This is the official blog of the Landmark Group with insights
and stories from the people behind our many brands.

Make your business count with social media: part 3

Integrating-Social-Media-Monitoring.pngThe social media age provides plenty of new, fast ways for companies to communicate with people - and for people to communicate with businesses. Technology and tendencies are evolving swiftly, but if we know one thing, it's that people the world over are quick to share questions, compliments and complaints directly to companies or publicly.

If your brand does not engage on social platforms, customers can and will dig up your blog or website, or go on public forums to share what's on their minds. Whatever path customers choose and whatever they have to say, they expect responses, too.

So how do we tackle this new reality and use these powerful forms of communication to our advantage? Tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social and even Zendesk make our lives easier by tracking conversations between companies and customers. Zendesk goes one step further: it also converts every tweet, Facebook post and message sent via companies' websites and online-chat functions into tickets, so companies can manage them with ease.

That power makes it simple to respond quickly to comments and spot trends that might develop, and it's hard to overstate how important that is. Businesses want to know what people like and they need to know what people don't.

In short, it may seem like there are countless messages from all sorts of sources, but it's simple to manage social-media communication - which is at its essence, the critical ability to understand and interact with customers. That's an essential step forward - and rest assured your competitors are working aggressively in this realm - and it can also reduce costs for PR, customer service and even advertising.

There are things to learn, fast-flowing streams of communication to manage and no doubt some surprises to come in terms of technology and what customers will say and do, but the need to communicate and the prospects to prosper from it are too important to ignore.

Emax reloaded - web design made simple

Today, the Web Team is proud to announce the launch of Emaxme.com, the new-look website that showcases the current range of Emax products and services. This is the first of an exciting line-up of digital initiatives planned for the coming year, aimed at simplifying electronics for customers.

Emax_website.pngThe redesign demonstrates the team's commitment to delivering great looking websites, developed with the customer in mind. We've replaced technical jargon with simple language, as part of our commitment to make the complex world of consumer electronics easier to understand. And the new look features carefully selected high-resolution images of the products currently available in the stores.

As well as being visually appealing and easy to use, the new site also contains some helpful features to enhance the shopping experience for Emax customers: buying guides to help visitors compare and select the most suitable products, a store locator to pinpoint nearby branches, and information on the latest offers and promotions. These are simple steps towards building sustainable long-term customer relationships.

The social media revolution, which continues to influence how people interact, has elevated the importance of good customer relations to an unprecedented high. In recognition of this, popular social media platforms - such as Facebook - have been integrated into the site to enable greater connectivity with fans and followers. Customers can now share specific Emaxme.com content with their own networks, extending the site's reach into the region's online communities.

But the company's online activities don't stop there. Customers in the UAE will soon be able to purchase Emax products online via Landmark Group's upcoming e-commerce website. This game-changing "e-tail" store, the Web Team's flagship project, is coming soon to a screen near you.  

It's been an exciting few years for Emax: the company has achieved significant growth, received numerous awards for industry, opened several new stores in the region with plans to further expand operations into other countries. With the company increasingly focused on harnessing the digital aspects of its market presence, the future looks ever brighter.

Right on cue: our new Q Home Decor website

Qhomedecor blog post copy.pngIt's been six months since I joined the Landmark Web Team to manage and various concepts sites and what a journey it's been. I'm proud to share with you my third website, Q Home Décor.

Q Home Décor, established five years ago, has nine stores throughout the Middle East. The brand prides itself on selling affordable luxury furnishings that are handpicked from around the globe.

Our focus was on recreating the fresh, appealing experience of shopping at Q Home Décor, which we captured in the Collections section. Which are based on the Classic, Eclectic and Modern room settings, and all are prominent in the stores' showrooms.

To reflect the look of those settings, we were particularly determined to have excellent photos; we collaborated with the Q Home Décor photographer Bless Parreno, and Paula Evans, a buyer who styled the Collections room settings. Their work brings the site to life.

To make the site as useful as it is attractive, we added a new interactive feature known as hotspots, which lets visitors click on products to get more information about them.
Visitors who have a clearer idea of what they want, or seek more information about what specific items are available, can visit the All Products section, which is searchable and provides a wealth of details.

