Thursday, 29 March 2012

Review 2011 of the French e-commerce customer experience landscape, Feedbacks of over 9,000 e-shoppers on 65 major sites

e-Perfornance ObservatorySince 2009, YUSEO surveys each year the French e-commerce market through the customer experience involving large samples of e-shoppers to test the major French web sites. The “2001 White Paper” provides a definite milestone for any retailer aiming to enter or expand on the French market. 
Beyond the “basic” cultural, the review of the 65 major web sites with more than 9,000 e-shoppers a delivers a bulk of actionable and qualified data focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the main e-retailers.

A global shortage of customer data to optimise the customer experience

The latest e-consultancy report published late 2011 stated that companies lose 24 % of their turnover due to a poor customer experience, eg 14 Billions £ in the UK only. When questioned, the paradox expressed by the sites managers is even if they admit poorly understanding the true reasons for the e-shopper to give up its purchase, the shared feeling is that the main issues relate to the navigation issues as well as problems to find the product within the site.

To addressing the situation, a majority of the managers state that they don’t have the budget to properly proceed with the topic or lack qualified data. The use of Web Analytics and online questionnaire is clearly stated as poorly suited to engage an optimization strategy and user tests show their limitation.

YUSEO’s benchmark delivers a unique and qualified picture of the online customer experience of different e-retailers competing within a specific market (shoes, travel, household appliances, food...) relying on a statistical reliable sample of participants.

French market : a natural market to expand?
Entering any new market for a retailer is costly, even on Internet. Hence no one will argue against the fact of being well prepared to secure the positive impact of the investment.

The expansion in Continental Europe appears as a logical step forward for many UK retailers willing to carry on growing especially with a local market under pressure from the economic situation. Besides the importance of the logistics (delivery, stocks, payment,…), the question to proceed with such strategy is how much can I “copy and paste” my site and how much do I need to localise to efficiently meet the local customers specifics.

For e-retailers contemplating France as the next step forward, YUSEO’s “2011 White Paper” delivers a detailed snapshot of the local e-commerce market from a customer experience point of view. It provides any retailer willing to expand on this market, an assessment of the landscape they are about to face: is there any obvious topic to take into consideration or any player that may be an interesting reference to evaluate ? Using the e-shopper experience as a common denominator, it facilitates the comparison between the different players and field of business.

The detailed report can be simply asked via this link
You can also download a short abstract

Monday, 26 March 2012

Aura Alliance Delivers on Ambitious Global Agenda at Third Annual Conference

Members of the Aura Alliance – the world’s only Avaya-endorsed global alliance – met in Madrid on 6th March for a two-day conference to kick-off a range of progressive initiatives aimed at accelerating business development and further streamlining operating procedures. Since then, the Alliance has put plans into action with important benefits to global Avaya customers.

Founded in 2010 and now incorporating 50 Avaya accredited business partners and over 2,000 Avaya accredited individuals in excess of 90 countries, the Aura Alliance has grown dramatically to become the provider of choice for global enterprises planning worldwide deployment of Avaya systems.

The Madrid conference was attended by 45 delegates representing Aura Alliance business partners from around the globe and involved attendees from Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, USA, Europe, the Philippines, Brazil and Chile.

“The expanding global coverage and increasing capabilities of the Aura Alliance are having a real impact – on average, our members now spend around $600 million with Avaya each year,” said Tony Parish, CEO of the Aura Alliance.

“The Madrid conference was the largest, most significant gathering of Alliance members to date and has underlined our overwhelming commitment to continue building on what has already been achieved. Over the past two weeks since the conference, we have started to implement plans and deliver on that commitment.”

Supported by Head of Sales, Niall Anderson and with input from strategic adviser Lee Shorten, Parish spearheaded a strong line-up of speakers at the event including David Grant, Senior Vice President, Europe for Westcon Group, Avaya’s global distributor, and Jan Lawford, Avaya Senior Director EMEA Channels. “We set out proposals for improving the way the Alliance members work together, how we simplify processes, and maximise opportunities,” said Parish.

 “We’re now implementing plans agreed by the Alliance members and already this is making a huge difference to the value we can add to our global services in the future. We welcome Westcon’s commitment to helping and Avaya’s undertaking to provide additional top level sales support and administration.”

Delegates at the conference also benefited from presentations by Pre-Sales & Support Director, Matt Dawe, on a new project management facility being developed for Alliance members, and Service Director, Adam Young on how the Converged Management Platform created by Nectar can help simplify the management of global voice and data networks.

“Since the conference, members have met their commitment to funding Alliance activities, allowing us to recruit and build support services in the areas of network management, project management and marketing activity. It was an inspirational couple of days in Madrid and the future looks very bright for the Aura Alliance. The momentum and commitment is there from all our members. No other alliance is better equipped to plan, deploy and manage global Avaya projects.”

MymCart signs deal with Affiliate Window as mobile commerce technology partner

MymCart: mobile commerce partner MymCart has signed a deal with the UK’s largest performance marketing network Affiliate Window to become its mobile commerce partner.

MymCart’s technology will allow Affiliate Window to open up a new sales channel. This will give its 1,500 advertisers and around 70,000 publishers sending traffic through to advertiser sites the opportunity to mobilise and monetise their websites; tapping into the growing m-commerce market in the UK.

Any small company wishing to enable their customers to pay for goods or services via a mobile phone can build their own affordable, branded mobile site or transactional store compatible with all types of smartphones within minutes.

Affiliate Window will re-sell MymCart’s technology as part of its new mobile proposition.

“The agreement with MymCart allows us to explore the mobile arena and capitalise on the trend where we’re seeing more and more consumers purchasing products via smartphones and mobile devices,” said Gavin Wilson, Commercial Director at Affiliate Window. “We looked at the market and felt MymCart offered a strong solution and had a great understanding of what advertisers want from a mobile offering. The speed and accuracy at which it builds tailored mobile platforms is impressive.”

Affiliate Window’s clients consist of blue-chip brands and SMEs; most of which have transactional websites that sell products or services.

“Affiliate Window’s advertiser base will now be able to monetise mobile traffic, and from an affiliate perspective it’s important they can send traffic through to tailored m-commerce sites - which increases the opportunity of turning that traffic into sales,” said Mark Kuhillow, Managing Director of MymCart. “In the affiliate market this is important because everybody benefits from high conversion rates. Advertisers are losing money if they don’t offer customers the ability to buy via this channel. By adapting to the changing commerce environment they can deliver more sales.”

MymCart is building a network of reselling partners across the UK, Europe and US.

The company is backed by digital and retail figures including Chairman Philip Hunt, former CEO of the UK’s largest digital agency Wheel which sold to LBi in 2005. Peter Robinson, who headed Marksandspencer.com from launch in 1999 to 2007 and was Multi-channel Director at Selfridges, where he launched Selfridges.com, sits on the advisory board.

About MymCart

MymCart (www.mymcart.com) gives any small company wishing to create a mobile-optimised website or allow their customers to pay for goods or services via a mobile phone the ability to build their own affordable, branded mobile site or transactional store within minutes. It removes costly entry barriers to mobile website optimisation and mobile commerce for any kind of business in the UK. Users log in to the MymCart website to create their mobile web app which is compatible with all types of smartphones. MymCart sells its technology via a reseller network.

The company is backed by high-profile digital and retail investors including Chairman Philip Hunt, former CEO of the UK’s largest digital agency Wheel which sold to LBi, and Peter Robinson who headed Marksandspencer.com from launch in 1999 to 2007 and was Multi-channel Director at Selfridges where he launched Selfridges.com. Ross Sleight, co-founder of Virgin Games and Richard Gregory, chief operating officer of search marketing agency Latitude sit on the advisory board. Carl Uminski, currently COO of the UK’s largest independent mobile agency Somo and former CTO at Overture which sold to Yahoo! Inc for $1.6bn in 2003, is also a shareholder in MymCart.

For further information please contact:

Claire Armitt
flannel
01273 779449
claire.armitt@no-flannel.com

Top Business Talent Joins The Thames Valley Berkshire LEP Board

The Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (TVB LEP) have revealed the appointment of three new board members: Emma Gibson, Partner, Shoosmiths LLP, John Weaver, BT Regional Director for the South East and David Knowles-Leak, Regional Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses. The new members join the TVB LEP’s current board in the drive to foster excellent economic performance in Berkshire by improving education, skills and employment; improving broadband and infrastructure access; and increasing inward investment in the Thames Valley Berkshire region.

David Knowles-Leak is currently a TVB LEP forum member and has also been appointed to the board in his role as Chair of the LEP’s Education, Skills and Employment Group for a six month period. The Education, Skills and Employment Group is currently working on a number of initiatives in the Thames Valley Berkshire area; including improving engagement with education institutions and local employers to increase the number of young people in the region with ‘work-ready’ skills, and widening access to higher apprenticeships. David Knowles-Leak comments: “Education, skills and employment is one of the TVB LEP’s three key priorities, and this appointment recognises the importance of that agenda.”

Emma Gibson, Partner at national law firm Shoosmith is based in the firm’s Thames Valley office, advising clients in the financial services, retail, leisure, technology and healthcare sectors. Emma originally trained as a teacher, then set up and ran her own business for six years before training as a solicitor. Her direct commercial acumen gives her a breadth of experience and knowledge, particularly in understanding the specific needs of SMEs. John Weaver has over 27 years experience in the ICT industry, working for BT within the UK and European markets, he also worked for two years in Osaka, Japan. John is a member of the CBI Regional Council and a Board Director for the Hastings and St Leonard’s Academies.

Steve Lamb, chair of the TVB LEP comments: “The Thames Valley Berkshire LEP has been created to harness the collaborative might of business throughout Berkshire by fostering relationships between businesses, the employment and education sector, the public sector and the voluntary and community sector. Both Emma and John bring considerable expertise, skills and knowledge to the team to forward the goals of the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP.

“John’s experience in the technology industry will be an important voice in our drive to improve broadband and telecoms infrastructure in the region. Similarly, Emma’s expertise in law and her experience of running her own company means she will be invaluable in supporting the LEP’s aims for business engagement in Thames Valley Berkshire.”

Emma Gibson commented: “I am delighted to be joining the board of the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP at this exciting time in its development. The Thames Valley is a growth area for Shoosmiths and we have invested significantly in the region over the past decade. As someone directly interested in progress in our local area I am committed to working with the TVB LEP to represent the business community in our region.”

John Weaver added: “As a Berkshire resident I wholeheartedly support the LEP’s goals for Thames Valley Berkshire. I am very pleased to join the Board and I am looking forward to working with the team to promote and develop the economic prosperity of the region. Having worked with local government to improve IT infrastructure, I am committed to finding ways of extending superfast broadband coverage in the South East, which is such an important attractor for business.”

Emma and John join the LEP as it works to increase the competitiveness of the Thames Valley Region not only locally but globally. The Thames Valley Berkshire LEP was awarded £10.8m from the government’s Growing Places Fund in February 2012 and is working in collaboration with the business, community and voluntary sectors to ensure Thames Valley Berkshire remains the most enterprising and competitive region in the country.

FACTFILE:
TVB LEP is business led and made up of key leaders across the business, education, the voluntary and community sector and six unitary authority areas of: Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire, Windsor, and Maidenhead, and Wokingham. For more details of the membership of TVB LEP please visit the website http://www.thamesvalleyberkshire.co.uk.

 Organisations interested in bidding for funds should contact Deborah Wharton or Richard Tyndall on 01628 796020. You can download a full briefing and FAQs document on Growing Places Fund via the website.

Time is the biggest loss when fraud takes place, claims report

New research from CIFAS, the UK's Fraud Prevention Service, has revealed it is the time taken to sort out the problems caused by fraud that has the greatest impact on victims. In response Equifax, the leading instant online credit information provider, is urging consumers to use the tools available to them to prevent fraud occurring in the first place as well as act on it quickly if they do become victim.

“We are not at all surprised to see that 41.9% of respondents to the CIFAS survey said the time wasted trying to clear up the mess of fraud was the biggest loss”, said Neil Munroe, External Affairs Director, Equifax. Also Chair of the Identity Fraud Communications Awareness Group (IFCAG), Neil Munroe believes it’s crucial that consumers take preventative measures to reduce the risk of fraud as well as arm themselves with the knowledge to able to take action as soon as fraud takes place, to reduce that loss.

“Many ID fraud victims simply don’t know that they’ve been targeted and they only realise there’s a problem when they try to take out new credit or check their credit report” continued Neil Munroe. “That’s why we introduced our alerts services that tell consumers whenever any information changes on their credit report. This is both a powerful preventative measure against ID fraud as well as helping consumers act quickly if they do become victims.”

The Equifax ID fraud alerts prompt consumers to check their credit report whenever any change occurs to their data. This could be a credit search registered by a lender when someone attempts to obtain credit in the victim’s name. Acting on this information, the innocent party can quickly get in touch with the lender to confirm that they did not authorise the search, hopefully preventing fraud from occurring.

Or it could be when a new credit agreement is registered against an individual. Whilst this means the fraud has already taken place, the victim will still be able to act quickly to confirm to the lender that they have been subject to a fraudulent application.

Tackling the threat of identity theft and fraud, Equifax Identity Watch Pro gives consumers unlimited instant, easy online access to their latest credit file, with automatic alerts within 24 hours of key changes to their credit report. It costs £7.50 per month. Or for just £2.99 per month, Equifax Identity Watch Lite makes monitoring a credit report easy by automatically alerting the individual within seven days of key changes.

“As fraudsters are getting more unscrupulous and determined, consumers must remain on their guard and review the measures they are taking to protect their personal details” concluded Neil Munroe. “Sadly many fraud victims know the person who has committed fraud against them, so when it comes to your personal information, it’s vital not to make it easy for fraudsters by being too trusting. And receiving alerts to any changes in their credit information will give victims a vital head-start if they have been targeted by fraudsters.”

If you think you have become a victim of fraud, alert your banks and credit reference agencies immediately.

You can notify CIFAS, which runs a Protective Registration service and a notice will be placed on your credit file informing lenders that you may be at risk of identity fraud on 0870 010 2091

You can also call Action fraud for advice and support on 0300 123 2040 or visit their website www.actionfraud.org.uk

Sunday, 25 March 2012

That's Food and Drink: Natural Food Show Exhibitor Highlights 2012

That's Food and Drink: Natural Food Show Exhibitor Highlights 2012: The Natural Food Show at Natural & Organic Products Europe returns to Olympia, London, on 1-2 April 2012, with over 300 exhibitors from all ...

Sceneric and hybris Help Stanley Gibbons Win Stamp of Approval

72% increase in online sales sign of buoyant market for AIM-listed rare stamp, coin and autograph company

Since opting for UK-based web consultancy Sceneric and multi-channel commerce software vendor hybris to build its online channel in 2010, famed stamp dealer Stanley Gibbons has seen a 72% increase in online sales in just under two years, announcing online sales of £4.3m (2010: £2.5m) in its financial results today. This increase looks set to continue to rise, showing resilience in the global collectibles market and the success of the site in becoming a prime marketplace for stamp collectors worldwide.

Realising that its existing web presence could not support the kind of global expansion planned by the business, Stanley Gibbons sent out requests for quotations to the market in 2010 and set about evaluating the best solution to meet its requirements. After a rigorous assessment process, the world’s leading rare stamps and prestige collectibles company offered the contract to develop a new website and eCommerce platform to Sceneric and hybris.

Keith Heddle, Sales & Marketing director of Stanley Gibbons, commented: “Increasing interest in alternative investments means our business continues to grow and do well, as customers realise the wisdom of having tangible assets in their portfolios. Since its launch in 2011, www.stanleygibbons.com has helped us expand our sales overseas into key markets such as the U.S. and Far East. Further development of the site is central to our ongoing evolution from a trader to a trading provider to gain a greater percentage of the global sales and activities of collectors, dealers, auction houses and others related to the stamp market.”

Jim Herbert, chief operating officer of Sceneric, the UK-based ecommerce consultancy, added: “I think the sharp increase in online sales for www.stanleygibbons.com points to strong demand for an easy to use and reliable portal for stamp purchases and investments. Adding further functionality so that the portal becomes a more immersive and community-rich customer experience is a challenge we look forward to meeting with hybris this year.”

Stanley Gibbons plans to use the hybris platform and Sceneric’s expertise in building e-commerce channels to offer online auction facilities for its customers and to offer its impressive catalogue range to a global audience via multi-lingual and multi-currency platforms. In addition, a programme of continuous improvement has been implemented to enhance customer and collector experience across the site, improve conversion rate, and ensure customers, investors and collectors can find exactly what they need.

Ariel Luedi, CEO of hybris, said: “Online presence has long been a part of an integrated multichannel strategy, but many companies, especially those dealing in areas of high market worth such as investments and prestige collectibles, see online just as a window to advertise their business, not a means of providing a more rounded customer experience. Stanley Gibbons had the vision to see that the site was an extension, and not a replacement of, the customer relationships it is rightly renowned for.”

