All posts in Technology

Here at RumbleChat we unashamedly love a bit of #houseporn.  So when the first of our clan mentioned their visit to the fabulous state-of-the-art MADE.COM showroom in Soho, the rest of us were compelled to follow, lemming-like, to gaze in wonder at this experiential interiors delight.

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An innovative take on the new clicks and mortar approach to retail, MADE.COM HQ is situated at 100 Charring Cross Road, directly opposite that bastion of old-school retail, Foyles bookshop. Two polar opposites of retail experience, within spitting distance.

MADE.COM is one of my favourite homeware brands.  Its ‘cut-out-the-middleman’ ethos enables it to deliver quality, design-lead furniture at a fraction of the usual high street price, which came in mighty handy when undertaking my house renovation in 2011.

MADE.COM have streamlined furniture design and revolutionised the homeware business model. In 2014 they were the second fastest growing tech company in the UK.  They use crowd-sourced design, whereby only pieces with the highest consumer votes make it to production to ensure that new collections remain fresh and appealing.

The only downside to the early-days business model was the fact that you had to buy products unseen. MADE.COM addressed this issue in 2012 with the opening of a (lovely, but bog-standard) Notting Hill showroom. Fast forwards to January 2015 and they opened their flagship showroom, a physical/digital hybrid perfectly aligned to the needs of the voyeuristic clicks and mortar consumer.

The vast expanse is divided into lifelike ‘room’ settings.  There is a kids’ area, proudly displaying items from the new children’s range, including the scandi-style Linus bunk bed which was immediately added to my lengthy wish-list.

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The backdrop to these ‘real’ room settings is a rotating digital catalogue of MADE.COM furniture items projected onto adjacent walls.  It’s a simple yet innovative concept that means that MADE.COM can change the display without incurring the cost or hassle of shipping in new furniture. The images may be a wee bit flat (there’s definitely no 3D augmented reality going on here), but it still works really well.

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One entire wall is made up of a gallery of product postcards, where you can take away handy reminders of products that have caught your eye. Next to this sea of postcards sits a bank of android tablets, with a fabulously explicit call to action that again seamlessly connects physical with digital.

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By submitting your email address (mandatory for signing into the devices) the retailer can track your footfall and interactions as you traverse the showroom…genius! Meanwhile a bank of Apple Macs create an internet café vibe at the back of the store, enabling you to browse and order in a home-from-home fashion while notices on walls and tables remind you to share products you like on social media.
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None of this is rocket science, but the combined effect of all these simple touches is to create a unique, harmonious fusion of innovation and tradition. MADE.COM has cleverly created the perfect amalgam of physical and digital to satisfy the wants and needs of the modern shopper. We’re suitably impressed.

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I don’t know about you, but it’s taken me a while to find my 2015 stride.  I mean, it’s hard to believe that we’ve finally reached the year that Marty Fly visited in Back to the Future II. So it turns out that we don’t have flying cars, there isn’t a female US president and hoverboards are not the favoured transport of the younger generation.

The film did, however, accurately predict handheld tablets, 3D movies and video conferencing. In comparison to 1989, when it was made, the technologies of today are unrecognisable and far-fetched.   But as with everything, the progress has snuck up on us gradually. We don’t bat an eyelid at Google glasses and Skype is pretty run of the mill these days. It’s easy to dismiss how far we’ve come.  The advances in marketing since 1989 are even more radical. Our industry changes so rapidly and hindsight nearly always provides a glaring missed opportunity or ‘could have done better’ moment.

So, how to grab the marketing bull by the horns in 2015? My top tip would be to stop chasing marketing trends and take some time to design a strategically driven marketing mix for your business. It can include several compatible strategies and merge traditional and digital channels to produce the perfect brand-oriented marketing blend.

It may sound obvious, but successful content marketing is reliant on a content marketing strategy.  This strategy is essential. It guides your otherwise eclectic content marketing efforts and is the cornerstone to digital marketing success. Whereas content was undeniably king in 2014, in 2015 it will take on a more presidential role.  By which I mean it is pivotal to all your communications, not just an insubstantial figurehead. Make sure that you are investing in content creation and curation.  You can no longer afford to ‘wing it’, using an ad-hoc/when you’re not tied up with other things approach.

Let’s not forget that the bastion of content marketing is a customer-centric vision.  In 2015, our ongoing quest is to improve the customer experience.  Customers these days are incredibly aware of their worth, and empowered by the knowledge that a single complaint on social media can have a costly impact on a brand.

So, in a nutshell, the best way to apply this to your content marketing is:

  • Get personal – connect, engage and listen intently.
  • Customise – where possible make sure your content is always relevant to your target audience and tweaked for brand relevance.
  • Entertain – within reason, you can’t go wrong if you’re entertaining your customer.
  • Build brand ambassadors – they will be worth their weight in gold.

