The Importance of Design in Developing an Effective Website

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As with many aspects of marketing, effective website development is a combination of technology and creative design. Conversion, the point where a user becomes a paying customer, requires attention to not only the technology but also a combination of creative design attributes that guide a user to making a purchasing decision. Human behavioral studies have revealed that 75 percent of website users will make a value judgement about a brand’s credibility based on design, and 94 percent of first impressions about a marketer are made based on design-related factors.

To convert shoppers into paying customers, it is critical to invest wisely in website designers who are experienced in developing an effective design. An effective design will make consumers feel welcome and comfortable, motivate them to take action and present important information concisely.

Color can play a major role in establishing a site’s personality and increase click-through rates when call-to-action buttons are red or green. The use of video can increase conversion rates significantly, and keeping all things simple and easy to find outperforms complex and overly creative. A brand’s value proposition should be front and center. Forms and templates are best when short rather than long, and requests-for-information are most successful when less rather than more is requested. Less clutter and more white space results in less consumer stress. Quality content wins out over quantity.

A recent study conducted by The Harvard Review found that trustworthiness is the biggest motivator for customers to make a purchase. Users want to feel safe, comfortable and at ease. Straightforward and easy-to-navigate signs result in users having a more positive experience, making them more likely to complete a purchase.

Goran Paunovic of Community Voice and a Forbes Agency Council member says, “In my experience, uncovering the ideal design strategy for a company begins by understanding the deeper roots of a business — its founding vision, core beliefs, user personas, differentiating factors, company goals and problems solved, to name just a few.  Designers, marketers and strategists working together can make these experiences seamless by considering the context of use and what differentiates the brand from its competition.”

“As the marketing landscape changes and consumer expectations evolve, it’s critical to remain ahead of design trends,” says Julie Gareleck, founder and CEO of Junction Creative Solutions (Junction). “Our team of experienced website professionals has designed for some of the most trusted and recognizable brands, delivering comprehensive sets of solutions to support our clients’ sales and marketing efforts. Junction has amassed a team of designers recognized as some of the top creative talent in the industry.”

To learn more about how Junction’s implementation team is as adept in building small digital projects as it is in fully-executed, customizable platforms, call 678.686.1125.

How the GDPR Implementation is Impacting Marketers’ Relationship with Consumers

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Since its passage in May 2016, the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has resulted in many companies questioning the need to comply or what the far-reaching regulation would mean to their organizations. Initially many firms failed to understand the global reach of the regulation and that they would be required to respond to the demands of the rule. The GDPR creates strict requirements on how companies who collect, maintain and market consumers’ data must handle the use of that data. The regulation, which comes with severe financial penalties and liabilities when breached, went into effect in May of this year.

Under Article 4 of the GDPR, “any consent to the processing of data must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.” Data subjects need to voluntarily submit data for processing. Consent should be guided by a clear, plain English explanation of what specific processing will be done, why its collection is necessary and who the data is shared with. If there will be multiple processes, consent is required for each. At the outset, many predicted that the sweeping regulations would be the end of marketing as it is generally practiced, particularly digital marketing, but many others believed that the new regulatory environment would simply rid the marketing landscape of poor marketing practices and less-than-honest practitioners.

While migration to the GDPR requirements have been a challenge, progress has been made for companies who recognized the importance of compliance. Now four months into the launch, major changes among marketing professionals have occurred. Previous conduct of buying email lists, pre-ticked consent boxes and convoluted terms and conditions are becoming activities of the past. So how do consumers, or subjects as they are known in the EU, feel about the new data handling regulations?

A survey commissioned by Marketing Week and performed by Toluna, indicates that 57% of people feel
that they better understand how companies are using their data, but merely 27% of respondents feel that the overall experience with brands is better. “Most people (65%) believe GDPR has made no difference at all, while 8% suggest things have actually got worse.” With more than half of the respondents indicating that the GDPR has had no impact on them it may be that many consumers do not even know about the GDPR standards and what benefits the new rules may play in their digital lives.

