How AI in Retail Can Support Brands During Peak Season

Artificial intelligence is currently a must-have business asset. AI-powered technologies now enjoy enormous popularity across multiple industries, from sports to financial services. But AI in retail is proving to be a particularly significant advancement, with this new tech bringing a broad range of benefits to the sector.

In this article, we’ll analyse how AI in retail can support brands during particularly busy times, such as peak shopping seasons. Peak seasons vary depending on the location of a business, as well as the products they sell, but more universal peak seasons include gift-buying events (like Christmas) or multinational sales periods (like Black Friday).

Read on to learn how AI can assist retail businesses in common tasks like future planning, inventory management, data analysis, and more. 

Forecasting and Future Planning

Leveraging digital innovation in key areas like forecasting is crucial to stay ahead of the competition. By using AI in tasks like sales forecasting and the prediction of market trends, your company can learn what your competitors’ next move might be. 

But how can artificial intelligence help in these areas? The key lies in predictive analytics. An AI tool can understand patterns much better than a human analyst, which means the AI is likely to be better at predicting events like a spike in customer demand or a drop in prices. 

The more information a predictive AI has access to, the better. If the tool you use can combine varied data streams, it can begin making more in-depth conclusions. For example, if the AI has access to data on customer buying behaviour, as well as info on the current market value for a particular product, it can help with complex tasks such as identifying the optimum price for that product.

Customer Service

Automation already plays a fairly significant role in the customer service departments of many companies in the form of chatbots. Businesses can save significant sums of money (and improve the customer experience) by using chatbots to resolve simple customer queries — reserving human agents for more significant problems.

However, through AI, retail businesses can supercharge the functionality of these chatbots. The right combination of tools can help your business build AI-powered chatbots that enable new features like voice communication, and can even suggest relevant solutions, products, or blog articles in response to customer queries. This kind of tool vastly improves the efficiency of your customer service department, which is essential during busy peak seasons. 

AI can also assist your human customer service agents. These agents will need a database they can refer to for the solutions to common customer problems, but often these data banks are dense and difficult to navigate. An AI assistant would be able to retrieve information much faster, helping speed up service interactions and improve the customer experience.

Personalisation

Personalising the customer experience is almost a necessity in the modern retail world. In fact, research shows that 76% of consumers will become frustrated with a business if they do not provide some level of personalisation during the customer journey. Unfortunately, personalisation can be tricky,  as it’s difficult to accurately predict exactly what your customer’s wants or needs are.

Luckily, AI can help, which can prove to be a lifesaver in your Christmas and Black Friday marketing campaigns. Often, these types of campaigns will include email marketing, where you’ll send promotions to customers via email. By using AI assistance to identify products a customer is most likely to buy and creating a unique discount code, you can make these email promotions far more appealing to customers, improving key metrics like engagement, click through rate, and ultimately revenue. 

Inventory Management

Inventory management is critical for retail businesses, and even more so during peak shopping seasons. If you find yourself without sufficient inventory for a particularly popular product, you could be missing out on significant revenue. 

AI can help retail businesses with inventory management much in the same way it helps with forecasting. The AI tool can analyse patterns in your sales figures to identify how often you need a product to be restocked, then bring it to your attention — some AI tools can even place the order without human intervention, streamlining the process even further.

Data Analysis

Incorporating AI and other forms of automation into your data analysis is very common in digital transformation strategies. We’ve actually mentioned variations of this function above: predictive analytics are a form of data analysis. However, it’s important to emphasise the breadth of possibilities AI in retail holds for data analysis.

One example is customer sentiment analysis. Social media analytics are a huge part of modern marketing, as metrics like engagement help you better understand customer loyalty and what you can do to improve retention. Using AI tools to analyse how your customers feel about your brand can help generate more actionable insights and therefore come up with more effective retention strategies. 

With more information available, retail businesses can plan better for key dates on their business calendar, such as peak shopping seasons. 

Integrate AI-Powered Tools Into Your Digital Products With Future Platforms

Looking to digitally transform your customer experiences? Future Platforms can help. We’re experts at creating impactful digital products for businesses, such as accessible, appealing websites to highly engaging brand apps.

We like to stay at the forefront of new technological developments, too. We can assist you in integrating AI functionality into your website or app, ensuring you stay one step ahead of the competition.

So, if you’re looking for effective, innovative digital products that set you apart from the competition, get in touch today.

How to Create a Digital Product to Boost Loyalty

Did you know that the majority of business leaders are investing in retaining existing customers, rather than acquiring new ones?

According to the 2024 Antavo Global Customer Loyalty Report, 67% of companies invest more in retention and loyalty, whereas only 31% spend their money on customer acquisition. In many cases, this investment is going towards developing the digital products that are essential to boosting loyalty in 2024, namely tools like websites and mobile apps.

In this article, we’ll look at how to create a digital product that’s functional, visually appealing, and provides value to your customers. Combining these factors into a single platform can be enormously helpful in building loyalty, especially during critical business periods like the run-up to peak shopping season. Read on for more.

Work With Experts

While having a well-made digital product is desirable, you may be concerned that you don’t have the internal expertise to produce a truly impactful website or mobile app. In these instances, it’s a good idea to outsource the task to developers with experience.

There are a huge number of web developers and app development agencies out there, so make sure you choose the right team for you. A good place to start is to think about the scale of your product: if you’re looking for something that’s usable on a wide range of devices, hybrid app developers will allow you to create a multiplatform digital product.

Ensure The Product Offers Value

Finding the kind of value your customers appreciate and integrating it into your app or website is one of our foremost pieces of advice on how to create a digital product. Any digital product you offer needs to provide some kind of value to your customers, or else it won’t see much use — and, therefore, won’t be particularly effective at boosting loyalty. 

The value your digital product offers could refer to a variety of benefits: common examples include discount codes, promotional offers, or even early access to new products. Depending on your industry, you might find a points-based system (where customers accumulate points when they spend) to be a worthwhile addition. Supermarkets and retail businesses frequently use points-based systems in their loyalty programmes and brand apps.

