15 August 2017

Software-as-a-Service is Not Just Your Software Running on Someone Else's Server

I recently published a blog post about the benefits of using subscription-based business models called "What bike rental and the future of software have in common." Many industries are going through a shift of revenue streams from traditional one-time sales to products being provided “as a service” and paid via subscriptions. In the software industry this is referred to as Software-as-a-Service or SaaS. However, there is much more to this than just switching from a perpetual license model to a subscription model.


The “false cloud”

Back in 2010, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff warned attendees at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco to beware of what they called ‘false clouds.’ Benioff said “Companies hosting private cloud architectures do not benefit from economies of scale that ‘real’ cloud offers.” Back then, Salesforce.com's 77,000 customers were running on 3,000 servers spread over three global data centers. Theoretically, 77,000 companies of varying sizes would require at least 100,000 servers to independently run their CRM platforms on-premises or in a hosted solution. This translates to an equivalent output at only 3 percent of the infrastructure needed because of economies of scale and more efficient hardware utilization.


Many software companies are touting that they can deliver their software in the SaaS delivery model. However, what they are offering is often not a modern multi-tenant cloud solution where all customers are running the same software using shared resources and receiving software updates continuously without costly upgrade projects. In addition, these are not true SaaS offerings, where business users can configure functionality that would otherwise require expensive and time-consuming development using conventional single tenant software. These ‘false cloud’ solutions are often marketed as a ‘Private SaaS’ or a SIP (Secure Isolation Platform), but, in reality, are often just another way of selling an on-premise software package as a hosted solution.


SaaS is much more than cost savings

The biggest drawback with the false cloud is not that the customers are missing out on the economies of scale by not sharing resources, but that they will not have a speedy deployment, a future-proof and configurable solution, and the business agility that comes with a modern SaaS platform. 75% of enterprise software decisionmakers surveyed by Forrester rated ‘business agility’ as the top benefit of a SaaS platform, while another 72% rated ‘speed of deployment’ as a key benefit. Saving money, getting better uptime, and higher security are, of course, still relevant arguments for SaaS, but being agile and fast is of even greater importance. This is especially true for software that supports the rapidly changing processes in sales and marketing that can really reap the benefits of the SaaS model.

Software-as-a-Service is not just your software running on someone else's server. It is much bigger than that and should be an important factor when you choose your software vendors going forward.

11 August 2017

Three Reasons “Brand” is No Longer a Key to Success

Not long ago, a major focus of marketers was on brand—brand loyalty, brand positioning, the “brand promise.” Numerous books were written on the subject—each claiming to be the “brand bible” for communicating effectively to target markets.

We would argue that brand loyalty and the importance of brand, in general, is diminishing. According to McKinsey Research only 13% of customers are “loyalists” who do not shop around.

Sure, there are Apple aficionados who will never buy a Windows PC. There are folks who continue to drive the same brand of car for decades. And there are businesses with brand preferences due to corporate policy or hardware and software compatibility challenge. However, with the ubiquity of online shopping and buying, brand-based selection is falling, time and again, by the wayside.
Why is this?



User-Generated Content

When seeking a new product—especially a product with which a buyer has had little previous experience—buyers most often rely on the opinions of family and friends, or complete strangers. In fact, in one study by Signpost, they found that 90% of people consult online reviews when making purchase decisions. With the anonymity afforded by the Internet, purchasers of a product can be completely frank about their opinions and experiences with a product. As a result, buyers frequently trust those opinions more than corporate advertising or “brand communications.”

Third-party Reviews

Not only is UGC an influential factor, but so are third-party reviews. How frequently do you make a major product purchase without consulting Consumer Reports, Edmunds, CNET, or the like? Buyers are relying more and more on the expert evaluations of third-party reviewers for three main reasons: 1) they can be accessed from our desk or mobile phone; and 2) these folks do this for a living and are experts; and 3) it speeds our research and decision processes.

What is also common is for buyers to be surprised by what they read. According to the same McKinsey Research study, nearly 60% of customers switched brands once they began “shopping around.”  

Ability to Compare Products

Now that consumers and business buyers can easily shop around and compare products—on price, features, and form factor—at the click of a button, they are not restricted by brand. Online users can find the product that most closely meets their needs—whether the purchase transaction occurs online or in-store. Again, this may mean that they consider or purchase a brand that was not originally top of mind. However, after validating their purchase through user and third-party reviews, this previously unknown brand or product may indeed end up the winner!

What Can You Do?

As a manufacturer or distributor, the most impactful thing that you can do is portray your individual products in the best possible light. If you are no longer able to attract customers based solely on your brand, then you need your products to be able to speak for themselves and tell their own unique stories. This requires compelling, well-crafted product descriptions, accurate and interesting imagery, and insightful product testimonials and reviews. Let inRiver and our extensive PRIME Partner Community help!


Kathryn Zwack, Sr. Content Marketing Manager, inRiver

Make the Most of Back-to-School “Holiday” Shopping

The other evening, as I was heading home from my mountain bike ride, I felt a little nip of fall in the air. Granted, I live in a mountain town and with the sun rapidly sinking behind a hill, the air was cooling off.

However, that sense of fall reminded me that soon our kids will be heading back to school. Indeed, many districts start as early as the first week of August and many schools are in full swing before September hits.

What does this mean?  Back-to-School sales! We are getting flyers in the mail already and many stores have their signs and displays front and center.

Did you know that Back-to-School retail sales are second only to December holiday sales? Indeed, Back-to-School spending was a whopping $75 billion in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation. That equates to more than $500 per shopper, 20% to 25% of which will be transacted  online. Walmart, Amazon, and Target are the winners here.

What is exciting for both retailers and manufacturers alike is that the spending flows across many categories—clothing, electronics, computer software and hardware, office supplies, and home furnishings.

How can you take advantage of the “holiday” shopping extravaganza?


Get Your Demographics and Personas Right

When we think of the school year, it is not surprising we think of adorable grade-school students in plaid jumpers and khakis heading out the door. It is true that this is one key target market—to the tune of 50 million students. However, last fall, more than 20 million students were heading back to colleges and universities in the US. In addition to these Millennials, Generation Z students—today’s teenagers—have a greater say in product purchases and more money to spend. Make sure that you are marketing to all these groups, as well as their parents, and are aware of the lengthy local school supply lists that are distributed each year for all these groups.

Be Prepared—Online and Offline

As we noted above, Back-to-School shopping occurs both online and offline. The key is to be prepared, and well-stocked, with everything that students and parents need. Get a hold of the supply lists of local school districts and college dorms and ensure that those items are easy to locate—both in-store or online. Nothing is more frustrating to a parent than spending an afternoon at the local Walmart, Staples, or Target or on Amazon.com—with supply list in hand—and still having a plethora of items that need to be sourced elsewhere. Creating a “store within a store” will help shoppers move through their list quickly and efficiently. Make sure shoppers can check off every single item on the list at one venue.

