Technology Changes Coming for Popular eCommerce Platform

For nearly 25 years, buying and selling over the internet has revolutionized the retail industry. Ecommerce, in the early years, was largely limited to B2B transactions but has grown to threaten traditional brick and mortar retailing all across the industry spectrum. Today, almost everyone in the United States has made a purchase on the internet and 80 percent of consumers have made a purchase within the last 30 days. Once considered a novel, passing threat, online sales were positioned to surpass $2 trillion dollars by the end of 2017 as consumers continue to make eCommerce a way of life. Some reports predict eCommerce will reach $4 trillion dollars by the year 2020.

The explosion of online stores has been the result of the availability of digital platforms that are easy to develop, user friendly, economical to build and efficient to operate. One such platform, Magento, became very popular among small to modest sized internet retailers when it was first introduced.  Built and developed as a flexible platform that permitted users to create stores with a variety of functions, it featured pre-made extensions that made changes or modifications easier to implement.  Unfortunately, the focus on flexibility left many users wanting options when it came to performance optimization, mobile-responsiveness and expanded administrative capabilities. Technology advancements and the demand for higher performance and increased user-friendly options spawned Magento 2.0.

Introduced in 2015, Magento 2.0 promises to address many of the short comings of its previous version.  Compared to its predecessor 2.0 will run, on average, 20 percent faster resulting in more sales and increases in website search engine optimization. The checkout process is more streamlined allowing customers to navigate quicker through the purchase decision to checkout. Additional extensions and better administrative interface help reduce time spent managing the online store. With more and more consumers utilizing their mobile devices to complete their shopping, version 2.0 has an improved look and functionality on mobile devices. Most important, Magento 2.0 promises to grow its capabilities as the online store grows.

Change is never easy, and many online retailers are reluctant to migrate from their current version to a newer version of the platform. Fear of disrupting their online business is the most common concern among retailers considering an update, but costs of maintaining older versions can soon eat away at initial apprehensions. With immediate improvements in scalability, usability, security and better consumer experience, making the move sooner rather than later may prove to be the best option. In addition, Magento has announced that they will stop supporting the 1.9 version or below in November 2018.

What does this mean?  For those eTailers on previous versions, it will require a complete redesign and development of the website to the Magento 2.0 platform. It’s not a standard upgrade. “Clients are coming to us asking when they need to move to Magento 2.0,” commented Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction. “If a client doesn’t want to 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 Magento. We encourage our clients to begin planning for the migration so that they can continue to operate the business without interruption.”

The other important consideration for the migration to Magento 2.0 is selecting a responsible partner to assist with the migration. “We have been working with Magento 2.0 since it was released. We are now starting to see firms quote outrageous prices for this conversion as they take advantage of Magento’s platform upgrade. We’ve had many clients question why our pricing is more competitive than others.  Our experience in the industry over the last 2 decades and our Magento expertise enables us to provide our clients with pricing that reflects the work required to complete their goals and objectives.”

For more information on upgrading and how Junction Creative Solutions can help you navigate to a platform designed to enhance the growth and sustainability of your online store, contact

Super Bowl Advertising: What and Who Defines a Winner?

At the beginning of each year something unique occurs in the advertising world. In an era where viewers use the latest technology to block and avoid most commercials, even the most avoidant advertisement public turns in anticipation to the Super Bowl, not just for the football but for the game’s commercials. While the action on the field remains the most attractive aspect of Super Bowl Sunday, the commercial breaks enjoy an equal share of the game’s viewer attention and anticipation. With mega numbers of fans tuning into the big championship game, broadcasters command as much as $5 million dollars for a 30-second commercial time slot. Takers line up to eagerly pay the cost to entertain the fans and, hopefully, motivate them into buying their wares. Other major sporting events, such as March Madness, the World Series and the Olympics successfully gather together millions of watchers but the business of advertising for those events pales both in cost, creativity and participation in comparison to the NFL’s Super Bowl.

At the conclusion of each year’s game, while sportscasters recount the maneuvers, plays and players on the field, marketing and media pundits pour over the commercial line-up to determine which advertiser scored the most points with viewers. The competition is intense, and with the cost to play the ad game so high, failing to make a play effectively can relegate a company to bench-sitting status. What makes a successful Super Bowl commercial? Messages and approach vary widely among marketers and, while social and political slants are a regular staple, the content and purpose of the advertisement often takes a back seat to an entertainment element. Comedy generally garners the most appreciation from viewers followed by a generous emotional pulling of the heart strings. Characterizations, animation and pets tend to do very well, but dark, preachy social messaging can hit a sour note among the usually large diverse audience. So, who scored the most points and who received the most penalty yardage in 2018?

