Archive for Elizabeth Hines


Supply Chain and Marketing/Sales Are AI’s First Big Opportunities for Business Use

Supply Chain and Marketing/Sales Are AI’s First Big Opportunities for Business Use

The results are in: Artificial intelligence (AI) has significant value for many business sectors. But what are the most effective ways to apply AI to your supply chain management company?

Executives of many leading companies are looking for ways to integrate AI into their operations. A recent McKinsey & Co. study estimates that 40% of the potential value associated with data analytics today comes from techniques called “deep learning.” Deep learning refers to AI that can monitor a system and make adjustments rather than simply repeate a single task. Industry use of deep learning techniques remains relatively low as companies determine how best to use AI to meet business needs.

Using AI this way can improve forecasting accuracy by 10-20%, allowing companies to reduce inventory costs by as much as 5% and generate 2-3% increased revenue. Click To Tweet

Supply chain management is one of the business sectors that can get the most value out of deep learning techniques. Brick-and-mortar retailers tend to see a 1-2% increase in sales revenue when they use AI to personalize promotions based on customer data analytics. Supply chain management organizations can expect to see greater benefit from AI that forecasts demand by analyzing the underlying market factors. Using AI this way can improve forecasting accuracy by 10-20%, allowing companies to reduce inventory costs by as much as 5% and generate 2-3% increased revenue.

In addition to reducing inventory costs in supply chain management organizations, deep learning can create trillions of dollars in value in marketing and sales revenue and save costs through predictive maintenance. The best way to determine how AI can serve your needs is to look at how your organization uses traditional analytics techniques: AI can often provide higher performance in conducting analytics and introduce additional layers of analysis. The technology is always improving, so the potential value for companies adopting deep learning techniques is expected to continue to rise.

There are, however, obstacles facing companies looking for ways to use AI techniques. It is essential to plan for the security and privacy issues of data analytics. Deep learning works best with large-scale datasets, which not all organizations can assemble or access. The level of expertise necessary to implement and service AI technology comes with added expenses, but determining the right way to apply AI to your organization makes these costs and challenges a rewarding investment.

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Is Supply Chain Management Doomed for Automation?

Is Supply Chain Management Doomed for Automation?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the way the global supply chain operates and may make most supply chain management companies obsolete in 5-10 years. What can your company expect and what are the best strategies for preparing?

AI has a significant presence in supply chain management. Leading companies already use AI to run predictive analytics and to automate repetitive, labor-intensive tasks like purchasing, invoicing, and customer service. But executives are still needed to make decisions after reviewing data.

Authors from a recent study predict that in 5-10 years the supply chain will be run entirely by digital technologies that could eliminate the need for human oversight. Click To Tweet

According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, that’s about to change. In 5-10 years, the authors predict, the supply chain will be run entirely by digital technologies that could eliminate the need for human oversight. Blockchains can coordinate between the parties involved in flexible supply networks, improving transparency and crisis-response times. Robotics already automate warehouses and fulfillment centers, increasing efficiency and minimizing the risks of employee injury. Moreover, digital technologies are increasingly able to execute purchasing and inventory management tasks.

Digital control towers

The new nerve-center for leading organizations’ operations is the “digital control tower,” typically a room with walls of high definition screens showing real-time graphics and information on every step in the supply chain. Data analysts staff these rooms 24/7, monitoring the flow from order to delivery.

These control towers provide end-to-end visibility into global supply chains. Process bottlenecks and inventory shortfalls can be predicted and managed before problems develop. Digital control centers allow more predictive management styles based on up-to-date and accurate information, which results in increased customer focus and process efficiency. It is an operational model that is gaining popularity across business sectors.

What does this mean for supply chain management?

Technology will continue to replace human labor in supply chain management. As data analytics and self-learning technology develop, we can expect to see more kinds of jobs performed by AI.  Planning for this trend towards automation is essential for all supply-chain companies.

