David C Cook brand Disciplr partners with Xcelacore to build a new digital platform on Microsoft Azure.



Disciplr

Case Study

David C Cook brand Disciplr partners with Xcelacore to build a new digital platform on Microsoft Azure.

Background

Disciplr, a David C Cook company specializes in providing digital interactive Christian ministry content for children.  The company was formed by its parent David C Cook to capitalize on increasing demand for Christian curriculum content delivered and managed in a robust digital environment.  Disciplr was in the process of building a new digital platform that will be the foundation to its core content offerings.  Disciplr engaged Xcelacore to consult on architecture assessment and document the current platform. Additionally, Disciplr also needed to increase development footprint and build an automated testing platform.

Technology Assessment

This was a 4-week effort where Xcelacore’s team spent week 1 with the Disciplr team to understand the current and future application functionality and did a code walkthrough.  The next 3 weeks were spent on code analysis, identifying gaps and recommendations.  Based on Xcelacore’s recommendations, Disciplr asked to help them with the execution.

Test Automation Platform

Xcelacore assembled a two-person QA team that developed a test automation platform for Disciplr using Selenium.  This has significantly reduced the overall time for regression testing and has improved application quality and team velocity.

Application Development

At first, Disciplr asked to supplement their team with two. Net Azure developers.  Based on the quality and skills of those developers, Disciplr asked Xcelacore to completely take over the entire development of their application.

Now the team works closely with Disciplr product owner to plan, develop, and release application enhancements.  This application is hosted on Microsoft Azure cloud and is based on MVC framework and .Net Core platform utilizing Azure SQL, Azure Search, Azure Blob Storage, and other services.

Disciplr Home page

Ubid.com was undertaking a new platform redesign and re-launch of their website for ecommerce business and engaged Xcelacore for the delivery.


ubid new site

uBid.com

Ubid.com was undertaking a new platform redesign and re-launch of their website for ecommerce business and engaged Xcelacore for the delivery.

The Challenge

Ubid was undertaking a new platform redesign and re-launch of their website to rebuild their ecommerce business. They needed help in managing the technology transition to the new platform and also marketing help to launch and grow the customer base.

Xcelacore Solution

First, we evaluated the current state of technology and marketing to come up with an integrated strategy to help transition to this new platform and ensure a successful launch. The strategy included: technology consulting on back-end data migration, comprehensive marketing strategy on customer retention and growth and end-user communication. We also managed their social media and email marketing. An additional strategy was put in place to engage the current customers through social media, revamped email strategy as well as re-engaging their dormant customer base through special offers.

The Result

The client saw a 30-40% increase in revenues within 1 month of working with Xcelacore!. Using us as their technology and marketing arm resulted in a 50% savings!

Yumm Street Case Study – Marketplace built on Magento


Yumm Street

Yumm Street Case Study – Marketplace built on Magento

Case Study

Startup Yumm Street Engages Xcelacore to build new marketplace that connects home chefs and small food businesses to buyers in online marketplace built on Magento platform.  

Background

Yumm Street is a start-up founded by Gowri Shetty and Shareh Ghani.  The two concepted and envisioned a marketplace for the cottage chefs industry, where home chefs and smaller food businesses can promote and sell their products online.  

As part of this vision,  Ms. Shetty and Mr. Ghani needed a technology solution that would effectively create the marketplace.  The founders engaged Xcelacore to help architect the solution.  

The Project

After an intensive deep dive into the business requirements and user expectations with key stakeholders, Xcelacore proposed a solution based on Magento platform which included a third party plugin that would allow vendors to self manage and market products on the site as well vendor store information and payments within a secure admin panel.  

Figure A  shows the vision of the Yumm Street marketplace leveraging Magento.

magento marketplace

Figure B is another view of the various users within the magento Marketplace.  

magneto marketplace users

The Process

At its core, Xcelacore’s primary goal is to strategically solve business and marketing challenges with technology solutions. To achieve that, Xcelacore executives invest intensive time into clearly defining problems, expectations, and outcomes with key stakeholders.

