Insights into Customer Communications

October 23, 2013

By: Josh Weinstein

About Josh: I have been a CME Group employee for three and a half years, and was a consultant for a year and a half prior to that, working in our Marketing Operations department as a web specialist, email marketing manager, and now managing our Marketing CRM strategies, which include data integrity, automation/communication, knowledge integration, reporting/analytics and user adoption.


This summer, CME Group Marketing teamed up with Business System to pilot a Data Science program where we brought in five interns currently enrolled at Northwestern studying for their Master of Science in Analytics to leverage our mountains of data and bring insights to market.

The first project we asked them to tackle was looking at customer communications sent out via email by Marketing, and see if there is a time that our customers are more or less engaged. We measure engagement by an email metric called Open Rate. When a customer opens an email, that data is tracked in our CRM system. What the interns found is that customers were most engaged (meaning the open rate was higher) during the early morning hours, mainly between 6 and 8 a.m. What the interns also found was that we were sending our communications primarily during Chicago hours, and that we get better results when we sent customer communications during local times. So, when we send a blast to customers in Asia, we should send when it is 6-8 a.m. their time. The interns presented their findings to the Marketing department, and the team has quickly adopted this as a best practice to great results. To note, the worst time they found to send customer communications is at noon local time.

Open rates are just one measure of engagement, and since the summer program was such a huge success, we have extended our Data Science interns through the end of year, and we’re sure to have some more insights for everyone coming soon.

Facebook EdgeRank (ΣUeWeDe)

July 10, 2013

By: Jordan Conner

About Jordan: I have been a consultant with CME Group for the past year focusing on SEO and Social Media. Before coming to CME Group,  I performed two studies while attending the University of Tennessee. One study focused on communication within Facebook and the other on the effect text messaging has had on interpersonal communication.


Facebook rolls out new features and changes fairly often but the newest, and potentially most influential change, is Facebook’s new algorithm known as EdgeRank. As Facebook is one of the largest social networks referring traffic to, understanding how to show up higher and more frequently in a news feed is critical to maintaining our strong Facebook presence.

So what is EdgeRank?

EdgeRank is the Facebook algorithm that decides which stories (Facebook calls “Edges”) appear in a follower’s newsfeed. With user volume of Facebook reaching never before seen levels, the algorithm hides what it sees as boring stories and shows popular stories.

EdgeRank uses three variables when deciding whether or not, and how high, to place edges in the news feed.

  1. Affinity Score
  2. Edge Weight
  3. Time Decay

Affinity Score (Ue): This is how connected a particular user is to the edge being posted. These connections are made by looking at specific actions. Actions include:

  • Clicking
  • Liking
  • Commenting
  • Tagging
  • Sharing
  • Friending

Each of these interactions has a different weight that reflects the effort required for the action (the greater the required effort the more value placed in the edge). In terms of weighting Commenting >liking>clicking on the edge.

Edge Weight (We): Facebook changes the edge weights to reflect which type of stories they think a user will find most engaging. The more visual and engaging the story is, the greater the weight. Facebook also gives greater weight to edges that are utilizing their new features. For example, when Facebook Places rolled out, check-ins had a very high default weight for a few months placing those edges higher in the news feed.

Time Decay (De): This variable is basically what the title says it is; the older the edge, the weaker the value of the edge. Another variable is how often the user logs into his or her account. The more the log-ins the more severe time decay will factor into the algorithm.

How can I find out my EdgeRank score?

Simple…YOU CAN’T! EdgeRank is completely invisible. The only way you can see how popular/influential your edges are is to find out how many people your edges are reaching. It’s not glamorous or easy but it can give you a sense of your score. Now that we know the key factors impacting Edgerank scores, it validates the approach we are already taking with Facebook. We will continue to provide timely, relevant and frequent updates, to further grow our 20,000+ followers. For CME Group, Facebook has been a proven network and armed with this knowledge we can continue to use this channel as an effective online marketing tool.

Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing

June 5, 2013

By: Gretchen Willenberg, Contract Content Strategist, Online Content Strategy

About Gretchen: I’ve been a contract content strategist since 2008 at both agencies and companies in Chicago. As a content strategist, I create and implement clients’ content strategy: The big idea(s) that drive all content initiatives and how this content should be created and maintained.

