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Author: Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher was the Deputy Editor at Econsultancy. He runs pop culture site Methods Unsound and you can hound him on Twitter @Christophe_Rock.

14 things the internet can help fix your lousy day with

Alright so a video of a cat riding a Roomba whilst wearing a shark costume may not mend your broken heart, but at least it will provide a few seconds of distraction.

Unless of course it was an anthropomorphic surfer cat from Florida who worked part time as a mascot for the Nova Southeastern Sharks that broke your heart, in which case those few seconds may only provide more pain and suffering.

I’d better delete that clip from the round-up then. 

In the meantime, here are 13 other things that, although won’t solve your mounting debt problems or bring your favourite goldfish Sminkens back to life, they will at least provide six to seven minutes of relief.


10 essential features for mobile travel sites

Looking for a break on a mobile? Gosh your commute must be especially arduous today.

Here’s some help: a guide to the most convenient features available on mobile travel sites, which could possibly help you find your way to pleasant pastures a lot quicker and also highlight some great design for other mobile commerce designers.

Ben Davis gives excellent advice on features needed for great mobile commerce design in general, which I’ll be using here, but skewing it towards features more suited to travel sites. 

For this feature I’ll be taking a look at a range of travel sites all optimised for mobiles: EasyJet, Ryanair, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Secret Escapes, Voyage Prive, Expedia, Mr & Mrs Smith, Laterooms and Skyscanner.


Vine’s desktop redesign puts community and search first

Vine introduced a desktop website earlier this year which was a risible experience at best. Thankfully in the last couple of months things have significantly improved. 

As I said in my post published at the time of launch 13 major UX flaws in social media sites, the idea that a platform as supposedly trend-setting as Vine didn’t have a desktop presence is frankly ludicrous. 

Plus, as I kept moaning about in my monthly Vine round-ups, the lack of a searchable homepage has made the writing of these articles a much more long-winded exercise than necessary.

Will my job be any easier thanks to the new look desktop site? Let's see.


Marketers more focused on acquisition than retention

This is despite the fact that 82% of companies agree that retention is in fact cheaper than acquisition. A figure up from 70% last year, and certainly bolsters the notion that on-going profit from a customer lifetime is higher than any one single transaction. 

Is your company more focused on acquisition or retention marketing?

This is one of the questions asked by our new report, the third annual Cross-Channel Marketing Report, carried out in association with Oracle Marketing Cloud, which explores how companies are orchestrating their marketing activities across a range of channels. 

The research is based on a survey of nearly 1,000 digital marketers and ecommerce professionals, carried out in April and May 2014.

The report provides insight into the extent to which organisations are delivering orchestrated cross-channel marketing campaigns, what mobile solutions they deploy and their most important priorities over the next year.

Here we’ll be taking a look at the continued emphasis on acquisition over retention and which channels or disciplines are more retention/acquisition focused.


A look inside Amtrak’s excellent content marketing strategy

Amtrak is the intercity train service run by The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, connecting more than 500 US destinations and three Canadian provinces.

According to The Make Good in its piece on content marketers that are ahead of the curve, Amtrak has seen a rise in train ticket sales that perhaps goes against the dominance of air travel in the USA. 

This is in part thanks to its recent content marketing push. Amtrak has redesigned its blog, including an archive of photography that stretches back over four decades of its existence, upped its social media game and has begun sponsoring trips by writers and photographers in order to create engaging content for the company.

Let’s take a closer look at the best of Amtrak’s content and channels.


14 cracking UX features of online supermarkets

Picking which online supermarket you prefer to park your trolley in can be based on little more than which supermarket you regularly visit in the real world.

It’s the one you’re used to, the one you’ve got a loyalty card with, it’s also probably the one that’s closest to your home.

We sometimes forget that we needn’t be beholden to such boundaries when we’re shopping online for groceries. We have the whole of the nation’s biggest food retailers to choose from and each has their own particular conveniences.

You’re decision on which ecommerce store to shop with may purely come down to which offers the cheapest products, reasonable delivery charges and the availability of a convenient delivery window.

However if all these things are moot, it may also come down to which offers the best user experience.