Start Early

Although it is already August, keep in mind that Back-to-School shopping, like Winter Holiday shopping, is starting earlier and earlier each year. This may be due to parents’ desire for deals that occur throughout the summer, or due to the known inevitability of Back-to-School shopping. This means that decreasing your time-to-market is as important in summer as it is later in the year. A comprehensive workflow, which includes a product content review and approval process, can help you execute faster and more efficiently.

Remember, too, that improving your product content and keeping it consistent across channels will help to create that “endless aisle” experience and improve the customer experience for all of your target customers. inRiver can help with both these important objectives. Contact us for a demo!

Kathryn Zwack, Sr. Content Marketing Manager, inRiver

28 July 2017

Three Ways to Counteract the “Retail Apocalypse”

In May 1897, Mark Twain was on a world speaking tour. While in London, he heard that an American newspaper had printed his obituary. When told about this, Twain remarked, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

The retail industry could say the same.

Despite ongoing reports of store closings and retail bankruptcies in publications ranging from The Motley Fool to CNN to The Wall Street Journal, the “Retail Apocalypse” may be exaggerated.



It is true that we have seen the likes of Sports Authority, Rue21, The Limited, Wet Seal, and BCBG Max Azria file for bankruptcy protection. In addition, many department stores, such as Sears, Macy’s and JC Penney have closed locations. However, the so-called “Retail Bloodbath” may not mean an end to brick-and-mortar stores.

In fact, the US Census Bureau recently reported that retail sales were up nearly 4% in the first six months of 2017, compared with the same period last year.

These data suggest that multi-channel retail—including brick-and-mortar stores—is not going away. So, how can retailers stay afloat and even excel at both traditional and digital shopping? The key is to bridge the online and offline gap. You need to re-create the offline experience online. And, in turn, generate an “endless aisle” experience in the store.

Help customers move smoothly between channels

Use your online experience and interactions to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Email, push notifications, and social media all provide you with opportunities to promote local discounts, products, and events that can drive shoppers to stores. Store locators, product reservation tools, and ship-to-store options can boost revenue, while increasing convenience for the shopper. And there is that added benefit: while the customer is in your store to pick up that special item, it is likely that they will acquire additional items on impulse.

This can also apply in the other direction. If a product is out of stock in your store, “endless aisle” technology can allow your customer to order the item online while standing next to the shelf. Integrated IT systems mean that customers can return online orders in-store instead of having to mail them back and wait for a replacement or refund.

Use online interactions to enrich your customers’ in-store experiences

Successful retailers are using information from online channels in their offline marketing. For example, Best Buy displays product reviews and ratings on the shelf next to the product. Providing consistent product data across channels ensures that customers who found a great product online can find that same item in-store. By improving SEO and enriching product information, Primeau Velo was able to decrease customer online search time and increase in-store sales simply because shoppers could more easily find products they were seeking.

Another tactic is to personalize catalogs, adverts, and mailers based on online data. When retailers can draw insights from online interactions, printed materials can extend the digital experience and provide a seamless customer journey—from e-commerce to catalog to conversion.

Integrate your online and offline product information

Regardless of your retail industry, all your markets and channels need to tell the same story. This way, your customers will encounter a consistent brand and product experience no matter where they start their journey.

But to accomplish this, you need a single source of accurate product information.

When your catalog production in Europe can draw from the same information as your e-commerce engine in the U.S., you can go to market more quickly with new seasons or assortments. You have the means to enrich your product content so you are relevant to customers no matter which channel they are using. You can also more easily align offline experiences and online interactions, creating a consistent and satisfying customer experience.


The result? You build stronger relationships with your customers and realize higher sales and greater customer loyalty.

 - Kathryn Zwack, Sr. Content Marketing Manager, inRiver

18 July 2017

How to Pop-up Successfully

Just because retail stores are experiencing some hard times does not mean that shoppers aren’t making purchases. It is true that US retail sales fell again in June 2017 (by 0.2%) after a small decline in May (by 0.1%). However, two months of small declines after 16 months of increases may not yet be a “trend.” Let’s wait and see. Summer vacations may spur some impulse vacation shopping and spending in restaurants and at summer resorts.




In the meantime, let’s look at a trend that does seem to have some upward momentum—pop-up shops. Vogue calls pop-up shops the future of shopping. With some retailers leaving malls and store-fronts due to a myriad of reasons—downsizing, bankruptcy, and changes in marketing and sales strategy—pop-up shops are taking advantage of these vacancies. Some retailers are now hesitant to sign long-term leases, leaving more locations available for pop-up shops.

Goals of Pop-up Shops
Constructing a pop-up shop can provide you with many benefits. For retailers who are selling only online, having a popup shop can provide that “touch and feel” opportunity for customers to interact with their products. The increase in foot traffic can raise visibility and brand awareness. Pop-up shops can help you to create a deeper relationship with your customers—building loyalty or showing your appreciation for their business. You can test a new market and educate prospective customers on your product line. In addition, you may be striving for “Boundaryless Retail”—a notion introduced by Mindy Grossman of HSNi—the expansion of products into more and more channels.

Location of Your Pop-up Shop
How do you decide where and when to erect your Pop-up Shop? Economics, such as the cost of rent, marketing, and inventory, will likely have a huge impact on your decision. However, store-fronts and malls with high foot traffic that are close to your target demographic should be considered.

Products That Work Well for Pop-up Retail
When we think of pop-up shops, we invariably think of temporary Hallowe’en and Christmas stores. It is true that seasonal products are a good option for pop-up shops. However, other products are also conducive to this format. Products that are an impulse buy, have a lower price point, or offer the shopper a taste of affordable luxury are good possibilities for pop-up shop success. In addition, products that support the urgency to buy are also promising. After all, the pop-up shop is only there for a limited time!

Get Started with Your Pop-up Shop
inRiver PRIME Partner, Sophelle, recently published their latest Focus Report, entitled “Boundaryless Commerce: Pop-up Retail.” We invite you to learn more about the strategies, tactics, and technologies that are available to support you in this effort. Don’t miss this trend and opportunity! Download the report today.



13 July 2017

5 Absolute musts for taking your products to market successfully: 5. Refine your product stories with inRiver insights



 

Must nr 5: Refine your product stories with inRiver insights


Having a central product information management system makes it easy to bring products to market quickly, individually and in large volumes. The system is home to the agreed product story along with all the detail and imagery, tagged and categorized based on its place in the assortment.

This means product marketers and marketing managers have a single source of the truth and don’t have to waste time compiling inaccurate, inconsistent information from disparate sources. They simply share information and export what they need.  This means that you can also refine your product stories based on how consumers react to them and go from insight to action, or even enter a new market in weeks instead of months, new products can be live on a website and ready to be ordered in hours – and you can scale based on demand.

