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How To Build a World-Class Technical Commerce Ecosystem

24 April 2015 - 9:19pm

Building a world-class commerce website is no easy feat. Notorious for being a complicated technical venture, it requires the perfect blend of people, process, and technology. But it is possible to build a “best for me” technical solution, if you’re thoughtful and tactful in how you go about doing so.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Really think hard and define your commerce goals

If you’re considering rebuilding your commerce backend, there must be a reason -- or many. These pain points should be used as the foundational goals for your business: What must your new system be able to excel at that your current system doesn’t? What things does your current system support that you’d like to continue to maximize, or do even better?

You also need to consider what the main purpose of your site really is. Brands like Best Buy, Dicks Sporting Goods and Staples have much different business and digital strategies than brands like TOMS, Lululemon and Puma. Your business model should dictate where you put your money when you think through this future-state architecture.

You’ll probably put together an RFP (Request for Proposal) and then consider different proprietary systems, or consider building your own custom system. But what you’ll find is that the breadth of different tools you need to create a powerful engine doesn’t exist in any one solution. So you need to prioritize the most important aspects of your new platform, and go in search of a solution that can maximize those.

Step 2: Figure out what systems you need to achieve your goals

Forrester outlines the four foundational pillars of today’s commerce suite in their Q1 2015 Wave for B2C Commerce Suites report: (1) experience management, (2) product information management, (3) commerce management, and (4) order management. Traditional commerce platforms can perform the basic functions in each of these areas because they are purpose-built to do so, but they aren’t excelling. Often these platforms don’t include features that are becoming more and more important in today’s commerce landscape: site features that add content and context, personalize the experience, or integrate all of the front-end and back-end pieces into one seamless user experience.

This often means adding custom layers on top of a traditional commerce platform -- a product configurator, a Digital Asset Management system, a more robust PIM, etc -- as those become business necessities, and brands continue to trend towards integrating an omnichannel approach. Those custom layers aren’t always technically difficult to build and implement, but their value to one business vs. another may differ drastically, so they aren’t typically native to traditional commerce platforms. It’s up to you to decide what custom features your business will need to get the job done.

Step 3: Architect for the future, Implement for today

This is often where things get tricky. It’s relatively easy to pinpoint all of the features you seek, and manageable still to find or build systems that can tackle each of those features individually. But making them all work together, in harmony, as one well-oiled machine? Sounds impossible, right?!

Here’s the good news: It’s not. Starting with a solid digital experience platform and then layering in a commerce engine and other best in class 3rd party capabilities allows your business to accommodate new capabilities as the need arises, and to control the customer experience. Using a platform with open source roots, like the Acquia Platform, gives you all the flexibility and freedom you’ll need, along with a faster time-to-market and the whole Drupal open source community as a support system. Having a flexible foundation is absolutely imperative, because you never know how your business - or the market - will change. Being able to grow and evolve over time, and establishing a system that can do the same, is the ultimate end goal.

A Note on APIs: The future is decoupled

According to the Forrester Wave report, Acquia is one of two businesses with the strongest API and component ecosystems. APIs (short for Application Programming Interface) are essentially tools that allow technical teams to connect one system to other systems easily. Choosing software or vendors that take an API-led approach goes hand-in-hand with this idea of building a custom best-for-me technical ecosystem. A whole world of capabilities exposed through APIs already exists, and they’re all purpose-built: ratings and reviews systems, social integrations, and much more. So why build those custom when they’re already available in the marketplace? A decoupled approach to building this system is smartest, most affordable, and fastest to implement. The idea is simple: use the great stuff that already exists to speed up your process, and only custom build the things someone else hasn’t already built. Your engineers should be free to build smart, focused technology systems that do one or two things really well, and that will ultimately enhance the experience of your site.

Tags:  commerce technology commerce platform api decoupled
Categories: Drupal News

Powered by Drupal: Sports Brands Deliver Incredible Digital Experiences

24 April 2015 - 3:08am

If you’re a diehard sports fan, every season brings excitement -- a summer night at the ballpark for an MLB game, a winter evening sitting court-side to catch the NBA in action. Over the years, technology has allowed sports fans to get closer and closer to the action -- from high definition TV experiences in the comfort of their own living rooms, to tweeting while they’re at the game or engaging in fan forums online. With the growing age of digital, leagues have been able to grow their brands immeasurably, including beefing up their online presence, offerings, and fan interactivity.

As leagues continue to expand and grow, and the digital sporting world becomes both more competitive and more active, many league stakeholders are considering the next best steps for optimizing their online presence.

Some of the biggest sporting leagues around the globe run their websites off of Drupal. Nascar, the NBA, NFL, MLS, NCAA. Even the likes of the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, and the Olympics run off of the open-source content management system, which has become the chosen platform for global athletic organizations.

So what makes Drupal so powerful as a web content management system? Here are a few of the key highlights:

  • Multi-site Management Capabilities - give brands the ability to manage multiple sites from one simple, unified dashboard
  • Team Templates - great for leagues, like the NBA or NFL, who want to standardize the team page experience while allowing for individual team branding
  • Guaranteed Uptime - give brands the ability to scale up and down depending on game and event-based website traffic spikes
  • Creative Freedom - to express the brand experience both at the league level and at the team level
  • Fan Engagement Tools - allow brands to integrate with a whole ecosystem of modules, APIs, and third-party services

Drupal has a community of 1.5 million people, and it’s completely free to download and use under license. Plus, with a community of 20,000+ active contributors, there’s always help when you need it.

Tags:  drupal sports content management system
Categories: Drupal News

Drupal Sites Should Mobilize for "Mobilegeddon"

21 April 2015 - 11:35pm

Today Google released a big change to its search algorithm to prioritize the ranking of mobile search results. This new algorithm applies specifically to searches from a mobile device. It does not (yet) apply to search results when searching on your desktop computer.

First announced in February, the release (which some have tagged “Mobilegeddon”) is a significant change in Google’s famously secretive formula for ranking websites on its “SERP:" the results page that determines which sites will show up on top when a user runs a search. Given the impact of past changes in the search algorithm -- such as “Panda” -- site owners are advised to pay attention to how their sites will perform -- or risk losing ground, audience, and even revenue.

Drupal is an extremely mobile-friendly content management system, relied on by many site builders and managers to deliver a user experience that can responsively adapt to many mobile devices, from smartphones to tablets. If you want to see how your site will score on Google’s new mobile model, run its address through this site score tool on Google’s developer site.

Google offers some guidance on how to make a Drupal site score high with an online guide. And of course Drupal.org has the chapter and verse guide to optimizing a site for mobile.

How is “Mobilegeddon” impacting your site? Any tips or tricks to share?

Tags:  drupal. mobile
Categories: Drupal News

Purchase Intent: The Journey from Fauxsumer to Consumer

21 April 2015 - 9:54pm

“When I first moved to New York and I was totally broke, sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more.”
~ Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

For fans of Sex and the City, there’s no denying the emotional connection between Carrie Bradshaw and her Manolos. And fashion. And, well, shopping in general. A typical episode of the show involved brunch, shopping, and cocktails (Cosmos of course) with the girls. It was rare to see an episode where Carrie wasn’t agonizing over a pair of shoes that she really couldn’t afford (she nearly always bought them anyway).

So why does Carrie spend $700 on a pair of strappy sandals from Manolo when she could be getting a very similar product for a fraction of the price at DSW? Sales guru Zig Ziglar once famously said, “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.” With the rise of the Fauxsumer, this emotional connection has never been more alive or more present in our everyday lives. Unfortunately for retailers, a genuine emotional connection can be difficult to achieve, and even more difficult to convert.

