Identifying and Defending Against Ransomware Hacking


Ransomware is a type of illegal software that is used to block a businesses digital systems, preventing it from conducting business-as-usual. Hackers, or digital mafia, use these ransomware software to hold individuals and businesses to ransom. An independent global survey of IT and cyber security professionals found that over 80% of businesses were attacked by ransomware in 2021, and that over 60% of these businesses paid the ransom demanded. Double-extortion ransomware is another form of hacking and business ransoming that removes data from a businesses files. These files are then encrypted, and hackers ‘sell’ the files back to the business through a ransom. Businesses who refuse the ransom face the threat of the data being released. Reputation is increasingly at stake for businesses holding valuable and private data. According to Heimdal Security, only 65% of businesses actually recover their data after paying the ransom. Ransomware attacks are not only prevalent and evolving, but they are also on the increase.


Who Are the Hackers?

Analysis by the BBC showed that 74% of ransomware attacks profits in 2021 was linked to Russia-based hackers. In fact, in 2021 more than $400 million worth of crypto-currency were paid in ransom payments into Russia alone. But external ransomware threats are sadly not the only kind of threat facing businesses when it comes to security ransoms. Internal security attacks are becoming increasingly frequent, where those within an organisation hold a business to ransom through their infrastructure.


Collective Response

Now more than ever, there is a growing desire to protect against and combat ransomware attacks, by businesses and individuals. Infrastructure security is evolving, but not all businesses can evolve and invest in this more defensive manoeuvre to the same level. This leaves some businesses more exposed than others. When hacking is an easy and profitable source of income, it only serves to encourage more and greater targets. What is clear, is that for the collective good, knowledge sharing between businesses is key. Ransomware attacks and defence require a collective approach, for the communal good.



Identifying and Defending Against Cyber Threat

The Government provides basic advice on how to prevent cyber attacks by reducing overall exposure. This includes educating users on what to look for in a potential security hack and adopting malware and password protections. Their advice is that to prevent an attack in the earlier stages through the adoption of security softwares is a much better investment that having to face a full-blown ransomware hack. In the UK, the average ransom cost of such an attack is between £600,000 and £1,150,0000 for businesses.

The Financial Times suggests “that small, and seemingly innocuous holes or glitches in corporate IT networks and management policies can become the gateways to much bigger disasters”, Nicole Perlroth. For example, the failure to close an email account for a terminated employee was enough for a key US energy company to be afflicted by a cyber hack. Good ‘housekeeping’ and clear business policies and processes can help to prevent these holes that can allow malware and ransomware into a business. Three easy steps for businesses to take is to ensure two-factor authentication is used, passwords must regularly be changed, and employees are regularly educated on the latest email phishing scams to avoid clicking the links of. Cyberark reports that since COVID-19, malicious emails to businesses have increased by over 600%. The likelihood of an employee opening a door to such an attack inadvertently has never been higher, and these attacks are growing ever more sophisticated.


It Often Starts as You'd Expect

Phishing emails are one of the first signs of a ransomware attack. These suspicious emails often have attachments, and are something for businesses and employees to look out for. Network scanners and active directory networks are also potential channels for infiltration. Microsoft Process Explorer is often a way for hackers to steal login credentials, so can also be another sign for identifying and channel for defending against ransomware hacks. The removal of a security software can be another early sign of an impending attack - and to raise the alert. Hackers can also ‘test hack’ businesses before they launch a full scale attack. So businesses and employees should be educated to identify small breaches to the system in the anticipation of a potential full ransomware attack.

And sometimes, taking your eye off the ball due to an apparent 'it isn't broken, so don't fix it' mentality when using external systems such as a website platform like Adobe Commerce (previously Magento) is very risky. Too many took too long to move from an older grandfathered version and left themselves open to a large scale attack.

Cyberark also suggests reframing business emergency preparedness to ensure that cyber threats are treated as inevitable, rather than just a possibility. This can help to ensure that businesses invest in preventative measures and take cyber threats more seriously. High value targets for double extortion ransom attacks, such as the NHS, typically spend a very small percentage of their budget on such preventative measures. But with the costs of such high profile attacks costing as much as £40,000,000 in one ransom, the preventative security measures are increasingly vital.



Ransomware hacking is already rife, and becoming increasingly so. The means by which hackers are infiltrating businesses are becoming increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect. But there are some small warning signs to look out for, and actions for businesses and employees to take that can prevent a glitch from becoming a full scale breach. The global economy is hugely impacted by such attacks, and as a business community it is important to educate and knowledge-share to forewarn and forearm against malicious cyber threats.

Post Pandemic Shopping Behaviours Are Changing

eCommerce Market

In the USA alone, pandemic shopping saw the eCommerce market grow by over $219 billion. According to new data released by Adobe, channels within eCommerce that were adopted by shoppers during the pandemic (such as clothing, grocery, homeware etc) have maintained their levels post-pandemic.

This indicates that our buying behaviours have been changed for the longer term. Ease of shopping experience has remained vital, and the need for this has stuck. During the first wave of the global pandemic, these shopping behaviours saw a shift from completion on mobile to more completion on desktops.

But as the pandemic has passed, though the preference for eCommerce remains, the shift back to mobile is being noticed.

Klarna recently released a report that surveyed over 18,000 consumers in over 13 different countries. We look through it and see just how much things are changing.


Mobile Shopping Resurgence

Not only is the switch back to mobile resurging, but it has also overtaken its pre-pandemic usage rates. Some 9 in 10 UK consumers admit to using their phones to compare prices (90%) and look for the best deals or price promotions (94%), while 8 in 10 (78%) use them to search for shopping inspiration.

Image Credit: Klarna Insights

Shopping apps are becoming increasingly common, more than half of consumers (60%) have between one and five shopping apps installed on their device, although it is debatable whether this represents the best experience for users over the longer term.

The number of mobile apps people use regularly is on the decline, with the preference for marketplaces being favoured over single-branded commerce applications. 63% of UK consumers would prefer to have a single app that incorporates all aspects of their shopping journey, with 8 in 10 (79%) saying this would simplify their shopping experience.

These trends are also being seen across all generational age brackets - not just the Gen Z and Millennials.


Mobile Payments

Virtual cards are also on the rise, along with mobile banking and secure checkouts. Faster, more efficient checkout processes are an expectation of the modern mobile consumer. Anonymous shopping, secure shopping and insured transactions further strengthen the virtual payment offering.

Image Credit: Klarna Insights



Behaviours can change quickly. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and all the governmental restrictions that follow, and behaviours can change at scale very quickly. For brands with the expectation that these behaviours would naturally bounce back, consideration must be made for how certain habits have stuck and become preferred as the new norm.

Mobile shopping habits plummeted and resurged during the pandemic, but beyond the resurgence certain key elements of mobile shopping have changed. Types of experiences, purchases, pathways, and activities have fundamentally changed.

Image Credit: Klarna Insights

Arming yourself with the knowledge and the know-how to use these changes to your advantage is key to brands maintaining and improving upon their eCommerce successes post-pandemic.

What is Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

It can take years to become fully fluent in an area of expertise like Google Analytics. So, understandably, it can be frustrating for analytics to find that things have changed, and skills must be relearned. Such is the case with Google Analytics 4, or GA4. On the upside however, the promise of new features and functionality offer the potential for more optimised and informed decision making. And when used with a strong Google Search strategy it can really drive your business, especially ecommerce, into a data driven place.

This article explores the 7 key features and updates of GA4, including predictive analytics, custom reporting, event tracking, conversion tracking, customisable automated table, anomaly detection and audience segmentation.


Advanced Features

In Google Analytics 4, the dial has really been turned up on machine learning and artificial intelligence. For example, once purchase events are set up on a retailers website, GA4 will automatically start creating predictive audiences based on a site's real user behaviours. This gives retailers detailed insights on the purchase behaviours (or churn) on particular product lines from their own user base. Now, some might argue that this already exists and that many retailers already apply this technology to their websites, which is true. The big benefit with GA4 is that it is offered entirely free - making access to such technology more equitable for businesses of varying size wishing to grow.

What is now evolved into custom reports, was once known as custom dashboards. But this earlier iteration did not include the creation of tables or visualisations for cohorts, paths, funnels, and segments to improve audience insights. These reports can now be exported or downloaded in PDF or excel form.

Automatic and enhanced event tracking allows businesses to easily and automatically track events, allowing for greater inhouse visibility and capability. New events can easily be created within the Google Analytics 4 platform for any events that have not been previously set up. Per property, you have a quota of up to 300 events - which is significant and rather generous. Conversion tracking is even simpler, by simply togging on a particular event as a conversion, you automatically begin tracking that event as a conversion. Deleting unwanted conversion tracking is just as simple. In earlier versions, up to 20 conversions were available for tracking, but in GA4 this has increased to accommodate 30 conversion events.

As with event and conversion tracking, customising automated tables is no new concept. But previously, it was tricky to do. Earlier versions of analytics also limited the addition of dimensions to two. In Google Analytics 4, any of the data in the reports can be customised. Any number of dimensions and metrics can be manipulated and also saved to ensure your style of reporting is remembered each time you need it.

Anomaly detection is when Google presents feedback when a particular action on your site was predicted, but failed to occur. This detection system relies on their artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies. A failure to achieve a predicted goal of £5,000 of sales of a particular product in one day is an example of such an anomaly. Essentially, Google is highlighting significant events to you based on their algorithmic calculations. This makes reporting and actioning change simpler for businesses to manage themselves. GA4 also puts you in charge of setting the sensitivity levels for the anomaly detection, to fit your risk and significance preferences.

Finally, you can now build audience segments for one-time use. Previously, audience segments had to be created and saved - which was a frustration for many. Now in Google Analytics 4 the comparisons tool on the reporting page allows for one-time-use audience segmentation. You can still create audience segments to save and store in the configuration section or explorations section, but this is no longer a necessary step.


Take a look under the hood

The team at Google put together this walkthrough of the Google Analytics 4 User Interface so that once you've made the switch you'll be fully prepared with what you'll see upon entering. It's worth spending a little time giving it a watch so that you can hit the ground running.


If analysts can put the frustrations of significant interface and functionality change to one side, they will soon see that there is plenty in GA4 to get excited about. There are a number of key features and updates such as predictive analytics, custom reporting, event tracking, conversion tracking, customisable automated table, anomaly detection and audience segmentation, that will make for improved data-backed decision making.

What Happens When You Ignore Your Customers and Define Your Own Journey?

Necessary or Not?

Customer experience and ‘experience journeys’ are very topical in business at present. The common vein running through expert opinions is that a central focus on experience is key to good business practice. Understandably, it can get confusing when it comes to deciding upon whose advice to heed on achieving this in practice. Knowing your customers and giving them what they want is the crux of this philosophy. But what if you were to ignore all of the advice? What happens then? We take a look at some examples of when big brands have gone against the experience advice and how it panned out for them.

Is Ignorance Bliss?

If you are considering going against the grain, you’re not the first. Remember that Snapchat update? Its aim was to improve navigation and user journeys - but it didn’t include any user research. Changes included how stories were categorised, with friends, celebrities, brands and media messages being separated out instead of presented as one combined interface. Further changes also affected how content was presented on users timelines, where previously content was displayed chronologically, the updated version displayed content based on interaction levels.


The intent? Good. The result? Disastrous.

Snapchat stock lost $1.3 billion after Kylie Jenner, one of the most influential celebrities on the platform, tweeted about her frustrations with the changes. They lost 3 million daily users after this tweet.

A petition on was created by Snapchat fans to remove the app redesign, which achieved over 1.2 million signatures. But the response from Snapchat executives? They stuck to their guns. They believed that the update was necessary to expand Snapchat's user base. They insisted that the previous app design was confusing, and that this old format underserved older users and advertisers. In fact their CEO stated "Snap is doing the right strategic moves but needs to manage this process well".



Ambition Isn’t Enough

Facebook recently rebranded to Meta, in its unwavering belief that the future of the internet is in the Metaverse. But what if it’s wrong? What if people don’t want the Metaverse? Tidio recently released a survey showing that 77% of the sample population believes that the Metaverse will prove harmful to its users. Common concerns centred around addiction to the simulated virtual world (46%), privacy issues (41%), and mental health (41%). So early indicators would suggest that public opinion does not fall in favour of the move by Meta to push for such a future.

Facebook is dead - it just doesn’t know it yet”.

- Jared Brock
Image Credit: Jared A Brock.

Still, Meta executives show such steadfast dedication to a future that users say they do not want. Their new values of “move fast”, “build awesome things” and “live in the future” seemingly enable this worrying trajectory. Do we need to live any faster? Do we really need to be more immersed in technology? Do we really believe that living in the future is in the best interests of the end user?


Resistant, or Just Plain Wrong?

Resistance to change is a part of human behaviour. And most effective user experience iterations, though positive evolutions overall, begin with a bit of resistance to the change. But then how is it possible to know when users are genuinely and unfalteringly against change? How can brands tell the difference between fear of change, versus a true hate for the update? Brands can be ambitious and also balance their users' needs and include them on such journeys of change - instead of leaving them behind. Brands must also consider the impact of big bold changes on their user base. Changes to customer experience journeys are almost always best introduced in small, iterative steps. This helps to navigate through the inevitable resistance to change from current users, whilst gently and unthreateningly introducing them to new and improved features in a more piecemeal fashion. According to The Drum, only 31% of people surveyed confidently think they know what the Metaverse is. The majority had little to no understanding of the concept, or what it offers. Meta seems to be missing a bit of a trick here. Why not include their users on their journey?



Not all brands follow best practice when it comes to user-focused customer experience journeys. Snapchat and Meta are two brands that have seemingly boundless resources with which to research their user base, and experiment with new methods. Despite this advantageous market position, they too are capable of getting things wrong. A bit of gut instinct is usually no bad thing. But a whole lot of it (without any actual user input) can be disastrous. Favourable share prices, user bases and reputations can be swiftly undone when brands fail to serve the needs of the customer. The lesson? Don’t be afraid to try new things, but include your users on that journey. Listen to them. Make small changes and take small steps. Don’t shove your new gospel down their throats. Because if they don’t like it, trust us, they ain’t buying it.

What are NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens?

What are NFTs?

A non-fungible token is a unit of data, or an internet file, stored on a blockchain. For those still scratching their heads, blockchain, simply put, is a platform where you can create and distribute such content in a way that minimises the chances of hacking, cheating the system, or duplication of your precious intellectual property. On these blockchain ‘digital ledgers’, such files can be sold and traded. Common types of NFTs are photos, videos, and audio.

If you are wondering why this is such a big deal - because you already share photos, videos, and audio files on the internet - you are not alone. Why is labelling them as NFTs any different? Essentially, instead of internet and ad companies owning, profiting from, and controlling the content you share on their platforms, owning the NFT file means you own the rights to it. You can protect the work you create.

As Kayvon Tehranian puts it, “NFTs are a certificate of ownership of your internet files, registered on the blockchain, for everyone to see. It is not dissimilar to your legal ownership of a physical home”.



What Are NFTs Worth?

The most expensive single NFT is a digital collage of images known as The First 5000 days. Created by Michael Winkelmann, a digital artist known as ‘Beeple’, this collage sold for $69.3 million.

The First 5000 Days is an important artwork in the NFT community as it paved the way for mainstream audiences to explore on-fungible assets.

There has however been a more expensive NFT sold but it is a little different. The Merge is a digital artwork created by an anonymous digital artist nicknamed Pak. It was sold on Dec. 6, 2021, for $91.8 million on the NFT decentralized marketplace Nifty Gateway.

However, the piece was fractionalized to 312,686 pieces distributed to 28,983 buyers. The catch here is that The Merge was a single artwork composed of a collection of “masses” that users could buy.

These pieces could be stockpiled to make a bigger mass and sell it on the secondary market. By the end of the sale, a total of $91.8 million was spent, making it the most expensive NFT sold to date.

‘Alien Cryptopunks’ also dominate the most expensive NFT listings. These are unique pixel art collections, made using algorithms.

With over 2.4 million NFTs created and in circulation, and over $4.8 billion in trade, the average NFT value ranges between $1,500 and $6,500.


How Are NFTs Disrupting Commerce?

Unlike ownership of files in the physical world, NFTs do not attempt to remain private. They are made for sharing. One’s ownership does not prevent others from interacting and enjoying it. The greater the publicity, the greater the value. Buying and selling NFTs can be compared again to real estate in the physical world - values grow as NFTs gain in popularity and demand.

Furthermore, they are changing how we exchange currency across geographic boundaries. An instant payment system, international wire transfers, foreign exchange and customs charges are all circumvented.



NFTs are reshaping ownership, experience, and trade of intellectual property on the internet. They open new possibilities whereby rights are placed in the hands of creators, and not the hands of a few mega-corporations. They are disrupting commerce and the status quo that since the conception of the internet, services the needs of the all-powerful ad platforms. NFTs have the potential to be a true value-leveller for the internet users and creators of the future.

Brand Trust Biggest Customer Experience Indicator

The X Index - A Trust Indicator

As a barometer for brand trust, the X Index measures customer experience across globally recognised brands. This assessment considers how trust is built, maintained, and broken in relationships with consumers. This includes brand image, customer service, relationships, purchase histories and product & service experiences.

In their research, it was found that only 40% of customers globally feel that the brands they interact with truly have their interests and needs at heart. To assess and deliver on customer needs, actions, perceptions, and narratives must align to provide the ultimate experience for the end customer.

Key Findings:

  • Commit to Trust
  • Build an Exclusive Experience
  • Always be of Service
  • Provide for the age of extra

Actions relating to these elements in turn help to produce or refine customer experiences that are just that - experiential - not simply mechanical. They help brands to narrow their efforts towards goals and the avoidance of common pitfalls, maximise their X Index rankings, and ultimately their measure for brand trust.


Brand Trust

According to action-perception theory, people perceive environments in terms of their ability to act within them. In other words, customer accounts of brands rely on their experiences with them, and these experiences stand the best chance of success when they are immersive and productive.

Primacy and recency effects also dictate that brands that people encounter early in their search for a product or service, and similarly, late in their search, will naturally outperform those brands that are stuck in the middle.

Psychologically speaking, these brands are innately mediocre compared to the first and the last in a search. So how do all these techniques help pave the way to a better level of brand trust? How can techniques such as advertising ensure that your brand is the first or last (or in a perfect world - both) that a potential new customer might see?

How can experiences be recreated to ensure they are more immersive, inclusive, and satisfying?


Goals and Pitfalls

Combined with other elements, action-perception (positive immersive experiences) and primacy & recency (early or late search advantage) can be combined with strong ethical stances, a ‘customer is always right attitude’, and the balance of well-struck humour.

Externally controlled elements such as reviews, or user-generated content also tie into the overarching category that is brand trust. But brands need to start with the internal elements with which they can exert some control. This also aids in limiting the potential for damage to be caused to any established level of brand trust. Cyber security, system hacks and data breaches are becoming increasingly common and paint brands in a negative light.

Poor internal or staff culture eventually makes its way to the public eye through disgruntled past employees on platforms such as Glassdoor or LinkedIn. Poor taste in humour, public sympathy or even collaborations with the wrong influencer has been known to backfire on brands and impact trust.



Brand trust is gaining increasing levels of coverage and exposure in mainstream marketing as a feature that is central to business and customers. No longer is it a complete dark art, lacking any sort of definition or measure. Thanks to the X Index barometer of brand trust, a measure of perceptions is available globally for businesses and brands to leverage.

As supported in both research and theory, actions and perceptions are intricately linked. Customer perceptions of brands are linked to the actions that they have experienced with those brands. These experiences can refer to a plethora of potential actions - Google searches, advertising exposure, website purchases, return of goods, etc etc.

The aim of building brand trust is to ensure that these actions produce positive perceptions of the brand. A tool for achieving this is providing interactions that create a sense of inclusion and investment for the customer.

Where a brand features in a search journey for a potential customer is also important in the initial impression of a brand. Those that feature first or last in a search are psychologically considered to be more trustworthy and preferred than those in the middle.

Tools for benefiting from this effect heavily rely on paid advertising. Finally, ethical, customer-centric and brand personality goals can aid in improving an X Index score, as can a focus on the avoidance of damage-causing elements. These include, but are not limited to poor internal brand culture, data and system breaches, and poor choice in collaborations, personality, and public sentiment.

Are You Ready for the Travel Boom?


Traditionally, the travel industry has been easy to forecast and predict. Calendar years could be categorised tidily into ‘peak seasons’, ‘shoulder seasons’ and ‘low seasons’. Seasonality affected this demand and dictated the popularity of travel destinations. For example, the summer seasons usually aligned to ‘peak’ periods of travel and school holidays, and winter travel destinations were usually based on either winter pursuits such as skiing, or sun-seeking ports of call to avoid the cold altogether. But while the travel sector continues to struggle under the strain of Covid-19, its subsequent variants, and ever-changing restrictions imposed by airlines and governments, too many businesses are waiting for ‘normal’ to return. They must understand that this wait is futile - both in time and in energy. There is a new normal for which the industry needs to adapt. This new normal is dictated by world events and by a consumer market that, now more than ever, seeks autonomy and control over their own experiences.


The travel sector has been among the hardest hit by evolutions dictated by the past two years. As one destination or government opens up, others close. Airlines cancel flights - or entire routes. Travel agents and national carriers have collapsed under impossible financial burdens. Qualified staff must be retrained before airlines can even reinstate routes and flights.

Whilst in the early stages of the pandemic, it seemed rational to wait and see how global events would conclude. But now, two years on, it’s safe to say that disruption has become commonplace and that we ought to embrace it to survive and thrive. Reflexivity to demand is vital in harnessing this market. Seasons and trends are no longer easily predicted or follow logical patterns. They are fast to emerge and even faster to wane. To capitalise on these spikes of activity and opportunity, the structure and infrastructure of businesses in the travel sector must adapt.



Adaptations to this shift must reflect the expectation of a user-led process. Placing control in the hands of the users necessitates design and infrastructure sympathising and reflecting with this expectation. So, what does that mean exactly? It means accepting that what you think you know, is no longer as accurate as it once was. It means that a lifetime of experience and customer insight in the travel industry has now been completely redefined. This dictates that to adapt and thrive in this new environment, the end-user must become the new expert.

The end-users will and should shape the new norm for the future of travel. But how does that reflect in a business approach to travel? End users are now the masters of their destinies, expect to be treated as such, and will seek and favour systems that allow them to act by this belief system. Antiquated systems that seek to control or define travel for them will continue to suffer.

P&O Cruises are a shining example of how the impacts of the travel sector can be harnessed to improve customer loyalty and pipeline sales. P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said the company has “a big reservoir of loyal guests who are keen to cruise again as soon as it is possible to do so. Booking trends for the first part of 2022 are encouraging and compare well with the same period of pre-pandemic 2019”.



Price comparison sites, travel agencies, airlines and hotel booking sites are key features of the travel sector landscape. These business models require - now more than ever - a user-led design that places the power in the hands of the people. No longer can seasonal forecasts or annual trends be relied upon to deliver or regulate sales.

Sales spikes and troughs can occur suddenly and unexpectedly because of internal or external factors, such as governmental announcements, changes to airline policy, or spur-of-the-moment loopholes for foreign travellers. To prepare for, and capitalize on, this new world order design and infrastructure must facilitate a user-led approach to travel. P&O Cruises are a perfect example of how the downtime within the cruise ship industry was used wisely to prepare for a ‘new normal’ in the future of travel.

In the absence of forecastable material, the end-user becomes the new expert on the industry, and as such requires the power to act and control their experiences in a way that is suitable and pleasing to them. To allow them this control, a system that provides for ease and autonomous self-servicing must be prioritised. We are already starting to see the separation between the businesses that are proactive in this approach, compared to those that remain reactive.

Several established industry names have already fallen into administration, whilst others have prospered. For businesses that fall into the former camp, the time has never been riper to take the plunge and adapt to a new future in the travel business.

Customer Experience Optimisation: Pivotal for the Recovery of the Travel Industry

The State of Travel

The world is desperate for some semblance of normality regarding travel. But the travel sector has been one of the hardest hit as a result of Covid-19, and a full recovery is far off. Due to both domestic and international restrictions, mass staff layoffs and sector bankruptcies, the travel sector is far from profitability and peak.

STA Travel and Specialist Leisure Group (running Shearings, and Cruise & Maritime Voyages) are examples of recent administrative closures since the outset of Covid-19. Global travel giant Flight Centre closed hundreds of underperforming high street offices during the pandemic. How then, are the end-users (holidaymakers) impacted? How can an entire sector and workforce bounce back from near obliteration, and do so swiftly? During this climate of hard lessons and even harder bottom lines, a handful of travel sector businesses flourished.

These businesses and their Covid-19 survival strategies offer a unique and valuable insight into how recovery for the wider industry might best be achieved. This article investigates exactly how and why these businesses were able to excel in such a complex and challenging sales environment. It aims to apply their approaches to a broader industry context, for the benefit of the travel sector (and end-users) as a whole.


Success Stories

The past two years saw profuse international coverage on Covid-19 cases aboard cruise ships. Often these ships were required to quarantine offshore for long periods, and passengers were restricted to their cabins for the duration of the quarantine period. It is no surprise that because of such coverage, the cruise ship market took a significant hit on current bookings, future sales, and the reimbursement of missed travel plans.

Despite this, however, two key industry players were able to stabilise and improve their market position. P&O Cruises and Cunard Line are Covid-19 success stories. They offer the wider travel industry not just a glimmer of hope for future recovery, but also a methodology to apply to accelerate that recovery. P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said the company has “a big reservoir of loyal guests who are keen to cruise again as soon as it is possible to do so. Booking trends for the first part of 2022 are encouraging and compare well with the same period of pre-pandemic 2019”.

Cunard Line boasts their own Covid-19 Hub, which aims to promote ‘sailing with confidence’ amongst their loyal customers. Assurances relating to updated Covid-19 travel restrictions, travel flexibility options, booking guarantees and expectation management of onboard and onshore experiences all play a part in keeping their customers informed, inspired and faithful to the brand (Cunard Line, 2021). But these trust-building experiences are deceptively complex. They are not produced and promoted in a day. They are considered, strategic investments that serve their investors well in both good times and in bad. Such investments can be simple to overlook in times of booming business. But in times of negligible margins, such strategies can mark the difference between success and failure in the fates of many businesses.


Customer Experience Optimisation

The encouraging results of P&O Cruises and Cunard Lines in the face of adversity offer a roadmap to others in need of a strategic lifeline. Though each business, market share and audience are unique, broader parallels in learning can be applied for the benefit of other struggling businesses within the travel industry. For example, applying the principles of transparency, assurance, flexibility, and expectation management hold relevance to most other businesses.

Deeper strategic decisions and investments relating to the optimisation of customer experience then become the sticking point for those businesses willing to take survival strategies seriously or not. Much of the resistance comes from a lack of understanding of concepts and values. Decision-makers must empower themselves with knowledge on the concept of customer experience optimisation and learn from the success of others the value that such strategies offer to a business. Customer experience is not simply the services that they encounter during a transaction.

They are an ecosystem that includes attitudes, values, experiences, highs, lows, pleasant surprises, and disappointments. Understanding and valuing this ecosystem for your customers is pivotal. Incorporating this ideology into company culture and infrastructure is vital for the ecosystem to flourish. Investment in digital assets, customer service support, up-to-date information sources and communication lines to users are all part and parcel of this methodology.



Within a scarred industry, two leaders have emerged as front runners during the difficult times of Covid-19. P&O Cruises and Cunard Lines have demonstrated the value of applying a Customer Experience Optimisation strategy within their business. As an investment in growth as well as customer satisfaction, this approach has delivered positive results in the buffering against a perilous market. It has also seen growth within an otherwise bleak industry outlook. The travel industry as a whole ought to take notice of this approach and apply similar learnings within their strategic plans. At a time when the focus is on recovery, it is easy to forget that if the focus remains on the customer, recovery will surely follow.


Need a Little Help or got Some Questions?

At Eclipse we’ve got an incredibly talented, multi-award-winning bunch of people ready to help you and your business. Our Experience team are experts at this stuff and can guide you or offer advice and answer questions that you might have. All you need to do is reach out and talk to us.

There’s not much that can’t be solved with a few cups of tea, some bright people and a (currently virtual) whiteboard.

5 Ways AR Can Improve Customers' Shopping Experience

Thanks to the various innovations in smartphones, laptops, and tablets, augmented reality or AR technology is more accessible nowadays compared to before. Sadly, only a few businesses recognise the benefits of augmented reality in retail. There is still that misconception that only certain industries, such as aviation, military, medical, and video gaming, can truly benefit from AR. As a result, not a lot of retailers are willing to invest in the technology.

Nonetheless, customers’ demands usually change alongside technology. With every innovation, consumers expect that you provide them with the best experience that technology would allow. In fact, 40% of industry leaders believe that immersive technologies such as augmented reality in businesses will become mainstream in the next two years. This is due to the increase in demands for such technology from the consumers.


What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is a type of immersive technology that allows people to overlay digital augmentation on real-life environments. A great example of this is the game Pokemon Go! where players can see 3D representations of different Pokemons intermingling with their real-life surroundings through their smartphone or tablet cameras. 

Some marketers also use this type of technology to advertise their brands. This is especially true in countries such as Japan and China who are pioneering consumer augmented reality. In fact, a survey by Worldpay showed that 95% of Chinese consumers have used AR and VR technology in the past months. 

Augmented reality is different from virtual reality. With AR, you can only have a live view of digital elements using your device’s camera. Whereas virtual reality or VR provides you with complete immersion into a digital space. In short, AR brings the digital into a real-life setting while VR brings you to a digital setting. An example of VR is the gaming device called Oculus Rift.


Why will Retailers need it?

The COVID-19 pandemic left a lasting impact on retail businesses around the globe. The various quarantine and lockdown protocols forced many stores to shut down temporarily—or even permanently. Others, on the other hand, turned to ecommerce to sustain their operations. As a result, many retail business owners are reevaluating the future of their bricks-and-mortar stores

As AR technology becomes more accessible, the retail sector started recognizing its usefulness. In fact, some big businesses in retail are gradually picking it up. IKEA, for example, has developed an app called The Place App which allows customers to use AR technology to visualize how the furniture would look in their home. Another big brand is Apple, which used augmented reality to bring their physical retail stores to their consumers’ home to showcase their products.


How can AR improve Shopping Experience?


1. Boosts Customer Engagement

Some think that digital shopping can never truly replace the experience of shopping in physical stores. It lacks the same dynamic and exciting atmosphere often found in brick-and-mortar shops. Instead, it subjects shoppers to just scroll through their screens and click on the items they want to purchase. This can get boring and tedious in the long run. Fortunately, this is where augmented reality in retail and its impact on sales come in.

AR technology can level up your customers’ digital shopping experience by providing them with more ways to interact with your products. This gives them more reason to stay longer on your platform and explore what your brand has to offer.

For example, instead of the usual monotonous scrolling and clicking, AR can add an option, allowing your customers to “try” the item before they buy it. This is especially useful for clothing and accessories retailers since it will allow their customers to see how a specific outfit or accessory would look like on them. 

Not only is it useful in digital shopping, but you can also incorporate augmented reality in your physical stores as well. This creates a unique experience for your shoppers which, in turn, can pipe their interest on your brand.


2. Showcases Products Better

Consumers tend to want to get a closer look on an item before they buy it. But with digital shopping, your customers can no longer do that. As a result, they tend to dither longer on their decision. Worse, they would eventually abandon the item in their cart instead. 

Remove any doubts from their minds by allowing them to get a closer look on the product even without needing to go to your physical store. Through AR, your customers can view the product in its actual dimensions, size, and specification. They can even use AR to manipulate the product, turning it sideways or around. 

This technology is also useful for retailers that sell fragile products. Instead of displaying the product itself, you can use augmented reality to allow your customers to interact with the product without the risk of breaking it.  

AR also allows you to think outside the box when it comes to advertising your product.


3. Gives Customers a Sense of Ownership

More than showcasing your product, AR can also give your customers a sense of ownership over your product—even if it is only temporarily. With augmented reality, they can “try on” an outfit and see how it would look on them. They can also place an augmentation of a furniture inside their house to see how it would fit into their interior design. Doing so gives your customers the illusion of actually possessing the product. 

This is something that shoppers cannot usually do with an actual product. There are often limits to how much a customer can handle or interact with an object for sale especially when it is something expensive or fragile. But with augmented reality, your customers can temporarily have the product inside their house or in their hands. Such momentary taste of ownership can encourage them to buy the product in the process. Hence, this is one way augmented reality increases sales.


4. Provides Convenient Alternative to Consumers

Traveling to a store just to check out a certain product can sometimes be a hassle. Some customers might even decide to push back their plans of purchasing the product just because of the distance between the retail store and their house. Fortunately, augmented reality can provide customers a convenient alternative to shop without having to get out of the house. It brings the store to them instead.


5. Improves Self-Service Support

Augmented reality is also a great way to improve self-service support especially when your product has malfunctions or faults. Instead of having to go through customer service staff, your customers can use AR to help them resolve the issue or understand how the product works.

For example, augmented reality can overlay the manual of the product while the customer tries to assemble it. You can also use AR as a virtual assistant, explaining to customers the different functionality of your products.


Retail in the future

With the rising popularity of online shopping, the future of AR in retail seems bright. It won’t be long before more retail businesses recognise its benefits and how it can revolutionise the shopping experience for their consumers.

Moreover, AR isn’t the only innovative technology you should look out for. New technologies are always around the corner. So it would be best that you always keep an eye out for what tools you can use to improve your services to your customers. This applies not only to technology but to innovative strategies, models, and principles of business management as well. So if you are thinking, “what degree should I do?”, consider keeping an open mind on taking up a business course.  

Best Marketing Events and Awards

UPDATED: Event & Award Dates Every Marketer Needs in Their Diary

After years of scouring through events, awards and expo lists - and certainly learning the hard way at times in missing out on application deadlines - I have compiled a comprehensive UK and International list -  that is invaluable for annual planning and budgeting. This has been updated from the original post, as the events scene changed dramatically as a result of COVID-19.

All of the lists I had come across in the past were piecemeal at best, so this comprehensive events and awards calendar has taken the hard work out of sourcing these dates for you. Most of these events run annually, so I have tried to include links to the generic event sites as opposed to year-specific agendas.

Events are listed under the month in which they are held. If a conference occurs over several dates, it will be listed under the earliest month. Awards are listed under the month in which you need to submit your application / nomination.

Where possible, I have also tried to include ballpark rates so you can have a cost overview and comparison at a glance. So there you have it - an overview of marketing events and awards, and their associated costs. Happy marketing people!


Gorgias Online eCommerce Conference (from £0)

FSB Small Business Awards (from £0)

Barclays PLC Awards (from £0)

National Association Awards (from £130)

Growth Marketing Conference (from $650)

Affiliate Summit West (from $600)

Superweek (from €880)

Best Business Awards (from £249)


The English UK Marketing Conference (from £120)

VidCon London (from £50)

eTail Connect (from £by enquiry)

The Customer Experience Conference (from £499)

The Retail Summit (from £340)

The Traffic and Conversion Summit (from $95)

SMW Lagos (from $9)

The Gathering (from $1,199)

Ramp Up (from $99)

The Peer Awards (from £450)

Best Companies to Work For (from £0)


Advertising Week Europe (from £269)

Dot Digital Summit (from £0)

Gartner Data & Analytics Summit (from €2,650)

Richmond Digital Marketing Forum (from £297)

Retail Without Borders (from £99)

Marketing Technology Expo (from £0)

B2B Marketing Expo (from £0)

Customer and User Experience Show (from £0)

Social Media Marketing World (from $697)

CXL Live (from $999)

Distilled San Diego (from $1,299)

Conductor C3 (from $1,199)

PubCon (from $499)

Industry Insights Summit (from $1,985)

UK eCommerce Awards (from £100)

National Best New Business Awards (from £59)

The Travel Marketing Awards (from £199)

The PLC Awards (£ not available)


The Experience Management Summit (from £0)

UnGagged (from £655)