The Features

After a thorough exploration into user data, stakeholder input, and business requirements, the following feature requirements were created:

  • Visually stunning and full featured ecommerce site that attracts food buyers
    • Easy checkout process
    • Rich product pages
    • Ability to shop by food, regions
    • Visually appealing home page with shop by food category section
  • Vendor portal
    • Easy registration process
    • Integration with Paypal for payments
    • Ability to add, edit products
    • Manage product inventory
    • Manage orders including printing of shipping labels
  • Mobile responsive site

The Result

Xcelacore worked with the Yumm street team to design, implement and test a fully functional marketplace

Home page

Yumm Street Technology Solution

Questions

www.xcelacore.com

 

Top 6 Tips for Success in the Digital World



Top 6 Tips for Success in the Digital World

Digital Mobile Solution

 

Introduction

 

As a small business, you have enough challenges keeping your head above water and focusing on how to grow. Navigating the digital world can be complex if you don’t understand the various channels and what you should focus on to get the most bang for your buck.  Even if you do understand the technologies, how do you find enough time in the day to do it all?  In this paper we will give you a concise list of things you can easily do to boost your business by leveraging the power of digital with web, social, and mobile.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, businesses that make use of the web expect to grow 40% faster than those that don’t.  And according to Google, 97% of consumers go online to look for local products, yet only 37% of US small businesses have an online presence.  Increasingly, the web is important, but so is making use of social media and mobile technology to engage  with your potential customers.

If digital technologies like web, social media and mobile are so important, then why don’t all small businesses make use of them?  There are several reasons that include perceived cost associated with doing it, not having enough time, or believing that it’s just too complicated.  Lucky for you, there is plenty of help to address the complexities of digital while also managing your time challenges.  There are marketing services companies that cater to small business needs.  It’s also less expensive than you think, especially if you can pay for it with the increased sales that you can enjoy.

So let’s get to it – here are our top tips for digital success.  

Responsive Design

 

1.  Have an online presence with a responsive design

Since consumers are going online to search for businesses, unless you have a website you will not be found!  Consumers will go to your competitors if they are easier to find.  A couple of other things to consider are optimizing your site for relevant keywords that consumers may be searching on and making sure you have a responsive design. By having the right information and content on your website, you will help your company be found when consumers are searching.  

A responsive design simply means that your site is optimized for viewing and interaction across different types of devices (computer, tablet, mobile).  The site will be easy to navigate, read, and interact with, taking into account the different screen sizes that your web site can be accessed from.  Also consider the user experience.  They want to be able to access the information in as few clicks as possible.  So, put yourself in the user’s shoes when designing your website – easy to navigate equals better engagement for you.  Clunky or disorganized websites will result in potentially lost sales opportunities or your user exiting the site.

 

Google Ad

  1. Get your business on Google

Getting your business listed on Google is another important step to getting found online.  Google My Business helps you get listed on Google and also provides key information such as business overview, hours of operation, phone number, and address.  For users using their mobile, they can use Maps to get directions and click to call.  Consumers can also leave ratings and reviews of your business.

 

  1. Advertise online to drive traffic

These days, advertising online has also become important to drive new customers to your business.  It’s fairly easy to set up an advertising CPC campaign on Google.  With Google Adwords, you can specify whether you want your ad to be local and what specifically you want to advertise.  Google provides tools to help you decide which keywords to advertise, setting up budgets, and managing the whole campaign.  And the good part is that you only pay if someone clicks on your ad.  There can be potentially many more people that see your ad and read it, but you don’t pay unless they click.  It’s important to track how much business is resulting from your advertising budget and make regular adjustments as needed to get the most out of it.  

  1. Use social media to connect with your customers

The top social media platforms you should consider are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube, and Pinterest.  You don’t have to be on all of the social media channels, but the ones that make the most sense for your audience.  It gives you an opportunity to build loyalty with your customers and connect with them outside of your normal business interaction.  It also provides an avenue for you to then share what’s new with your business, advertise specials, and foster a loyal customer base that will keep coming back.

 

use mobile

  1. Use Mobile

We already talked about a responsive design that helps you interact with customers that are on different devices such as tablets.  That will also help you for customers using mobile.  Increasingly, consumers are using their phones to make purchases, search for local businesses, and using click to contact the businesses directly.