When considering how to implement the value you offer, you might initially consider traditional methods like physical loyalty cards. However, it’s important to note that digital loyalty programmes appeal much more to younger generations, which helps you boost loyalty among multiple demographics. 

Track Customer Behaviour

Tracking customer behaviour allows you to see buying patterns among your customers, which (when combined with customer segmentation) allows you to observe the difference between loyal customers and one-time visitors to your business. Through careful analysis of customer behaviour, you may even be able to identify the key touchpoints most likely to generate loyalty among customers.  

Tracking customer behaviour means looking at factors such as the products they buy, which web pages they spend the most time on, and how often they visit your website. If the digital product you’re building is a website, you may consider surveying customers directly, as this will affect how you design the site. 

Tracking customer behaviour even after the development of your digital product is crucial as it helps you adjust that product to increase its effectiveness. This is particularly important during peak seasons to help you maximise your return on investment. 

Identify Key Loyalty Metrics

Measuring customer loyalty is extremely important, as it allows you to see what’s helping your brand and what’s not. So, while looking into how to create a digital product, you should also try to identify some key metrics that will help you measure the product’s success after it launches. 

If you’re building a brand app — for example, one that can act as a platform for your loyalty programme — you’ll want to track downloads, active users, and sign-ups. For websites, you’ll need to offer some way of creating an account on the site in order to truly track loyalty metrics. While stats like pageviews and unique visitors help measure success, having customer accounts helps you identify which customers are returning to your business, and why. 

Pull Focus to Your Brand

Building brand loyalty means emphasising the presence of your brand. As such, make sure your brand colours, logos and style are front and centre in any digital products you build. 

However, take care not to overdo it — your app could end up appearing garish and busy if it’s plastered with distracting colours and logos. On the other hand, without any identifying design aspects, your app could appear generic and fail to cultivate awareness and loyalty among users. Finding the right balance is essential.

Ensuring that your branding doesn’t harm the navigability of your app or website is particularly important. If you have a large, complicated logo or use bright colours in your designs, make sure these don’t distract from the location of important functional icons like menus and contact buttons.

Create Impactful Digital Products with Future Platforms

While we’ve provided a range of useful advice on how to create a digital product above, it can still be an intimidatingly complicated project to embark on. If you’re looking to engage with your audience, build brand loyalty, and boost revenue with impactful digital products, get in touch with Future Platforms.

We are website and app development experts with a history of successful partnerships, and experience in both breaking new ground for our clients and improving their existing digital assets. For more information, contact our team today.

 

How Website Design Services Impact Brand Loyalty

In the modern business world, your digital presence may be the lynchpin of your entire business model. Ecommerce retailers, digital service providers, and similar online businesses all need a high-quality website to attract and (more importantly) retain customers. As such, they need similarly high-quality website design services.

Website design is a huge factor in the customer experience, as it decides whether or not your website is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and provides information in a clear and straightforward fashion. If your website is poorly designed and doesn’t provide these things, customers are unlikely to return on a frequent basis. In this way, website design is also a huge factor in brand loyalty.

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the connection between good website design services and brand loyalty, explaining the different aspects of design that may impact your brand loyalty. Read on to discover more

Building Efficient Customer Journeys

The word ‘design’ relates to both the aesthetics of something and its function. While they may seem entirely different — especially when it comes to website design —  there’s actually a significant connection between the design of your website and how fit for purpose it is. The connection mainly applies to the navigability of the website: how easy it is for a user to find what they want. 

Navigability is something that high-quality website design services will take a lot of care with. The architecture of your website, the look and location of the website menus, and the number of clicks it takes to achieve something all factor into how fast or slow a customer’s journey from home page to product page is. 

A fast journey means a simple, streamlined customer journey and a good customer experience, which in turn helps build brand loyalty. You want to make navigating the site as simple as possible, as frustrated customers who cannot find what they are looking for on your site may go to your competitors’ sites instead.

Ensuring a Solid Technical Foundation

One in four consumers would abandon a website if a page took more than four seconds to load. That’s not a lot of time — in order to hold a consumer’s interest, and retain their loyalty, you need to ensure the more technical aspects of your website are working optimally.

Even if you’re unable to access top-tier website design services, there are a few simple ways to optimise your website load times. Optimising images is a great first step. Ecommerce companies likely have to upload thousands of product images to their website, and while high-quality images are appealing, their high resolution could result in slower loading times. Unless you think high-quality images are also key to maintaining brand loyalty, it’s a good idea to prioritise speed over image resolution.

Another customer-focused technique for speeding up your website is to minimise redirects. Essentially, redirects are when your user will be directed to a page different from the one they want to go to. There are various reasons your website might need redirects, but too many can significantly slow load speed. It’s important to take the time to go through your website to reduce the number of redirects where possible, usually by fixing broken links or reducing links that send the user away from your website.

Support and Maintenance

Maintaining brand loyalty is all about consistency. You need to be consistent in your marketing messaging, in the quality of your products, and your website needs to provide a consistent customer experience. Should you experience outages, or your website displays inconsistent design and functionality, it will likely ostracise loyal customers.

This is one of the key connections between good website design services and brand loyalty. A good website designer will offer support and maintenance options, even beyond the initial development of the website. Before you establish a working relationship with a website design or firm, make sure you have the option of expanding your site in the future, and that someone will be on call to maintain the website should things go wrong.

Personalisation

Research by McKinsey suggests that 71% of consumers expect some level of personalisation when interacting with a company. In order not to fall behind the competition, this expectation needs to be factored in when designing your website. 

As with the other factors we’ve mentioned, most website design service providers will understand the modern consumer need for personalised experiences, and go to lengths to include personalisation in your website’s design DNA. However, the first step in personalisation is data capture, so you also need to ensure certain aspects of your website are designed to track customer behaviour. Otherwise, you will be unable to personalise their experience effectively.