The other key aspect of marketing in 2015 is to ensure that you THINK MOBILE FIRST. Smartphones and tablets made up 60% of total digital media time spent in 2014 (up 50% from 2013). 2015 looks set to build on this, as analysts are predicting that by 2017, mobile will represent 91% of all internet use.

The key learning here is to keep mobile users at the forefront of your mind in terms of all website updates and marketing communications. If you ensure that you keep the customer front of mind in all your marketing activity you should avoid falling foul of 2015’s big bombshell…DIGITAL DISAPPOINTMENT. Digital natives are the most spoilt and demanding customers ever.  Find a way to make meeting their digital expectations the core of your business and you might just be onto a winner.

Are they called the Playstation generation these days?  Or has that been superceded by a new hybrid of Apple-obsessed-Minecrafters?  Whatever you choose to call them, in so many ways they are so lucky.  And yet, I find myself pitying my kids and their absolute inability to do nothing.  Or more to the point, I pity their lack of understanding of how it feels to have nothing to do.  Strange, but true!

The summer holidays of my youth were filled with rollerskating, playing on building sites (health and safety was clearly not a priority in those days), mammoth hide and seek marathons and endless outdoor adventures.  All of which were interspersed with that all familiar child-of-the-80s mantra of “I’m bored”.

Apple have single-handedly killed that mantra.  Kids are subconsciously drawn to their ‘devices’ like the proverbial bees to a honeypot. They don’t experience boredom as they are too busy gluing themselves to a screen.  And here lies the crux of the problem.  Kids might not be ‘bored’ but if they are overly reliant on technology, they’re definitely not living their lives to the full.

Digital natives often eschew the great outdoors in favour of screen time.  It’s a frustrating, yet understandable, consequence of modern life.  But for those of us not content to sit back and watch this happen, what is the solution?

The Wild Thing Project, was founded by filmmaker and father of two, David Bond, who after monitoring his 5 year old daughter’s movements, discovered that she spent a mere 4% of her time outdoors.  He decided drastic action needed to be taken.  He appointed himself Marketing Director of Nature and spent 18 months visiting UK schools, promoting the Great Outdoors to children.

The Wild Time app is an offshoot of this project.  It suggests outdoor games and activities, according to the time you have available, from 10 minutes, to half an hour per day.

The National Trust is also keen to battle what it terms ‘nature deficit disorder’ in kids. Its list of 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾ suggests things that we old-skoolers may have taken for granted, but that our kids might not have tried.  Playing Pooh Sticks, whittling sticks and skimming stones are all on there. Other online resources in the same vein include:

http://www.scvngr.com/ (scavenger hunts)

http://www.projectnoah.org/ (explore and document wildlife)

http://www.toywheel.com/ (fun activities for children)

These apps see technology resonating with nostalgia.  Why Don’t You? (#memories #kidstv) presenters of old used to ask “Why don’t you just switch off your television set, go out and do something less boring instead? This is the modern day equivalent, speaking to kids in their own language; using technology to encourage offline engagement with the Great Outdoors…and it might just work.

Bells and whistles are all well and good, but sometimes, when it comes to content, simplicity is still best.

It always comes back to your brand.  If you’ve got an edgy, hi-tech product aimed at the youth market, then by all means, knock yourself out with the all singing, all dancing (quite literally) video mash-ups.  In this crowded, competitive market, image is everything and your status on the Coolometer is what differentiates you. If however, yours is a more sedate, middle-of-the-road product; a staple, non-luxury item, then the Ronseal approach is often still the way to go.

I mean you wouldn’t expect Apple to take the same approach to content marketing as Tena Lady would you? The key is never to lose sight of your brand values.  They are what your customers have bought into in the first place and what you want their word of mouth recommendations to focus on. All of your content output needs to work hard at reflecting and reiterating these.

Keep a consistent voice, that reinforces your brand personality and talk to your audience(s) using the tone and channels that they like best. Don’t fall prey to what a colleague of mine used to refer to as the ‘my sixteen year old daughter says…’ phenomenon.  What he meant was the tendency of older, senior executives to pretend they’ve got their finger on the marketing pulse by latching onto observed teenage behaviours, regardless of whether they are brand relevant.

You can Instagram and Google+ away to your heart’s content, but if you’re trying to sell commemorative plates to the over-seventies, you are barking up the wrong tree.

Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t try something new. Some behind-the-scenes SEO copywriting on your website, and a welcoming, insightful blog are just as relevant to the silver surfers as the Playstation generation. You just need to understand your audience and select your content armoury accordingly. Simples!

