Posts

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?

Image credit: 24Novembers / Shutterstock.com

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!

Instagram Can be a Powerful Tool in Your Marketing Arsenal

Image credit: sondem / Shutterstock.com

Launched in 2010, Instagram continues to grow at a remarkable pace. Just a little more than 7 years of age, the visual social media platform has surpassed 800 million monthly users and is not only attracting individual social conversations but is proving its worthiness to marketers looking to grow their brand’s awareness and showcase its products. With 51 percent of users indicating that they visit the site daily and 70 percent using the platform to search brands, Instagram has become a friendly, authentic method to connect with potential consumers. With ninety percent visual content, standing out in the crowd of 800 million users can be a daunting task for marketing professionals accustomed to relying on wordsmithing skills to get their message across. But the mostly wordless approach is becoming one of the most effective social media networks.

Generating increased brand awareness and building customer loyalty to drive increased sales requires a defined strategy based on consumer demographics, behaviors and identifying key motivations to purchase. “Logic persuades but feelings motivate, influencing a customer’s intention to purchase over anything else. According to a study, purely emotional campaigns were twice as likely to generate profit gains then those with a rational approach.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that great content is at the core of a great social media campaign. With Instagram, building a great message is all about building a visual narrative where limited prose reflects and validates the image. While it is tempting to fall back on the tried and true adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, it is also true that most marketers struggle to communicate in a visual medium. Success with Instagram is derived from generating engaging content. The process begins with learning as much as possible about the medium, how customers are using the platform and understanding how the competition is succeeding in the space.

Create an expansive collection of unique content around a common theme and your desired persona. Be prepared to make adjustments, but be consistent with the message. Be creative but focused and invest in visual editing tools and experienced professional skill-sets when necessary. Engage socially with users and influencers who have already built a trusting relationship with their followers to better understand what is driving them to be interested in your brand. Use memorable and engaging hashtags and be sure to include a link to your website. Invite fellow users to share your content. Don’t miss an opportunity to call for action. Establish a set of reliable metrics to measure and frequently test your efforts’ performance.

Instagram can be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal, but with all the potential benefits comes some risks. In a hyper-sensitive, socially correct landscape, creativity can often lead to misinterpretation. As with all social website platforms, care should be taken to avoid turning a positive message into a plethora of negative responses.

According to Instagram, 75% of users who see a business post take action. It is a medium that promises to continue to grow in size and effectiveness. Be prepared to adapt to changing trends.  Take advantage of new tools and features that create opportunities to interface with an ever expanding Instagram community, and resolve not to fall behind your competition.

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

Image credit: sdecoret / Shutterstock.com

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.

Finally, the Season of Profitability and Promise is Upon Us

Image credit: rawf8 / Shutterstock.com

Unlike the biggest shopping season of the year, the second busiest doesn’t enjoy the same prominence or experience the same anticipation from consumers, unless of course you are a summertime-weary parent. Back to school shopping is the second largest selling opportunity for retailers and it is expected to generate more than $82.8 billion is sales for retailers of clothing, pencils, backpacks and pencils this year. While the final results are still ringing up, consumers are off to the stores and virtual markets all across the country and the keyboard. This year more than half of parents are planning on increasing their “get them out of the house and back to school” spend.

More than 57 percent of the shopping will be at local brick and mortar stores with online sales gaining ground. This year, approximately $6.3 billion will be spent online for school supplies, clothing, and technology. With the shopping beginning in early June, marketers were eager to end up in first place, with more than 90 percent of them offering deep discounts and money saving coupons to consumers from pre-school to graduate school students.

Retailers are following performance data from 2017 and reaching out to the estimated 55 percent of parents who use smart devices to find the best deals. Experienced marketing-savvy sellers are approaching the season’s tasks through omnichannel campaigns. While nearly 55 percent of the consumers will buy early, nearly half of them will extend their buying opportunities past the start of the school opening classes. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) CEO, Matthew Shay, says he expects “a very strong season,” due to growing consumer confidence. For each of their students, parents are expected to spend $236.90 on clothing, $187.10 on electronics, $136.66 on shoes and $122.13 on school supplies. Shay went on to say, “There’s still more shopping to do, and regardless of timing, the economy is healthy and shoppers are confident and willing to spend.”

Compared to the Christmas holiday experience, retailers are backing off on their once massive spend for the back to school season. “It’s not that retailers are spending less on advertising overall,” says Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media, “or that back-to-school still isn’t an important part of their calendar. It’s just that they are not investing as heavily in dedicated back-to-school messaging.” It appears retailers are attempting get more bang for each buck during a time when consumers are already spending for clothing and other items that also relate to back to school purchases.

