comprehensive set of automation solutions to improve and optimize a company’s sales and marketing efforts.”

For more information on how Junction is specifically suited to help optimize your sales and marketing processes, contact info@junction-creative.com or call 678.686.1125.

Leveraging Technology to Support Faith-Based Marketing

There was a time when people’s lives revolved largely around local community churches. Members attended regularly, gave faithfully, invited guests enthusiastically, and supported the church’s efforts however possible. The church provided a sense of community and valuable relationships. While there is still an innate need for community, modern lifestyles make it difficult for today’s faith-based organizations to meet it. Traditional marketing strategies that worked in the past are no longer relevant.

As technology dominates the business world, churches are recognizing the need to leverage it to support marketing initiatives and increase results. While this may seem daunting and out of reach for some churches, the starting point is as simple and familiar as the website.

Creating a dynamic church website designed to attract, energize, and mobilize people provides a natural pathway for building community,” says Julie Gareleck, CEO and Managing Partner for Junction Creative Solutions. “The website is often the first impression a potential member will have with the organization.”

In order to reach new people, the content, both digital and written, must be dynamic and should target multiple audiences with messages written to speak to each of them. For example, a mother of an elementary school aged child will have different needs when looking for a new church than a teenager searching for a youth group. Social media integration extends outreach possibilities even further enabling people to not only follow a church, but also share recent posts across multiple platforms and devices. Tweetable quotes and links, and digital images can be placed on landing pages making it easy for people to share messages. Live streaming sermons allows people who can’t attend in person to experience the service by simply clicking a button or tab. Other beneficial digital solutions include videos of past messages and events, podcasts, and online Bible studies. Imagine the impact a mobilized congregation could have on an outreach or giving campaign simply by sharing information with people they know!

E-commerce technology has also made its way to faith-based organizations enabling the growth of giving options. Recent charitable giving statistics posted by NP Resource show that online giving growth has been consistent for the past five years and 49 percent of all church giving transactions are made with a credit card. Online credit card processing streamlines the process making it possible for people to give more and give remotely.

As with most non-profit groups, marketing decisions are made carefully with little room for trial and error. With new technology emerging daily, it can be overwhelming for churches to identify the best strategy for their efforts. “We developed a proven, collaborative approach that allows both state level and subsidiary organizations to optimize marketing spend while providing innovative digital solutions that will have an impact on its member base,” comments Gareleck.

If your organization is looking for innovative solutions to improve engagement, increase giving opportunities, and engage members, contact us to learn more about our packaged solution at info@junction-creative.com.