2014 saw some great new developments for Affino. Many of the developments happened outside of the product side, key highlights being growing our revenues by 70%, focusing on the Affino brand so everything about us is now Affino, and growing the team by 50% with great new team members. We also made significant leaps forward within the UK media space, of which we’ll be able to tell and show you much more over the coming months.
Affino’s growing footprint meant that we’ve evolved how we develop and deliver the Affino Service. The main change has been to create two delivery streams, one focused on developing the core Affino platform and a second focused on delivering Affino services and working with our clients to build out their digital businesses. It has taken some effort, but the benefits will be felt by everyone in 2015.
2014 saw the smallest number of Affino releases yet, with just two major releases, however there were 628 update projects covered and Affino’s ability to let you manage your customer relationships has been completely transformed. As usual it has been hard to pick the top ten updates for the year, however the following are the stand-out ones for me.
Although not fully released yet, our main focus for 2014 was again Responsive Design. We have completed the lion-share of the intellectual work behind the new Responsive Design Centre and the new Responsive Page Engine and are now in full-on execution mode. We have multiple responsive design projects under-way and although the new responsive design centre is not available to all, it is being heavily used on a number of projects and live sites. This means that when we do finally release it this year we know it will have a transformative effect.
We’re now in year four of Affino’s transition to responsive design, and at every stage we have decided on the harder but better route for Affino. It means that when we finally do release the responsive design centre publicly it will be world class in it’s performance and ability to deliver the next generation in multi-device optimised sites. You will also be able to run both classic and responsive pages alongside each other meaning that you’re not forced to do a big bang shift, giving you the time to make the most of what is going to be possible.
The second main theme for us in 2014 was the Social CRM. We have looked at and worked on virtually every aspect of managing customer, prospect and community relationships through Affino. We have interviewed multiple companies to see how they manage their customer relationships, and to identify their core requirements and have rolled that all out in the latest CRM Edition of Affino. It is hard to stress just how comprehensive an update this has been over the past year as virtually every element of how you are able to manage contacts and accounts has been transformed.
Key developments include the new CRM navigation which lets you do a smart search through all your contacts and interactions; updated Account and Contact management with smarter insight and conversations; new task management and smarter segmenting; smarter contact import and data acquisition; improved usability throughout and much more. It really has to be experienced to be believed.
One of the biggest single developments in 2014 has been the introduction of the Identified User state. Previously Affino only worked with two user states: Guest and Authenticated user. This meant that either someone was on the site as a guest and Affino didn’t track them as an individual or they were fully logged in and tracked.
The Affino 7.5 release introduced the new Identified user state. This means that Affino will now track users whether they’re logged in or not. Once Affino has identified a user, which can be done through multiple means including anything from a user opening a message through to someone commenting on a blog post, then all the user’s activity can be tracked.
Coupled with the much more powerful Customer Ladder and Conversion Events and the new Conversion Funnel, this transforms the ability for you to see the success of your engagement campaigns and to segment your customers and prospects to best take then to the next level.
We will be building on the Identified User approach considerably in 2015 with the new Engagement and Payment Wall services and new levels of identification, meaning that this will become even more important.
2014 saw yet another round of major updates to Affino’s messaging, in particular around the Messaging Campaigns. We believe we have now finally cracked it. One of the biggest changes has been simply removing all the limitations we had put in place on Message Campaigns. This means it is now far easier to segment and target any group of users within the CRM at any time.
We also made the campaigns and messaging much more flexible so you can now have a campaign which can be a hybrid of SMS, personal and premium messages, mixing automated messages with ad-hoc ones. This makes it far easier to target and communicate with specific segments at the right time.
Much of what makes messaging so much better is down to all the other updates in Affino including Contact Lists which mean that you can create any contact list automatically or ad-hoc; the improved segmentation in the CRM; improved filtering using Conversion Events or simply the enhanced messaging filters such as Job Title. Having the Identified user state means that we can now also track much more effectively the success of any messaging campaign right from initial message send through to all subsequent customer engagements.
We continue to evolve and improve Affino’s accuracy in analysing all on-site and campaign activity. Affino’s unique ability to use first party cookies throughout all engagements means that we can capture 100% of on-site activity. We continue to improve our bot detection with our distributed bot lists, and with the advent of the Identified User state we are now able to capture more of the user engagement than ever before.
Many of the core analysis tools have been updated to provide more in-depth reporting and insight, in particular we have updated all the contact and account related analytics. Affino’s new CRM Analysis tools including the Opportunity, Contract, Billing and Project analysis mean that there is a wealth of charts, reports and tools available to the commercial teams. The Account Report means you can also create client reports of customer activity on-the fly for easy sharing.
The new Channel Groups and updated Site Analysis means that you can now segment your site at will and track activity by categories of pages, individual microsites and different types of engagement.
Conversion Funnels finally come to Affino and they’re a killer feature. We’re especially happy with our implementation which lets you target contacts at any stage of the funnel, in particular contacts who have gotten stuck at any specific level. The introduction of CRM and Messaging Campaign specific conversion events means that it is possible to easily create conversion funnels across all direct sales and marketing activity.
We introduced a much simpler way to set up Channels in Affino. This means that when you’re creating a Blog you now simply go to add a Blog and Affino guides you to the key settings screens you need to update. It also selects wherever possible the relevant display templates and delivers much faster performance. The single best element of this update is that in one stroke there are now hundreds fewer questions you’ll need to ask when setting up an Affino site from scratch.
We’ve introduced some clever but pervasive updates to how you are able to segment your customer base. This starts right at the top with the new ability to segment and filter Accounts, so you can for example create a report of all the fishing contacts you haven’t spoken with in the last quarter and then create a Contact List for them. Using the Contact List you can create a campaign and conversion funnel to target them effectively.
We wrapped up a big update on all the imports, which means that not only are they up to 100 times faster than they used to be historically, but we now have field level error handling meaning that if any specific value on any row is incorrect then we will import all the other records and simply notify you of the specific errors.
The great thing with Affino’s service performance in 2014 was that where we had issues they were easily resolved, and those issues were few and far between. Affino gracefully scaled up to clients running campaigns to 100 million users, which is a phenomenal result as it was all handled automatically.
When sites move to the fully responsive version of Affino you will notice just how much faster the new Responsive engine is, a great example is IMRG’s Eretail Benchmarking Site. By completely re-writing all the display code from scratch for the responsive engine we’re seeing performance improvements of up to 1,000% for page rendering times, so we have no doubt everyone will be delighted when they eventually switch over.