The answer is: It depends. The Dirty Dancing ad was wildly popular for its comedic entertainment but left many viewers asking, “What are they selling?” Amazon’s “Alexa Loses Her Voice” spot was named most entertaining and best overall among marketing pros surveyed by Morning Consult for Ad Age’s first Super Bowl ranking, not just for its entertainment value but for brand effectiveness. For sci-fi fans, Sprint scored a touchdown for its “Evelyn” play call, and Budweiser got those among us who are suckers for an emotional play cheering for its “Stand by Me” performance on the field. Pringles advanced the variety of flavors ball for several first downs, and Danny DeVito’s portrayal of the Red M&M scored extra points. Pepsi, a long-time veteran of the Super Bowl advertising game, took fans down a Pepsi commercial memory lane, while Skittles turned the traditional Super Bowl advertising model in a whole different direction. At the final tick of the game clock, the chronology of the winners was to be determined by the various perceptions of the audience.

Ultimately, the winners in this advertising contest between the best teams in industry will be those who cross the finish line with increased sales, advanced brand recognition or a shinier corporate social reputation. Popularity and likability does not always translate into consumer action. If the intent is to motivate the fans in front of the video screens to make a purchase, studies show that Super Bowl ads, regardless of their cool factor, are very poor stimulators of consumer intent to purchase.

Past studies by Genesis Media have found that 90 percent of consumer game viewers do not buy products based on Super Bowl ads, and 75 percent fail to even remember the previous year’s game winning ads. Advertising Benchmark’s ABX copy test scores indicate the overall results for the 2017 Super Bowl commercials were nothing to brag about. In fact, using standard ad effectiveness criteria, last year’s ads were a disappointment, at best. Overall scores of the last 5 Super Bowls generally fall short of ad norms.

If generating a lasting effect was the Super Bowl advertisers‘ ultimate goal, the leader is Lexus, whose Super Bowl ad was a crossover with the forthcoming Marvel movie “Black Panther,” followed closely by Jeep. This according to ListenFirst Media, which calculated the change in the advertisers’ social media followings after the game, considering both the absolute gain and rise relative to the starting point.

Bowl game advertisers should note, the same $5 million dollar spend would have bought 576 million mobile impressions. Just saying.

Super Bowl Advertisement: Risk Versus Reward

With the price of a 30-second Super Bowl advertisement consistently on the rise, advertising for the Super Bowl has never been an easy decision for marketers. The decision has been complicated in recent years by the political and social protests that appear to have the NFL viewer interests showing a downward trend. Add the serious concern over players’ head injuries, the 2018 Super Bowl marketplace may not be the promising investment for advertisers that it once was. Considering that a 30-second ad costs upwards of $5 million for the 2018 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, the decision to spend potentially $10 million dollars for a Super Bowl campaign can be concerning to those charged with calculating the impact.

The falling ratings in NFL viewership this year can be traced, at least in part, to the League’s insistence on mixing political and social protest issues on the field of play. “ Average game viewership has fallen to 15 million this season, down from 16.5 million last year and the lowest since 2008, according to data compiled by RBC Capital Markets. Analyst Steven Cahall says, “The sustained decline is what worries investors about media’s willingness to offload the NFL’s monetization risk.”

The danger of insulting consumers isn’t limited to the team owners and league management. In the past, Bowl advertisers such as Nationwide, 84 Lumber, HomeAway and GoDaddy have been sharply criticized for  Super Bowl spots. A $5 million backfire can be particularly startling, even to a well-healed brand. The ultimate questions remains “is leaving a really good impression worth $166, 667 per second?”

A recent study, “Super Bowl Ads,” indicates that the value of Super Bowl ads can persist beyond the conclusion of the big game. The study, co-authored by Wesley Hartmann of Stanford University and Daniel Klapper of Humboldt University in Germany, shows that the benefits from Super Bowl ads actually persist beyond the game’s conclusion with increased sales during subsequent sporting events like the NCAA’s “March Madness,” NBA playoffs and MLB games. Further, the research finds that the gains in sales are much more substantial when the advertiser is the sole advertiser from its market category or niche in a particular event.