Overall, marketing spending is still focused on using TV and digital media first, followed by paid search. Regardless of the size and method of the campaigns, retailers are excited about entering the time of the year when they emerge from months of red ink into a period of profitability and promise.

What’s Going on in the Minds and Households of the Millennial Generation?

Image credit:
DisobeyArt / Shutterstock.com

Much has been said about Millennials, their character traits, work ethic, shopping habits, methods of communication and just about any other imaginable fundamental behavior, and not all the comments have been positive or flattering. The millennial generation usually identifies those born between 1981 and 1996. Arriving in the era of massive technological advances, they have come of age being familiar with the internet, smart digital devices, social media platforms, and all the other technology that often baffles former generations.

Millennials are extremely tech savvy, highly educated and are on the verge of becoming the largest living generation. Learning how to market effectively to them is not an option for marketers and absolutely essential to surviving in the coming decade. “We don’t think of them as special or different any more. They are the core of our business,” says Alan Jope, president of beauty and personal care at Unilever. While some marketers can at least claim a little success in cracking the millennial code, others have just given up and returned to re-focus on what worked to attract consumers in the past. Customer behavior is changing almost daily as technology advances its influence over how consumers make buying decisions.

Grouping an entire generation of people into a single marketing demographic will not work. Like all market segments, not all Millennials will respond to the same messaging and most are fed up with traditional methods of advertising. According to a study from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, millennials have filtered out advertising on social media and turned to other reference points. Titled, “Born and Raised in the Age of Technology,” the study states, “Millennials consume information when and how they want to.” A campaign of one size fits all is a likely pathway to failure. Erik Huberman, Founder & CEO of Hawke Media says, “Certainly, you’ll want to target age demographics to a certain extent, but your targeting should also be more granular. Instead, go right to the actual attributes of the real customer.”

Quality content across multiple mobile devices is essential to attracting members of this new power generation. An Animoto study has found that 80 percent of surveyed Millennials use videos to conduct research before making a purchase. Video is no longer an option for marketers looking to attract these consumers’ interest. Some 39% of Millennials post reviews of products or brands on social media outlets, and this generation is more likely to listen to and connect with people like them rather than celebrities. Over 60% of millennials would try a product suggested by a YouTuber. Social media reigns supreme.

A select group of analysts was recently impaneled by NPD, in an effort to find out what’s going on inside the minds and households of consumers born between 1981 and 1996. Their insights revealed a group of consumers markedly different from their parents. Millennials tend to be retail explorers, more interested in making memories than acquiring things. They tend to appreciate function over price and often feel less is more. They enjoy experiencing activities more then owning stuff and are inclined to be more focused on home activities. Arguably the group is recognized as being a bit more self-centered then previous generations of consumers. Matt Powell, Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor, Sports, says: “Millennials are constantly interviewing brands, meaning that a brand has to prove itself, every day. For Boomers, there were fewer shopping choices, shopping outlets, and sources of product information. For Millennials, those elements are infinite. On top of that, these elements are always available on their smartphones.”

Fully understanding these shifts in consumer behaviors and beliefs will help unlock fresh insights to drive a business forward. The traditional marketing and sales approach used to create “target audiences” based on a profile of gender, age, demographic, or geographic data alone is an approach that will cripple a business’s ability to successfully reach target audiences in an effective way.

Know This, Print Advertising is Not Dead

Image credit: zefart / Shutterstock.com

In the United States print advertising spend has fallen from $65 billion at the beginning of this century to less than $19 billion by the end of 2016. The steady decline has many suggesting that print media advertising will continue to diminish and fall to the relentless onslaught of all things digital. However, the long history of dominance of print in advertising is making the medium more resilient against the relentless attack of new communication technologies, leading many media experts to declare that in spite of the fall from high, print is not dead. Research is revealing that readers trust the printed message more than any other medium. “The old trope that print is dead is just lazy thinking,” says Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of the Association of Magazine Media.

The noise and constant clamor of digital is giving print an opportunity to live beyond the delete button and grab the reader’s attention. The rarity and uniqueness of a written, personalized message is attractive, especially to the C-level target. Luxury consumers still value tangible ad platforms, and glossy quality print collateral can still hold an audience’s attention. To be effective, print ads’ role in advertising will become one that supports the digital lead. “Print ads will be more effective if they are a complement to your digital campaigns already in play and entice readers to interact with your brand online,” says Jeannie Ruesch, of xero.com. The successful printed play will be achieved when it is fully integrated with a total campaign. At Meredith National Media Group, print revenue accounted for two-thirds of overall advertising revenue, and circulation represented 30 percent of revenue in 2017, making it the company’s second-largest revenue stream. “We see it as print and digital; not print or digital,” says Jon Werther, president.