Offering value is the core of most of the personal touches you can add during website design. For example, if one of your loyal customers visits a particular product page multiple times, sending them a discount code for that product would help maintain their loyalty over time. 

Alternatively, you could populate the homepage with images and quick links to products the consumer might like. This streamlines their journey and again serves to reinforce their loyalty.

Access Expert Website Design Services From Future Platforms

If you need a digital product like an app or website to take your business to new heights, Future Platforms can help.

Our expert team has helped build apps and websites for a number of high-profile clients, including Ralph Lauren, BT, and Domino’s Pizza. Each project was a resounding success for the client and helped them maintain both their excellent brand image as well as increase their revenue.

If you’re looking for high-level website design services, don’t hesitate to get in touch: contact our team here.

Linking AI And Customer Experience For Brand Loyalty

Artificial intelligence is experiencing incredible levels of popularity across a range of industries. According to the CompTIA IT Industry Outlook 2024, approximately 55% of businesses have now implemented AI to some extent in their operations. Due to the flurry of developments and improvements the technology has seen in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic, AI’s value in the business world has increased significantly. 

One of the key combinations we can see today is the seamless fusion of AI and customer experience. Using AI-powered tools, businesses can now make their customer journeys seamless, vastly improving the customer experience. A better customer experience inspires return visits to your business and positive word-of-mouth — which are the foundations of brand loyalty.

In this article, we’ll more clearly explain the link between brand loyalty, AI and customer experience. We’ll explain the specific ways AI can be implemented into your customer experiences and how this benefits you — read on to learn more.   

Using AI to Personalise the Customer Experience

Personalising the customer experience often takes a significant amount of time: your team needs to gather and analyse a huge amount of customer data, and then develop a scheme for personalisation. Even after this time investment, the personalisation may not be entirely accurate, as your team’s assessment of each individual customer’s behaviour may not be accurate. 

By leveraging AI, businesses can harvest and analyse data much faster — data on purchasing history, browsing habits, and demographic information can be accessed almost instantaneously. Using this data, AI tools can then begin adjusting your app or website. For instance, products more likely to appeal to the customer can be displayed more often, making it easier and faster to make purchase decisions. 

So, what’s the real business impact of this type of AI use? A case study by Harvard Business Review looked at how security tech firm Brinks Home (in conjunction with AI startup OtterFit), used AI to complete A/B marketing tests at an astonishing rate (roughly 50,000 per day). As a result, Brinks was able to identify the best way to personalise each customer touchpoint much faster, increasing overall revenue by 9.5% from 2020 to 2021.

Using AI to Anticipate Customer Needs

Being able to predict your customer’s needs is an essential part of doing business efficiently. It allows you to plan better, and get ahead of your competition. Using AI-powered algorithms, you can accurately predict consumer behaviour ahead of time, helping you understand their wants and needs in the future. 

Businesses that sell single-use or disposable products — particularly those using a subscription model — can benefit immensely by implementing AI in this way. The customer experience for those businesses hinges on the fast and convenient provision of goods: when they run out, they want more as soon as possible. Using predictive AI to analyse a particular customer’s behaviour, a subscription system can understand how often that customer typically needs a new order of the product, and suggest the correct delivery timescale to them.

Since it shows that the business is conscious of the customer’s needs, and values their business, this strategy is perfect for building brand loyalty. Additionally, it makes the purchasing process much more convenient, which is a huge factor when it comes to online shopping: a staggering 97% of shoppers say it’s something they consider when deciding where to make a purchase. By using AI to make your business an easy, convenient place to shop, you can significantly improve brand loyalty and encourage frequent repeat purchases. 

Using AI as a Virtual Assistant

Providing excellent customer service is essential if you want to create an optimal experience for customers. After all, customer service most often gets involved when things go wrong, which means it’s a very delicate part of the customer journey. Good customer service in a crisis can be the difference between gaining or losing loyal customers.

While AI currently lacks the grasp of social nuance and decision-making skills a human customer service agent can bring to the table, it can offer a very efficient solution to the most simple problems. Implementing AI into automated customer service tools like chatbots allows those bots to quickly understand customer issues and offer the solution that best fits the situation. These responses are very quick, something that consumers enjoy: 68% of chatbot users appreciate how quickly chatbots respond. 

Additionally, AI can be programmed with similar Natural Language Processing functionality to popular digital assistants like Siri or Alexa. By offering a voice chat option in your AI chatbots, you open a new (and more importantly) highly accessible customer service channel for your audience. Accessibility is key to generating brand loyalty, as it shows that you care about your customers’ needs and want to make it easy for them to be heard.

While a chatbot may not be able to fully replace your human customer service team, it can certainly present an excellent self-service option. The right combination of tools can help you build an AI-powered chatbot that allows voice communication and can suggest relevant solutions, products, or blog articles in response to customer queries.

Integrating Digital Tools Into Your Customer Experience With Digital Platforms

At Future Platforms, we understand how automation and digital products can form a crucial part of the customer experience. We’re experts in helping brands create engaging digital assets, such as mobile apps and websites. These tools can be the key to forming new relationships with customers or reinforcing existing brand loyalty. 

For example, we’ve built an incredible digital experience for Domino’s Pizza customers throughout the UK. Our mobile app is fast, easy to use, and integrates with other platforms such as the Apple Watch and Xbox One, to create a seamless multi-channel experience. As a result, our app is the source of 46% of all Domino’s orders.

So, if you’re looking for effective, innovative digital products that set you apart from the competition, get in touch today.

How Design Shapes The Buying Decision Process

In a study of consumer attitudes by researchers at Northumbria University, individuals were shown a range of online health sites and asked to provide feedback. In 94% of instances, all of the comments offered by the individuals were based on the visual design of the website. 

So, while the purpose of your products and the quality of your service will often be front of mind when you start building your business, it’s actually your image that can be the deciding factor in the buying decision process. 

A consumer’s first impression of your business is the idea that tends to stick, so it’s crucial to make the most of their initial visit to your website or first use of your app. That means optimising your digital design to make the best impression possible. 

