A customer's perspective on our event: Connecting Your Charity to the Future

This blog is used with kind permission from Sift Digital, a digital partner of Claranet's. The original blog can be found here.

I recently spoke at Claranet’s ‘Connecting your charity to the future’ seminar, hosted on floor 35 of the Shard. Nice views and a great venue for some stimulating debate around the future of digital in the not-for-profit sector.

The context for my talk was all around digital governance, which I find myself speaking about and working on most of the time these days. It’s a fascinating area, agnostic of the sector you work in. All businesses are - to greater or lesser degrees - struggling to adapt to the new digital paradigm.

The audience were an interesting blend of IT, communications and marketing professionals from a wide range of organisations. This seemed like a good starting point as one of the familiar challenges we deal with frequently is the distance and tension that often exists between IT and communications functions. This opening gambit certainly drew a telling response from the crowd, who were keen to all work more closely together but were hindered by legacy systems, processes and lack of cohesive, integrated planning.

Retail challenges: the story of fluctuating demand

Despite being regularly categorised as a single industry, the challenges facing businesses in differing retail sectors vary considerably. The immediate issues occupying the high-end fashion boutiques are likely to be significantly different to those of a multi-store supermarket chain, for example. However, one constant battle that retailers must face is fluctuating demand.

As much as retailers review past sales figures and factor in market conditions, it’s very difficult to anticipate customer requirements. Aside from having a lack of clarity over generated revenue, businesses face a logistical nightmare around resource allocation, stock distribution and the possibility of being unable to process increasing customer orders.

By migrating to the cloud, retailers can function safe in the knowledge that their IT infrastructure has the scalability to store and process information as their operations grow. With hosting platforms paid for on a ‘pay as you go’ tariff, organisations can scale up and down as demand dictates. This is of particular benefit to retailers who expect significant fluctuations in the call for their goods due to the seasonality of their products such as summer clothing or Christmas decorations. These businesses can operate in a cost-effective manner and only pay for the storage capacity they use.

Charities look to digital media to gain competitive advantage

Over the past 10 years there has been a shift in consumer behaviour towards online channels. At the start retail and media were two industries which were significantly impacted, with consumers preferring to shop online rather than high street stores. Suppliers which couldn’t adapt quickly enough became insolvent or were bought out. Some high profile examples are Blockbuster, Woolworths and Dixons.

Charities now face a similar challenge. Digital media and online presence is becoming more and more integral to raising brand awareness and collecting donations. Multi-channel interaction with customers is vital to establishing brand recognition in the 3rd sector where today there are over 150,000 charities in the UK competing for donations.

Some Charities have embraced the trend and recognised social and digital media as a huge opportunity to open new donation channels and increase brand awareness.

A recent success story has been Cancer Awareness who raised £8m from a Facebook campaign (girls take a picture with no-makeup and post on facebook to raise awareness for breast cancer).

One agency that is leading the way in digital media to launch campaigns and raise awareness is Amnesty International. To drive its digital strategy, Amnesty’s IT team embarked on an ambitious three-year project to overhaul its hosting platform. This project would involve the consolidation and re-engineering of Amnesty’s hosting infrastructure, and aimed to fully integrate all its online properties, and to provide enhanced data analytics and much greater functionality to users. Other objectives included simplifying the management of the platform and eliminating other inefficiencies, and improving the reliability and flexibility of the online infrastructure.

Claranet has helped us to simplify our back-end processes and to automate fulfillment, so that our staff can get on with more important things like building additional functionality to support our next campaign."
Kamesh Patel, Head of IT at Amnesty

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