This post is not meant to definitively suggest which supermarket out of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose or Morrisons is the best, it’s just meant to highlight various UX features and tools that make for a great customer experience, features that other ecommerce site designers could learn from.

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Fight Club! Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi social media special

“Cola War, huh! What is it good for?”

Healthy competition and an excuse to write this article on the ongoing battle for our caffeinated hearts and sugar-addled minds between the two giants of fizzy beverage.

I’m sure Edwin Starr would’ve come up with something snappier, but he’s not employed here.

The battleground has changed since the 1980s. We no longer look to the highway billboards, the ads in National Enquirer or the million-dollar Bill Cosby endorsements on MTV to witness the blows each corporation delivered to its aluminium coated opponent. 

Now the war is fought across a vastly different field. One that couldn’t possibly have been predicted 30 years ago when our sole interests lay in watching Michael J Fox climbing over cars in the rain. 

We imagined future battles taking place on the moon, or via a Virtual Reality headset or at least a vaguely futuristic looking air-hockey table.  We were wrong.

Social media is the modern day arena where all the most catastrophic shots are fired (we now call them tweets). It’s also where loyal troops are enlisted (we now call them Facebook friends) and collateral damage is a sad yet necessary outcome (we call it Google+).

So let’s see how these mighty warriors are squaring up to one other in the 21st Century and how much attention they are paying to the rules of engagement.


12 fresh pieces of sashimi gracefully plucked from the internet kaiseki

Why yes, I have just got back from a two-week-long honeymoon to Japan. How did you know?

Firstly, a massive thank you to Matt Owen for keeping the round up machine oiled and recogged for the last few weeks.

His sole reward is the knowledge that all his hard work and sacrifice meant that you remained regularly distracted for at least one to three minutes every week. Which is our subtle way of telling him he's not getting paid. 

"So how amazing was Tokyo?" I hear you ask. This amazing...


15 of the best branded Vines from July 2014

Let’s all pretend we’re not halfway into August already and instead rewind back to the last few days of July with its less inclement weather, rabid excitement for the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the promise of an ‘on-time’ round-up of the best branded Vines of the month.

Here’s our genuine excuse for its tardiness. I was on honeymoon and David Moth forgot to do it in my absence.  

Hmmm... sometimes you can be transparent merely by omission. Anyway, on with the compact cavalcade of content!

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B2B real time front cover

What does real-time marketing mean for B2B?

Real-time marketing works.

Let me make an addition to that rather bold affirmation. Real-time marketing works for B2C companies. Really well.

But what of B2B companies? Is real-time just a pipe-dream? A strategy only successful if left to the trendier agile brands that have an ever-growing and content hungry audience of Twitter followers?

In our brand new B2B Real-Time Marketing Report, in association with Monetate, we reveal the current state of play for B2B real-time marketing, uncovering insights that perhaps challenge our preconceptions of the importance of real-time for B2B. 

For instance, the fact that 65% of B2B companies are carrying out some form of real-time marketing, and that 87% agree that ‘real-time marketing is essential as behaviour, device, place and time come together’.

In our full report you will find research highlighting how business buyers define their needs in an always-on world. As well as the benefits to real-time marketing and the challenges. 


Zurich and Allianz: online form showdown

It’s a case of form and function.

Just as a little road-test, I’m going to check out the functionality of two UK based insurance providers in terms of online user experience.

When getting a quote for car insurance, web forms are very time consuming and require a lot of detail. It is therefore incredibly tempting to go to an aggregator in order to generate multiple quotes instead.

How do companies such as Zurich and Allianz make the journey easier for the potential customer and hopefully dissuade them from going to comparison sites for their quotes?

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14 more examples of beautifully persuasive ecommerce design

Sometimes you don’t even need an excuse to spend an entire afternoon losing yourself while looking through hundreds of beautiful looking websites and admiring their handiwork.

Luckily we do have a reason… research! That old ‘get out of jail free card’.

Last year I took a look at some excellent examples of persuasive ecommerce design and I thought now would be a great time to add to the list. The sun is shining after all.

Using the five techniques laid out by Peep Laja in his persuasive design techniques manifesto I’ll be taking a look at various ecommerce sites that either tick one, or even all of the following persuasive design boxes: