Happy New Year all! Please find the following overview of 2019 which focuses on the progress we have made across the Affino unified business platform. We have also referenced some milestones around our enhanced service delivery and support.
2019 was a year where we invested heavily in moving forward the Affino SaaS service, and growing the Affino team and Affino’s capacity to deliver projects faster and more effectively. The three primary areas where we grew and developed the team were for support, training and development.
Additionally we evolved the consultancy and project service delivery extensively by adding people and expertise to the team. When taken together the Affino team have delivered more training sessions, answered more support threads, and actively participating in more events than in any previous year.
We moved the Affino SaaS service to the latest generation AWS (Amazon Web Services) infrastructure and for all the underlying platforms on which it operates. This has been a transformative exercise which has led to a 99% reduction in stress and scaling incidents. It also means that the average Affino page is delivered around 30% faster than on the previous technology,
This is on top of the immense speed gains from 2018. It’s been great to have such as fast and stable service with very high uptime for clients, many seeing 100% uptime over the year. Behind the scenes we rolled out a new generation monitoring platform and embraced serverless architectures for 80% of our service delivery. Taken together we have had less than a handful of major incidents all year across all clients, and a consistently high customer satisfaction levels with the fast and reliable service performance.
We delivered on all of our key priorities this year, with further major improvements in the upcoming Subscriptions release. The top four priorities of performance, management experience, more usable data and CRM saw major enhancements throughout the year. We reviewed all the key management screens in Affino and added actionable intel throughout, putting key stats where people are working, e.g. content engagement panels within articles, topic analytics when listing out topics, dozens of enhancement to contact and count listings with new and enhanced filters and the ability to define the data listed.
In fact Actionable Intelligence has been a focus throughout the year for Affino, surfacing essential data and then providing the ability to add contacts to target lists, or analyse across accounts and content to see which organisations are most engaged across a range of factors and data points, and which content is the most engaging over time, along with who is actively engaging with it.
Affino’s directory services made the biggest leap forward with the introduction of edition, product and account (company) based directories, and the evolution of contact directories. This means that you now have multiple new ways to grow your reputation marketing service offerings.
We re-introduced reviews into Affino with a new powerful review platform, and polished up Affino’s events, awards, ad campaign and CRM to bring capabilities up to industry standards and in many cases exceeding them.
Two areas which we have invested the most in the past six months are about to be transformed in the upcoming Subscription and Membership release. These are subscription and commercial management services which are each seeing over a dozen major enhancements, including advanced subscription automation both on the sales and renewal sides, with tight integration with Stripe and GoCardless. There will also be new ways to promote, present, gift, fulfil (on print as well as digital) and report on subscriptions in a way that is market leading, especially when coupled with the class leading media business services already provided by Affino.
We can’t wait to share with you the new service updates we have planned for Affino in 2020. If you have any questions reading any item covered in this review or anything else then please get in touch with us, we would love to hear from you!
Below is a much more in-depth look of all the key updates we’ve delivered over the past year, broken down into key areas, and intended as a useful reference for you to see what’s evolved in each area over the past year, rather than a single read:
Key Priorities for 2019 were
- Management Experience
- More Usable Data
- Message Campaigns
- Subscriptions (inc Commerce)
- Keywords and Targeting
We delivered and are about to deliver great updates on each of the first six, and will be working to deliver fully on the seventh in the upcoming year.
- 9 Releases
- 1,017 User Stories
We have delivered on over 1,000 user stories this past year. It is down on previous years, even though we’ve grown the team, and is because we’ve been delivering on a host of great new features to address many of the hardest subscription challenges in the upcoming January 8.0.20 release we kept till the new year.
Platform & Performance | Design | Events | Publishing | Promotion | Social & CRM | Subscriptions | Commerce | Analysis | APIs & Exports | Other Major Enhancements
Platform & Performance
- We migrated Affino SaaS to the latest generation of the application stack, and Amazon AWS services.
- New Generation App Stack
- Up to 30% Faster
- 99% fewer scaling incidents
- New Generation Secure Hosting Service
- Improved defence and DDoS protection
- New Search Service
- Fast and resilient search service
- Affino Monitor
- Major new Affino monitoring service, for faster alerts and diagnosis of any customer technical and usage issue.
- This year saw hundreds of design tweaks and improvements throughout Affino. There was no Big Bang here but we did update every design element over the year, which means that every Affino site looks better and more consistent across all devices.
- We also introduced (and are about to introduce) some key new templates to Affino with great new functionality.
- Design Elements (New)
- Contact/Account Related DE
- New Design Element which displays content related to the Contacts and Accounts within the Prime Content Article.
- Design Objects
- We’ve introduced an improved approach to hiding rows.
- Design Styles
- We have considerably extended design styles so that it is possible to style meta data, image captions, and intros uniquely; you can also set a separate Bold colour and define all these uniquely for each breakpoint.
- Templates (New)
- Account Listing and Detail
- New Accounts listing and detail for Company Directories.
- Product Detail (advanced)
- New Advanced Product template with more product detail options, supplier showcasing, and ability to customise and link to 3rd party sites in the upcoming Affino release.
- Editions Listing and Detail
- New Editions listing and detail templates for showcasing your editions, featuring content, contacts, companies and more.
- New Promotion channel for promoting multiple different subscription, membership and special offers in the upcoming Affino release.
- Reviews Detail
- A new channel type coming in the upcoming Affino release means that it is now possible to add distinct Topic channels which list out the Content / News topics, and showcase how many articles of each are present.
- We delivered a host of essential Awards management updates, introduced new advanced seminar capabilities, and transformed Affino’s ability to present event related directories.
- Awards saw a host of updates which added up to a major set of improvements, including: greatly improved Attendee search and filtering with new date range filters; new category summary for each Awards entry for the judges; the ability to re-open awards at any time; and making it possible to move entries to similar award categories.
- Affino now also automatically updates contact records to add in missing information for identified attendees.
- Event Credits
- New event credits system which provides a simple approach for members to sign up for events (without having to go through the checkout).
- This is particularly useful for member events where you can now simply assign event credits the accounts and they can be drawn down against each event according to your preferences.
- New advanced seminar presentation, with seminar grid as well as listing options, ‘send me my agenda’ for logged in and logged out users, smart agenda builder, and enhanced presenter profiles
- See Publishing for events related company, contact and product / services directories.
- Major updates for creating, managing, presenting and analysing how content is used. New content types including Accounts, Reviews and Editions.
- It is now possible to publish company and organisation directories with content and contact highlights.
- You can now have multiple authors on each article (and display content related to these authors); it is also possible to have information only article attributes which are just displayed on the Control side.
- Articles Report
- Article Attributes
- We have added Account, Account Type, Contact, Date and Text article attributes to Affino, initially for Reviews with the plan to roll out to more content types in the future.
- New Generation of managed Affino Directory Services
- We introduced a host of new directory offerings to Affino including: Company Directories, Edition Directories, and Product Directories, as well as enhancing the Contact Directories. These can be used in a host of ways from industry directories, through to product and service directories and for hosting Top X lists for individuals, companies, services and more.
- Each of these is fully integrated into Affino and cross promotional, so Contacts can be showcased in editions, any number of specific lists, and within companies; and products can be showcased within their own dedicated directory, their service provider and across the site.
- In each case we have either introduced a new listing or extended existing ones to provide improved directory support. We have also introduced new or enhanced Detail templates to best showcase each individual company, individual, edition or product / service.
All items are easy to manage and promote.
- Greatly improved Editions (formerly Print Products) to improve their utility
- We have re-introduced reviews (in the upcoming release) to Affino as a completely new content format. Reviews support both a reviewer and audience ratings. They have extensive styling and gallery options, and can feature a host of criteria for each review.
- We have also re-introduced star ratings to Affino. It is possible to enhance the impact of each review by applying backgrounds to steps, including parallax scrolling on the background for a complex mix of imagery and effect.
- Site Search
- New generation site search, with faster results, aspected filtering and combined contact, account and content search.
- We rolled out a new generation predictive dropdown on the search which highlights contacts, and accounts as well as content.
- We have also updated the Scoped (Section) Search, to use the new search engine, greatly improving the performance and results.
- WYSIWYG Editing
- We’ve introduced the latest generation TinyMCE 5 WYSIWYG editor, and along the way introduced support for using the editor on mobile.
- Along with the enhanced editing capabilities, we’ve enabled aspects such as images on messages and colours throughout.
- Major updates throughout Affino’s promotion centre, including more powerful campaigns, improved message sending and analysis, content marketing, promotion, and social sharing.
- Affino now captures and provides analysis for impressions served and impressions viewed. This helps you to best shape your page designs and campaigns to ensure the highest levels of viewability and deliverability on campaigns.
- We have further refined how campaigns are prioritised and targeted within Affino to ensure the highest delivery rates for each campaign.
- We completely re-wrote the underlying data handling in Campaign Analysis to greatly improve the usability and consistently of the analytics. We also added more analysis export options, and the ability to hide viewability stats on the on-screen reporting.
- Affino also surfaces a great deal more information on the status and effectiveness of campaigns, which means you can quickly get a feel for the overall campaign performance from the listings. The new Topic analysis provides further insight into the projected performance and underlying content and audience for each campaign.
- Conversion Events
- It is now possible to trigger events when permissions are granted and revoked. Very useful for complex permission based workflows.
- Affino also provides more intel and context on how engaged the audience is with each activity at a glance.
- Message Analysis
- We made some major updates on Affino’s reach and messaging analysis for improved consistency and transparency.
- Message Campaigns
- It is now possible to group message campaigns, e.g. around events or specific promotions. It is also possible to upload images directly on the message template screen.
- We have introduced enhanced bounce handling, and prepared a lot of the groundwork for a major message campaign update.
- Product Promotions
- New Promotion channel for promoting multiple different subscription, membership and special offers. Makes it easy to set up tailored landing pages for any number of promotions, as well as the core subscription and membership offerings.
- We have made a host of improvements to Affino’s auto-generated sitemap, providing more relevant data to the search engines and sending through more items, especially contacts and companies than previously. We have also further refined the on-page meta data for better discoverability.
- Coupled with the accessibility, page size, page speed, enhanced templates and design elements, these add up to significant improvements on Affino’s SEO and content discovery side.
- Social Sharing
- We’ve added more smarts to social sharing, including improved support for Facebook and What’sApp as well as ecards.
Social & CRM
- Transformed customer relationship management with major enhancements across the entire CRM to better manage all aspects of customer management, support and sales workflows.
- In practice we reviewed all the CRM screens in Affino this year and made dozens of usability improvements throughout the CRM to better surface insight and intel wherever possible.
- Account (firm) Directory
- New Account Directory search, listing and detail
- This is an advanced multi-tabbed directory with advanced profiles.
- Accounts (CRM)
- Major updates throughout Affino’s Account management with new fast actions; many more listing options; improved insight, search, sorting and filtering.
- Accounts Report
- Comments & Ratings
- Affino supports star ratings as well as likes now, with the stars available on most of the key design elements.
- Contacts (Display)
- Contact Directory
- Enhanced Contact Directory search, listing and detail
- Contact Listing DE
- Enhanced to better showcase contacts.
- Contact (CRM)
- Advanced Topic Filtering
- We’ve introduced new advanced topic filtering with the option to use AND and OR logic on a simple filter, and a new free-form topic filter supporting complex AND, OR and Exclude statements.
- Contact Lists
- Major updates to contact lists including options to select which contact information columns are listed (with a host of new columns options); multiple new filters for analysing each list; Tasks ands Notes are now focused on each list; tighter list security; and new Accounts tab which highlights which companies are featured in each list.
- Contact Note Import / Export
- Great new Contact Note Import when migrating to the Affino CRM
- We improved the contracts management to minimise the chance of human error with a host of new automations including: the pre-filling of data wherever possible, pre-filtered lookups, and adding a new Default Invoicing Contact on accounts.
We have also significantly improved the contract renewal tracking through the renewal cycle.
- Affino now shows the Contacts, Accounts and Opportunities titles on browser tabs, with the specific item being shown so that it’s clear on the browser tab when you have multiple tabs open, e.g. instead of simply saying Contact it now shows the appropriate contact name on each tab. Greatly improves usability .
- It is now possible to present the login directly on the metering limit notification so users can quickly log in.
- On Page Feedback
- We’ve transformed the On Page Feedback analysis which now provides greatly improved insight right from the listing.
- We have added a host of opportunity workflow enhancements to make them easier to manage and export, and to improve on renewal opportunity workflows.
- Affino now features Opportunities on contact records (as well as accounts).
- Transformed Subscription and Membership management, with advanced subscription promotion, sales, renewal automation, and reporting.
- New option to gift subscriptions when making an e-commerce purchase. It is possible for the user to delay the subscription start. Fully supported by renewal automation and subs reporting.
- Payment Automation
- Advanced initial and renewal payment automation for subscriptions and memberships with Stripe and GoCardless payment gateway providers.
- See commerce for more details
- Product Promotions
- See Promotions for a dynamic new way to promote your subscription and membership offerings.
- Renewal Notices (Print)
- Print Renewal Notices for subs with upcoming expiries. Generates the actual PDF notices for upcoming expiring subs, and uses the user export to export the list of names / addresses to go with it.
- Renewal Options
- Advanced options to automate renewal items when upgrading or introducing replacement subscription options.
- Subscription Statuses
- Greatly improved subscription status automation and management (including colour coding), with tight orders integration, and smarter identification and reporting of renewal and lapsed status.
- Stop Codes
- New Subscription Stop Code management, with advanced ecommerce stop code automation detection and reporting
- We have continued to refine Affino’s ecommerce capabilities across the board. Taken together these transform the subscriptions sales, buying, and renewal experience.
- Some of these enhancements are game changing, whilst others refine and improve on buying workflows.
- The upcoming subscription release brings all of these together for a next generation subscription and membership service.
- Subscriptions and Memberships bought through ecommerce can now be cancelled directly from the My Account screens (optional).
- Greatly improved checkout process and added streamlined subscription and membership buying, as well as the support for gifting subscriptions.
- It is now possible to tightly control what payment method is used for each product, e.g. to sell direct debit subscriptions at a lower price point.
- There is a new ‘straight to checkout’ option, so that when buying items it’s now possible to either add them to the basket or go straight to the checkout.
- Catalogue Groups / Subscription Checkout
- We have introduced Catalogue Groups which let you group together similar subscription options, e.g. with different timeframes, payment methods, and pricing, and let the user easily switch between them on the checkout.
- Added ability to set the Zone for each order, this way users can click through to the relevant My Account on the invoice.
- Affino now automatically tracks previous orders for automated subscription renewals.
- Payment Gateways
- Added extended support for payment gateways
- New support for the Stripe payment gateway for credit and debit card payments, with subscription support, including cancellations, stop codes, coupons, and tax codes.
- Direct Debit payment gateway with subscription support, including cancellations, updates etc.
- Permission-based Ecommerce
- We have added a new ability to set purchase permission requirements on each catalogue item being sold online.
- Pro Formas / Orders / Order Line Items
- Major enhancements for Pro Forma Orders and Orders, including search, renewals, messaging, status awareness and filtering.
- Order Line Items
- It is now possible to see individual item purchases, Order Line Items, on the commerce tab for each of: Accounts, Contacts and Contact Lists.
- Pro Forma Orders
- We’ve added the ability to select the Store Profile on each Pro Forma so you can sell from multiple stores at the same time.
- 3rd Party Referrals
- It is now possible to refer products to 3rd party URLs.
- Hide from Listing
- New option so that products can be featured in promotions and Pro Formas without being included in any on-site product listings.
- It is now possible to have different labels appear on the top right of the main product image (one per product).