Perhaps it is too early to effectively measure the impact of GDPR on companies’ marketing tactics or how consumers perceive brands’ handling and use of personal data. With a proliferation of media accounts of how some major organizations have mishandled customer data and trust in the past, well entrenched attitudes prevail. The GDPR is capable of having a positive impact on the consumer/marketer relationship for those organizations that embrace the opportunity. Only time will reveal the effectiveness of the best of intentions to resolve the past bad acts of data management.

A New and Vibrant Destination for Big Business

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The winner of Yelp’s first ever Bizzie Award in 2016, Sandy Springs, Georgia (GA) is becoming accustomed to the recognition many small to mid-sized cities can only dream of achieving. Located just north of downtown Atlanta, Sandy Springs’ convenient location, business friendly environment and its generous supply of smart and energetic young professionals, is finding that it is a popular choice for another group; Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. One of three Georgia cities ranked amongst the most educated places in the United States and home to a generous number of women-owned businesses, the city is abuzz with the arrival of major Fortune 500 companies seeking a new home for their corporate headquarters.

Already the home for mega companies like Home Depot, United Parcel Service (UPS), Delta Airlines and others, the leader in luxury automobiles, Mercedes-Benz, recently established a new USA corporate headquarters in the vibrant city. Mercedes-Benz USA President and CEO Dietmar Exler said, “All the stars are aligned. Our new Atlanta headquarters marks a high point for Mercedes-Benz in the U.S. market, not just in terms of being the leading luxury brand in the U.S. for the past two years, but also in terms of this building which is designed from the inside out to enable a creative, innovative and empowered workforce more representative of a startup than a conventional corporation.” Before Mercedes-Benz relocated to the Sandy Springs/Perimeter area, the city and the state began rolling out the red carpet to help make the company’s relocation go as smoothly as possible, even renaming Barfield Road in front of the headquarters to Mercedes-Benz Drive. But the luxury auto maker isn’t the only famous employer to recently call Sandy Springs home.

Inspire Brands, the company that manages familiar restaurants Buffalo Wild Wings,  Arby’s and R Taco, has announced that it will create 1,100 jobs and invest $32M dollars in the next six years to establish its home in the business-eager community. Inspire’s Global Support Center is expected to open in 2019 and serve as the hub for the company and restaurant brands. “We have focused on creating an environment, the infrastructure and amenities to attract top talent and keep them here with unequaled access to our work and play lifestyle,” said Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul. “It is especially satisfying to watch companies like Inspire Brands thrive and grow within our community.”

Edible Arrangements, creators of the edible fresh fruit floral-like arrangements, has announced plans to relocate the company’s corporate headquarters from Wallingford, Connecticut, to Sandy Springs. Edible Arrangements opened an Atlanta office as a second headquarters in March 2018 to “take advantage of the more centralized location, access to major transportation hubs and other resources for many of the services that were previously handled out of Wallingford,” according to a company press release. The company employs roughly 130 workers and hopes to complete the move to metro Atlanta by the end of 2018. Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said Edible Arrangements’ decision shows the city is “among the nation’s most desirable locations for corporate and regional headquarters. Our deep, talented labor pool, access to world class, world reachable transportation and superb quality of life all make Sandy Springs a perfect spot for major businesses to call home.”

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) recently relocated its headquarters near the City Springs development, the new epicenter of the city.  Located adjacent to the new Performing Arts Center, the unique, vibrant, walkable City Center area is now the heart of Sandy Springs.  “Junction is exceeding our growth expectations, necessitating the opening of the new office. The site is centrally located for easy access to Buckhead, Downtown Atlanta or North Alpharetta which helps our team better position Junction to meet the demands of its growing list of clients,” said Julie Gareleck, founder and CEO. With all this expansion, the City has rebranded itself and is creating a new and vibrant community for its residents and its growing list of corporations.

