The battle against “fake news” in the workplace will come to a head
In 2019, we saw the proliferation of “fake news” spill out of the political sphere and make its way into organisations. Companies are now battling new frontiers we’ve never seen before – from the fight against deep-fakes, to “digital water coolers” running rampant among employees, to the spread of social and collaboration platforms that make it easy for anyone to spread disinformation. And all the while, employee engagement is only becoming more critical, as organisations must effectively engage and retain employees to win the war for talent. In 2020, these forces will come to a head for business leaders as they look to combat the infiltration of “fake news” and deliver a unified message to employees. Organisations will risk losing trust and transparency with their workforce or turn to new strategies, such as creating a single source of truth for company communications, establishing “truth ambassadors” as trusted sources and building mechanisms for transparency and feedback.
Expect increased investment in employee engagement to keep up with digital workplace challenges.
Amid the digital workplace shift, current technologies will be exchanged for new ones and new solutions adopted internally, as organisations race to create a more connected, engaged and productive workforce. The employee engagement space will be one to watch as investment continues in collaboration and “productivity” tools like Slack, which are often touted as an answer to this issue of employee engagement. But with so many devices and employee preferences in play, the type of peer-to-peer communication offered by these tools doesn’t deliver the alignment that companies are really after. Companies will need to focus on a multi-channel strategy and delivering information, from benefits updates to compliance training to company news, from a unified platform to reach all employees. These types of employee communications platforms will allow managers and supervisors to communicate quickly and seamlessly with team members whether they are behind a desk, in the field or on a factory floor.
Ethical leadership will make or break the bottom line
Throughout 2019, a myriad of factors have forced companies to recognise the importance of ethical leadership. From employee protests and walkouts to GDPR and the data privacy troubles of companies like Facebook, ethics has become the crux of both employee satisfaction and business success as employees demand more out of their employers. Especially with forecasts predicting a potential economic slowdown, in 2020 we will see the C-suite grasp ethical practices as a competitive advantage, revamping and restructuring corporate social responsibility programmes and efforts to demonstrate their commitment. Ethical leadership will no longer be an option, but an imperative that directly impacts the bottom line, pushing companies to build ethics into policies and practices, place a renewed focus on company culture and seek ways to measure the impact of their efforts.
IT will become more user experience-focused and drive the employee experience. IT can no longer be all about point solutions and ensuring governance, compliance and ticket velocity; it must connect to broader business objectives, as the need to recruit and retain top talent becomes more imperative. As the workforce continues to evolve and organisations shift toward the digital workplace, IT will increasingly focus on employee adoption, usage and the end-user experience, delivering technology and strategies that meet employee demands and rising expectations. That means everything from more automated processes to mobile-first platforms so employees can work faster, smarter and better, wherever they may be. In the coming year, we will see more technology-focused initiatives aimed at supporting a culture of transparency and collaboration and driving organisational alignment, all of which are central to improving the employee experience.
Employee engagement strategies will centre on the multi-generational workforce
We’ve all heard the talk of millennials and Gen Z taking over the workplace, and organisations can no longer ignore this seismic demographic shift when it comes to the employee experience. Businesses today are facing an employee engagement crisis, grappling with more factors and distractions among employees than ever before – from decreased attention spans to the proliferation of chat tools, social platforms and consumer-like technologies that have changed how employees consume information. With so many varied preferences, behaviours and devices across generations, organisations will need to adopt a multi-generational, multi-channel engagement strategy in order to win employees’ mindshare in 2020. This type of approach allows for flexibility, targeting and personalisation so businesses can deliver the right message to the right demographic – and retain workers before they go elsewhere.
IT hiring initiatives will become more “soft skills”-focused and personality-based. To succeed in digital transformation initiatives, the workforce must be flexible, creative and motivated to drive change. While IT has traditionally focused on solving problems in the quickest and most cost-effective way, this hasn’t left much room for creative problem solving, in turn stunting team collaboration and company growth. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, only 2 in 10 employees agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work, and this is costing businesses between $960 million and $1.2 trillion a year. In the coming year, IT leaders will increasingly look for employees who can see the bigger picture and work with a sense of purpose on top of knowing the tricks of the trade. Creative employees who can take a larger business problem and present a technical solution, or who can come up with “what if” scenarios to develop new solutions, will help teams become more collaborative and goal-oriented and improve the employee experience through technology.
