Do We Need a Fresh Approach to Tackling Counterfeit Goods?

Join VST Enterprises CEO, Louis-James Davies, and Dewhirst CEO, Anthony Wood, at Prolific North Live where they’ll be discussing how new technology can help protect consumers from poor-quality fake products

The below piece was written by Louis-James Davis.

The need for traceability across consumer supply chains is becoming increasingly recognised by both governments and the general public.

This is not just driven by concerns about safety and ethical fears but by worries about quality as well – when purchasing a product, consumers want to know they are buying the real deal, not a cheap “knock-off”.

The International Trademark Association (INTA) anticipate that the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy could reach £1.6 trillion by 2022. In 2015, the value stood at £1.2 trillion.

Detrimental doppelgängers

As well as impacting on consumers’ rights to quality products, this trade poses a serious threat to the prosperity of the genuine brands that are being faked. Every time a knock-off product is purchased, money is being syphoned away from the company whose brand is being counterfeited. It’s the reputation of the real deal that suffers when a doppelgänger product fails to meet consumer expectations.

With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that a growing number of governments are looking to tighten traceability legislation across a wide range of sectors. Non-governmental and industry bodies are being set up to initiate supply chain monitoring schemes in order to tackle product counterfeiting as well as other quality issues.

Nevertheless, disclosure of supply chain information remains patchy and traceability is also hampered by technological limitations – there are various industry initiatives to improve information flow, from material sourcing, to sale and beyond, but there’s currently little connectivity between these systems.

The genuine article

At VST Enterprises, we’ve developed a new application for our VCode® and VPlatform™ technology to help boost tracking in the supply chain and overthrow counterfeiting at the source.

We’re working alongside leading fashion business, Dewhirst, to integrate our proprietary technology, VApparel™, to clothing, footwear and accessories in order to curb counterfeiting in the retail industry. VApparel will allow consumers to establish the authenticity of the product before they make a purchase by scanning theVCode® printed on the label or product itself. Consumers can also establish other product information via a VCode® scan such as the factory the product was made in and the raw materials used, through to customised marketing material.

VSTE’s VCode® and VPlatform™ technology has been awarded an EU Seal of Excellence for its anti-counterfeiting and end-to-end supply chain and traceability capabilities, and has been commended by UK Prime Minister, Theresa May.

Join us at Prolific North Live

It’s solutions like VApparel, resulting from partnerships between manufacturers, security specialists and technology experts, that will help genuine brands gain the upper hand in the global fight against counterfeiters. And that’s exactly what I’ll be talking about at the upcoming Prolific North Live with our Joint Venture partner for VApparel and CEO of Dewhirst, Anthony Wood.

VST Enterprises will be on on the ‘Anti-counterfeiting’ panel at 2pm, Wednesday 28 February in Prolific North Live’s Reveal Theatre. 

What’s Holding Back Digital Transformation?

The below article on Digital Transformation was originally written by Emily Tatham, Content Executive for Digital Gurus.

Digital Transformation will be a $2 trillion market globally by 2020 according to the IDC.

As technology becomes an increasing part of our everyday lives, it also becomes a vital part of business strategy, utilising emerging tools to become more efficient, cost effective, or in some cases, disrupt the entire market.

But, businesses are being bafflingly slow at jumping on the digital transformation bandwagon.

A recent survey carried out by Microsoft and Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, found that less than half of their 783 respondents said their their organisation has developed and communicated a formal business strategy for the digital future.

So what’s the hold up? We’ve already got the tech.

Well, clearly, the problem is not the lack of suitable technology. In the past couple of years we have seen the commercial rise of technologies such as cloud platforms, artificial intelligence and virtual reality – once nothing more than mere science fiction. These new technologies have several business applications such as the use of AI chatbots in customer service. These will likely cut costs and increase customer satisfaction, but they are not being implemented nearly as much as they could be.

So, if the technology is already in place then what is delaying digital transformation?

The ‘people’ problem

Well according to Henning von Kielpinski, business development director at ConSol, “digital transformation is more than technology, it’s 50% technology and 50% people.” The ‘people’ element of digital transformation can cover a variety of issues.

Firstly, implementing a digital transformation strategy has to be signed off by the CIO or CEO. Bruce Rogers, the chief insight officer at Forbes wrote:

“Leadership through digital transformation has to come from the very top.