Consortio Fashion Group sells well-known brands like Halens, Cellbes and Bubbleroom in over 10 European markets and through 31 e-commerce sites. The product information management system gives Consortio full control over all assortments, significantly reducing time to market and marketing production costs.

Think big……start small……scale fast


Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Product & Services, inRiver

5 Absolute musts for taking your products to market successfully: 4. Publish & Syndicate


 

Must nr 4: Publish & Syndicate


In a digital and distributed commerce age, the sales process is moving from the physical stores and traditional marketplaces to the Internet. The digital markets - where people go to seek information and shop for products -  are available 24/7 in different forms and shapes. Some are small and niched. Others, like Amazon, are simply huge and omni-present.

In this digital reality, the consumer oversees how, when, and where they purchase products.  Thus, Product Marketers in the digital commerce era are urged to provide quality product information in a mix of attracting and converting channels. These channels can be eCommerce sites, marketplaces, printed catalogs, social media, or any other touch point where the consumers are seeking to educate themselves about the products they want to buy.

To meet the increasing demand for product information, you need a system for helping you facilitate the process of getting the information published in a variety of sales channels. This process is often referred to as syndication. Syndication ensures that product content gets exported in the right format, at the right time, to the right place, and in an automated fashion.


Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Product & Services, inRiver

5 Absolute musts for taking your products to market successfully: 3. Inspiring Product Stories



 

Must nr 3: Inspiring Product Stories


You will build your reputation for authority and knowledge when you promote enriched product information across channels and markets. Think about the number of touchpoints that involve product information. It’s not just about point of sale, catalogs and ecommerce – it’s about online retail portals, mobile marketing and social media updates.

When you have a central source of enriched product information, you have a goldmine full of unique and flexible content that’s easy to optimize into stories for each channel and market. You go beyond the industry standard – for example, providing Amazon with basic information in certain fields – and stand out because you’re showing an in-depth understanding of your customers and how your product fits into their context. When you juggle large assortments, multiple channels and disparate geographies, information generally comes from many sources, from supplier portals and ERP systems to individual documents, spreadsheets and image files spread across different teams. This means it can take hours, days or even weeks to compile product information for a launch, and it’s easy to end up with inaccuracy and inconsistency.

Having a central repository of product information, it becomes a single source of the truth. It saves a lot of time while helping you deliver a better customer experience. Würth is a prime example. They sell assembly and fastening materials for the trade and construction sectors. By moving to a central product information management system – which integrates with its enterprise and content management systems – new products can be live on the website and ready to order in just 2 hours.

Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Product & Services, inRiver

5 Absolute musts for taking your products to market successfully: 2. Collaboration


Must nr 2: Collaboration


As a Product Marketer, there’s pressure to do more of everything, from campaigns to releases. Thus, there’s an opportunity cost associated with not having control over your product information– time you spend on searching for the right information is time you’re not spending on sales and marketing.

This means you need systems and processes that help teams collaborate more efficiently and free up resources to focus on adding value.  The right system support means the same resources can do more in less time, they can be more creative rather than administrative. And it adds more value by creating richer product information.

Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Product & Services, inRiver

5 Absolute musts for taking your products to market successfully: 1. Speed-to-market


Must nr 1: Speed-to-Market


Today, customers have access to all your competitor’s stories at a click of a button and tap of a screen. Even when they’re standing in front of the shelf in store, they can be comparing prices and features on mobile. This means bringing products to market as fast as possible – and catching them in that purchasing micro-moment – is your competitive advantage.

Using the right Product Information Management (PIM) tool increases speed to market from days or weeks to just a few hours, making products purchasable much faster. And the more opportunity of choice with relevant products you can offer customers a when they’re searching, the more revenue you generate and the more loyalty you build.


Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Product & Services, inRiver

12 July 2017

Keep Your B2B Buyers Happy...and Coming Back

You are likely already aware at the speed at which the B2B e-commerce market is growing. While the B2C market is expected to be about $523 billion annually by 2020, the B2B market in the US is expected to be nearly double that at $1.1 trillion, according to the Forrester/B2BecNews Q1 2017 B2B Buy-Side Online Survey.

Along with this rapid growth, you have also likely heard about the many disruptors in the B2B market.

Keep Your B2B Buyers Happy...and Coming Back

Disintermediation of supply chains is resulting in competition between former partners, as new partnerships form. Enterprises practicing ”business as usual” may find themselves with slimmer margins or being squeezed out of the channel altogether. Amazon Business is growing at 20% per month and already has more than 30,000 vendors signed on. With all these choices and the ability to rapidly price shop, brand loyalty is also taking a nose-dive.

On top of all of these changes, B2B buyers are behaving differently from how they used to. They are, in fact, acting more like B2C shoppers, which is who they are when they aren’t at work. Sixty-seven percent of ‘Millennial generation’ B2B buyers prefer to shop online, compared with 51% overall. Ninety-two percent of US buyers have used Amazon to research a work-oriented purchase and 74% confirm that buying online is more convenient that buying from a sales rep.

The takeaway is simple: B2B buyers now expect a rich e-commerce experience, each and every time.

Get Ahead with the Best Product Information


It is no surprise that B2B buyers begin their product search on Google or, increasingly, on Amazon. What may surprise you is where they complete their search and where they ultimately buy. You got it—it is where they find the best product information. Great product information is good for your top and bottom line!

Where B2B Buyers Make Final Work Purchases

So, What’s Next?


If you would like to continue delving into these data and insights, please join us to continue the discussion on July 20 at 1 PM CDT. Together with our partner, DATAgility, we are hosting a webinar to talk about:

  • Why customer experience matters more than ever
  • How your B2B customers are buying
  • What makes a rich e-commerce experience
  • How to tell great product stories

Register now for the webinar, Why Manufacturers Need PIM in Their E-commerce Stack on July 20, 2017 at 1 PM CDT, hosted by DATAgility and inRiver. Hear more aboutthe changes in the B2B online marketplace and how you can ensure that you are doing everything you can to give your customers the best digital experience possible.


Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver

06 July 2017

Five Absolute musts to take your products to market successfully, Part 2

This is part II in our story of the new landscape and reality for you as marketers. In this part, we will set the stage for examples on how to focus and prioritize when mastering this new reality.

Research from HubSpot found that the top three marketing objectives are converting contacts into customers, growing website traffic and increasing revenue derived from existing customers. Social selling is also more of a priority than ever before.  Online content is key to achieving these goals because it allows you to connect with customers in the micro-moments – when they’re browsing that product, or standing in a shop comparing prices. In those valuable moments, you need to have the right content in the right place at the right time to attract customers’ attention.



Just go to an everyday situation in your life, a little bit of stress on your way home from work, drizzle and slush, you feel a bit cold. Or on your way in the morning, morning sun, crisp autumn air, and a warm coffee in your hand. These are totally different moments but if you can be reached and understood in either of these moments it will create trust and loyalty to that brand or for that product. This is what product storytelling is about.

