Category: bd2 news

The high-end jewelry retailer Boodles has begun the roll out of our new Microsoft Surface based application across its stores. The device incorporates a new interactive app, designed and developed by bd2, which opens up the business’s entire stock to sales staff and customers in all stores as it integrates in real time with their stock systems. Boodles create many one-off pieces which can naturally only reside in one place, but with the new device every item is now visible from every store. As well as product imagery and related information, such as stones, carat, metals and certification, the app displays the location of each piece and manages the transfer process should a customer wish to see it. And by integrating with the company’s Sage business management and stock holding systems, live data is displayed on the device so that when a product is added or removed from stock it is automatically displayed or removed from the presentation.

Other features include the ability for sales staff to create wish lists of customers’ selections, store, print or email them as branded PDFs and an advanced search that can find products by product category type, stones, metals or value. Behind a secure login, the sales staff have access to further functionality to handle additional services such as capturing requirements for bespoke designs. The extremely intuitive user interface has been developed to be so easy to use that sales staff can actually hand over the device to the customer and let them browse the catalogue themselves.

As we reach the halfway stage of the roll out, initial feedback from sales staff in particular has been very positive. We have already begun phase 2 which will see the system expanded to become their EPOS system to handle the sales process end to end. The system will also house their CRM solution to access and manage customer accounts. Phase 2 will be integrated with a new Sage X3 ERP solution which is also currently being implemented.

Digital natives

For anyone who’s ever tried to recruit programmers, the shortage of digital skills is evident in the relatively short queue of available talent and the constantly circling flock of recruitment agents looking to swoop down and poach your brightest and best. And yes, that is a vulture metaphor – no apologies. It’s a skills gap that’s only going to get wider as technology is increasingly used in business and, indeed, across all walks of life. It also means that there are some great career opportunities for those with the skills to fill the gap and a challenge for the educators to cultivate them. This is easier said than done though, as technology moves at an ever increasing pace, so the challenge for Universities to design and deliver courses relevant to market needs is admittedly difficult.

A new report from a House of Lords committee tasked with looking at the digital economy, has identified that this process needs to start much earlier in the education process and that digital literacy should be taught as a core skill alongside maths and English. It goes further by saying that the internet should be viewed as a utility service alongside water and electricity. It talks about the concept of ‘digital natives’, which we’ve blogged about before, people immersed in technology and for whom using technology is second nature.

The report identified the shortage of medium and high level digital skills, calling for action at all levels of the ‘talent pipeline – primary, secondary, further and higher education.’ Without this, the report highlights the real risks to the UK economy in which the digital and creative sector has grown rapidly and become a key area ‘Digital businesses can locate anywhere in the world, and if we fail to provide the right conditions for them to flourish in the UK, we will become a branch economy, much less prosperous and influential than we could be.’ The report demands an ambitious approach to secure the UK’s digital economy, which will need to be led by the next with the government, by focusing on business and education – which needs a radical rethink.

‘From an early age, we need to give digital literacy as much importance as numeracy and literacy.’ States Valerie Thompson, chief executive of the e-Learning Foundation. ‘While we welcome the introduction of the computing curriculum, we are concerned about the ability of teachers to deliver it – with more than half of our IT teachers not having a post-A-level qualification relevant to IT. At the higher education level, there is an urgent need for industry input, so that graduates are learning job-relevant digital skills.’

A Department for Education spokeswoman said it was ‘vital to ensure young people had the skills and knowledge to secure jobs in our country’s burgeoning tech industry…meaning young people in England will start learning the basics of coding from age five.’

More and more companies are using email marketing in both b2b and b2c channels. At bd2, we now provide most of our clients with a range of email marketing services; from concept, design and copywriting through to distribution, monitoring and reporting.

The reasons are simple to understand and the first is the sheer volume of email traffic that both consumers and business professionals send and receive every single day. Email has become the communications channel of choice for almost all messages whether social or business.

