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Marketing and IT: The great divide

By PAULA SARTINI, founder and CEO of BrandQuantum

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Business confidence across the country declined throughout 2019 on the back of the tough economic climate which is expected to continue in 2020. The need to win customers and gain their trust against increasing competition is a key challenge for most companies, as such, customer experience is growing in importance as a key differentiator for companies to attract and retain customers, particularly within a tough economy.

To meet customer expectations, IT needs to be included in the marketing department’s plans and aid in delivering the customer experience at every touchpoint along the customer journey. However, while there is much hype around the benefits of technology and marketing working together, there continues to be a great divide between these departments.

And yet when marketing and technology come together to achieve a common goal they can achieve great things and drive business success.

Customer experience melds marketing and technology

Customer experience has previously been the marketing department’s responsibility, however, new technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence can transform the delivery of customer experience. This creates the opportunity for the IT department and marketing department to work together to achieve a unified goal of delivering customer experiences that meet and exceed tech-savvy customer’s expectations.

Both departments offer a diverse range of strengths to organisations. Marketing departments bring a creative and customer focused approach, whilst IT provide both a technical and problem-solving perspective. At the same time, marketing is often seen to want to adopt the latest technologies while IT is focused on governance, security and enterprise architecture. Both of these are critical to the success of a company. As customers are starting to hold companies accountable for keeping their data secure, the role of IT and marketing need to align to meet customer expectations in terms of customer experience as well as in keeping their personal information secure from potential data breaches.

Surviving a recession with the help of technology

The role of technology continues to grow in importance across organisations of all sizes. However, while companies recognise the benefits that technology can bring to various departments, the organisation and the customer experience, in many instances, adoption of these technologies has been slow.

Yet, technology is a critical component to helping companies to overcome several business challenges including helping companies to overcome the impact of a recession. According to research findings published in Harvard Business Review, recessions can create performance gaps between companies, but investing in digital technology before a recession provides analytics and agile business practices to help companies better understand the threat they face and respond more quickly to market changes. Based on the findings companies that invested in technology outperformed those that did not during a recession.

There are several factors attributed to the role technology plays in helping companies overcome the impact of a recession. Firstly, technology provides access to data that gives companies the ability to make decisions to meet their customer’s needs.  The technology solutions also provide companies with the flexibility they need to adapt to the environment and respond to their customers with tailored solutions. Technology also aids in cost-cutting which helps the company to save money when it matters the most.

Many of these benefits can spill over into marketing departments, for example, giving marketers access to the right data enables them to make decisions to meet their customer’s needs. They would also benefit from the flexibility that technology allows in adapting to the environment, helping them to develop or change campaigns according to the market. 

However, in many instances, marketers have collected customer data for several years, but have not had access to the tools needed to extract and interpret this data. This is where marketing and IT should be working together more closely to improve marketing insights and close the loop on the customer experience. 

Delivering the customer experience

The customer experience is a key focus for the marketing department. However, marketers are unable to deliver customer experiences in isolation. With tech-savvy customers, marketing departments are becoming more reliant on IT departments to develop technology solutions for customers to interact with the company at a time and on a platform that is convenient to them. This experience needs to align with the overall brand experience and requires insights from the marketing department to achieve this.

More broadly, marketers require the support of the entire organisation to meet customer expectations at every touchpoint across the customer journey. This means that the marketing department needs to implement technology solutions that help employees to deliver experiences aligned to the brand in every customer engagement. 

According to a report from Forrester, businesses often deploy technologies that aren’t aligned to their business strategies and do not understand how these technologies affect customer journeys. Ultimately, the consumer experience strategy should be central to technology purchasing decisions. The marketing department needs to implement solutions that will help employees across the organisation to deliver consistent brand experiences in every customer interaction.

This will remove pressure on the marketing department to play the role of brand police, give marketers peace of mind that the correct information is being sent to customers and empower employees to meet customer expectations in every interaction. However, marketers also stand to benefit from implementing automation technologies to streamline their functions and help improve efficiencies.

Automating marketing functions

Marketers have a strategic role to play within organisations but are often chasing the next deadline or working on name tags and invitations for an upcoming event. These repetitive tasks can keep marketing departments bogged down in the finer detail and detract them focusing on the broader strategy of the department and the organisation.

In some instances, marketing departments have started implementing automation software that enables them to automate time-consuming repetitive tasks. By implementing this software marketing departments, which are usually made up of a small team of marketers, are freed up to focus on strategic elements of the business while delivering on the brand and marketingelements beautifully without investing a significant amount of time and effort on the delivery. 

Marketers are already starting to recognise the value that automation software can bring to their department with the Digital Marketing Institute finding that 44% of marketing leaders believe that automation software will become more important in 2020.

While some strides have been made in terms of bridging the divide between the marketing and technology teams to meet customer’s expectations and deliver consistent customer experiences, in most cases locally marketing and IT continue to work in silos. However, globally technology and marketing departments are working together more closely and reaping the benefits of this relationship that has a direct impact of improving customer experiences and increasing company profits, helping them to adapt to a customer-centric environment and weather the storms of the tough economic climate.

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Huawei Mate Xs foldable goes beyond design

The new foldable handset from Huawei ups the game with great performance and improved hinge design, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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“Falcon Wing Design.” Run those words over your tongue. It sounds cool, it looks cool and it feels cool. And it sums up the high-tech engineering that will make the new foldable handset from Huawei a formidable competitor in this fast-growing segment.

But it is not only design that sets the new Huawei Mate Xs apart. Unlike its predecessor, the Mate X, the device runs on EMUI10.0.1, an operating system based on Android Open Source Project. The software is based on Google’s mobile operating system, but is not affected by the United States government ban on Huawei using American technology. That means the phone operates like an Android 10 phone, but does not run Google Mobile Services (GMS), which includes the Play Store and its automatically updated apps.

Instead, it uses Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), which replaces the likes of Google Assistant with Huawei Assistant, and allows services like Gmail to run on top of a built-in email service. It allows browser-based versions of any Google service, like YouTube, to be accessed via an on-board browser,  and includes workarounds for various other commonly used Google apps.

At first sight, one gets the sense that HMS and EMUI10.0.1 will quickly teach users that they are not as heavily dependent on Google apps as they may have imagined. Our first half hour spent on the phone suggested very little commonplace functionality that was not easily available. On a personal level, once Gmail is sorted for me, my apps needs are highly specific, rather than being dictated by an ecosystem – whether HMS or GMS.

But let’s get back to the Falcon Wing design. It was first used on the origjnal Mate X, but the new version, which features more than 100 interlocking parts, is made with a zirconium-based liquid metal, resulting in a hinge that is both more durable and provides a more satisfying 180-degree fold.

@arr2gee

#Huawei’s new foldable #smartphone is our. Check out the #MateXs in folding action #foryou

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The flexible display uses a two-layer polymer structure, manufactured by adhering two layers of aerospace-grade polyimide with an optically clear adhesive. This, says Huawei, allows the display to produce great image quality, colour saturation and brightness while retaining a high degree of durability. 

In folded mode, the Mate Xs is a dual-screen smartphone, with a 6.6-inch main screen on the front and a 6.38-inch secondary screen on the back. The secondary screen folds into an edge which serves as a grip when the device unfolds into an 8-inch tablet.

Unfolded, the Xs comes into its own. It offers Multi-screen Collaboration, which Huawei says “breaks down the boundaries between Windows and Android devices”. This means that it allows content to be moved easily between supported devices, and can allow two systems to be controlled from one device.

The phone also provides seamless Multi-window support, allowing two apps to be opened side by side, with a third one “floating” on top, and allowing content to be dragged between the apps – including text, images and documents. The Floating Window can be used to respond to instant messaging, for example, without closing the other apps.

Talking of apps, the Mate Xs debuts a revamped AppGallery, which Huawei intends to develop as a replacement for the Google Play Store. The company would, of course, want to suggest that it is a superior option, but that could take a few years more.

Read more on the next page about the cameras on the Mate Xs, along with the device specs.

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Surviving tax season: An accountant’s tech guide

As we approach the February tax-year deadline, Xero SA country manager COLIN TIMMIS offers tech tips for tackling the number-crunching

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We’re approaching the end of February, which means it’s officially coming to the end of the tax and financial year. It’s a difficult time for accountants and businesses as admin piles up, and task lists get longer by the day. And to top it all off, it’s summer too.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be a time drain. Research from Xero found that accountants can save up to 15 hours a week by using cloud accounting. That’s an average of 54 hours per month or 27 days – an entire annual holiday allowance, plus change. When respondents were asked what they would do with this spare time, of those who chose non-work related activities, 30% would spend more time with family, while 22% selected more time at the beach.

Together with Simon Magner, Xero partner and Director of Iridium Business Solutions, we’ve come up with a checklist to help accountants and small businesses prepare for this busy time.

Ensure your bookkeeping is up to date

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your bookkeeping is accurate and up to date. You don’t want to be scrambling for the information that you need at the last minute – doing the legwork to make sure all the data is ready will pay off in dividends when you come to generating the year-end report.

Check employee data

Remember that your employee data needs to be up to date, and it isn’t up to your employees to sort this out. If it’s not your responsibility to collect this data, warn the relevant people about the year-end in advance. You’ll need to gather all information on payroll and bonuses, while also collecting all receipts for expenses.

Use technology to help you

Admin-heavy work like invoicing, transaction imports, reconciliation, payments – and more – are time-consuming. Even though software can do all these tasks, they’re often done manually by accountants and business owners – which means there is more room for human error. Xero research reflects this too – a quarter of accounting and finance professionals said they could work smarter if they spent fewer hours on administrative tasks.

Having up to date records in real time using cloud accounting software allows you to make better business decisions in terms of your tax position and avoid any costly mistakes.

Don’t let the leap year fool you

Even though 2020 is a leap year, the last working day is the 28th of February – so don’t think you can file your return on the 29th. On that note, don’t leave it until the 28th, either – just in case issues pop up at SARS on the last filing day of the tax year.

Use previous data to guide you

Remember to use past data to inform your current return. Last year’s assessed profit should be used as a starting point to determine the minimum tax you should be paying as a business. And remember, if you made an assessed loss in prior years you could deduct it against the current year’s profits.

When experienced accounting professionals and business owners have to spend time inputting data, processing reports, and scrutinising invoices, they can’t work on strategy, pursue new business or developing client relationships. If accountants want to spend some time away from their desks during tax season, they need to invest in the right processes. It will save them time, energy and costly mistakes.

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