This is Gretchen’s second blog post.


As we create new CME Group content and revisit existing CME Group content this year according to our content strategy, we are sometimes asked “but what about our content marketing?” and “content strategy and content marketing are basically the same thing, right?” While both have been getting a lot of attention in the digital world (and on blogs and at conferences), and both are needed to improve the effectiveness of CME Group’s online messaging – they are not the same thing.

A Little History and Definitions

Content strategy, recognized and growing since ~2006, defines why content is being created, who the content is being created for, the format the content will take, where the content will be used (websites/blogs, social media, email, search), who is going to create the content and who is taking care of the content upkeep. Content strategists work most closely with user experience (UX) and planning teams to agree on strategy and functionality. Later in the process, content strategists work with content creators/originators, like the marketing team.

Content marketing, which seems to have gained momentum in ~2010, is the creation and sharing of high-quality, relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire or engage clearly defined current or potential customers to drive profitable customer action. Some content marketing is overt, like the pitch of a CME Direct email, but most is product-related content that builds brand equity by being useful to customers—more specifically, by helping them make decisions. Overall, it is more tactic-oriented. Content strategists rely on coordination with marketing and sales teams to help reach each of our customer segments with content that can/will be valuable to them.

How They Work Together

Content strategy is the “how” that oversees the “what” of content marketing. Content strategy can explore various goals, whereas content marketing focuses upon attracting and engaging target audiences. Without content strategy, content marketing lacks the planning and coordination it needs to be as effective as possible.

The larger strategy is needed to plan how different types of content work together to attract consumers, deepen the relationship with lead content, and close the loop with sales content leads. Every piece of content should not try to include/achieve all predefined goals. If you try to achieve this, the result is a confused mess, and customers take no action at all. This directed content is part of the larger content strategy of CME Group.

The marketing part of content is how you’re going to push your content after it’s on the Internet. This involves the tools, channels and techniques you are going to use to reach your audience. This is where you ask yourself, “How can I reach the most people with this piece of content?  How will this piece of content impact my business?”

You cannot have one without the other—if your core content is neglected or just plain bad, customers are led to disappointing experiences. If you have great core content, but no marketing tactics to bring customers to it, no one will know. Either way, there’s no point in creating great content if no one sees it.

How We’re Improving CME Group Content This Year

May 13, 2013

By: Gretchen Willenberg, Contract Content Strategist, Online Content Strategy

About Gretchen: I’ve been a contract content strategist since 2008 at both agencies and companies in Chicago. As a content strategist, I create and implement clients’ content strategy: The big idea(s) that drive all content initiatives and how this content should be created and maintained.


The mission of the online content strategy team in 2013 is to fundamentally shift the way we think about content at CME Group—moving from thinking about a content ‘launch’ to a content ‘life cycle.’ Our goal is to ensure that CME Group is the industry leader in creating and providing content that our customers want, the way they want it. This is where I come in – I’m the CME Group’s content strategist.

What Is Content Strategy?

Content strategy is defined as: Planning for the creation, delivery and upkeep of useful, usable and appropriate content, not only on, but across our sites and social channels, including Twitter and Facebook.

This strategy builds the structures and processes needed to streamline and target our online messaging. In short, we needed to answer the following questions and apply the answers to all the information, stories and data we share with our customers:

Who Do We Want to Reach?

Our site users are a diverse mix of global market participants, ranging from educators to traders, who rely on our educational information, data (intra-day quotes, daily settlement reports, daily bulletins) and insights daily.

What Do We Want to Say?

All CME Group content, whether it already exists, or is just being created, needs to meet at least one of our content goals:

1. Speak to our global audience and provide the information they want and need.

2. Inform with timely, relevant news, commentary and thought leadership.

3. Provide information on CME Group products and services.

4. Serve as a resource for market data.

Our Idea Exchange user research group is invaluable in sharing their perspectives on how they use CME Group content. This feedback helps us plan the types of content we need to improve and create. Additionally, the online content team is working with many divisions of CME Group to create a calendar that will help plan and coordinate new content creation and updates across channels.

What Is the Best Way to Layout the Web Pages for this Content and/or Distribute this Content?

As the content strategist, I work with the rest of the online content strategy team, our user experience team and developers to improve our content—on not only the website, but across channels, like making content more concise and easier to digest in email.

Additionally, we are tackling content/UX and design improvements including:

  • Access for all; including making the site easier to read, providing captions for videos and more.
  • New Site tools’ functionality. Remove outdated content from the site
  • Reduce extraneous information, such as too many “related links” on pages

How Do We Measure Success?

To quote Gerry McGovern, “unless you understand what people are trying to do with your content, you can’t really know if it’s working or not.”

That’s why our Idea Exchange community is so important; we look forward to hearing from you as we roll out new and, hopefully, improved content to ensure it’s what you want and need.


The Rise of Mobile

April 30, 2013

By: Franco Campione

Mobile usage continues to be a major trending technology theme in 2013. People all over the world are cutting their cords and moving out of their home offices.  They are quickly moving from desktop machines to smartphones, tablets and non traditional internet connected devices. Here’s an infographic highlighting the last 12 months and the rise of mobile usage on

Rise of Mobile infographic

Rise of Mobile infographic

Persona building

March 28, 2013

By: Jaime McCabe

Having a target user in mind when designing anything is helpful. Scratch that. Having a target user in mind when designing anything is absolutely essential.

When you arrange your own books on a shelf you likely have a method to your own personal madness that makes sense to you, e.g. By type, author, color, favorite, time period, etc. Or maybe your kitchen is a better example; I recently heard Jared Spool at a conference saying that you will know where your plates, glasses, pots and pans go but wouldn’t expect others to wander into your kitchen and immediately know where things are. That is because your kitchen or library is designed by you and for you. As designers we need to resist the natural urge to design what makes sense to only ourselves. One of the ways we do that is by creating and implementing tools that help us step outside our own ideas and tendencies and into the shoes of someone else, i.e.- a target user. This way we can be more objective when making design or marketing decisions as they apply to the people/ users we hope to reach.

One of the tools we’ve always used to achieve this insight is the use of Personas. Simply put a persona is a representation of a person within a specific demographic created to help understand their goals, motivations and behaviors. These details help guide a variety of decisions as they relate to our offerings, services, products; or how we market to our customers and how they might use our website. A little over 5 years ago we outsourced the creation of personas and are now looking to update our vendors’ previous work ourselves. So we started by considering our options…

There are several ways to create personas, some more valuable than others, and we’re trying them all! From my own perspective the ‘truest’ method is to ‘shadow’ willing users and observe their daily lives, taking notes in the process and confirming what you witnessed at the end of their typical day by recapping your notes to them- possibly gaining clarity to moments you might not have understood. This is a form of contextual inquiry (ethnographic research) with which we’ve had varying degrees of success. The toughest part of this method is to get people to willingly participate. The process is often thought to be more invasive than people are willing to deal with, and with some of our client’s privacy is paramount. So we didn’t have all the success we’d hoped for when recruiting for this study, but it was the right way to get the ball rolling.

Another way to create personas is to sit with the people you’re trying to better understand and interview them somewhat informally. I say informally because while the interview is guided you have to be willing to go off on tangents relative to the users experiences, and these are impossible to know beforehand. By asking a slew of questions in these interviews we hoped to gain a more intimate knowledge of who our users are, their daily behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment. We recently sat with a customer who has worked in one of our key segments for over 25 years and asked that he describe as many different roles within his space- as well as try to describe the people themselves.  From this we are currently building out personas as they exist in his segment of our industry.

We have a couple of methods still up our sleeves to help us better understand our key customer segments, which I’m sure will carry with it its own set of challenges. Stay tuned for updates as we continue to delve into the persona building process.

