Category: bd2 projects

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.

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.

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.

Here’s a fascinating fact – more smartphone devices are being activated everyday worldwide than there are babies being born.

The number of smartphone owners has reached 72 per cent in the UK, growing by 14 per cent in the last 10 months alone, according to research from Deloitte.

A recent survey by UKOM showed that over one third (36%) of people accessing the internet are now doing so via tablets as tablet ownership grew 63% year-on-year from 11.0 million to 17.9 million.

And, Google predicts that in three years mobile will overtake desktop as the most common way to go online. So marketers must adapt to this change or be left behind.

Mobile is changing our behaviour and websites must be designed and developed to make sure they take the greatest possible advantage of these dramatic changes.

There are two ways a website can be set up to be mobile friendly – responsive or mobile designed site.

A responsive website changes the layout of the site for screen size or device. This option is the one to choose if your users are looking for a similar mobile experience compared to their desktop one. Many online publishers, such as the Guardian, have done just that. Their mobile websites display news, trends & updates in a visual and intuitive way.

A mobile website which is context specific focuses on a selection of core tasks. This should be the format implemented if the mobile visitor wants a service or instant information and it should offer quick, simple calls to action. An excellent example is National Rail which offers one click access to popular pages including “Journey Planner”, “Live Departure Boards”, “Changes to Train Times” and “Get me home”.

All marketers and webmasters need to recognise that mobile is not a separate channel. It is a vibrant and incredibly fast-growing way of connecting to your audience. It has to be incorporated into the overall marketing strategy or else you risk alienating your customers.

Like most aspects of website creation, it all starts from the implementation of knowledge and experience at the design stage and its transition into the development. At BD2, we automatically include one form of mobile adaptability or another in every website we create.

The latest issue of our newsletter ‘brief distraction’ has arrived back from Clive, our Notts Forest supporting printer, who’s done a fine job as usual.

Amongst the usual mixture of projects is a follow up story from the previous edition on a b2b website we’ve developed for client Wax Lyrical which has surpassed expectations achieving real commercial successes.

Other featured projects include a recently developed e-commerce site for Crewsaver, a leading manufacturer of marine safety equipment and an awareness campaign around the recent Welfare Reform changes for Wigan and Leigh Housing Association. A new corporate website and brand refresh exercise for longstanding client Vision Commercial Kitchens is shown, user interface design project for Bunzl Retail, a multimedia DVD for healthcare client Vernacare and a preview of a new in-store presentation using Microsoft Surface devices for jewellers Boodles.

Taking centre stage though is our brand development work for Wigan Youth Zone, a multi-million pound initiative to support the young people in Wigan made possible by three of the town’s leading businessmen who decided to put something back into the community. It’s a fantastic development for the town and its young people and we’ve been delighted to help provide an identity which hopefully matches its ambition.

If you’d like a copy, please email and we’d be more than happy to pop one in the post.

Sweet smell of success

We’ve worked with our technology partner Datel for over 15 years on a wide range of e-commerce solutions which integrate web front ends with their Sage business systems. At their recent customer day, an annual event where their customers are invited in to see various presentaions and innovations from Sage and themselves, they presented a joint Datel and bd2 client Wax Lyrical as a case study.

Wax Lyrical’s journey has been a fascinating one, and the full story can be seen in this video which features in The Telegraph’s business club section:

The company, which manufactures scented candles and fragrances, was bought around 5 years ago by serial entrepreneur Mike Armstead who has turned around a business on the brink of bankruptcy struggling with huge debts and outdated processes, to a debt free and profitable company. This success has been underpinned by an investment in technology and the production line so that now virtually all manufacturing is in the UK rather than the Far East – the business now exports most of its products instead of importing. The company re-branded and repositioned as a luxury British brand and signed some strategic licensing deals with partners such as the RHS.

