Friday, December 21, 2012

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Trending: Top 5 Must-Do's for Launching eCommerce

This is the second of a two-part series on non-traditional retail systems in Canada (Part I is available here).

eCommerce really isn't anything new by now in Canada- it's been around for over a decade, though in recent years has started to show explosive growth. This is in line with an upward trend for internet use and digital convergence: according to StatsCan, 81% of Ontarions used the internet regularly in 2010 and 51% of all Canadians placed orders for goods and services via eCommerce systems (114 million orders total, valued at around $15.3B). Most major national and global brands operating in the CPG and FMCG spaces have an eCommerce presence in one form or another. What we're now seeing is a series of disruptive technologies and platforms which are making eCommerce affordable for SMEs and owner-managed businesses.

As a Canadian business owner, one of your key questions about eCommerce systems should be this: how can I leverage eCommerce technologies to enhance my sales model and increase the health of my bottom line? Believe it or not, it's a big question that is sometimes forgotten about during the race to keep pace with the next big thing and be where the customers are.

eCommerce: Defined

The bread and butter of eCommerce in Canada is, of course, online shopping. Now-global brands like Amazon and eBay have established the perception that this is where there's serious money to be made for business. Which is true, but eCommerce isn't just confined to B2C companies. At its core, eCommerce is really just the transaction of payment across an electronic network in exchange for goods or services (most commonly the internet, through a closed transactional system on intranet or LAN would also meet this definition). Thinking back to our article on mCommerce- this type of commerce is also an eCommerce system, strictly speaking (though we differentiate the two, because there are important conceptual and technological differences between them).

Should you rush out and hire someone to develop an eCommerce system for your business right away?

That depends. What type of business are you in? If you offer CPG retail or high-margin recurring/subscription services in the B2C space, you should definitely take a hard look at the available technologies and put some thought into how they can benefit your growth and/or service essentials. You should also talk to a professional services firm with expertise in the eCommerce space. Hint: overhead costs for eCommerce systems are almost always significantly lower than for brick-and-mortar retail. An expansion into eCommerce would likely be far less expensive than an expansion of your physical location, and could very well yield the same (or better) revenue growth if properly implemented. Some Canadian businesses are also successfully adding eCommerce features to enhance their in-store operations. For example, Staples allows customers to order customizable print products online which can then be picked up in-store.

We can't stress this enough: unless you have an in-house marketing team which is highly experienced in eMarketing and eCommerce deployment for Canadian SMEs, have a conversation with an agency that has demonstrable expertise in this space before you move forward!

Top 5 Considerations for Bringing eCommerce to Your Business

1. Be a Savvy Planner - where does eCommerce fit in your sales model? What are your goals? How will you measure success? Will eCommerce support your existing model, or eventually replace it?
2. Be Design Conscious - the days of slapping together a functional (but boring) eCommerce site are over. The big players have invested significantly in design, and if their site looks better than yours, you may be seen as less credible. Think of it this way: if you walk into a grocery store you've never been to, will you be more or less likely to return if the floors are cruddy and the lighting dim when the grocery store across the street is clean and well lit?
3. Be Data Driven - ensure that a robust analytics platform is built into your eCommerce system, so that you can enhance your USP as time goes on and capture customer data to refine your online selling process
4. Be Security Conscious - consumers want to know you're doing everything within reason to protect their personal information, especially credit card numbers and home addresses. Thankfully, most payment gateways have invested significantly in securing this data- and you'll get that benefit (and brand equity) when you partner with a good one.
5. Be Innovative - if you're not offering consumers a serious added-value with eCommerce, what's the point? Remember: the purpose of technology is to make our lives easier. eCommerce is experiencing rapid growth because it eliminates time-wasting trips to physically go out and shop, allowing consumers to use that time for other tasks.

Statistics Canada. The Daily: October 12, 2011. "Individual Internet Use and E-commerce".

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trending: Top 5 Must-Do's for Launching mCommerce

This is the first of a two-part series on non-traditional retail systems in Canada (Part II is available here).

Okay, I've heard of eCommerce... but what the heck is mCommerce??!