Insights from employee communications will deliver organisational intelligence
Communications and HR teams will adopt a data-driven approach to employee engagement and communications, one that focuses on micro-moments and behaviour instead of relying on annual or even quarterly surveys. They will implement quantitative methods that correlate effectiveness of communications with business performance – from reduction of safety incidents to delivering business transformation to sales. This will allow leaders to get a real-time pulse on their organisation that will be invaluable to predict and enable high performers, as well as predict and intervene on retention issues.
Seven easy ways to maximise online sales by expanding your marketplaces
By Nate Burke, CEO and Founder of Diginius, a UK provider of proprietary software for digital marketing and ecommerce solutions, shares seven ways ecommerce businesses can leverage tools and platforms to quickly expand their marketplaces to maximise sales opportunities.
By now, the rise of ecommerce due to shifting consumer habits in recent months is no secret to anyone. But as an increasing number of businesses experience rapid growth and traffic on the digital channel, scaling-up practices to keep up with demand is key.
- Raise awareness
With an increasing number of retailers joining or expanding into online marketplaces, businesses can expect to face greater competition. With this in mind, online advertising should form part of any brand’s digital marketing strategy.
Pay per click (PPC) advertising in particular is a useful way to raise brand awareness and drive traffic, conversions and sales regardless of whether the brand has a new or an established online presence.
But the advertising mediums you choose to use must align with the business’s commercial objectives and operational capabilities in order to generate a return on investment. For instance, ads should be placed in channels that will reach the target audience, whether that be Google search results or in the display network, for example, as well as in languages the website supports and the company couriers can fulfil to.
And with an effective management and monitoring tool, you will be able to maximise the performance of your digital advertising activity to drive the best sales results.
Volume management is essential to any business looking to expand its marketplace operations, but it can be difficult to identify early on when ecommerce integration is needed. However, issues such as keeping up with sales levels, inventory counts or even hours upon hours spent on manual data shifting should start ringing alarm bells for any business owner.
And by integrating your website to your other online sales channels and back-end systems, you will start to gain a number of noticeable benefits. Reduction in human errors, accurate inventory management and increased sales channels, without losing operational efficiency are just some of the topline benefits business owners will begin to experience.
In fact, without integrating stock and price data, you will not be able to expand to multiple marketplaces, as those such as Amazon require very high levels of accuracy which without, your account will be suspended. With orders coming in from multiple sales channels, it is generally not feasible to keep accurate counts in the different channels without automation.
As your ecommerce grows, there will no doubt become a time when current systems and processes become highly inefficient to your operations. Manual, repetitive tasks become laborious and can lead to disaster with overworked and unenthused employees tapping away at keys when they’d rather be strategising or working new leads.
Automation can churn things like inventory management, lead generation and strategy and decision making into self-fulfilling automated tasks. As you automate basic items like price updates, order inputting, returns and stock updates, you can then move into the second phase – automation of updated advertising algorithms based on margins, stock levels, competitor pricing and related factors, all of which drive efficiency and a competitive edge. Invoicing and financial data can be moved paperless and customer service processes can be automated or streamlined in a variety of ways.
The key in the automation process, is to start with a solid foundation of your website and finance system to fully automate order flows and marketing information. Following this, you can then continue a relentless cycle of manual testing, which will determine what works and what is truly repetitive on a daily or hourly basis, rather than trying to automate tasks that you may only perform from time to time.
- Own website/marketplaces?
While some businesses only focus on their website and others sell solely on Amazon/Ebay, a robust approach across the major channels that customers use tends to drive more value and be a more sustainable approach for any business.
For example, if a company only sells in the marketplaces, it is common for Amazon to suspend an account for not hitting performance metrics, which causes a major disruption in cash flow and sales. Additionally, the marketplaces tend to restrict access to the customer, so it is not possible to market directly to your customers.
Consumers that come and purchase from your website develop a relationship with your brand, are easier to communicate with in the sales and delivery process, and you can continue to market with email and other methods for a higher lifetime value per customer. Additionally, the larger buyers will tend to prefer to deal with you directly rather than through a marketplace.
However, particularly as you expand out of your home country, digital marketing can be costly to run and cultural differences, languages and currencies difficult to manage at small scales.
Therefore a blended approach of digital marketing to your website and marketplace expansion tends to reach more customers efficiently and faster, which you can adjust as you grow and master different areas of digital sales.
- Multi-channel approach
One of the best ways to scale-up a retail business is to adopt a multi-channel approach. This may include a mix of various ecommerce sales channels as well as a physical in-store offering, for example.
However, the channels you choose to use must align with the business’s ethos and goals in order for them to be effective in maximising sales. If not, they could end up creating a greater cost than return.
For instance, a downloadable software provider may see more value in investing in online routes than in a bricks and mortar store offering. In this case, the multi-channel mix may include different marketplaces or use of various marketing and communications methods instead.
But either way, a multi-channel approach maximises the amount of touchpoints between a brand and customer and in doing so, the likelihood of the brand sticking in the mind of the consumer is increased.
- Streamlined management processes
When expanding into different marketplaces, a common problem businesses encounter is effectively managing the ramped-up level of activity. But with an insights platform, businesses can manage and monitor their digital activity across various channels on a single centralised dashboard, as well as automatically update prices, stock levels and order management.
This provides a more transparent and holistic view of performance, with data and insights that can be used for reporting and informing future decisions.
Not only does this create greater efficiency, but it also reduces a lot of the admin burden placed on employees, allowing them to focus on other business-critical tasks.
- Customer service
Due to the distance and physical detachment between customers and brands in the online realm, customer service is often overlooked. But, providing high quality customer support should in fact, be a core business activity, especially as the brand and consequently, the customer base, grow.
In doing this, you will keep both new and existing customers satisfied. This can encourage loyalty, repeat purchases and positive word of mouth, which can then be spread through customers’ personal social media networks to generate greater traffic and sales for the business.
So, remote customer service providers must be responsive, helpful and well-informed in order to have the desired effect. And to make their jobs that much easier, CRM tools can equip providers with the data and insights required to offer an efficient and effective service every time.
Online retailers to accelerate growth plans to combat the COVID-19 crisis
New Paysafe study reveals that despite the impact of COVID-19, businesses are still innovating to maintain plans for future growth
Three quarters (75%) of online UK businesses are experiencing a negative impact on their business due to COVID-19 and even in the long term, the number that say the pandemic will have a negative effect on them (45%) outweighs those that believe it will have a positive impact on their business (31%). That’s according to new research out today from specialist payments platform Paysafe as part of its ‘Lost in Transaction’ report series, in which 1,100 small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) globally which operate online were asked about the effects of COVID-19 on their business.
However, despite the negative forecasting, overall more businesses remain optimistic about opportunities as a result of changes to their business model following the pandemic. 30% of businesses have seen an increase in profit margin (versus 26% which saw a decrease), 36% have seen an uptick in customers (versus 27% which saw a decline), and just over a quarter (26%) believe they are better positioned to enter new geographical markets, as opposed to 20% which say they aren’t.
Businesses have had no choice but to welcome change with over a third (36%) suggesting that COVID-19 has increased their ability to innovate. Around 84% of organisations have had to alter their operations to appeal to a broader target market with adapting digital strategies forming a core part of this. Of the businesses that made changes, 78% specifically diversified their payment offerings and as a direct result, 66% saw an increase in sales.
The importance of a seamless online checkout has been reinforced with the introduction of new consumer payment preferences. Some 37% of online brands have already integrated at least one new payment method into the checkout whereas 55% plan to introduce at least one more in the near future. With an increase in the variety of different payment methods used by consumers since the outbreak of COVID-19 — 37% of businesses have noticed an increase in the percentage of consumers using digital wallets and 20% have observed customers using crypto more often — over half of businesses (57%) now view their payment offerings as a priority.
As with all shifts, consumers are also thinking differently about how they make payments and what they use them for. Over a quarter of businesses surveyed (32%) think consumers are using new methods to track their spending more accurately, while 27% believe consumers are re-evaluating the role technology plays in their lives. As people are becoming more familiar with digital payments, according to businesses almost a third (29%) of consumers are valuing a more seamless experience online.
