ChainSafe Announces Acquisition of Node Factory

Blockchain

Toronto-based blockchain R&D firm ChainSafe announces the acquisition of Croatian blockchain partner Node Factory.

ChainSafe is a leading blockchain development and engineering solutions firm encompassing top engineering talent from around the world. The company is architecting official client implementations on Ethereum 2.0 (“Lodestar“), Polkadot (“Gossamer“), Filecoin (“Forest”), a Rust implementation of the Mina Protocol, and many more. ChainSafe rounds out their deep Web 3.0 portfolio with undertakings into product development via their privacy-first file storage solution ChainSafe Files, the ChainSafe Gaming SDK, as well as their flagship product ChainBridge. Today, they announce the acquisition of fellow blockchain development firm Node Factory.

“We could not be more excited to have Node Factory join the ChainSafe family. They have been integral partners in helping us build Lodestar for more than a year. Their work is always of the highest, most reliable quality, and above the code sits an even friendlier team. Adding their roster of talented developers into the ChainSafe mix gives us more depth and specific knowledge within the blockchain space. We look forward to building even greater things with Node Factory throughout the multi-chain tomorrow that we have envisioned since we took our first step in this journey,” states Aidan Hyman, CEO and co-founder of ChainSafe.

Node Factory is a blockchain R&D firm based in Zagreb, Croatia. They are a team of experienced developers that have made important contributions to dApp, infrastructure, and tooling development for Web 3.0 and networks such as Polkadot and Filecoin. The company has created products such as ChainGuardian, a desktop application for Eth2 validators, and FilSnap, a plugin for the MetaMask browser wallet enabling users to interact with Filecoin dApps. They have also helped a host of startups launch their own decentralized applications. Marin Petrunic, co-founder and CTO of Node Factory, first got involved with ChainSafe by being an external contributor on Lodestar, ChainSafe’s Eth2 TypeScript implementation. These open source contributions eventually led to conversations about ChainSafe’s acquisition of Node Factory to combine efforts.

“Node Factory’s priorities have always been on delivering quality work on the edge. Joining the larger ChainSafe crew will give our existing portfolio even more development resources to produce even more cutting-edge work, and allow both teams to cross-pollinate our learnings and research to meaningfully grow and build extraordinary things,” states Belma Gutlic, co-founder and CEO at Node Factory.

With ChainSafe intaking the Node Factory roster, it further bolsters their already deep pool of global blockchain developer talent. On the leadership front, Node Factory co-founder and CEO Belma Gutlic will join ChainSafe as Head of Solutions, while Marin Petrunic, co-founder and CTO at Node Factory will join as ChainSafe’s Europe Lead. This announcement is the first of its kind in ChainSafe’s history. Going forward, the organization will likely look to more strategic moves of this kind as their business scales up to include more blockchains and newer product offerings which leverage the same technologies they are helping to build.

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Accenture Expands Oracle Capabilities in Canada with Cloudworks Acquisition

Cloud

Accenture has acquired Cloudworks, a leading Toronto-based Oracle Cloud implementation service provider across North America. The deal further enhances Accenture’s capabilities to deliver Oracle solutions to clients on their journeys to the cloud. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Cloudworks, founded in 2016, specializes in strategy, business and technology consulting and has become well known for Oracle Cloud-based solutions in Enterprise Resource Planning, Enterprise Performance Management and Human Capital Management. Cloudworks has leading capabilities in robotic process automation (RPA), data analytics and AI, which help maximize the business value for clients’ investments in Oracle Cloud.

The company supports clients in several industries, including transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, mining, oil & gas, utilities and energy, telecommunications & media, financial services, real estate, public sector, and higher education. The majority of Cloudworks’ 100 employees are located in Toronto, with additional offices in Calgary, and other locations throughout the United States.

“As organizations across Canada continue to accelerate their technology transformation programs, we anticipate the demand for Oracle solutions to grow significantly,” said Jeffrey Russell, president of Accenture in Canada. “By acquiring Cloudworks, we add a highly talented team with industry-specific experience in combining the power of Oracle with the ingenuity of people to unlock new possibilities for clients.”