We started work on creating the site and selecting its features after an immersion session to gain a greater understanding of Q Home Décor and its target audience. We met Luke Rolfe and Pallavi Bhargavai from the Operations and Marketing teams, who gave our design and development partners and us an in-depth tour of the store and told us more about the brand.

With their help and the assistance from people throughout the Web Team, we created a site that showcases Q Home Décor and what's made it successful.

So, please take a look at www.qhomedecor.com. I hope you too will find it engaging and inspiring enough to make your space your own.

Make your business count with social media: part 2

We've seen many brands set up a Facebook page/Twitter profile to help promote and manage their company's activity, however there's only a few brands who are truly integrating their social media activity into their marketing strategy. Just like any other form of business communication, it's important that social media content is relevant to its intended audience.

Relevancy is most likely to be achieved when your social media followers are supporters of your brand., These are the people who have experienced your product, or service, and can do justice to the overall engagement of the brand. However, many brands still fail to understand this aspect of social media.

5357611518_82685c2773.jpgHere's how companies can improve the relevancy of their social media output:

  • Never run ad-hoc contests where there is no offline and online integration
  • Never give away prizes and rewards for free
  • Always use clear tracking tools such as Google Analytics and Click Analytics or rather use a campaign monitoring tool
  • Always use third-party applications to run campaigns
  • Always keep track of you audience on Facebook/Twitter and try to relate to your target audience
  • Always keep a check on your demographics. Usually, followers from distant countries where your business doesn't operate won't be following you on Facebook/Twitter. However, there are some exceptions.


Another way of achieving relevancy is to integrate your social communication within your print communications, website, emails and offline touch-points. Social media can be integrated into your company's in-store communications, at reception, within restaurants and hotel rooms, and even on your organisation's email signatures.

How you communicate your social media presence is equally important. Whenever, you mention your brand's Facebook or Twitter presence, don't just say "follow us on Twiiter" or "join us on Facebook". These statements never communicate the end objective of the brand to the consumer.  In fact, messages like "to know more about fashion tips & trends: participate on Facebook: (Link goes in) or share your queries with us on Twitter @brandname are much more effective.

Always make it as easy as possible for your customers to follow or engage with your brand. Make your social media channels easy to join and promote them in the right places. Properly promoting your social media output will help you achieve your end objective and generate a relative return on investment (ROI).

Make your business count with Social media: part 1

Businesses have always depended on proven, measurable marketing methods, which is one reason why some marketers are skeptical about social media. I have a different perspective.  

I see now that most of the social media platforms are exploited as just an additional communication channel. Social media is too often explored just for the sake of exploring and there is no clear attention or importance shown towards it, but what if we establish clearly measurable metrics for social media, which is worth taking seriously.

Measure business using social media

That aside, lets remember that social media is the only platform that breaks the long-standing wall between companies and their customers. How can this platform be considered to be just an additional communication channel?

Beyond its fundamental importance to communicate with customers, we can measure its effectiveness by using it as the sole source of some offers. All you need to do is make some of your communication only through Facebook or Twitter and track the responses. You will be able to measure your social media success with ease and  achieve much better results than you'll get from larger marketing spends.

While there is no fully structured way to do social media, which is still very new compared to other types of media, it shouldn't stop us from forming structured processes as we move forward and learn from our efforts. There's a lot to be gained - and a lot of your competitors are creating social media success stories.

You may also want to read through an interesting article via allfacebook.com & Comcore.com: http://bit.ly/MQSH7K

Welcome to your online Lifestyle

Following the Web Team's recent successful launch of the new Babyshop site, we are delighted to announce yet another addition to our online portfolio -- the much anticipated new website for Lifestyle, one of Landmark's most dynamic concepts.

Specialising in fresh and contemporary home décor, designer furnishings and personal accessories, Lifestyle is a brand that fashion-forward consumers, and women in particular, trust and love.

Our focus for the new site was on creating a user-friendly experience, that is easy to navigate, has clean design and clear labeling. One key challenge was to create an online personality that represents what Lifestyle is all about, as it's important to retain the look and feel of the off-line stores to some extent, so that existing Lifestyle customers can associate with the new web presence.

