The Competitive Advantages of a Smart Digital Strategy

digital strategyDo you remember the music of dial-up modems? That scratchy, squeaky noise indicating you might just be able to check your email and slowly load a webpage before someone needed to use the phone. Despite a misplaced nostalgia for that awful tone, it’s clear that the world has changed.

We now have high-speed internet in the seat of our pants. Literally. Just pull out your phone. And the research shows that businesses that embrace new technology and craft a digital strategy gain significant competitive advantages.

The Digital Imperative.

The study, by MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting, describes the drive to gain competitive advantages with new tech as “the digital imperative.” Companies that adopt a new digital strategy experience transformations in their organizations that streamline old processes and expand their business with new opportunities. New tech brings new options, and the most important of those options is the ability to engage a consumer directly on their computer.

The study included a survey of digital strategy across a variety of industries. Among respondents, 78% said that achieving a digital transformation is a critical move within the next two years. 81% are already in the process of adopting emerging technologies and integrating them into a new digital strategy, while only 5% said that digital will never become important. The consensus is clear. Digital is revolutionizing business, and it’s better to be among the 81% than to be left behind.

Competitive Advantage.

The Digital Transformation paper also argues that no organization is immune to the effects of the digital revolution. A company that sticks its head in the ground like an ostrich puts themselves at a deep disadvantage. Even if a single company abstains from a digital strategy that brings them into the 21st century, their larger industry still faces inevitable changes.   Embracing digital means gaining a competitive advantage over those who do not.

According to the study, among companies where a digital strategy is a prime consideration in their executive agenda, 81% believe that will manifest a competitive advantage within two years. But what about companies whose leadership ignores a digital strategy? Only 18% of those surveyed believe their companies will increase their competitiveness.

Customer Experience.

No matter how good technology gets, customers remain the lifeblood of a business. Someday we may sell to artificially-intelligent robots. But until then, we rely on real human beings with real emotions to make sales. A good customer experience is important to acquiring and retaining customers. It’s important then that the number one benefit of a digital transformation occurs with improved customer experience.

Enter the E-Commerce.

Customer experience is where e-commerce comes in, introduces itself to the party, and then shines bright. An online webshop offers self-service options that simply aren’t available at a brick-and-mortar store. With e-commerce, the customer goes online and shops directly for what they want, and your e-commerce store is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Search options and smooth navigation help customers browse through your products with the immediacy they desire. Guided selling identifies their interests and offers them relevant products and services.

A customer even has the ability to customize products and submit for quotes when they use product configuration. A robust e-commerce site even provides digital content for your customer to build trust, relationships, and education. Detailed product catalogues, instructional videos, whitepapers, and more all contribute to helping your customer and guiding them towards the purchase. The customer experience expands exponentially with e-commerce and provides the lynchpin of a full digital strategy.

Digital Now, Digital Tomorrow.

As the Digital Transformation study shows, businesses are investing strongly in the digital future, and those that don’t are left behind. Online selling and robust digital content both improve customer service and expand your business. This is your competitive advantage because a digital strategy helps you not only keep up with the Joneses but hopefully surpass them.

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Unlock Your Inventory Potential with Product Configuration and Microsoft Dynamics NAV

When was the last time you looked at what’s under the hood of your Microsoft Dynamics NAV system? If it’s anything like other ERP implementations, it probably contains a boatload of data, much of it related to your current inventory and your customers’ likes, dislikes, product preferences, and purchasing histories. But even with all this valuable information, are you fully utilizing it? Even more importantly, are you using it in such a way that improves your inventory and the overall online experience for your customers? In other words, have you unlocked the potential of your inventory?

A relatively easy way to unlock your inventory’s potential and improve that online customer experience is through product configuration:  offering shoppers a plethora of self-service options so they can easily select and purchase customized products. From different cuts, colors, shapes, and sizes, to more sophisticated options, such as embroidered names and initials, high-tech add-ons, and souped-up accessories, all of this is made possible by an online configurator, specialized add-on software that allows a customer to define the features he wants in the product he’s ordering.

Even though this sounds complicated, it’s really not. The key to this (especially for your IT team!) is you don’t have to change your ERP system, or use a third party, to make this happen. You just need to integrate your online configurator with Microsoft Dynamics NAV and your eCommerce solution, and Voilà…unlocked! Let’s look at some keys…no pun intended…for what a product configurator, when combined with NAV, can deliver to your business.