Executives can’t just say it. They must live it.”

Getting the top people in business to commit to a digital transformation is key to its success.

The skills shortage

Furthermore, even if your leadership is on board, you may not have the in-house capabilities to carry out digital transformation. The skills gap is making it harder to keep up with expanding technologies, there are simply not enough people to make digital transformation an option for every business. It also drives up the cost, especially if you are utilising niche technologies, as those with rare skill sets can demand higher salaries. The digital transformation challenge report found that finding professionals in specialised areas such as the internet of things was the most challenging for those undergoing digital transformation.

It’s clear that digital transformation is on the rise, but there is still work to be done for companies struggling to keep up. The IT skills gap is hindering progress in many sectors where transformation is desperately needed – especially when considering moves to more niche technologies like the IoT.

Digital Gurus is an award-winning digital recruitment agency in London, Manchester, Sydney & Dubai. The team will be at this year’s Prolific North Live on February 28th & March 1st.

Using AR and VR to Sell Cars

The below blog was written by Ray Clarke, CDO for hedgehog lab.

We’ve all been through the process of visiting a showroom with the intention of buying a car.

We generally find a sales executive taking us around the showroom showing different models, explaining their features and comparing with the competitor’s version.

They will also provide information we need about the brand, model, prices, finance plans and more, to help us narrow down the options.

Once we have found a car that fits our budget and requirements, next comes the more important task of the test drive, which is going to be the deciding factor for a purchase. A satisfied test drive usually means half the work done for a sales rep.

Today’s digital-savvy consumers are quite demanding about their information needs. They are busy with their work schedules and unable to spend much time shopping.

But they still expect a personalised experience and the option to customise their product. Present day sales executives and managers will have to use the latest technologies like AR and VR to meet these requirements, to provide a better service to their customers.

AR and VR are location-independent sales and marketing tools, coupled with high speed internet, which enable car brands and dealers to reach out to a broader market segment within a shorter time period. Let’s see how these technologies will change the traditional sales domain, to build a more personalised experience that efficiently targets a large audience, to ultimately drive sales.

Immersion into AR and VR from design to sale

In the past year alone, we’ve seen some major milestones in the AR / VR journey spanning across the auto industry, especially in manufacturing. Ford’s Immersion Lab uses Oculus Rift to get an early idea of their design, Lexus now has a driving simulator, and in 2015 we saw the first conference on augmented reality in auto making.

Now, these advancements are beginning to roll out to car dealers, who can use VR to show demos and provide test drives of their cars as a sales tool.

Volvo is a pioneer in this field, having partnered with Google Cardboard to take you on the first of its kind virtual test drive of their new XC 90. The best part of this experience for users is that they can experience the car before its release. Meanwhile, the company can offer a test drive to potential buyers without having to physically get them into the driver’s seat. You can imagine the power of such promotion and the results in terms of increased sales.

The story of virtual selling cars

In a world that is becoming increasingly digitised, it’s more and more difficult to get time out from busy office schedules. This means consumers cannot afford to visit physical showrooms as often as they would like to. As a sales rep, just imagine the potential that VR offers to solve this challenge. Your customers can take a five-minute break between their meetings and visit a live virtual showroom, from the comfort of their office.

Instead of bringing them into your premises, you will be asking them to use the app. With live virtual showroom technology, you can show them real cars, the latest features and interiors through your eyes; all you need is cameras in your glasses or head gear.

A live virtual showroom truly brings the real dealership experience online.

Once customers have the initial information they need from a live virtual showroom, it’s likely they will visit a physical dealership. Here you can provide them with a whole new immersive experience, using a Virtual Reality headset and software.

You can take them on a virtual test drive through different terrains and test conditions, giving your customers a feel of how the car will perform in real life conditions. This immersive experience is hugely advantageous for the car maker and dealership. It allows potential customers to try their product, without having to seat them in the car. This saves time, money and enables tech-savvy dealers to offer a test drive long before the release!

Let’s assume that once the test drive is complete, the customer decides to make a purchase. However, it’s likely that they will have some if’s and but’s about the interiors, accessories or colours available for the car.  If it’s not possible for the sales rep to show the various options physically, they can use AR technology to enable customers to customise their future vehicle.

