Playing Games to Reengage Employees and Invigorate Customers

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“Humans have been playing games for thousands of years. Some argue that games predate culture,” said Brandon Marsala, creative director of content and strategy at Mindspace. “Knucklebone dice and painted stones were used by ancient peoples to hone skills, develop critical thinking, or just pass the time. Games are a part of us. Whether it’s competition with others or competition with ourselves, games are miniature versions of our lives: We strive to achieve — to overcome challenges.”

Marketers are learning how gamesmanship can have a positive impact on engaging and motivating customers who are continuously being bombarded with massive amounts of noise in a new digital climate. The effective application of gamification within an organization is not limited to the seller’s relationship with customers; it is finding success with employer and employee relationships as well. Whether internal or external, gamification techniques are benefiting organizations in their efforts to transform disengaged employees and reinvigorating distracted consumer audiences. “Gamification has become a go-to tactic for engaging consumers and employees alike in recent years. By applying elements of typical gaming activities such as continuation streaks, point systems and rewards to a business interface, users can feel like they’re having fun while interacting with your brand.”

Businesses looking to develop a gamification strategy need to first identify those areas within the organization that can benefit from increased sales, customer loyalty, employee retention and motivation. The overall strategy must be relevant and in line with the company’s culture and mission. Keeping the rules of the game simple, easily understood and winnable is important. “The programs need to be easy to play and winnable,” says John Kampas, CEO of Empist. “A lengthy process or extensive rules can be unappealing to participants. You must also clearly outline the details of the challenge and the reward before starting the game.” Focus the development on what works best for your organization, its mission and goals. Leverage existing assets that motivate and drive increased performance and add value to user experience.

Whether it’s a customer loyalty program, progressive purchase reward, performance incentives or personal recognition, gamification is here to stay. Business leaders are aware of the importance of retaining top talent and expanding the list of loyal consumers. The old saying “This is business, not a game” doesn’t quite ring true anymore.

To learn more on how Junction Creative Solutions can help you implement an effective gamification strategy, call us at 678-686-1125.

WordPress, a Leader in the Open Source CMS Market

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When beginning the process of developing a content management system (CMS), businesses have a number of options to choose from based on the requirements of each individual type of business. While custom designed sites are available not all businesses require the complexities and capabilities of a custom designed CMS platform. Several open source website platforms are available but WordPress accounts for thirty percent of all websites and it has a 60% share of the overall CMS market.

An open source content management system, WordPress has captured the majority share of the market by offering a platform that is free to those who are savvy enough to navigate the technical aspects of setting up their own site. While there is a cost associated with selecting a custom theme, WordPress offers many standard themes at no charge. Adding special features may require technical and creative support from a professional developer and designer in order to enhance the elastic architecture and horizontal scalability or allow for more flexibility, traffic volume variations, multiple machines or an existing infrastructure or a cloud-based system.

WordPress makes it easy to keep the site’s software up to date, a critical benefit to keeping hackers and cyber criminals from invading your site. Software and plugins can be updated automatically. Structured to be simple for search engine crawlers to navigate, WordPress also is compatible with Google’s new criteria for mobile-friendly websites. Scaling for the workload is beneficial for all types of businesses with fluctuating needs, but critical for eCommerce websites that may have seasonal or continual spikes in demand.

WordPress has established a reputation for being a widely used platform, not only for small to mid-sized companies but for larger enterprise organizations as well. Search index plugins are becoming increasingly sophisticated with features like voice search, automatic index and custom taxonomy, making WordPress an attractive method of website development for companies of all sizes.

Junction Creative Solutions’ (Junction) developers and designers are adept in utilizing the WordPress platform for smaller digital projects as well as fully-executed, customizable platforms. “Junction has built hundreds of WordPress websites for small businesses and larger enterprise organizations. WordPress allows our team to provide our clients economical, smart, attractive and executable content management systems across a broad spectrum of industries,” say Julie Gareleck, founder and CEO.