“While digital continues to dominate multi-channel strategies, the art of print publications is not obsolete.” says Julie Gareleck, Managing Partner and CEO of Junction Creative Solutions (Junction). “Junction’s design team is rooted in graphic design with experience designing print collateral and publications for well-established Fortune 1000 Companies as well as small to mid-size business.” To be relevant, print content must be targeted and easily digestible and pass the skim test. The intent and purposefulness of the message needs to be readily identifiable to the reader and visually appealing. “If it looks like it was printed in 1978…the perception will be that the firm is still operating from 1978,” says Gareleck. All those tired, old newsletters must find their way to the burn pile.

Digital’s dominance has made consumers persistent multitaskers, dutifully monitoring our emails and text messages while navigating through daily tasks. Rarely do we give any message our full and undivided attention. Print content offers an opportunity to really focus and engage with the message. And to all those “print is dead” pundits, know this: According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers are most likely to start an online search after viewing a magazine ad.

Junction is a comprehensive partner that can assist with your print collateral needs, aligning with the overall brand goals and objectives. Contact us at 678-686-1125 to learn more about our print design capabilities!

Adobe Makes Major Acquisition to Enhance Competitive Market Position

Image credit: rvlsoft / Shutterstock.com

The recent purchase of Magento by Adobe has industry and financial pundits crowing support of the move. The $1.7 billion-dollar purchase positions Adobe to better compete with market giants like Salesforce and Oracle.  Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform originally brought to market in 2008. Its new 2.0 version was released late last year. The Magento platform is popular among small to mid-sized B2B and retail companies and the technology supports more than $155 billion in gross merchandise volume. The newest version was released with an aim to provide new ways to heighten user engagement, smoother navigation, improved conversion rates and revenue generation for store owners.

Magento 2.0 promises to address many of the shortcomings 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 mobile devices to complete their shopping, version 2.0 has an improved look and functionality on mobile devices.

Adobe Systems Inc. says the acquisition is its third biggest and is meant 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.

John Bruno, a senior analyst at Forrester, called Adobe’s purchase a fair buy and one that opens a door to a segment of the market Adobe has not served well in the past. “Coupled with really strong growth for Magento, in my opinion, it’s a good buy,” Bruno said. “What’s more, this taps into the existential question of what CRM is—it started out as a sales tool and then came to include marketing automation, customer service and now commerce.”

Magento CEO Mark Lavelle will continue to lead the Magento team as part of Adobe’s Digital Experience business. The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. While the purchase awaits regulatory approval, each company will continue to operate independently.

For more information on how this important acquisition impacts upgrading to Magento 2.0 and how Junction Creative Solutions can help you navigate to a platform designed to enhance the growth and sustainability of your online store, call 678-686-1125.

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, However in Marketing Not Just Any Color Will Do

 

Image credit: Sergey Shenderovsky / Shutterstock.com

Are you feeling a little blue? Or perhaps you are feeling you’re in the pink? Color is frequently associated with our moods and how we feel about a topic of discussion or to elaborate on the day’s experiences. While many of these associations can be explained through personal preference, learned behavior or a result of individual culture and experience, some research studies have shown a valid correlation of color to personal motivation and behavior.  An Institute for Color Research’s study found that 92.6 percent of people surveyed said that color was the most important factor when purchasing products, and consumers’ subconscious judgment about products is influenced in 62 percent to 90 percent of cases by color alone.

Some colors can attribute the impact on behavior because of the nearly universal utilization to elicit an unchallenged response. Red, for instance, is the most commanding color of attention, perhaps due to societal utilization of the color red for everything from stop signs, fire trucks and flashing emergency lights. People have been pre-disposed to recognize and react to anything displayed red. It says, “This is important, pay attention!”  Forty-two percent more signs and advertisements are read when the color red is used, and comprehension of the message is increased as well.

Color also plays a major role in product identification. Tomato ketchup apparently is preordained to be red, in part because ripened tomatoes are mostly perceived as being red. Just ask Heinz, who discovered the public’s inherent relationship of the color red and ketchup. In an effort to excite and attract a younger consumer by making ketchup available in various colors, the marketers of fifty-seven varieties soon learned of the special relationship of red to consumers; perception of the product. Can we imagine a brown-colored Pepto Bismol?  How soothing is that perception? Marketers commonly use certain colors because those colors elicit generally accepted emotions.  While many of us react differently, most of us react in a similar way to the paring of colors to products. But there are broader messaging patterns to be found in color perceptions.