Stanley Gibbons
www.stanleygibbons.com
Sceneric
www.sceneric.com
hybris
www.hybris.com

npower employee organises fundraising music extravaganza

npower employee Lee Judge is organising Judgestock 2012, an annual, one day musical extravaganza that will feature students from the George Salter Academy Saturday School and out-of-hours performing arts playing with professional bands and musicians at The Public in West Bromwich on July 7.

Rus Smith, Extended Schools Manager, has some 200 youngsters taking part in music and performing arts activities every Saturday and is hoping that around 150 of them will be helping make the annual fund raising music festival, in tribute to local man, Simon Turton, who lost his battle with brain cancer last year, when he was just 36 years old.

Lee Judge is hoping around 2,000 visitors will come to this year's event, helping raise more than £10,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support. In 2011 the Collections Specialist, at npower's offices in Kingswinford, dedicated the day to his best mate, Simon; the two friends had grown up together in West Bromwich.

Lee said: "When Rus approached me I thought it was a brilliant idea. Already we have nearly 30 bands lined up for the day from metal through soul to tribute bands; giving talented local youngsters a chance to play in a proper music event with professional bands would give them valuable experience for their future. Linking with the school is going to add a new dimension to the charity fundraiser."

Rus is delighted with the work experience opportunity, saying: "The students are excited at the thought of being able to showcase their talents to a wider-than-usual audience. We hope to have three or four dance acts and a similar number of music acts plus two drama groups as entertainers on the day and there will be students helping with programme design and shadowing the organisers to gain experience of how a professional event is staged."

The Public has donated its venue for free and Lee's employer, npower, has said it will match funds up to £1,000. There will activities for kids during the afternoon including Punch and Judy, a bouncy castle and face painting. Fifteen market stalls have already signed up for visitors looking for a little retail therapy.

Tickets can be purchased directly from the Public box office with under-12s admitted free. Students of George Salter can get their tickets direct from Mr Smith.

FACTFILE:
Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer, providing practical, medical, emotional and financial support. Working alongside people affected by cancer, Macmillan works to improve cancer care. One in three of us will get cancer. 1.2 million of us are living with it. If you are affected by cancer Macmillan can help.

For cancer information and support, contact the Macmillan CancerLine (Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 10.00pm) by freephone: 0808 808 2020, textphone: 0808 808 0121
or log on to www.macmillan.org.uk.

Independent trustee services or DIY? Time to get sociable!

With such far-reaching changes taking place within the pensions world these days, it's small wonder many employees now feel a certain amount of bemused detachment, no doubt interspersed with a liberal dose of confusion, worry and perhaps moments of panic! 

Who can blame them given the drip-feed nature of 24-hour breaking news often adding layers of misinformation instead of clarity? Whilst it's the duty of trustees to answer questions and allay any fears pension scheme members may have, all too often lack of time or effort gets in the way. The use of independent trustee services in implementing an effective communications strategy just might be a way forward.

Too expensive! Ah yes, the predictable response in these cost-cutting, austere times we all seem to be living in. Now what? Start a meaningful dialogue with the company's IT department for starters. After all, this is the 21st century, the age of Facebook, Twitter, email and so much more. Like as not, many pension scheme members will have their own Facebook page at the very least, probably a Twitter account too.

The company has it's own web site, which is good, albeit infrequently updated. But no Facebook page, no Twitter, no forum on the web site and an email address buried deep within an obscure page no one is ever liable to come across in a month of Sundays! What has the company been doing for the last decade?

The answer, of course, is missing out on some very effective channels of communication ideal for pension scheme members with all manner of queries and questions which have never been satisfactorily answered. Now is the time to put all of that right. It shouldn't cost an arm and a leg either, which is good news for the bottom line. Facebook is free and so is Twitter. And good forum software is readily available, often at little or zero cost.

Naturally, it makes sense for someone on the trustee board to take overall responsibility for social media content and communications. Initially, they'll have to 'manually' spread the word amongst employees, which can be achieved easily through a newsletter, if the company has one, or by sticking up details on the company's noticeboard. However this is achieved, don't expect an immediate rush of questions. It'll take time for employees to get used to the idea and to articulate their worries, concerns and the like.

But whatever the level of 'traffic', all queries must be answered in a timely manner. There is no good setting up such communication channels if no one bothers to respond. Interest will quickly fall away. And depending on the number of pension scheme members, the level of queries is likely to vary greatly, too, from maybe one or two a week to perhaps dozens. Who knows? The only way is to try it and see.

We are all lucky to be living now, at a time when the number of ways we can instantly communicate with each other has increased so dramatically. While 'snail mail' will always have a place within our lives, social media has changed the personal landscape like nothing else in history has done. Time we all realised its potential and embraced it fully.

UK consumers react to the budget

- 8% say that the recession is building a community spirit and a “we’re all in it together attitude”
- 52% of consumers agree that division in society between the haves and have-nots is getting wider
- Only 9% feel they will be better off and 38% are worried about their finances
- 58% say that they are negatively affected by the decision not to reduce petrol prices
- 54% feel negatively affected by road tax increase
- 31% cutting back on charitable donations

UK consumers are feeling more worried about their finances as a result of Wednesday’s budget, with cutting back on charity giving, eating out and turning to the Black Market among the measures they are considering to help ease their financial situation.

Restaurants and food outlets will be hit hard, as the most popular cutback is on buying takeaways (41%) followed by eating out (34%). Charities will also lose out as 31% plan to cut back on charitable donations.

Magazines and newspapers are also under fire with 33% of the population saying they will consider giving up buying them.

However, there is still some optimism in the air as playing the lottery remains a part of life that almost two thirds of UK consumers (59%) are unwilling to give up, while 3% said they will increase their spend on lottery tickets.

When thinking about their financial situation and about how they manage their money between pay or pension days, UK consumers appear to be quite a sensible bunch with more than two thirds (69%) saying that they would never be tempted to use payday loans such as Wonga.com and Quickquid. However, 8% say they are already using these facilities and 10% say that they are considering this option.

More than half (52%) agree that the cuts as outlined in Wednesday's Budget are creating great divisions in society between the haves and have-nots, with only 8% saying that a silver lining of the recession is that it is building community spirit with a “we’re all in it together” attitude.

However, this sentiment increases among lower income earners with 63% thinking it’s causing a divide compared to 47% of middle income earners.

When asked to think about their financial situation and whether the Budget will make it harder to stretch their money further, we asked consumers if they would be tempted to buy certain products on the black market, buy fake brands, or go over their duty limit on things like alcohol or cigarettes when travelling back from abroad.

More than a quarter of the UK population said they would consider purchasing in this way for clothing and accessories (27%), closely followed by perfume and cosmetics, household items such as washing powder and alcohol (all 22%).

Surprisingly only 18% said they would consider buying cigarettes by any of these means and 20% for petrol. However, it is important to note that the majority of consumers are a pretty moral crowd with most saying they were not likely to go down this route in order to save money.

Among smokers, however, there is a greater tendency to search out the black market or stretch the duty limits in order to get cheap booze and fags.

And those that are worried about their finances in light of the budget are also more likely to search out alternative routes to getting their hands on products including the black market, stretching duty limits or buying fake products.

Half of those worried about the budget (49%) also said they planned to cut back on holidays.

“These figures provide interesting insight into the way the general population is feeling as a result of the Budget,” said Marco Scognamiglio, CEO of RAPP UK.

“While reports have suggested that some people will be better off, there are large numbers of people who will be worse off or who at least feel they will be worse off.

“It is critical to listen to consumer conversations and sentiment following the budget and to respond in relevant ways as the power and influence they can have on brands and society is not to be underestimated.”

Of the issues that affected them most, the table below shows the number of UK consumers who felt they would be negatively affected by each one:

Issue / % of population who felt a negative impact

Petrol / 58%
Road Tax Increase / 54%
Flight Tax / 41%
Alcohol / 40%
Lunch time hot snacks tax increase / 30%
Granny tax / 22%

[RAPP Proprietary Research using Toluna. Sample: 500 UK consumers.]

Saturday, 24 March 2012

No 'Robin Hood' Budget: Over Half Of Brits (53%) Say They Will Be Worse Off

Hopes of a so-called Robin Hood Budget were dashed, as many say the Budget has helped high earners more than low and middle income families, according to new research from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching service. While a third (36%) say that the Budget helps low and middle income families, many more (70%) believe that high earners got a reprieve. And the elderly appear to have been forgotten - less than one in ten (8%) say that George Osborne has helped pensioners.

It is clear that the Budget Day Blues are setting in - over half of Brits (53%) say they are worse off following Wednesday's Budget[. Far from easing the pressure on squeezed consumers, over half (55%) now feel less confident about their finances - just one in ten (11%) now feel more confident.