For more on how Junction’s experienced team of developers and designers can assist you in building an effective web presence, call 678-686-1125.

We Give Thanks for All the Many Blessings in Our Lives

As we prepare to celebrate another day of Thanksgiving we are reminded of past holidays and the traditions of a day set aside to give thanks for those things most valued in our lives. It’s not surprising that Thanksgiving Day elicits memories of abundant splays of food, drink and jovial comradery of family and friends. The first Thanksgiving, generally credited to have been a celebration of good harvest, took place in 1621, when English Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts shared a meal with their Native American neighbors.

Since its declaration of an official National holiday in 1939, the second to last Thursday in November is recognized as a time to reflect and express gratitude and appreciation for those many blessings we experience in our daily lives throughout the year. While the day brings a diverse array of memories and celebration for each of us, the Day’s traditions may best be expressed in a poem by Edgar Albert Guest, a 20th century, English born American poet.

Thanksgiving by Edgar Albert Guest

Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,

An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;

An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they

Are growin’ more beautiful day after day;

Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,

Buildin’ the old family circle again;

Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,

Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door

And under the old roof we gather once more

Just as we did when the youngsters were small;

Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s all.

Father’s a little bit older, but still

Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will.

Here we are back at the table again

Tellin’ our stories as women an’ men.

 

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;

Oh, but we’re grateful an’ glad to be there.

Home from the east land an’ home from the west,

Home with the folks that are dearest an’ best.

Out of the sham of the cities afar

We’ve come for a time to be just what we are.

Here we can talk of ourselves an’ be frank,

Forgettin’ position an’ station an’ rank.

 

Give me the end of the year an’ its fun

When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;

Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,

Let me sit down with the ones I love best,

Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,

See the old faces unblemished by wrong,

See the old table with all of its chairs

An’ I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers.

 

President John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” At Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) our goal is to live by our words.

In this emotionally and politically charged competitive environment, we too often forget to be kind to one another, to appreciate the diversities of our lives, to be empathetic to our individual challenges and to demonstrate our appreciation for the opportunity to share our lives with others.  “At Junction,” says Julie Gareleck, Founder and CEO, “we are thankful for our dedicated, creative and talented team of professionals who work every day of the year to bring solutions to the challenges of our clients and are greatly appreciative of the love of our family, the comradery of friends and the respect of our associates.”

Our sincerest wishes, to all, for a happy Thanksgiving Day!

The Value of Magento 2.0

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Many online retailers have been reluctant to migrate to Magento 2.0 from the previous version out of fear that the transition will interrupt the pace of their online business. Those who have delayed the migration to the new version are being encouraged to overcome their reluctance since Magento is no longer supporting the older 1.9 version of the popular ecommerce platform.

Once considered a novel passing threat, total ecommerce sales exceeded $2 trillion dollars at the end of 2017 and is predicted to reach $4 trillion dollars by the year 2020. The Magento eCommerce platform is fully equipped with a variety of features that provides merchants full control and flexibility over the design, content and functionality of online shops. The latest platform offers Mobile-friendly configuration and is packed with various extensions that can be easily incorporated to fulfill individual business requirements.

Earlier this year Adobe Systems Inc. acquired Magento as it strives to create an end-to-end system for designing digital ads, building e-commerce websites and other online customer experiences. The company is seeking to diversify from the digital media products that made it one of the world’s largest software companies.

Junction has built a core competency around Magento 2.0 and is experienced at converting existing eCommerce websites using Magento and creating new eCommerce websites that take advantage of the features and functions in Magento 2.0.

“Clients are coming to us as they need to move to Magento 2.0,” commented Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner at Junction.  “If a client doesn’t soon move to the latest platform, they run the risk of having issues that can’t be resolved. If the shopping cart breaks, there is no supported fix from the older version of Magento. We encourage our clients to proceed with the migration so that they can continue to operate the business without interruption.”