Paulette Rowe, CEO, Integrated and E-commerce Solutions, Paysafe Group, comments: “The shift to online has forced retailers to take a fresh look at the checkout experience and assess whether it is user friendly as well as secure. Though many SMBs believe the future is less than positive, there is still hope, as we have seen that some of the simplest innovations can spark growth. Now that customers are more willing to use different payment methods there is an opportunity to innovate at the checkout. Creating a seamless digital experience will help eCommerce services appeal to all generations and give businesses that all-important competitive edge.”
Online networking is crucial to the future of small business growth
By Trudy Simmons, business and clarity coach
We have all had to find a lot of new ways of being effective and efficient to continue to grow our businesses in this “new normal” we find ourselves in. As a business coach and organiser of networking events, I have watched businesses embrace some new ways of working and fight against others. Some businesses have claimed: “this won’t work” and said: “I will wait for things to get back to normal,” while others have jumped at the chance to embrace new practices in their working lives.
We must accept, we are where we are right now in this point in time, and business growth waits for no-one, so we must work with what we have, rather than waiting, wishing and wanting for what was.
It would seem that many smaller businesses have been able to adapt quickly. Across my networks, businesses have changed direction or launched new products or provided services to new markets, all while working from home, attending online meetings, speaking to clients and for some, dealing with home-schooling.
One of the ways I have seen smaller businesses change their practices, is in networking.
Networking with other businesses and potential clients is a pivotal part of having a small business. Before the pandemic lockdown, the typical networking activity would be face-to-face events or meetings. There was some networking on social media platforms, but this would tend to focus on transactional activity rather than a conversation.
However, that has completely changed and now networking includes being active in communities on many more social media platforms other than Facebook or LinkedIn as well holding events and conferences on platforms such as Zoom.
Very quickly, I changed all my in-person networking events, to being online, when lockdown took hold. Thankfully, I was already using the right software and already had an engaged audience that didn’t want to go back to feeling isolated. So, the change didn’t take much to achieve, however it took a lot to convince people that the experience of online networking would be as good.
Many were frustrated with not being able to go to a different location and many felt they would not receive the same empathy or support from people in an on-screen meeting as opposed to a face-to face meeting. This is understandable.
We have all had to make decisions in the last few months that we never thought we would need to, and this is a mental health decision, as much as a business decision.
Why do I say that? In the networking that I arrange, we make sure to have fun whilst meeting old friends, new friends and talking about our businesses. Why is this an important part of where we are right now? Most of us in small businesses are sat at home behind a computer working incredibly hard and it can feel isolating and like no one else understands. When you take yourself out of your comfort zone and meet new people, it is a safe environment to engage with people who want to hear from you.
The many benefits of online networking should not be ignored. Here are five reasons to shift and include online networking into your week or month.
- Meeting new people – in a room of people (in-person), we tend to gravitate towards people that we already know. In an online networking event you might meet people that you don’t know. This has been one of the biggest pieces of feedback that I have been hearing; that people are loving meeting people they may not have otherwise met. Networking is a chance to take yourself out of your comfort zone and meet and talk to new people in a safe environment.
- Business growth – time and location will often limit business owners from attending in-person networking events. There are hundreds of online networking events which will not take up as much time – you never know who will be there, or who they might know that needs your services or products. Turn up, show up and be ready to talk about what you do. This will lead to more opportunities for business growth.
- Mind expansion – one of the challenges of running your own business is becoming stuck in a rut or feeling directionless. This happens to us all at some point. Online networking can shift your mindset and help you to take that next step. Sometimes, it is someone else’s throw-away comment that can be just the thing that you need to hear.
- New relationships – building business relationships takes time, but networking allows you to start on an even playing field with other attendees and one step ahead of people who aren’t doing it. Use this starting point to build trust with new people.
- Why not? – With the current situation we all find ourselves in, why not give online networking a go? Businesses have very little to lose in trying it. There are so many opportunities to find a group that works for you. Take those opportunities, approach it with a growth mindset and a willingness to try something different and see what happens. As with anything, you get out what you put in – come prepared to talk and be heard.
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