But things seem even worse for those in Scotland and Wales as well as the over 65s are feeling the least confident about their finances. Just 8% of those aged over 65 feel more confident about their finances, while 8% of those in Wales and 10% of Scots feel the same. However, the young and those in the South seem to be the Budget winners - 16% of those aged 25 - 34 feel more confident, while 13% of those in the South East and South West are feeling positive.

But despite the lack of confidence, some of the Chancellor's measures were an overwhelming success. The vast majority of Brits (92%) welcome the move to increase the income tax threshold to £9,205 from April 2013, while increasing the stamp duty on £2 million properties has gone down well with more than eight in ten (83%). The changes to how child benefits will be withdrawn - by making the removal gradual and only after consumers earn £50,000 - has pleased almost six in ten (59%) while almost half of Brits (49%) agree with extending Sunday trading hours during the Olympics.

However, the controversial decision to cut the higher rate of tax from 50p to 45p seems to have let many down - almost six in ten (57%) disagree with it, with a third (35%) -strongly disagreeing. It seems that the boost given to high earners has dashed the hopes of a Budget that serves to rob the rich to give to the poor.

However, the Budget has acted as a wakeup call to almost half of Brits (45%) who will use the announcement as an opportunity to review their own finances, while a quarter (25%) plan to cut back on retail spending. And with tax increases hitting fuel and tobacco, 15% will change their personal habits, such as cutting back on smoking and driving in an attempt to save money.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at www.uSwitch.com, said: "Many consumers are feeling the Budget Day Blues following George Osborne's announcement. Three months into another tough year, far from creating a sense of hope and optimism, the Budget has left consumers feeling less confident about their own financial situation. While all workers will be better off following the popular increase to the income tax threshold, many more will feel it doesn't go far enough to combat the rising cost of living and the squeeze on their finances.

"However, it's good news that some households will try to take matters into their own hands by taking the opportunity to review their own Budget, as well as changing habits which could save them money while improving their health.

"This could go some way to helping relieve the pressure on family finances, so I would urge others to join them in reviewing their finances and cutting back on household utility bills where they can. For those worried about tax increases wiping out the extra money they may have gained from the higher income tax threshold, taking time to shop around for the best deals on household bills could save as much as £1,800."

Consultation Announcement Oversight Expectations For Links Between Retail Payment Systems

The Eurosystem has established a harmonised single set of oversight expectations for retail payment systems to properly oversee the link arrangements between these systems. This document, entitled "Oversight expectations for links between retail payment systems", covers risks related to legal, financial and operational arrangements, as well as issues related to access, governance and efficiency.

The Eurosystem would like to invite all interested parties to comment on the document proposal by 18 May 2012, particularly by answering the following questions:
1. Taking into account SEPA, how do you see the evolution of retail clearing infrastructures in Europe and the role of links between retail payment systems?
2. Are the definitions of links and the scope of application of oversight expectations clearly defined in the document?
3. Do oversight expectations address all the risks and efficiency aspects inherent in link arrangements?
4. What is your opinion on the risks and efficiency of indirect and relayed links between retail payment systems in comparison with direct links? Do the proposed expectations appropriately address these risks? Have you established any indirect or relayed links with another retail payment system?
5. Which areas of these expectations could be subject to grading according to the importance of the link (proportionality)?

The final version of the oversight expectations will be published in the ECB's website once the public consultation is complete. Any comments received will be made public on the internet unless it is clearly indicated that the author does not consent to such publication. Comments should be sent in English or the relevant official Community language, either to the European Central Bank, Secretariat Division, Kaiserstrasse 29, D-60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Fax: +49 69 1344 6170, E-mail: ecb.secretariat@ecb.int or to any of the national central banks of the Eurosystem.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

RFID technology enables brands to link users’ real-life experiences with Facebook

Social Media World Forum Europe uses RFID solution that bridges real-life experiences with social media

Next week’s Social Media World Forum Europe will be integrating LifeSynk, a revolutionary social media platform that uses enablers such as RFID, into the event to demonstrate how brands can harness a whole new level of engagement from their customers over social media.

The two-day conference, taking place on 27-28th March 2012 at London’s Olympia, will showcase how brands can use RFID technology to get people sharing physical and point-of-sale experiences on Facebook which will drive foot traffic and generate measurable ROI from social media marketing.

Delegates at the event will be able to win a three-month supply of their morning coffee if they retrieve a business card of somebody at the event who they are paired with. A photo will be uploaded to their Facebook wall containing their profile picture as well as that of the delegate they are matched with, and they will be challenged to find the person and retrieve their business card to enter.

The bridge between social media and the physical world
LifeSynk works by linking the user’s Facebook - or other social network - account to an RFID card. Physical venues such as stadiums, theatres, shops or cinemas can run promotions that award discounts or loyalty points every time a customer swipes their LifeSynk card at either a terminal (which can be branded), or an existing card reading system.

What are the implications for brands? At present a user can check in to a venue, post a status update or Tweet about their experience, but the brand has to sit powerless without insight or influence over these conversations. Brands can now use LifeSynk to engineer online conversations, focussing them on driving foot-traffic and word-of-mouth referrals.

For example, John’s Facebook friends can see that he has just swiped his RFID card at a particular cinema outlet to obtain a 20% discount on his ticket, therefore immediately being made aware of the promotion (and hopefully wanting a slice of the action).

The user is able to visit their own admin console to control permissions such as allowing wall posts, but more importantly they can view all promotions that are available, thus allowing brands an effective platform to promote their campaigns.

How does it work? The LifeSynk system includes an Wi-Fi enabled RFID reader and on-board software that talks to a cloud-based platform.

The brand has access to rich analytics showing locations, who swiped what, how many times, demographics and more. It even calculates how many people were shared to and the click rate, ultimately allowing businesses to track the number of customers drawn to the venue via the sharing and word-of-mouth of their friends.

Digital services such as Spotify are currently benefiting from integrating with Facebook because activity that’s broadcast is immediate and relevant, driving traffic through Facebook shares.

In terms of security, LifeSynk is built on the back of Facebook. It stores no user accounts or personal information - all of this is via a Facebook app, so it is optimally secure using Facebook’s own platform. There is no way to access a user’s account without access to their Facebook account.

#LifeSynk at SMWF
LifeSynk will occupy Stand #20 at the event. Delegates will be able to pick up their own RFID card which can be registered via their smartphone. ‘Like Terminals’ will be placed at either side of the auditorium where registered users can swipe to show that they enjoyed the talk and share this, and the fact that they are at SMWF, on Facebook or Twitter.

If registering at the LifeSynk stand, delegates will be randomly assigned to another delegate at the event whose business card they have to seek out and bring back to be entered into a draw to win all your morning coffee paid for for three months.
www.lifesynk.com

@LifeSynk|www.facebook.com/LifeSynk. LifeSynk will be exhibiting at Stand 20.

Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSllbmn0fgY

Follow Social Media World Forum on Twitter: @SocialMediaWF|#SMWF

Vibrant Queens Parade Re-opens In Willesden Green

This week, the Queens Parade retail space in Willesden Green is once again open for business with a vibrant collection of start-up businesses and projects. The parade of eight shop units and offices - which has not been in retail use for many years - is now home to thirteen creative enterprises that offer a range of goods and services, from home-wares and interior design, to an art gallery and a vintage clothes emporium.

The former textiles building has been secured by the New Windows on Willesden Green project on a 'meanwhile' lease to give these fledgling businesses a chance to try out their ideas in a well-located high street space. The building's run-down fa├žade is being given a new look, care of designer Kieren Jones, and the interior decorations have been carried out with the help of Painting and Decorating students from the local College of North West London.

The reactivation of this underused high street building is part of the New Windows on Willesden Green project supported by the Mayor's Outer London Fund. It is being delivered for Brent Council and Design for London by The Architecture Foundation in collaboration with Meanwhile Space and Blue Consulting with the view to bring positive change and new audiences to Willesden Green.

A rigorous selection process was undertaken to choose which businesses and projects would benefit most from the space, contribute best to the local community, complement the existing businesses on the high street and work well together to create a new destination in Willesden Green.

Queens Parade will be hosting a series of exciting events, activities and workshops over the coming months, kicking off with its official launch celebration on 29 March 2012 from 5:30pm.

Over the forthcoming holiday there will also be events which are free and open to all, improving the appearance of the High Road and marking a new addition to Willesden Green's retail and cultural offer. There is also the opportunity to hone your own business skills at one of the Library Lab workshops in the Willesden Green Library Centre.

Please see http://willesdenwindows.com/ for further details.