Key #1:  Unlocking A Whole New World Of Inventory Options
When you integrate a product configurator with Microsoft Dynamics NAV and your eCommerce solution, it unlocks a whole new world of online shopping for your customers. No longer are your customers just limited to your standard inventory on hand. Rather, you unleash the full potential of your inventory because now customers have access to far more options than they did before. And who doesn’t like options? Your shoppers can now get the product they want…precisely how they want it.

In the business-to-business (B2B) world, it’s slightly more complicated. Why? Because B2B customers typically look for specific, customizable solutions that are more complex than what retail consumers are after. That translates to inventory information, such as more detailed product information, in-stock quantities, and special pricing or discounts for large orders. With a product configurator, both you and your B2B customers reap the benefits when you give them immediate access to this data, and meet the demands of the more exacting B2B customer.

Key #2:  Product Configuration Translates Into An Overall Better Customer Experience
With product configuration, consumers are able to help themselves, so to speak, and use self-service features that allow them to customize the product they want…whenever and however they like. This approach results in a superior customer experience with higher satisfaction because it’s easier and more convenient. Your shoppers don’t have to wait for email replies from your customer service team, or remain on hold after calling into the company’s toll-free number. To get the products they want, shoppers build them right there on your site, and then hit the order button! The inventory data from your Microsoft Dynamics NAV system automatically updates the product information on your site, available for configuration, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Key #3:  The Price Is Right
Depending on the product, configuration lends itself well to numerous different pricing options. One way is to present the price of the product as the customer is configuring it! When the customer adds Component A or B, your site automatically adjusts the product’s price, courtesy of that Microsoft Dynamics NAV integration. This is convenient for both you and for him. More importantly, it occurs immediately…in real time…so there’s no delay on the customer’s end.

The other option is for your customer to submit a quote. Sending in a quote is also convenient for the shopper because he’s able to take as much as he needs modifying the product prior to submission. Then, after he knows what he wants, your sales team contacts him via email or phone to discuss the final cost.

Product Configurators:  The Inside Story
So why are product configurators so effective? For starters, they enable your customer to put together tons of combinations and configurations of parts that just aren’t possible. Just as oil and water don’t mix, some manufacturing parts don’t go with other parts. Fortunately, that’s where a powerful product configurator, such as the Cincom Guru from Cincom Systems, when integrated with Dynamicweb eCommerce, can really make a tremendous difference.

The Cincom Guru integrates with Microsoft Dynamics NAV and your eCommerce solution, and allows you to set contingencies and limitations on specific product orders. In this case, contingencies could refer to orders where some parts must be combined with other parts because that product only works when those two or three parts are included. Limitations refer to different product constraints, such as size, power consumption, or lifespan. All of this is automated and seamless for the customer. Your customer never has to worry about creating an impossible product! 

Customization for the Customer
Product configuration streamlines the sales process for you and your customer. And the road to a better customer experience begins with the Microsoft Dynamics NAV solution you already have. When it comes to your ERP system and product configurator, unlocking your inventory’s potential has never been easier.

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Dynamicweb Says “Meet Me In St. Louis” at NAVUG Summit 2014

Nominated for four Academy Awards and starring legendary actress Judy Garland, the 1944 critically-acclaimed MGM film Meet Me In St. Louis is a poignant story about love, family, and the excitement of the future set in The Gateway City just after the beginning of the 20th century.

Sixty years after Garland first dazzled moviegoers with her performances of “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in the film, another love affair will blossom in “The Rome of the West” when the world’s largest gathering of Microsoft Dynamics NAV users converges on the famous city along the Mississippi River for NAVUG™ Summit 2014.

Designed and led by Dynamics NAV lovers from around the world, the well-attended conference takes place October 14-17 at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel. Focused on best practices and what’s coming next for the widely-used ERP software system, the show features an intriguing keynote speaker (this year, it’s “The Attitude Adjuster,” motivational speaker Steve Rizzo), close to 100 educational breakout session and group discussions, plenty of networking opportunities, and the chance to explore all that St. Louis has to offer, including the world-famous Gateway Arch. It’s the ideal place for attendees to learn and share ideas about all things Dynamics NAV!