Back in the day, Word of Mouth Marketing was the rarely achieved panacea, the elusive holy grail of the broadcast marketer.

These days it’s become our bread and butter.  Word of Mouth Marketing (or WOMM for short) is the cornerstone of brand success in our digital age. And from the girded loins of WOMM has sprung the latest favoured child, Social Commerce.

With modern consumers imbibing WOMM as an essential part of their decision making processes,  Social Commerce has become the key to future success.

In 2010 Mark Zuckerberg said “If I had to guess, social commerce is next to blow up”.  He wasn’t wrong.  With 74% of consumers now relying on social networks to inform their purchasing decisions, no modern day brand can afford to ignore this latest concept.

Social commerce is defined as a subset of electronic commerce that involves using social media, online media that supports social interaction, and user contributions to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services. In a nutshell, selling within social networks.

Social Commerce allows brands to sell where consumers spend their time.  To capitalise on this you need to make sure you’re there, at the coal face, engaging with your consumers, gaining insight and generally being a likeable, trustworthy all-round good guy.

While Social Commerce is very much in its infancy, with big online brands such as Amazon, American Apparel and Cafepress still at the toe-dipping stage of engagement, it is undoubtedly the shape of things to come. So if you haven’t already, you need to start thinking about it.

How to prepare? In short you’ve got to have a brand that wins on social media – see my previous blog for details of how to do just this.

Now as a marketer, I’d never advise you to put all your eggs in one basket. An integrated strategy is always the way to go.  No one channel can ever deliver business success in isolation. And there’s always a place for the old-school skills. If you’ve got sufficient budget, clever advertising is still a great way to achieve brand awareness, and get you on the radar of your target audience. When it comes to the transactional crunch, though, it’s WOMM that increases your conversion rates and closes deals. And with Social Commerce enabling brands to hold transaction-inspiring conversations quite literally at the point of purchase, you’d be a fool to ignore it.

The high street is dead (boo), long live SC

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Following on from last week’s vociferous scourge on the new food app for lardy gamers, I felt it only right that I should offer up the worthier side of food related apps.  As Apple have drummed into our subconscious, whatever your [dietary] requirements, ‘there’s an app for that.  The plethora of sustenance related apps is astounding; there’s definitely no ‘one-size-fits-all’ ethos going on here.  Here’s a selection of the several million (I exaggerate…but only slightly) that I stumbled upon in the name of research.

 

Best for Foodies in training: Foodgawker

A veritable feast of food porn. The mobile counterpart to foodgawker.com, which collects recipes from various food bloggers, and presents them in a mouthwatering photo gallery format. Whether you want to make good food, or just drool over it, foodgawker is an excellent resource. It’s also a great way to discover your next favourite food blog.

 

Best for meal planning: FoodPlanner

Make it easy to swerve the crisp aisle next time you hit the supermarket. FoodPlanner organises your daily meals and allows you to upload your own recipes and download meal ideas from top recommended sites. This clever little app then compiles your shopping list of ingredients from the recipes you’ve chosen. FoodPlanner can store multiple lists and recipes to add variety into your healthy eating habits. Handy eh?

 

Best for wannabe Flintstones: Primal Paleo

It seems like every other person I meet is Paleo eating these days.  Maybe it’s the Game of Thrones effect, but this caveman diet is taking over the world! Billed as ‘the only nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic’ the ideology is more appealing than the reality (no coffee or cake). For those keen to give it a try, Primal Paleo offers the perfect pocket guide to succeed.

The app includes key information about the core principles of Paleo living, along with recipe ideas and a searchable list of Paleo foods. Find out which foods are in season and choose from a selection of exercises to complement the diet.Connect to the rest of the Primal community through the app to share your meal ideas, lifestyle tips and find words of wisdom from other users.

 

Best for eating out: Mint Nutrition

We all love to eat out, but it can be a sure-fire way of piling on the pounds. Mint Nutrition keeps track of your calorie chomping whenever you’re out for dinner and guides you to more healthy options. Search for foods at your favourite restaurants and also create your own virtual plate, detailing your most popular menu choices. So you can work out how much time on the treadmill you need to offset that sticky toffee pudding.

Best for vegetarians: Go Veggie!

This app is ideal for veggies wanting to keep their diet balanced and varied. Users can browse over 100 recipes ranging from basic to elaborate. Each dish is accompanied by a step-by-step guide. Additional features include an ingredient and recipe finder, recipe index and the ability to create individual shopping lists. Go Veggie! also explains how to transform protein-rich foods such as tofu, seitan and tempeh into tasty and nutritious dishes.