The role of supply chain executives continues to change. Instead of managing people performing repetitive and transactional tasks, executives are working with a smaller number of highly specialized data experts to design information and material flows. The skill set associated with supply chain management will shift to focus on data analysis and algorithms, which will require new hiring or employee re-training. Finding skilled analysts to fill those roles will be crucial to organizations seeking to adapt to new supply chain conditions

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Archive for Elizabeth Hines


How to Market to Your Millennial B2B Buyers

How to Market to Your Millennial B2B Buyers

Companies can reach millennial B2B buyers by partnering with popular social media users who speak with passion and expertise to young professionals.

Numbering 80 million, millennials have become the largest demographic segment in the United States and are expected to command more than $1 trillion in disposable income by the year 2020. As this generation comprises an increasing percentage of the B2B buying landscape, businesses must pay attention to their professional purchasing habits — which, it turns out, bleed over from their personal purchasing patterns.

Millennials are notoriously hard to reach through traditional marketing strategies. But successfully appealing to that demographic is becoming more and more important. Jay I. Sinha and Thomas T. Fung, marketing specialists at Temple University, explain how B2B companies can use “nano-marketing” techniques to generate buzz and build credibility with millennials.

Micro-influencers

Large companies have traditionally used celebrities and recognizable logos to promote their brands. But millennials have turned away from advertising and endorsements that aren’t perceived as authentic or based on expert knowledge.

Millennials have led a surge in the popularity of social media platforms, and companies have found increasing success in using sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and YouTube to market to this demographic.

“Micro-influencers,” or social media users whose followers number between 1,000 and 100,000, have proven four times more likely to generate viewer engagement over the products they review than celebrity endorsements. Click To Tweet

“Micro-influencers,” or social media users whose followers number between 1,000 and 100,000, have proven four times more likely to generate viewer engagement over the products they review than celebrity endorsements. Partnering with micro-influencers is a highly affordable way for companies to make their brands visible and relatable.

Micro-influencers have helped turn start-ups into major brand-names and have helped established companies extend their influence into youthful markets, leading Inc. magazine to declare 2018 the “Year of the Micro-Influencer.”

Strategies for B2B companies

Sinha and Fung argue that this strategy is not just for B2C companies selling products known to appeal to millennial consumers. What’s known as nano-marketing, or partnership with micro-influencers, can be just as effective for B2B.

Sinha and Fung offer four managerial guidelines for B2B companies seeking to partner with micro-influencers.

1.      Micro-influencers have specialized and self-selecting audiences.

Picking the right micro-influencer to partner with can help you target the sub-groups you want to reach. For instance, GE uses nano-marketing to help recruit female tech professionals.

2.      Recognize the strengths of micro-influencers.

They make products and companies seem relatable to viewers by sharing their personal experiences. Companies can leverage this in their branding.

3.      Nano-marketing works best as “a subtle nudge.”

Whereas traditional advertising has to be heavy-handed to be memorable, micro-influencers speak with credibility about brands that they personally have used.

4.      Entertainment.

Micro-influencers find innovative ways of producing content that will appeal to their followers and incorporate their brand endorsement in creative formats.

Millennial B2B buyers should be an increasing focus of your targeted marketing activities — if they’re not already. How are you reaching this audience?

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Social Media Content Should Focus on Awareness and Consideration Stages

Social Media Content Should Focus on Awareness and Consideration Stages

Brands need to focus on the awareness and consideration stages of the buyer’s journey to build relationships and boost social media ROI.

Are you focusing on the right phases of the buyer’s journey in your social media strategy? The 2018 Sprout Social Index shows that customers prefer businesses to provide social media content that aids in awareness and consideration, not the end sale.

Misaligned priorities

Sprout Social’s 2018 Index found that users “want brand awareness and consideration stage content from brands on social, but 80% of social marketers are hyper-focused on awareness activities, leaving out the consideration piece of the puzzle.” When brands don’t meet the needs of their audience with consideration stage content, they’re missing out on building relationships and ultimately cutting into social media ROI.