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most impactful aspects of brand design, and discuss how you can leverage these aspects to impress and intrigue your audience. We’ll look at how design is linked to brand identity, how design can be used to create an emotional response, and more. 

Design and Brand Identity

Good design is essential for building brand recognition. When consumers can easily identify your brand via your logo, through the colours you’re associated with, or other design elements, it helps build trust. Trust and familiarity are big factors in the buying decision process: consumers are more likely to buy products from businesses they recognise, and good design can help build that trust.

Assuming you already have a logo or a set of colours and fonts that identify marketing materials as belonging to your brand, you’ll want to look at integrating them into any digital products you add to the customer experience. However, the frequency with which you use your logo and the prominence of your brand colours is a critical question. 

For example, if you’re making a mobile app, you’ll have limited space to work with on a user’s phone screen. Having your logo on every single one of your pages may cause the app to look crowded and confusing. However, the app may look generic without your logo and lack brand identity. Finding a balance helps effectively influence consumers’ purchase decisions. 

Streamlining Customers’ Purchase Decisions

Although the loading speed of a website or app largely depends on technical factors, the speed at which a user can navigate the site is down to design. This is because the design of your digital product decides how clear the menus are, how easy the buttons are to locate, and how simple it is to find specific product pages. 

Making menus simple is the best place to start, firstly because it’s a key factor in navigability — and 37% of consumers say they would avoid any website that’s difficult to navigate — and secondly, because the design of your menu may also impact your whole website architecture. 

For most businesses, a small menu on your homepage with 5-10 categories is a good place to start, but it depends on the complexity of your company. The key is to ensure that a customer looking to buy something can achieve that goal as quickly as possible. Look at huge retailers such as Amazon as an example: while they have thousands of product pages, they clearly outline their different product categories and have a highly visible search bar available.

The Power of Emotional Connections

Creative design choices are perfect for subtly leveraging the emotions of your audience. Using the emotional connection that each individual feels to your brand is a great way to improve sales. 

For example, retro logo designs using old-fashioned art styles (or even re-released versions of old company logos) are gaining in popularity. This is an intentional strategy to provoke an emotional response in consumers. Retro styles often create a feeling of nostalgia (even in younger demographics), and it’s this positive association that companies are looking to capture through clever design.

Even something as simple as colour can help create an emotional connection. The link between particular colours and emotions is a well-researched topic, and has been around for hundreds of years: the idea of turning “green with envy” likely originates with Shakespeare in 1607. 

What’s more useful for businesses is that the psychology of colour is somewhat universal, as research finds that people from over 30 countries can link the same colours and emotions, regardless of a shared language. By using a particular colour in your designs (for instance, navy blue to indicate steadfastness and professionalism), you’ll be able to communicate a simple idea to a huge audience. 

Work With the Digital Design Experts at Future Platforms

Innovation and creativity are key elements of impactful design. They’re also some of our core values here at Future Platforms. We strive to create attractive, engaging digital products that can help our clients reinvent themselves and their customer experience. 

So, if you’re looking for revolutionary digital products that can streamline your customers’ purchase decisions, increase revenue, and improve the customer experience, be sure to contact our team.

5 Best Christmas Campaigns from 2023

Christmas is an incredibly important time for retailers, as the revenue boost from holiday sales can make or break a small business’ financial year. So, to ensure that Christmas has the appropriate impact, companies often spend a significant amount of money on their Christmas marketing campaigns. 

In this article, we’ll examine some of the most successful Christmas marketing campaigns from 2023 to provide some inspiration for your 2024 Christmas campaigns. We’ll discuss the major themes in each campaign, and look at what smaller businesses can take away from these large-scale campaigns. Read on for more.

1. Asda: Make this Christmas Incredibublé

Asda’s 2023 campaign was a perfect example of celebrity endorsement both in front of and behind the camera. Singer Michael Bublé is the lead actor in the advert, which in itself is a great way to reinforce festive themes — Bublé has been closely associated with Christmas since his top-selling 2011 album (appropriately titled “Christmas”).

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However, the other unseen celebrity endorsement in this advert is the director — the TV spot was filmed by Academy Award winner Taika Waititi. The use of such a prolific director is an interesting spin on celebrity endorsements, and a useful tip for businesses that can’t afford the same level of stardom in their marketing: to make the most of your Christmas campaigns, go to the experts.

While it’s unlikely that your business will be able to afford a Hollywood director or an internationally acclaimed singer, the core concept remains the same. Your festive marketing has a lot riding on it, so whether it’s a TV advert, a billboard campaign or a new brand app, make sure it’s developed by a team with experience and in-depth knowledge. If you don’t have those resources internally, consider outsourcing the job.

2. Coca-Cola: The World Needs More Santas

Much like Michael Bublé, Coca-Cola is intrinsically linked to the modern image of Christmas. They’re such a part of the festive period that a common misconception is that Coca-Cola’s advertising is the source of the iconic red Santa suit

Coca-Cola leveraged this reputation in their 2023 Christmas campaign, “The World Needs More Santas”. The crux of the advert is the idea that everyone has the capacity to be a Santa to someone else and bring joy to others over the holiday season. 

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In this Christmas marketing campaign, Coca-Cola successfully uses its reputation and its association with familiar cultural touchpoints to create an emotional response in viewers. This is a key lesson for marketers to learn over the Christmas period: use the familiar to impact your audience, whether that familiarity is in your established reputation or in the imagery you use.

3. IKEA – Take a Holiday from the Holidays

IKEA used their Christmas marketing campaign to encourage their viewers to relax and take a break from the busy holiday season. In the advert, various people can be seen taking a moment to be alone and away from frantic holiday situations like parties and family gatherings. 

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IKEA’s main focus in this Christmas campaign is to project a sense of relatability. Christmas is typically a stressful time for people, and IKEA offers customers the option to relax and distance themselves from those stresses — preferably through the medium of IKEA products.