Jennifer Jackson, Accenture Technology lead for Canada, said, “Cloudworks is a well-known Oracle services provider that has worked with organizations across Canada and across industries. We are thrilled to grow our Technology practice in Canada with the Cloudworks team who strengthen our ability to meet the growing need from Canadian organizations to unleash the power of cloud, data and innovation to create truly future-ready organizations.” 

Samia Tarraf, Accenture Oracle Business Group lead for North America said, “The impact of the Cloudworks team and its experience working with clients in Canada and the U.S. bolsters our entire Oracle business in North America as organizations fast-track their cloud journeys and look to Oracle Cloud applications to create more value and make their businesses more resilient.” 

Jason Nott, cofounder and CEO of Cloudworks, added, “With Accenture’s in-depth capabilities, global scale and experience co-creating and co-developing Oracle solutions, we look forward to delivering greater value for clients, as well as opening up new opportunities for our people. Joining Accenture will also help Cloudworks provide more services to clients through its global team of experts in digital, cloud and robotic process automation.” 

Cloudworks marks the third acquisition for Accenture Canada over the last year. Accenture acquired Avenai, an Ottawa consultancy focused on public service organizations, and Callisto Integration, an Oakville, Ontario provider of consulting and technology services in digital manufacturing in food and beverage, chemicals, utilities and other industries, both in 2020. 

Globally, in 2021, Accenture has announced two Oracle-focused acquisitions: Nell’Armonia, a leading consulting and technology company specialized in enterprise performance management solutions, headquartered in Paris, France, and AppsPro, one of the leading Oracle Cloud implementation service providers in Saudi Arabia. 

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RBC to Become Financial Anchor at Hub350, Canada’s Largest Technology Park

Digital Finance Services

One of Canada’s largest banks is focusing on delivering innovative capital solutions and a global footprint to Hub350

The Kanata North Business Association (KNBA) and Hub350 have announced a collaboration with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) that will see the bank become the anchor financial sponsor for the hub, bringing innovative financial services and expertise to technology entrepreneurs at all stages of their lifecycle.   

With RBC at its helm as anchor financial sponsor, Hub350 will officially launch this fall, creating both a physical gateway for Canada’s largest technology park at 350 Legget Drive, and fostering a collaborative environment where corporate innovation partners, academia, investors and talent from across the country and around the world can connect to Kanata North’s 540 companies immediately.

“RBC’s visionary support for Canada’s entrepreneurs is no secret, and it makes them the perfect financial partner for Hub350,” said Victoria McGlone, Chief Operating Officer at KNBA. “As our unique ecosystem develops strategically to support entrepreneurs in a world-class way, we want to disrupt how our technology companies access capital, and work with partners like RBC to provide out of the box solutions to foster growth and create Canadian success stories.”

RBC will offer a full suite of banking services and knowledge products at HUB350, including RBCx, a market-leading platform to accelerate the entrepreneurial journey at every stage of growth, offering access to capital solutions, innovative financial products and services, and operational expertise to help technology companies scale.

Products and solutions for all companies, from inception to IPO, include:

  • Innovative financial products, including credit and specialized banking
  • Deep sector expertise in specialized tech verticals, including clean tech and life sciences
  • Offers from industry-leading providers within the RBCx marketplace
  • An inspired network of founders and funders engaged through curated events and content

“We are committed to supporting entrepreneurs – from startup to scale up – who are disrupting business models, industries and sectors,” said Raymond Rashed, Director, RBCx. “We feel we can do this best at Canada’s largest technology park and look forward to helping companies grow their ideas and products so Canadian-led innovation can be front and centre on the world stage.”

Kanata North has been steadily evolving into Canada’s leading hub for cutting-edge tech businesses and knowledge-based industries, having created over 33,000 skilled jobs and contributing over $13 billion to Canada’s GDP every year.

