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26 June 2020

How can companies use the power of technology to help drive connections?

COVID-19 has impacted all sectors, it will change some businesses and markets forever and in order to remain active many businesses are having to adapt. So how can companies utilise technology to make sure they are ahead of the curve, and meeting their audience’s changing needs?

As part of our Connected Technology Revolution event series, on 16th June we bought together Digital and Marketing Leaders to discuss how businesses can utilise technology to develop better connections with their audience, as well as developing new revenue streams for the world we are now living.

Ray Stephens, the Founder of Reuben Digital welcomed the audience to the second event in the connected tech revolution series. Ray opened the conversation by saying: “We're a specialised digital agency, and we're particularly excited for new challenging projects, we work to revolutionise businesses with technology, and as a result of what we do, we often see a very real impact for businesses that we work for”.

 

 

Ray then introduced the panellists which included some of Reuben Digital’s clients stating that they are from a range of sectors and businesses; “but we all have a common theme and that's the use of technology to drive better and more meaningful connections with their target audiences, especially during this uncertain time, and also looking towards a new world that we're moving to or the new norm”.

Joining Ray on the discussion:

  • Nathan Naylor, Head of Theatre Tokens from the Society of London Theatre, shared his experiences of how Theatre Tokens have adapted and transformed their retail and ecommerce market.
  • Sharon Jones, Barclays Eagle Labs Engineer, helps businesses with technology and prototyping, but more recently she’s been using technology such as 3D printers during this COVID pandemic to create Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Alex de Berry, Managing Director of National Book Tokens, shared his stories and innovations that he's been pushing through both prior to lockdown and also during this period, such as leveraging his tech to help bookshops again during some very difficult times.
  • Rory Souter, the founder of the Cotswold Cider Company. Unfortunately, the drinks and entertainment industry has been badly hit since the pandemic, but Rory has had to think outside the box in many respects to find new ways of engaging with his customers and potential new customers for the better.

 

Theatre Tokens

 

Revenue streams for the theatre industry

Nathan Naylor, Head of Theatre Tokens kicked off the conversation by talking about a product they launched a few years ago - Egift cards, as well as working with Reuben Digital on the system for online redemptions. He said how thankful he was that they launched this before the pandemic, because these sales haven’t dropped during these testing times. “It's great that we’re generating some sales with digital and in a time of crisis to have that infrastructure that you can flex, is just brilliant”.

They have 20 different ticketing systems at over 260 different theatres, and had to build a process whereby every ticketing system could connect to redeem their tokens. Nathan said that last year, they were recognised by the UK gift card and voucher Association, as the most innovative piece of tech. Nathan then went on to say: “And this year we were predicting even more success and then obviously, Boris came out on Monday the 16th and said don't go to the theatre”.

Theatre Tokens had to rethink about what plans they had in place and how they could use their technology to support their venues. They had to adapt things such as repurposing automatic show mailings to deliver new messages such as how people could support their local theatre, and explain to the theatres that they can still connect with people within their area using geo targeting tools already available to them via the Theatre Tokens website, “So we've now reached nearly a million people with these emails we've got an open rate in excess of 33% at the moment, which is just phenomenal. We get a huge engagement back”.

Nathan went on to talk about how he’s working with Reuben Digital to create a paywall so that they can monetize digital content for regional venues across the country to generate some much-needed income for the industry, by allowing people to pay for these new virtual events using Theatre Tokens.

Tech for Good

Pre-lock down, Sharon Jones, Barclays Eagle Labs Engineer was very much involved in the physical things happening with the 14 companies she works with at Eagle Labs, offering them support as they grow. Working very closely with clients and customers on things like early stage prototyping and 3D printing parts to test the shape of things.

Sharon said since lockdown she was worried about what to do and how she could use the tech she has available. But Sharon then went on to say, “I've been privileged to be part of one of a number of arrangements that have been used to repurpose tech”, talking about how the company have pivoted to make face masks.

She spoke about having the right digital infrastructure and having systems set up to be shared, “we've been able to leverage technology like we're using today to bring people together digitally”. Sharon talked about the development of a digital platform that they’ve been speaking about for three years, “but in reality, the last three months have been the most rapid development of something”.

Sharon has said seeing people adopting technology and thinking about how they can use and do things different has been brilliant. They have worked with a number of groups that have come together, working with people in Czech Republic to the University of Sunderland. They’ve now devised something that instead of taking two or three hours to print each one, the machines are now producing two or three in every second.

Sharon said that what she will take away from this period is to “not to accept that things can't be done, and to look for the alternative way, and actually take that power of collaboration together to make things happen”.