Savvy marketers of digital advertising use colors to increase conversion and click-through rates on websites. By utilizing color to differentiate call-to-action buttons or links they are driving user-consumers to take actions and improve the conversation. Understanding how design and color can work together to influence and motivate consumer behavior is a key factor to effective and efficient messaging. Studies have revealed that color can often be the sole reason someone purchases a product. In one survey, 93 percent of buyers said they focus on visual appearance, and nearly 85 percent of respondents indicated that color was a primary reason in the decision to purchase.

Customers will only respond favorably and strongly to a brand if the right color is chosen to represent that brand’s personality, culture and menu of products.  In a study titled “Impact of Color in Marketing,” researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products was based on color alone.  Research has also found that predicting consumer reaction to color appropriateness in relation to the product is far more important than the individual color, and it is extremely important that new brands specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors.

The psychological impact of color on human behavior is neither an exact nor a settled science. But the impact of color on consumer perceptions and motivations is undeniable. So, while roses may be red and violets may be blue, in all things marketing not just any color will do.

To learn more on how color can influence purchasing behavior and enhance a brand’s identity, contact Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) at 678-686-1125.

Missing an Opportunity to Positively Advance the Corporate Brand

How one major retailer is botching a socially responsible message!

Image credit: Phonix_a Pk.sarote / Shutterstock.com

Social responsibility is becoming an increasingly important aspect of marketing a business in America. Consumers are commanding that small and large business adopt practices that mirror their individual concerns on the impact of company’s operational activities on the environment and other social issues. To be responsible and to attract eco-friendly consumers, retailers across the country are adopting policies that deliver on consumers’ social and environmental expectations.

As many states implement laws that regulate reusable plastic bags and containers, some retailers are getting out in front of legislative efforts and imposing new policies that align with consumer expectations. Recognizing the potential benefit to implementing eco-friendly packaging, some major retailers are voluntarily replacing reusable plastic bags and containers with biodegradable, recyclable or reusable, carry-away containers for customer purchases. Clearly market leaders believe that what is good for customers’ concern for the environment is good for business.

In May, Disney announced that it would be eliminating plastic bags and switching to reusable bags at 215 of its retail stores nationwide and, for one week, guests at its stores would receive a branded, reusable bag for free while supplies lasted. The move came as a surprise to consumers as well as other industry leaders who instituted free, environmentally responsible alternative packaging to customers. Apparently at Disney, the new policy on eco-packaging would be to require customers to pay an additional fee of 99 cents for their corporate social concerns. For loyal Disney patrons, many of whom failed to get the limited release of the memo, the display of social responsibility by the corporate giant felt more like consumer extortion, rather than an example of a corporate culture of social and environmental responsibility.

In a recent visit to a Disney Store in the Atlanta area, two loyal Disney customers approached the counter with armfuls of items to purchase. After tallying the sale, the Disney associate asked the customers if they would like to purchase a branded, reusable container bag for their numerous items. After declining the offer, the customers were told that they were welcome to carry out the items without a bag but that Disney would no longer be providing free carry-out containers, plastic or otherwise. The cashier went on to explain that management was “concerned about employees spending too much time unpacking all those boxes of plastic bags and that many of their customers were very upset over the new policy.” No kidding!

It is hard to imagine a more egregious example of engaging a new corporate policy that was meant to demonstrate a company’s positive environmental responsibility. Is the cost of Disney’s environmental responsibility being imposed, in total, on their customers? Is the real policy meant to display a corporate concern for the well-being of the environment or concern for the cost associated with employees’ efforts to unpack “all those boxes of bags?” Surely, incorporating the cost of free, branded bags could be absorbed into the cost of doing business (as the former plastic bags were) or charged-off to the marketing collateral budget. Just imagine all those “Disney” blazed bags with their long shelf life walking forever through grocery stores, big box competitors and shopping malls all around the country.

Perhaps the new policy introduction has suffered from Mr. Murphy’s law or from poor messaging, or a misunderstanding by some isolated corporate associates. Whatever the reasons for this marketing debacle the new policy cannot be seen as leading to any positive result for the corporate giant or its loyal customers.

With online purchases at an all-time high, brick and mortar retailers are being encouraged to focus marketing efforts on providing a positive and engaging shopping experience to customers. It is inarguably being predicted that their very survival depends on it. Either Disney management failed to recognize the importance of consumers’ shopping experience or they have failed to grasp the fundamentals of rolling out an important new policy that surely was designed to positively advance the Company’s brand.