Creating a relatable Christmas marketing campaign is actually easier than doing one at any other time of the year. Christmas is a fairly universal experience, so it’s easy to include classic tropes in your marketing material since there are so many that your viewers will understand and relate to. 

If, on the other hand, you want to project relatability at any other time of the year, you’ll need to complete significant market research on your audience. You need to know who you’re selling to, and when is the best time to target them, in order to create advertising that actively relates to them.

4. Amazon – Joy Ride

Amazon is a keystone of modern ecommerce, with billions of people visiting their website in 2023. Even so, they need to have a solid Christmas marketing campaign: advertising over Christmas is essential in keeping customers interested in their brand and ensuring a successful Christmas peak season.

Amazon’s 2023 Christmas campaign “Joy Ride” did not focus on its status as an online shopping giant or the convenience it provides customers. Instead, it tells a short, sentimental story about recapturing lost youth over the Christmas season.

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In this campaign, Amazon delivers a masterclass in a common Christmas marketing campaign strategy: use sentimentality to establish an emotional connection between viewers and your brand. For giants like Amazon, this tactic is particularly valuable since the sheer size of the company makes appearing relatable difficult. Instead of trying to personally engage with customers, Amazon can instead use these emotionally charged campaigns to give their multinational corporation a more human face. 

5. M&S – Thismas Not Thatmas

Marks & Spencers employ a combination of several of the tactics we’ve listed above in their 2023 Christmas campaign “Thismas Not Thatmas”. The general idea of the campaign is to break away from the social conventions of Christmas, advising people to “do what they love” instead of what they feel they have to do.

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The advert combines relatability (as they address the stresses of Christmas much like IKEA’s ad) with celebrity endorsement (taking on Asda’s version by employing multiple stars in a single montage) in a maverick approach that challenges the typical sentimental view of Christmas. It’s an interesting take from a very old-school British retail, and reminds marketers that with the right tactics, you don’t need to adhere to traditional Christmas imagery. 

Develop Digital Products With Future Platforms and Supercharge Your 2024 Christmas Campaigns

Are you looking for a Christmas marketing campaign that sets you apart from your competition? Digital products like apps and websites could help revolutionise the way you market your brand.

Working with Future Platforms helps brands create engaging, impactful digital campaigns using appealing websites and streamlined, accessible brand apps. Learn how you can work with us here

Marketing Campaigns for Black Friday & Christmas 2024

Marketing is a key element in maximising profits from peak shopping seasons, such as  Christmas and Black Friday. While product development, customer service, and logistics are all crucial business functions, marketing is the factor that will attract the most customers to your business over the holiday season.

In this article, we’ll look at some tactics and techniques that your business can leverage to ensure success during the end-of-year peak shopping season. We’ll discuss seasonal marketing trends in general, and examine specific strategies for Black Friday and Christmas campaigns. Keep reading to discover the path to peak season success. 

Seasonal Marketing Trends in 2024

One of the overarching themes in modern marketing is the idea of the customer perspective. By offering value to customers, and also making a genuine attempt to empathise with their problems and offer a solution, companies can create stronger, more convincing marketing campaigns, especially around peak shopping season.

Most of the best examples of customer-focused marketing offer value to the customer. For instance, providing free gifts is an excellent marketing tactic. Christmas is an expensive time for customers, so being able to offer added value for their money shows how much a business appreciates their audience. During Black Friday, free gifts are a good way to show just how much value is being offered, as the key to Black Friday success means offering a better deal than your competitors.

Another customer-focused marketing strategy is the idea of building communities. Whether you use your website, blog comments, or social media accounts, most businesses have a range of platforms they can use to provide a forum for consumer discussion. By providing a place for consumers to have discussions, and then observing and engaging with those discussions, you can establish a much closer relationship with your customers.

However, make sure you don’t push that relationship too far: it’s also important not to over-engage and overwhelm the customer with marketing messages. According to the 2023 Optimove Consumer Marketing Fatigue Survey, 73% of consumers would prefer to receive fewer marketing messages, with more than one in four (27%) saying they feel “bombarded” by messaging.  A smart, customer-focused marketing strategy limits  marketing emails to only the most relevant content. 

How to Maximise Black Friday Sales With Marketing

Black Friday is consistently listed as one of the biggest retail shopping days in the world, and should hold a prominent place on almost any business calendar. While the day initially began as a US-only sales opportunity, UK and European businesses now also hold significant Black Friday sales. 

Since Black Friday itself is only a single day (specifically the first Friday after Thanksgiving), one of the more popular marketing techniques to maximise Black Friday sales is to extend it through the rest of the week. Most businesses will still offer their biggest discounts on Friday. But it’s common (and effective) to begin reducing prices on Monday, slowly increasing the discounts and building customer enthusiasm until Black Friday itself.  

“Comparative” marketing is also a useful tactic during Black Friday, as it will help you stand out in a marketplace where almost every business is likely to be reducing prices. Comparative marketing means to present your products (or in the context of Black Friday, your discounts and promotions) as being superior to your competitors. This helps steer money-conscious customers towards your business.

Finally, consider ways you could implement digital products into your marketing for Black Friday. If you have a customer loyalty app, for example, it can provide an excellent channel for marketing messaging and announcements. To increase downloads and usage of the app, consider offering promotions that are only available to app users.   

Christmas Campaigns: Advice for 2024

Christmas is a huge event for businesses, particularly supermarkets, retailers, and those selling “giftable” consumer products. If you fall into any of these categories, a significant chunk of your marketing budget should be reserved for promoting your business over the festive season. In fact, many marketing experts advise starting your Christmas marketing campaigns as early as July-September.

But what to include in these campaigns? Taking a customer-centric approach might mean leveraging sentimentality. Emotionally-charged marketing campaigns, featuring family-focused, traditional imagery, tend to be highly successful over the Christmas season. However, the idea behind these types of campaigns is that they are relatable, or at least provoke nostalgia amongst your audience. Keep this in mind when selecting imagery for these campaigns. 

