2018, a year when Prince Harry officially put an end to his bachelordom, NASA's lander robot sent the first ever selfie from Mars, and not a day went by when someone somewhere didn't utter the B word.
At Merchant, 2018 has marked our 36th year in business, and what a year it's been. From adding a wealth of new talent and expertise to our multi-disciplinary digital marketing team, to travelling half way round the world for a client meeting (if that's not commitment we don't know what is). For team Merchant, 2018 has been a year to remember for all the right reasons.
Here are just a few of the highlights and successes our outcome-driven digital marketing agency has achieved over a busy twelve months.
A web design that boosted online sales for an elite cycling brand used by pro athletes
When it comes to innovation, quality, and performance in the cycling sector, i-Ride is the brand you want to turn to. The retailer's range of products is exclusively sourced from leading industry manufacturers and, along with passionate cycling enthusiasts, the company also counts professional athletes and trade clients among its core customer base.
i-Ride engaged our web design services early in 2018, to design and build an entirely new online retail platform to improve the company's online sales journey and reduce basket abandonment rates at the checkout. The project required our web design team to completely overhaul the online User Experience (UX), and create an entirely bespoke customer journey, which included a personalised members' portal with customised product price bands and promotions.
Our web developers created the functionality for the entire site to be user-intuitive, while simultaneously reordering over 13,000 SKUs in i-Ride's backend to improve the speed and accuracy of search results. The system can now differentiate between B2C and B2B users, and tailor its content accordingly, including displaying custom consumer and trade product pricing.
Since the platform launched, i-Ride has reported a reduction in bounce rates, increased dwell times and search results that now return in a record time of 0.01 seconds.
Professionally repositioned a leading groundworks & civil engineering supplier
In April this year, we began a long-term relationship with a brand new client for Merchant, Mackoy Ltd; a leading supplier of groundworks and civil engineering infrastructure. Based in Hampshire, in the UK, Mackoy supplies groundworks operatives and plant to complete large-scale house building and commercial development projects, with each new contract tender they win in the region of five to ten million pounds.
At the time the company engaged our digital marketing and PR services, it had accrued an annual turnover exceeding eight-figures in just seven years of being operational. This rapid period of growth and repeated new business with the UK's biggest name property developers was the catalyst for Mackoy to seek representation from an experienced branding, web design, and digital transformation agency, capable of repositioning the Mackoy brand to reflect its market-leading status in the groundworks and civil engineering sector.
In the first months of our engagement, we utilised the skills and expertise of our entire marketing team to totally transform the Mackoy Ltd brand, and its most important business assets. Our designers created a custom visual identity for Mackoy, to give the brand a cohesive and professional appearance, while our digital developers built Mackoy an entirely new website, hosted through Umbraco, with an improved site journey and new project, growth and services pages, to better showcase Mackoy's capabilities.
To improve search engine optimisation (SEO), we took ownership of the Mackoy LinkedIn and Facebook pages, leveraging these channels to drive traffic to the new Mackoy website, specifically its news and careers pages. Our content writers created SEO copy, rich with keywords, for Mackoy's online channels, guided by page insights from our Digital Marketing Director, to ensure Mackoy appeared in page one Google searches. While our PR team engaged key construction trade press and regional media in Mackoy's operating remit, to gain the groundworks supplier traction with its target media and elevate the brand in the eyes of its stakeholders.
Further to this digital transformation of Mackoy, we also took creative ownership of a number of offline assets, critical to the business, including a corporate brochure to be included with tender submissions, and the company's internal Good Practice Guide, one of its key employee engagement tools. This combined activity proved successful in gaining Mackoy more engagement across its website, improving SEO, and ultimately securing the company increased new business, as well as face-to-face meetings with target clients.
You can see examples of this work on our case studies page.
Added even more expertise to our multi-disciplinary marketing team
As if team Merchant wasn’t a force to be reckoned with already, we've ended the year even stronger, following a wave of new faces joining our outcome-driven digital marketing agency in 2018.
Among the areas of our business to receive a boost is our web design team, which welcomed not one but two new developers in 2018, along with a new CTO in Dan Meineck. Dan, who has a deep-rooted passion for creating transformative solutions through technology, is regularly invited by Microsoft to speak internationally at industry conferences. He's also developed an AI solution for a premiership football club, and created the equivalent of Airbnb for care homes and staff, and he'll be applying his expertise to produce equally innovative solutions for our Merchant clients in 2019.
We also added to our PR team this year with the appointment of Account Director Juliet Fisher, who joins us with a dynamic background in B2B communications. Juliet will be leveraging her expertise in media relations, to secure lucrative exposure for our clients within industry-relevant trade titles and news and business media, as well as event management, crisis management and internal communications, to engage our clients' target customer base and key stakeholders.
Also further strengthening our communications team is Cris Azorin who came aboard team Merchant in May as Senior Content Writer. Cris has been applying her copywriting skills to create engaging blog posts, social media updates, and website copy for our clients, along with catchy headlines, and body copy for printed materials such as credentials documents and brochures. Helping to boost our clients' SERP performance and Google ranking, whilst ensuring crucial key messages come across with clarity.