To be successful at this we believe that you need to look at this from two different perspectives: the inside and the outside. One part of it is to collaborate to create your product stories in an efficient way. Another is to have everybody knowing what I in my role contribute to in this chain of product story telling.

At the other end of this, you must be efficient in how you syndicate your products to all selling touch-points. To have your information flowing easily between these touch points, without constantly having to manually do cumbersome touch-ups for the information to work in the different contexts.

Look out for the "5 Absolute Musts" blogposts, my five steps for taking your products to market successfully, in the coming weeks!


Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Products & Services, inRiver

Five Absolute musts to take your products to market successfully, Part 1

Why do some organizations do better than others? Why does it sometimes feel like the competition is faster to the market and always have more satisfied customers? You have probably heard a lot of explanations for this. Our colleague Johan Boström wrote a blog about that you no longer can shoot from the hip….and the discussions was about PIM or DAM, what is needed in what situation. If this is the question! Then you are at least out of the blocks on how you need to transition as an organization to start telling stories around your products at the pace that is expected. As if this is not enough, you have to do it in the moment chosen by your customers. A PIM is no longer a thing for the others, or the bigger ones, this is a mind-set and an approach that is needed for every company to meet the expectations on product information today regardless if it is in a B2B or a B4B or a B2C context.

This what the inRiver Product Marketing Cloud will help You achieve.


This is a post in two parts, where this first part will give you a backdrop to better understand the change in progress of how information is consumed today, the second part leads you further into the field and up to the subsequent five robust and hands-on priorities and focus areas that will help you as a marketing organization.



We now live in a reality with a constant flow of information, we search and scan information in a variety of places, especially as customers. The journey has been fragmented into Micro-moments. For you as a Marketer, you need to create the story of your products for each of these fractions in time. For the I - want - to - buy, the I - want - to - know or I - want - to- go moments your products must be able to grasp the attention of the consumers in these situations. To create intelligent products that can do this, you as a product marketer need to rethink the way you create the story around your products and where and when this story is being told.

Micro-moments have fragmented the customer journey:
  • 90% of people purchase across screens
  • Digital drives 87% of us in to the store
  • For 82% mobile is the new shopping assistance

This is something that is relevant for all organizations.
In the concept of the Mechanics of Last Millisecond Marketing three primary pillars are mostly highlighted as keys to success.


Therefore, it is so important to know WHO we are telling the story to, WHEN & WHERE we are telling it and WHAT are we are saying to maximize that moment.



Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Products and Services, inRiver


28 June 2017

Perfect Content is the Key to Success in Micro-moments and Last Millisecond Marketing

The digital transformation of commerce brings new challenges, but also opportunities for companies on a global scale. Because consumers want instant, rich, and personalized experiences as they scan the digital marketplace for products that can meet their highly set expectations. What used to be a predictable and predominantly linear customer journey is now fragmented across several devices and channels.

In these times of revolutionary digital change, the giants of the digital era help us to understand the high expectations of consumers of today, and how we as vendors must act in terms of providing the best possible experiences.

Forrester describes this in terms of Digital Intelligence; “The practice of developing a holistic understanding of customers across digital touchpoints for the purpose of optimizing and perfecting the experiences delivered and decisions made by brands during moments of engagement.
But there are others to guide us here. Adobe for example has minted the concept of “Last Millisecond Marketing” which gives marketers the opportunity to be either heroes or just average. Last Millisecond Marketing comes down to this; as an event is triggered, either by clicking a link, logging into a site, entering a web page, loading an app, etc., only milliseconds after the action has been made, the consumer has to get the right, personalized experience delivered.

Adobe suggests that we need to execute on four key pillars:

  1. Listen – to the signals of what consumers are trying to tell us
  2. Predict – based on these signals we have, predict the experience to deliver
  3. Assemble - pull the optimal content together for a personalized experience
  4. Deliver – provide the experience to the consumer in a context that makes sense

You need to understand where your customers are spending their time, not only in physical locations, but in social, app stores, etc. Every interaction through any touchpoint is truly relevant. You need to think about when and how they try to interact with you, and in what way they try and want to do so. You need to think about every digital use case – from a PC, tablet, phone, car, store, etc., and deliver a personalized experience in that instance between an action and the next step in the consumer’s journey. It is clear that you need to go to your customers, or they will not come to you.


In a similar fashion, Google declares that life is lived through micro-moments. These are the moments where consumers suddenly have an urge to get inspired, to learn, get information, or even to buy something that will either help us or just to make us satisfied. These micro-moments dictate the way consumers act. They have dramatically fragmented the customer journey. What used to be a linear path of making a purchase is not anymore. And right now, people all over the world are trying to make the most of every moment. The question that Google asks is - are you there to satisfy their needs?

Today, marketers have so much data at their disposal. They are not really asked to do more with less, but rather, do more with more. They need to connect the dots of all the data that they have at hand in order to deliver the most compelling offering, in the right moment, across exactly the right channels – where the consumer expects to find it.

This is where the Product Information Management (PIM) is added as a crucial part of the equation. A PIM solution is designed to put marketing organizations in control of the creation and flow of consistent product information across all channels. Successful companies rely on PIM to make sure that the right content, for any type of interaction, through any touchpoint, can be delivered in the exact millisecond or micro-moment, exactly when the consumer expects a personalized experience.

Where marketers can connect the dots to deliver great content in these moments, that is where the big results start to happen. When companies engage in every touchpoint, to deliver great consumer experiences, it can make a real difference to the business.

Henrik Béen, Vice President Product Marketing, inRiver

20 June 2017

Thanks for Joining inRiver at IRCE!

This year, from June 6-9, the best of all things “retail” for Internet retailers gathered in Chicago at McCormick Place West. We were excited to have this time to meet with many of our customers and partners, as well as hear about the product information “pain” that so many retailers are feeling as they expand their e-commerce efforts.

It was not surprising that Amazon was the “elephant in the exhibition hall.” I was pleased to be able to attend a session hosted by Peeyush Naharm, the Vice President of Amazon Marketplace. He outlined three of the top priorities of Amazon: seller-fulfilled PRIME service, Amazon Lending, and Amazon Business.

Fifty-five percent of sold items on Amazon are now delivered on behalf of sellers. An increasing number of products are being delivered at PRIME speed. Growth in the business is as high as 20%.

Prior to this session, I had not been aware of the scope of Amazon Lending. Amazon has made $3 billion in loans to more than 20,000 small and medium businesses in the US, UK, and elsewhere.
Last, Amazon Business now has 45,000 active business sellers offering more than 400 million products. These sellers now have access to new services that they can offer their customers, such as automated workflows, bulk shopping, and varying payment terms.

It is evident that Amazon is indeed the company to either beat or join!



Regardless of your strategy with respect to Amazon, we here at inRiver believe that it all starts with stellar product information so that you can tell perfect product stories. If you didn’t have a chance to see a demo of Product Marketing Cloud at IRCE, request a demo now!