Eddie Bridgeman, Director of Meanwhile Space, said "The people and projects who came forward have enabled New Windows on Willesden Green to become a real standard-setter for bringing new ideas to London's high streets. It brings diversity to what is already on offer in Willesden Green, making use of an otherwise under-utilised space, whilst giving people the chance to try out their big idea."

Queens Parade's new tenants are:

Unit 1: Art Lobby
A brand new contemporary audio-visual art gallery bringing together visual artists, sound artists and sound engineers to create work and provide audio description for visual works. There will be a programme to mentor artists, tours and visits to other galleries, artists' talks and workshops on different media techniques.
www.artlobby.org/

Unit 2: Jardins D'EDEN
Renewing centuries-old traditions, Jardins D'EDEN offers 100% natural and handcrafted body, bath and face treats for discerning urban dwellers, plus opportunities to learn how these to make the products and lead a healthier, natural and more sustainable lifestyle. www.jardinsdeden.co.uk/

Unit 3: Roses & String
Roses & String makes and sells a range of beautiful home-wares, accessories and gifts, all created by local crafters, including cushions, frames, mirrors, candles, bags, jewellery and much more. Come in and see owners Laura and Heather busy making something new in-store or join their 'Chit Chat and Make That' group! http://rosesandstring.com/

Unit 4: Vintage Green
Vintage Green is a collective of three local, independent vintage traders: Fox & Bear, Pie & Brush and Bumblehog. Not only will Vintage Green be a place where you can rummage for unique, hand-picked items, but their in-house photographer Virginie Anne Hebert from plumkinpiestudio will all be taking bookings for vintage-inspired photo-shoots! www.facebook.com/vintagegreene www.plumkinpiestudio.com/

Unit 2 (Back Office): Paint Mine
Paint Mine is a website hosting and graphics studio, offering a wide range of business branding services, from logo design to custom website construction and maintenance. Get started today and you could be up and running within a week! http://paintmine.com/

Unit 5: My Pop Up Design Shop
My Pop Up Design Shop is an exciting new retail outlet for homewares and design led accessories, sourced from locally-based designers. The space, run by successful interior stylist, Zoe Brewer, will offer free weekly design and styling drop-in consultation and workshops. Zoe will also be utilising the workspace to start production on her own product range and upcycled furniture. www.mypopupdesignshop.co.uk/

Unit 6: The Unlimited Printshop
The Unlimited Printshop includes a work experience training scheme for a group of young people with a learning disability, focusing on screenprinting and other creative processes. The space will contain an exhibition, a retail outlet for prints and crafts made by trainees and by users of Brent daycentres, and studio offering creative collaborations and a print service. There will also be a weekly art club, mentoring for artists with a disability, workshops and events in the space. www.unlimitedprintshop.wordpress.com/

Unit 7: Indikidual
Indikidual is a unisex, organic kids' clothing collection with a difference. It's all about having fun, being individual and staying cute and cool at the same time. Indikidual will sell clothing and also run creative play and making workshops, individual-style! http://indikidual.tumblr.com/

Unit 7: Ariane Prin
Ariane is a product designer who believes the role of designers today is to find methods of making that apply to localised contexts and that design is at its best when it is paired with those things outside the design world. In Queens Parade, Ariane will be exploring a socially, economically and environmentally self-sufficient system called 'From Here For Here'. Using waste generated from local businesses, she will create designed products which will be made from and labelled with the identity of Willesden Green. www.arianeprin.com/

Unit 8: The Wise Owl Venue
The Wise Owl Venue will be the events hub of Queens Parade - hosting workshops, talks, music and cinema events. It will be the information, marketing and programming point for Queens Parade and will also be programming events at the new Library Lab in the Willesden Green Library Centre. Joanna and Sharon, both grew up in the area are proud to bring a new and exciting venue to Willesden Green!
www.thewiseowlvenue.blogspot.co.uk/

Unit 7: Punch & Juicy
Founded by formerly homeless entrepreneur Davina Roberts, Punch & Juicy is an award-winning social enterprise providing a healthy alternative liquid and whole food bar, selling mainly drinks and packaged foods from at least 30% locally sourced produce. Punch & Juicy will also offer workshops encouraging people to lead healthier, more balanced lifestyles. www.facebook.com/pages/Award-winning-Social-Enterprise-Punch-and-Juicy-Liquid-Foods/210489824728

Full details are on http://willesdenwindows.com/

FACTFILE:
This project is an exciting opportunity to revive and improve Willesden High Road bringing positive change to the area. The project is delivered with support and advice from Design for London and runs from October 2011 to March 2012.

A further exciting element of the Mayor's Outer London Fund work in Willesden Green is the 'Library Lab' which is hosted by Architecture 00:/ in association with New Windows on Willesden Green in the Willesden Green Library Centre.

From October to December a curated series of window animations was installed along the High Road marking the 25 days leading up to Christmas. Local Willesden shop-owners were paired with emerging designers to produce an advent calendar of window displays along the High Road. In addition, a series of public events was held on 16-18 December along the high street and in the project's Pilot Shop, a formerly vacant unit at 45 Walm Lane which the project reactivated and used as its key local information point. As a result of the reanimation of this empty premises for the project, it became more of an attractive proposition and a new commercial tenant has just taken on a new lease there.

From January to March 2012 the second phase of the project concentrates on bringing life back into vacant properties along the High Road, providing start-up companies with the opportunity to take up short-term residencies at reduced rents. This programme is complemented by the 'Library Lab' which provides local enterprises, businesses and start-ups with business clinics, capacity building workshops and a co-working space.

The Outer London Fund
The Mayor of London's Outer London Fund is a three-year initiative dedicated to strengthening the vibrancy and growth of high streets and their environs. At the centre of the initiative is funding of up to £50 million, supported by the offer of advice from the Mayor's Design for London team that can be targeted at improving the character, quality and economic vitality of selected high street places.

Outer London Fund support is allocated in two rounds; the first provides an immediate opportunity to access funds and advice for clusters of readily deliverable projects. These should make a visible, contribution to the vibrancy and self-confidence of high street places in the near future. On 3 August 2011 the Mayor announced the Round One successful bids - the award of nearly £10m of funding to 20 boroughs across the capital. The London Borough of Brent received £500,000 for Willesden Green.

The second round will continue the package of support, adding more places and shifting the balance towards more substantial physical projects that can deliver lasting improvement.

www.london.gov.uk/priorities/business-economy/investing-future/outer-london-town-centres

www.designforlondon.gov.uk

Brent Council
The London Borough of Brent is a located in North-West London, UK and forms part of Outer London. www.brent.gov.uk

The Architecture Foundation
Founded in 1991 as the UK's first independent architecture centre, the Architecture Foundation is a non-profit agency for contemporary architecture, urbanism and culture. We cultivate new talent and new ideas. Through our diverse programmes we facilitate international and interdisciplinary exchange, stimulate critical engagement amongst professionals, policy makers and a broad public, and shape the quality of the built environment. We are independent, agile, inclusive and influential. Central to our activities is the belief that architecture enriches lives.

People who wish to get involved in 'New Windows for Willesden Green' in any way should contact The Architecture Foundation on Willesden@architecturefoundation.org.uk or 0207 084 6767.

www.architecturefoundation.org.uk

(EDITOR: That's Business wishes all concerned well for the future of their enterprises.)


Meanwhile Space

Meanwhile Space are a Community Interest Company that incorporated in July 2009, stimulated by a combination of the directors' track record for project delivery and a central government grant to the Development Trusts Association to deliver a nationwide initiative called the Meanwhile Project. The CIC is the delivery arm of the Meanwhile Project, which aims to boost community uses of empty properties and sites. The project has built a 'library' of ideas and information as a resource to make it easier for both the landlord and the project sides to realise Meanwhile opportunities, including the Meanwhile Manual, Lease and Insurance policies.

www.meanwhilespace.com

Statements of some of those involved:

Blue Consulting
Blue Consulting is an affiliation of independent consultants specialising in the management of functions and projects from full time interim placement to task focused projects and professional input. Combined skills are in town centre revitalisation and renewal, marketing and branding, PR, and property development (residential, commercial and hospitality).

Appropriate skills are matched to client needs with the right individual or team put in place for the job. Recent placements have included management of marketing and communications (Bena Properties, Syria), town centre regeneration management (Brent Council) and management of an enterprise agency (Brent Business Venture/Park Royal Partnership). Task projects have focused on feasibility, profitability and marketability of schemes including development planning and design, mixed use scheme (ASC Finance, Brighton), tourism and transportation development advice (Govt. of Equatorial Guinea), hotel development and branding (Mansouri Group, Sharm-el-Shiekh).

Architecture 00:/
Architecture 00:/ is a London based strategy & design practice. With a foundation in delivering award-winning architecture and commissioned research into the built environment, we are driven by an aspiration to create genuinely sustainable places founded on evidenced social, economic, and environmental principles.