Klapper says, “As the exclusive beer advertiser in the Super Bowl for many years, Budweiser outperforms competitors for consumption during the Super Bowl. Our findings suggest that there may be value for advertisers to negotiate exclusive advertising rights within a category to generate greater long-term value and it may make sense for the telecaster to offer such exclusive rights at a higher price. However, even though Coke does not exhibit increased consumption during the week prior to the game despite years of advertising during it, Super Bowl ads do help sell Coke after the game, especially among sports fans.”

In addition, the study’s co-author added, “For some type of ads, there is a large social media multiplier by provoking interest and subsequent conversations on social media and mass media that could be independent of Super Bowl viewership. That is good news for advertisers as it suggests that our estimates are only a lower bound of the benefits of Super Bowl advertising.”

Regardless of the falling fortunes, Super Bowl LII is expected to draw more than 100 million viewers with 70 percent of the Nation’s televisions tuned to the event. Last year the game attracted 190.8 million social media interactions from Facebook and Twitter.

Check back after the Super Bowl to see which advertisements hit the mark!

Prepare to Take Advantage of Prevailing Trends in Marketing for 2018

At the beginning of each year, prognosticators and crystal ball enthusiasts practice the craft of forecasting coming trends in everything from the coming year’s sports champions to the price of all things necessary or extravagant. The field of marketing has its own bevy of practitioners providing perceived trends for the coming year.  Regardless of the direction taken to connect best with customers in 2018, the journey will be marked by continued advances in technology and shifting consumer acceptance and utilization of that technology.

Newspapers, magazines and other written media channels will continue to see significant erosion in influencing consumers in 2018. With the rapid advancement and consumer acceptance of digital communication technologies, hard copy collateral’s decline appears to be in a free-fall that will be difficult or improbable to stem.  The forecast for 2018 predicts another 6.8 percent decline for the embattled industry segment. However, the traditional print media are not the only marketing purveyors predicted to suffer set-back in the coming year.

As other social media outlets continue to experience growth in user base, Twitter was unable to advance the ball in 2017. Twitter sought to increase its number of users by increasing the popular 140-character limit to 280. It didn’t prove to be the key to differentiate itself among other social media leaders. Marketers are already using other social media platforms to connect with prospects in more than 140 characters. It is a trend of decline for Twitter that some predict will continue in 2018.

With more platforms incorporating big data capabilities within platform infrastructure, marketers will tap into the myriad of consumer data points in order to remain competitive. In addition, consumers are expected to continue embracing interfaces that require little or no physical inputs, such as the smart speaker.  People are interacting with these devices as part of their daily lives, using voice commands and listening to the results.  Thus, there is a substantial opportunity for marketers to communicate with them in a different way.

Additional marketing tactics predicted to be winners in 2018 include:

Influencer Marketing.  Influencer marketing is expected to remain a useful strategy. With nearly 95 percent of marketers touting it a successful strategy in 2017, brands are expected to continue utilizing influencers to connect with their customers through social media.

Apps.  The future of apps remains bright. A prediction for 2018 suggests strong growth in app utilization and capitalization.

Live Events.  Nearly 66 percent of marketers say that they will increase their participation in hosting live events in 2018. Live event hosting remains a reliable and highly effective marketing channel.

Social Media.  “Social media has undoubtedly become a critical platform for marketers,” said E.J. McGowan, vice president and managing director of Campaigner. According to a digital marketing forecast survey by Campaigner, 73 percent of digital marketers believe it was a top strategy in 2017. Using video to carry more of the message through social media is forecast to rise in the coming year. “In their easily digestible format, videos serve as an excellent way to convey a brand’s message in a creative and interactive way,” says E.J. McGowan. “As a result, social networks and other media have made it easier for individuals to consume and broadcast video. As video continues to grow at a prodigious pace, marketers must learn to adopt this disruptive technology or risk falling behind to competition.”

Augmented Reality.  Ground gains are anticipated in the utilization of augmented-reality (AR) content. As new devices like iPhone 8 and iPhone X populate and go mainstream, brands will begin to increase their exposure through AR-branded content.

In-Car Advertising.  As driverless cars begin to arrive on the roads of America in greater numbers, in-car advertising may be the new frontier in advertising.