Similarly to Black Friday, integrating digital products can be a huge benefit to your marketing. Even small design changes like adding Christmas imagery to the user interface of your brand can have a positive impact. One crucial point to remember is that Christmas represents a significant expenditure for most families. If you can use your customer loyalty program or brand app to deliver significant value during this time, your customers will appreciate it.    

Supercharge Your Christmas Marketing Campaigns With Digital Products From Future Platforms

The future of marketing lies in technology — so why not get a head start? Future Platforms provides businesses the opportunity to design and develop a tailored digital experience for their customers that fulfils business needs and satisfies consumer wants.

So, if you’re looking for effective, innovative digital products that set you apart from the competition, get in touch today.

Maximise Peak ROI with Customer Loyalty and Retention

If you need a revenue boost, it’s important to make the most of high-sales periods when they appear. As such, peak shopping seasons are likely to be an important time for your business. But how can you maximise your return on investment during these periods?

Loyalty is a crucial factor in maximising peak season revenue and customer lifetime value: research from marketing experts Marigold suggests that 63% of consumers will pay more to shop with the brands they’re loyal to. Leveraging this loyalty during peak season means engaging with your customers and making them feel valued — otherwise, you may lose them to the promotions and discounts that often spring up during peak shopping periods.

In this article, we’ll look at building customer loyalty in the weeks leading up to peak season, and then discuss how you can leverage retention techniques to ensure above-average peak season sales. We’ll also explain what peak seasons are, and how they differ by location and industry. 

What Are Peak Seasons?

Peak seasons are simply short periods of higher sales for businesses. However, the context is important, as not every peak season will be relevant to your business.

For example, some peak seasons are cultural: the most well-known examples of this type of peak would be religious holidays like Christmas and cultural events like Black Friday (which follows the American holiday Thanksgiving). These types of peaks typically involve gift-buying or large, traditional meals, so they are peak times for retail businesses and supermarkets.

Other peaks are seasonal. Most examples of this have to do with weather and temperature changes: for instance, energy companies typically see a peak season in winter as people use more gas and electricity to heat their homes. Clothing companies that specialise in either summer or winter fashions will also see peaks at the appropriate season. 

Regardless of the context, peak seasons represent a great opportunity to expand your audience as a business and boost sales. 

Do Peak Seasons Differ Between Different Countries?

As we mentioned above, there are reasons behind each peak season, and this means that no peak is truly universal (i.e. affects every single business). Location is probably the most significant factor in determining the relevant peak seasons. For example:

Businesses typically roll out large marketing campaigns and offer significant discounts to maximise peak season sales. These are great for customer acquisition, but as most of their competitors will also be preparing for peak season, it can be a struggle to carve out a share of the peak season market. However, focusing on leveraging the loyalty of existing customers (instead of trying to attract new ones) can offer an alternative path to peak season success.  

Building Customer Loyalty

Having a solid base of loyal customers is important to maintaining a steady cash flow. These customers can reliably provide a range of helpful benefits: the one most important to your cash flow is that they are likely to return to your business often to buy from you again and again. However, there are other advantages to building loyalty. For example, loyal customers are much more likely to help build your reputation through positive word-of-mouth and favourable online reviews.

Building customer loyalty is also helpful in preparing for peak seasons, but make sure that you initiate any loyalty-building campaigns well in advance of peak season so that you have time to truly establish a significant audience of loyal customers.  Building loyalty takes time, and it’s unlikely that your campaigns will have much of an impact if they only run for a month before peak season begins.

But what exactly do these campaigns involve? There is a huge range of tactics that businesses can implement in order to build customer loyalty. Below, we’ll look into what some of these tactics are and how you can execute them effectively. 

Providing Value Through Customer Loyalty Programs

One of the most widely adopted methods for building customer loyalty is the use of a loyalty program. These are typically account-based systems that provide a way for businesses to offer value to customers who sign up.

For example, a very common type of loyalty program for supermarkets is a points-based system. Customers sign up for an account, and any purchases they make with the company accrue points (this encourages customers to repeatedly buy from the company). The company then offers value by allowing customers to redeem points in exchange for certain benefits, such as vouchers, free products, or discounts. 

Non-points-based programs may simply work as ‘voucher libraries’ where users can scroll through to find promotions or discount codes for items. Most loyalty programs are tied to a mobile app for ease of use — but making the program downloadable (alongside the need to create an account) improves its usefulness in data capture.

During peak season, loyalty programs can be reworked to increase their use or encourage more customers to sign up. For instance, reward points could be given greater value, or limited-time discounts could be offered to those who signed up. Lidl credits its position as the fastest-growing grocer in Q4 2023 on its loyalty program, which provided seasonal benefits like an Advent calendar-style promotion offering a coupon a day during December.

Aligning Your Brand Messaging to Build Trust

A key part of building customer loyalty is brand consistency. If consumers trust that you’re genuine with what you say you are and what you want to do,  it’s likely that they’ll continuously shop with you, but building this trust means staying consistent with that message across both your words and actions. 

However, while some businesses only express their values and principles through marketing messaging, true loyalty can only be established if you successfully express your values through the core framework of your company as well. Your products, customer service, and the way you treat employees all need to demonstrate your company values publicly and consistently.

Should you advertise one set of values but practise another, customers will likely notice a disconnect between what you say and what you do. Similarly, practising your company values but not actively advertising that fact in your marketing campaigns means that regardless of how positive your values are, they won’t be publicly known. 

Other Strategies for Building Loyalty

Say you’re already offering a loyalty program and are consistent in your brand messaging. What else is there to offer? Below, we’ve included two more strategies for improving customer loyalty and retention.

The first is a more indirect tactic than the two listed above: community building. Building online and offline communities is a powerful tool for helping the brand connect with consumers, but it doesn’t directly improve loyalty. Instead, it’s about providing forums for consumers to discuss the product or brand in question. 