We are currently working with a broad spectrum of clients and collaborators on a range of innovative projects from new civic institutions, neighbourhood development strategies, and self-led housing masterplans to new service delivery infrastructures for healthcare, learning, and creative enterprise, alongside a number of ultra-low-energy private houses. www.architecture00.net/

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

PayPal™ Launches The PayPal Access Prepaid MasterCard®

PayPal™ UK has launched a new payment card that lets customers spend and withdraw money from their PayPal account on the high street and everywhere that MasterCard is accepted around the world.

A PayPal Access Prepaid MasterCard® holder who receives a PayPal payment can spend or withdraw the money straight away with the card - there's no need to transfer it to a bank account*. The card holder has direct access to their available balance and can manage their card online via a simple single sign-in process.

Customers can also make instant 'tap and go' payments of up to £15 without entering a PIN, with the new MasterCard PayPass technology.

Apur Shah, Head of Consumer & Credit Products at PayPal, comments: "PayPal is becoming a great way to pay on the high street as well as online. The new Access Card gives our customers even more places to use PayPal, along with instant access to their PayPal balance. It will be a great option for businesses and other sellers on eBay and other websites."

Gilles Coccoli, Managing Director of PrePay Solutions, adds: "The new card is a highly integrated and innovative product that has been carefully developed to meet the needs of PayPal customers. The addition of the new MasterCard PayPass technology is a first for PayPal in the United Kingdom and gives users even greater convenience."

The PayPal Access Card is being offered to selected PayPal UK customers.

Budget News and Views of the business Community

Budget Impact On SMEs - Sage Comment
Lee Perkins, Managing Director, Sage's Small Business Division "The Chancellor introduced his Budget as one which "unashamedly backed business" and through cuts to Corporation Tax, simplifying the tax system for small businesses and providing increased support for start-ups and enterprise, the Government's rhetoric was justified."

"Commitments to developing world-beating broadband and making Britain Europe's technology centre makes the UK an incredibly attractive place to set-up and do business and will support sustained long-term growth that gives small businesses the confidence to expand."

"We wanted a pro-business budget. We needed a pro-business budget. What we've got is a series of measures that should see the small business "engine room" of our economy shift up a gear, providing the Government delivers on its announcements."

FSB Budget Reaction: Welcome Measures But Still A Missing Link
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the Chancellor's Budget speech. Commenting on the speech, John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said: "We asked for a Budget with long-term measures to help to instil confidence, rather than a barrage of micro-measures that have a limited impact on the ground. We are pleased with some of the actions to cut the burden of red tape, help to get our young workers into employment, and measures to improve access to finance. Especially welcome are the proposals to simplify the tax system for the country's smallest companies. However, petrol prices remain a major concern for small businesses and we would have liked some further action on reducing the level of fuel duty to help struggling small firms.

"The key to nurturing the economy back to full health is by tackling the budget deficit and the FSB continues to support the Government's debt reduction plan. The FSB welcomes the fiscally neutral budget and is pleased with the OBR's positive revision to growth forecasts this year, along with forecasts for falling inflation.

"But, to ensure that businesses can be properly supported and to bring together the measures that have been announced, we are disappointed that there were no plans to look into setting up a Small Business Administration - a department to champion small firms at the heart of Government with a cabinet level minister. This is the missing link to ensuring that all initiatives have the maximum impact for small firms."

Commenting on tax simplification plans John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Plans to move to a simpler 'cash accounts' system will bring huge deregulatory benefits to small businesses, and is something the FSB has long been calling for. Many small firms will already use a 'cash accounting' system and so the moves to allow businesses with a turnover of less than £77,000 to use this system will be welcome. Research by the FSB for the Office of Tax Simplification found that on average 50 per cent of small firms spend between two and eight hours understanding, calculating and completing tax returns. This system will make it easier for those businesses. What we need to see now is HMRC develop a better relationship with business to ensure tax compliance. "

Fuel duty:
"We are disappointed the Chancellor has not announced a cut in the level of fuel duty and that the rise deferred to August is still to go ahead. This will still hit small businesses and households hard and so we need to see a long term solution to address high and volatile fuel prices. We remain concerned that the Government's Fair Fuel Stabiliser will not trigger an actual reduction in the price paid at the pumps."

On non-bank finance:
"With two in five small businesses still struggling to access finance through the banks it is vital for growth that there are alternatives they can go to. So the £1.1 billion Business Finance Partnership is welcome as it will open up non-bank lending for businesses. The further extension to the Enterprise Finance Guarantee will also be beneficial to small firms and the expansion of UK Export Finance will benefit businesses that want to export."

"Further to the publication of the Breedon report into alternative sources of finance last week, we hope that the Government will accept its recommendations into non-bank lending. Notably that it will look to put all its financial products under one umbrella organisation. This is a good first step to creating the Small Business Administration that we have been calling for.

Enterprise loans
"The announcement that the Chancellor will look at introducing Enterprise Loans for young people to start their own businesses is very welcome. More than three-quarters of 11-18 year olds would like to set up their own business so loans to help them do so will be a great help. The FSB has long said that Government should prioritise and support enterprise to young people in education so that setting up on their own is an option."

Broadband:
"The raised aspirations for broadband development to make 10 cities in Britain super connected are welcome, but we must not forget about rural Britain where a lot of small businesses are based. Digital services in some parts of rural Britain are still wholly inadequate, and that is where efforts should be focused to avoid a digital divide."

Infrastructure:
"We are pleased with the Government's renewed focus on the UK's road network. The poor state of roads costs small businesses £5,000 a year due to congestion and poor maintenance. However, it must be remembered that putting a cost on roads is yet another overhead for small firms, which could be damaging at a time when the price of fuel is having a negative effect on businesses.

"It is important that any money collected through tolls is used solely to fund the road infrastructure network. Many would argue that the water crisis in the south and the impending energy crisis show the limitations of the private sector in achieving a long term vision. We do not want to see this repeated on Britain's road network that is so vital to small businesses."

Karen Barrett, Chief Executive Of unbiased.co.uk, Comments On The Budget
Personal taxation
"The Chancellor's announcement to raise the personal allowance from £8,100 to £9,205 from April 2013 is a welcome pledge for everyone, particularly those on lower incomes. Whilst there are already plans to increase this allowance - the income that you can receive before you start paying any income tax - to £10,000 by April 2015, today's announcement will help fast track to the £10,000 goal. The further plan to provide people with an annual statement detailing where their tax payments are being used is a welcome move for consumers both in terms of educating them and providing them with some perspective on tax. The announcements made today will go some way to help basic rate taxpayers by giving them some extra money in their pocket. According to our research at the end of last year, 72% of Brits were concerned about their finances, so with this in mind we would urge consumers to seek advice from an independent financial adviser (IFA) to help them make the most of their money.

Changes to child benefit:
"From April 2013 child benefit was due to be abolished for those households with one parent earning more than £42,475. However, the new threshold limit changes announced today by the Chancellor will help families with one parent in employment and earning just over the threshold who would have lost this benefit under previous plans. The introduction of the gradual phase out of child benefit for those earning over £50,000 will also go some way to helping families cope. People often miss out on significant amounts by failing to claim the child tax credit and child benefits due to them. Our latest Tax Action report finds that consumers waste an estimated £401million by not making efficient use of these allowances. We encourage people to review their current situation today to ensure they aren't missing out on what is rightfully theirs. A discussion with an independent financial adviser is a great way to start this process, and you can carry out a free and confidential search at www.unbiased.co.uk.

Simplification of state pensions
"The announcement to simplify basic state pensions is a welcome move for everyone as is the new single tier pension rate set at £140, based on contributions. The simplification is a step in the right direction in helping educate consumers on their pension contributions. Our latest stats reveal the majority of Brits (65%) continue to expect the state pension to provide them with an income in retirement and only 4% expect NEST to form part of their pension income. The start of auto-enrolment will also mark an important change in how we save for our retirement in this country. For the first time, almost the entire working population will automatically be part of a retirement saving scheme, with their employers making an active contribution to that scheme. We would encourage people to use the forthcoming auto-enrolment launch as a reason to think about their retirement options and to consult an independent financial adviser (IFA) to ensure they are making the right choices for themselves.