An investment in a new Sage business management system has been key to this success so that the business has the processes and knowledge needed to operate more efficiently. As part of the drive to achieve operational efficiencies, we recently developed a new business to business website aimed at smaller customers which integrates with their Sage systems. As well as their larger customers, such as supermarkets and garden centre chains, Wax Lyrical supply many independent retailers and gift shops all over the UK and increasingly in Europe. Servicing these customers had been expensive as their sales team were physically visiting stores to collect orders, sometimes driving miles to pick up an order for just a box of candles.

The new website allows these retailers to place orders online 24/7 and to access stock and account data. The Wax Lyrical site has now been live for just over seven months and during this period nearly 700 customers have registered as users which is almost the 12 month target of customers. Around 25% of the sales to independents year to date have been made online which has led to significant business benefits such as a reduction on order lead times as there is no manual intervention required to process orders into Sage. Paperwork and postage has been dramatically reduced as all customer admin is now electronic [invoicing, statements etc.]. Wax Lyrical have a much more flexible marketing list for constant contact along with a fairly easy to manage content management system to engage the customer and entice purchase of targeted offerings. This, combined with convenience, has led to the average order value increasing by approx 50% – being retailers it isn’t always practical to call and place orders during the working day so 24/7 access allows time to browse the full range and place bigger orders. International orders have also increased, so much so that we’re now working on adding multi-lingual functionality to the site.

The site has seen other benefits in the business, such as with the field sales team and head office customer services personnel who can now concentrate on targeting new growth, merchandising the brand in stores and supporting larger customers, rather than taking and processing orders. Wax Lyrical have also been able to redeploy a member of staff previously dedicated to order entry.

Feedback from Wax Lyrical and its customers has been very positive; their web admin team have frequently commented on how much more user-friendly our system is compared to their Magento b2c solution; and a brief survey of end-users reported that they find the system easy and very straight forward to use and that access to account information online was seen as very beneficial as was the ability to use 24/7.

“The feedback on the site has all been very positive.” Comments Managing Director Joanne Barber “Thank you to you and your team for delivering something that is very user friendly. We are certainly pleased with the uptake so far and look forward to the site being a much more important part of our business in terms of sales numbers.”

Wigan wins

True to his word, Wigan Athletic’s Chairman Dave Whelan took the newly won FA Cup straight to Wigan Youth Zone a full week before today’s obligatory open top bus tour of the town. Mr Whelan simply brought the cup round in the back of his Bentley then collared bd2′s design director Stuart who’d just gone to capture the moment – ‘give me a lift with this lad’ – leading to this great photo and rare privilege of lifting the FA cup, albeit in a practical rather than playing capacity.

Bringing the cup into the Youth Zone brought together Dave Whelan’s two great passions – Wigan Athletic and Wigan Youth Zone – both of which he’s backed financially, and in a very significant fashion, as Chairman and Founder Patron respectively. His FA cup story is well documented with this year’s victory bringing some closure and no little satisfaction for Whelan who broke his leg playing for Blackburn Rovers in the 1960 final. A superb triumph then for both him and the town’s team who recorded one of the biggest upsets in cup history by defeating Manchester City who were as much as ten to one on to win with a team which cost over ten times more to assemble than Wigan’s. There are many intertwined stories and at bd2 we very much feel part of them as Latics fans and Patrons of the Youth Zone, having attended both the semi final and final and getting our hands on the cup, again, at the club’s recent end of season awards.

Challenges await both the football club and the youth zone with the former facing up to life in the Championship following relegation – sadly the first team to win the cup and go down in the same season. However, the future for the stunning new Youth Zone, which opens formally on the 8th June, is very bright but will need the ongoing support of the local community with more sponsors and volunteers required. We continue to be heavily involved despite delivery of the new brand nearing completion, as we believe it’s a great initiative for the town’s youth and if you or your business would like to know more or arrange a visit, please contact as we can forward your interest on.

Content marketing involves creating and sharing valuable, but nearly always free-to-user content, which can be in the from of a blog, newsletter, magazine or video, to name but a few formats. There’s nothing new about content marketing though – airlines have been using content to build engagement for many years through in-flight magazines. likewise IT companies build communications strategies around twitter, blogging and influencing bloggers.