Simply take your customer to the car, and use a mobile app to show the options available in Augmented Reality. This enables the customer to tweak and customise the car with their choice of colour, upholstery and accessories – and see the results – before they buy.

One big advantage of AR is that its educational capabilities enhance pre- and post-sales customer service; customers can educate themselves just by holding the tab in front of the car, to learn about its engine, interiors, history and performance.

AR can also be used effectively for on road, real time and remote assistance by the service engineers, in case of a breakdown due to minor issues. The service engineer can guide the customer through AR head gear like HoloLens, to fix the problem using step by step video instructions in real time.

These leading technologies could create an amazing customer experience in the automobile industry, making it easier for customers to reach a decision and visualise their new high value purchase before they even buy it.

hedgehog lab is a multi-award winning technology consultancy, with offices in the UK, USA, India and Denmark. They will be exhibiting at this year’s Prolific North Live on February 28th & March 1st.

Can Games Boost Your Marketing Campaigns?

The below blog was written by journalist George Osborn, an originally appeared on the Team Cooper website.

I have always been sceptical when someone has told me that games – or game mechanics – can be used successfully in a marketing campaign.

Since the start of 2017, I’ve invested at least 200 hours in games such as Football Manager, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Overwatch – with each game capturing my attention for different reasons.

But when someone has told me that games can be used to drive online marketing, I’ve tended to smile politely and gently nod my head while concealing my thoughts that they’re more gimmicky than effective.

So when Team Cooper – a BAFTA nominated digital agency that creates online and mobile games for brands – contacted me to ask if I’d like to look into the topic, I decided to dive in headfirst to see what I would discover.

To my surprise, I found out that companies do see tangible benefits from using branded games within their marketing efforts. But while they certainly can have a positive impact, companies need to think carefully about how their business, brand and the game they’re creating come together to ensure they actually benefit.

Getting in the game

Before exploring the games and their benefits to businesses in depth, the first thing I wanted to find out was why businesses commission games. And the answer can be broadly summarised in one word: engagement.

Stephanie Schönmann is the e-business manager for Optiswiss, an independent lens manufacturer based in Switzerland. 98% of orders for its B2B business shop come online. For Schönmann, an online game was seen as a way to help build and maintain a relationship with Optiswiss’s customer base.

“The aim originally was to motivate more opticians to subscribe to our online shop, increase shop visits of existing customers and to thank them for their loyalty,” she explained to me.

James Butler, website manager for DFDS UK, echoed that sentiment. He told me that the company dipped its toes into the gaming water to give a handy bump to sales from existing customers.

“We use these games as a sales boosters and a vehicle to enhance engagement, [and] our main measurement is bookings off the back of a game,” said Butler.

And part of the appeal of using a game to do this instead of another tool in the marketing arsenal is to provide a softer experience that consumers appreciate.

Optiswiss, for example, has a relatively complicated online shopping site due to the nature of the optician’s industry. Schönmann argues that a game had the potential to act as a palate cleanser to help customers through the experience.

“We wanted to offer an entertaining contrast in our otherwise sophisticated shop structure,” she said. “But we also like to keep close contact to our customers and seeing that many optician employees using our shop are between age 20 to 35, a game offers the perfect platform to communicate our values in an entertaining way.”

Games can also be used within a company’s broader community engagement strategy, including to support corporate social responsibility.

Beazley, a specialist insurance company, has been sending out games to its client base for Christmas for the past seven years. Jon Labram, Brand and Design Manager for the Beazley Group, told me that a big reason why they do it is to save money so they can spend it on other causes.

“Instead of sending out printed greeting cards during the festive period, we donate the money saved to our chosen charity and develop a game to email out to our broker community,” he said, suggesting that the digital aspect of video games can lead to unexpected advantages.

A closer look at the games

While it’s clear that engaging customers through entertainment is one of the main reason businesses turn to games in marketing, a closer look at the games reveals an interesting divergence in goals between businesses.

Rather than there being a one size fits all approach to either strategy or game mechanics, the games representing each company differed in a number of ways to help them reach their objectives.

One of DFDS’s games took this into account with its second title called Jack’s Quayside Kickabout. The game challenges players to rack up points by hitting targets with a football. Anyone who secured a four figure score in the game – which was timed to coincide with Euro 2016 – was entered into a prize draw to win PS4s, footballs and even a mini ferry break. This motivated players to check out the DFDS website, but also sign up for news and information about the company.

Optiswiss took a slightly different approach with the games it created. The company’s festive Christmas Game is an infinite runner that gets players hurling Santa across rooftops for as long as possible.

If a player cleared 250m on the first day, they received a free Lindt chocolate in the post. But if they kept coming back and beating a higher target over each of the following four days, they could boost their chocolate total to five – encouraging players back to the site.

And for Beazley, the unifying theme of their games, such as Festive Flurry and Jingle Jet – is providing a simple shot of fun as a thank you to their partners, with an emphasis on Christmassy content to tie them back into their role as card replacements.

How well do the games perform?

Having sat down to play each game, it’s fair to say they’re pretty simple and won’t be threatening my Rocket League addiction any time soon.

But their simplicity is in their favour. The stripped down nature both makes the game casual enough for a broader audience to enjoy and simple enough for it to be released quickly in line with a carefully conceived marketing campaign.

And, despite my scepticism, the convergence of lightly compelling casual game mechanics and tangible business actions – such as driving a sign up or getting a customer back to the website the next day – seemed to do the business.

Despite working within a niche industry, Optiswiss’s Christmas Game was played by nearly 4000 people 75,000 times. The game averaged 19.5 plays per customer, with session lengths of over 6 minutes as players battled to hit the daily target. This, according to Schönmann, had a positive impact on the company’s business.

“During this time [of the Christmas Game campaign], we’ve recorded a strong increase in shop visits and also new subscribers,” she said. “Furthermore, our customers started to create groups on Facebook and other social media channels informing other opticians about the game and discussing strategies on how to beat the goals. These outcomes are difficult to measure, but they surely have a positive impact on the company’s image”.

In Beazley’s case, their most recent game received over 60,000 plays from their client base during the Christmas period – suggesting that their customers responded well to the concept.

And DFDS have doubled down on their commitment to games since the release of Jack’s Quayside Kickabout. The company has worked with Team Cooper to release two additional games featuring their mascot Jack the Pirate to support their marketing objectives.

Summing up

Having spoken to businesses about the impact of games on their marketing efforts, it’s clear that I underestimated their potential usefulness to companies. Although the level of interaction and play time in their games was well below what I’d expect in the games industry, the average 18 minute play time across the Team Cooper portfolio is well above the average interaction time for most digital marketing offerings.

But why was that the case? To my mind, there were three reasons why games proved particularly successful for these companies.

First, they were simple engaging titles based on games that have already been wildly popular. Businesses wishing to use a game in a marketing campaign must accept that casual titles are the obvious way to go, both to engage as many players as possible and to ensure development time and costs do not get out of hand.

Second, each campaign benefitted from seasonality. As opposed to most casual online and mobile games, which offer long-term services, businesses benefitted from releasing their games to coincide with holidays and sporting events. This suggests a game is best used in a marketing campaign when the people who it is aimed at are likely to have some free time on their hands.

Third and finally, games seem best suited to driving community engagement and retention rather than direct sales. In comparison to something like a Facebook app install ad, which has a direct goal and straightforward purchasing model, the games I examined had an important – but less tangible – impact on their audience. Games should therefore supplement other campaigns, rather than solely drive them.

So games can be part of a marketers toolkit. But it’s important that businesses think carefully about what they want to achieve, when they want to achieve it and which type of game they want to promote.

Team Cooper will be exhibiting at this year’s Prolific North Live at Event City on February 28th and March 1st. Their Marketing Manager, Cari Kirby, will also be delivering a talk in the Prolific North Live Insights Theatre. You can register your attendance here.

What is the True Value of Mixed Reality?

The below article originally appeared on hedgehog lab’s website, and was written by their Director of Immersive Technologies, Shaun Allan.

It’s no secret that at hedgehog lab we love immersive technology. And what’s not to love? If anyone can think of more a effective digital method for engaging customers… I’ll eat my virtual hat (and that’s a promise).

To date, most business use of this tech has focused on the tried and tested platforms of Virtual and Augmented Reality. But something that’s really got us excited is the less well-known yet infinitely versatile Mixed Reality, or MR. Which pretty much means the ultra-cool Microsoft HoloLens headset.

For those who aren’t familiar with Mixed Reality, this is a minimal, untethered unit controlled by gestures and voice commands that allow the user to interact with 3D objects and live data overlaid upon the real world.

Or in Microsoft’s own words: “Our vision for holographic computing is to transform the world with holograms – seamlessly connecting the digital world with real life. With the ability to design and shape holograms, you will have a new medium to express your creativity, a more efficient way to teach and learn, and a more effective way to visualise your work and share ideas.”

Powerful stuff. And, when I recently got chatting to Microsoft’s Mike Taulty and Pete Daukintis at a networking event, it struck us all that there was real potential for using this sort of tool in the automotive industry. Anya Bramich of electric vehicle consultancy Zero Carbon Futures agreed, and before too long we were able to launch a fascinating project together.

“Could MR hold the answer? Indeed it could.”

The thing with electric vehicles is: they need maintenance. And removing, repairing and replacing fuel cells on the Nissan Leaf isn’t – it turns out – a walk in a park. Could MR hold the answer? Indeed it could. By the end of a five-day hack, we were collectively able to develop an interactive experience on HoloLens that would take users through the process in a step-by-step manner.

The reaction we got from Zero Carbon Futures’ training and development manager Stephen Burr was glowing. In short, he saw it as a cost-effective, time saving solution that would make the training process easier. Not only that, but maintenance staff would be less dependant on others and wouldn’t have to travel anywhere to pick up the necessary skills.

The HoloLens itself, meanwhile, is a delightfully intuitive piece of kit, which centres on simple gestures that allow interaction with the holograms. Move your head and the cursor will move; raise and lower a finger quickly to a select a hologram; ‘tap and hold’; or make the bloom gesture – holding your fingertips together then releasing them – to go the menu. Simple. And top notch speakers mean you can easily pick up ‘virtual’ sounds without obscuring external noise.

It’s factors such as these that make us certain our project with Zero Carbon Futures and Microsoft- satisfying though it was – only represents the beginning of what we’ll be able to do with this technology.

We see MR being used in construction, medicine, retail, manufacturing, design, entertainment…  and pretty much any business reliant on information sharing.

It’s also worth pointing out that HoloLens 2.0 is on its way, and, as recently revealed by Microsoft, will include an AI co-processor. This will capable of locally managing and implementing Deep Neural Networks, essentially meaning the device itself will be able to analyse everything the user sees and hears, rather than wasting time sending data to the cloud for processing. The headset will therefore be able to recognise new visual information more quickly, creating significantly more impressive Mixed Reality interactions.

hedgehog labs will be exhibiting at this year’s Prolific North Live on February 28th to March 1st. To get your free ticket for the event, simply register here.

7 creative ways to get people to your stand

Your stand is out, but you don’t stand out. It’s a common problem for businesses at large exhibition events, and with £2.7 billion spent on them in 2010; it’s one you can’t afford to ignore.

But just because consumers at Prolific North Live will be surrounded by hundreds of exciting exhibitors, like a kid in a sweet shop, it doesn’t mean you should just hand out free lollipops like everyone else.

Here are seven creative ways to get people to approach, and then stay, at your exhibition stand.

Let people know you’re there!

Before the event, get people excited that you’ll be attending with effective pre-show build up. Engaging social posts, blogs and newsletters are all great ways to interest and remind people about your presence at the exhibition. You could even create an original hashtag that incorporates the event name and your location in it, for example #PNLiveStand93, and use your existing channels and social media influencers for its promotion.

Host a competition

Host a competition that’s beneficial to both parties; include a fun activity and a data capture opportunity. Be sure to make it relevant to your business. For example, if you’re a TV production company that wants to promote the fact you’ve been involved in a successful TV show, the question could revolve around guessing the ratings it received. It would also be great if the prize was branded, or relevant to your organisation – said TV production company could offer free tickets to a live show recording. People will then be drawn back to your stand to find out whether they’ve won, offering you another opportunity to reinforce your work. This article by XLDisplays offers some great advice and ideas for exhibition competitions.

Offer interesting, long term gifts

Fun and relevant freebies that consumers want to hang on to will create a long-term positive impression of your brand, and ones that keep people at your stand for a while so you can interact with them are even better. A creative agency may want to employ a caricaturist to be stationed at their stall, as this provides consumers with an interesting gift and also keeps them long enough for the agency to explain their work and gather their details.

Teach people a skill

By teaching consumers a quick and easy skill that they can use in their personal life; you will be positively reinforcing your business, whilst also giving you a chance to chat to them and collect their details in the process. For example, a video production company could offer tips on filming on mobiles, and create a quick piece of content for a visitor whilst they’re at the stand.

Offer high-tech toys

People are always interested in new technology, and any way you can demonstrate it to customers will help to promote your business. If you are a video game production company, it might be a good idea to let customers try out a VR headset – customers will be desperate to experience this new and exciting form of technology, creating a priceless buzz around your stand.

Offer refreshments

An inexpensive drink may be few and far between at busy exhibitions, so by offering tea and coffee you will be attracting a lot of thirsty consumers. Also, hot drinks may take a while to brew and cool down, which offers you a perfect opportunity to engage the visitor in conversation about the services and products you provide.

Follow up!

However you’ve attracted visitors to your stand and captured their data, it’s imperative you contact them in the following few days to solidify your relationship. However, research shows just one email isn’t enough – it takes around 6-8 contacts between business and consumer to generate a viable lead. Be sure to remind them about your services and if possible, address them by name – a personal message is extremely memorable and effective.

Do you have any suggestions? Let us know on Twitter.

About the author

Simon Landi is one of the founding members of Manchester-based marketing communications and web development agency Access, and has been running the business since 1999. With extensive experience across many sectors including travel & tourism, B2B and not for profit, Simon’s background has seen him work for a variety of household names. His focus on engaging with customers at every stage of their journey, inspired him to develop Access’ very own live event social media tool EventStreamLive

5 Minutes with….. The Sharp Project

1. Can you tell us a bit about The Sharp Project and what you do?
The Sharp Project is an amazing home to unique and innovative digital content creators.
There are over 60 creative digital businesses based on site, specialising in everything from VR gaming to CGI animation, app development to video production and digital forensics amongst much, much more.
The array of entrepreneurial talent that occupy our spaces and production studios each day is truly inspiring.

2. What made you sign up as an exhibitor at Prolific North Live?
We exhibited last year and had a great time – as a meeting place for the North West creative digital sector it worked really well so the ambition to increase the event’s scale was very welcome.
We’re passionate about the sector developing and events such as Prolific North Live are key to driving it forward.
As with last year we’re sharing space with our sister site The Space Project so looking forward to meeting clients from across the region, both old and new.

3. What are you looking forward to bringing to the event?
As well as being able to talk to the wider sector about our spaces we want to showcase the huge range of creative businesses that are based at The Sharp Project.
We have such a unique range of talent onsite (based in shipping containers through to converted stages) so bringing that community to the event makes us very proud.

4. What excites you most about the North’s media and creative sectors?
Since opening in 2011 we’ve seen the sector grow massively and in so many dynamic ways.
What excites us is the variety and scale of talent in the region and how that is driving the growth.
Our tenant base reflects that so we see it every day – there’s a tremendous work ethic here. It’s truly inspirational.

5. Why is the North such an exciting place to be right now for creative and digital businesses?
In Manchester there’s a collective goal to be a global digital city – with collaboration across the sector, skills development and a nurturing of entrepreneurial talent that’s very a
We see businesses starting in shipping containers and rapidly expanding to bigger spaces, taking on more staff and clients so knowing this is happening across the region makes it very exciting.

6. If The Sharp Project could have a dinner party with three people, dead or alive, who would they be?

We’d invite Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google to a game of table tennis in our Campus after dinner, Baroness Joanna Shields, the UK’s first lady of technology, who can help inspire more women to come into the sector and an American called Malcom Purcell McLean who invented the shipping container as we’d like to show him what we’ve done with them.

The Future of Programmatic Advertising: 6 Predictions for 2017

Programmatic advertising. The crunching of numerous sources of data to present the right ad, at the right time, to the right person. But with technology evolving so quickly, what does the future hold? We’ve looked at the numbers, asked the experts and analysed all the trends to bring you our 6 programmatic predictions for 2017.

1. Data collaboration is the next stage

In eCommerce, it’s common practice for businesses to internalise data in-house. But we predict that 2017 will see companies move towards data collaboration, with audience sharing going beyond intent data to include cross-device and UX behavioural insights, for example. As Ve Interactive’s Chief Data Officer, Cyrille Vincey, asserts,

“Many businesses, especially smaller ones, just don’t have enough data points to build an in-depth user profile. There’s too much internalisation of data that’s stopping us as an industry from truly knowing and reaching users. It goes against the current industry trend, but there needs to be more data collaboration. Businesses, advertisers and ultimately, users, have more to gain than to lose from sharing data.”

2. Programmatic TV will come of age

The manual nature of traditional TV advertising is one of its primary flaws. From requesting ad time and purchasing, to displaying the ad and measuring its success – the manual processes can be slow and tedious. Programmatic TV effectively alleviates these problems, with many brands vocally expressing their “appetite for programmatic”.
We predict that programmatic TV will finally take off in 2017, as the ad inventory available increases and big brands (such as Sky) continue to set the TV ad standard with successful campaigns.

3. Header bidding will become more accessible

Header bidding is one of the most technically sophisticated types of programmatic advertising. It’s grown particularly popular with publishers, but the process still faces a lot of challenges concerning usability and accessibility. We think 2017 will be the year that header bidding overcomes these issues as advertisers and publishers alike fully realise the benefits of this technology.

4. Personalisation and targeting will grow more sophisticated

Personalisation is a word that’s been thrown around perhaps too liberally in industry circles over the past few years. But personalising your programmatic offering to individual users is, without doubt, hugely important. Whilst we’ve seen some excellent examples of personalised programmatic this year, we expect that the level of depth and targeting will only grow in 2017.

5. Ad viewability will improve

Ad viewability is central in programmatic discussions, with many advertisers rightly concerned as to whether their ad impressions have actually been viewed by human eyes. The viewability industry standard is loosely estimated at 50%, but we expect this to improve over time. In an ideal world, we would see programmatic ad impressions have 100% viewability across the industry, but this might take a bit longer to achieve.

6. Last touch attribution will be a thing of the past

Debates and concerns surrounding attribution have existed as long as programmatic itself. But we think that the much-maligned last touch attribution model will finally die out in 2017. As Ve Interactive’s Head of UK Commercial Operations, AJ Hill, explains

“The days of last touch attribution are numbered. As an advertiser it is vitally important to understand the full user journey, from first contact to purchase, and to award each channel their proportionate attribution based on their overall impact on the campaign. Sophisticated algorithmic attribution models are being brought in currently and will be widespread in the coming year.”

Ve will be at Prolific North Live, visit them at stand 100 to enter their competition for the chance of winning their conversion enhancing solutions free for 6 weeks!

The original version of this article appeared previously on the Ve Interactive blog, written by Ellie Hubble – click here to read 11 more intriguing programmatic predictions for 2017!”

Top 5 tips before you develop an app

1. Be Realistic

Before you head off down the road of app development, you first need to decide whether or not to start walking. To create a worthwhile application that is going to reach as many members of your target audience as possible, you need to invest. Perform a cost-benefit analysis before you start to determine if an app will really benefit you. Can you afford to spend the time creating it yourself? It may be worth your while to invest in an agency.
Of course, there are a great many benefits to having a well-designed and marketed app. Earlier this year, Apple announced that it has over one billion active iOS users while Google claims to have over 1.4 billion active Android users. A good app has the potential to reach out to a lot of consumers.

2. Purpose

If you get to this stage, you’ve probably decided that having an app is more than just a good idea. But what is it that you intend to achieve? Having a clear purpose defined before you begin development will maintain focus on the end goal. Write down your thoughts somewhere so you can keep track of them, and get advice where you can. You may have some good ideas, but are they achievable? Once you have a clear purpose, it is much easier to get other people on board – transparency is key.
After you’ve established a purpose, you need a way to measure the success of your app. Utilising analytics will help to show you how your app is being used, and if the app is fulfilling its purpose. If you are not achieving targets; you need to know quickly, so that you can make the necessary changes.