Help for small businesses:
"With the Chancellor announcing expansion on Enterprise Finance guarantees for small businesses, and corporation tax falling to 24% from 1 April 2012, there is more need than ever for small businesses to seek advice from an accountant or an independent financial adviser. In addition, the credit-easing programme the Chancellor announced yesterday will see £20 billion made available to small businesses over the next two years, marking further good news for small businesses. An accountant or IFA will ensure that small businesses make the most of their tax allowances and assist them in keeping up to speed on the impact of changes to current tax rules. Our recent research tells us there are currently over three in five small business owners using a professional adviser, such as an accountant or an IFA for their business and it is these professionals who can really make a difference to the amount of tax a business pays. With further reductions of 1 per cent per annum in corporation tax expected over the next two years, falling to 23 per cent, the future may be starting to look better for SMEs."

Response To Budget And Relaxation Of Sunday Trading Laws
Retailers could stand to increase sales by £220m thanks to the relaxation in Sunday trading laws during the Olympics, according to Verdict Research estimates.

The temporary change to the law announced in today's Budget will enable longer shopping hours and more opportunity for consumers to spend across eight consecutive Sundays. This will be particularly beneficial during the Olympic period when tourism levels will be high and it will enable increased spending from visitors that are only in the UK for a short time and who would have had their spending opportunities restricted.

While for retailers the costs of opening will have to be weighed up against any anticipated sales boost, some retailers already open their stores for browsing only, over and above the six hours they are limited to selling in, and these will already be staffed so the option of actually selling during that time will no doubt be beneficial. However, in some lower footfall locations it may not be profitable but at least the retailers will have the option to choose.

Smaller retailers that are not currently restricted will be hit though, as they will have to compete with larger retailers throughout the day's trading.

The increasing of the personal tax allowance, also announced in the budget today, will be welcomed by retailers whose customers' disposable incomes are under pressure. However, with fuel inflation still high and no changes to the planned 3p increase in fuel duty in August, consumers' wallets will still be feeling the pinch. Many retailers will be disappointed to see that there is no help in terms of business rates, or a reduction in VAT.

The Budget & Tax Issues By David Pegler, Divisional Director of Brewin Dolphin Brighton
The good news for people and businesses in Sussex is that all the main tax reliefs have been left untouched - so pensions and ISAs continue to be the important investment vehicles they are today. Uncapped tax reliefs generally used in aggressive tax avoidance schemes - that is except charitable giving - will be capped from 2013 at £50,000 or 25% of earned income, whichever the greater.

Brewin Dolphin, with offices in Invicta House, Trafalgar Place, Brighton welcomed the Government's investment and incentives for private sector investment in key industries such as oil, pharmaceuticals and technology that were announced - an especially good Budget for the regions - we expect these to go some way to rebalancing the economy both by sector and geographically.

The cut in corporation tax will benefit those companies with significant exposure to the UK. We expect earnings estimates for the mid-cap companies, which are not as globally diversified as their larger peers, to improve on the bottom line. Overall, a budget that is positive for business, positive for the regions and so should be supportive of equity markets. The gilt market has strengthened although this probably reflects the weakening of Spanish and Italian government bonds, rather than anything which was announced in Westminster today.

If you would like to know more about the Budget and your Investment opportunities , please contact David Pegler at Brewin Dolphin on 0845 213 1190 or email info@brewin.co.uk

e-Zone UK Ltd. Named One of Constant Contact’s 2011 All Stars

e-Zone UK Ltd., specialists in internet marketing, has received the 2011 All Star Award from Constant Contact®, Inc. (NASDAQ: CTCT), the trusted marketing advisor to more than half a million small organisations worldwide. Each year, a select group of Constant Contact customers are honoured with the All Star Award for their exemplary marketing results.e-Zone UK’s results ranked among the top 10% of Constant Contact’s customer base.

e-Zone UK have successfully helped their clients over the past 12 years to improve their business by using the internet in ways that are right for them. Key to achieving that is effective communication and Constant Contact email marketing tools have proven to be very successful in achieving this.

“{{We’re happy to be recognised for the second year by Constant Contact for achieving strong marketing results.}} Constant Contact’s tools have helped our customers achieve better communication enhance their relationships and business effectiveness.” Said Brian Coyle, Marketing Director.

Constant Contact customers using any combination of the company’s Email Marketing, Event Marketing and Online Survey tools are eligible for this award. Constant Contact looked at the following criteria to select this year’s All Stars:

• Frequency of campaigns, events and surveys
• Open, bounce and click-through rates
• Event registration rates
• Survey completion rates
• Use of social features
• Use of mailing list sign-up tools

“There is nothing we like more than to see our customers finding success. It’s the reason Constant Contact was founded and it’s a thrill to see the fantastic results that our All Stars are achieving,” said Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact. “This group is really leading the charge when it comes to delivering relevant, engaging content that drives real business results. We salute this year’s All Stars for their success, and are honoured to have played a part in their achievements.”

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

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PR Guild celebrates new media & communications affiliation with the Royal Navy

The Guild of Public Relations Practitioners is pleased to announce their new affiliation with the Royal Navy’s media & communications division.

Guests will join the launch party to be held on board HMS St Albans today, 21st March. HMS St Albans is the one of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates, often referred to as the backbone of the Fleet because of the wide array of security operations they can conduct. It is currently docked on the Thames near Tower Bridge, alongside HMS Belfast.

The launch event will include a tour of the ship and demonstrations of how the crew operate their ship. A ceremonial cake-cutting will mark the start of the affiliation, with speeches by Commodore Sutton, Head of RN media & comms, and Brian Moore, Master of the Guild of Public Relations Practitioners. The occasion will finish with a ‘Ceremonial Sunset’ – one of the oldest and most poignant Royal Naval ceremonies – which includes the salute and lowering of the White Ensign at the close of the day.

Brian Moore says: “We are honoured to have this affiliation with the Royal Navy Media & Comms division; our experience with the Territorial Army MOG(V) has been exceptionally rewarding and has shown how such relationships can be hugely beneficial and enjoyable. I am thoroughly looking forward to working with Commodore Sutton and his team.”

Commodore Gary Sutton comments: “I am delighted that we have established this affiliation with the prestigious PR Guild, not least because of our shared interests in the importance of effective communication. This is a real opportunity for an exchange of ideas and best practice between us both and we look forward to inviting Guild members to experience something of naval operations and see at firsthand how today’s Royal Navy is protecting our nation’s interests.”

The guest list will include members of the PR Guild and the Royal Navy, with all proceeds of the event going to the PR Guild’s Charitable Trust, which supports charities linked to communication.

In a nod to past traditions, Pusser’s Rum will be donating a few bottles of their Navy rum to help celebrate the event. The Royal Navy’s 350 year tradition of issuing a daily tot of rum came to an end on 13th July 1970, otherwise known as Black Tot Day, when the last rum tot was served.

Conerned about unexpectedly high mobile phone bills? So is Ofcom

On the 1st of March, Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, set out an action plan to tackle the problem of consumers being hit with unexpectedly high phone bills.

After conducting a review into the causes of 'bill shock', it was revealed that as many as 1.4 million mobile phone contract customers were affected in the past 6 months. As a result of the findings Ofcom are now looking to work with those in the mobile industry to address the main issues that were identified.

Andy Steele, Head of Dial Through Services, at cheap international calls company Firstnumber points out: “Ever since the introduction of data roaming and consistently high costs of calling and texting when abroad, countless consumers have fallen victim to high phone bills that were completely unexpected. As suggested by Ofcom, further clarity is vital in order to educate consumers so that the no other person within the UK has to face an alarming shock on receiving their phone bill.”

As covered by the extensive review into 'bill shock' the main causes were identified as:

- Downloading data, primarily while travelling outside the EU, but also when using data in the UK

- Using mobile voice services in the UK, mainly by exceeding inclusive allowances or calling numbers outside of allowances.

- Lost or stolen phones – where the number of consumers affected is low, but the level of financial harm can be substantial.

The plan now set out by Ofcom to protect consumers include the following actions that they believe will solve the problem of unexpectedly high bills. Firstly, to extend EU roaming regulation, encouraging providers to set financial caps, exploring the introduction of maximum liability limits, and to remind providers to make tariffs more transparent.

Andy Steele also stated: “At Firstnumber we promote a high level of transparency to our customers by ensuring there are no hidden costs or subscription fees. Nobody should face high phone bills just for calling friends and love ones regardless of where they are in the world.”

Firstnumber support Ofcom by calling on all telecom providers to educate consumers, increase consumer awareness, and achieve the overall goal of reducing 'bill shock' throughout the UK.

For more information on cheap international calls visit Firstnumber at: www.firstnumber.co.uk

FACTFILE:
Firstnumber.co.uk is an online phone directory offering direct dial access codes that reduce the cost of making international calls from a UK landline. Providing cheap international calls to over 500 countries that include cheap calls to South Africa, South Africa, Germany, France, Italy and many more.

Firstnumber.co.uk was launched in 2004 and is a trading style of Wavecrest.

