Shortlisted in the Investors in People Awards 2021

We are extremely pleased to announce that we have made the final shortlist for UK Employer of the Year – Platinum in The Investors in People Awards 2021. In a record-breaking year for entries, with nearly three hundred organisations involved, this is an outstanding achievement and one that everyone in the business is proud of.

The Investors in People Awards celebrate the very best organisations and individuals from around the world across various organisational, people, wellbeing and leadership categories. Each year hundreds of organisations from the UK and abroad battle it out to take home one of the sought after trophies to show their award-winning commitment to investing in their people.

Amanda Brooke, Managing Director, said:

It is a privilege to be shortlisted for this award; a clear indication of the dedication and hard work the team has invested in the business. We are passionate about developing our team to help us deliver our business aspirations, they are pivotal to our continued success.

Paul Devoy, CEO of Investors in People, commented:

Now in our 8th year, it always makes me feel immensely proud to see so many fantastic organisations staking their claim to be the best. And every year, the entries do get more and more competitive and the judging even tighter. Reaching the final shortlist is a testament to the amazing commitment these organisations are making to make work better for their people, and they truly deserve this recognition.

The e-commerce era: is UK retail dead?

2018 wasn’t the best year for the UK high street with the demise of many household names such as The House of Fraser, HMV, Maplin, Toys’R’Us, Poundworld and many more.

In fact the Centre for Retail Research stated that 148,132 UK retail jobs were lost as approximately 20,000 shops and restaurants closed their doors. And 2019 isn’t looking much more promising for the UK retail sector as in January we are already seeing the likes of Patisserie Valerie, OddBins and Wine Cellars, Chapelle Jewellery & Watches and Hardy Amies to name but a few, going into administration.

Watch the news or take a walk down one of the many ailing high streets in the UK and you may sense a feeling of apocalyptic doom. Boarded up windows, signs proclaiming ‘closing down sale’, there’s a distinct feel of tumbleweed rolling through ghost towns of once prosperous high street shops. The finger of blame has swung in many directions – Brexit, online shopping, extortionate car park charges, the tightening of purse-strings, a result of years of post-recession austerity, lack of customer service…. even the weather! It is certain that many factors have influenced the decline of high street retail sales. Digital and particularly mobile, has had a massive impact – the growth that online sales has experienced over the last decade, for example with the domination of e commerce giants such as Amazon and ASOS, has undoubtedly played a major part in the decline of UK retail.

Many retail sector CEOs have outwardly blamed the demise of their company as being completely due to competition from cheaper online rivals. However, the reality of the situation is a little more complex than this. Undoubtedly online retailers do not have the overheads associated with a physical high street presence (especially a retail company with multiple site locations). But, they still have the the expense of complex logistics such as supply chain and delivery costs, and the cost of fighting in the battlefield that is online marketing where you always need to be one step ahead of the game to survive. Couple this with the fact that statistics show that consumer spending has grown consistently since 2011, and this positioning is beginning to look rather like a poor excuse. It seems that each retail chain that goes out of business trots out this excuse in a ‘cut and paste’ format, when in fact a large part of the problem is that high street retailers are reluctant to change with the times and adapt to consumer buying habits.

The time to adapt is now!

Without doubt, changes in buying behaviour were a direct result of innovation and disruption by online retailers. As some people have become more at ease with online purchases, others still prefered having the ability to physically touch, taste, smell and see a product before purchasing. In fact the average consumer doesn’t necessarily ‘favor’ digital over physically shopping in store, or vice versa.

Therefore it could be thought that ultimately online retailers would lose out to their high-street competitors, despite the fact that in many cases they can offer products at lower prices. However, this hasn’t been the case and a pattern has emerged amongst the larger retailers/retail groups that have gone out of business – that pattern is a lack of focus on digital growth, and a lack of adaptation.

So how can high street retailers begin to fight back against the surging popularity of e-commerce and m-commerce? In order to fully benefit and survive in this digital age retailers must fully embrace technological change and offer a seamless customer experience.

Ecommerce infographic

Spearheading this seamless customer experience is Omnichannel retail which is predicted to be on the rise in 2019. This is basically a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether that be shopping online, by telephone, mobile applications or the bricks and mortar of a high street store. Omnichannel has now superseded multichannel as it allows companies to engage more closely and more effectively with customers so engendering brand loyalty. It is also widely held that customers prefer the opportunity to engage with a retailer through several avenues at the same time for a more complete experience.

With the rise in omnichannel retailing, high street locations will take on important roles in terms of showcasing products, shipping, customer services and promotions. In a survey by ConnectPOS, 82% of UK customers said that they preferred to buy expensive/luxury items from an actual high street store as opposed to from a web store. The reason being that they felt more secure being able to actually see and handle the goods that they were purchasing. So it would seem that in 2019 and beyond we will see a new role emerging for high street stores in these more specialist sectors where customer experience is paramount.

Alongside the emergence of e-commerce it must also be remembered that customer demographics have also changed. The online environment is a natural habitat for today’s 20 to 30 year old shoppers who have grown up immersed in the digital era of social networking and online content. These ‘millennials’ now have spending power and disposable income, so naturally they look towards the internet as the place to spend it but they also value user experience (UX).

Many millenials don’t have the spending commitments that come with having a family to support children, and in fact many have completely different money priorities. For example, the rising cost of house prices outstripping pay increases means that many millennials are giving up on owning a home. They do not want to be tied down to financial restrictions that saving for a mortgage deposit brings so giving them more spare money.

With this greater spending power, it would be thought that high street retailers would be doing all they could to attract the wallets of this demographic. However looking at some of the major high street retail chains that have gone into administration recently, it seems that quite a few have completely failed to understand this demographic. Online retailers don’t just appeal to millennials as consumers but many have also actively embraced them as part of their workforce which is a great way to get a better insight of what makes this group tick.

Those high street retailers who have been quick to embrace trends, invest in websites and digital assets to make the customer experience as easy as possible, are those who are currently doing well. For example retailers such as John Lewis, Next and Currys PC World, have developed strong online presences, integrating the online buying experience with the physical shopping experience using “Click and Collect” and in-store returns, and effective targeted marketing aimed at these younger generations.

With so much more choice for customers now, a vital factor is who can give their customers the ‘best’ experience. With greater choice comes increased customer awareness of alternatives to your product, and while price is obviously a pretty major factor, it’s now not the be-all and end-all.

With products such as clothes, cosmetics, shoes etc., which you would expect the high street to steal the march on, online retailers have made huge strides toward removing the associated purchasing ‘pain points’. Many have invested heavily in ensuring that their delivery process is quick, reliable, and transparent and that their returns process is as easy as possible. For example, Amazon Prime offers one day delivery on many items and now has over 100 million subscribers. What sets these types of online businesses apart from their high street counterparts is their ability to:

They have used e-commerce to build customer loyalty programmes and referral incentives and have focused on creating a story around their brand. Turning the simple process of a customer receiving their order into an complete user experience. In order for high street retailers to survive this ability to quickly identify threats and capitalise on opportunities will become even more crucial as e-commerce grows even bigger.

Keeping mobile

A phone with a shopping cart icon

As discussed, 2019 is all about user experience. One of the key trends that will be driving UX in the retail sector is the use of mobile apps, and high street retailers need to embrace their use as much as their online counterparts.

Mobile Apps have been shown to be far more effective than messaging and emails in promoting offers, upselling, building brand allegiance etc. They can also be used to create a personalised customer experience and are an excellent way to glean data for CRM and consumer insights.

According to a recent report by mobile analytics consultant App Annie, in 2018 the average mobile user spent three hours a day on mobile devices, there were 194 billion apps worldwide, and the amount of time spent on mobile shopping apps increased by 60% to 18 billion hours. In fact in the UK, consumer spending via mobiles grew at a faster rate than overall GDP.

The report by App Annie also revealed that apps from digital-first (e-commerce) retailers generated 1.5 to 3 times more average sessions per user than apps from bricks-and-clicks (high street) retailers. However, in 2018 many bricks-and-clicks retailers have made great headway in closing this gap. For example, sports brand Nike has developed its mobile app to leverage UX with innovative and engaging options for in-store experiences such as accessing rewards, reserving sizes in-store, and receiving assistance from an in-store employee if needed.

To date digital-first retailers have generally done a better job of targeting and catering for the needs of mobile/digital shoppers than their high street counterparts. However, many bricks-and-clicks retailers are now beginning to embrace mobile’s transformative power – through m-commerce and enhanced in-store experiences — to grow their top line and to rise to the challenge of 2019 being the year of customer experience. Those that do not embrace this will simply drop by the wayside.

So is the UK retail sector dying a death at the hands of e-commerce?

No matter how much we may imagine a time where we live in a purely digital world this is highly unlikely. The reason being human nature, despite having access to digital services that mean that we never actually need to leave our homes, as humans, we naturally feel the need to exist in a real physical world, to go outside and to interact. This inert human need means that whilst it may be currently ailing, the UK high street retail sector will never die.

Whilst we now live in a world that is online-first, this doesn’t mean that we are online-only, all that is happening is that the balance is shifting to be online first and offline second. This means that the bricks and mortar high street stores will still have a crucial role to play in the strategies of multi-channel retailers, for example, a physical store presence still has a huge impact on brand reputation. When consumers have a positive experience of interacting with a brand in the ‘real’ world, their trust in that brand increases. People like the reassurance that they get from knowing that the products they are buying exist outside of their mobile/tablet/laptop screen. Therefore the new primary role of the successful high street store will be to provide support to online sales through UX meaning that offline sales will become a secondary income stream.

For 2019 and beyond experts predict that high street retail stores are no longer going to be the money-spinners they once were. However, they will still have a place offering great value to consumers in terms of brand interaction and UX touch points. Plus they will provide access to customer information that businesses would be unable to glean purely from looking at online behavioural data. This is of course with the proviso that they adapt and embrace digital technology.
So to summarise, whilst the high street retail sector may be down on its luck it is simply that, down but NOT out! And by a very weird twist of fate it is looking like e-commerce could well be going to save the beast of high street retail that it once looked like it was set to slain.

How to choose the right agency for your business

In an ever expanding and busy marketplace that is in a constant state of flux, knowing how to choose the right agency can be a difficult decision and one that could easily result in a convoluted process costing you both time and money.

To avoid the pitfalls and make the best decision, it is well worth an investment of time to consider and research the following key areas when choosing the right agency for your business:

In an ever expanding and busy marketplace that is in a constant state of flux, knowing how to choose the right agency can be a difficult decision and one that could easily result in a convoluted process costing you both time and money.

To avoid the pitfalls and make the best decision, it is well worth an investment of time to consider and research the following key areas when choosing the right agency for your business:

Relevant Experience

Most digital marketing agencies will provide some information on relevant experience. They are, after all, in the industry. It is crucial, however, that you research the experience they have in your desired area; whether this be design, ecommerce, WordPress, Magento, SEO and so on. You want assurance that they are experts within that field.

Not everyone is clear in the first place what they are looking for. For example, you might know you want a website, but you would not necessarily know a Joomla site from a WordPress site. It is worthwhile taking the time to look at not only their relevant experience in your desired area, but what they can offer overall. A digital marketing agency with an integrated approach will be experts in a range of solutions, not just one.

Values & Messaging

We all want to work with people and organisations who have integrity and do what they say they are going to do. A way to check this before you start working with a company is to embark on a little research beforehand to see what they say about their values and messaging. This will give you a good indication of the company you are dealing with.

Innovation

A good digital marketing agency blends technology with design to create innovative solutions. You want to be sure they are strong and creative innovators. Check their website, team pages and client recommendations.

Key Decision Makers

This is often overlooked because when choosing the right agency much of the onus is put on ‘them’, rather than, ‘us’. As you know, communication is key in business and definitely an area worth determining at the outset.

Location, Location, Location

In a nutshell, it does not matter. Just because you are based in one part of the country does not mean you have to use agencies only in your local area. Looking nationally (or internationally in some cases) can benefit you and your business.

Expectation

Before you start, be clear on your expectations and those areas you are not willing to negotiate upon; whether that’s cost, delivery timescales or content. Once again communication is key to ensure that the agency can deliver what you need and are happy to meet your expectations. Discuss with the people delivering the work as well as the sales team.

See how ExtraMile Communications perform Quality Assurance testing for your business’s marketing materials.

How to protect your website from hackers and viruses

Nearly half of all businesses in the UK reported cyber attacks or breaches in the last 12 months, with that figure rising to seven in ten for large businesses. With social media giants Facebook, the NHS and even governments falling victim to hackers, the question might not be if your website will be hacked, but when.

Hacking in the News

Hacking attempts, successful or not, feature more and more in our everyday news. High-profile hacks have been blamed for data breaches, digital vandalism and even vote rigging. Here are some of the most prominent news stories in recent years.

Facebook

In September 2018, 50 million Facebook accounts were compromised in what is thought to be the company’s biggest security breach to date. Attackers used three flaws in the system’s software to gain access to user accounts, exposing customer information and also potentially affecting third-party accounts. The source and purpose of the hack are still being investigated.

NHS

The NHS was one of the thousands of organisations affected by what has been described as ‘the biggest ransomware outbreak in history’, in May 2017. Thousands of companies in nearly 100 countries were infected with malicious software demanding payment for access to critical records. NHS trusts and services were forced to cancel appointments and operations. With staff reduced to using pen and paper to record information and no access to essential medical histories. With a crippled health service potentially costing lives, the NHS and the government faced questions over why systems were left so vulnerable to attack.

Yahoo

Three billion Yahoo user accounts were affected as part of the largest data breach in history, in August 2013. The scope of the damage has only recently been revealed, the figure having tripled from previous estimates. With a huge loss in value, resignations and a number of lawsuits against them, the company has suffered greatly as a result of the attack.

Some other big names

The names and the numbers are almost never-ending – here are some you might recognise: Equifax, eBay, Sony PlayStation Network, Home Depot, Uber, LinkedIn, MySpace, British Airways, Instagram, MyFitnessPal, Snapchat, TalkTalk, Tumblr, Adobe, Twitter…

Some Definitions

So what is hacking?

Hacking is the ‘gaining of unauthorised access to data in a system or computer’. The person gaining access is referred to as a hacker. Many hackers exploit vulnerabilities within a computer system in order to steal, manipulate or destroy information. For businesses, this could mean:

All of these consequences would lead to serious damage to a company’s reputation, loss in customer base and revenue. It could even result in further cost from legal action following a breach.

What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is malicious software designed and used by hackers to replicate itself and spread from host to host, altering a system’s operation and potentially causing detrimental effects such as corrupting or destroying data. Viruses can remain inactive for some time, and even once activated can go unnoticed, recording, stealing and altering a system and the information it contains. Viruses spread usually in the form of attachments and downloads. Signs that your computer or website has been infected include:

While some viruses may be considered jovial and cause minor damage to a company’s reputation, others are created solely to cause extensive damage, often for the financial gain of the hackers.

Common Misconceptions

I don’t have anything worth hacking

With so much personal and company data stored and shared online and on computers, there is always something worth stealing. Disparate pieces of information can be brought together to form a useful profile for criminals to exploit.

Hacking requires skill and high-tech equipment

Hacking is mostly portrayed in film and television as the pursuit of highly intelligent, skilled individuals, attacking big, complex targets. However, the majority of cybercrime is low level and opportunistic, taking advantage of multiple targets of limited value but with weaker security.

Big companies are more secure

As you can see from the names above, bigger companies with more resources do not necessarily have the best security. Human beings are actually one of the biggest risks for cyber security – increased bodies and increased complacency mean increased avenues for the criminals.

There’s nothing I can do to stop hackers

There are many simple and routine ways to make your website and system more secure. See below for our tips.

Hacking and SEO

Hacking can affect a company’s revenue and reputation in more subtle ways:

What Can You Do?

In an increasingly networked marketplace, companies must do more to protect themselves from cyber attack, as well as protecting their customers, particularly in light of recent GDPR regulations. The logic is simple: you lock your house, you should lock your website. There are several easy steps companies, and individuals can take to increase their website security.

Increase password strength

One of the most common ways for criminals to hack into your computer or website is by guessing passwords. Increasing the strength of your password makes you a much less easy target. You should:

Stay up to date

As mentioned above, hackers can use vulnerabilities in a system to gain access. There is no such thing as a perfect system: every system will have weaknesses and loopholes that could eventually be discovered and exploited. Manufacturers will update software that has been found to have a fault, so it is best practice to update software, themes and plugins in order to avoid preventable breaches, as knowledge of a fault will spread. Older software will also eventually stop receiving security updates, making it even more vulnerable to attack. Once a website has been hacked, it is vital that you make changes and advances in software and security, as hacked URLs can be shared among hackers and then bombarded from numerous sources.

What We Do for Our Customers

As well as advising our clients of the security measures above, at ExtraMile we perform additional tasks to protect the websites we design, develop and manage.

Software

When building a website, we install security and anti-virus software and plugins responsible for stopping attacks and login attempts. Here is an example from a medium-sized website of the number of attacks blocked, and their country of origin, within one week:

anti-virus plugin example

Customers can also ask us to update software as and when required.