Developing a Strategy of Growth for an Economic Recession

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It’s that time in the business life-cycle that comes around every eight or nine years, usually following a period of sustained economic growth. The watchdogs and self-appointed proponents of doom and gloom are beginning to crow their shrill warnings of a pending economic calamity. Even though the U.S. economy is growing at respectable rate, 75% of ultra-high net worth investors are predicting that we will experience a recession in 2020, according to a recent J.P. Morgan survey.  Earlier this year when Bill Gates was asked if he believed we were about to experience a financial crisis like the one in 2008, he said, “Yes. It is hard to say when but this is a certainty.”

His answer is consistent with all the others who find themselves in the business of predicting the economic future. In life all things are inevitable and recessions are as inevitable to economic life-cycles as death is to the cycle of life. It is one of those opportunities where, given enough time, you cannot be wrong. As usual not all the money experts are in agreement.

Anthony Collard, head of J. P. Morgan U.K. and Nordic investments, said, “Until we see clear imbalances building, and policy approaching a point where it really constrains economic activity, we lean towards a view that the cycle will continue to expand.” Saker Nusseibeh, chief executive at Hermes Investment Management is in agreement. “We do not see any indications of the U.S. economy entering anything like a possible recession. What we do see is clear indication of a stronger-than-anticipated U.S. economy.” Business leaders both large and small are well aware of how the health of their businesses can change rapidly due to fluctuations in the overall economy. Both predictions have critical implications for managing a business’s finances.

Having a strategic plan in place to deal with economic fluctuations is important for businesses in order to maintain and sustain long-term growth throughout the business life-cycles. While the alarms of pending downturns often insinuate decline in growth, many smart and prepared leaders of industry will navigate the dangers of economic recession successfully and some will even prosper. Sustaining business growth requires a strategy to retain and expand the customer base, improve upon best business practices and establish reasonable and measurable performance metrics that expand opportunities while limiting risk.

Making customers a priority, providing customers with quality service and products they desire is a marketing strategy that will lead to customer retention, particularly in a shrinking economy that motivates consumers to be more deliberate in making their purchase decisions. It’s increasingly important to develop strategies to measure the effectiveness of marketing activities and focus efforts on those campaigns that deliver.

Managing the quality and productivity of staff to produce cost savings without negatively impacting morale and effectiveness will preserve constrained budgets. Achieving more with less and cross-training employees to perform multiple organizational functions will keep structured costs in line with the current business reality and may produce significant growth opportunities for employees and the business when the economy emerges from the recession.

For more on how you can develop a strategy to emerge stronger and more competitive from the other side of recession, contact Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) at 678-686-1125.

The Technology that is Poised to Change the Way Businesses Interact with Consumers

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Chatbots, a computer program or artificial intelligence which can simulate a convincing conversation with humans, are predicted to be the latest technology to revolutionize many aspects of repetitive commercial and business functions. Typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes, including customer service or information acquisition, Chatbots are poised to impact the customer service functions of just about every business. Artificial intelligence (AI), which continues to improve and become more conversational, is predicted to replace 16 percent of American jobs associated with customer service, sales and product education by the end of the decade.  According to Forrester’s 2018 predictions on the impact of AI on sales and service, more major brands will likely phase out email in favor of real-time, customer-agent communications like Chatbots and chat. But companies are being advised to put off eliminating humans in the call center; at least for now.

Current AI deployments still lack the basic capacity for the natural language comprehension and back-office integration necessary to completely replace those friendly human voices, but rapid improvements to the technology’s performance is on its way, and while millennials find conversing with AI more desirable than humans, other generations of consumers are slow to accept the machined personalities on the other end of the conversation.

“Millennials are accustomed to giving and receiving immediate feedback,” said Imran Tariq, a lead generation expert and the founder of Webmetrix Group. “When they want help or information, they’d much rather interact with Alexa or Google than read a manual or interact with a human being who likely has to search for the information as well. Bots can provide this immediate, human like response that millennials crave.”