If you just asked yourself that, don't worry- you're not alone. Just like eCommerce was on the bleeding edge of retail technology at the turn of the century, we're now seeing the emergence of some extremely innovative commerce and retail applications for mobile platforms. As with the development of most new technologies, we're currently experiencing an explosion of competing products and services that directly precedes the eventual consolidation and standardization across an industry.

As a small business owner in Canada, one of your key questions about mCommerce systems should be this: are people actually using this technology to make purchases?

mCommerce: Defined

mCommerce is any retail technology that acts as a consumer purchasing system which replaces or complements the traditional Canadian in-store Point-of-Sale. This differs from eCommerce in one key way: eCommerce systems are designed to completely replace the traditional brick-and-mortar retail model. Simply put, there's no physical store front, and all of the traditional retailing functions (on the consumer side) are replaced by an online store.

Canadian mCommerce can mimic this approach by offering a digital storefront which is custom-designed for mobile platforms (usually in the form of a mobile-friendly website and secure shopping cart/payment systems). But, and this is a really fascinating but, mCommerce is also being used to enhance the traditional in-store and retailing experience (particularly in hospitality services). For instance, Starbucks offers a payment system for mobile devices which allows its customers to purchase in-store goods via the generation of a QR Code through the Starbucks Mobile App (this incorporates process elements of the mobile wallet concept; a subject for another day).

So, are people actually making purchases through mCommerce systems?

Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: Not as frequently as eCommerce or traditional store visits. However, the adoption rate of mCommerce by consumers in Canada is rather astonishing. KPMG's annual Consumers and Convergence Survey revealed that the number of people who used a wireless mobile device to make a purchase in 2010 doubled over the 2009 number
(which was up 30% or so from the previous survey). The Canadian Payments Association is fully onboard with this trend- one of their key priorities in developing the Vision2020 Strategy is to establish industry standards and a framework for mobile device payments.

Should you rush out to put together an mCommerce system to support

your existing operations right now? Probably not, unless you're a small business owner in the Canadian consumer packaged goods or hospitality/retail food services and cater to an affluent, technologically-savvy crowd (here's a good measure: how often do you see your customers whip out the latest BlackBerry, iPhone, or Android device?). Keeping an eye on the development of mCommerce systems and including a medium to long term goal of developing the infrastructure necessary to support mCommerce in the future is absolutely essential for the majority of B2C businesses, however. One day, you will have to go there to keep up; and spending a couple of thousand dollars now to prepare makes more sense than having to do a complete overhaul at the 11th hour (which will cost a lot more).

Top 5 Considerations for Bringing mCommerce to Your Business

1. Be a Savvy Planner - where does mCommerce fit in your sales model? What are your goals? How will you measure success?
2. Be Design Conscious - consumers using mCommerce are tech savvy: if the application is poorly designed, it will hurt your brand equity and kill the sale
3. Be Data Driven - ensure a robust analytics platform is built into your mCommerce system, so you can enhance your USP as time goes on
4. Be Security Conscious - consumers want to know that you're doing everything within reason to protect their personal information
5. Be Innovative - if you're not offering consumers a serious value-added with mCommerce, what's the point? Remember: the purpose of technology is to make our lives easier.

Your Mobile-Ready Implementation Plan

If you don't have a strong in-house web team, talk to an expert. Trust us, you'll save a lot of time and bypass the lion's share of the growing pains by getting expert advice and help in execution right from the beginning.

1. Invest in a mobile assessment - is your website mobile friendly across all three major smartphone platforms? Is your content mobile optimized? Does your content management system include mobile content options and tracking features specific to mobile? If your website IS mobile friendly, does the deployment include a browser sniffer? Mobile users won't punch in the URL for your mobile website, they'll punch in the URL for your regular website -- your website needs a mechanism to detect a mobile device and automatically serve up the optimized content.
2. Plan for digital - it's not impossible, really. Your existing promotions (contests, sweepstakes, coupons) port over to web and mobile technologies very easily. After all- most web and mobile applications were designed to make the real world easier and more fun.
3. Once you cross the threshold, don't look back - you've prepared, you've planned, you're ready to execute... so go do it. That's how you built your business in the first place, right?