Thank you to everyone who attended our After Hours parties—hosted by us alone at the award-winning luxury Swissôtel on Thursday, June 8 and in concert with our partner Salesforce CommerceCloud, on June 7 at one of Chicago's most stylish venues, Fremont. We hope you experienced some lovely sunsets and great views of the Chicago skyline. We also hope that you were able to network with other IRCE attendees and exhibitors and learn about all the amazing e-commerce solutions that are available in the ecosystem.

We hope you had a chance to chat with us at our booth. If not, please feel free to contact us or check out the many retail and e-commerce resources on our web site.

See you at IRCE 2018!


Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver Inc

15 June 2017

PIMpoint North America: Virtually Inspiring!


Last month, inRiver North America hosted our first ever Virtual PIMpoint. Our goal was to provide value for our customers and partners, through sharing insightful keynotes and customer case studies, and by highlighting the latest innovation in product information management—Product Marketing Cloud.

Intial feedback included the following comments: ”Great sessions!” ”Informative and concise...covered a wide array of topics from many viewpoints.”

We are so delighted that more than 150 of our customers and partners registered to join us, together with individuals simply wanting to learn more about PIM or micro-moments. As mentioned in our earlier blog, we featured world-class keynote speakers, such as brand strategist Pixie Sartang, trends expert Daniel Levine, and the legendary fashion brand builder Johan Lindeberg.

Johan Boström, inRiver’s Co-founder and Evangelist discussed disintermediation—a phenomenon that was further acknowledged by many presenters at last week’s IRCE tradeshow in Chicago. Niclas Mollin, inRiver’s President & CEO and Jimmy Ekbäck, EVP Products & Services at inRiver highlighted all the great things that are going on at inRiver to grow customer success, while David Sultan, Director of Sales Engineering did a “deep dive” into key features of inRiver Product Marketing Cloud.

We know there has been a lot going on this Spring, so if you were unable to attend, you are in luck. Take a few minutes during the Summertime (when the livin’ is easy) to watch the session replays. Just register on http://virtualpimpoint.inriver.com/en/ and sit back and relax in the comfort of your own home or office.


Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver Inc

07 June 2017

Are You Managing Your Product Data or is it Managing You?

Guest blog by Trevor Olson, President & CEO, Aware Web Solutions

For many organizations, product data has taken over. That mighty spreadsheet (or series of spreadsheets) created years ago by that one guy nobody really remembers is the master. Every product detail, spec, and line of marketing copy must pass through it. It’s a beast and no one ever wants to anger the beast.

OBEY.

Part of the problem is that your product data continues to grow. Today's empowered consumer demands more before they purchase a product from online retailers.
How so?
  • They demand higher quality images, 360-degree views of products and videos.
  • They demand more data about those products, with a higher degree of accuracy.
  • They want to find those products faster with better filters and empowered search. 
If you aren’t able to keep up, sales will go elsewhere… and fast.

And so you continue to feed the beast… that master spreadsheet of product data, routing it internally via email to all the different folks in the company who touch or impact your organization’s product marketing. It’s time-intensive to put it mildly and is chalk full of human errors. You don’t have the time, patience, or frankly, the will, to dive in to fix it. Remember, you’re dealing with a beast, your daily master. OBEY.

And we haven’t brought up the multiple channels to which you’re sending this product data. Your web site, catalogs, online retailers, industry marketplaces…you name it…they all now require that the product marketing content you send them is unique. That’s just more fields to add to that master spreadsheet.

Are you managing your channels or are they managing you?



Turn It Around. The PIM Solution.

The only method of fulfilling those demands is a central repository for your product data and content. This repository is known as a Product Information Management System, or a PIM.

Picture this for a moment. Imagine a single click, and you are instantly in a solution with a fully cleansed, organized repository of all master product content. It’s a single view of everything you need as a product manager. No more spreadsheets, files, and images scattered throughout networks, file systems, and individual inboxes. PIM systems accomplish several goals, including:

  • Connecting to ERP, PLM, and other data systems to input basic product data.
  • Enabling marketers to accurately describe their products in rich detail.
  • Allowing images, videos, and other digital assets to link to those products.
  • Allowing relationships to be built between products, like Upsells and Cross-sells.
  • Allowing kits and bundles to be built efficiently. 
  • Mapping products to hierarchies through rule-based classification.
  • Outputting data to multiple channels, including Web, Print, and Syndication channels.

Why inRiver?

inRiver is a Product Information Management suite that is built for marketers. Its advanced User Interface and adaptable design make it a leader in publishing your items quicker and to more channels. inRiver features include:
  • Customization of the inRiver marketing (data) model and workflows to your business model, and business logic. No Need to fit into someone else’s idea of how to model your data.
  • Generation of consistent normalized data faster with powerful, yet intuitive administration and business user interfaces.
  • Ability to view your products, product relationships, and output channels in easy and intuitive business-oriented user interfaces. 
  • Customizable business-facing activities that can be implemented by business users. Let IT handle IT tasks.
  • Control of your product messaging with one source of data for your e-commerce, syndication, and print channels—in one tool with a single data source.
  • Ability to easily add more images and videos to make your products stand out.
  • Push/Pull data synchronization and standardized product onboarding to make data collection and distribution faster and less costly.
  • Enrichment of product attributes and content so that you can consistently tell your product story.

Aware’s PIM Advantage

Meeting the needs of retailers, manufacturers, and distributors requires speed, flexibility, and experience. Aware Web Solutions understands the importance of these needs and provides a proven system to implementing a PIM package that achieves your data and content goals. Aware’s system includes:
  • An approach to product data from a marketing perspective, not an IT perspective. We listen to your marketers, data inputters, and product specialists to understand their products.
  • Customized data modelling activities that work with your team to build software that empowers your business. We learn your assortment as well as you do, track your workflows from end to end, and view your channels as some of your business’s critical assets. By listening to how your business works we understand what you need not just from a software and hardware perspective, but from a product perspective. 
  • Software configurations that adapt to your business, not adapt your business to a static model. Every data model is different, and only software that can adapt to those differences can improve your product data quality, product speed-to-market, and your business’s bottom line.
  • An analysis to explore systems to improve your speed-to-market by finding workflows that can be performed in parallel, build systems that move items through the setup process instead of waiting for people to find their next task, and make finding your products in the system easier and quicker.
  • Faster implementations that have your resources developing a Return on Investment faster. You need to produce, syndicate, and display product data and content now, not two years from now. We can have your software installed in an average of 6 months from kick-off, providing you a return on your PIM investment faster.
  • Software meant to be adaptable to a wide variety of future business models, avoiding expensive development projects that restrict your future growth. Our software implementations grow with your business to empower it today and in the future. 
  • Cloud solutions that let your product setup process function globally without needing complex access restrictions or special software client installations. Your product setup process can be a 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week machine making your items available online faster.
Our solutions help syndicate your product data and content using a single consistent message throughout your channels. Your marketing data and content outputs to your web site, your catalogs, Amazon, Google Manufacturing Center, and every other channel your business feeds can happen at higher Speed-to-Market rates and more accurately with less work.