The real question retailers should be asking themselves is ‘How do I connect to my consumer on an emotional level?’ not ‘How do I get them to purchase?’. Asking for a purchase before the emotional connection has been made is much like asking a girl you just met to come home with you after she’s had more than a few cosmos. Sure, sometimes it may work, but will it turn into a long lasting, meaningful relationship? Probably not.

Building a genuine relationship and developing that emotional connection is hard, and even harder to tie to a ROI, but brands that are able to do it are ensuring their survival well into the future. Brands that are not… well… we all saw what happened to RadioShack.

There are 3 key ingredients in true relationship building between a brand and a consumer. None of these are easy, but all are critical.

Drive Engagement

Not just on your commerce site, not just within your social media, not just through your marketing – develop rich content to engage with her everywhere and make her movements from channel to channel seamless. It would never occur to her that different teams within your brand are managing different aspects of your communications with her. Speak in one voice across all channels, and develop strategies that support the goals and objectives of each channel. As you do so she’ll engage back and organically contribute to this wealth of content you’ve created, and then the ROI will come. But don’t just take my word for it:

  • 70 percent of consumers prefer getting to know a company through content rather than advertisements
  • Emotionally connected customers are 4x as likely to shop with your brand first and 50 percent are more likely to become your advocate
  • Emotionally connected customers make 12.4 in-store visits per year as opposed to 6.8 visits by customers who are merely satisfied
Personalize Experiences

When Carrie Bradshaw walks into a shoe store on 5th Ave in NYC, the sales associate knows her immediately. He remembers what she bought last time, her shoe size, and even her favorite local cocktail lounge. Today this type of interaction is rare online, although the data is available. Today, Carrie would bounce between the brand’s website, store, social media, and many other types of digital content before she’s ready to commit to a purchase.

For a brand to truly build that relationship, they need to connect the dots among channels (both digital and physical) and tie together the data points to deliver relevant, contextualized experiences wherever she may be. Brands need to understand:

  • Who is she? What are her likes and dislikes, and how does she perceive my brand today?
  • Where is she going? What is she doing with the digital experiences that I control (e.g. site, social media) and experiences I don’t (e.g. magazine sites or competitor sites)?
  • Has she purchased my brand before? In-store or online or both? Is she a member of my loyalty program? What has she considered purchasing but hasn’t?

Once brands are able to understand all of this and tie it together, they need a strong strategy designed to engage her further and support her purchase path. Brands that are able to crack the code on personalization are seeing anywhere from a 7.8 percent increase in conversions to up to 21 percent increase.

Deliver on your Brand Promise. Everywhere.
Once you have all of this beautiful and engaging content, be sure to integrate it into your commerce site to support her purchase path. Once she’s decided she’s ready to commit to you, reassure her she’s making the right decision by reinforcing this engagement throughout her current purchase journey and into her next one. Nearly 70 percent of consumers consider shopping a form of entertainment. Support this need throughout all of your touchpoints and when the fauxsumer is ready to convert, she’ll think of you first.

“The fact is, sometimes it's really hard to walk in a single woman's shoes. That's why we need really special ones now and then to make the walk a little more fun.”
~ Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

Tags:  commerce fauxsumer consumer retail personalization commerce personalization
Categories: Drupal News

How To Break Down the 4 Most Damaging Marketing Silos

20 April 2015 - 9:31pm

Marketers are challenged by functional and technical roadblocks. More than 80 percent of marketers in Teradata’s latest Data-Driven Marketing survey believe marketing silos prevent them from having a comprehensive view of campaigns and customers across channels. That’s up from the 65 percent in Teradata’s 2013 study.

This trend shows that marketers are growing increasingly concerned that their myopia, when it comes to clearly seeing customer behavior across channels, is inhibiting their success.

“Silos cause redundancy,” says Bryan Yeager, an analyst with eMarketer. “They don’t allow you to get a single view of the customer. From the [consumer’s] perspective, that can cause disjointed experiences.”

Silos are a problem that most marketers acknowledge but few have been able to crack. “In the back of their minds, marketers know it’s what they should be doing,” says Natalie Staines, director of marketing at r2i, an integrated marketing and technology agency. “It’s not so much of an aha moment – it’s more of a sigh or a shrug. They wish they could do it, but it’s hard.”

Hard, but not impossible. Yeager says marketers are taking a more mature approach to solving these problems. “They’re becoming more strategic with their acquisition and implementation of technology and data,” he says. “I feel like we’re finally making some progress.”

For that progress to continue, marketers must continue to break down the many forms of silos that have grown within marketing and across the organization. There are four of the key areas that often create silos. They include:

Cultural Silos

Probe into an organizational silo of any type and you’re likely to find barriers built from concerns over job security, says Steve Navarro, VP of market development at r2i.

“When you start talking about new technology, especially enterprise technology that touts efficiency, automation, cost savings, etc., people fear their place in the organization and that their skill set could be in jeopardy,” he says.

Clear communication and proper retraining programs will help break down the cultural resistance.

Process Silos

Too many marketers focus on product- or channel-centric KPIs designed to boost their own function or department – which doesn’t always benefit the entire organization. A customer-centric approach can help eliminate those barriers by connecting the dots between processes and departments.

“Get everyone in a room to define an end-to-end customer experience management process,” Staines suggests. “Departments can still own their processes, but they will learn not only how they affect other parts of the customer journey, they will also know what role it played in the final outcome.”

Data Silos

One of the more daunting silo-busting challenges is bringing together the many disparate sources of marketing and customer data that exist across an organization.

The Teradata survey shows improvement on this front: 43 percent of respondents said they have achieved fully integrated data across teams, compared with just 18 percent in 2013. But technology challenges persist.

“Marketers buy into the vision of the marketing cloud,” says Yeager. “But it’s not that easy to tie all the pieces together.” An open platform that enables integration with existing tools can help mitigate some of those challenges, while ensuring that marketers stay nimble enough to adopt new tools quickly as customer needs – and the technology to serve them – evolve.

Reporting Silos

Creating and distributing 20 reports from 20 different analytics tools is counterproductive. They give decision-makers plenty of information but few actionable insights.

In the Teradata study, 87 percent of marketers said data was the most underutilized asset in their organization. A unified dashboard, which looks across all tools to extract critical insights and present them in an easy-to-consume fashion, will help marketers make better allocation decisions to improve their interactions with customers – and move the needle on the business.

*/ Which Marketing Silos are the Most Challenging to Your Business?
Cultural Silos Process Silos Data Silos Reporting Silos

free poll maker

Tags:  open marketing marketing silos data silos customer data
Categories: Drupal News

How To Build a Personalization Dream Team

18 April 2015 - 3:54am

Customers expect a personalized shopping experience, and leading retailers who’ve incorporated personalization are reaping huge benefits. In fact, brands that have effectively implemented personalization strategies are seeing anywhere from a 7.8 percent increase to a 21 percent increase in conversions. Done right, personalization can pay major dividends, but to implement a personalization strategy that will create the greatest returns, you need to start with a strong foundation: Your team. From C-level executives to technical executioners, you’ll need the right people on your side. Here's how to build your own personalization dream team.

C-Level Executives

You will need two key C-level executives to collaborate with you on the personalization project for your company. The first is the lead marketing executive -- typically the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Marketing Director -- and the second is the lead technology executive, whether that be the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or the Technology Director.

The CMO will develop a company personalization strategy that aligns business objectives with marketing projects. By defining key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success, the CMO defines expected outcomes and collaborates with the CIO to implement the personalization strategy.