As with our other successful site launches, this adventure began with an immersion session that allowed the team to get a feel for the brand. We visited the flagship store to study the diverse product range, look at the store layout, observe the types of customers shopping in the store and gain an understanding of the key similarities and differences with their competitors. Our observations were then put into our creative blender, ideas were tossed around, and out came a workable structure or framework for the site and some great looking designs. Add some creativity, a lot of hard work and careful planning, and the net result is a great looking website. Don't take my work for it, see for yourself:

Lifestyle_website_Landmark Group.jpg

As a relatively new member of the Web Team  - I'm now entering my third month - it's a great feeling to get my first project delivered to the launch deadline. Having produced 100's of websites in my career, this one is special as it's the first I've worked on outside of the UK. Like all projects, we've faced challenges, but having a great team together, working in unison, is a recipe for success. Working in partnership with our design and development partners, and a very enthusiastic marketing team within Lifestyle, under the leadership of CEO Sachin Mundhwa, we've put together a site we're all proud of and the experience has been thoroughly enjoyable.

With the Lifestyle site now live, this is where the adventure really begins; we're already working on improvements to the site to keep things new and exciting for our customers to visit and re-visit.

Bringing up Babyshop

As a relatively new member of the Landmark Web Team, I am proud to share our latest effort, the website for Babyshop, which specialises in fashion clothing, baby basics, toys and nursery furniture for newborn babies, toddlers and children up to 16.

It was our aim to ensure the new site had user-friendly navigation, clean design and clear labelling to showcase the diverse range of products. We also had to make sure that certain elements - the store locator, information about brands, offers and more - were consistent with other Landmark sites so users understand they're within Landmark Group.

As is the case with revising all our sites, this journey started with an immersion session in which our design partners were introduced to the brand. The two-person team visited Dubai and spent time with Rahul Saxena (Head of Marketing) and Sai Talwalkar (Marketing Coordinator), who told them all they needed to know about Babyshop.

Following this session, we developed the site framework, also known as its architecture, which involved organising and labelling product sections so we could better understand and define the site's content. Once approved, the structural elements were interpreted into a design; we based the colours, which you will notice throughout the site, around the current logo - a subtle but necessary requirement. 

Babyshop_Web.jpg

Our main challenge was making products look great within the layout. We had to consider horizontally and vertically oriented images so we needed another photo shoot and used all our photo-editing skills to make sure the images looked right. I can speak for us all when I say this was an invaluable learning experience for everyone involved.

I cannot express enough how important it is to create great assets. It's a critical part of the process because we're determined to make the concepts' sites as visually stimulating as possible. To do this, we require assets that translate well online; if necessary, we'll create assets that meet our requirements. Although this can be challenging, we're determined to make the user experience memorable.

Working on all websites is a challenge, but I can honestly say that everything we develop in the Web Team is evolving. There are lots of ground-breaking enhancements already in the pipeline so watch these spaces... www.babyshopstores.com, www.juniors-stores.com and www.mothercarestores.com.

The Web Team launches Splash and Shoe Mart sites


Six months after Landmark's Web Team launched the new Home Centre website, I'm pleased to announce the launch of the latest two sites that we've been working on: the Splash and Shoe Mart websites.

Splash and Shoe Mart customers represent a completely different prospect to the Home Centre audience, they're more style-conscious and fashion savvy. We've tailored both sites to suit these customers, but instead of focusing on promoting products, we've tried to inspire them instead.

For Splash we've created an innovative "look-book" to showcase the latest fashion trends; for Shoe Mart we've designed a simple interface so customers can easily browse through this season's key styles. Both features help fashion-conscious shoppers find something unique, visualise their look, and imagine themselves wearing the clothes and shoes prior to visiting our stores.


Splash Fashions_Landmark Retail_New.jpg      Shoemart_Website_Landmark Retail_new.jpg

With another two websites under our belt we're looking firmly towards the future. Building a web presence is just the beginning, now comes the hard work of keeping the content fresh and continuing to improve the website experience for visitors.

Bringing new websites to life is no easy business and we faced multiple challenges along the way. If you've been involved in launching a website from start to launch, it would be great to compare stories and see if the same issues came up, why not share your experiences with us here.