For more information on how Junction Creative Solutions’ experienced web designers and developers can craft a customized approach to upgrade your ecommerce platform, call 678-686-1125.

It’s Important to Select an Effective SEO Provider

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Now that you have a well designed and developed website, it is time to turn it on and ready your organization for a deluge of new business. If you are like most newcomers to the digital marketplace, you’re a little uncertain as to why the billions of online consumers in the vast cyber community are not beating a frantic path to your door.
The internet is not unlike a crowded public space where getting noticed by even a small targeted group of individuals is lost among the noise of the masses. The cyber world is a very, very crowded public space with vast numbers of solution providers looking for problems to solve. How is one to get the attention of even a miniscule number of the masses looking for a solution solver? Similar to the author striving to elevate their prose to the Best Sellers list by connecting with a reader audience, marketers must first get noticed, and being noticed often means gravitating your brand to the top of the most recognized digital search lists.

In order for a website to appear at a prominent position on a search engine, it must conform to the engine’s complex and proprietary algorithms. Understanding the SEO process can be convoluted and complex, requiring the expert services of an outside SEO provider. According to imFORZA, 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search. Therefore, omitting search engine optimization (SEO) from the marketing mix is simply not an option. So how do you choose an SEO professional?

According to CIO Magazine, “Today’s SEO needs to understand all of marketing at a deep level, the psychology of the human race, the specific culture to whom they’re marketing, the social media landscape, web analytics, web design and development, viral marketing, content, product, business models and more.” The process will begin by reaching out to a SEO provider who has significant interest and experience in your particular business, understands your unique selling position, can identify and locate your targeted customers and understands the goals of your website and its mission.

The successful candidate should not only have a demonstrated expertise in SEO, but should also be someone who can relate to your vision and have the ability to evoke confidence and work with you in meeting projected expectations. Be wary of those who over promise and over simplify. Successful SEO strategy takes time and constant tweaking. Optimizing the strategy and achieving and maintaining a position on the top of any list takes commitment of time and financial resources. Coordinating website design to better perform with an SEO strategy should be encouraged. Coordination between the web designer and the SEO provider will enhance your website’s performance over time.

The SEO process is a journey that requires adjustments and enhancements to its initial direction. It is often not a direct line but one that detours from a projected plot to capture the attention and participation of various market segments that ultimately make up your most productive market niche.

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), an award-winning marketing agency, realizes the importance of SEO to digital marketing. “We have long standing relationships with leading SEO providers who understand the intricacies of search engine functions and the factors that go into forming a SEO strategy focused on delivering successful connections between our clients and their customers,” says Julie Gareleck, founder and Junction CEO. “We’re experienced in coordinating a client’s total marketing journey from the design and development stage of a website to the initiation of a SEO campaign strategy.”

To learn more on how Junction can help you select the perfect SEO partner, call 678.686.1125.

The Holiday Shopping Race is On and It’s Going Into Extra Laps!

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Listen to the chatter from consumers as they peruse local shops and malls across America, and you can often hear passive disdain for how early retailers are gearing up selling efforts for the coming holiday season. Most lament “Christmas already” or “it gets earlier and earlier each passing year.” Marketers appear to be deaf to the sentiments or at best unconcerned. This year major big box marketers are moving up the holiday selling season even earlier, with many launching several weeks earlier than ever before. Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving was reserved for a massive waving of the “start your engines” green flag, but in 2018 many well-known retailers are off the starting line early in hopes of getting a head start on the competition. In this race there doesn’t appear to be any penalty for jumping the gun.