Four Things We Have Planned For the Web In 2013

January 31, 2013

By: Jen Wachtel

I always enjoy January.  Not because the weather in Chicago is wonderful this time of year (it’s not), or because the hectic nature of the holiday season is over (phew), but because I enjoy the process of taking stock of what our teams have accomplished in the last year.  I like taking a few moments to reflect on all the great things we did.  And then after looking back, I like the process of looking forward and making plans for what we would like to accomplish in the upcoming year.  So after spending a few weeks in the proverbial “think tank”, we are targeting some major initiatives and enhancements in the following 4 areas:

1)      Continue to globalize our web presence.  In 2013, a major focus for us will be to continue to grow the content and overall web experience on our existing international sites (Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Portuguese).  Additionally, we will look at ways we can further leverage social media and search engine marketing as part of our expansion efforts.  We are also looking at what other language priorities exist for us and plan additional in-language sites accordingly.

2)      Improve the effectiveness of our online messaging.  This is a fairly broad initiative but the best way to describe it is that we will be building structure and process around streamlining and targeting our online messaging.  This work will help us be much more targeted and succinct in answering the following questions:

  • Who do we want to reach?
  • What do we want to say?
  • What is the best way to layout the web pages for this content and/or distribute this content?
  • How do we measure the success?

3)      Market data display improvements.  This includes the redesign and architecture of a number of areas on the site that provide market data displays.  Two that I would like to highlight include:

  • Product slate- This initiative will improve the existing product slate to include all products (Globex, Floor and ClearPort) and allow this slate component to be reused in multiple sites/pages/sections throughout our sites.
  • Product pages- This project will improve the current product pages to offer a consistent interface to product info and include related content information that doesn’t exist today including: block trades, commentary, advisories, product calendar, margins and contract specifications.

4)      Improve mobile experience.  Currently, about 15-17% of our web traffic comes from mobile devices and as we continue to grow our presence in emerging markets, mobile usage will only continue to grow.  It is important that the way our site looks and interacts on mobile devices provides a usable experience for our visitors.  In 2013, we will continue to improve our CME Group mobile applications.  Additionally, we will continue to improve the mobile responsive nature of all our web pages when visitors access our sites from their mobile/tablet browser.

While I highlight these four key areas of focus for our teams, it does not in any way mean that this is all we will be doing this year.  I actually have a list that is waaaayyyyy longer than this but if we accomplish the four items I mentioned in this post, I think next January I’ll look back on 2013 fondly.

Building a Mobile Device Lab

December 6, 2012

By: Franco Campione

It’s no surprise to anyone that mobile usage is exploding globally – and with that comes increased demands from internal business divisions on IT to develop innovative solutions that allow our sales and marketing staff, as well as external customers, to access information anywhere and on any device. Creating these innovative solutions for mobile devices is actually the easy part! Testing what we create to ensure that they’ll work on multiple operating systems, form factors and device types is another story.

How big of a problem is this? Let’s dig a little deeper.

When it comes to mobile operating systems – it’s basically a duopoly. iOS and Android are far ahead of the rest of the pack with 68% and 18% respectively. That’s in the greater market though – sees much closer to a 50/50 split between iOS and Android devices accessing our site. That’s not to say that there aren’t other players in the game. Windows Phone is definitely seeing a rise as the new OS gains traction.  And we see meaningful traffic from users on Blackberry, Symbian and even Kindles and Nook’s. (And looming on the horizon is a number of up and coming OSs – specifically the very interesting Sailfish OS from Jolla)

Once you get past the various operating systems, developers need to deal with multiple versions. Taking Android for instance – we see traffic from 2.x devices (Gingerbread) all the way up to the latest 4.2. (Jellybean). Each has their own nuances and feature set that they support – including some rather important elements like side scrolling data tables that are styled with CSS3. So developers need to be able to use these advanced features but still degrade gracefully for effective and consistent viewing experiences.

Outside of OSs and their versions, we also need to consider various device form factors. Today there is an avalanche of form factors and screen sizes. Large tablets, small tablets (think iPad minis), large format handhelds, minis, eReaders – the list goes on and on. And they all have various screen sizes and resolution density.

Not that we’re aware of all the form factors, operating systems and device fragmentation – and we’ve started developing our sites using responsive approaches – how do we use this knowledge to test our what we create?