The best marketers may be those who effectively blend multiple digital channels to engage with their customers. The trend in social media integration is to combine marketing strategies to impact a broader audience.  “The most crucial integration this year, however, is social media and email,” said McGowan. “When leveraged correctly, social media and email marketing can have a synergistic relationship for brands, with social media driving email subscriptions and emails bringing more followers to social channels. Marketers should coordinate the timing and content of posts and emails, and ensure congruent messages are being sent across all channels. Marketers can leverage these social networking sites in 2018 by crafting media campaigns that highlight the strengths of each site,” continued McGowan. “For instance, video may fare very well on Facebook; however, marketers should pivot back to text content when launching campaigns on LinkedIn.”

“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,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO& Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions. “The buzz word used to be ‘contextual’ but we reached that stage when consumers adopted smart devices.  ‘Relevance’ is going to be the buzz word for 2018.”

How are your strategies stacking up in the New Year!?

Hobart Mayfield Launches Ecommerce Store

Any fan of high school, college or professional football is well-aware of the concern many players, coaches and owners have about the rate of head and brain injuries suffered by players across all levels of the sport. Head injuries and concussions caused by contact sports are a growing epidemic, particularly among young athletes. If left unprotected, concussions can result in long-term brain damage and may even be fatal. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that concussions have doubled in the last 10 years and The American Academy of Pediatrics has revealed a two-fold increase of emergency room visits for concussions in kid’s ages 8 to 13 years old. Concussions have also risen 200 percent among teens ages 14 to 19 in the last decade.

As school athletic programs and league rules committees scramble for ways to mitigate these injuries, one innovative early stage company, Hobart Mayfield, is applying science to finding a better way for players to avoid serious head injuries. Their innovative solution is S. A. F. E. Clip, an energy absorbing connector located at connection points where the facemask attaches to the helmet. By absorbing forces of a direct impact on the face mask, S.A.F.E. Clip demonstrated a reduction in force of 24% and 28% for translational acceleration and rotational acceleration, respectively compared to the standard face mask clips.

Justin Summerville, the President and CEO of Hobart Mayfield, is an entrepreneur who follows Thomas Edison’s mantra, “there is a better way, find it.” And he and his team found a better way. They are partnering with schools to customize and fit student helmets with the impact absorbing clips. Justin says, “Because we believe that every athlete deserves the opportunity to succeed and be protected from unnecessary head injuries, we have spearheaded a program that will help provide our product to athletes all around the country.”

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) recently partnered with Hobart Mayfield to design and develop a new website to showcase the S.A.F.E. Clip and its many benefits to athletes of all ages.

“We appreciate the opportunity to work with the folks at Hobart Mayfield,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO, of Junction. “We are passionate about working with start-up companies who believe not just in the power of the technology, in this case the S. A.F.E. Clip, but also in their ability to generate a positive impact for players of all ages. We look forward to watching this company impact this industry in a big way!”

For more information on Hobary Mayfield, visit

Cost Management Group’s New Digital Presence

The Gartner Market Guide for Telecom Expense Management (TEM) Services in May 2017 reported a 45% increase in end-user enterprise enquiries concerning TEM since 2016. With IT costs rising, organizations need to more closely monitor and control the cost of technology. The report stated, “The continued growth and evolution of enterprise telecom services prompts many companies to evaluate TEM services for ongoing cost optimization and efficiencies, especially if they lack the internal resources to effectively optimize or have limited governance on telecom and IT procurement over a complex enterprise footprint.”

Being able to effectively scale solutions with the right balance of strength and agility, for enterprise-level organizations, mid-size businesses, and SMBs, is nothing new to Cost Management Group (CMG). Headquartered in Atlanta, GA since 1996, with additional offices in Virginia, North Carolina, Costa Rica and the Netherlands, CMG specializes in driving down the operating costs of its client companies by applying proprietary methods and tools, or those of its carefully chosen partners who possess a particular and uncommon expertise. CMG, as a leader in the industry, is committed to its vision, believes in its mission, and is driven by a set of core values.

When searching for a partner to assist in telling the CMG story, it was important to find an organization that shared a common set of core values and focus on quality, extraordinary attention to service and innovative solutions. Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) worked with the team at CMG to redesign its online experience that includes a wealth of content to engage prospective clients and partners.

Julie Gareleck, CEO and Managing Partner, Junction, says, “As the marketing landscape changes and consumer expectations evolve, it’s critical to remain ahead of design trends whether it is a website or a comprehensive set of solutions to support sales and marketing. We are proud to expand on our creative portfolio by working with an organization like CMG.”

Did Trends Become Reality in 2017?