A recent study indicated that 64 percent of marketers began running holiday advertising by Halloween. Most will dump the bulk of holiday advertising spend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Nearly 95 percent will commit a significant portion of total advertising budgets by the first week in November. “Retailers don’t focus much of their holiday ad spend on last-minute shoppers, which could be a missed opportunity as it’s a pivotal time to generate brand exposure,” Nanigans said. Consumer spending  between Black Friday and the Monday after Thanksgiving will once again spike and is expected to reach $718 billion dollars, according to the National Retail Federation, a 4.8 percent increase over the same period last year. With almost half of shoppers starting their gift searching on Amazon this year, getting the brand out in front of the competition earlier is critical for major retailers wanting to increase their share of the feast.

The absence this year of a major toy retailer is changing the dynamics of shopping for those little ones around the house. “With Toys R Us out of business, all of the major retailers, including Best Buy, Amazon, Target and Walmart, are fighting for an increased share of the toy market,” said Philip Dengler of BestBlackFriday.com. “Each has already released holiday toy lists and toy books, and they will all be expanding their selection of toys this year.” Consumers will also find great deals on electronics at stores not typically known for being electronic sales leaders. “It is often possible to get better overall pricing on electronics at Kohl’s compared to Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon when taking into account the Kohl’s Cash,” Denger said.

Consumers are expected to turn out in greater numbers than ever before to eCommerce outlets for gift giving purchases. This year, finding an online retailer not offering free shipping will be like finding a drop of fresh water in a desert. It is estimated that online spending will jump $2 billion on Thanksgiving and another $2.5 billion on Cyber Monday. Consumers’ comfort with using mobile smart devices for shopping is boosting eCommerce holiday sales this year. Retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, Target and Amazon planned and initiated promotions earlier this year in an attempt to lure increased clicks.

Physical retail outlet shoppers will need to focus on a vast variety of store hours before heading out on a shopping adventure this year. Pounded by consumers in past for opening in the wee hours of the morning or on Thanksgiving Day, many brick and mortar retailers are closed this year on Thanksgiving Day or are delaying openings until later in the day. Consumers will, however, enjoy a longer holiday selling period, as the calendar has offered up an additional week in November.

Buckle-up shoppers, the race is on and it’s going into extra laps!

“What is old is new again” May Be the Most Surprising Trend in Marketing in 2019

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Believe it or not, we have once again come full circle on another year. Marketing prognosticators are polishing their crystal balls of future things to come and declaring how technology will revolutionize our channels of communication with consumers in 2019.  Last year’s predicted trends are being measured against reality, and the process is becoming akin to scoring a competitive game of sport.

As with so many games in life the results of our collective efforts to predict the future of marketing tactics and activities are never completely aligned with perfection. Shifting consumer expectations and the response to accepting new communication technologies make the playing field difficult to read and an unsuited environment for calling a perfect game. All we can really do is take stock of what is working, evaluate why some predictions failed, make necessary adjustments to the strategy for 2019 and move forward. The most successful predictions of marketing in 2018 appeared to be offered by those who envisioned a broader and less specific set of outcomes.

“While some industries have embraced the paradigm shift in how they reach, engage, and mobilize new customers, I predict that we will see even more attention and focus being placed on getting the marketing mix correct,” predicted Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions. The year’s performance appears to have been another example that absolutes and inevitabilities rarely pan out. So what appears likely to work best in 2019?

Video Marketing’s performance will continue to align with the previously predicted game plan. A Cisco forecast indicates that video will make up 85% of Internet traffic by 2020. While posts with digital images and content continue to capture a significant audience, video is generating 135% more organic reach for marketers. Once seen as an opportunity for only the most well-healed, larger players, video is becoming more economical for those smaller marketers who can benefit from projecting an emotional and appealing story. According to The Wall Street Journal, “the usage of online video has increased by 10 times between 2011 and 2016. Over the next two years, the trend has only intensified and is unlikely to slow down.”

Automating the marketing process to work more efficiently and smarter will continue to pay dividends of better understanding customers.  Scott Brinker, Founder of Chief MarTec, said, “As much amazing marketing software as there is today, there is still an opportunity for new ideas. Marketing should be — and can be — better.”  Automation will be seen as another set of marketing tools that enhances the acquisition of new customers.

Smart marketers will continue to develop an expanded inbound approach to connecting with their market segments. Content marketing, automation, social media and multichannel marketing can be coordinated to create a brand reputation that is authentic and valuable to customers. Consumers are more often placing trust in those they know. Quality, reputable content will prevail over stock ads in the coming year. If one were to bet on an absolute, a continuing utilization of inbound marketing tactics is a wise wager for 2019.

Once predicted to be rendered obsolete; direct mail, print advertising and brick and mortar sellers are showing some unexpected resilience in the digital age. Not unlike wax LP’s return to popularity among a niche market of music lovers in a world of digital recordings, old school marketing tactics are finding success with consumers who are tired of the incessant barrage of digital media noise and those who long to revisit a traditional physical shopping experience. Players on the field of brick and mortar will need to focus on creating entertaining events and an enticing experience for their target markets.

Who would have thought it: consumers like getting mail, even if it was once thought to be junk? Print advertising is not dead. While a small and much diminished portion of overall marketing spend, print is finding its rightful place in the digital world. In the field of marketing where a fast, bang, digital technology appears to arise every minute, the most surprising trend in marketing for 2019 may just be “what is old is new again.”

Prepare Your eCommerce Website for a Happy Holiday Selling Season

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Would a winning team come to the plate in the World Series expecting to win without their best equipment? The answer from most sports enthusiasts and players alike would be, “certainly not!” But retailers and sellers across the industry spectrum may be coming to the plate in the biggest game of the year woefully unprepared for a big win. The holiday season is marketers’ most important opportunity to win big or go home, yet many players are failing to adequately coordinate ecommerce outlets for victory.

This year, online sales have risen by 46% and with more than 60 percent of retailers showing inventory on their website, it is critical to be ready for all the increased holiday shopping ahead. For a website to be most effective it must be aesthetically relevant, be at the peak of its performance and timely in its content. The worst time to realize that your marketing hardware isn’t loaded properly is when you have competition within your sight. Now is the time to focus on improving the performance of your website’s existing functionality.

First and foremost, your website must be prepared to handle and respond to the increased amount of traffic that is experienced around the holiday season. With their busy schedules consumers are impatient with websites that are slow to function and deliver accurately on their commands. Studies have revealed that websites that fail to load in just three seconds produce increased bounce rates. It is time to test your server’s ability to respond to your customers’ expectations and take measures to improve the site’s performance.

Decorating brick and mortar stores for the busiest selling season is a holiday tradition. Retailers spend millions of dollars each year in an attempt to set a festive mood in hopes of encouraging shoppers to spend with them. A website should be no different. Decorating your site with the sounds and sights of the season will generate consumer interest and appeal. Offer something dynamic and unique with your content and modify it often to accommodate special events and promote shopping incentives. Utilize plug-ins that automate the processes of timely scheduling and initiating content modification. Focus on intently delivering on your promises. A gift received the day after Christmas is a memory rarely forgotten.

“In today’s world, if you’re not on mobile, you don’t exist.” More consumers look to mobile devices to research products and services before making a purchasing decision.  By 2021, it has been estimated that consumers will spend $152 billion directly on mobile phones, and over the next few years mobile phones will influence $1.4 trillion in offline sales. A strategy to align your online presence across all mobile devices is critical.

Secure your website! Loyal customers may forgive an occasional mistake or inconvenience caused by unforeseen and uncontrollable calamity, but mess up a financial transaction or mishandle consumer data and you may be forever unforgiven. The holiday selling season brings out the best in many people, but it also brings out bad actors in greater numbers who are willing to victimize your customers and your business to advance their personal gain. Ensure that all your software, plug-ins, connections and passwords are up to date, and invest in the latest versions of anti-malware as a first line of defense.

Prepare your eCommerce platform now for a happy holiday selling season!