And once again, Dynamicweb will be on hand at NAVUG Summit as a Gold Sponsor with a presence on the show floor! Meet US in St. Louis at booth No. 1230 and say hello to our CEO Alex Rosenzweig, technical services and consulting director Jorgen Bach, and sales engineer Richard Lee. No trolley needed here! In St. Louis, you’ll hear all about what we’ve been up to since last year’s show, and learn how Dynamicweb is assisting companies, large and small, with creating self-service, customization, and personalization options on the web. And Alex, Jorgen, and Richard can show you how Dynamicweb’s all-in-one eCommerce and CMS solution can improve your company’s web presence, and help your business generate more sales by integrating your eCommerce solution with your existing Microsoft Dynamics NAV system.

Still want more benefits for integrating Microsoft Dynamics NAV with Dynamicweb? Check out these additional advantages: 

  • Give your customers the most recent product and order tracking information available.
  • Offer product configuration and customization using the powerful Cincom Guru™ configurator when it’s integrated with Dynamics NAV and your eCommerce solution.
  • Keep all of your inventory updated in real time.
  • Save time and money by avoiding reentering data and eliminating duplication errors.
  • Deliver a superior, high-quality web experience to your customers across any device: desktop, tablet, and smartphone.

NAVUG Summit 2014 is an excellent opportunity for you to learn more about how Dynamics NAV…and Dynamicweb eCommerce…can help your company, and make some wonderful new connections while doing so. We hope to meet you in St. Louis! And when you stop by, please let us know how you found out about us, whether it’s from the blog here, our social media channels, or from one of our great partners or customers.

For more information about NAVUG Summit 2014, or to register for the show, please click on the link below:

NAVUG Summit 2014:  October 14-17; St. Louis Missouri; Please visit us in Booth 1230.

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Why You Should Use Consumer Data for Relevant Content

analytics*Holiday Headstart with Content – The holidays are only a couple months away (depending on what you consider Black Friday and Cyber Monday). With some of the biggest sales of the year, the time is now for your content marketing to be in full swing. In this blog series, we go over very specific ways to optimize your content and get a holiday headstart on the competition.

Whether choosing friends, schools, or jobs, we like to pick what best fits our needs. The same is true for content. Giving your customers content that appeals specifically to them emotionally engages them with the brand and, more directly, connects their interests to your solutions. This personalization presents a large competitive advantage.

But how do you know what’s compelling? How do you determine what’s relevant when customers come in all shapes and sizes? The answer to creating a customer-centric experience is in the consumer data itself.

Personalization Power.

Consumer data is information about your customer and their user behaviors. By analyzing this data, your site then has the ability to identify the customer’s interests, giving that person a tailored web experience. Personalization and contextualization improve the chances that your website visitor actually becomes engaged with the content presented to them, increasing the chance of conversion.

User Behaviors.

One type of consumer data is that which the customer immediately gives you. Each click and each page view on your site tells you, bit-by-bit, the story of your visitor. For example, Dynamicweb’s eCommerce solution has what we call “Profiling.” Profiling allows you to create several predefined profiles, and as your visitor clicks around your site, their actions define them as a specific Profile persona. Then according to that Profile, your site tailors relevant content to their interests.

How Does Profiling Work?

If a user clicks on a single page for SUVs over sedans, that information is noted by Dynamicweb’s Profiling feature. But if the prospective customer clicks on several SUVs, neglecting all other vehicles, then the Dynamicweb’s Profiling intelligently determines that this user is interested in SUVs. The website then uses this consumer data to present relevant SUV-related content and products to the visitor, even on the homepage!

Customer History.

Immediate profiling isn’t the only consumer data for you to use. A customer’s history makes for a valuable resource. The different pages they visit may store cookies on their computer (think of them as footprints, tracking where a customer has been). Looking at these footprints even tells you if a customer has abandoned their shopping cart in the past. This gives you a second opportunity to present a product to the customer that they’ve already shown interest in.

Location Location Location.