Sprout Social found a great deal of misalignment when it comes to what marketers post versus what consumers want to see on their social media platforms. Click To Tweet

Sprout Social found a great deal of misalignment when it comes to what marketers post versus what consumers want to see on their social media platforms. Part of the issue is a failure to define ROI in the most productive way. Thinking about social media’s value in terms of direct attribution leads to a skewed focus on sales, and erodes the effectiveness of brands’ social media efforts. According to Sprout Social, “social’s true value isn’t in direct attribution — it’s in the awareness and consideration stages of the funnel.”

The right kind of content

Despite the misalignment, there is one area of overlap between what marketers focus on and what users want to see: “posts that teach.” Which brings us back to consideration stage content. “If you aren’t already, meet consumers in this sweet spot in the consideration stage,” suggests Sprout Social. This means taking users beyond recognizing your brand and into knowing where your expertise and thought leadership lies.

Educational content is key in the consideration stage. It’s important to remember that this kind of content doesn’t necessarily need to showcase your product to be valuable — it’s all about offering your audience the information and expertise they’re looking for. For B2B businesses, particularly the supply chain, this could mean anything from product demonstrations to think pieces about how to optimize production.

“The most enlightened social marketing strategy integrates awareness and consideration stage content — opening the door with entertainment and inspiration, then carrying audiences across the threshold with education, information about new product offerings, and discounts and sales,” says Sprout Social.

Diversifying focus between awareness and consideration is crucial to getting the most out of your social media efforts. As social networks home in on preserving the social aspects of their platforms, it’s all the more important for brands to align their activities with what users actually want to see, to stay relevant.

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How Businesses Can Be Helpful (Not Intrusive) on Social Platforms

How Businesses Can Be Helpful (Not Intrusive) on Social Platforms

As social networks reaffirm their commitment to keeping their platforms truly social, brands need to evaluate their social media marketing strategies and ensure that they align with what users want to see.

This year, we’ve seen social networks attempt to take back the “social” element of their platforms by decreasing the reach of brands and businesses (think Facebook News Feed changes). We’ve thus seen a decline across the board in social media reach.

The 2018 Sprout Social Index shows that people are still using social media primarily for connecting with friends and family. As brands put together campaigns and messaging, they must remember that they are “guests at dinner, not members of the nuclear family: their role in user feeds is delicate, valuable, and to be treated with great care.”

The task for brands is to carry out the necessary disruption of the user experience in the most relevant, and least disruptive way. Click To Tweet

The task for brands is to carry out the necessary disruption of the user experience in the most relevant, and least disruptive way. Sprout Social’s data gives a clear answer: awareness and consideration stage content. This means thinking long-term and prioritizing relationships, not quick fixes and attribution.

Give the people what they want

As part of its 2018 Index, Sprout Social researched the types of content that users prefer to see from brands on social media. 30% of users expressed a preference for links to more information, while 18% prefer graphics/images, 17% want produced video, 11% value text/conversations, and 7% said produced/edited photos.

The obvious answer for brands is to cater to the expressed wishes of the public. Building lasting relationships with prospects on social media means presenting your brand in a visually engaging way while linking them to useful and relevant information. Furthermore, it means placing focus and resources on authentic engagement. “This is the content that consumers, who use social primarily to interact with friends and family, are most interested in from brands,” reports Sprout Social.

Redefining success

Marketers naturally place a premium on ROI, though measuring social media ROI remains difficult. In fact, 55% of social marketers reported it as their biggest challenge. Conventional wisdom when it comes to ROI for social media has focused on direct attribution to sales. But according to Sprout Social, “that model doesn’t actually reflect where social marketers are focused.” In fact, 80% report increasing brand awareness as their primary social media goal, and just as many point to increasing engagement across their social channels.

A meager 14% of marketers report being able to quantify the revenue from social media. This is a problem — one that’s caused by looking at social media primarily as it relates to sales. According to Sprout Social, this “breeds an overly microscopic perspective.”

It’s time for social marketers to redefine ROI, and put an end to wasted time and resources on content and campaigns that don’t resonate. Realigning priorities from sales to what users actually want to see on social media is key to cultivating strong, lasting relationships with prospects, and being a helpful rather than invasive presence online.

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