Changing markets

Rory Souter is the founder of The Cotswold Cider Company, a small craft cider business. Rory told the audience, “90% of our business route to market is through wholesalers into sub national pub and bar chains, that was up until lockdown, so we've had to completely turn our business upside down and focus our attention on sales directly to the public”.

Rory said that previously they did very little with their online shop, but they’ve now switched focus to concentrate on what they can sell direct to consumers and how they can maximise those online sales.

In the past few months Rory has got involved more with the website and content management system and has realised how flexible it is to add new products, and change content which has been invaluable during this adaption phase.

Rory talked about the success he has had with online codes such as free delivery he’s set up for buyers, including ‘STAYATHOMECIDER’, with 90% of their orders utilising the codes.

They have combined social media with messaging their database via MailChimp, Rory went on to say, “it’s been relatively effective I'd say.  It's not totally transformed the business but, as we sell to overseas we’re just probably suffering 50% down on sales, which was actually a lot better than I thought it could be so it's just really building on creating momentum and awareness around our local area and online”.

With all the activities Rory has implemented over the past few months, he is looking forward to the future and moving into different sectors as the pandemic has shown him what other opportunities are out there.

Cotswold Cider Company

 

National Book Tokens

 

Embracing technology for a stronger position

Alex de Berry, Managing Director of National Book Tokens, spoke about how he first started to work with Reuben Digital 14 years ago, with a simple web build, then over the years this has become much more complex and powerful, using ECRM, and clever geo coding that allows independent bookshops to connect directly to their customer database.

More recently, Alex spoke about how last year, using their ecommerce platform and CRM platform, they introduced Egift, and a programme for bookshops where they send leaflets, which they can give out to their customers to claim online for an egift. It has been difficult with what has happened this year, but Alex is seeing this as an opportunity to help relaunch the high street, as shops start to reopen.

They currently have a database of 450,000 people and Alex said “one of the first things we did during the lockdown was to encourage bookshops to carry on using their online shops by using all the other technologies available to them”. Alex said, “This has all been possible because of the stuff we've built over the years, which has now been leveraged into something bigger this year, and has put us in a very strong position”. He went on to say, “this has allowed us and our customers to be in a much stronger position, had we not embraced digital all those years ago, and looked at new ways, such as mobile first”.

Alex also talked about becoming a ‘cashless society’, “cash has literally disappeared in the last three months, I think yesterday was the first time somebody asked me if I could pay with cash because their machine wasn’t working”. He went on to say how this shows technology and paying by contactless mobile works really well which is something every business needs to consider.

Change in consumer behaviour

Ray asked the panel how they see consumer habits changing and what have they seen so far, with answers from the panel including:

  • Consumers are going to need to learn, things are going to be different for a long time
  • Using more digital tools to help them
  • Online redemptions will increase
  • Handheld scanners will be used more when out and about

 

How can brands develop revenue streams?

Ray suggested businesses should use cloud-based technology to scale and to protect existing revenue, and asked the panel what would be their top tips for brands when looking to develop a new revenue stream to survive this period.

Sharon responded with: “I think it's every day looking for opportunities, and not accepting that somebody else tells you something that's impossible, so it's all about finding the people around you who can make things happen. And you've got the ideas, you've got the ambition to drive things”. She went on to say that barriers have been removed, so suggested to look for that opportunity and you will succeed if you’re meeting a genuine need.

Rory suggested auditing processes, by streamlining them and, “Think about user experience and minimise the number of clicks to the sale”.

Nathan said, “I think the key thing for me is flexibility, looking what you've got already, because the budgets, presumably, are very tight for everyone in terms of developing and making new products, look at what you've got and how can you re-purpose it”. He also went on to say, “have a vision for where do you see yourself digitally in a year”.

Alex agreed with the panels advice, but also suggested “you also have to believe in the fundamentals of your brand. Your brand is still your brand. If you can continue to invest continue to invest. If you can't, be clever, but don't lose your identity”.

Ray agreed that companies shouldn’t lose their identity, and should stick to their principles, but be wise and known when to flex and “keep the eye on the end game”. Ray also said to remove the barriers, whether they be physical, online, organisation or political barriers, he suggests finding ways around them to help you succeed as a business.

If you weren’t able to attend our event, you can watch the recording:

If you want to find out more or to be invited to our next event in The Connected Tech Revolution Series, please contact:

Ray Stephens, Founder and Digital Solutions Expert.

01793 861443 / ray@reubendigital.co.uk