What’s more, the ubiquitous and ever-increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets enables people to access and send emails anytime, anywhere. This constant availability makes email the perfect platform from which to create and maintain dialogue with your audience.

But, the key question is:
How do I make sure my email campaign will be received, read and reacted to by my targets?

The answers to this seemingly simple question are many and varied. And some are still being debated.

Amongst all the components which need to be considered (and to which we will return in future blog items) to help ensure a successful campaign, there are two we’d like to discuss here.

One starts you off and the other finishes the job.

First, the subject line.

At bd2, we often spend as much time constructing the subject line as we do on the body copy of the email. It’s important to remember that the subject line is the first thing your recipient will see. So the subject line often determines whether the email is read or deleted. Recent surveys have suggested that as many as 80% of emails are not read beyond the subject line.

When we’re trying to create a winning subject line, we write the content first. It seems common sense to us that the subject line should précis our content; so we can’t write it until we’ve crafted that content. Does that make sense?

The content should be inviting, engaging and succinct. So should the subject line, but even more so.

It’s about telling not selling. Make your subject line appropriate and relevant and more people should be drawn in to what you want to tell them.

At the end, make sure you have a strong call to action.

What do you want the reader to think? What do you want them to do? Don’t assume they’ll know.

Tell them what to do.

An apt and inviting call to action can make all the difference between a successful email campaign and a failure. It is also important to keep your call to action simple and focused. Try very hard to make sure there is only one – buy before Tuesday, get our new catalogue, come to an open day – whatever the desired course of action is, make sure it’s clear and easy to follow.

But don’t just wait until the end!

Put your call to action within the heading and several times in the body copy, but making sure you don’t overdo it. Putting it in the header makes sure it is “above the fold” so it can be seen without scrolling down. Including it throughout the message reinforces the required response and offers multiple opportunities to click through to the website to follow the offered course.

It should go without saying that each call to action is an interactive link to the relevant website.
But, we’ve said it anyway, just to be sure.

These two simple, but incredibly important components can lift an email campaign out of the ordinary and result in high levels of readership, opens and those all-important clicks.

Email marketing is all pervading and omnipresent. And it’s not going to go away. If you’re planning email campaigns these two factors need to be considered with a host of others to help guarantee success.

If you’re not planning email campaigns, why not?

A few of bd2′s staff been through the doors of Wigan College, indeed our two latest recruits Joe and Josh recently graduated with top-up degrees from Edge Hill and Salford respectively following a year or two at Wigan. Over the years we’ve built up an excellent relationship with the graphic design course leader David Beattie, who took it upon himself to approach us several years ago looking for any help from local agencies. Obviously we’re more than happy to support the College and its undergraduates so we’ve set briefs, attended the end of year shows, provided placements, given advice and critiqued work. Of these, critiques are without doubt the most rewarding and enjoyable.

I’ve just been through a two stage process with five groups who’ve been given the task of re-branding a leading brand. Their choices included BP, Easyjet, Puma, Wetherspoons and Boots Shapers. A few weeks back we had initial meetings in which we discussed the outline briefs, areas for consideration and general direction for each re-brand. Then I’ve spent the morning reviewing presentations of their work. The presentations combined visuals and mock ups with on-screen Powerpoints and videos talked through by each group member to explain their thinking and ideas – which is all good practice for the professional road ahead. And they were all very professional, both conceptually and in execution with some really good ideas across the board. BP introduced a great strapline ‘being positive’ which relates to the brand and tries to redress the recent damage caused by the Deep Water Horizon disaster through a CSR campaign. Wetherspoons sought to bring local identity to the chain by emphasising the pub first, using traditional fonts, woodcut illustrations and some nice ideas for customers. And the Puma brand was extended with ‘P-class’ a new street wear sub-brand fronted by Pharrel Williams and delivered with a striking new Puma head logo which was delivered with some very dynamic graphic treatments.