Just as the green leaves of summer begin to turn color and fall from the trees, predictors of the coming year’s trends offer their insights as to how the most successful, leading companies will achieve their sales objectives in the months ahead.  Last year, Forbes cited important trends in business for 2017.   As we quickly approach the end of 2017, we wanted to see how those trend predictions materialized this year.

Reality: Subject Matter Experts Become the New Rainmakers

Once upon a time there were three sales approaches. The order taker, who called to fill a customer’s needs, the pitchman who focused efforts on remunerating product or service features and benefits to bag and ring-up the sale and the consultative sales person, the subject matter expert (SME), who approached the sale by utilizing advanced business experience and knowledge to close a deal.  Today executive B2B leadership is looking for folks that can provide experience and valuable insights to move their businesses forward.  While the days of sales representatives calling on the C-Level to get a meeting still has its venues, the future of sales lies with the SME Rainmakers.

In Process: Crowdfunding Validates New Products

The prediction that crowdfunding would replace venture capitalist (VC) in 2017, while gaining on more traditional sources of financing, appears to be encountering the learning curve.  Indiegogo CEO, David Mandelbrot says, “We’ve very focused on educating both entrepreneurs and backers of those campaigns. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s also very new.”  Early analysis of crowd funding indicates a growing popularity among real estate investors and those entrepreneurs seeking to secure asset-backed loans from accredited investors and for supplementary capital for ventures that have been successful in raising funds from traditional VCs.  While crowdfunding has become popular with start-up entrepreneurs, it doesn’t necessarily validate the success of a new product.

Reality: Sales & Content Marketing Fully Integrated

“More than just a buzzword, content marketing has become one of the most powerful tools for attracting targeted customers, building loyalty, and driving profitability,” says Veronica Stoddart, the principal of VS Content Strategies. “If done right and properly integrated within a brand, content marketing will benefit a cross-section of departments, including marketing, sales, public relations, and even customer relations.” The predictor’s crystal ball clearly scored on this one.   The emergence of this digital economy, content has become a clear driver in the sales process.

Reality: Video Becomes Essential 

The combined top three social media networks, Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube are producing 22 billion video views every day. Marketers can no longer ignore video. Video is becoming the method in which to distribute content that will resonate with a broad base of audiences.

In Process: New Collaboration Rethinking Email

Despite all the new emerging digital marketing tools, email remains a persistent survivor. While popular tools like Slack are becoming more common in the workplace, email remains to be an important communication tool.

Reality: Brick and Mortar Loses Retail Stores

We have experienced major retailers closing stores and retooling location strategy in response to consumers’ increase use of online sellers.  Those retail companies that understand the importance of customer experience will continue to excel. Brick and mortar retailers must find ways to be relevant to its customers and continue to evolve the in-store experience.

Reality: Subject Matter Experts Get Sales Support

With the push for content, thought leadership, and marketing tools, organizations are embracing a new way to structure sales and marketing departments. Silos have existed between the two.  In today’s fast-paced digital environment, integration is critical.  Subject matter experts bring knowledge and expertise that can inform sales opportunities.

In Process: Narrow Segments Capture Attention

Understanding your customer segment is critical in communicating a marketing/sales message. However, spreading the message too thin isn’t being effective. “It’s less about narrowing the focus of segments but rather focusing on those segments that are actively making purchase decisions.  The overall effectiveness of this strategy will improve, says Julie Gareleck, Founder and CEO Junction Creative Solutions.” 

In Process: Recurring Revenue

Companies will continue to shift from single, up-front payments for products to recurring revenue for a service.  In B2B and B2C, the goal is to engage a customer on a regular basis, with an ongoing need for goods or services.

Gareleck comments, “This is always going to be a conversation about value.  I don’t see the entire marketplace moving to retainer relationships as a portion of businesses are still looking for the cheapest option available or the most cost effective.”

In Process: Millennials Groomed for Leadership

Ian Altman, a B2B Integrity-based sales and growth expert predicted, “Just like past generations, millennials will emerge as the next set of managers and executives. Top performing companies will work to magnify their strengths and build systems to compensate for their perceived deficiencies.”

Organizations often lack the middle-management layer that trained young leadership to rise and grow within the organization. While Millennials are going to become 50% of the work-force in the next few years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are prepared for leadership roles.

It’s clear that there is accuracy with trends and predictions.  Some of these areas are evolving while others have reached mass adoption. It will be interested to see what forecasters predict for 2018!