People are also spending more and more time on their mobile compared to other devices.  Their mobile is always within reach.  If it makes sense for your business, you should also consider mobile advertising, such as SMS, MMS, or banner.

  1. Use analytics to understand and improve

Now that you are online, advertising, and getting found by your customers, you need to understand if the money you are spending is giving you a return on your investment. Analytics will help you track and review data that is relevant to your business.  Best of all, Google Analytics is free!  You can track every click, measure every dollar, and get insights on the type of device that your customers are connecting with (mobile vs. desktop).  And by looking at how many conversions you have, the dollars of business that translated into, and how much you spent on advertising, you can tie it all together to ensure it is paying back.  You can also tell if your activities on social media are driving traffic to your website.  

Summary

Now you have the 6 top tips for succeeding in the digital world.  Perhaps you were already doing some but not all, now is a chance to dive into the rest of the digital initiatives.  Some of these tips are free to implement (Google My Business for example), so it won’t cost you a cent.  It will take an investment in time, but increasingly digital is the way to reach your target customers.  And if you can’t do it all yourself, there is plenty of help out there without breaking the bank.

Contact us at hello@xcelacore.com or 312-487-1208.

477 East Butterfield Road, Lombard, IL 60148

 

UCLA Extension Engages Xcelacore to Improve Site Enrollment Through Search Revamp and Site O



Ucla Extension

Case Study

UCLA Extension Engages Xcelacore to Improve Site Enrollment Through Search Revamp and Site Optimization

Background

UCLA has one of higher education’s elite brands. For nearly a century, the school has produced some of business’ elite, science’s laureates, music and film’s innovators, and sports elite. The UCLA Extension is the university’s global continuing education arm, and the path for thousands of students to start or explore new careers in some of the most intriguing and high-growth fields.

As UCLA Extension grows, so too does the demand for its online presence. Two areas where they knew they needed focused solutions were in online enrollment conversions and search. To truly grow and improve its online experience, UCLA Extension sought the expertise, strategic planning, and implementation of both crucial projects from Xcelacore.

The Search Revamp Project

After an intensive deep dive into the business requirements and user expectations with key stakeholders, Xcelacore proposed a highly reliable, scalable and fault-tolerant search solution utilizing Solr/Apache Lucene.  This cloud-based system provides distributed indexing, replication and load-balanced querying, automated failover, and recovery.

The process

At its core, Xcelacore’s primary goal is to strategically solve business and marketing challenges with technology solutions. To achieve that, Xcelacore executives invest intensive time into clearly defining problems, expectations, and outcomes with key stakeholders. In addition, Xcelacore delves into analytics and consumer information to fully inform the requirements and have the greatest impact on performance.

Although Xcelacore works on more than technology solutions, we utilize an Agile Development Process. At its core, this means that the delivery of a project is broken down into specific time periods (typically two weeks), with specific deliverables. In addition, this methodology provides our clients with a clear method of monitoring delivery of projects, finances, and quality against the overall project expectations.

For this project, Xcelacore used Agile methodology for all phases of the project including requirements gathering, development,  performance, usability, and integration testing.

 

The features

After a thorough exploration into user data, stakeholder input, and business requirements, the following feature requirements were created:

  • Improve search functionality & capabilities including branded and user friendly UX/UI
  • Ability to create custom search terms that are unique to their own industry
  • Highly responsive, reliable, scalable and fault tolerant search solution
  • Auto suggest search terms while user types in the search box
  • Ability to apply multiple filters
  • Search courses by Title, Description, course numbers, instructor name and more
  • Spell checking using Solr and suggestion like “Did you mean …?”
  • Mobile optimized search results page with ability to easily apply additional filters

 

 The Result

Xcelacore researched, defined, implemented, and delivered a highly functional, variable search engine that dramatically improved the course discovery process for prospective students.

 Testimonial

“Xcelacore does great work with integrity.”

– Radhika Seshan | COO and Associate Dean

“At the project kick-off meeting, Xcelacore partner mentioned the new search will be a game changer for UCLA Extension, I am very excited to say that they have delivered on their promise.”