Based on the personalization strategy developed by the CMO, the Technology Director creates a personalization framework. This framework assesses possible technologies that will help the project meet business objectives and realize expected outcomes.

Decision Makers

Business Decisions Makers include the marketing folks -- Product Marketing Managers and Digital Marketers -- who are part of most business teams. In addition to bringing these business decision makers on board to your personalization team, you may also want to bring on Audience Marketing Managers.

This group of individuals will develop marketing campaigns which execute on the personalization strategy developed by the CMO. They will define the hypothesis for each campaign, develop tactics within those campaigns and select the appropriate KPIs. Additionally, your business decision makers will collect assets to be used for each campaign's tactics.

The two key roles for Information Technology Decision Makers are Solution Architects and Business Analysts. These contributors will develop a data model based on the personalization strategy and business objectives from the framework created by the CIO. They will also create a technical roadmap for integration points, featuring additional marketing tools, reporting, offline tools, and any other technology requirements of the personalization framework.

Executioners

Execution Marketers are the folks on the ground level, getting intimate with brand content, customers, and how the personalization strategy is deployed. The team of execution marketers includes content marketers, publishers, asset managers, agency partners, and offline managers.

Together, this group builds campaigns and tactics within the available tool sets. They assign appropriate assets to each campaign tactic and assess the success of tactics and campaigns using the predefined KPIs. This group will review data and make suggestions for additional tactics based on the performance of past campaigns. Best practices will also be documented by this team as they are found through tactical execution so that they can be reviewed and improved through iteration.

Technical executioners include Developers, Technical Managers, Technical Publishers and Business Analysts. These team members will install modules, integrate blocks and personalized fields into the site's information architecture, and develop additional tools and plugins. Additionally, this group is responsible for troubleshooting any incompatibilities with libraries and the existing site. This includes adjustments to any front-end display that does not render properly.

Your Personalization Dream Team

Ideally you’ll have one or two folks from each of these groups on your team. Smaller organizations can get by with one at each level, while larger organizations might want to consider a more robust personalization payroll. While it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hire each of these positions, it’s a nice dream, right?! Bringing this team together around one shared personalization goal is the key. Once you’ve aligned your internal organization, let the personalization begin!

Tags:  personalization retail commerce marketing technology
Categories: Drupal News

Acquia U Admissions Open for June Session

17 April 2015 - 10:49pm

Coming off of a very successful re-launch of their unique Drupal talent incubator program, Acquia is actively recruiting students for the June session of AcquiaU. During the 14 weeks of intense hands-on learning, students are exposed to a three-track learning curriculum. Content includes Drupal and related web tools and technology, Acquia products and services, and skill development in leadership, communication, team building, and best practices in code review, Agile, and customer engagements.

Participants are exposed to formal and informal learning through class lectures and workshops, independent and group projects, 1:1 mentoring with fellow Acquians, participation in the local Drupal and technology community, and job rotations within Acquia - all with the goal of securing a permanent role with Acquia or one of its partner companies. The program is unique as compared to other technical boot camps: Participants are paid to learn and there is a job opportunity waiting for successful graduates. A 2014 Course Report study reports that the average tech boot camp costs participants up to $9,000 to attend. “We want to invest in our talent pipeline, and paying people to learn is one way to demonstrate that belief,” said Ben Ortega, Director of Learning Services at Acquia.

The Winter 2014 re-launch of the program was quite the whirlwind of activities. Of more than 70 applicants, 10 were selected to participate, coming from a variety of roles like an industrial designer, computer technician, and an instructional designer, and from as far away as Oregon and Florida.

We selected these 10 people based on a very specific profile of curiosity, motivation, and the ability to learn. Their pre-existing technology skills were a consideration, but not the driving force in the their selection. Our primary goal is to find people who have the potential to grow into a long-term career in Drupal, but who otherwise might not have the opportunity to get hired as a Drupalist.

According to Liz Mackie, a graduate of the 2015 Winter Session, “AcquiaU is different because you’re onsite with some of the top Drupal experts, who become your mentors and your network. You’re not just exposed to the technology but to the community, the culture and the processes that will give you a leg up in your career. And receiving a paycheck made it much lower risk for me to make a mid-career change than any other boot camp. If you’re thinking about it, do it. Seriously.”

The successful participant is intensely curious, dedicated, and willing to put in a lot of hours to their leaning. Because it’s very hands-on and experiential, people will fail, but we help them to fail fast and to quickly recover. Not everyone will make it through the program. It’s very intense and we have really high standards. For those who are successful, it’s the sweet smell of victory and all of Acquia celebrated their graduation.

Acquia hired nine of the Winter 2014 participants into roles as Drupal developers, customer support and success engineers, solutions architect, and onto the Acquia.com team. Of the eight graduates from the 2011 program, five are still with Acquia and hold leadership roles within their respective teams.

To learn more about the program and to jumpstart your application, visit http://u.acquia.com

Categories: Drupal News

Increasing our Commitment to Higher Education: University Relations Program

17 April 2015 - 3:19am

Career services offices at colleges and universities understand the significant value that internships have when it comes to helping their students find jobs. Simply, as this Forbes article points out, internships offer as direct a path to a full-time job offer for college graduates as does any other pursuit. In fact, according to the survey backing up this article, college interns have a 7 out of 10 chance of being offered a full time job by the company they intern with. So clearly internships are great for students but they’re also great for colleges and universities. At a time where there is heightened scrutiny on the value of an education, pointing to credible employment statistics can only help institutions position themselves favorably with current and future students. But it also goes without saying that internships are incredibly valuable to the companies that offer them as well. Recruiting and hiring is an expensive (and of course imperative) investment that companies of all sizes have to commit themselves to and anything they can do to increase the odds of getting a positive return from that investment has a huge benefit. If 70% of all interns are attractive enough to make full time job offers to then the cost to companies of internship programs is relatively short money.

For all these reasons it’s great that Acquia has recently committed to building out a formal University Relations Program that will work in partnership with many of our college and university clients to provide meaningful internship, co-op and entry-level opportunities for their students. As the clear leader in the market for delivering Drupal-based digital solutions to colleges and universities we certainly have a strong foundation from which to launch this program and a very wide resource pool to draw from. Currently Acquia works with over 500 colleges and universities around the world, all of whom have made commitments to the same Drupal and cloud-based technologies that we are building upon and delivering to the market. Drawing students out of these environments and having them help construct the roadmap of technologies that the very same clients will be using to support their own digital strategies is an example of a symbiotic partnership that we will all benefit from. But the most successful outcomes may be for the approximately 30 interns and entry level students that will come through this program in the first year and be launched into a career with nothing but upside. And over time we're expecting that number to grow dramatically!

Our new University Relations team, led by Andrea Dropkin, is currently reaching out to several Acquia clients to introduce this program and talk about the many benefits that it can bring. So for all our college and university clients (or potential clients?) we invite you to learn more about our University Relations Program and see if it makes sense for your institution to participate. Building on one of the central tenants of the open source Drupal community, we know that we’re all working together to build a community of success and this program is a very tangible example of our shared commitment.

Tags:  Acquia higher education drupal in higher education internships
Categories: Drupal News

Sites that Cannot Fail—Forecasting the Big Storm

17 April 2015 - 3:04am

Sometimes we can’t plan for it. Sometimes we have a moment’s notice. Other times it’s our most anticipated day of the year. No matter the situation, every organization has experienced a time when their digital properties could not fail—or the business impact would be devastating.

In this blog series, we’re showcasing what it meant for three of our largest customers to have a site that could not fail. We’ll highlight both business and technical preparation, continuous improvements, platform insights, and the importance of always listening to those providing feedback on the experience.