Content marketing is about ‘telling and not selling’ by providing engaging information that’s closely related to what you sell; but it’s critical that the content is driven by editorial relevance rather than a sales focused message. As a result the brand offers a much more long term, personalised and engaging customer experience through content that can then be shared, commented on and updated by the audience. And it’s the ability to share content more easily through technologies such as email or social media – the retweet – that makes content marketing increasingly significant.

The UK content marketing industry is worth over £900m and is a great way to become more relevant and meaningful at a time when consumers are controlling the conversation with a brand through social media. Its importance is underlined by Econsultancy’s first Content Marketing Survey Report, from October 2012, which was based on a survey of more than 1,300 marketers. This presented some very interesting insights into the current market within the UK. Most notably, that while 90% believe content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months, only 38% of companies have a content marketing strategy in place.

Econsultancy has just released its Digital Trends for 2013 Report which highlighted content marketing as the top priority for in-house marketers, up 10% on the number of respondents pointing to this in the previous year. “Although there is an on-going debate as to whether this is a standalone ‘channel’ or not, there is no doubt that creation and effective marketing of content, which of course straddles both online and offline marketing activity, is central to most companies’ plans for marketing effectiveness.”

Our work for Milliken Carpet Europe, a division of US based Milliken Group, includes a series of individual blog sites and monthly e-newsletters to underpin their ‘informed and inspired’ marketing initiative which is a great example of content marketing. They’ve hosted a series of events for architects, interior designers and specifiers with stimulating subject matter from named key speakers which is captured and reflected in the online channels. This content is then shared to reach a much wider audience. The marketing message isn’t overtly product focused as the overall objective is to position Milliken as trend aware style leaders who understand the audience’s needs and that they can support them with contemporary products.

The sites can be seen at

Over 400 of Wigan’s businessmen and women attended the business launch of Wigan Youth Zone at the DW Stadium hosted by Martin Ainscough. Martin, along with Bill Ainscough and David Whelan, have ploughed in some £6M of their own money to get this incredible initiative off the ground. Speakers included Simon Baker, the Youth Zone’s Manager, who outlined the overall concept and the huge benefits and opportunities it will no doubt bring to the town and its young people. Simon also explained that Wigan is unique in that all the funding to build the Youth Zone has come from the private sector whereas the Youth Zones in other towns have all received some local or central government backing. The event was all about getting the town’s business community behind the idea and to raise funds for its ongoing operations – many local businesses and ogranisations have already donated or pledged money, support and services.

bd2 have been delighted to get involved and provide our services pro bono in support of this amazing initiative and the dinner saw the fruits of this labour with the launch of the new brand. Armed with the research and insight gained from our own methodologies as outlined in the previous blog, we went through a concept development process leading to a creative solution in which we devised new letterforms – ‘w’ for wigan ‘y’ for youth and ‘z’ for zone designed around a common unit of measure or grid. We have then brought these elements together to create one combined, interlocking device which constitutes the key element of the logo.

This combination of letters form a perfect square and all 3 characters overlap at one point only, right in the centre – ‘the zone’. The shapes that make up the logo create natural arrows which suggest positive and dynamic direction – ‘onwards and upwards’ and ‘from A to B’. The squares that make up the device and the connected elements suggest building blocks, progress and personal development. The blocks and interconnected shapes create numerous ‘connections’ with the zone itself and with each other. Finally, we believe the block shapes that make up the logo reflect the structure of the building itself.

We’ve started to apply the new brand to some of the various marketing materials that will be needed including he complete logo which we envisage will be used in a very flexible fashion with a mixed colour palette, combining images and text much in the way the recent 2012 olympics logo used lots of different colours and patterns in its elements. These graphic themes can then be carried across all marketing communications from literature, to internal and external signage, membership cards, promotional items and of course online.

Feedback thus far has been positive from those who attended the event, in the media and from Martin Ainscough himself who kindly took the time to write:

‘Although we’re a youth club for young people, we have a real professional edge, and so it was great to have your presentation into the thinking behind the brand concept as part of the event. it goes without saying that we couldn’t be happier with the new Youth Zone brand. Already feedback is fantastic.’