We decided to build a mobile device lab!

I started by researching others who’ve created device labs around the world. Smashing Magazine recently ran an article called “Establishing an Open Device Lab” that covered a lot of the basic topics to help us get started.

My first stop was a quick hop from Belfast, NI to London where I visited the Mozilla Open Space called the London Device Lab. Their philosophy is to provide an open workspace for developers to come and collaborate as well as devices for them to test their applications. Unfortunately – the space was closed that day for some retooling. But a little convincing at the door and we quickly found ourselves inside. We received a quick tour and focused on the mobile device section looking at how they have the space laid out, what devices were present and discussing their pain points (disappearing power cables!).

Back in Belfast and it was off to work on choosing what devices our internal lab would need to represent a good cross section of the user base that accesses our websites. I started with an excellent article from Stephanie Reiger on Strategies for Choosing Test Devices.

Step 1 was to review our existing Google Analytics – which yielded 907 distinct mobile devices over the last 30 days. Wow. A lot of work ahead. I sifted through all the devices – consolidating ones that were slightly different models of the same phone. From there I broke them down into screen resolutions and size and removed the duplicates. I followed Stephanie’s rule of focusing on the 20% of devices that produce 80% of the traffic.

Step 2 was to review regional traffic and make sure that we had devices that represented a good cross section of international usage in Asia, Latin America, South America and Europe. has an EXTENSIVE roundup of global mobile stats to look through.

Step’s 3 and 4 was looking at device and project specific factors to make sure we had a representative cross section of sizes and OS versions.

Whew. Exhausting. But well worth the exercise as I learned a LOT about our global mobile community and how mobile users are using our site that I’ll be able to share with numerous internal business teams.

From there the project turned towards location and how to handle these devices. Our office manager graciously donated an extra conference room here in our Belfast office!

Belfast Mobile Room

I looked at a variety of other hardware lab implementations. From the insanely expensive:

Fancy Mobile Room

To a bit too small for our needs:

Small Mobile Room

Based on that we drew up plans for our custom hardware – ensuring that we left room for power cables and a deep enough lip to handle thicker devices.

Design for Mobile Shelf

In short order – we had our custom hardware built and in place!

Picture of Mobile Shelf

The final step before ordering devices was to determine the software we would use to power this setup. Entering a URL into 20 devices one by one didn’t seem like a viable method when we’d have to surf from link to link during a development project.

Enter Adobe Edge Inspect. This amazing piece of software allows synchronized browsing and refreshing, remote inspection and dynamic multi-display screen-shoting.

How does it all work? Watch Danny Winokur and Paul Trani at ‘Create the Web’ keynote in SF on Sept 24, 2012 give an overview.

Stay tuned for Part II where I’ll walk you through the actual devices we chose, lab setup and our first mobile test!

Conference Time

November 15, 2012

By: Cara D’Arcy

Things change so quickly on the Web and in the world of technology in general, its kind of nice to find something you can depend on. The usability guidelines for user interface design as defined by Jakob Nielsen back in the early 90s are one of a few examples I can think of. Although the list has expanded over the years, the 10 core values stay the same – and are as relevant today as they were back in the day. Things like the ability to undo our actions and find our way home, consistency across sites, and a feeling of control are unsurprisingly as desirable websites today as they ever were.

Having encountered the guidelines for the first time during my college years, I was really excited at the opportunity to attend the NNg (Nielsen/Norman Group) Usability Week 2012 in London last month. The sheer breadth of courses available was testament to how broad the scope of the User Experience field is. From Information Architecture to the fundamentals of effective web design…. to designing for mobile devices and right through working with user experience in Agile development environments – pretty much all bases were covered.

I was lucky enough to bag a place on Bruce ‘Tog’ Tognazzini’s Interaction Design class, and spent 2 days learning from a bonafide trailblazer in the industry. Via an astounding back-catalog of anecdotes from his time as a designer at Apple, Sun and others, he touched on a mind-boggling array of topics ranging from magic to flight paths – somehow always coming back to a core set of values – that we, as UX professionals, are the guardians of user experience and we need to keep a focus on our end game through all of the distractions  (technology limitations, time pressures, budgetary constraints…) that come our way. Its a case of balancing the needs of business with the needs of our users – and making sure we do our utmost to satisfy both. Easy, right?