The Web Team launches the new Home Centre website

I met Savitar Jagtiani, the man leading The Web Team at Landmark Group, back in January 2011. He introduced me to the company, their presence in the Middle East and how they were planning to tackle digital. The strategy was incredible and it was apparent that it was taking shape very quickly. Six months later, we launched the new Home Centre website.
Home Centre Store_Homepage_revised.png
Honestly speaking, not everyone may appreciate where Landmark Group is heading, as most companies in the Middle East don't really understand digital very well. I personally have lived and breathed digital projects for over eleven years now, starting my career as a Designer, Front-End Engineer, Producer, Project Manager and now Senior Project Manager.

I know a thing or two about digital, and have met a lot of people who like to throw their opinions around, guessing in which direction it's headed and what methodologies and tools should be used. For me, "digital" has become a buzzword for people who haven't been in the industry long enough. What most people don't realize is that digital is another cog to a much larger wheel. Just as how distribution, human resources and customer service have a role to play, so does digital. Not taking this into consideration in any project will ultimately lead you down a strategy which just doesn't support the growth of any business.

When I work on a digital project I always focus on two areas: direction and execution. Direction for me is about stepping back and understanding where the business has come from, what it is doing right now and where it intends to move forward. Execution concerns how you go about it, by focussing on communication, the calibre of your team and being incredibly sensitive towards user experience and design. This will lead you down a path aligned with where the company needs to go.Homecentre_innerpage_1.png

With Home Centre we did exactly that. We deeply understood what journey the company had been on, what it was doing right now and where it was planning to go, and created a strategy that was unique to them. The real success was in how we executed the project. We handed all communications via 37 Signal's Basecamp, kept an incredibly close eye on the user experience and design, and - most importantly - the real magic came from the team. Home Centre supported us completely and with an amazingly passionate design, copy and technical team we were able to transform the strategy into something really stunning.

It is the start of a new journey for Home Centre digitally, and, moving forward, we'll be listening, strategising and supporting Home Centre to help that wheel run just a little bit better.

My tribute to Steve

Apple---Jonathan-Mak.png I've never written a tribute before, mainly because I've never felt the need to. But after yesterday's dent in the universe, the void that remains is so large, so global and ironically so personal that it calls for a little reflection. 

It's the day after and I'm still devastated. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that we just lost the most brilliant, creative, passionate leader, visionary, technologist and entrepreneur of our generation and a guiding star for tech and web geeks like me. 

I'm never going to forget yesterday when I woke up in the morning at around 7:30am, grabbed my iPhone 4 to check the latest on tech in Twitter and saw a combination of texts and messages from friends confirming the news and sending condolences. I knew what happened but it hadn't properly registered as yet. I woke, went to the living room, sat on my sofa and started flipping through the bevy of news apps and tech blogs on my phone. The coverage was breaking news everywhere. I then watched the embedded video footage from the BBC app and that was it. The sucker punch was delivered and it knocked the wind out of me. 

I broke down.

I knew this was inevitable, but I couldn't believe he was gone. I switched on the TV and watched CNN's bits on Steve's legacy. I went to work after that but felt lower than a worm's bellybutton for the rest of the day. 

The world losing Steve is like Potter fans losing Dumbledore - The apex wizard with magic so powerful you didn't even know that stuff was possible, the guy who's always ten steps ahead of the game and who you could rely on to save the day. 

No more. 

I wouldn't have a career if it wasn't for Steve and Apple. I wouldn't care about the user experience, usability, user-interface design and building better web products as much if I hadn't been blown away by the quality of their hardware and software that they've been churning out consistently for over a decade. My previous employer Cleartrip, where I spent close to 3 fantastic years before joining Landmark in 2009, wouldn't have existed if it wasn't for Steve and Apple and they said so themselves on their blog and Twitter accounts. 

So Steve, like I said in my Facebook and Twitter statuses yesterday, thank you for everything - the inspiration, the career, the products, the quality, the experience, the bragging rights, the fun...everything. If I can achieve a fraction of what you have in my lifetime, I would have justified my time on this rock. 

It's been a privilege to live in your world.

Savitar

Sent from my iPad