Advice to Entrepreneurs: Spend Every Penny Like It’s Your Last

All new businesses share one common element regardless of the type or size of the endeavor; funding. Acquiring the necessary capital to get the shelves stocked, the doors open, and enough sales to get the cash flowing, remains the most difficult aspect of start-ups and the number one reason small businesses and startups fail. Most new business ventures take 12 to 18 months to generate enough cash flow to become financially self-reliant. While most new businesses rely on the entrepreneurs’ ability to pony up personal cash and assets, outside sources for capital are usually required. Traditional lender, investor and credit outlets are a staple of enterprise funding, but technology has made it much easier and cheaper to start a new business.

Crowd funding, the online availability of capital for emerging businesses, has become the go to location for those looking to fast-track the launch of the business. Trends in the startup and early-stage investor ecosystem continue to grow and are on track to become a major source of new business funding. The source and availability of new capital is not the only important aspect of financial challenges facing a new venture. Managing expenditures and unnecessary spending often is the major reason behind early stage failures.  Careful spending is important in any business. Music entrepreneur and guitar legend Zakk Wyldein says, “You have to pay attention, like with tours and expenses; you have to factor that all in. You want to play music for the rest of your life, you have to pay attention to all the things.”

Dedicating the bulk of spending for things that focus on attracting customers is the best capital spend to generate value and the next generation of funding; revenue. “I challenge you to achieve what you are doing with less capital,” says Mike Schroll, founder of Startup.SC.  Often a successful launch results in a euphoric mentality for those inexperienced and unaware that the most challenging time comes after the excitement of the start wears off.

Like a horse race, every entrant enters the gates with enthusiasm and confidence of a winning run, only to be tempered by the competition and the potential, ever present stumbles encountered along the way. It’s a long race, spending the winnings before you cross the finish line will result in your horse falling back in the pack and ultimately being left out of the race.

A large percentage of companies are squandering the easy cash, utilizing it in bad faith and spending it like it’s their own. 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).  “I often see smart entrepreneurs with a solid business or technology waste money on salaries and expensive business trips.  In the companies that we have consulted with, we have realized more success with those entrepreneurs who have boot-strapped the business and put their own money on the line.  There is something to be said about using your own money. It’s more difficult but there is typically less wasteful spending. My advice to those start-ups who have been successfully raising money is to treat every penny as though it was your last.  Spend the investment on monetizing the business first.”

The dark side of attracting investment is the reality that missed expectations can lead to unrest with investors. In some cases, investors can exercise their right to take ownership of your business or technology.  “If you’ve committed to investors, you have to deliver. No excuses,” comments Gareleck.  “Mistakes and missteps are a given in business.  Be responsible and take accountability for every dollar. After all, it’s their money.”

While not every entrepreneur can boot-strap the business, entrepreneurs must educate themselves on how to properly manage the investment dollars in the beginning.  It will serve as the benchmark for the future and viability of the business long-term.

Share your investment story with our network!

As Summer Heats Up, Airline Brands are Taking Heat from Customers

The spring buds had barely broken into leaf when United Airlines (UA) set into motion what is becoming a summer of brand destroying idiocies. The airline industry, not always praised for their customer centric approach to operations management, decided moving a few of their employees to another location was more important than several passengers who had paid for their passage and were boarded and preparing for departure. The flight was scheduled to depart O’Hare International Airport in Chicago for Louisville, Ky., at 5:40 p.m. but hundreds of other passengers were delayed two hours while UA flight attendants and crew members summoned some strong arms of the private law and forcibly assaulted and dragged an offending passenger off the plane.

Later into the season an IT outage at British Airways (BA) caused thousands of flights to be cancelled impacting more than 75,000 customers travel plans. Glitches and Murphy’s Law has been known to throw an unintended wrench into even the most well-executed software program before, but BA’s poor communication and resulting response was so inept that many passengers have vowed to boycott the airline.

Carmen Courchesne, a 74-year-old passenger was supposed to be flying from Massachusetts to Florida with help from JetBlue’s (JB) wheelchair assistance program when something went wrong at Logan International Airport. The grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, was left unattended at a gate in Boston for several hours before her family, who were waiting at the airport in Florida, became concerned and sought her whereabouts. Turned out many hours later she was still sitting, abandoned and unattended at Logan Airport.