- We have updated Supplier management so that it now uses the core Accounts rather than a dedicated Supplier listing.
- Related Up-sell Products and Related Products added so that it’s possible to promote higher level products when displaying products.
- Actionable Intelligence
- We have made a big leap forward with Actionable Intelligence in Affino. This is intelligence that can immediately be used to influence how you interact with contacts, accounts, and your audience, and to identify what your most successful content and campaigns are.
- We have added smarts to every aspect of Affino’s CRM, campaigns, topics, content, sales and marketing automation and indeed throughout Affino this year. Here are some of the highlights.
- Accounts Report
- The Accounts Report lets you compare and contrast all key account based activity on Affino.
- It provides a unified Accounts report across CRM, site, event and awards, commercial, message campaigns and the sales and marketing automation, all in a single report.
- Articles Report
- New report that empowers you to compare the performance, and reach of each article, or sets of articles, against similar ones by timeframe, topic, channel and more.
- Audience Analysis
- New Audience Analysis dashboard providing the key long term audience growth trends and detailed reports with a breakdown and listing of new audience members, with the ability to add any segment to any contact list.
- Greatly enhanced Audit, now lets you track individual and account activity in more detail. It is fully integrated with Accounts and Contacts and provides far more in-context information, and improved filtering.
- Crucially it is now possible to use the Audit to instantly create groups of users who have recently participated in any activity.
- Content Analysis
- We’ve introduced a new Analysis panel on all Channels, Sections and Articles. It means that you get all the key stats for each item of content right within the editor, including page view, trends, referrers, and recent viewers and company views.
- Crucially you can instantly add these contacts to any contact list.
- Search Analysis
- Added contact and account level search analysis, with additional info on each search interaction.
- We have transformed the level of insight you now get from topics, including how much content there is around each topic, how many accounts and contacts are engaged with each topic, and the trending views, events, and campaign impressions for each topic.
APIs & Exports
- We formally released the new CRM and User APIs last year. Both are fully GDPR compliant and provide secure, reliable syncing and authentication.
- We also made dozens of improvements to Affino’s imports and exports throughout the year.
- CRM API
- The CRM API is for syncing Accounts (companies) and Contacts (all types) between Affino and 3rd party systems with a host of methods. The API is a lightweight RESTful one with tight security management.
- User API
- The User API is focused on authenticating users through Affino for 3rd party app / site access, providing basic user details, permissions, security clearances, subscriptions, and feedback. The API is a lightweight RESTful one with tight security management.
- Affino now supports CSV and TSV exports on select exports, including the Account, Article, Article Step, User and ABC Log exports.
Other Major Enhancements
- Behind the scenes, we made a host of updates to improve Affino’s accessibility. In practice we found this area to be somewhat political with many advocates outlining the downsides of some accessibility aspects, and major limitations within many browsers which mean that they frequently handle key accessibility scenarios differently (or not at all). As such, our focus was very much on the clearcut enhancements we could make to Affino.
- To make the most of these each site owner will need to review their site(s) as a lot of the issues flagged are down to design and content choices made on each individual site and separate from Affino.
- Bot Tracking
- We’ve added a new layer of bot tracking detection to Affino, and greatly improved the behavioural tracking aspects. We’ve also tied this closely with the Top Visits and Audit screens so that you can track report suspicious bot-like behaviour to Affino. This means your stats are now even more accurate than before.
- We’ve further integrated with 3rd party bot tracking services for faster bot classification and identification.
- Geo Tracking and Targeting
- We added IPv6 support to Affino’s Geo Tracking and Targeting
- GDPR, Privacy & Security
- There were minor updates this year to continue our focus on GDPR and privacy. We secured all mailing list subscriber accounts, setting them to private so that they simply can’t be surfaced on the live site; and we made it possible to secure contact lists.
- Updated User Export to include Permissions and Preferences, and extended the CRM API with new Permission methods.
- We have further locked down Affino across the board to reduce the attack surface on Affino and your data.
- Page Optimisation
- We shrunk Affino pages considerably this year for faster delivery and improved caching.