In addition to behavioral traits like immediate action and customer history, you also have access to a customer’s location. Your site makes several aspects of your customer’s location available to you, such as their particular geography, the time of day, and even the weather. These might seem like minor details in the larger field of consumer data, but depending on your business, you may decide to use them in your presentation of content. For example, Home Depot changes their featured products depending on the seasons. In the spring, when it’s still cold in the North and warm in the South, Home Depot offers kitchen products to the North but switches to patio furniture in the South.

Logins and Registrations.

Perhaps the easiest and most effective form of gathering consumer data is when your customer willingly spells it all out for you. Yes, this is actually possible. If you truly engage a visitor, they may register for your site. And they might even decide to give you more than just their email address and location.

When you ask them questions when they sign up, some customers explicitly tell you what type of products they’re interested in and what they’re looking for. They have no desire to be sheepish about their wants and needs. Of course, these relationships are often give and take, so you want to offer some good content in return for registration. Whitepapers, case studies, and other downloads are commonly held behind gates that the customer has access to once they create a login.

Consumer Data.

With a quality eCommerce solution that has functionality like Dynamicweb’s Profiling, the ability to mine consumer data is at your fingertips. Using this data to offer customized content and a personalized experience brings your customers one step closer to engagement and possible conversion.

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Postmodernism and Why You Should Have a B2B Blog

blog cloud*Holiday Headstart with Content – The holidays are only a couple months away (depending on what you consider Black Friday and Cyber Monday). With some of the biggest sales of the year, the time is now for your content marketing to be in full swing. In this blog series, we go over very specific ways to optimize your content and get a holiday headstart on the competition.

We write today’s post in the spirit of postmodernism. Postmodernism is an art movement that is often defined by being self-referential and breaking the fourth wall. Given that this is our B2B blog describing why you should have a B2B blog, you can think of this as blog-post-modernism. Beyond the art critique, there are actually a number of strong reasons that a B2B blog benefits your business.

When looking at the metrics for your website, the total amount of web traffic or number of hits doesn’t tell the whole story. What drives your e-business is the quality of your prospects. The more interested those visitors are in what you are selling, the better chance you have to sell. This principle is especially important for B2B businesses that work in niche markets.

A B2B blog attracts higher-quality prospects to your site. Whether you call it inbound marketing or content marketing, blogs are an effective tool towards drawing people in who are predisposed to show an interest in your product. The reason is simple: There are tons of people out there on Google and Bing and every other Thomas the Search Engine, looking for content. People are always searching for specific subjects and keywords, and blogs about those subjects and keywords draw those readers in.

Once you have a prospect’s attention, a B2B blog presents a great opportunity to establish your expertise in your industry. Covering industry news and trends and also showing that you understand common pain points are good ways to build a foundation for thought leadership. Thought leadership establishes trust in your brand, which eases potential hesitations when it comes time to make a purchase.

Talking about yourself on your B2B blog is a bit tricky. Although you are speaking to potential customers, your readers are not there for the hard sell. These prospects are there to learn and, when informed by your voice, that will hopefully guide them to convert into leads or customers at a later time.

Write about your company and the ideas you have. And yes, write about how products like yours help people. But don’t make every post about how amazing, awesome, and wonderful your solution is. That’s a sure way to chase people away.

The key to a successful B2B blog is to make sure that the content is informative, entertaining, and unique. “Unique” is important. If you simply repurpose the ideas from other website’s blogs, then you’re not giving prospects a reason to specifically check out your content. If you establish your brand’s B2B blog as the place to go for an innovative viewpoint, then you have a greater chance of returning readers and also for this recognition to be spread via word of mouth.

Speaking of word of mouth, make it easy for your readers to share your content on social media. Social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter represent a great opportunity for your content to get passed around and shared and liked and +1’ed and retweeted and all sorts of good stuff. Basically, the more eyes on your content, the better chance that a high quality prospect sees it and then visits your site.

Another social aspect of blogging is the comments section. Your readers may have questions or constructive comments to share with you. Make sure to have an open comments section that allows feedback. This gives you the chance to speak directly to potential customers about whatever is on their mind.

With informative, engaging, unique content, a B2B blog is an excellent component of an inbound marketing strategy. Your blog helps attract higher-quality prospects, establish thought leadership, and build a customer community around those posts. After all, you know we believe in blogging because we’re not just an advocate, we are a B2B blog.

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