  

Best for staying hydrated: Carbodroid

Everyone knows that we should drink eight glasses of water a day, but if you’re anything like me, this is an abstract, rarely achieved target. You can set your daily goal for water intake and tap the cup or bottle icon to track your sipping habits. You’ll receive reminders to drink water at regular intervals and if you drink enough, the cute animated droid shares in your happiness. It’s a simple concept, but a brilliant one that motivates you to keep drinking water in a fun and accessible way.

 

Best for Healthy Living: Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by My Fitness Pal 

Tap in your age, gender, ­lifestyle ­details and weight-loss goal and you’re away. It’ll set a daily ­calorie limit and help you track your food and ­exercise throughout the day. A ­potentially ­effective weight-loss tool, if you’re prepared to be ­brutally honest.

 

Best for garnering food safety knowledge: NutritionTips
Did you know that cut melon must be thrown out after two hours? Or that the leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts? Or that oysters contain protein, calcium, phosphorus and iron? This colorful app has fun factoids a-plenty to steer you towards a safe and healthy diet. Each tip is written on a sleek Post-it look-alike. Most visually pleasing.  Simply swipe the page or shake your device for a new tidbit.

 

So it seems Apple aren’t exaggerating.  Whatever your need or desire, there’s an app to match.  So, Rumblechatters, what’s your favourite food app?

 

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Pizza Hut and Microsoft have teamed up to create a Pizza Hut App for Xbox, which allows video game players to order pizza via Xbox Live.  This means you can order dinner without having to abandon your beloved games console for a single second.

On a technological level this is a big achievement – it’s the first time an entertainment app has allowed for the purchase and delivery of goods. The app even connects to your Facebook account, allowing you to post details of your dinner order for your family and friends to see.

But Rumblechatters, the question I want to bellow at the top of my lungs is….WHY?  Is it possible to get so disconnected from reality that you think this is a good thing?  And don’t worry that this defines you as a total loser?  It’s a slippery slope after all – if cooking your own tea, or even picking up the phone to order it in, become too much bother, surely showering and the benefits of fresh air become completely obsolete?

Reassuringly this collaboration is only available in America at present.  But where the mighty US of A lead, Britain invariably skuttles behind. As UK couch potatoes rejoice, I can’t help but worry that this is taking slothdom to a new and disturbing level.

I’m having flashbacks to David Fincher’s Se7en.  Kevin Spacey’s nefarious John Doe character would have a (justifiable?) field day with this app.  He’d have to dream up a whole new world of pain to punish these slothful gluttons (2 deadly sins in one sitting).

Cue another media flashback, this time from the small screen. (I know I’m in danger of jeopardising my whole argument, given my points of reference reveal my eyes to be on the square-ish side, but bear with me please).  Do any of you remember a kids program called Why Don’t You?  It ran from the late 70s to the early 90s and ignited the careers of such celebs as Ant McPartlin, Pauline Quirk and Andy Crane (of Broom Cupboard fame….no? #showingmyageagain).

Its full title was Why Don’t You Just Switch off The Television Set And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead? Clearly they weren’t inciting you to turn your telly off until the end of the show (when, handily, the kids programming stopped), but the ideology was sound.   We could learn a lot from the #goodolddays.

The sun is shining (for the moment) and the birds are singing….picnic anyone?

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I’ve just been reading about Epic, which is the canteen housed within the Facebook headquarters. The food served there is complimentary to all staff… which I applaud!
It seems as though food is taken pretty seriously over at the social media giant. They offer their employees creatively themed meals of high quality, with the cooking team posting the daily menu on the in-house Facebook page.
This made me wonder. Do you think all large, successful corporate firms should offer this sort of service? Should they have an in-house cafeteria? Should they offer meals free of charge by way of rewarding staff for all of their hard work? Should they make an extra effort to offer up food of high quality as in incentive to get the creative juices flowing with their employees?
I think a food incentive is a massive plus within the workplace! Healthy, well cooked, creative cooking makes for happy workers and lots of RumbleChatting 🙂

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This recently discovered App has kept all of us at RumbleChat really busy this week! It’s a great little creation called Forkly for foodies to discover local restaurants, cafes and other eateries that have been rated by others. You can search through your feed and click on foods that you ‘want’, and read how others have rated different places to eat.

You can also rate places you have visited and share your tastes to influence other people! It’s become really useful to find the best local places to eat – a word of mouth recommendation is so valuable!

 

Merry Boxing Day to all you RumbleChat foodies!

If you found that after all the turkey, sprouts, Christmas pud and mince pies, the effort to open your Christmas presents yesterday was just too much, (unless you opened them all before breakfast that is!) then this might be the thing for you! A Brazilian burger chain has just released an advert with their food served in edible wrappers! See the advert here…

It’s hard to get your head around it isn’t it? I find even sugar paper hard to eat!