Adaptive Risk Advisors Reveals New Online Presence

When Adaptive Risk Advisors (ARA) was formed earlier this year, co-founder Miles Parker’s goal was to create a full service company focused on providing customized insurance solutions for high net worth business owners and individuals. Specializing in Commercial Property and Casualty, Workers’ Compensation, Fleet Vehicle, Liquor Liability, Cyber, and Luxury Home and Auto insurance coverage, ARA is a full service, independent agency focused on serving clients who desire a value-added relationship, competitive insurance rates and the best policies for unsurpassed price, coverage, and service. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Adaptive Risk Advisors is strategically located to provide services to Wake, Durham, Chatham, and surrounding counties.

“We believe personal contact and service will become the cornerstone of our success,” says Parker. “Our focus is on establishing client relationships rather than on client transactions. ARA’s success will be measured by our clients choosing us because of their belief in our ability to meet or exceed their expectations of price, service, and expertise.”

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), an award-winning hybrid agency, was selected to design and develop an online experience to support the growing business.

“At Junction we share the belief that forming mutually beneficial relationships with clients is essential to business success and that honesty and trust are foundational to a company’s continued growth,” says Julie Gareleck, Junction’s Founder and CEO. “We appreciate the opportunity to be selected to work with Adaptive Risk Advisors on the launch of their website. We look forward to following their success!”

Adaptive Risk Advisors is ready to provide customized and affordable insurance solutions. Their knowledgeable, friendly staff can empathize with clients and their needs and create policies that meet or exceed their expectations. Call 984-212-8000 or visit https://adaptiveriskadvisors.com/ to learn more about Adaptive Risk Advisors.

Will Your 2019 Annual Strategic Plan Take You Where You Want to Go?

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With the booming economy, most businesses are entering the time of year when just keeping ahead of the day-to-day demands of the consumer is daunting. Just like that it’s time to start strategic planning for 2019.

For those who say they are ready to get out in front and get started on planning for next year, the news is not so good. If you haven’t already begun the planning process, you are no longer out in front. Entrepreneurs are, by nature, an optimistic lot. It is a required trait if endless obstructions and road blocks are to be overcome and success is to be achieved. The vision is important, but the euphoria that often accompanies the vision can sometimes cloud and delay the planning process. Progress, as a result, can be stymied.

It has been said that the only true absolute is change, and today’s technology is accelerating the rate of change exponentially. Anticipating a dynamic competitive environment and initiating proactive steps to position products and services to meet the pace of consumer needs is paramount to remaining relevant.  Are you ready with a strategic plan for 2019 that positions you to capitalize on emerging trends and that supports your vision?

Begin now by taking stock of this year’s successes and failures. What has worked and what has failed to meet expectations? Remember, we learn the most important lessons from our failures. Why didn’t it work? What are the options to turning a loss in 2018 to a win in the coming year? As you form a strategy for 2019, establish reasonable and measurable short and long term goals. It may be time to shed a bit of the euphoria and focus more on the mundane aspects of reality. What are your goals and what do you want your organization to achieve for 2019? Build the future on those things that have worked in the past. While some believe that if it isn’t broken, you haven’t looked hard enough, the truth lies more often than not in the adage, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Tweak it, polish-off some wear and tear, and move on.

Take some time, even if only a few minutes a day, to look outside the confines of your world. What is your most successful competitor doing? What are other industries doing that is working for them? Don’t be so quick to say “it can’t work here.” Seek out others’ input in the planning process. Not all the world’s best answers originate from inside your head. Expand on your circle of business associates and develop and broaden the diversity of professional opinion and perspectives.

Strategic planning is the first step in a progression from vision to reality. It should clearly align the organization’s focus and efforts on achieving the goal. Be committed and unwavering to the planning process and even more committed to its engagement.

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) can provide an external perspective to align your internal goals and objectives and prepare a strategy for continued growth. Contact us at 678-686-1125 for additional information regarding our strategic consulting services!