Chatbots are achieving more meaningful interactions with people they are helping, becoming more intelligent, taking on more complex tasks and are helping consumers and employees become more efficient. Jordi Torras, CEO and founder of Inbenta Technologies Inc., an AI vendor of natural language processing tools says, “We have seen how chat and messaging is growing even faster than email as it takes over phone calls as a customer service channel.”  Could we be approaching the end of rude and poorly trained customer service representatives?

The future is looking up as the technologies that underpin AI continue to develop. The Chatbot market is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $1.25 billion by 2025. By 2020, Gartner Research indicates that consumers will handle 85% of business interactions without a human being involved, a shocking turn of events for those in commerce who could never have envisioned computers replacing personal relationships and human interactions with consumers.

Be Responsible with Investment Dollars that Come from Playing the Funding Game

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Good news for those energetic and enthusiastic dreamers looking to embark on a journey of growing an existing business or those looking to break away from the regular paycheck world. Lending institutions are approving business financing requests at a higher rate than ever before. According to the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index™, the June 2018 loan approval percentage rose two-tenths of a percent from May’s figure of 25.9 percent, the highest since 2015. The trend credits the continued strength of the overall economy and emerging optimism among entrepreneurs for its performance, according to a National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey.

While new businesses continue to look to personal and family savings for their initial funding, a growing number of businesses are taking advantage of an expanding menu of financial sources. Angel investors, venture capitalists and online lenders are busy investing in high-growth and high-risk opportunities. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers “MoneyTree Report” indicates that the U.S. market experienced a record second quarter in 2018 for venture capital funding activity. “Times are unusually good for Main Street businesses and their lenders now,” said William Phelan, president of PayNet, Inc. “The combination of record-high credit demand and low credit risk for main street businesses signals that higher profitability is in store for commercial lenders — especially those with technology systems currently in place that can minimize costs.”

One historic constant of business financing remains the fact that starting or growing a business requires cash; lots and lots of it.  Acquiring the necessary capital to get the shelves stocked, the doors open, and enough sales to get the revenue flowing, remains the most difficult aspect of startups and the number one reason small business startups fail. Most new businesses will remain dependent upon infusions of cash for at least 12 to 18 months until revenues from business activities catch up to startup costs. Any new or expanding venture requires funding sources significant enough to sustain the operations until revenues begin to flow.

While most organizations are applying their investors’ participation responsibly, there are reports that an increasing percentage of companies are squandering what first appears to be easy money. Some are utilizing it in bad faith and spending it like it’s their own. However, seemingly easy money comes with increased responsibility and a need for additional layers of accountability to ensure that investor capital is not squandered.

“I’ve been in or around the emerging business market for nearly 20 years and I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly as it relates to funding,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO, Junction Creative Solutions (Junction).  “My advice to those start-ups who have been successfully raising money is to treat every penny as though it was your last and focus your spending on monetizing the business first.”

“The moment when you look in your bank account and see hundreds of thousands of dollars that you are in control of is a moment you never really forget. You can’t help but think about how you haven’t been paid in years, how maxed out your credit cards are, and how the hard part is over,” says G. Krista Morgan, cofounder and CEO of P2Binvestor.“We took a little time to celebrate, then poured all our resources back into building the right infrastructure and developed technology to meet demand on our investment platform. We started building out all this infrastructure to manage the client accounts we were sure would come eventually. But they didn’t. The good news is that we learned fast and started cutting back early enough to give ourselves more time to fix the problem. We took away every luxury and focused on the core of what we needed to do, which was to figure out our target market and start selling.” Krista’s advice to others experiencing the newly found cash: “Stop—breathe—and get to revenue. Spend money once you start making money.”

“Spending responsibility, while a good rule of thumb, is oft forgotten when entrepreneurs have the funding in their hands. There is no such thing as “free money” yet I see entrepreneurs wasting dollars that could fuel the company,” comments Gareleck.  “I bootstrapped the start-up on my business nearly 10 years ago.  If others could treat this funding as if it’s their own money, I think we’d see a rise in responsibly run emerging companies.”

For help on developing a strategic approach to spending investment capital wisely, contact Junction Creative Solutions at 678-686-1125.