One of the most practical aspects of the conference was a daylong tutorial about taking an agile approach to development – and how UX folks fit into that picture. As a group we face a lot of challenges to keep the development team running at full steam through their iterative process. The key for us is not to slow things down. I’m in the throes of working with the agile coaches here at CME to figure out how we can incorporate some of the suggestions into our current design process to help keep things moving. The traditional ‘Ta-Da’ moment where we show a fully polished prototype after a lengthy period of design time just isn’t what works to support an agile approach to development – instead, lots of forward planning and delivery of ‘just enough’ is what we need. So that will take a little getting used to.

Don Norman’s inspirational keynote speech was a real highlight. Working his way through The Design of Everyday Things, he posed challenging questions about whether we are actually making progress design-wise at all. How can we still fail to standardize even the most basic of interactions? For example, who hasn’t mixed up the PUSH/PULL of a seemingly simple door handle? And if we can’t manage that, how on earth can we hope to nail down the finer points of displaying ~2000 different products in an easy-to-manage table on the site? The key it seems is – as always – to take it back to basics. Our users will show us the way, we just need to ask – so watch this space.

Throughout the conference the overall theme was that times are a-changing. And fast. As the size, shape, and portability of the devices we use to access the web change, so our approach to design must change with them – the responsive nature our site is a great example of how we here at CME Group are working hard to move with the times. As a group of interaction designers, the ball was firmly thrown into our court – the future of design is apparently in our hands. Now that’s quite a thought.

Is Information Architecture a global standard?

September 19, 2012

By: Sonya Caffrey

The CME Group web team in partnership with our CME Clearing Europe team recently endeavored to redesign and improve our website

The existing version of the site was a few years in the making, and now that the company is more established, regulatory requirements have been met and customers are knocking on the door, we were ready to upgrade the site and tie it more closely to the CME Group site.

Working with a distributed team in both Chicago and London we engaged business stakeholders, a design agency (QuintComms) and our internal marketing and design teams.  With limited time to market we didn’t account for official user research, we relied on the business to give us their interpretation of what they were hearing from users. As we know in our corner of the web world this can go really, really well or terribly wrong… And how do we decide? Do we let the users decide? Are we open to change after launch? How flexible is the design and IA  (Information Architecture) to change quickly if needed.

The launch date for the site was tied to a popular industry trade show in London, where CME Clearing Europe would have a booth to engage customers and show off the new site. So we decided this would be a great venue to engage customers and industry experts in some user research.

Since we assumed people would be busy moving from booth to booth we decided a quick 5 minute card sorting exercise would be the most valuable use of both their and our time there. This would validate or refute the IA and navigation structure of the site. We took the site map’s list of pages and created individual “cards” out of each section for users to sort. By leaving the card sort “open” participants were forced to create their own hierarchy and organize these sections into groups as they best saw fit.

The results were very encouraging.  There was a very high correlation between how users would expect to organize the content and how the content was actually organized. 17 participants were given 56 cards to sort, the majority of which they placed in 13 different categories with a level of agreement averaging at 60%. This means that participants agreed on content groupings over half the time; a great result especially because this was an open card sort and participants were defining their own groupings. More importantly the categories that users were creating mirrored how content is organized on the site today. Below you can see an example of user groupings in a tree graph.

tree graph

The results also highlighted a few areas that meant little to users as there was zero consensus on where to place these items. E.g.- “Membership Criteria, Monitoring & Stress Testing” was ignored by several users and placed in “Miscellaneous” silos by others. One user even created a category called “Stuff for IT Geeks” and placed it there.

All in all however, the exercise validated many of the information architecture decisions that were made during the redesign of the site. Now, using real user input and continuing our efforts to promote user-centered design across all our initiatives, is more justified than ever.  For this specific task, in the future it would interesting to dive deeper and ask users to consolidate groups into other groups and see if there is still a high level of consensus. Users did not go beyond one level of organization in this exercise. Stay tuned!


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