These and numerous other industry-actors customer relations missteps has made the summer of 2017 a time of mind-blowing, brand busting odyssey. And if the actual incidences where not sufficient enough to anger and alienate their customers and severely injure their brand’s value, the reaction from the airlines employees and management in response to the problems left nothing on the table to cast doubt on where these airlines position their customers in their operations hierarchy. Initially, UA responded to their passenger assault by attempting to explain why overbooking flights and reallocating human resources topped passenger service when it came to the company’s bottom line. BA’s response gave a; so what, these things happen, we’ll do better next time public impression. JB’s seaming flippant response to botching their passengers with disability customer service did very little to appease the concerns for the family of the disabled grandmother, much less add value to the company’s brand or reputation.

Customers have long been told that they’re never wrong, that customer sovereignty trumps all things when it comes to making connections with a responsible marketer, even when a consumers behavior spills out of the envelop of common decency. In reality, “Customers are not always right, but they are always the customer”.

Is it possible that the answer to theses errant reactions lies at the foot of another business management mantra, “What gets measured gets done”? In today’s high-tech, data harvesting, benchmarking, number crunching world, it is becoming clear to airline consumers that airline employees’ performance evaluation matrix does not include so much of a bullet when it comes to the art and science of customer centricity. Either that, or a whole lot of company associates failed to get the memo.

Regardless of the specific reasons, the summer of the “War on the passengers” is an indication of a systematic problem, perpetuated and promoted by those at the very top of the corporate labor chain. Expectations and examples all start at the top and at the top of every subsequent management level. It then matriculates down to where the end user meets with the company’s product or service. And while no associate can completely be held accountable for the poor and despicable actions of a few consumers, each of us who make our life’s work from connecting with consumers must put the misbehavior in perspective and context of the whole of the experience. A company’s brand value and each of our personal values are ultimately on the line and on display for all to see.

The Importance of Understanding Your Customers

More than ever before, to be successful in launching or growing a business, success rests on the ability to understand consumer behavior, their needs, wants and beliefs. Customer behavior is changing almost daily as technology, advancing its influence over how consumers make their buying decisions. Fully understanding these shifts in consumer behaviors and beliefs will help you unlock fresh insights to drive your business forward. The traditional marketing and sales approach to creating “target audiences” of creating a profile based on gender, age, demographic, and geographic data alone is an approach that will cripple your ability to reach target audiences in an effective way.

Personal factors such as individual interests and opinions are influenced by demographic data such as age, gender, culture, profession and background, but psychological factors like perceptions and attitudes can play an even more important role in a consumer’s ability to process and comprehend information. Extensive social media interactions and personal relationships with family and friends is an increasingly significant influencer on customers purchasing decisions. Identifying and understanding the most critical factors and influences that affect your target audiences’ buying decision is essential to making a successful connection. How does your customer consume information and what sources do they get it from?

Just as technology has changed human behavior, entrepreneurs and business owners must adapt to the new approach to marketing and sales strategy. Consumers have unprecedented access to information from multiple and more mobile sources than ever before. The speed of change and the rapid introduction of newer technologies are impacting consumer behavior more quickly and some businesses are unable to adapt to the frenzied pace. Those who are too deliberate in recognizing and responding effectively, run the risk of being left behind in the marketplace. Brian Vellmure, in his article “How Technology Is Reshaping Human Behavior (And What You Should Do About It)” said, “As I look around, I see too many companies still wrestling with solving yesterday’s problems, woefully doing their best to survive, while the speed of technology renders their efforts irrelevant.”

Whether direct to consumer or B2B; online or brick and mortar; today’s consumers are better educated and technological savvy, and freely utilize multiple mobile devices to demand improved purchasing interactions with their product and service providers. Dave Parro, partner and vice president at Walker Sands, says, “The priority for retailers no longer lies in increasing the number of consumers who shop online, but rather improving their experience—whether it is online, in store or across different product categories,”

In order to respond to this rapid disruption to traditional purchasing processes, it is advantageous for businesses and entrepreneurs to gather important insights and perspectives  by aligning with strategic partners who understand the evolving dynamics of consumer behavior – – not just in your industry – – but across industry.  “The insights and data should drive your overarching strategy. This is critical to not only increasing awareness for your business or the product and services you provide, but also identifying those that are in the market for your products and services”, says Julie Gareleck, founder and CEO of Junction Creative Solutions.  “This can significantly impact the length of the sales cycle and can reduce costs and time spent on securing these customers.”

Are you effectively reaching your target customers?