– Wayne Smutz, Ph.D. | Dean

 

The Site Optimization Project

With a switch from a homegrown platform to a third-party SaaS solution earlier in 2016, UCLA Extension saw a measurable drop in online enrollment during the second quarter. Was it due in part to the platform switch? Or, were there breaks in the user experience that were causing fewer enrollments? Again, UCLA Extension turned to Xcelacore to define the problem and offer solutions.

The Process

Xcelacore employed two paths for helping to define the potential problem and offer solutions. One, Xcelacore professionals dove into the site analytics to define breaks in behavior before the platform switch and after. Although the experience between the two platforms wasn’t parallel, a pattern of behavior began to emerge based on the deep-dive into analytics. Second, Xcelacore utilized drew on more than 20 years of e-commerce and online experience to identify breaks in the intuitive UI/UX path which were then underscored by behaviors gleaned from the analytics.

Xcelacore provided a step-by-step page analysis and recommendation for optimizing each step in the enrollment process, with the ultimate objective of increasing conversions.

The Features and Results

Based on the recommendations, UCLA Extension was able to positively impact the conversion path by implementing the following:

  • Shortened the enrollment process by three pages
  • Optimized navigation by refactoring home page and course pages based on user behaviors
  • Optimized content based on user behaviors, including course and program discovery
  • SEO including page titling and tagging for increased organic traffic

Client Highlight: DJ’s Sports Bar and Grill



Just a little over a year ago, we acquired DJ’s Sports Bar & Grill as a client. For the past year, we have been posting and monitoring all of DJ’s social media pages (FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterestGoogle+Yelp, and Foursquare). Our main objectives with DJ’s has been to boost interactiveness on social media and increase venue popularity during lunch hours. We have found that a good amount of potential and current customers are on social media; after testing the waters this year, so to speak, we have found what this audience wants to see on social media. By doing this, we have created a voice and steady following for DJ’s Sports Bar & Grill.
We have launched several different social media campaigns throughout this year, including the #DJsGram campaign, which produced high visibility, due to the interactiveness (“likes”, comments, shares, etc.). The campaign involved an Instagram cardboard cutout that customers at DJ’s could take pictures with (see picture below). To boost interactiveness, we created an incentive for customers to take a picture with the cutout and post it on social media; each week we would announce the winner of a $20 DJ’s gift card, for posting the most unique picture to social media. These pictures provided us with organic content for our viewers and it produced high visibility – each time someone posted a picture with the cutout, it was subliminal advertising.

Each month we analyze the analytics to find what is working and what is not, in order to better apply our tools. This month we have looked back on the past year to see the growth of the restaurant’s social media popularity. We have found the following for the top three social media platforms:

 

The increase in social media activity has boosted interactiveness and sales, according to business owner, Tracey Valerio. Tracey explains that, “Since hiring Xcelacore to handle all my social media needs I have seen an increase in sales (specifically in the areas we were trying to improve, therefore targeted.) Also, as we are a local business we see a lot of “regulars” and we have seen an increase in 1st time customers. I can see by my monthly reports how effective they are by seeing the posts, reviews, and interaction within each social media site.” She continues by noting, “The number one benefit for me is that I don’t have to spend hours of my day or hire a full time employee to monitor all these sites for reviews and interactions. I also seem to have a higher ranking on Google as some new customers tell us that is how they found us.”

We’re excited about working with our new clients and looking forward to work with other businesses. Contact hello@xcelacore.com to schedule a consultation.

Client Highlight: Leib and Associates



Xcelacore has been working with Leib and Associates since the Spring of 2015. Leib and Associates is a manufacturers’ representative for the lighting industry offering an array of luminaire styles, genres and designs from lighting manufacturers and importers. Leib and Associates didn’t have an online social media presence or a website that portrayed their brand the way they desired. They needed a new website design, logo design, and to build a social media presence for their brand from scratch.

 

We evaluated the current client website and identified a fresh new look and feel for the new website design that was inline with the customer’s personality. Xcelacore created social media brand pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google +, and Houzz.

 

We also manage their daily social media posts and their email marketing. Additional strategy was put in place to engage their audience on social media with an ad budget to maximize their reach and engagement.

 

As a result of our partnership, the client sees consistent email marketing open rates of 44%, has growing social media platforms across all channels, and has an updated, brand reflective website for their customers to use as a guide to check stock, find new products, and stay current with their business.