Over the next few weeks and months the new brand will be appearing more and more often the nearer we get to the opening of the Youth Zone and it will hopefully start to embody and reflect just some of the qualities of this superb initiative.

Wigan Youth Zone

When walking into Wigan’s town centre from our offices it’s virtually impossible not to notice the huge steel structure rising out of the Mesnes Park playing fields alongside Parson’s Walk. The new Youth Zone will change the town’s landscape dramatically and provide a new focus for its young people as it will provide somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to. Too often, services and provisions for young people have been overlooked, but ‘Wigan is bucking that trend by creating a vibrant, positive, fit-for-purpose youth centre in which young people from any background can spend their free time.’ States their website. ‘Whether you are interested in sport, art, drama, music or just simply looking for a safe place to hang out; Wigan Youth Zone will offer something for everyone and will be open 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year’

The Youth Zone is the idea of three of the town’s most successful businessmen – Martin and Bill Ainscough and David Whelan – who, having made their fortunes from crane hire, property development and retail respectively, have decided ‘to put something back’ into the town. Huge recognition and respect has to be given to them as they have put their money where their mouths are, by backing the idea with their own millions.

As the concept has evolved from the drawing board into reality the founders, and the charity ‘Onside’ which is delivering the initiative, have sought support from local organisations and businesses. At bd2 we responded by offering our design services on a pro bono basis as we feel this gives greater value than the equivalent financial contribution when translated into fees, but above all we feel it’s much more inclusive and personal.

A key requirement for the new organisation is a strong brand identity and our contribution is to develop this for the Youth Zone. We’ve taken exactly the same in-depth approach as we would with any commercial client, working through our structured methodologies with research and evaluation to define a set of brand values. So, initially, a workshop exercise was undertaken with their management team to first discuss what we mean exactly by the term ‘brand’, before considering various aspects of the Youth Zone from the literal ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’ before moving onto the more aspirational areas of ‘how we do it’ and ‘what we aim to achieve’. This concluded in a set of key words around each of these criteria.

The Onside management team, having previously opened Youth Zones in Blackburn, Carlisle, Manchester and Bolton, have been through branding exercises before and learnt through experience the value of buy-in from its users, but also of professional advice and execution. If the design and concept work is carried out purely by users, the results typically aren’t of a high enough quality to adequately represent the organisation neither do they address all the technical requirements. On the other hand, concepts that have been developed without any users’ involvement, often struggle to gain adoption as there’s a disconnect. We therefore decided to run another workshop exercise with a group of teens from the Youth Zone. This took the form of a huge mood-board process [on six 8 by 4 MDF boards] in which the group pasted up imagery they associated with the key words as well as style references they liked or related to.

Armed with the research, the brief and the finished mood boards, we began to consider concepts which led to a clear overall conceptual direction. This was refined into a set of considered visuals showing logo iterations, colourways and fonts as well as potential applications in literature, internally, online and promotional materials. We then presented these visuals to the same group of young people to show them how their thoughts had influenced our thinking throughout the design process.

The feedback was instantly positive and the comments flowed; “it’s a lot more modern”; “it’s young person friendly”; “right for the cause”; “I like the textures and colours”; “contemporary”; “excellent” and when looking at some of the applications: “I want one of those membership cards”; and “I’d wear that tee shirt”.

Having gained overwhelming support from the users, we had to then present the idea to the committee including Messrs Ainscough and Whelan who, of course, had the final say. Whilst the modernity of the concept came as an initial shock, they were quickly won over by its vibrancy, flexibility and visual impact. The conversation quickly turned to how it was going to be used rather than if, leading to instructions to produce some sample tee shirts and to implement online.

The new brand will be formally launched by bd2 on the 27th September at the DW Stadium during a dinner hosted by Martin Ainscough and David Whelan as they present the Wigan Youth Zone concept to the town’s business community.

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