Once a brand establishes a forum, it must then encourage conversation by consistently creating relevant content. If this content can successfully engage your audience and allow opinions to develop, it will provoke conversation, and loyalty should organically arise from your community-building efforts.

Another tactic is to provide consumers with a feeling of exclusivity as well as value. Doing so can be particularly impactful for brands looking to convey a feeling of luxury, or that sell luxury products. Giving customers the impression that they are in an exclusive group makes them feel more valued, which can help build their loyalty.

Specifically, the feeling of exclusivity can be provided through offers like early access to new products — even if the product will eventually be made widely available anyway, letting loyal customers access it first helps them feel valued. During a peak season, holding in-person events for these early-access opportunities can provide incredible word-of-mouth marketing, especially if you have a loyalty program app that connects to social media accounts, making posting about attendance easier for consumers. 

How Digital Products Can Help You Maximise Your ROI

Loyalty programs are a common and fairly effective way to build customer loyalty. But how can you roll out a customer loyalty program on a large scale, and in a way that makes it easy for your customers to sign up and enjoy its benefits?

Digital products are the solution. The term ‘digital product’ usually refers to an app in most instances, but in the case of online businesses, their digital product will likely be an extension of their website (or simply a mobile link to the website itself). Combining a loyalty program with a digital product allows customers to access it far more easily, and provides a great platform for your brand imagery and marketing. 

Below, we’ll share a few ways you can utilise digital products to maximise your return on investment, particularly during peak season.

Using Digital Products To Leverage Loyalty

Digital products provide an innovative channel with which you can leverage some of the other tactics we’ve suggested above. Typically, a business would use a loyalty program app to display the various discounts available to its customers, or use the app to track purchases and accrue loyalty reward points. 

The ability to track purchases is an important feature of loyalty apps. It allows businesses to better identify and reward loyal customers by tracking product preferences and buying behaviour. As well as offering data capture opportunities, digital products also help create active opportunities for customers to provide feedback via surveys and questionnaires.

Finally, loyalty apps integrate well with the idea of community building to create loyalty —  a loyalty app is a great platform to create a forum for your users to discuss the brand and hold discussions. By engaging in these discussions and implementing customer suggestions, you can improve loyalty by showing customers that you’re interested in what they have to say. 

The Importance of Design

When designing a digital product like a website or brand app, make sure the design keeps your brand imagery at the forefront. This means including prominent logos, as well as your brand colours and style.

However, it’s also important to keep things simple and streamlined — never make it so that your design prevents customers from easily finding the product they need and purchasing it. Additionally, take care to avoid making significant changes during peak season. You may want to include clear indicators pointing out discounted products and the like, but moving pages around too much could confuse loyal customers.

Design is a core factor in the success of your digital product. If you don’t have the skills to develop the app in-house, make sure you outsource the task to a team that can offer a high level of technical expertise alongside a passion for design.  

Making The Most of Your Peak Seasons With Future Platforms

Future Platforms offer end-to-end services to cover all aspects of your digital journey. Regardless of the digital product you need, we’re able to lend our insights and experience to ensure you can provide your customers with the best experience possible.

If you’re looking for effective, innovative digital products that set you apart from the competition, get in touch today.

Four use cases of AI in sports and the fan experience

The AI revolution is in full swing. According to PwC data, 73% of US firms have already adopted AI in some form, with generative AI adoption in particular leading the charge. UK survey results paint a similar picture, with 52% of British companies now adopting the technology.

While concrete applications of some solutions are still to emerge, we thought we’d take some time to look at potential use cases of AI in sports. In this article, we’ll share our thoughts on the top five use cases of AI in sports, along with how they each work, and what problems lie ahead for the sector in the coming months. Read on to learn more and discover an exciting potential future for AI-enabled sports fan interaction.

Four potential use cases for AI in sports fan experiences

1. AI in sports marketing

In our recent industry survey of British sports fans showed that fans’ appetite for data and player stats is high. We found that 46% of fans interact with their favourite app just before the event starts, while 41% check in during the event. AI sports analysis tools could, therefore, help sports leaders satisfy fan curiosity and improve engagement rates well after games have ended. 

For example, intelligent cameras could help you capture unique perspectives of key game moments and give fans a totally new perspective on the action. By using computer vision models to track player movements in real time, you could pull seamless snippets of game highlights in seconds and share them online.

You could even streamline your workload even more by automating when fans see this content and enriching their experience further by positioning the never-before-seen moments as exclusive benefits for app users.

2. Enhancing customer service and interaction

AI sports analysis tools could also be used to improve customer service standards while fans buy tickets, merchandise and other amenities. Using customers’ previous purchase history, club managers can optimise stock levels, maximise seat occupancy, and more, all by using intelligent models that predict customer behaviour.

Similarly, Generative AI systems (one of the most well-known AI solutions by now) could also transform fan interactions. Branded chatbots for routine customer service problems are an obvious use case so some innovative sports leaders are taking a more novel approach. Namely, by launching new chat services featuring fans’ favourite sports personalities, like NFL legend Tom Brady as ‘Bru’, a wise-cracking commentator.

3. Streamlining the stadium experience

AI in sports needn’t be an online-only benefit, as there are plenty of applications for data science in sports stadiums, too. For example, in-app integrations have the potential to help fans find the most efficient route to their seat, no matter their preferred travel options.

Equally, data science in sports stadiums can also be applied to boost in-stadium safety and security by minimising traffic flows, improving crowd control mechanisms and generally streamlining the sports fan experience via seamless logistics strategies.

4. Improving AI tools for sports betting

AI sports analysis tools are also being actively developed by many third parties, such as gambling firms. While AI tools for sports betting may be a divisive use case for some, there are benefits worth mentioning. 

Namely, AI tools for sports betting could give customers the most favourable odds on in-game action. Given this, they have the potential to refine a deeply ingrained part of many sports fans’ habits for the better by introducing next-gen competition to the market.

The future of data science and AI in sports

AI in sports, like many other areas, is a hot topic right now and there are some issues that you should anticipate in the months ahead. 