Learn more at AwareWeb.com.  Or contact us directly at info@awareweb.com.
Interested in a demo? Contact Aware

Trevor Olson, President & CEO, Aware Web Solutions

02 June 2017

inRiver Welcomes You to Chicago for IRCE!

At inRiver, we are so excited to have IRCE coming to town once again. This year, from June 6-9, the best of all things “retail” for Internet retailers will be in Chicago at McCormick Place West.

The conference is just around the corner and we are looking forward to networking with attendees and other best-of-breed digital solutions. In the meantime, download our Chicago Traveler’s Guide.

Come See Us!


inRiver has secured Booth #739. We invite you to come visit us during Exhibition Hours which are as follows:
  • Tuesday, June 6: 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM
  • Wednesday, June 7: 9:00 AM – 6:30 PM
  • Thursday, June 8: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
We will have videos, collateral, and staff available to answer your questions.

Join inRiver After Hours!


inRiver is hosting two After Hours parties—one to get the party started and one to close out a fantastic conference.

Join inRiver and our partner, Salesforce CommerceCloud, on Wednesday, June 7 from 7:30 to 10:30 PM at one of Chicago's most stylish venues, Fremont Chicago. Enjoy expertly crafted cocktails, great music, and good company under the stars with Fremont's retractable roof. RSVP now!

inRiver After PartyCome by our booth (#739) to pick up some tickets to inRiver’s IRCE After Hours Party that will be held at the award-winning luxury Swissôtel on Thursday, June 8. Enjoy a glass of wine or beer on us while you watch the sun set over Navy Pier and Millennium Park and network with other conference attendees and colleagues. You can also register for our party online.


Here are the deets:
  • When: June 8, 6–9 PM
  • Where: Swissôtel Chicago at 323 East Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago 
  • What: Cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres, networking with friends and colleagues
Designed by renowned Chicago architect Harry Weese, SwissôtelChicago is a four-diamond, all-glass triangular luxury hotel ideally situated in the confluence of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

Join inRiver for this relaxing and fun event. We look forward to seeing you!

Meet us for a Demo


Don’t forget to join us in our meeting room (W472 – right at the top of the stairs) for a demo of our latest product—inRiver Product Marketing Cloud—the first true multi-tenant Product Information Management (PIM) Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution on the market today. No conference badge is needed to join us in the meeting room.

Our meeting room will be open at the following times:
  • Tuesday, June 6: 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM
  • Wednesday, June 7: 9:00 AM – 6:30 PM
  • Thursday, June 8: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Sign up online now to meet with inRiver in Room #W472 at IRCE 2017!
We look forward to seeing you at IRCE 2017!


Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver Inc

30 May 2017

Winners and Losers in Retail

You have probably heard the news and it isn’t good. Sports Authority is gone. The Limited is gone. Shoes.com – gone. Payless Shoes – gone. Wet seal – gone.

JC Penney, Macy’s, Nordstrom have all reported declining sales. Even Kohl’s is hurting. The latest report was Target—also down—for the fourth straight quarter. 

The News Isn’t All Bad…

Meanwhile, there was an 11% increase in online and non-store retailers and an increase among restaurants and bars. I guess folks get hungry while shopping online and then go out to eat.
At the same time, Wal-mart revenue is up. And, of course, Amazon is up and prepping for another “Prime Day” in a couple of months.

We can surmise why some of these retailers are not doing well and why others are cleaning up. But let’s take a look at what the analysts say.



 

Wal-mart Shows Behemoths Can Innovate!

Wal-mart has cut prices and improved in-store traffic, while Target has less foot traffic. Wal-mart is also improving its e-commerce performance, which the company says rose more than 60% in Q1 2017 and are the highest ever. Wal-mart’s growth surpassed even that of Amazon and was attributed mostly to Wal-mart, not its recent acquisitions of Jet.com, and Moosejaw, which provide access to a more affluent and sophisticated shopper.

Wal-mart has expanded its online catalog to more than 50 million products up from just 10 million one year ago. The company also now offers free two-day shipping on orders that total more than $35 and a discount to shoppers who order online but elect to pick up select products in-store. Wal-mart is capitalizing on its close proximity to a large percentage of the US population—something that Amazon cannot easily counter.

Other innovations include investing in online grocery ordering that provides curb-side pickup services by busy moms and dads. Wal-mart also is investing in new technologies to speed shelf stocking to ensure that products are there where and when consumers need them.
 

Amazon Continues to Experiment 

In turn, Amazon has turned their popular Alexa device into your own personal style consultant with Echo Look. The device sits quietly in your closet and takes full-length photos and short videos upon command with a built-in camera to help you see yourself from every angle. This complements Amazon’s efforts to become a bigger player in fashion—introducing several private label apparel lines and hiring hundreds of personnel to manage the category.

Join inRiver at IRCE

These are only a few of the interesting trends that we are seeing in the retail industry. We hope to hear and see more at IRCE on June 6-9 in Chicago. Stop by our booth (#739) or sign up for a meeting in our private room (#W472) to discuss how inRiver PIM can help you address these, and other, disruptive trends in retail.

Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver Inc

16 May 2017

Don’t Miss Virtual PIMpoint – North America 2017


Earlier this Spring, inRiver hosted our largest and most exciting PIMpoint Summit ever—in Copehagen, Denmark. I was fortunate to be able to attend this fun and insightful event, along with 600 partners, customers, and fellow inRiver employees.
What is equally as exciting is the fact that inRiver US is hosting our first Virtual PIMpoint – North America conference. This is our inaugural inRiver-hosted event in the Americas and we are delighted to invite you to join us on May 25, 2017 from 11AM EDT to 5PM EDT. You can easily access the event online from the comfort of your laptop or mobile device.
All you need to do is Register Now for this complimentary online conference.

We have a full agenda planned, including keynote speakers, real-world case studies, and product updates and information about our new Product Marketing Cloud solution.

World-class Keynote Speakers
“Great speaker, relevant and new, best speaker for the whole event.” That was the feedback we received about Pixie Sartang, Co-Founder and Senior Strategist at House of Harvey, when she spoke at PIMpoint Summit 2017. She will be joining us at Virtual PIMpoint to discuss customer behavior and how to “own” your brand. Don’t miss it!
Similarly, Daniel Levine who is a Global Trends Expert received kudos at PIMpoint Summit. “Really, really interesting, would give it more than 5... :),” said one PIMpoint Summit attendee. As one of the world's best-known trends experts, Levine tracks ideas and experiences from around the world.  and his presentation will give us a glimpse of “the future of everything.”  At Virtual PIMpoint, he will serve up a playful presentation of trends that are transforming business and life with fun examples to give us a glimpse of “the future of everything.”
You won’t want to miss the session with Johan Bostrom, inRiver’s Co-founder and Evangelist, who will discuss disintermediation—a phenomenon that all players in the e-commerce channel must be aware of and address.