I was particularly impressed by ‘ESM Creatives’ [Emma, Simone and Melissa] obvious hard work and strong ideas for Easyjet in which they’d tried to move the perception of a budget airline from ‘cheap and nasty’ to ‘good value’ with a positive user experience, no easy task. A striking new logo was consistently and considerately rolled out across branded marcomms, liveries, uniforms, online and even boarding cards. And some fresh ideas to improve the experience for customers were proposed such as ipads for rental during the flight and a simple bag with water bottle, biscuit, pen and pad to bring back a little charm to the passenger’s journey. A series of really excellent bus stop adverts were proposed which used cutaway posters on the glass to suggest locations and travel.

Top of the class though has to go to ‘Three Peas’ [Hayley, Rachel and Heather] who decided to look at Shapers, Boots’ low calorie meal deal brand which seems to have become very tired and forgotten. The team approached the project very thoroughly carrying out in-store research before deciding on a complete re-brand as ‘Hello delightful’. The brand, logo, typography, illustrations, treatments, packaging, advertising and POS are all, well, delightful and would enhance any store shelf. The execution is exceptional throughout with near production level quality across many examples demonstrating real flair, professionalism and a lot of hard work. They even provided my lunch in the new packaging.

Recognition, as ever, has to go to David Beattie for both his mentoring of the groups and his infectious enthusiasm for engaging with industry, which I know is of his own volition. As is his customary ‘thank you’ Chateauneaf Du Pape!

It’s a long way to go for a job, but I’ve no doubt it’s worth it. Having built a new site for Crewsaver UK, part of the Survitec Group, we were approached by Crewsaver Australia to develop a new site for them based on the UK version and sharing the same product database. Discussions have been ongoing but when the opportunity to actually come over to finalise the deal came along, it wasn’t one that could be easily passed up.

I feel fully integrated, having taken the train from Sydney Central out to Auburn using my Oyster card style Opal pass, followed by a short stroll to Crewsaver’s offices in searing heat and bright sunshine – there’s a downside to everything. The meeting, with their Key Account manager went well and we’ve finalised the requirement with one or two options to consider.

Crewsaver Australia operates as a separate business but wants an essentially similar site to the UK’s with all the same product content. However, local control is needed over content as not all products are sold in Australia and there’s different company info, lifestyle imagery and local social media streams. Architecturally, the solution will incorporate its own content management system which will be populated by the UK product database and will allow the UK to update product info, specifications and imagery but Australia can edit or choose not to display as appropriate. This will avoid any duplication of effort and improve control.

It would be a shame to come all this way and not make the most of the opportunity, so from a business perspective I’ll be meeting up with a possible IT partner, an IT consultant we’ve worked with when he was at HP, one of the Australian based Directors of HP, as we’re an approved supplier, and I’ve already met up with an Account Manger from Fujitsu over in New Zealand.

And from a cultural perspective it would an equal if not greater shame to come all this way and not savour the local life. Sydney’s a fabulous city and I’m enjoying every minute of exploring the city, its waterfront, galleries, restaurants and bars – it’d be rude not to.


Wigan’s first Expo was only 4 years ago but it seems like it’s been going for much longer having become a firm fixture on the business calendar. The inaugural Expo was also held at the DW Stadium but occupied only the third floor. Now it’s now reached capacity filling all the lounges on the third and second floors with so many stands it feels positively crammed in. Attendees built up throughout the day adding to the full to the brim feeling – but this only serves to create a really bustling and busy atmosphere.

As always there was a very friendly vibe too as, being Wigan, it seems everyone knows everyone and it’s as much an opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances as a place to do business. That said, it seems that plenty of that was going on as well. The overall mood was a very positive one with everyone seeming to sense that the good times were back, or at least on their way back. Everyone you spoke to seemed to be very busy and saying that business was good.

So it’s hats off again to Kevin Walsh and his team from the Council for staging and arranging the event in support of local business. Every year is bigger and better than the last so I’m sure, like us, everyone’s looking forward to 2015. The biggest challenge for next year is how to fit all the exhibitors in as the current venue is clearly maxed out. Nice problem.

It was great to see two of our clients appearing in the latest Sunday Times International Track 200, which lists the UK’s top 200 overseas performing business. With an increase of over 20% in the last year, leading Jewelers Boodles appeared at 174. We’ve just handed over phase one of an exciting in-store, tablet-based tool to Boodles which will allow sales staff to present the entire Boodles stock to customers wherever it may be in the company as it integrates with their back office systems. Phase two is due to commence shortly and will ultimately incorporate a new EPOS solution.

With an outstanding increase in overseas sales of over 50%, our longstanding client Ralawise has risen to 63 in the rankings. Ralawise are Europe’s leading wholesaler of promotional clothing, corporate wear and leisurewear. This exceptional growth has been underpinned by their multi-lingual, multi-currency website developed and supported by ourselves for the last 10 years, which handles most orders. The site recently reached a new benchmark when it handled over half a million pounds worth of transactions in a single day. We’re delighted to be part of their success of course and look forward to seeing both businesses climb further up the rankings next year.

We’ve worked with Ralawise for over ten years now building the e-commerce solutions mentioned in this recent Insider bulletin, see The story outlines their progress towards topping the £150M turnover mark and their investment in the physical and virtual infrastructure needed to achieve this.

When we started working for them turnover was in the mid twenty millions so growth over the last ten years has been pretty impressive and e-commerce has undoubtedly played a big part in this as around two thirds of their sales are now online. We’ve been delighted to support this having developed their first e-commerce solution, then evolved it to integrate with their various back office systems, and then last year we completely rebuilt it as they move onto the next phase which will be focused on further expansion in Europe.

Development on the site is pretty much continuous as Ralawise look to provide further functionality and features for their clients, for example we’re currently working on a completely new version of their white label solution which is used by over 500 customers to present the Ralawise catalogue within their own branded websites which further expands their reach and sales.

It’s common knowledge, isn’t it? To survive and prosper in business today, you have to be digital with email marketing, social media activity. e-commerce, online advertising, blogging and a website, of course, with good SEO and an active Adwords programme.

All very commendable but what’s the strategy? Where does digital fit with more “conventional” marketing? And, which, if any, of the above tactics should your business be employing?

In order to maximise the ROI in digital, it is absolutely essential to have a clear and detailed strategy which identifies exactly where each piece of the jigsaw fits; how it relates and influences other parts of the strategy and what is meant by “success”.

To view the Prezi, click here

BD2 have developed a Prezi which identifies eight component parts and shows how they work together to inspire and engage across the whole gamut of a business’s target audiences and stakeholders.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the eight and how they integrate.

1. Content
“Content” is the current buzz word in marketing, along with “engagement”. It’s all about creating and sharing information that’s closely related to what you sell – but it’s about ‘telling not selling’.

A well-executed content strategy offers a much more long term, personalised and engaging customer experience with content that can then be shared, commented on and updated by the audience through email or social media.

2. Website
Websites have become the essential point of verification for any business, b2b or b2c. It needs to be very user friendly as it should never be forgotten that leaving the site is just one click away. The site needs to provide access to all relevant information in a way that is clear and engaging (there’s that word again).

3. Mobile
In the UK alone, 94% of adults either own or use a mobile phone [Ofcom], and by 2016 it is predicted that 80% of all internet access will be via mobile. Mobile devices are changing the way we use the internet, and mobile marketing provides one of the most effective, innovative and inexpensive ways to reach an audience. Websites must be optimised for mobile through the use of responsive design and should consider how users might interact with a business via mobiles such as location based services.

4. Social Media
Social media represents one of the biggest challenges for businesses and one of the most exciting and significant opportunities. It is important to understand that in social media, one size does not fit all and what works for one business might not work for another. The sheer pace of growth in this channel requires research and planning to ensure a well thought through, integrated and agile strategy is in place.