In collaboration with RBC and RBCx, KNBA is confident that connections with venture capitalists and lenders from government and private entities, both nationally and internationally, will be formed. The bank will have naming rights to the 4,000 square feet Finance Quarter at Hub350. RBC’s leadership will support KNBA member companies and help attract new organisations to the tech park. 

“For well over 25 years, RBC has invested in the potential of big ideas and big ambitions by working alongside so many innovators and entrepreneurs in Canada’s Tech Hub,” said Marjolaine Hudon, Regional President, RBC. “This partnership with Hub350 at KNBA builds on RBC’s unwavering support of our vibrant tech and innovation sector, which in turn benefits our community.”   

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Government of Canada Confirms Ambitious New Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Target

Canada CO2

Climate change is the greatest long-term threat that we face as a global community. It also represents an enormous economic opportunity.

Yesterday, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, formally submitted Canada’s enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations, committing Canada to cut its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 40‑45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Canada’s NDC submission outlines a series of investments, regulations and measures that the country is taking in pursuit of its ambitious target. It includes input from provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners. These actions are also detailed in a new publication, entitled Canada’s Climate Actions for a Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy“.

This is Canada’s first emissions reduction target that is enshrined in law under the new Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which received Royal Assent in June 2021.

Canada has joined over 120 countries to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050. Canada’s ambitious new NDC for 2030 keeps the country on course. It builds on a whole-of-government plan, Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan: A Healthy Environment and Healthy Economy”, that includes Canadians in all regions and all economic sectors.

At the same time, the government today confirmed that the minimum price on carbon pollution will increase by $15 per tonne each year starting in 2023 through to 2030. The national stringency standards—the “benchmark”—will be updated to ensure all provincial and territorial pricing systems are comparable in terms of stringency and effectiveness. Provinces and territories will continue to have the flexibility to implement the type of system that makes sense for their circumstances as long as they align with the benchmark.

The past 16 months of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic have shown Canadians how a determined response can address a global crisis. Tackling climate change requires the same focus and commitment. Canada is on a path to exceed its previous 2030 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels in partnership with provinces, territories, and Indigenous partners. By working with the private sector and others, the government is confident Canada can achieve its enhanced 2030 GHG emissions reduction target and build a healthier environment and healthier economy.

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change says: “Canada’s ambitious new 2030 emissions target, our Canadian Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act and net-zero goal for 2050 are more than just plans for tackling climate change—as necessary as those are. By rewarding innovation and putting a cost on pollution, we are clearing the path to a cleaner, more competitive economy that benefits our children and grandchildren, and leaves a healthier world for those who follow.”

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Canadian Retail Executives Weigh In on the Future of Market Planning

Retail marketing

Location analytics leader, PiinPoint, has been supporting brands across North America to use data and analytics in their retail strategy since 2014. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail playbook has been turned on its head, requiring organizational adaptability from retailers as they experienced a rapid rate of change.

The new realities faced by retailers over the last year have gained significant traction and present long-lasting implications to businesses and how they will plan their market strategy in 2022 and beyond. Though the end of 2021 may reflect a surge of “normal” shopping behaviour from pent-up demand, the next year presents a big question mark. How will retailers combine the best of their digital and physical worlds to remain relevant?

“The demands on retailers to leverage new attitudes and analytics to make experimental strategies from 2020 a lasting success are pressing,” explains Jim Robeson, CEO at PiinPoint. “For retailers to adequately evolve and be successful, they’ll need to remain relevant to a new consumer that lives in diversified markets, has adopted digital tools, and cares a lot about convenience, personalized experiences, and social consciousness.”

Through a series of executive interviews across key retail verticals, Canadian retail executives weighed in on which long-lasting dynamics will need to be embraced in a post-COVID world. Five trends were identified and the implications for market planning are clear:

  1. Brand Beware. The Threat of Retail Cancel Culture
  2. Rural is the new Urban
  3. Retail Prescribed by the Consumer
  4. Real Estate Teams Do More than Secure the Dirt
  5. De-Risk Brick & Mortar Strategy through Experimentation

Retail brands are realizing the depth to which the consumer must feel represented – in customer service, product options, marketing, values and beliefs – and that an intimate understanding of the consumer must underpin all strategy decisions for the organization. These behaviours challenge age-old assumptions about what a good retail experience is, and subsequently, how to plan for real estate. As a result, Retail Analytics must adopt a location dimension, or lose the nuance of a local market.