Contact Details:

First Number / WaveCrest, 1st Floor,
Bishopsgate Court,
4-12 Norton Folgate,
London
E1 6DB
Enquiries: 0870 801 7800

Monday, 19 March 2012

Slash Red Tape To Create Jobs, Chamber Urges Government

Business leaders in the West Midlands have issued a call to the government to make it easier for companies to increase their workforce in the wake of mixed fortunes on the jobs front.

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group (BCCG) said simplification of the initiatives to tackle unemployment would make a significant difference as ONS figures showed there was a slight fall in the number out of work in Birmingham but an increase in the wider Midlands region and the UK.

Michael Ward, president of Birmingham Chamber, said: "With a complex programme of youth contracts, city deals, a work programme and work experience schemes it is no wonder that employers and potential employees are confused about how to help people back into work.

"Employers have businesses to run and haven't the time to plough through the plethora of initiatives and the eligibility for each of them every time they want to recruit someone.

"These may be fine for the large corporate companies, but it is preposterous to think that SMEs and medium-sized businesses have time to get to grips with all of this. The Chamber urges the government to find a way to simplify the routes into the multitude of initiatives and to provide real financial incentives to encourage participation in them."
Birmingham figures showed a small fall in claimants from 52,338 in January to 52,135 in February, a drop of 0.1 per cent. However, in the West Midlands the figure rose from 1,649,190 in January to 1,685,989 in February, an increase of 0.1 per cent. Nationally, unemployment rose by 28,000 to 2.67 million.

Mike Ashton, spokesman for the West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, said: "It is disappointing that the regional figures have risen. Businesses want to play their part, but complex bureaucracy will not motivate them to get on board."

www.birmingham-chamber.com

FACTTFILE:
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group is one of the UK's oldest and largest Chambers. It has nearly 3,000 member companies that employ over 200,000 plus affiliate organisations representing 15,000 people. It offers extensive services to industry and commerce, having served the interests of business for nearly three centuries, promoting trade locally, nationally and internationally.

Members of Birmingham Chamber Group: Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Burton & District Chamber, Chase Chamber, Lichfield & Tamworth Chamber, Solihull Chamber, The Institute of Asian Businesses, British American Business Council and the Chamber Executive Club.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Family business continues to survive recession, thanks to the power of the internet

It is clear how important online marketing is to any business, after all the consumer goes directly to the internet when searching which is why companies have a duty to make themselves visible or risk becoming a needle in a haystack.

Outdoor equipment specialists Taunton Leisure have grabbed online marketing by the horns and as a result have seen business grow substantially…a clear online presence has made all the difference.

“Site visibility in search is key, we all know from strong independent customer feedback that we have the products, prices and service to match and exceed customer expectations but we need to be able to get in front of more customers” Jon Mayo. Taunton Leisure.

Effective online marketing through various avenues including search engine optimisation is the most cost effective and efficient way of improving ranking results and in effect brand recognition and an increase in sales follows; “we were drawn to Caroco because of the SEO work that needed to be done, they have the ability to set out in terms the SEO process and the way that this will help us meet our goals; they have the ability to work with a smaller team to understand the work being undertaken.”

“we’re really pleased to be working with such a reputable firm like Taunton Leisure and aim to help them stay on top and grow thanks to our specialist SEO services” Nigel Copley, Director Caroco Internet Marketing.

With an ever increasing popularity in music festivals, camping and hiking trips quality outdoor equipment, particularly camping equipment is hard to find but with a strong marketing strategy, Taunton Leisure have been able to increase their online presence tenfold proving that online marketing can provide a much needed boost even in a recession.

Fast-growing 848 lures leader from UK telco giant

Former BT executive Chris Ainslie strengthens young team

The 848 Group, the cloud services company behind the ‘Virtual CIO’, today announced the appointment of the experienced sales leader to its rapidly growing team. Chris Ainslie, who is an expert in team management and motivation, has been appointed as a director at the Stafford-based company.

Ainslie joins The 848 Group from BT where he was Managing Director of Global Partners, responsible for sales worth more than £500 million a year. Having previously held senior leadership positions at Energis and HP, he has a wealth of experience in managing transformational programmes, global P&Ls, delivery and sales. The 848 Group has ambitious plans for 2012 after having just been named provider of the Government’s G-Cloud initiative, an area in which Ainslie will play a major role.

With such a breadth of knowledge in sales and technology, Ainslie hopes to bring the expertise gained at such large scale companies to make a real impact to the 848 Group. During his 15 years in the IT sector he has proved his sales prowess with the ability to deliver ambitious results, whilst receiving high ratings of satisfaction among his staff.

A spokesman for The 848 Group said: “We are pleased to have Chris join us at 848 at this exciting time for the business. Cloud service and our ‘Virtual CIO’ offering are driving a lot of growth and we look forward to the ideas and experience that he can bring to the board. As we continue to lead the way in cloud services it is vital that we have have the best team working with us as the UK wakes up to the innovation available from the cloud.”

Chris Ainslie, Non-Executive Director, The 848 Group commented on his new position: “I am incredibly excited about my new role, 848 are at the forefront of Cloud technology, making it available to real clients and capable of fulfilling their needs. There has been so much hype around what Cloud computing could offer and 848 are the first company to really move away from this and start delivering systems that are making a real difference.”

Formed in 2010, The 848 group has established itself as one of the UK's foremost Cloud Computing vendors. They provide advice on how best to exploit the cloud computing phenomenon irrespective of vendor, fad or trend.

848 guides businesses through the process of moving from premise based IT systems to a cloud based solution including cloud solutions for accounts, customer records, email, calendar, document handling and ecommerce. 848 are positioned as the ‘Virtual CIO’ for growing businesses.

NEW REPORT: E-invoicing failing to deliver

UK large enterprises deliver harsh truth as suppliers fail to adopt expensive and inefficient platforms

● 48% of invoices still have to be scanned manually
● Only 8% say their e-invoicing system is very satisfactory
● 57% agree e-invoicing adoption would be widespread if it was free for all suppliers

E-invoicing, long touted as a route to greater financial efficiency for business of all sizes, is still failing to make an impact, according to research released today by Tradeshift. The global study interviewed over 600 senior financial decision makers in larger organisations and found that only 8% are very satisfied with their current e-invoicing solution.

At a time of economic uncertainty - 86% of UK respondents say they are under greater pressure to manage business costs than ever before - the majority of e-invoicing systems aren’t delivering the cost saving benefits many had hoped for. In fact, invoicing is still a major strain for large businesses, with 48% of invoices received still having to be scanned or input manually. On average 40 employee hours each week are spent scanning or manually inputting invoices.

Getting suppliers onboard
The findings of the research are revealed in a new report entitled “A manifesto for the e-invoicing revolution”. It shows that large enterprises are generally very eager to adopt e-invoicing with cost reduction (79%), increased efficiency (77%) and stronger supplier ties (60%) all cited by UK respondents as reasons for making the switch. But, despite the fact that 60% have tried some form of e-invoicing, only 46% of suppliers have used the systems that have been put in place.

Nearly half of UK respondents (41%) said it is difficult to get suppliers to adopt e-invoicing and 36% said it is costly. A quarter (26%) even said that e-invoicing is a financial burden on suppliers. This is particularly problematic, with 47% saying that e-invoicing is pointless without widespread supplier adoption and 57% agreeing that e-invoicing adoption would be widespread if it was free to all suppliers.

Tech savvy finance
On the bright side, the finance department in the enterprise is ready to try new things - especially when it comes to technology. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of finance departments questioned reported that social media functionality is important when communicating with customers and suppliers and nearly half (48%) believe P2P processes will move to the cloud within two years.

Christian Lanng, CEO and co-founder of Tradeshift, believes there is another way: “The enterprise has been let down by e-invoicing providers that punish suppliers for using their systems both in terms of cost and time. There’s nothing stopping the move to free e-invoicing forever but we’re also asking a new question here: once you have this connection with other businesses, what’s next? It is high time that e-invoicing becomes a beneficial solution for businesses of all sizes and can then help usher in a new era of financial - and business - efficiency.”

As part of the report, Tradeshift has issued a manifesto for the e-invoicing revolution:
1. Business is social, so business applications need to be social too
2. Business is built on relationships, relationships are important
3. Technology should serve business, not the other way round
4. E-invoicing should work for the buyer and the supplier
5. Platforms should be open, interoperable and work across borders
6. Data should be easy to access
7. IT issues should not become a stumbling block
8. Financial services should be easy to integrate and offer
9. The business case for e-invoicing adoption should be obvious for all
10. E-invoicing should be about more than just invoicing

Download the manifesto here.