SSL security certificates

ExtraMile adds SSL certificates to all of the websites the company creates. An SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, offers security in the form of data encryption when sent over a server, giving protection for the transfer of sensitive information such as credit card details. Websites collecting credit card information are required by the Payment Card Industry to have SSL certificates. For other companies, there are several advantages to having an SSL certificate, such as the example given below:

Secure Connection

Further Recommendations and Useful Links

As in medicine, with website security, prevention is better than cure. It can take time to realise that a website has been hacked, a long time to determine how and why, and then more time to fix and prevent further damage. While 74% of companies in the UK said that cyber security was a high priority for them, only 27% have a formal policy in place to cover risks. In a never-ending game of cat and mouse, companies, and individuals should do as much as possible to protect themselves from attack by hackers. Here are some useful links to help you:

Sources

Powerful personalisation techniques used in marketing – print and digital

What is personalised marketing? Personalisation in marketing has been around for a while. It refers to “a marketing strategy by which companies leverage data analysis and technology to deliver individualised messages and product offerings.” That’s a nice definition – but to truly understand its impact we need to look at some examples!

Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign

Everyone can remember the Coke bottles flooding Facebook and Instagram during the “Share a Coke” campaign. This is a superb example of personalisation – Coke wanted to reach “millennials” (the overarching term used to describe people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s… or that group of people who never get off the internet and never talk to their friends IRL?).

To do this, Coke researched the most popular first names given to that generation, achieving a phenomenal reach as a result of the social media storm that followed – who can resist sharing an image of a COKE BOTTLE WITH THEIR NAME ON? Not me.

Today, Coke are “celebrating Summer” and replacing the Coke logo on bottles with popular holiday destinations.

Optimizely’s homepage

Optimizely is an “experimentation platform” and allows its users to “experiment on everything – from design choices to algorithms. That way the best ideas always win, and the best customer experiences get even better.” Optimizely’s homepage has been built to move away from a good/average experience to a “best possible version tailored to unique visitors”.

The brand cleverly uses personalised experiences, combining feature images, messaging and content. All three of these are tailored based on the “audience the visitor is a part of”. For example, for employees of Adidas, the home page led with the following message:

“Hello, Adidas! Let’s optimize digital experiences for your athletes”.

Optimizely’s home page was designed with personalisation at the core – something that we’ll probably start to see much more of.

The future of personalisation in marketing

It’s clear that personalisation in marketing successfully spans print and online channels (and can even combine the two!). In the not too distant future, it will be interesting to see how brands innovate with personalisation – we have more data than even before and because of this, we’re able to make our digital channels work even harder via tailored user experiences.

In-house, or marketing agency?

You’re smart. You already know that in order to run a successful business in today’s market, you need an online presence. Not only do you need to be online – you need to optimise your efforts to be the best.

You could have the prettiest website in the world and a cutsie little Instagram page, but if nobody ever visits them, then what’s the point? Simply put… you’ve figured out that it’s time to start thinking about digital marketing.

Here begins the internal monologue.

We’re going to get a lovely new website. The old website is looking a bit dated and we need to showcase our business to all the potential customers or clients out there.

So, Dave in I.T. is pretty hot on this website building stuff, maybe he can do it. But wait – he’s really busy with all his other work. Hmm…

Maybe we can hire a web developer. That way, our website will be amazing and always stay up-to-date. Great idea – but wait again…

A web developer is great at building the site, communicating with hosts and servers and trouble-shooting any problems that arise, but can he design the site to work best for our business? Can he make it look appealing, work responsively, incorporate branding and use colour psychology to encourage our clients and customers to take the action we want them to take on our site?

Maybe we need to hire a designer too.

But then, we’re paying for a developer, and a designer, but when the website goes live how well will it perform? Will it rank in search engine results pages (SERP’s)? Will people click on to our site? Will our visitors turn into paying customers? What about the web pages? Are they written well?

At this rate, we will need to hire a web developer, a web designer, an SEO expert and content writer. Don’t get me started on our social media. And what about this PPC stuff that everyone is doing? Who knows how to create the campaigns, monitor the budget and create ad-copy that will generate business?

The reality is that all of the skills necessary to make digital marketing work for your business won’t come from one or two people. It takes different skills and talents in each area working together to create an online presence that will make a massive difference to your bottom line. Hiring in house will cost time and money. Staff will leave and the hiring and training process has to start all over again.

Hiring a digital marketing agency will ensure that you get a dedicated service. You will benefit from highly skilled staff who are experts in their field, working together to make your business stand out from the crowd.

Laura, SEO and PPC Assistant.

Meet the team at ExtraMile Communications to see what a difference we can make for your business.