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2021 Travel Plans Up in the Air, But Most Canadians Won’t Be: CPA Canada Survey

Travel plans

Food, transportation and home renovations top the list of Canadians’ anticipated increased expenses this summer

With summer fast approaching, parts of the country continue to remain under lockdown or heavy restrictions due to COVID-19. Against this backdrop, 79 per cent of Canadians admit they are concerned about how safe it is to travel and many are planning not to, according to a new survey conducted by Chartered Professional Accounts of Canada (CPA Canada).

When asked about their vacation plans for the summer, responses from the CPA Canada 2021 Summer Spending Study reflected caution and uncertainty as 30 per cent of Canadians are not planning to take a vacation this summer35 per cent are still undecided or delaying their vacation decisions, 15 per cent plan to take vacations within the area they live and only 22 per cent plan to vacation outside of the area where they live.

Of the 22 per cent who plan to vacation outside of the immediate area where they live:

  • Seventy one per cent plan to travel within their province or territory
  • Thirty six per cent plan to journey to another province
  • Fourteen per cent are planning a U.S. vacation
  • Ten per cent are prepared to venture outside Canada and the U.S.

Thirty-five per cent anticipate spending more on transportation fuel this summer than they did in the summer of 2020, with 18 per cent plan to spend more on short-term vacation rentals. However, only 22 per cent anticipate increased travel and vacation costs from last summer.

“A high proportion of Canadians are either not planning to take vacations or are holding off on their decision,” says Doretta Thompson, CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader. “Thirty per cent are not planning to take a vacation at all this summer. We asked a similar question in 2019 and, back then, only 18 per cent weren’t planning to take a vacation.”

Canadians will be keeping themselves busy at home
While respondents were most likely to say they spend the most amount of money in the winter (30 per cent) compared to other seasons, summer (26 per cent) is a close second.

Over half of Canadians (51 per cent) anticipate that their overall household spending will remain the same this summer as last year, however, a notable 38 per cent anticipate that their household spending will increase in 2021. Interestingly, there was no drastic difference in Canadians’ anticipated spending this year when compared to pre-pandemic years, with nearly half of respondents (44 per cent) reporting that they expect their household spending to be the same as a typical pre-pandemic summer and only 29 per cent expecting to spend less this year than they did in a typical pre-pandemic summer.

Aside from travel, Canadians will be keeping busy in other ways, with 34 per cent of respondents anticipating they will spend more on home renovations and property maintenance, while 22 per cent expect to spend more on entertainment than they did last summer. Food tops the list of categories anticipating increased spending this summer, with 43 per cent of respondents expecting to spend more than they did in the summer of 2020.

Overall, despite some shifts in how Canadians plan to spend money this summer, expenditure levels appear to be relatively on par with previous years, albeit targeted less on vacations than in the past. The possibility of unexpected summer expenditures remains the leading cause of stress for many Canadians, as was the case even prior to COVID-19.

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Top Brands to Offer Afterpay in Canada

Buy Now Pay Later

Afterpay, the leader in “Buy Now, Pay Later” payments, today announced that it has partnered with several top fashion, apparel and beauty retailers in Canada, including Urban Outfitters, lululemon, Pandora and Shiseido (NARS, Laura Mercier, Cle de Peau, Shiseido) – offering shoppers a more flexible and convenient way to pay for all of their spring and summer must-haves.

These brands join Afterpay just as it releases its Bi-Annual Fashion and Beauty Trend Report for Spring/Summer 2021, which reveals that Canadian shoppers are still committed to the comfort-infused lifestyle brought on by the pandemic, while also purchasing more fashion- and beauty-forward items for the new Spring season.

According to Afterpay consumer data, Canadian shoppers are maintaining their comfortable work-from-home wardrobes, with athleisure and loungewear continuing to fill their shopping carts. That said, shoppers are also looking ahead to getting outdoors again – buying items such as jeans, sneakers and bodysuits, as well as jewelry staples like earrings, rings and bracelets. Canadian consumers are also replenishing their beauty shelves with everyday makeup items including lipstick, foundation, eyeshadow and mascara.

Shakaila Forbes-Bell, Consumer Fashion Psychologist for Afterpay said: “After a year of lockdowns, many people have assimilated to laid back fashion styles, keeping the comfort-dressing trend alive. As we head into a new season, Canadian consumers are turning to fun accessories as an easy way to break up the uniformity of loungewear. Additionally, ‘The Lipstick Effect’ is a phenomenon whereby people turn to small luxuries like beauty products during times of uncertainty, so it’s no surprise that makeup is top of mind for consumers.”  

Melissa Davis, Head of North America for Afterpay said: “As we kick off the spring shopping season, we are thrilled to partner with such prominent new brands in Canada and give our customers more places to pay with flexibility and convenience. Merchants offering Afterpay attract new and engaged young shoppers, resulting in increased sales, larger basket sizes and higher conversion – which is especially apparent during peak shopping periods such as this one. We’re proud to expand our network of brands consumers love, and bring value to a new set of merchants in Canada.”

The new merchants will join Afterpay’s already wide network of nearly 86,000 global retailers, which allow customers to receive items immediately and pay over time, with no fees. Merchants benefit from Afterpay’s highly-engaged customer base of nearly 15 million, and during March 2021, Afterpay referred approximately 35 million customers to its merchant partners via its Shop Directory.

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Healthcare Excellence Canada Supports Essential Care Partners To Safely Re-enter Health & Care Settings During Covid-19

Canada healthcare

Healthcare Excellence Canada has launched a program to support the safe presence of essential care partners in hospitals, long-term care homes and other health and care settings during COVID-19, including during lockdowns.

The pandemic led to blanket visitor restrictions that prohibited essential care partners from being with loved ones in health and care settings. Although the restrictive policies were put in place with the best intentions, they have contributed to other risks and unintended harm to patients and families, as well as moral distress to staff.

To help healthcare organizations safely re-integrate, welcome and engage essential care partners as part of their care teams during COVID-19 and beyond, Healthcare Excellence Canada has launched Essential Together. This program is based on co-created policy guidance that can be applied to all health and care settings in Canada, regardless of their pandemic status.

To specifically support essential care partners with loved ones in long-term care, Healthcare Excellence Canada has also published a new resource – Safely Re-entering Long-Term Care Homes During COVID-19: A Resource for Essential Care PartnersCreated by essential care partners for essential care partners, it includes detail about what to expect while entering a home and being part of the care team during the pandemic.

“Essential care partners are different from general visitors. An essential care partner is a person who provides physical, psychological and emotional support, as deemed important by a patient, resident, or client,” says Lisa Poole, who was one of the caregiver advisors who contributed to creating the resource and is advising the ongoing design of the Essential Together program.

“This can include support in decision-making, care coordination and continuity of care, including things like assistance with meals, recreation and hygiene,” Poole adds. 

“Evidence suggests that with proper support and education, family and essential care partners can safely participate in care during the pandemic, contributing to better care, well-being, and experiences,” says Jennifer Zelmer, President and CEO of Healthcare Excellence Canada.

“Leading organizations have worked with their communities over the last year on creative ways to re-integrate essential care partners, practices that are evolving as vaccines roll out,” says Zelmer.

“Programs like Essential Together offer ways to share this knowledge so more people can benefit.”

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Mackenzie Investments Earth Day Study: COVID Has Increased Canadians’ Interest in Sustainable Investing

Earth Day

A new sustainable investing study conducted by Mackenzie Investments to mark Earth Day has revealed that the global pandemic has contributed to an increased interest in sustainable investing among Canadians.

A majority of respondents (55 per cent) indicated that, as a result of COVID, they are now more likely to consider how their investing decisions can make a positive impact on society. Further, 69 per cent reported that they feel it is increasingly important to invest in a sustainable manner.

The study also identified the top issues Canadians who currently hold sustainable investments will be supporting moving forward. These include:

  • climate change/environment (66 per cent);
  • human rights (50 per cent); and
  • gender diversity/equality (41 per cent).

Of the almost one-third of Canadian investors who currently  invest sustainably, 69 per cent plan to increase their holdings within two years. Moreover, one-third of investors who don’t currently hold any sustainable funds plan on adding them to their portfolios within the next few years.

“It’s encouraging that sustainable investing is gaining significant traction among Canadians,” said Fate Saghir, SVP & Head of Sustainable Investing, Mackenzie Investments. “Though it shouldn’t come as a big surprise – Canadians tend to be very aware of the world around them and the impact we have on our society.”

“For those unsure how to get started, it’s important to share your personal priorities with your advisor, understand the investment objectives of the funds you’re investing in and ensure that you research the top holdings in your funds and portfolios. That way, you can align your investments with your values and your financial future,” she added.

Barriers to Increased Adoption

The study found that one of the barriers to increased sustainable investing adoption among Canadians is the view (40 per cent) that it will lead to lower returns.

Ms. Saghir noted that this concern is unfounded and referenced  a recent Morningstar  study which found that the majority of sustainable funds (64 of 87) that were ranked and rated by Morningstar outperformed their category peers on a risk-adjusted basis after fees for the 2020 calendar year.

Mackenzie’s approach to sustainable investing provides Canadians with the opportunity to invest with impact through funds that are designed to generate long-term competitive returns while supporting positive ESG outcomes. The firm aims to build sustainability into its culture, corporate practices, and every investment decision it makes and has signaled the importance of sustainability by identifying it as a key strategic priority for the overall business.

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Wishpond Launches Marketing Funnels Product Enabling SMBs to Improve Their Online Success

Digital Marketing

The Marketing Funnels product significantly increases the effectiveness of marketing websites and campaigns by turning marketing leads into customers.

Wishpond Technologies Ltd., an emerging leader in all-in-one digital marketing solutions that empower businesses to achieve success online, is pleased to announce another expansion to the Wishpond platform with its new Marketing Funnels product. Wishpond’s Marketing Funnels helps businesses and entrepreneurs monetize their website traffic by converting clicks and marketing leads into customers through an online step-by-step funnel process.  The Marketing Funnels product is easy to setup and collects user data using a series of online forms and selection pages. The end result for businesses is more leads, higher conversion rates, better insights on customers, more targeted follow-ups and improved online sales.

“We’re dedicated to finding new ways for small businesses to achieve better success online,” said Jordan Gutierrez, Wishpond’s Chief Operating Officer. “Often, the specific steps users go through on a website will determine the success or failure of a campaign. Wishpond’s Marketing Funnels gives businesses full control over what users will see, and when. It enables businesses to create websites and campaigns with higher conversion rates and reduced shopping cart abandonment rates, resulting in a better return on investment (ROI).  The impact can be remarkable.”

While Marketing Funnels was primarily designed to help increase front-end conversion rates, it has the added benefit of being able to reduce the likelihood of cart abandonment. According to data from the Baymard Institute, the average shopping cart abandonment rate in 2020 was 69.57%. By being able to send targeted follow-up emails and SMS messages, businesses now have the power to re-engage users by sending them back to the exact step in the sales process they dropped out on.

Marketing Funnels are particularly valuable for businesses in industries where there are lengthy information requests or cumbersome forms needed to process customer requests. Common use cases for this include online product sales, mortgage applications, small business loans, vacation planning, life insurance/group benefit applications, course registrations, pricing requests, service quotes and more.

Marketing Funnels can also be used in tandem with other marketing campaigns to increase the lifetime value of customers by adding upsell options to ecommerce pages and stores.  Wishpond’s new Marketing Funnels product also operates synergistically with our recently announced Wishpond Payments product to increase upsell opportunities and ROI at throughout the purchasing process.

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