As with any other digital software, data privacy and cybersecurity will be an ongoing challenge. This is because AI systems have immense predictive power and so, depending on the data you provide, could become targets for threat actors. Equally, AI solutions often inherit all the same biases that humans hold (for better or worse), so business leaders need to maintain strict oversight while new systems are being developed and piloted. 

In turn, governments across the world are currently drafting and implementing legislation that will shape what AI in sports looks like for years to come. Most notably, the EU’s AI Act; as the earliest (and by some predictions, strictest) piece of legislation, it has established much of the groundwork of AI in sports. In brief, AI sports analysis models must be explainable and safeguard users from the sort of biases discussed previously.

So, with more legislation and innovation to come within data science in sports, it’s more important than ever to partner with an expert digital product agency, like Future Platforms. As a full-service design and development agency, we can build intelligent apps, websites and digital touchpoints that elevate sports fan experiences. We’ve worked with plenty of big-name brands at home and abroad, so we’re very familiar with today’s fan experiences and where they’re going.

Learn more about the future place of AI in sports in our latest Whitepaper

Our latest report goes in-depth on the current and future challenges facing the sports industry.

Complete with insights from industry experts, club leaders and a whopping 1,000 British sports fans, we offer a forward-thinking vision for the future of everything from AI in sports and beyond. We also offer strategic recommendations to help club leaders adapt amid a fragmenting landscape of sports media consumption and more.

Get your free copy now.

Common Hybrid App Development Challenges

Hybrid app development is rapidly becoming the most popular app development methodology, and for good reason: hybrid offers a host of significant benefits compared to native app development, not least of which is a potential 30% reduction in costs. 

However, that’s not to say hybrid app development doesn’t have its own challenges. In order to enjoy the benefits of hybrid app development, developers need to be able to recognise the pitfalls of this methodology and know how to overcome them.

In this article, we’ll look at some of these pitfalls and share tips on how to avoid or overcome them. We’ll also help you get a better understanding of what hybrid app development is, and the advantages it has over native app development.

What is hybrid app development?

Whereas native app development means building apps for a specific platform, hybrid app development means creating an app that’s usable on multiple platforms. The most common example would be building a mobile app that’s usable on both Android and iOS phones. 

The key benefit of hybrid development is how it streamlines the entire app-building process by reducing the work involved. Instead of having to write the code for your app multiple times in multiple programming languages (as you would with native app development), hybrid allows you to write the code once and then deploy it across a number of different platforms. 

We asked our Head of Mobile, Douglas Hoskins, to describe the benefits of hybrid app development below:

“With native app development, you need multiple teams working in different languages. But with hybrid, it’s a smaller team, all fixing bugs and making improvements to a single codebase. There are fewer conversations you need to have, fewer people to align in order to get things where they need to be, and less code overall. Less code means less time spent maintaining and debugging it going forward.”

But these advantages don’t mean there aren’t also disadvantages to the hybrid approach. We’ve detailed some challenges you might encounter (and how to overcome them) below.

4 Common Hybrid App Development Challenges

1. Tailoring your app to users’ devices

Hybrid development tools like Kotlin Multiplatform allow you to build a universal codebase for multiple platforms, but doing so means you might lose out on functions specific to each device. As such, one of the common challenges of hybrid app development is making sure an app feels functional and fit for its specific purpose, even though it won’t be able to access some platform-specific features.

The key to overcoming this issue lies in the design of your app, rather than its functionality. Refocusing on assets like using brand colours, logos, and animations helps make the app feel functional and appealing, even if it lacks device-specific functions. As long as you combine impactful branding with comprehensive debugging (to ensure smooth performance), users will be happy regardless of the platform they use. 

2. Debugging and testing

While debugging and testing are crucial for high performance, they can present a challenge for hybrid apps, as native integrations are unavoidable even when using hybrid app development. As such, debugging may become complicated as these native integrations need to be tested separately from the overall hybrid code. 

Communication and thoroughness are key if you want to avoid this pitfall. Your entire team should be aware of exactly what needs to be done — specifically, what the native integrations are and what problems specific to that platform they might encounter.

3. Building a secure platform for users

Security is a huge factor during the development of any app, but it is likely to be much more of a priority in hybrid app development, as the different platforms you’re building for will each have different vulnerabilities and security systems. However, in some ways, making your app secure is actually easier in hybrid app development. 

To ensure your app (and any sensitive data your users store on the app) stays secure, it’s important to remember what can be done at the hybrid level (i.e. what you can change once that will affect all versions of the app) and what will need to be checked on each specific platform. For instance, certificate pinning and database encryption can be done at the hybrid level, but jailbreak detection must be done natively. 

4. Innovating without support

Hybrid app development, by its nature, means building apps without support from the corporations that built the platforms your app will exist on. This can lead to issues, as Future Platforms Head of Mobile Douglas Hoskins explains:

“If you’re doing fully native app development, you’ll generally use a set of tools provided by Apple or Google, so you can count on the quality of those tools and a certain level of support and documentation being available. 

On hybrid platforms, you’re going off the beaten track a bit in terms of the ‘recommended approach’, even if you’re using established tools like Kotlin Multiplatform or Flutter. The key thing to avoid in that off-piste environment would be moving even further away from the recommended development practices within that framework. The further you go the less support you’ll find, and the harder it’ll be to build a team for your project as well.

For example, if you stick to a well-reviewed GitHub library or the recommended Flutter blueprint for your app, your developers will feel right at home and there’s a community that you can reach out to for help.”

Work with hybrid app development experts

However, Douglas’ point isn’t to say that innovation is impossible during hybrid app development. For example, during Future Platforms’ work with Virgin Active, we built a digital experience that helped redefine the relationship that Virgin Active has with its members in a post-pandemic world. Our team successfully leveraged Kotlin Multiplatform beyond how it has previously been used and broke new ground with the way in which we share ViewModels. 

You can learn more about Future Platforms’ successes in hybrid app development here