Internet Retailing Expo (from £12)

Rakuten Symposium London (from £175)

App Promotion Summit London (from £720)

Youth Marketing Strategy London (from £900)

Futr Europe Summit (from £445)

Lincolnshire Marketing Conference (from £0)

Forresters Consumer Marketing (from $2,350)

Search Marketing Expert Munich (from €1,828)

Content Tech Summit (from $1,099)

Marketing Analytics and Data Science Conference (from $1,845)

The Drum Marketing Awards (from £225)

Best in Business Awards (from £300)


Titan Awards (from £65) 

SocialDay (from £200)

Business Vision Live (from £0)

The Business Show (from £0)

Retail Expo (from £0)

Brand Film Festival (from £499)

Digital Marketing Solutions Summit (from £ not available)

Adobe Digital Marketing Summit (from £1,445)

International Search Summit (from £595)

SMX London (from £495)

Future Stores (from £1,099)

#DMWF Digital Marketing World Forum (from £495)

Programmatic Pioneers Summit (from £699)

Disruptive Marketing Summit (from £120)

Google Marketing Live LIVESTREAM (from £0)

E*Hackathon (from £720)

ZC Live (from £0)

Digital Day (from £40)

Drapers Digital Festival (from £750)

World Retail Congress (from £3,095)

Sirius Decisions Summit (from $2,695)

Ad Summit (from $175)

The Caples Awards (from £300)

Women in Tech Awards (from £0)

The Small Awards (from £0)

Collaborative Working Awards (from £0)


Digital Elite Day (from £354)

HyperGrowth (from £199)

eTail Europe (from £399)

Digital Travel Summit (from £899)

The BAD Conference (from £189)

Digital Marketing Summit (from £106)

Creative North (from £356)

Comms Hero (from £180)

Fifteen Seconds Festival (from €478)

Content Marketing Summit (from £277)

Mobile Industry Awards (from £0)

Market Research Society Excellence Awards (from £75)

Lotus Awards (from £0)


B2B Marketing Ignite (from £499)

Technology Innovation Summit (from £120)

Professional Services Marketing Conference (from £63)

AI Tech North (from £85)

Women in Technology (from £0)

DTCX Virtual Summit (from £0)

Moz Con (from $999)

Commerce Next (from $795)

The Responsible Business Awards (from £0)

Great British Entrepreneur Awards (from £0)


UX & Digital Design Week (from £1,995)

Learn InBound (from £249)

Managing and Leading Innovation (from £5,950)

Customer Behaviours Conference (from £499)

Impact LIVE (from $569)

Conex (from $350)

eTail East (from $999)

Digital Summit Minneapolis (from $275)

Spotlight Awards (from £0)

Journal Magazine Awards (from £0)

The Queens Awards for Enterprise (from £0)


Think Global Awards (from £0)

DigiMarCon UK (from £397)

Brighton SEO (from £120)

Digital Transformation Manchester (from £99)

eCommerce Expo (from £0)

Technology for Marketing (from £0)

Ad:Tech (from £0)

MarkEd. Live (from £135)

Girls in Tech - Catalyst Conference (£127)

Techspo (from £397)

DigiMarCon Europe (from €397)

Inbound (from $99)

Content Marketing World (from $1,799)

The Advanced Search Summit (from $299)

British Interactive Media Awards (from £0)

UK Agency Awards (from £140)

Inspiration Awards for Women (from £0)


Search Love (from £779)

Digital Growth Unleashed (from £1,445)

MarTech Fest (from £205)

Festival of Marketing (from £895)

Digital Marketing Summit (from £139)

Copywriting Conference (from £480)

Boring Money (from £753)

Canvas (from £100)

The B2B Marketing Forum (from $1,095)

Seattle Interactive Conference (from $149)

The Marketing Nation Summit (from $1,195)

The Customer Service Summit (from $1,695)

Digital and Content Innovation Summit (from $995)

The Social Media Marketing Awards (from £0)

The Engagement Awards (from £0)

Marketing Week Masters Awards (from £0)

PR Week Awards (from £375)

British Small Business Awards (from £0)


ECOMWorld Conference (from £334)

UK Business Innovation Awards (from £150)

Town & Country Business Champions (from £45)

Product Marketing Summit (from £400)

Scale Up Awards (from £0)

Social Media Week (from £389)

UX Live (from £345)

The Disruptive Marketing Conference (from £125)

Ascend London (from £0)

Tech Summit & Conference (from £0)

#DMWF Digital Marketing World Forum Amsterdam (from €350)

Web Summit (from €850)

B2B Online Miami (from $1,299)

Digital Advertising & Marketing Conference (from )

Smart Social Summit (from $895)

Engage Awards (from £ not available)

Best in Business Awards (from £0)

UK Business Awards (from £249)

The National Business Awards (from £0)

International Globee Disruptor Awards (from £500)


Programmatic Punch UK (from £249)

Business Champion Awards (from £)

Glassdoor Best Places to Work (from £0),22.htm

National Business Womens Awards (from £65)

SME National Business Awards (from £75)

An Event Apart (from $600)

Digital Summit Dallas (from $245)

App Promotion Summit (from €450)

Growth Marketing Conference (from $750)

The Small Awards (from £0)

MCA Awards (from £ not available)


Is your event or award missing from this list? Get in touch to have it added.