The Story

The Weather Channel website weather.com, one of the top 40 most trafficked sites in the US, provides millions of people every day with the world's best weather forecasts, content, and data. On average, it serves 100 million unique visitors per month. But when major weather events loom, like a hurricane or nor’easter, the site will serve up to a billion requests a week.

These requests include delivering hundreds of dynamic maps and streaming video to users in over three million forecast locations. The site has to remain stable with instantaneous page loads and 100 percent uptime, despite these bad weather traffic bumps of up to 300 percent.

The Weather Channel legacy platform was groaning under this pressure. It was using approximately 144 servers across three data centers to deliver more than 17,000 articles updated on a minute-by-minute basis.
So in November 2014, weather.com moved its entire website, which serves more than 20 million pages of content, to Drupal and the Acquia Platform, facilitated by the experts at Acquia partner MediaCurrent.

Within weeks, one of the nastiest winters on record began moving into the Midwest and Northeastern part of the US. Prodigious web traffic followed.

The new site, now the busiest Drupal site in the world, never buckled. In fact, it thrived, delivering faster, more efficiently cached pages to customers.

“Weather.com is thinking ahead to a future where up-to-the-minute weather information requires an open delivery platform that adapts to fast changes in technology,” Tom Erickson, CEO, Acquia, said at the time. “The Weather Channel is leading the transformation of how we interact with weather news; people expect accurate weather forecasts on-demand, and they want to be alerted to events that may impact their life, work, travel, and leisure. weather.com is gaining the agility to deliver on customers’ increasing expectations. It’s leading the charge with contextual weather insight that anticipates every user’s needs.”

A recent global survey of more than 500 businesses for the Reducing Customer Struggle report found that companies are losing nearly a quarter of their annual online revenue due to a bad website experience. That’s billions of dollars lost and customers who won’t come back because of a digital experience that left a bad impression.

Whether you’re a weather site watching traffic rise with the barometric pressure, an enterprise facing transformation in an industry where digital transformation is lacking, or a smaller brand on the cusp of breaking into a new market, your digital presence can’t fail.

Dave Terry, co-founder and partner of client services at Mediacurrent, said, “Acquia opens up all kinds of opportunities for weather.com. The site relies heavily on the ability to quickly create and distribute massive amounts of content, and with Drupal, weather.com gains editorial agility and the ability to innovate and bring the latest applications and features to the user experience.”

Behind the Scenes

When it comes to capacity planning, some organizations plan for a worst-case scenario. They purchase larger-than-necessary capacity to be permanently available. But this is wasted money. Conversely, some organizations under-plan for traffic. Without the means to increase capacity on demand, they suffer outages and, ultimately, loss of revenue.

With Acquia Cloud, the guesswork is eliminated. You only pay for what you need. Acquia Cloud scales with burstable and elastic resources, which can be added quickly and easily on demand. Our operations team can scale up resources for any period of time, and then return resources back to normal levels when traffic subsides.

We know that scaling is complex, so we do the work for you. We add resources in real time to address changing traffic conditions seamlessly when a site needs it most. Scaling on Acquia Cloud does not require risky architectural changes like migrations and resizing. But we do scale the ecosystem, not just the hardware. We scale across all layers of the environment––web servers, file systems, databases, and load balancers. The architecture scales across the MySQL database layer using data replication and the file system layer utilizing GlusterFS to ensure syncing. The web server layer is scaled up by running active web servers in multiple availability zones. We run dedicated Memcached servers for sites with high workloads and multiple load balancers to ensure traffic is distributed. This level of Drupal-aware customization doesn't exist outside of Acquia.

As part of the scaling enablement strategy, it is important for customers to have a site insulation strategy so that visitors are not aware of traffic increases. Acquia uses Varnish caching in front of all traffic to speed up sites. Additional features such as geolocation, mobile redirection, and CDN implementation can be enabled. Acquia has over 25 personnel across our Professional Services, Technical Account Management, and Support organizations who specialize in performance, focusing load testing, database query rewriting, stack tracing, and more.

At Acquia, our passion is customer success. Because of that, your site doesn’t become the next headline. Your best day doesn’t become your worst; your biggest events are uneventful behind the scenes. In essence, we don’t sleep, so you can. Our team of experts is on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year so that you don’t fail. You get a true partnership with Acquia.

No matter the time of day, or the size of the traffic spike, we have your back. So instead of downtime, your traffic spikes yield growth and success.

photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Tags:  web platform drupal acquia drupal planet
Categories: Drupal News

Stop Calling Personalization ‘Creepy’

16 April 2015 - 11:20pm

If there is one trend that I can’t stand right now, it’s calling personalization “creepy.” Writers, industry insiders, digital marketers, I implore you: Cut it out. You’re giving the word creepy a bad name.

Maybe growing up in a historical little New England town filled with old homes and ghost stories makes me a little protective of the word creepy. Maybe it’s that I’m a big fan of Tim Burton (his earlier work) or that every time you say it, I get either Radiohead and/or TLC stuck in my head. Either way, leave creepy alone.

Creepy by definition means causing an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease. Watching The Walking Dead alone in a dark house should give you a creepy feeling, not when a website gives you a coupon based on your previous purchase history.

Yes, we’ve all heard about the time Target pretty much predicted a teenage girl’s pregnancy based on her purchase history and that they apparently knew before her father did. While simultaneously being impressive -- since they were right -- and invasive, this is not the norm. Let it go. Stop using it as the ultimate example of how personalization has gone too far.

We live in a world where we choose to share our lives digitally with others; friends, family and strangers. Anything from a major life event like getting engaged to what you ate for dinner is share worthy in the eyes of Internet. We optionally provide detailed information about ourselves all the time. We sign up for emails, we fill out profiles on various websites, and we freely post any passing thought we have, complete with a corresponding hashtag or ten. It’s also our choice whether we allow our browser activity to be tracked or not. We say that we expect brands to know what we like and don’t like, but when they predict our interests correctly, we accuse them of overstepping their bounds?

If you’re doing personalization correctly, you are adding value for your customers. As long as you take context into account, personalization is actually pretty cool and very needed on both the business side and the customer side.

Whether it’s recommending a relevant article or sending an offer based on their location, personalization should feel like a service, like a courtesy. People like to be treated this way. Providing great service has been a successful business strategy since, well, the beginning of business. Personalization should make your customers feel like you know them, that you pay attention and that you care. According to McMurry / TMG , 90 percent of consumers find custom content useful and 78 percent believe that companies that provide content customized to their interests are looking to build good relationships with them.

Making customers feel appreciated and understood leads to increased loyalty and revenue. If you’re making your customers feel uneasy, you’re doing it all wrong.

Tags:  personalization website personalization
Categories: Drupal News

5 Questions to Ask Your Drupal Cloud Provider About Support

15 April 2015 - 10:50pm

Where to host your website is a big decision.

Don’t rush it. Any cloud hosting provider you consider expects many questions.

Add these to your list.

1. If I’m having trouble with my site, will you advise me on how to find and fix the errors?

With Acquia, you get holistic end-to-end support for your entire environment, including the infrastructure, platform, and application. We assess, diagnose, and resolve issues regardless of origin. When an infrastructure or platform issue has been detected, we fix it. We have the ability to tune nearly 40 infrastructure parameters, such as cache size, upload size, and memory limit. We can identify specific performance characteristics and proactively tune them for optimal speed and stability. And when a site issue has been detected, we give you guidance on how to fix it. You no longer have to take primary responsibility for your system and site health. Our global team works 24x7 so you don’t have to. With our enterprise, always-on, “follow-the-sun” approach, we simply won’t let you fail.