5. Search
There is little point in having an informative, inspiring and engaging website if no-one can find it. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a crucial part of the overall marketing strategy and integration with other areas of the marketing is critical. Google has shifted the focus from keywords to ‘conversational searches’ and wants to see proof of engagement in the form of feedback, comments and sharing through social media.

6. Email
Incredibly, some people are saying email marketing is dead. It’s not; it’s thriving and can deliver higher lead conversions, increased sales and brand awareness for your small business. Email marketing is affordable, simple and powerful and mobile means that it is more potent than ever. Email is also very engaging (heard that before somewhere?) offering real interactivity, with hyperlinks allowing recipients to click through to websites, videos and other forms of rich content.

7 News Microsites
Blogging has become virtually a national sport and we’re all publishers now. News or information microsites offer the opportunity to become ‘a voice’ within your industry by putting your own editorial online. Meaningful content is again vital with the aim being to be relevant and (yes, you guessed it) engaging.

8. Microsites
Microsites deliver specific information to a specific target audience who are therefore naturally engaged. They allow marketers to focus on specific messages and to test creative treatments.

Just like a “traditional” strategy, your digital strategy should start with some SMART objectives develop the strategy, identify tactics and contain KPIs against which to measure success.

Oh, and it needs to be engaging (did we mention that already?)

BD2’s infographic is an extremely useful touchstone from which to work. It helps clarify areas which need focus and demonstrates the need for interactivity.

As marketers, we all have to be cognisant of what’s happening in our marketplace. More than ever before, we have the chance to interact and engage with our audiences in a direct and truly mutual way.

It was known as “advertorial” for a long time but then along came the internet and social media and it is now known as “native advertising” and is one of the hottest topics in marketing at the moment.

In essence, native advertising describes the process whereby an advertiser places an ad and its design is created to mirror the editorial content which surrounds it.

Publishers will tell you that there is no intention to deceive readers and, indeed, most publishers and editors are fiercely protective of their integrity and content. Having said that, user trust is key to native advertising success. The content should be clearly badged as an ad to ensure complete transparency. However, the content has to match the platform so it’s a fine line to walk.

Many see this approach as blurring the lines between editorial and advertising, arguing that
If the content looks too much like the editorial content that surrounds it publications can be accused of misleading the reader.

Native advertising is also now rife across all social networks, the most common being sponsored tweets on Twitter and sponsored posts or ads on Facebook. Not only are these tactics native to their host, they also carry the power of recommendation, with the sponsored content often implying that ‘Your friend likes this”. Some 65% of native advertising is made up of blog posts.

Social native is attractive not only for its impact, but also for the sheer scale of its reach. With Facebook now being used by well over 1bn users, the potential is huge.

However, the creative limitations are significant as social content makes it difficult to tell a detailed brand story. There are usually a few short characters and, if you’re lucky, a thumbnail image.

There is a worry that social networks might become victims of their own success with users being turned off by the amount of advertising with which they are bombarded. Many publishers, including Facebook and Twitter, have started to limit the amount of native advertising they carry even though it is an exceptionally lucrative revenue stream for them.

An interesting addition in the world of social native is what has become known as “display social”. In this, advertisers piggy back third party sites to increase interest and, hopefully, engagement. The ad becomes, ostensibly, a link to a site of interest such as a fashion site being promoted on a lifestyle site. When the user clicks through, the advertiser’s ad is featured on the fashion site.

The ad then becomes semi-editorial rather than a straightforward ad and the advertiser has his ad appearing alongside editorial relevant to both the user and his proposition.
There are currently no real performance measurements for native advertising because it is still such a new category. The advertiser can see how many shares, likes or retweets a post gets and, from that, extrapolate the amount of interest he is creating.

It is also possible to monitor the number page views the advertiser’s website is receiving and relate them to the appearance of a native ad. However, it is extremely difficult to measure the level of engagement engendered. And that is still the golden fleece of all marketing activity. Or, it should be.

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