3. Research

Once you’ve established the foundations of your app, the main purpose, you need to do some research. Take a look on the various app stores on different platforms and search for applications that have a similar purpose to your own. If you can’t find any, then you’ve found a niche. But take heed; while you may have found a gap in the market, there may be a reason for developers avoiding it.
If the app that you want to create is similar to existing apps, then play around with them. What do they do well, where to they fall short? You need to be able to create an app that functions at least the same standard. Ideally, you want your app to be the best option on the market. Take the role of the consumer – what is it you want to see?

4. Target Audience

Who is your app for? Knowing your audience will give you valuable information that enables you to streamline the functionality of your app, and keep costs down. You need to know which platform your users are most likely to use, which devices are the most popular, and how they differ. Don’t spend time and money creating features that your audience will not use. You need to know if it’s worth porting your app to most platforms if you discover that the majority of your audience is on Android.

5. Budgeting

Know what you are willing to spend before you spend it. Commissioning an app is only one cost, you need to be clear that there are other expenses. To ensure that your app remains fully functional, you will need to think about maintenance, to iron out any bugs. More importantly, you will need to consider the vital task of marketing. If you want to market a new app idea, you will likely need to match your development budget. If you are developing an app for an existing market, you may need to spend almost ten times the development budget if you want to employ disruptive marketing. Scale your expectations to your budget requirements.
For 5 more tips to help you develop a successful app, please checkout The Distance’s blog post. They will be exhibiting at Prolific North Live 2017 at stand 120, so be sure to swing by to pick up many more wise words of wisdom.

About the author

Anthony Main is the MD of The Distance – a 100% UK app development company. Their brand represents their long term commitment to their client relationships and projects. The Distance was founded in 2009 shortly after the launch of the Apple Appstore and is entirely focused on the development of mobile-based solutions. With clients ranging from new start-ups through to global enterprises, they are a valued partner in business. Their portfolio includes brands such as the NHS, Bentley Motors, Astra Zeneca, Slimming World, Camden Market, SafeStyle UK, Virgin East Coast Trains.

Build a better database – Part 1

2017 has started on a good note for Data8! We’ve been announced as Technology Firm of the Year 2016 by Build Magazine, a magazine featuring everything from the latest products and techniques, to up-to-the-minute design trends and industry-moulding regulations. This had us thinking, data along with construction and property are rarely paired together, so of course I decided to investigate.

So, just what has data got to do with the property industry?

Let’s start with property. Everyone in some way in related to property – whether you work in a building, live in a house or a flat or grew up in one, I could go on and on.

One way that data is used in this market is to predict trends. This isn’t a property price report that you so often hear on the news, this is predictive analytics. The very same type of analytics which shops and businesses use to predicts their trends for their sector. This data, which is based on previous house prices, trends and location reports is used to predict which way the market will turn and the values that can be placed upon houses whilst taking into account a number of considerations such as hazard risk, location, house type etc.

Another example comes from property investors. They have a useful tool which allows them to compare their performance against a bench mark – so they can have their rental rates crunched along with value and management cost using the IPD (formerly the Investment Property Databank). This is just one example of how data can be used as a performance comparison.

Also, an interesting fact I came across a survey by Canadian real estate advisory firm Altus Group is that $11 TRILLION of real estate assets are being managed by manually inputted spreadsheets. Yes. $11 TRILLION – that’s written like 11,000,000,000,000. Just let that sink in. Then think about the level of errors which will be on those spreadsheets and what it could potentially cost the company in irrelevant communications, privacy breaches, time wasting etc. The data is there and the potential to use it to gain a major competitive advantage is there, but as with any industry manually inputting information, there will be errors and these need identifying and cleansing.

Also, validation solutions are extremely beneficial in the property market – for example, determining credit scores, whether that’s for a potential tenant, investor or first time buyer. With regards to the errors in spreadsheets – estate agents could install validation tools so that customers input their own details which are validated in real time at point of entry. These tools are linked to the CRM system, ensuring only correct details are input! Pretty jazzy if you ask me.

Property, often seen as an opaque market is now becoming more and more transparent thanks to data as it’s providing more understanding and allowing people to compare prices, locations etc. in an unbiased way. I’m not undermining the property industry at all – the human touch will always be needed as a computer cannot provide the situational advice and support a human can.

So, a small insight into the link between property and data – there’s so much more to it as it’s just a varied and dynamic market. But in summary, property uses data for: predictions, analytics, communications, performance indicators and insights into business.

Stay tuned for part 2: data and construction!