Working closely with Cris on digital content, and driving our clients' digital transformation strategies, is our Merchant Digital Marketing Director Paul Betteridge, who joined us early in 2018. Paul's 15-years’ of experience in Digital Marketing has seen him author thought-leadership articles in leading web and marketing trade magazines, as well appointed as a qualified Google Leader. His breadth of knowledge has been evident through the transformative growth he's achieved for clients including Mackoy, Gleeds, Tricon, Kingfisher, Oil Spill and CCI since coming aboard.
Last, but certainly by no means least, Sarah-Jane Walker joined us in February as Client Services Director, and has wasted no time proving to us every day since just what a superstar she is. Loved by our clients as much as by us, Sj has more than twenty years’ worth of experience in digital marketing and creative development, flexing her skills to ensure our clients' budgets are maximised and office productivity is always at its peak.
Among the many improvements Sj has implemented since her arrival is our transition to the Jira project management system as well as agency time tracking via CMAP. Sj's also the most enthusiastic member of our team when it comes to our attendance at weekly personal training session, Project_R, never passing up the opportunity to flex her muscles as expertly as she does her client services skills.
Increased our construction, commodities, logistics, and oil & gas industry experience
2018 has also been instrumental in growing our experience in several of our primary areas of industry specialism, namely the construction, commodities, gas, oil, and logistics sectors. Industries we've managed to carve a niche in during our 36 years as a leading brand marketing and digital transformation agency.
This year alone saw us develop a range of stakeholder engagement tools for CCI (Castleton Commodities International) a global commodities trader with a $37 billion (approximately £29 billion sterling) turnover, whom we've worked with year-on-year since 2014. Among our new work for CCI in 2018, we've created a bespoke design for the company's shareholders and investors report, one of its most important annual engagement tools, and developed the company's stand design for the FT Commodities Summit, the largest commodities conference globally, and a key event in CCI's calendar.
We've also digitally repositioned another of our international commodities clients, Tricon, with a powerful new corporate website this year, designed, built and developed 100% in-house by our digital, web design team. A commodities distributor with more than 20 offices globally, Tricon markets and moves industrial chemicals, dry bulk, fuels, plastic intermediates and fertilizers around the world.
Seeking an improved website to align their global operations, with an additional emphasis on attracting new talent to its team, Tricon engaged the expertise of Merchant's web design and digital marketing services. Our team created a bespoke UX (User Experience), centred around a simple site navigation, and a mindfully minimal interface to help increase Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) and boost repeat visits. The new website also includes a dedicated CSR page, entitled Tricon Cares, where site visitors can learn more about the many charitable initiatives and causes Tricon proactively champions.
Additionally, we took ownership of creating Tricon a bank of powerful image assets, which the company can leverage to further engage website visitors, and repurpose across other business critical assets. Our employee engagement drive for Tricon has continued month-on-month through the employee newsletter we produce on behalf of Tricon's CEO IgnacioTorras, who our Merchant Director Paul Jones and Client Services Director Sarah Jane Walker flew out to meet at Tricon's head office in Texas earlier this year, ahead of the new website's launch.
More examples of our work for Tricon and CCI, as well as clients in construction, commodities, logistics, oil and gas, can be found on our Merchant Case Studies page.
Celebrated Christmas 2018 with an agency trip to Lisbon
After a year of pulling out all the stops (and a few late nights) to generate the best possible outcomes for our clients, what more fitting way to come together as a team at Christmas than a weekend break abroad?
This was the thinking that ultimately resulted in team Merchant decamping to Lisbon, Portugal, for two-nights recently, spending a non-stop 48 hours together as we became temporary roomies in our Airbnb apartment.
In the true spirit of Christmas, the weekend brought us fun, laughter, good food, and an abundance of alcohol-induced dancing in a smoky Lisbon club (which for those involved was unfortunately captured on camera). But it also provided a fantastic way for us to bond as a team, and strengthen our already close-knit relationships.
It was beyond nice to escape the UK at a time when storm Deidre caused temperatures to nosedive, and we couldn't help but feel slightly smug walking around in the sunshine, as our friends and relatives bemoaned the chill back home (#SorryNotSorry).
All in all it was a great trip, and one we hope to be able to repeat again sometime in the not too distant future. For now, we'll just have to settle for looking back fondly over the photographs, including this one which will definitely be the front cover of our first album release if Team Merchant ever decide to chase musical chart fame.
It's team outings like this, as well as our weekly group training sessions at Project_R in Southampton, and our occasional sailing trips along the Solent on our owner Paul's yacht that make Merchant such a special digital marketing agency to work for. We're also all about attracting the very best talent to our team, and unsurprisingly, we have very little trouble retaining it, but we do occasionally advertise for new positions, as this year's expansion demonstrates, so if you're a dev with a knack for creating watertight code, or a wordsmith capable of spotting a typo from ten paces, make sure you keep an eye on our Careers page for our latest Merchant team vacancies.