The Inside Scoop on Product Marketing Cloud

Other featured presenters include Niclas Mollin, inRiver’s President & CEO, Jimmy Ekback, EVP Products & Services at inRiver, and David Sultan, Director of Sales Engineering. David will present a number of in-depth product sessions to introduce you to what's new in inRiver Product Marketing Cloud, while Jimmy will present how the new features enable organizations to manage product information efficiently.

Join Us!

Take a break during your hectic workweek to be inspired and hear from world-class speakers on the latest trends and e-commerce strategies and techniques.
Register now for our inaugural conference!

10 May 2017

In the Race Car Business, Speed Means Simplicity

The world of commerce is growing increasingly complex as new technologies can quickly enable disruptive business models and change how customers interact with us. Innovative products and services are introduced faster and with higher frequency in all industries. Disintermediation of supply chains causes old partners to compete and new partnerships to form. At the same time, millennials with completely different values and buying habits are starting to become a substantial part of B2C and B2B buyers.

All these are examples of complex challenges and phenomena that require constantly evolving business strategies and business models to stay competitive. Historically, most of the complex business problems have been solved with complex IT solutions that, in most cases, grow even more complex over time. Complex solutions are often monolithic in their approach and require huge budgets and a lot of time and sacrifice to get implemented in the organization. Say "big-bang ERP implementation” and most that have gone through one and survived will agree.


Complexity is the enemy of speed, flexibility, and innovation

Race cars are optimized with one single objective in mind—to be as fast as possible. If we, for a minute, consider an organization as a race car and we think about what we need to do to make it fast and competitive, most of us will not think about adding weight or designing a hard-to-use cockpit. A race car is fast because it is stripped of everything that isn't necessary to reach the goal—winning the race. A race car's cockpit only contains the controls that are needed to drive really fast and provide the driver with an unobstructed driving experience. Adding controls in the cockpit for managing a front loader, or a towbar in the rear of the car, just doesn't make any sense as it will only increase the complexity of maneuvering and add unnecessary weight that will inevitably slow things down.

Complex and bloated processes and it's ugly sibling "the enterprise model," combined with all-in-one system support, adds time-consuming process steps and tasks, whether they are needed or not. Not only does complexity make things move slowly, it also makes things hard to change and is often the cause of inflexible organizations that leave employees disengaged and unmotivated. So not only is complexity the enemy of speed, but also the enemy of flexibility and innovation.

Become a disintermediator instead of becoming disintermediated

Amazon has been growing extremely fast and is now one of the largest companies in the world. Despite that, they are still moving and innovating much more quickly than their competitors in the traditional retail space. There are, of course, many reasons for Amazon's success, but complex processes aren't one of them. In a letter to shareholders, Founder Jeff Bezos wrote: "As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations." When the process becomes “the thing” you end up with the all-encompassing enterprise model and its monolithic system support.

Instead, Amazon is laser-focused on what Jeff Bezos calls "True Customer Obsession." As the Amazon example shows, staying nimble and focused can help an organization move fast, grow quickly, and stay innovative. Simplicity requires a focus that encompasses everything, from organization and processes to system support. This is the opposite approach compared with yesterday's all-encompassing enterprise model, unfocused all-in-one enterprise software packages, and big-bang implementations.

Think of your organization as a race car and strip away the unnecessary weight of yesterday and focus on what's truly important. That way you can be the disintermediator instead of the disintermediated.

Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver

18 April 2017

Meet Your Digital Commerce Objectives

In the world of digital commerce, “customer experience” has become the buzz word, or buzz phrase, of the day. Digital commerce enterprises—whether B2B or B2C—want to provide their customers with the best possible online buying experience.

By 2020, companies expect that customer experience will be more important than price and product offerings as the key method of differentiating their brand. This is not really all that surprising, considering that buyers have shown that they will pay a premium for convenience and that they can be brand agnostic if they find the right product.

Getting buyers to find your product quickly through compelling product content and targeted personalization are the keys to e-commerce success. In fact, one study revealed that 70% of respondents indicated that customer identification or personalization of customer experience is a leading priority for 2017.



The question is: How do you create a great customer experience?


inRiver has teamed up with two of our most valuable and most experienced partners to try to answer that question. We are collaborating with Episerver and Rightpoint on the strategies and tactics that can help you provide a stellar customer experience each and every time. Join us on Thursday, April 20, 2017 for a complimentary webinar where we introduce these concepts.

At this online event, we will cover a number of topics, such as:
  • What are the key elements that you need to have for a superior customer experience?
  • How can you build the right team for e-commerce success?
  • What tools and strategies do you need to meet your business objectives?
In addition, we will discuss how to create great product content to use in your personalization efforts. Last, we will highlight some great real-world examples that show how your B2B and B2C peers are creating great customer experiences.

You know that customer experience is one goal of your e-commerce initiatives. Don’t miss this great opportunity to learn more about the tools and strategies to meet your e-commerce goals.

Register now for the webinar!


Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver Inc

11 April 2017

What bike rental and the future of software have in common



In many cities, you can nowadays rent a bike in a very convenient way. You simply pay a subscription fee, and you can pick up a bike at one of many stations, ride where you want to go, and return it to another convenient location.

One of my colleagues recently moved to Chicago and got a $99 per year subscription for unlimited bike rides instead of buying a new or used one. Why? For him, it was straightforward and convenient as he did not have to spend a lot of money on a bike, get it serviced, or risk getting it stolen. If it starts raining, he can leave the bike at the nearest station and get on a bus. This is an excellent example of the Everything-as-a-Service economy.

Most industries are going through a shift of revenue streams from traditional one-time sales to products being provided “as a service” and paid via subscriptions. It is not only happening to digital products like Netflix and Spotify, but also in industries where you can subscribe to physical products, such as razor blades, forklifts, jet engines, and cars.

The software industry is rapidly moving towards SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), which is transforming the way software is delivered, managed, used, and purchased. Gartner defines SaaS as “software that is owned, delivered and managed remotely by one or more providers." In short, SaaS is a leased software maintained by the software vendor.

SaaS: A perfect match for marketing and sales
The most well-known enterprise SaaS application is probably Salesforce.com, the leading CRM that boasts millions of users and more than 100,000 customers. Salesforce showed the world the benefits of the SaaS model, and the trend so far has been that applications that support the sales and marketing processes have been the first ones to reap the benefits of the cloud.

One reason is that fast-moving sales and marketing operations have much to gain from the flexibility and the configurability of SaaS. SaaS cuts the time-to-value, allows for rapid prototyping, and adds new functionality and configuration updates without cumbersome and expensive upgrade projects. Another benefit is that the continuous incremental updates make it easier for the software vendor to innovate and quickly make the corresponding business value available to all their customers so that they can stay in front of the pack.