Q&A: How does it go mobile?

Q: I already have a web video promoting my store online, and it's hosted on YouTube. How do I get this on mobile?

A: QR Codes! Use a QR Code on an advertisement, exterior signage (think roadside or store exterior in a mall/managed property). To fuel user engagement even more, you could use these QR Codes in an 'easter-egg hunt' style promotion (we've done it before, and people love them!).

Q: I run a monthly sweepstake through my website to build my marketing list and enhance CRM. How can I use mobile to fuel this growth?

A: Location-based check-ins! Add an element to your sweepstake encouraging users to check in with foursquare and offer nifty, innovative prizes to drive engagement. These customers will actually advertise for your business for free every single time they visit you in the future and check in. Turning customers into brand ambassadors is a great way to drive traffic... and it doesn't cost much (you'll spend more on one media buy for a newspaper ad).

Q: I'm trying to build out an exceptional customer-service team. Can I make this more efficient or user-friendly by adopting mobile technologies?

A: Absolutely! Services like live chatting can be migrated to mobile by integrating a 'live chat' function into your website, and ensuring that its design is mobile-friendly. Even a year ago, this would have been prohibitively expensive for many small business owners in Canada, but advances in coding via the html5 covenant are making many processes which previously had to be custom-developed a standard part of the web's native language.

"QR Code" is a trademark of Denso-Wave Inc., used with implicit permission.

CPA Payments Strategy, Vision2020
KPMG International, 4th Annual Consumers and Convergence Survey (2010)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

MB Sweet 16 raises $6000!

On September 29, 2011, Marketing Breakthroughs, Ottawa’s best Marketing Firm, hosted one of Ottawa’s finest events: the MB Sweet 16 {Mad Men Style}.
One of the great things about celebrating our birthday is the opportunity to thank people and give back.  Instead of presents to ourselves, we decided to give something back to  two of our favorite charities: The Caring & Sharing Exchange and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.
We invited celebrity auctioneer, Stuntman Stu, to lead a benefit auction.  The crowd was highly entertained by Stu and we raised over $6000 in just under 15 minutes!
Thanks to the generosity of Paramount Properties (Stuart Ages), District Realty (Steve Ramphos), Valberg Imaging (Michelle Valberg) and Highlight Travel (Leslie Coates).  We would also like to thank our friend Stuntman Stu for his generosity in conducting the auction.
Check out these photos from the event!

Stuntman Stu and members of the MB crew auctioning off an autographed Dan Marino Miami Dolphins jersey and football.

Michelle Valberg (R) and Valerie Keeler (L) enjoying the evening (of Valberg Imaging)

Stuntman Stu and an MB crew member auctioning off a work of art by Michelle Valberg.

Stuntman Stu enjoying a "Manhattan Breakthrough" after the auction
Additional photos can be found at
For more information on the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, click here.  To learn more about The Caring and Sharing Exchange, please visit their site.
Thank you to all of our guests and auction participants, and we hope you enjoy your winnings!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Amazing Event - MB Celebrates 16 Years

September 29th came and went!  The #MBSweet16 was a celebration for the ages!
We were overjoyed to celebrate with our friends, partners, and clients. Everybody wined, dined, and swayed to the music in our 60s lounge! 
We want to thank each and every one of our guests for 16 successful and memorable years.  We’d also like to thank our wonderful sponsors for helping make this event such a success!  From food, to décor and all in between, our guests celebrated with us as some of Ottawa’s premiere event producers. MB Staff had a great time dressing like they worked at Sterling Cooper Draper Price, the fictional Manhattan ad agency featured on Mad Men.  The 1960s may have been the golden age of advertising, but last week, we rang in a new era, the golden age of Marketing Breakthroughs.
 Missed out on the event?
 Below are some photographs shot by Lindsey Gibeau of Valberg Imaging. For more photos from the event, visit our Facebook Page.

Thanks so much for the amazing photos Lindsey! For more, visit our Facebook Page.
Want to learn more about how to become a part of the golden age of Marketing BreakthroughsContact us today! Better yet, join our Facebook Page or follow our Twitter feed to stay on top of upcoming Ottawa events and the latest in marketing trends.