2. Will you maintain my Drupal core instance and associated modules?

Let Acquia manage your website’s maintenance details, enabling your developers to spend more time creating killer online experiences. Remote Site Administration is a service in which Acquia carries out routine administration tasks on your behalf to keep your site updated. Our Support team is well-versed in Drupal site administration. Our experts help you implement best practices in revision control and ensure your site follows security best practices to reduce security threats. Remote Administration covers security updates for Drupal core and contributed modules, module installation and configuration, module feature updates on request, creation and modification of views and content types, performance tuning via the UI, implementation of version control, and recommendations for bug fixes to modules.

Remote Administration provides a variety of benefits to you and your organization. It simplifies Drupal updates and maintenance efforts to free your staff from time-consuming tasks— saving you time and money. And by decreasing maintenance time and costs, you can achieve your business goals faster. Your developers can spend more time focused on what really matters—innovation. We help you implement operational best practices, streamline maintenance and updates, and ensure rapid security response.

3. What support services do you offer?

Acquia has services tailored to your every need, including:
Acquia Ready to assist your team through the transition to Acquia or Drupal
Professional Services to help your developers reduce the learning curve and think strategically about your digital strategy
Technical Account Managers to ensure your success throughout the application lifecycle
Continuous Delivery and Remote Site Administration Services to allow your team to focus on innovation instead of maintenance
Learning Services to train your team on Drupal
Advisory Support to provide best practice information and guidance around your Drupal sites
A comprehensive Help Center to give you self-service documentation on all of our products

4. What is your level of Drupal expertise?

Acquia offers the industry's highest level of technical Drupal expertise. Our support organization is larger than the entire staff at most cloud hosting companies ––over 50 professionals worldwide with over 250 years of combined experience. And Acquia’s overall level of in-house Drupal expertise is unparalleled with over 150 Drupalists, including core owners, security team members, and module contributors. Furthermore, Acquia’s wealth of Drupal knowledge is being expanded continuously. Closed loop processes between our support and engineering organizations help to drive new tools and add to our Help Center, which we then share with the Drupal community.

5. Will you spin down servers if my site is idle for a few hours?

Acquia Cloud customers' servers are available 24x7x365, and they are always ready to serve page requests. Unlike some cloud hosting providers, we don't try to cut corners by spinning down hardware when it's not being used. Many of our customers have cron jobs that run at off-peak hours (including our overnight database backup process), and we have other automated backups consistently running for disaster recovery purposes. Furthermore, this methodology is not practical for enterprise-level customers whose sites simply serve too many page requests for there to ever be a lull, even with Varnish caching. And having the servers spin down and spin back up potentially introduces a point of failure.

Categories: Drupal News

Creating Personas vs. Customer Segments: What’s The Difference?

14 April 2015 - 11:47pm

Developing personas and segments is a critical step in creating a personalization strategy for your business. The words persona and segment have often been used interchangeably to group and define the characteristics and profiles of customers, but the truth is the words mean two different things, and the distinction is an important one. Segments help to forecast market interest for a product or service, while Personas help to understand the emotional and behavioral triggers behind individual customers within that market. Used together, they can act as a powerful complementary set of marketing tools for more in-depth and accurate customer targeting.

Before you dive deep into the developing your strategy, let’s take a look at the two terms, and those distinctions:

Customer Segmentation is the practice of grouping different sets of like people (customers or potential customers) based on distinct needs and/or characteristics. Segments are generally developed by doing large-scale research, and are defined using demographic information like age, race, or location, or psychographic and behavioral information like interests, opinions, values, lifestyle, risk aversion, or life stage. Customer segments don’t provide insights into a consumer, but more insights about groups of consumers within a larger marketplace. These groups can help a retailer differentiate between the different types of customers that exist, and what those customer groups might be interested in.

Personas are fictitious characters created by a retailer to mimic a real customer. They are made based on Profiles, which include foundational demographic information that is collected through research with real people. These profiles are a direct representation of a customer group that shares similar values, behaviors, and goals. Personas begin with those basic profiles, but then are given names, faces, personalities, and families, to paint an accurate picture of precisely what that person would want and need in real life. Personas add the emotional and behavioral component -- the warm, fuzzy stuff. Once complete, they can help determine need state or end goal for a particular consumer, so that your brand knows precisely how to target them, and what will resonate.

While segments and personas are both tools for grouping current and potential customers, they provide two separate use cases for a business. Used together they can paint a comprehensive and complete picture of how a business should market to it’s customers, and once they’ve grabbed the customers’ attention, how best to target them to relate to their wants and needs. Segments are primarily used to help determine whether a brand or product will resonate in the marketplace. It’s great for helping dictate a brand’s marketing messaging, content strategy, and product targeting. The use of segments is to initially attract a customer to your brand. Using personas can help your brand keep a customer around once they’re interested, and ultimately encourage them to convert. Personas allow a brand to have true insights into the psychological and emotional wants and needs of their consumers. By designing personas, brands have a detailed character and associated story that they can apply in real life scenarios, influenced by wants and needs of real people.

Now that you’ve developed your segments and personas, you’re one step closer to upping your personalization game. Ready to learn more? Our Digital Personalization 101 ebook dives into the next steps.

Tags:  personas segments customer segments profiles customer targeting
Categories: Drupal News

Drupal 8 Will Make a Huge Difference in Development for 2015

14 April 2015 - 2:28am

The Drupal Community is supported by an active and diverse group with more than 1,136,828 Drupalers in 229 countries speaking 180 languages. The launch of Drupal 8 is going to be more than just a new software iteration, it will provide over 200 new features and improvements. So let’s take a moment and look at how Drupal 8 will impact development in 2015.

What makes Drupal 8 special?

There are a variety of advanced technologies that make Drupal 8 significantly more adaptable to use cases than before, but really two improvements stand out. First is the significant re-architecture around the Symfony2 framework. This takes advantage of a number of object oriented programming best practices and provides a completely new routing and context system. Multilingual sites will be easier to build and use with better support in core and a much improved translation interface. Drupal 8 will also include countless other user interface improvements throughout the platform.

Who is it going to benefit from Drupal 8?

In a nutshell, everyone. Anyone building complex applications, writing application programming interfaces (APIs), or looking for a significantly improved mobile experience will benefit from Drupal 8’s release.

What is Drupal 8 lacking?

Drupal 8 framework is still new to many developers and presents a significant learning curve for even the most established Drupal developers. However, the framework makes it easier for new programmers to come into the community. Drupal core simply cannot meet all possible use cases out of the box and there are some features and types of functionality that will always require additional contributed modules or custom code. The key, as always, is to choose contributed modules wisely to prevent conflicts and ensure maintainability.

So how is Drupal 8 going to make a difference in development?

Accessibility: Drupal 8 provides centralized control for rich Internet applications and is the most accessible version of Drupal. Websites will have the ability to benefit the visually impaired users with new features such as ARIA Live Announcements, that will give module developers the ability to create direct output to screen readers. TabbingManager will constrain tabbing to unneeded elements providing a functional workflow for users. CKEditor will also be another addition to make HTML editing even simpler.

Symfony2 Framework: With the use of Symfony2 framework, Drupal 8 becomes object oriented. It takes advantage of a stack of standard components used throughout a variety of frameworks, making it easier for new developers to learn Drupal and enabling them to build more powerful applications around it.

Multilingual: With Drupal 8, it becomes a lot easier to build multilingual websites. There are improvements to language maintenance options, site translations and easier-to-customize settings. This benefits both end users and developers at the same time.

Twig: The flexible, fast and secure template engine for PHP called ‘Twig’ is now a part of Drupal 8. Twig provides a greater separation between logic and display, and is tightly integrated with Symfony’s class-based approach to programming. This also helps improve security, since PHP code can no longer be embedded directly in templates. It also helps lower the barrier to entry for front-end developers new to Drupal, using a syntax that will be at least somewhat familiar to developers with experience with Handlebars or other similar systems.

Mobile First: For the first time, Drupal will make it easier to administer on a mobile device, using only core themes and modules. All the built-in themes in Drupal 8 are responsive. Mobile website and app is now the way of life.

These are just a few highlights about the Drupal 8 release. In the end, Drupal 8 will provide a better experience for end users, developers, and clients as well as help expand the Drupal Community. Such innovative improvements continue to make Drupal the best open source CMS option available in the market.

Sean Robertson is a senior developer at DOOR3. DOOR3 designs and builds enterprise business applications for web, social and mobile media and is based in New York City.

Image Courtesy of drupal.org

Categories: Drupal News

The Key to a Successful Marketing Strategy is an Open Approach

13 April 2015 - 10:45pm

For marketers, the number of marketing tools available in today’s digital landscape is just as overwhelming as it is beneficial. These options help make you a more efficient marketer and provide the customer with a better digital experience. But at the same time, how do you narrow down what’s right for your business? How do you try something new that seems like it might be a good fit? How do you keep up with what’s new and what’s next?

Whether it’s the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic on chiefmartec.com or the LUMAscape for marketing technology, there are well over 1800+ marketing technologies currently available. These include CMS platforms, personalization solutions, marketing automation tools, CRM systems, digital asset management (DAM) and creative tools, commerce platforms, and analytics and reporting tools. The number of marketing technologies continues to grow at a staggering rate, nearly doubling in the past year alone.

Of course, a marketing department won’t use 1,800 different marketing tools. But with the challenges in today’s rapidly changing marketplace, most organizations may have a specialized set of technologies to meet their unique organizational -- and customer -- demands. And that mix of tools and tech may need to change as quickly as their customer needs change.

By taking an Open Marketing approach, you can effectively align your marketing organization for success, regardless of how many different marketing technologies you have now and will have in the future.

Integrating Your Marketing Systems and Teams

In a typical marketing organization, there often are numerous teams. Part of the reason that organizations have so many teams and silos is that smaller independent groups have grown up around each of these marketing systems and tools. And so, rather than working as a truly integrated marketing team, these groups remain isolated, including:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Demand Generation
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Advertising/SEO
  • Product Marketing
  • Corporate/Brand Marketing
  • Commerce
  • Marketing Communications
  • Marketing Operations

Open Marketing, which gives you the freedom to integrate your marketing technologies, helps you integrate your marketing teams as well. How? By getting everyone on the same page when it comes to the customer data.
Silos are broken down when everyone has access to each team’s customer data. Then, you can continuously aggregate that information over time, creating a customer profile that evolves with your customer. Thus a unified customer profile is created.

A unified customer profile provides the remedy to islands of data. While this is essential for true personalization, it also leads to a more efficient marketing organization. Your entire department now has all of your customer data to draw insights from and these types of profiles can shared across your entire organization. While each team still has their own reporting responsibilities, your marketing organization is now a more cohesive unit.

Having a unified organization, integrated technologies and a complete view of your customer is the best way to compete effectively in an increasingly demanding marketplace. The Open Marketing approach will help you bring your marketing organization together and set you up for success.

Tags:  open marketing digital marketing
Categories: Drupal News

How the Apple Watch Changes Web Content Management

10 April 2015 - 11:54pm

This morning, I set my alarm at 3am ET and ordered a shiny, magical new Apple Watch. The Apple Watch is the first new product from Apple since Steve Jobs passed away. It’s an important new product for Apple, as they continue to look for ways to expand revenue beyond the iPhone.

“Smart Watches” aren’t new, but as Apple always does, they are taking an emerging category and bringing it to the mass consumer market. Apple has positioned the watch as “an intimate and immediate communication device." Apple chooses words carefully, and I think intimacy is really important to Apple. This is the first device from Apple that will never be more than a few feet away from you, all the time.

From the web content management perspective, the Apple Watch changes everything.

For the last few years, we’ve been leaning on responsive design as the answer to the explosion of new customer channels like phones, tablets, watches, game consoles, etc. Responsible design was an evolutionary way to deal with the emergence of new devices + screen sizes, and new user interaction models like touch + swipe.

Responsive design worked because it relied on well-established technologies and human interfaces. But now, here comes the Apple Watch. It doesn’t have a browser. It doesn’t have a keyboard. Responsive design isn’t the answer in a post-browser world.

My colleague Dries wrote about this in his epic blog on the Big Reverse of the Web. Dries argues that we’re in the early stages of a shift to a new way of consuming content. Instead of you having to find content, content will find you. The Apple Watch is a perfect example of why a push model is going to win. The most effective way to get content to the device is to “push” it there. And the new content type we’re going to be pushing is actionable notifications.

Most of the early development on the Apple Watch is focused on solving this problem. Expedia’s chief product officer John Kim said the company was focusing mostly on itinerary-focused push notifications: “Instead of “pulling” information from websites or apps, users will want relevant information “pushed” to them at the most useful moments.

Here’s how Shayne Sweeney at Facebook puts it: “If people use their desktop computers for hours at a time and their phones for minutes at a time, we think people will use the Watch for seconds at a time.”

And American Airlines’ Kevin MacFarland puts it best: “The goal is the right information at the right time.”

Web content management systems need to expand beyond content into the new “push” world, where we’re managing new content types like notifications and interfaces like cards. Dries covers this idea extensively in his post, and I’d highly recommend everyone read it. We’re at the beginning of a radical new way to deliver and consume experiences. We must embrace new ways to reach consumers. We must get much more intelligent and contextual about what and how we deliver. Is your web content management system ready to think ahead, or are you still fighting to get that “m.dot” site launched?

Apple just changed the rules again, and this time I think its a revolution, not an evolution.

Categories: Drupal News

Cross-Channel Browsing Behaviors of the Modern "Fauxsumer"

9 April 2015 - 9:38pm

“I love the smell of commerce in the morning!”
~ Brodie, Mallrats

In 1995, Mallrats depicted the teenage world encapsulated in a shopping mall. Breakups, makeups, and even an unprovoked attack on the Easter bunny – it all happens in the mall. In 1995 that’s where all the cool kids went on a Friday night.

Fast forward to 2015, 20 years later. The New York Times recently posted a blog asking teenagers if the mall is still an important part of teen culture, and inviting them to comment. Tatiana R seemed to speak for her generation:

“The mall is a great place to have fun with family and friends. Anyways I always spend at least 30 min in each store and I don’t buy ANYTHING. Most of the time I just get dropped off at South Park or Carolina Place. But I really don’t like going to the mall just to spend money because stuff online have a big difference in prices so I just shop online.”

Tatiana R, like many in her generation still use the mall as some form of entertainment, but it’s not to purchase. This new “fauxsumerism” trend isn’t limited to the physical space either. According to The Winter/Spring Cassandra report, one-third of millennials say browsing (online or off) is more fun than buying, and half regularly browse for items they have no intention of buying. Instead of making a purchase, desired products are pinned to a pinterest board, or added to a Wanelo wish list.

When products are added to a fauxsumer’s social media network, it’s a way of expressing their own tastes and personal brand, regardless of whether they can afford the product or not. The Cassandra report even suggests that simply saving an item on social media gives the fauxsumer the same kick as actually purchasing it.

As consumers blur the lines between entertainment and shopping, they are also blurring the lines around how they browse. In-store or online, it makes no difference to them. Smartphone – tablet – desktop – how a consumer browses is dictated by whatever’s most convenient in that moment. Today’s fauxsumers frankly don’t really care how they browse, they just want what they want when they want it. And this means brands need to be offering up a truly integrated experience, one that transitions seamlessly from one channel to the next. According to Accenture, 68 percent of millennials expect exactly that – for all intents and purposes, all channels are one in the same. Consumers don’t think of channels the way that a brand might, and they certainly don’t restrict their browsing habits based on what channel they’re using. It would seem obvious to them that the same content would be available in every place they turn. It is, after all, originating from a single brand.

Forrester Research agrees, and even goes so far as to declare that mobile is not a channel, and “eBusiness professionals who treat mobile as just a channel will fail.” Research from Deloitte supports this, too, claiming that 50 percent of in-store sales are influenced by digital.

In today’s retail landscape, brands need a new approach. How do they provide the shopping entertainment consumers desire while facilitating the transition from play to purchase? What, if any, data can they capture about this consumer to help provide a much more engaging experience? What does it take to convert? In our next post on the modern fauxsumer we’ll explore the purchase intent and the journey from browsing to buying.

Tags:  commerce fauxsumer cross-channel omnichannel
Categories: Drupal News

Redefining Commerce, April 2015: Firebox, ‘Not For Everyone’

8 April 2015 - 10:12pm

This blog series - Redefining Commerce - highlights retail brands that are elevating traditional online commerce experiences, pushing the boundaries of what it means to be an online retailer, and delivering unparalleled consumer experiences.

So far in our Redefining Commerce series, we’ve focused on visually beautiful websites that blend content and commerce seamlessly. But Firebox.com is a new breed of commerce site. As their tagline suggests, it’s “not for everyone.” It pushes every boundary, and isn’t scared to be offensive or off-color, with products like Super Magnetic Thinking Putty, an electric blue substance that is displayed as a bizarre, somewhat questionable animated GIF. Or these Freak Masks, which are customizable and wearable, and freakishly wink at you when you scroll past them on the homepage. A personal favorite around here was the “classy” Wine Bag, a cardboard contraption that takes boxed wine up a notch on the scale of sophistication… if that’s even possible.

From the first time we discovered this site, we were caught in fits of giggles -- a couple of (smart, capable) grown adults sitting in the common space at our Massachusetts-based office overtaken by crippling laughter…. and constantly asking: What the heck??? Who says work can’t be fun?!

The appeal here is surprisingly simple. Firebox doesn’t do anything particularly outlandish with their site, but they do include a few key features that really set them apart -- like using animated GIFS on their homepage, and the simple and clear way they lay out their products. Their expert combination of pithy copy, strong product visuals, frequently changing content, a carefully curated collection of products, variation in how they display products, and a well defined brand voice help them to deliver an experience that far exceeds expectations. They’ve perfected the art of product marketing, which has unparalleled value to a brand.

Perhaps most notable about the Firebox website is something that many retailers seek to create -- an experience that keeps the user on-site longer, looking at more products, and ultimately converting at a higher dollar value. Their ridiculous products and incredible merchandising push the envelope on many fronts, which creates an irresistible browsing experience that keeps users clicking.

Their homepage content is displayed in an easy-to-consume format, with clean blocks of content in a stylized grid, each representing a different product. What looks like it should be a heavy, slow-to-load homepage, laden with various types of media, is actually pretty fast (according to Pingdom, Firebox.com loads in 2.12 seconds -- faster than 69 percent of websites tested). The content contained in each block is different from the next -- some show product GIFs -- rolling fur balls, glowing mugs, “Handicorns” -- while others show videos, static copy, or graphic product images.

The product pages, too, have all of the necessary commerce site integrations we hope to see: social buttons, product descriptions, detailed information, related items, and tags.

Over the course of several days browsing the site, not only did the products displayed on the homepage change frequently (both in terms of what was served to me and the actual location on the page), but the site layout and links as well. The top navigation was one notable place where changes occurred, which led us to believe that some serious testing is going on behind the scenes at Firebox. Sometimes we were delivered the “NSFW” link in the top nav (NSFW meaning ‘Not Suitable For Work’ -- thanks Urban Dictionary!), and other times we weren’t. The more I clicked around the site, the more personalized my content was given my browsing behaviors. That’s pretty savvy business practice, right there!

What’s Working:

  • Edgy brand voice and messaging. Not every brand can get away with this kind of copy, but Firebox can, and does. A big part of the appeal of their site has nothing to do with the technology or backend system, but instead their sheer genius in copywriting.
  • Super simple and intuitive navigation. Products on Firebox.com are easy to browse, find, and add to cart from any touchpoint onsite. A cumbersome online experience can often get in the way, even if a retailer has great content. If the retailer makes it easy to interact AND delivers great content... well then, the consumer has no reason to look elsewhere.
  • Content integration. Firebox.com doesn’t segregate their content from their products. Instead, every single product page has its own unique, compelling content. The integration is so seamless, it negates the need for something like a blog, because every single item has its own complete story to tell. All of the items come together to tell one story of one super personable brand with a rather NSFW side.
  • Merchandising Animated Gifs. The use of animated GIFs across the Firebox site as a merchandising tool is genius. Not only are animations more interactive, but they’re much more eye catching, and apt to draw a customer in.
Tags:  commerce
Categories: Drupal News

Closed-Loop Marketing – Or Just Closed?

8 April 2015 - 1:31am

“Digital transformation” is a big phrase that scares marketers and IT people alike, because it hints at the need to rip out all of your old stuff – technology, processes, maybe even people – in favor of cutting-edge replacements.
This transformation trend is gaining steam in marketing, where some vendors are promoting all-encompassing, cloud-based marketing suites that promise seamlessly integrated content management, marketing automation, analytics and other tools. The goal is the long-desired “closed loop” that ties digital marketing investments more closely to outcomes.

The problem with “kitchen sink” cloud suites is that while they may be positioned as tightly integrated solutions, the applications or services within them don’t always play well together. As many businesses have discovered, what begins as a software implementation project quickly becomes an integration headache. Marketers are now learning what IT professionals have known for a long time: vendor promises often don’t match the reality.

Going all-in on a cloud suite – which often involves replacing existing tools that may be working perfectly well – can create a ripple of problems by forcing marketers to adapt to new processes or workflows or by putting onerous restrictions on the data types and formats that can be pulled into the system.

“Even if you have really good data export functionality, switching from one platform to another is still time consuming and difficult,” says Bryan Yeager, an analyst with eMarketer. In a recently published (and highly recommended) marketing technology report, Yeager notes that while marketers are intrigued by the vision of the marketing cloud, “many find it difficult to envision one provider will be able to meet all of their needs.” One marketer cited in the report underscores the skepticism:

Jeff Cram, chief strategy officer at ISITE Design, a digital agency that uses many of the products that are part of the various suites in the market, said that because of the acquisition approach, many of the marketing clouds are at an “awkward stage” right now, with the positioning that vendors are pushing being “further ahead than their actual utility and integration.”

Beyond potential integration headaches, marketers should also be wary of becoming locked into one vendor’s solution.

“There is always risk with a technology platform decision and trust in the vendor from the standpoint of company health, strategic roadmap and competitiveness,” says Chris Chodnicki, co-founder and executive director of strategic partnerships at r2i, an integrated marketing and technology firm. “Keep in mind that your platform choice is going to be with your organization on average for three years. The investments made one way or another create an embedded nature that may be hard to extract.”

A better option, many analysts and marketers agree, may be a best-in-breed approach, built on an open-source platform, which offers the future-proofing that’s increasingly important in a rapidly changing digital marketing landscape.

CMOs would be wise to take a cue from CIOs such as Adidas’ Jan Brecht, who understand the importance of agility when choosing software solutions. “There are new tools every quarter,” Brecht told CIO.com. “We’ve always had the best tool at the time, but there’s another even better tool six months later, so that is changing rather significantly.”

How to avoid vendor lock-in when buying marketing cloud solutions? Yeager recommends two important steps:

  • Do your due diligence: Read the contracts closely. Understand who owns the data and – importantly – how you can extract your data if you decide to switch products down the road.
  • Partner with IT: Even though marketers are becoming smarter about technology and making more of their own technology purchase decisions, they’d be foolish to push IT completely out of the picture. IT can and should play a valuable role in helping marketers evaluate solutions – including their level of data portability or interoperability. IT can also help integrate new marketing tools with back-end systems that IT traditionally oversees.

“There’s a growing maturity where marketers understand the technology better,” Yeager says. “And now they’re willing to partner with IT to ensure they’re making smart decisions about technology acquisition and implementation.”

If your goal is closed-loop marketing, it’s a good idea to keep your options open.

Tags:  open marketing marketing cloud digital marketing
Categories: Drupal News

Context Helps Make Commerce Experiences Cool, Not Creepy

7 April 2015 - 9:13pm

The vast majority of retailers are practicing some form of personalization, even at the most fundamental level: welcoming you back to their site by name, recommending products based off of past browsing experience, targeting offers based on search activity. But as data collection systems become more advanced, and personal information becomes more available, can a brand go too far in an effort to capitalize on new customers and just become, well, creepy?

The answer is, yes.

Last week, Buzzfeed published an article called Retail Execs Deem “Personalization” Creepy, Embrace “Relevancy”, a spot-on observation of the cool vs. creepy nature of how personalization has evolved. They discussed the mishaps of brands like Target and Nordstrom, who in recent years have gone so far that they’ve over-personalized experiences, interjecting their brands into consumers’ lives without consent–and ultimately paying the price for it through public shaming by disgruntled shoppers. But as an essential customer loyalty tool, and method for developing brand advocates, personalization is key. Being relevant is imperative. The goal then becomes doing it so expertly that you’re only targeting who you want, when you want, on terms that they agree to, at a rate that they’re comfortable with. But that’s not easy.

Buzzfeed suggests that the market is trending towards replacing this outdated term of “personalization” with “relevancy” -- a more refined and tactical word that sounds sophisticated instead of invasive. The goal of creating a tailored e-commerce experience is the same across the board though, no matter what we call it. At the end of the day, your brand wants your customers to feel like they’re intimately connected to you, on an individual basis, at every touchpoint. You need to get to know your customer over time by developing a unified customer profile; this profile is based on the data you’ve collected about them, across every channel where they can interact with your brand.

We call this contextualization, which means looking at the context of a purchase -- when and why a customer make their purchase, and not just what they are choosing to buy. If your brand takes just the crucial, non-creepy data you’ve gathered on each customer, and uses that to deliver content and offers within the proper context, then you’ve won the game.

Personalization or relevancy or contextualization or whatever -- you need to know your customers intimately without being intimate, and across all channels without interrupting their daily lives. Then, you need to do all of this without freaking people out and making them scared of or angry at your brand. It’s safer to tread lightly, because you can always tweak and hone an approach with further personalization. Once you’ve gone too far, though, you can’t take it back.

Bottom line: Don’t be a creep.

Tags:  commerce personalization contextualization
Categories: Drupal News

Sites that Cannot Fail -- One Night, Millions of Viewers

6 April 2015 - 7:39pm

What does it mean to have sites that cannot fail? How can Acquia make sure that when that big day of traffic or engagement comes, we continuously deliver an experience to our customers that we promised?

In this blog series, we’re showcasing what it meant for three of our largest customers to have a site that could not fail. We’ll highlight both business and technical preparation, continuous improvements, platform insights, and the importance of always listening to those providing feedback on the experience.

The Story

Imagine you had one chance to deliver an incredible experience; 364 days of preparation has led up to one point in time where award nominees and community supporters alike gather to see who will win, while millions of viewers go to a website to cast their votes.

Each year, a major awards show (one of three on the Acquia Platform) is tasked with delivering an exceptional digital experience with massive amounts of pressure on execution and delivery for the millions that visit its website.

2015 was no different.

Since the awards show has an agreement with advertisers and sponsors, as well as millions of users on various devices demanding content at their fingertips, the website simply could not fail.

Weeks before the event, the awards show’s digital team worked with Acquia to improve their web caching strategy, which ultimately improved the speed and efficiency of the site pages people were visiting.

With enough preparation and lessons learned from past event data, the awards show delivered an exceptional digital experience to compliment the live action millions were tuning in to see.

A recent global survey of more than 500 businesses for the Reducing Customer Struggle report found that companies are losing nearly a quarter of their annual online revenue due to a bad website experience. That’s billions of dollars lost and customers who won’t come back because of a digital experience that left a bad impression.

Whether you’re an awards show preparing for your biggest night of the year, an enterprise facing transformation in an industry where digital transformation is lacking, or a smaller brand on the cusp of breaking into a new market, your digital presence can’t fail.

When your big night is the first and last interaction you will have with your customers, Acquia will help make it heroic.

Another happy result of Acquia’s involvement with the awards show: it was the first year the manager of the website could actually go and watch the show without having to be in the basement with the rest of the web team.

That’s confidence.

Behind the Scenes

When it comes to capacity planning, some organizations plan for a worst-case scenario. They purchase larger-than-necessary capacity to be permanently available. But this is wasted money. Conversely, some organizations under-plan for traffic. Without the means to increase capacity on demand, they suffer outages and, ultimately, loss of revenue.

With Acquia Cloud, the guesswork is eliminated. You only pay for what you need. Acquia Cloud scales with burstable and elastic resources, which can be added quickly and easily on demand. Our operations team can scale up resources for any period of time, and then return resources back to normal levels when traffic subsides.

We know that scaling is complex, so we do the work for you. We add resources in real time to address changing traffic conditions seamlessly when a site needs it most. Scaling on Acquia Cloud does not require risky architectural changes like migrations and resizing. But we do scale the ecosystem, not just the hardware. We scale across all layers of the environment––web servers, file systems, databases, and load balancers. The architecture scales across the MySQL database layer using data replication and the file system layer utilizing GlusterFS to ensure syncing. The web server layer is scaled up by running active web servers in multiple availability zones. We run dedicated Memcached servers for sites with high workloads and multiple load balancers to ensure traffic is distributed. This level of Drupal-aware customization doesn't exist outside of Acquia.

As part of the scaling enablement strategy, it is important for customers to have a site insulation strategy so that visitors are not aware of traffic increases. Acquia uses Varnish caching in front of all traffic to speed up sites. Additional features such as geolocation, mobile redirection, and CDN implementation can be enabled. Acquia has over 25 personnel across our Professional Services, Technical Account Management, and Support organizations who specialize in performance, focusing load testing, database query rewriting, stack tracing, and more.

At Acquia, our passion is customer success. Because of that, your site doesn’t become the next headline. Your best day doesn’t become your worst; your biggest events are uneventful behind the scenes. In essence, we don’t sleep, so you can. Our team of experts is on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year so that you don’t fail. You get a true partnership with Acquia.

No matter the time of day, or the size of the traffic spike, we have your back. So instead of downtime, your traffic spikes yield growth and success.

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Tags:  web platform acquia drupal
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