The benefits of the subscription economy
It is hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison between SaaS and on-premises. Some companies only compare the maintenance fee (typically 20-22% per year based on the up-front license cost) with the SaaS subscription fee. Others forget to consider the total cost of ownership of their on-premises investment, including upfront licensing fees, hardware, network, backup, test and development systems, and the staff that has to manage it all. Regardless, a large up-front investment in software, hardware, and implementation makes it harder to switch if the selected solution is not satisfactory or if a better alternative comes around.

The SaaS subscription model is not always cheaper than on on-premises with perpetual licenses, but it provides predictable costs, even as you scale. Because the SaaS vendor is responsible for upgrades, uptime, and security, your organization can focus instead on the business aspects and get the most out of the software. Due to frequent and incremental updates, you can enjoy new modern features without going through costly and time-consuming upgrade projects with testing and training. Companies that use microservices-based cloud applications can more quickly and cost-effectively take advantage of other cloud services, like AI and machine-learning tools, that would otherwise be accessible only for companies with massive financial resources.

SaaS is the future of enterprise software
SaaS is going to replace the on-premises software in its entirety over time. If you are investing in new solutions, it only makes sense to consider SaaS an option, especially if speed, flexibility, predictable cost, and keeping the solution updated is important to you. In the highly competitive, fast-moving world of marketing and sales, it should be.

Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver

30 March 2017

What is this? Is it the 90s.....

Recently we had a great day at our HQ with Nasry Angel from Forrester discussing our Roadmap and Visions. During the discussion, we talked about different approaches to architecting software.

If you simplify it, you can categorize these approaches into two main categories.

1. The expert, know-it-all, one-solution and non-questionable approach

Tech in the 1990sHere it is all about The Expert, and an assumption that this solution will handle everything from here to eternity. Or perhaps with this expert aura it simply becomes too many features within one solution, and too few that dare to challenge the solution. In the 90s this was a popular way of approaching software architecture. Trying to build and capture THE Enterprise Model that would solve everything and with that false expert know-it-all notion this could be done. Meanwhile, the business had to wait while the experts sat down and did their analysis, and after that it was done. The only thing that now remained was for anybody or somebody to implement their flawless design and voilà the one model was built.

To quote Jimmy Nilsson  on why this did not work on the 90s and why it will not work in the future either:
Tech staff in the 1990s
  • Such a model became enormous, even for a moderate-sized company.
  • The model tried to describe a moving target statically. It’s also the case that a task like that becomes much harder when the moving target is enormous rather than if it’s small.
  • The big model was more or less generic and therefore context-free and in reality, very hard to use.
This approach often leads to a big on-premise monolithic design. Over time this will not scale with new creative ways of solving real business challenges, but more be a war for preserving a state and design that was built and invented during the analysis and the creation of THE Enterprise Model.

2. The tinkering way, not know-it-all with a collaborative approach - Agile

Here it is all about knowing that we do not know what the future holds, hence we need to approach our domain with that notion. Understanding and accepting that everything we add will create complexity, so being very aware of what type of business challenge we are solving is paramount. Because we know that the domain and business challenges will change many times during the lifetime of our design. If other or tangent business domain opportunities arise, look for other services or collaborations to solve it. This approach of moving forward in small steps and failing fast, but with tiny failures that quickly will lead to a path towards an efficient design. In hindsight, this path will look crisp and clear, but without these small failures it would have been impossible to find it.
This approach often leads to a SaaS-based design with Microservices as base architecture, which often gives more flexibility and more purpose-built features . This often fits better within an organization. Because of the natural state of a IT-landscape where a lot of different systems and services often needs to coexist. To assume that ONE system would solve this challenge in the most efficient way is not very realistic. If you on the other hand are working with modern service-based solutions, this will put you in a much greater position to be efficient in maximizing the effect of your investments.
 

A couple of weeks ago me and our CEO, Niclas Mollin returned from San Francisco after attending the great event SaaStr 2017. The reinforced insight we left with was that all inRiver customers deserve a modern approach to delivering software. We have, for a long time, believed in a Cloud Service Approach, but with that transition we had to go through a lot of changes. To get where we are now, we have “killed a lot of darlings” on the way. With this I mean things that were thought of as absolute musts in our solution, and could not be changed. As always with these situations, time and commitment will help you in finding an alternate route. In this change process, The Microservice architecture is something that has helped us in our ambition to ― together with our community ― create an easy-to-use and fast-to-scale SaaS approach. The feedback we have received is very positive, the agility we can provide and the speed of change our design offers is very appreciated by our customers.

Think big – Start small - Scale fast

Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Products & Services, inRiver

28 March 2017

Why product marketing must be a strategic process

I sometimes find that there is some confusion around the definition of product management versus product marketing. So, let’s clarify the difference before we dig into the details. Wikipedia defines it well: "Product marketing is the process of promoting and selling a product to an audience. Product marketing, as opposed to product management, deals with more outbound marketing or customer-facing tasks (in the older sense of the phrase)."

Pretty straightforward, isn't it?

The important role of product marketing


An efficient product marketing process is a foundation for successful product launches, effective SEO, eCommerce, and much more. Without compelling high quality product stories—including descriptions, specifications, how-to videos, images, cross-sells , and so on—it is very hard to provide a great product experience. The product experience is such a vital part of the customer's buying journey that, without a great one, it is almost impossible to convince anyone to buy anything. Unfortunately, despite its importance, product marketing is often not considered as a strategic process.

There is a big difference in how you need to communicate to B2B Buyers versus B2C Shoppers. It is important that you know to whom you are marketing before you start communicating with them, so there is always a need for buyer personas regardless of industry. However, personas are not persons, and persons have different contexts and intents during the buying journey. Most customers will move across touchpoints and devices, creating a need for content to be developed and stored granularly to help the front-end solutions select the right pieces and adapt the product story—in real time.



B2B buyers are mobile too 


There seem to be a misconception that micro-moments are only happening within B2C, but B2B buyers are mobile too, and thus are constantly connected. The B2B buying journey is now as fragmented and unpredictable as it is within B2C. According to Google, 89% of B2B buyers use the internet during the B2B research process. Think with Google has written an interesting piece about this. With B2B marketing, also comes the complexity of often having more than one decision-maker, each of whom can have a different persona and be in a different phase of the buying journey.

Product marketing needs to be a strategic process


Digital marketing is extremely competitive. To win, companies need to have the resources, processes, and systems in place to create large volumes of high-quality content, manage knowledge about the customers, communicate effectively in real time, and have ways of analyzing and optimizing it all

It is time to realize that without this in place, the other strategic processes and systems that are managing transaction and logistics, such as ERP, are going to have less and less to do in the future when sales are going down. That is why you need to make product marketing a strategic process. If it is not considered strategic to your organization already, it is time to make it so.

Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver