Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I really just wanted to wish all clients, partners, friends & staff of Ideal Interface a fantastic & successful 2009.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
And suprisingly, blogs have more impact on purchasing decisions than social networks because blogs are more trusted!
Well it seems that for a certain segment of the population that answer is "yes", as blogs now rival search as a means of navigating to information that influences their decisions.
Unsuprisingly, face-to-face (F2F) contact appears at 'Position E' in the top right corner. This channel of customer interaction is the most costly, involving premises or travel and a lot preparation. It may also need the customer service individual / account manager / client contact / handler, etc. having all necessary information and support materials to-hand.
Costs can potentially increase further depending upon the demands of the interaction. For example: you may have a complex product that needs explaining / configuring or possibly a prestige client-base who is used to the "Low Tech / High Touch" approach. Try managing these people to a lower interaction channel and you could instantly see them quickly migrate to your competitors.
Monday, December 29, 2008
The main question we eventually distilled the issue down to was:
"If wisdom is the application of knowledge and if there are ways of measuring knowledge, why is there no easy way of measuring wisdom?"Taking this thought further, I would like to state that we don't give wisdom (and really I mean those that have it) enough credit.
Perhaps because we haven't been able to apply a metric to it yet?
Sunday, December 28, 2008
A recession it may be, but its not technically a 'depression'. I think the best desciption of both has to be Ronald Regan from his 1980 presidential nominee speech:
"A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."
Economists now generally agree that the downturn will last at least about two years. First becoming worst in 2009, it will eventually tail off around 2011.
To so this, they will consider a number of questions:
- How can you gain competitive advantage/market share without significant expenditure?
- Can you restrict your customer strategies, especially if there is not tangible/obvious Return on Investment (ROI)?
- At what point do you forget the ‘customer experience’ and cut costs?
- If customers are increasing their usage of different channels (e.g. mobile, internet/media devices, etc.) how do you faciliate these on the same/less budget?
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
A new Econsultancy Online PR Industry Benchmarking report, based on a survey of 300+ marketers & PR folks in the UK states that:
Online PR is still clearly viewed as a specialist and technical PR function by many respondents.
If companies outsource their Online PR to agencies or specialists, the breakdown is as follows:
- 51% use PR agencies
- 29% search marketing agencies
- 22% web development agencies
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
... that I'd share this article from yesterday's Internet Retailing site. A news article stated that "Customer loyalty does still exist — but free delivery and special offers are now the key retailer deciders".
The report from GSI Commerce, ( and I still find their website a little confusing) says that:
"pushing free delivery and special last-minute offers needs to be a priority in the final few days of online Christmas shopping,"It seems that given the same product at the same price from 2 different eTailers, 68% of customers would opt for the one that offered free delivery. Although that's hardly a shocking fact, you do have to worry what the other 32% based their decision on.
However, more shocking was the news that Amazon is apparently mis-treating its warehouse staff to reach its incredible near-perfect delivery rate. It seems that free delivery may come at a cost in the end!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Its possible to create a frustrating multi-channel experience when dealing with a company via just two different channels, let alone 3 or 4! This is especially true in the digital world where customers are only one click away from abandoning a company if their expectations are not instantly met. Lets be a little clearer...
1. Optimising your channels is not necessarily all about the lowest cost-to-serve (The average cost required to deliver a service to a customer), its about maintaining the right revenue streams and quality.
2. Consistency across channels (call centre, website, in-store kiosk, customer interaction technologies, etc.) reduces customer frustration. Or put another way: a report by BT back in early 2008 showed that:
"ninety-seven per cent of customers expect their interactions with companies to be consistent and seamless"
Be careful how you plan and implement your multi-channel strategy for 2009.
Monday, December 15, 2008
In less-certain economic times, companies come under increasing pressure to reduce costs and as I mentioned last week, this can mean managing your customers down to lower cost-to-serve channels (e.g. moving them from positon 'B' to position 'A' in the diagram)
For those who've read my previous post, you will know I believe you need to provide the right amount of customer interaction that a customer needs (but perhaps just not the level they want). This is where the web becomes incredibly useful.
But building a website to interface with customers is no-longer just a case of building a static content-fulled site, its about creating another interaction channel. And sometimes, providing customers with a basic level of interaction (e.g. Position 'A') just goesn't cut it any more. Fear not, a technology solution can be used, it just has to be used more carefully and cleverly.
Providing a rich user experience for your website is something that I've worked with a lot of clients on. Developing an intuitive and often complex site (e.g. Position 'C') obviously adds to your cost-to-serve, but in the longer-term this is a relatively small incremental cost per customer. It should also prevent the customer automatically heading off to to your 'Contact Us' page to phone your call centre. Technologies such as: Silverlight, Flash, and AJAX can help your site provide better interactivity and customer empowerment, and personalisation & other decision-based logic can provide a more individual experience.
But there is a middle ground and it sits somewhere between the slick responses of a video-based interaction and the human-to-human contact we all crave. However its an area that many websites have yet to fully understand and tackle (and it sits at Position 'D').
CIT or Customer Interaction Technologies as they are called, can all help bridge this interaction gap:
Is a way of connecting your call-centre with your customers, who can leave their details and be called back as a time better suited to them or the company (e.g. during any particular quiet periods your customer services representatives have).
Virtual assisitants, provided by people such as Creative Virtual, are still a technology that has yet to break into the mainsteam and its hard to work out why. Perhaps when one passes the Turing Test, we may see a change.
These online knowledge bases can provide dynamic Frequently Asked Questions, that understand context or provide more than just the standard content-managed answers. Link these into your personalisation functionality, track their usage and you get a rich set of data on what people are looking for (and what they don't know about).
In essence a business version of Instant Messaging, this technology has been used on websites for serval years now and provides a customer with text access to your call centre. Yes, I know this may seem like a slower (and therefore more costly way) way of interacting, but done cleverly it can reduce the cost-to-serve or even allow your operative to have more than one conversation at the same time.
E.g. pre-typed or 'hotkey' responses to produce instant answers to familiar questions, such as specific issue information or company contact details
Although these Customer Interaction Technologies haven't gained significant ground on many websites, its possible that as times get leaner andcompanies put more pressure on their websites to increase conversion and customer satisfaction, they they become a cost-effective toolset for the digital channel.
Friday, December 12, 2008
- The economic crunch is here
- Company revenues decline
- You get told to reduce service levels
- You reduce staff and/or cut the hours of cover
- There's a dilution in the customer experience
- This causes an erosion in customer loyalty
But this need-not be the outcome, as a recent McKinsey article highlights. This report covers the possibility of finding your customer 'Break Points' and carefully tracking this to avoid a complete drop in customer satisfaction.
One alternative to this is managing your customers down to lower cost-to-serve channels such as online, without a drop in quality of service. As I mentioned in a previous post, this can also be difficulty to pull-off correctly, but then this is a recesssion... and you don't just judge the person during the good times do you?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
But hang on, I thought a principle media these days was the Internet in all its flavours? (Google search, content sites , Blogs, Social Networks and everything else). Its in the top 3 of all media consumed and advertising money spent, as well as the main method a lot of us choose to receive our news and information by.
Surely now there's a justified case for saying that the Internet is now a member of the mainstream media?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I've previously put together my thoughts on cost to serve vs interaction models, but have been sent various examples recently where companies have obviously decided that low cost to serve means low quality of service. From examples of bad IVR, through to the refusal of some large companies to stick their customer services telephone number on their website.
This does not need to be the case. Just because you are using a lower cost-to-serve channel to service customers, doesn't mean that there has to be a dramatic reduction in the quality.
But delivering a good quality customer service experience does not necessarily mean providing a human voice all the time. Yes there there may still be the expectation among your customers that they will speak to an operative when they phone your billing number; but its how you deal with them when instead they get a voice-recognition system that matters. Also there is often more than one choice of communication channel for the required level of interaction you need at a lower cost-to-serve than a call centre.
Once company that has turned the entire customer service experience on its head is SwiftCover Insurance. The advertising material they've put out over the last few years has made a point of covering the fact that they don't have any Clucking Call Centres:
Clearly aimed at those no-nonsense people who don't like dealing with low quality call centres, they obviously have eliminated a higher cost-to-serve channel straight away. Its not suprising that they've managed to gain a share of a market given some of the incredibly bad practices apparently being used by some call centres such as using fake names and hanging up when things get difficult (This article in The Times is a real eye-openner if you have the time).
Actually, are you aware that there is a British Standard for Customer Service?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
However, what if your employee is trying to cultivate their own personal brand? What if they are trying to own the conversation? (Well Jeremiah has a very similar blog post today, with some suggestions on how companies may try to manage this issue.)
One thing is for sure, personal brands are here to stay and some companies actively encourage the employment of them. Rather like an actor for a film, they are hiring an individual to play the lead role. But well known actors expect to make their own changes to the script and of course they have their nuances and traits that make them popular and therefore social. This is very different to giving an unknown some specific lines to say verbatim and its something that film studios have lived with for years...
I'm just not sure that the digital communication space is any different.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I was therefore suprised today to receive an email from them with the subject line
'New Tall Mens Clothing website launching in 2009'.
I did therefore have some obvious questions:
- Why send me an email on the busiest online shopping day of the year, telling me that your new site is coming next year?
- Why start your email copy....
'New clothing website coming in 2009.
The all-new Alto Clothing website is coming in 2009. We have been busy working through all your customer survey returns and suggestions that will help us bring you the clothing you want.' ?
I am sure that most of the people who would have even bothered to have openned up the email would have stopped reading by now.
I will not dwell on the the email itself, which was an appalling mixture of colours, fonts, random bold text and strange layout. Instead I would just advise Alto, that to send such a confusingly worded email in a heavily competitive industry and during such economic times, is perhaps not the best way to generate click-through and sales?
Friday, December 5, 2008
Here was my perspective:
1. The market for online (eCommerce, Marketing and general digital stuff) is still going to see growth in the next 3 or so years. There are various predictions by intelligent and well-regarded people about what this growth will actually be, and most of these have however been lessened in the recent economic climate. However none are fore-telling a short-medium decline in the online space!
Despite Ad Age's recent article announcing a 'crater in online sales', which eventually admits:
holiday e-commerce sales will ultimately match the $29.2 billion spent during November and December of last year2. There is still the view that buying online is: easier, cheaper and providing a greater selection - without the: hassles, petrol usage, parking fees/fines and other burdens that accompany a shopping trip
3. Online Marketing is an accountable science, that shows (almost) instantly what works and sells.... and what doesn't! Showing a Return On Investment is key right now and I don't think this will go away, even when the market picks up in a year or two.
4. London is the home of the UK (and possibly the European) digital comunity. There are lots of networking events still and great people to meet & work with. Although Silicon Valley and SF is the home of the new economy, London is its hard-working cousin over the Atlantic
5. Its still a fun industry to be in now. There is still work in digital (albeit less highly-paid consulting roles) but the full-time market for online people is still OK.
So, for now, it doesn't look like its online's recession.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
There have been almost 25o postings to the blog. These have covered various topics based around company & customer communication methods, whilst still trying to keep up with my per subject of the demise of mainstream media.
So, what have I learned along the way? Well, here's a few thoughts:
1. Blogging (almost) daily is hard work.
Maintaining a reasonably professional blog requires a certain discipline to keep abreast of technological, social & communication practices. It then takes more effort to actually type stuff up into (semi) coherent thoughts and perspectives. This is especially true when you have a full-time consultancy job and a company to run. Several times now I've found myself tapping away in the office gone-midnight in an effort to piece together an article to automatically schedule a publish in the morning. However, that said.... its been a good experience and I'm still enjoying it.
2. Its slightly easier to post about different (but related) topics
I have to admit that I've found it easier to produce postings about multiple subjects on a regular basic. For example: by discussing ecommerce market growth projections on one day and video newspaper initatives on the next, it allows me to investigate different issues that are still inter-linked by my passion for all things digital. Also, I'm sure I've strayed completely off-topic sometimes, but hopefully my readers have enjoyed the occasional tangents taken.
3. Getting comments is a very satisfying experience:
Its nice to know sometimes that not only am I getting visitors (I do track usage via some Google Analytics code inserted into every page), but that they are actually reading what I write. I'm particularly grateful to: Tristan, Ellify & Boudewijn for their feedback - both for their comments via the blog and also separately [thanks chaps].
So... what hasn't worked? Well certain things haven't exactly planned out as I hoped. For one thing, I haven't entirely stayed true to my original aim of treading that line between the 'Press' section & 'About Us' part of the company website and the mainstream media. But then, as my thoughts and understanding have evolved, so has this blog.
Proof perhaps then that life isn't necessarily what you set out to get from it; but it turns out being what you put into it.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The average cost to serve a customer (e.g. to make a sale or to answer a complaint) depends upon the channel they use to contact you and then how you deal with that contact. Basically, some channels (e.g. face-to-face) cost lots and others cost less. Companies wishing to minimise their costs, should therefore try to 'manage' customers to the lowest relevant cost channel required to provide the level of interaction needed to service the cuctomer.
For example, in the diagram below 'B' shows that a high level of customer interaction (e.g. face-to-face contact to sell a new car) has a higher cost to serve than the lower 'A' which needs lesser levels of interaction (e.g. a web page). Basically, the more complex or 'human' you need the service to be, the more it costs to achieve.
The difficulty comes when a company badly manages their customers down to lower cost to serve channels, especially when the customer will always try to use the one with the highest possible level of Interaction.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
The question for today (and possibly picked-up again in subsequent postings) is:
In plotting this negative sentiment, are you therefore creating your
anti-social graph of corporate influence?
Monday, December 1, 2008
But for those who have never done this before, beware... its a minefield!
And for those who have... well, my sympathies.
As the old joke goes:
When a lost person went up to someone and asked them for directions, the response was... "don't start from here".
Creating your channel approach is a little like being lost. Not only is it a case of where you want to go, but also it is:
- How did you manage to get to where you are right now? (history)
- What do you currently know ? (data)
- How do you want to get there? (tools & technology)
- What's the journey ahead like? (impediments)
If you're planning your multi-channel strategy for 2009, consider starting from an informed and understood place. Oh, and obviously be careful who you ask for directions along the way!
Friday, November 28, 2008
Celebrity derisement perhaps?
Now I've previously commented that Celebrity is not to be confused with influence, but when a person has both of these and they start giving their opinions, people listen and act accordingly.
This was once-again brought to my attention yesterday when Rory Cellan-Jones mentioned Stephen Fry's negative Twitter comments about his new Blackberry Storm on Twitter. It seems that one man is able to make a difference in the successful launch and selling of a product.
The topic must therefore get around to the question of "which celebrity derisement do you need to avoid?" or "which key inflencer's negative sentiment causes the most impact?". How do you find this out?
By understanding, measuring and plotting your company's corporate social graph, you can specifically identify your celebrity influencers as well as other key figures (journalists, officials, etc.) and appropriately deal with their positive and negative endorsement.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
you should satisfy customers with the best possible product in the marketIts as simple as that! However,the term has fallen out of favour to more recent and newly-hyped theories & tools such as anaytics-based and 1-to-1 marketing . Why?
through a relational exchange process.
Customer relationship management goes beyond the normal transactional model (customer told, customer buys, customer goes away) but actaully enables the marketer to estimate the customer's sentiment and buying intention, so that the customer can be provided with products and services before they start asking (or even realise).
This is possible through the integration of four important company components:
Perhaps its time we take a look again at CRM.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
- The BBC Trust on Friday (21st November) has rejected plans, described as 'controversial', to launch a network of local BBC news websites with video content.
- This scheme would have cost around £68m, but was judged "unlikely to meet [licence fee payers] needs" or improve the service
- The regional press has welcomed this decision, as it saw these plans as direct competition to their own local efforts (less laughing at the back there please) and would potentially affect their revenues by 4% per year.
This is in direct contract to nearly every other major media player, who is currently cutting back its regional news operations (e.g. even ITV). For more information see the well-balanced report on the BBC website.
What I believe the BBC management have done is find an area of communication (e.g. local coverage) that isn't the subject of innovation and ground-breaking new models that we would have once hoped for from the regional press. By planning a new, alternative and professional service that moves the Corporation one step further from broadcaster to local media hub, it surely is only trying to provide what people want?
This isn't necessarily the end of the matter. There is still a public consultation process which will see the final decision given on the 9th January 2009.
Perhaps the BBC now needs a new Media Relations Manager?http://jobs.guardian.co.uk/job/776268/media-relations-manager
Monday, November 24, 2008
Well, apparently not very well, as in the UK we spend almost five days a year communicating with customer services by phone, in person or via the Internet.
This astonishing fact comes from a recent European DHL survey that suprisingly shows that 5.8billion hours a year in the UK are spent dealing with Customer Services staff. This is an average of two hours & 16 minutes a week......!
The UK's top three dislikes about customer service are:
- waiting times (83%)
- language barriers (80%)
- lack of knowledge (74%)
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Why do I say this? Well you may currently be making enough money on your current branded eCommerce site to keep the boss and shareholders happy, but what are you missing out on?
Answer: An opportunity!
Lets put this another way, your customers don't always use the same online channel to:
Gain awareness, review features, understand detail, discuss their potential purchase, etc. Some use shopping comparison sites (e.g. Google Shopping, etc.) , some go direct to brand sites, some go to independent & industry-recognised reviews and others ask their friends on social networks. http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1006719
Q: Doesn't that just commoditise our product?
Sure, there's the chance that cusomers just look at price, but that happens anyway. Others use multiple online sources to gain information and clarify their purchasing decision. If you are not present when they are making that decision you are missing an opportunity.
Q. How do I do this ?
Easily! Most eCommerce software/vendors allow you to take a regular product (including price, image reference and even inventory/stock) feed from your online catalogue/database. This feed (usually in XML format) can be provided to key partners or affiliates, who can easily re-format it and put it up on their site to work for you.
Note: If your eCommerce provider says this is difficult or even impossible to do this, consider reviewing their contract ASAP
Q. Doesn't this cannibalise my existing eCommerce operation?
Possibly and lets be honest about this. If you are running a successful online sales channel and you provide a feed allowing your products to be sold on other channels, then there is this risk. This can however be measured and avoided by carefully selecting your channel partners. This comes from understanding & comparing the sales made with that of your own site . It may be that these partner channels target a different demographic or catch people at an entirely different part of the product consideration process. Careful analysis is imprortant here.
Has anyone got any more questions?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
So just how influential are they?
Well, in Europe they make up about eleven percent of the workforce despite having higher costs for higher education than previous generations.
Having never known a world without the Internet, they obviously spend a great amount of time online and 18-24 year-olds make up 19% of the adult online population. But despite their apparent stereotype, they do not demonstrate the impatient, self-absorbed and disloyal characteristics sometimes labelled to them, but instead they are more optimistic, more loyal and less rebellious than previous generations .
Even though these tech-savvy young adults may still live at home with their parents, they do strongly influence many adult consumer buying choices (e.g. parent shopping habits) particularly the family technology preferences and habits. In a recent Motorola study Millennial were shown exerting: considerable influence on parental decisions about cable, DSL and satellite service, as well as on which HDTV to purchase, and even which programming packages to buy.
A slightly older piece of research from 2006 showed they influence household purchases in the fol owing ways:
- 81% of clothing and apparel purchases
- 77% of groceries purchases
- 76% of movie, video, DVD purchases
- 69% of video games and systems purchases
- 68% of computer purchases
- 66% of cellphone and computer software purchases…
And lets not forget that they are now politically active. For example in January 2007 Farouk Olu Aregbe, a student government coordinator at the University of Missouri, launched a Facebook group, "One Million Strong for Barack."
As mentioned by Brad Sago, in his report on The Online Shopping Psychology and Expectations of Millennials:
Over the next few decades, Millennials will continue to stamp their own unique imprint on business and society.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Has no brand manual (the logo use varies from campaign to campaign, fonts are varied, writing style is confused, etc.) yet they think they have a great brand. It seems that sales are declining in their high-specialised market right now, but this is the 'customers fault for not understanding them'.
Has a great 'brand bible', put together less than a year ago by a highly-paid brand consultancy, yet has started to ignore these guidelines because the person who commissioned/championed the work has left (they went on to bigger & better things). They have now been replaced with someone who wants to put their own "emphasis on things".
The thoughts that my companyIdeal Interface have taken from this experience has been:
- Document your brand (if you don't know, how are your customers going to?)
- Take every opportunity to use your branding across all channels
- Be consistent, be very consistent
So once again, I find myself referring to the work of Mr Paul Isakson and his thoughts on branding in the modern age:
Monday, November 17, 2008
Following a social media outcry, McNeil Healthcare (the parent company) have issued an apology on the homepage of their website http://www.motrin.com/
As well as this, they have also issued apologies via email to concerned customers and pledged to remove all occurences of the offending advert as quickly as possible.
This apology seems to have been relatively well received:
I'm sure there will be several commentators out there who will provide their opinion on this series of events, but here's my main bullet points:
- Following the backlash, McNeil Healthcare, and in particular its VP if Marketing, seem to have responded over the weekend and today (I guess time will tell how badly this has affected brand and revenues)
- Several Motrin names on Twitter have now been taken by 'concerned' individuals (I'll not post who they are, as I don't think they have acted entirely in the public's best interest)
- Brands can no longer afford to ignore social media and should take steps to monitor the mentions and sentiment all the time
The ad targetted mums who carry their child in a sling on their body and went on to mention how this this is fashionable and gives you back pain. They haven't gone as far as to say "your child is a pain in the neck", but a lot of people took offence to the clip, blogging about it:
(e.g. http://shakethesalt.com/2008/11/motrin-the-anti-mom/ ) and using Twitter. (At this time of writing, the http://www.motrin.com/ website is even down).
Judge for yourself :
This is a warning to every brand. Your customers could take offence, even at your highly-researched campaign, especially if it targets a sensitive section of the population (e.g. new mums). Make sure you have plans in place for how to deal with this sort of crisis and learn from how other companies respond.
(Note to Motrin: Perhaps taking down your own website at a point like this isn't the best policy?)
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Astrology, tarot cards, tea leaves, etc. have now been replaced by: scenario modelling, data-mining and a lot of computation & analysis. However I can help but think that this is still similar to palm reading and its ilk. Why? Well, it still uses one critial part of the system that is fallable... the human component!
Although a single human may be considerably inaccurate at predicting the future (Old Moore, Nostradamas, etc.), is a collective group of humans any good at guessing what happens next? Well, on the basis of the recent financial crisis, it would seem not
The recent USA Presidential Campaign was
Friday, November 14, 2008
But after reading through many of these from different companies, I've noticed one word missing from the collective bunch... Integrity
Why is this?
Why do companies not include "The steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code" as a differentiator? http://www.thefreedictionary.com/integrity
Thursday, November 13, 2008
A quick search on the web, shows that the NYT actually noticed as well:
It seems that newspapers still have a role in getting the message across, but its perhaps more worrying that they had to give away the 1.4 million printed copies of this hoax, rather than charge the cover price for what is obviously a great souvenir!
“There is a time and a place for Facebook. But there is no justification for it to be used as a sounding board for staff of any company to criticise the very passengers who pay their salaries.”
"But hang on.... this is Virgin Atlantic Airlines" I hear people say. "They are the 'fly in the British Airways ointment', the company that has a Facebook page with quotes from Richard Branson, endorsements by James Bond and they actively encourage their customers to take silly photos of your free DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) socks as you travel the globe with them".
But, in my opinion there is a definite difference between a company presenting itself in a friendly way on a social networking site and the action of some employees venting their frustrations and opinions on the same platform.
Is this therefore not a principle case for segmenting the different contacts in an individual's Facebook account? Surely to have: work colleagues, school mates, customers and everyone else all seeing everything you say or do is not what anyone really wants? Wouldn't it be better to classify some aquaintances in one way (e.g. Business contacts) and others in another way (e.g. people I can say what I like to)?
Classification and segmentation of a personal social graph must obviously be the next step for all multi-purpose social networks (or over vertical/market-specific social networks that allow you to import your entire social graph). Perhaps following that segementation, companies will be likely to follow-suit and understand just who within their Corporate Social Graph they can have contact with and what that contact should be.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Forward thinking Michael Resenblum tells it like it is this week whilst backstage at the Society of Editors conference in Bristol:
His words during the conference were very powerful. Quotes such as:
“Any idiot can do this, making TV is not hard, it's not complicated, it's not difficult. The technology makes it incredibly simple.”
were meant to galvanise publishers into thinking more about cost-effective TV production and less about paper. It the news that's inportant, not how its delivered.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Or to quote him directly:
Nobody has the right to a business model.Amen to this! The World is filled with people who had a great but failed idea. Why should the newspaper industry survive just because:
- "that's always the way we've done things"
- "that's what I trained for"
- "we helped bring down a government in the 1970's"
We may eventually find that the profitable running of a newspaper was a failed experiment!
Monday, November 10, 2008
For example, just take a look at how many 'lite', 'freemium' or 'trial' versions of software packages there are out there (I'm currently a sucker for the demo / trial versions of applications on my iPhone).
So, you've recouped the cost of development, shown it costs you virtually nothing to produce a copy (e.g. software, an idea, a process, etc.) and then your strongest competitor comes along with something...... and charges for it. What makes it worse is that customers pay for it, a lot of them.
So how does that work?
Well according to Kevin Kelly, a great modern thinker, Editor-At-Large for Wired magazine and Author of the 1997 book New Rules for the New Economy (which still holds true 11 years on), there are 8 reasons for paying for something rather than settling for a free version:
Basically, there are several reasons why paid-for stuff is better than free.
It therefore strikes me, in these modern and leaner times, that companies need to reconsider if the really need to give everything away and that this may be the difference between profit & loss (and therefore economic survival).
Friday, November 7, 2008
Therefore, assuming the quality remains constant, the only real competitive edge comes in the delivery and support of the item. In other words, the service provided, either during the transaction or afterward, becomes the difference.
This is especially true online, where customers think they get a lesser service compared to in-store. This is proven in a recent survey, where eight out of ten consumers believed they get better customer service in-store, rather than on the internet or over the telephone. What's even more surprising (especially in these more-frugal times of a recession) is that 73.4% say they are prepared to pay more for a product if they receive a better service in-store.
Tim Ogle, CEO at Retail Eyes , who did the survey is quoted as saying:
The public has spoken - even when their pockets are stretched in times of financial adversity like now, they are prepared to pay for quality of service.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The idea is that banks will continue to finance retailers over the coming Christmas period, when a lot of retailers make a significant proportion of their money, This will be in the hope that this revenue is enough to keep them afloat.
The role of companies like Begbies Traynor is to rescue companies about to go under. Its therefore good business for corporate insolvency specialists to identify those who are not doing good business (think of this as the equivalent of a corporate dead pool)Mark Fry of Begbies Traynor said:
"There is every chance we will witness a rash of retail failures at the start of 2009"
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
But share a though for those gamers currently playing the new Burnout Paradise xBox360 console game. This is currently one of the screen shots captured from a particularly slippery part of the xBox Live course:
Monday, November 3, 2008
But how do you make sense of it all? Well, if you are using more than one communication or retail channel, then you need to think about how to leverage these touch-points so that you get the right mix of: message, content, sales, support and whatever else.
So, if you:
- Advertise online to get customers into store
- Provide a kiosk for an online newspaper
- Sell online and have customers collect from store
Then you've probably found out already how mad it can be.
But are you providing the mix that your customers want? For example, in the US earlier this year, retail customers cited the 'Ability to return merchandise to a a store, even if it was purchased online or over the phone' as the feature they desired the most from multichannel.
- The analysis (and decision) of what channels to implement
- Identifying the right metrics/KPI's across channels (and then actually measuring & acting on them)
- Organizational impact from exisiting 'siloed' departments
- Maintaining the message consistency across channels
- Finding or building the central technology to manage the whole thing
- Integration of the data between disparate systems
I'm going to try an focus on these challenges (and quite possibly more) in forthcoming posts and try to figure out how to avoid or resolve them. Hopefully it won't make us all mad in the process.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I'm not an expert on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and leave this to people who know far more about this subject than myself. But in one conversation on this subject with a few Internet industry people recently, we ended up discussing whether SEO is an art or a science, and I thought this was a great topic to mention further.
Now I've previously said (in various forums and presentations) that online marketing itself is more a science than an art, but this has been based more around:
- writing an online marketing plan/strategy
- implementing it
- analysing it
- learning from it
- refining it
However the work of an SEO person is less easy to test as:
- You don't get immediate results (spiders take time to crawl)
- Variable amounts of content are produced about each term (making organic search results varied)
New content is constantly produced
- The exact ranking/prioritisation of search results are closely guarded secrets
- The algorithms behind these results can change over time
- Each search engine has different algorithms(and a bunch of other more technical things that get increasingly complex the more you ask on the subject)
No wonder you need a PhD to understand this stuff!
From this lack of immedate results springs a set of businesses that are focused on spreading theory, rumour and suggestions, then testing them to destruction... the SEO industry. This is hardly a scientific community and one where discussion boards are regularly set alight by the merest hint of actual information.
For clients who use these services though, SEO agencies can perform wonderful feats of illusion and in some cases magic (one apparently even made BMW's German site disappear from Google for a while back in 2006).
But hang on, there may be a glimmering light out there in Optimisation Land. Some people are actually trying to put the science back into search. For example Professor Mike Thewell (who has the wonderful title of "Professor of Information Science and leader of the Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group at the University of Wolverhampton" - didn't Doctor Who face him back in the 1970's?) has recently started blogging over at http://linkrelationships.com/ on exactly this topic.
His intial post on Scientific SEO sums things up nicely:
But at the end of the day decisions are based upon gut feel and received wisdom:His research & insight (which can be brain-hurting to mere mortals) should be interesting to watch over time, as he divulges more about his research. If academics are to eventually try and add credibility to what was previously just subjectivity and conjecture, surely that cannot be a bad thing?
art rather than science
My verdict... For now, lets call SEO work a 'craft'. Something that is on its way to absolute definition and measurement, but still shrouded in arcane terms such as 'black hat' and spiders.
(I think it must be Halloween soon)
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Luckily in their recent report, 'The State of the Blogosphere' Technorati provide the answer:
I'm actually quite suprised, not that North America is so well represented, but that Asia and South America are not. More investigation is perhaps required.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Q: What do you do when you are technical news site that relies on user-generated content, which then disappears when you have a technical glitch?
A: You put a news article out explaining what happened and encourage comments
Not that surprisingly, the community has responded with sympathy and not lambasted the site.
Compare this with the ‘issue’ over at Amazon, where reviews of a computer game were accidentally deleted/removed/hidden [delete as appropriate] with no apology and just a comment by a spokesperson that:
"Amazon did not knowingly or consciously choose to remove the reviews. The team is working on resolving this issue now and restoring all the reviews on the site."
… were it not for the fact that negative comments of a game by the same manufacturer (and a major supplier of games to Amazon) were also removed a while back. [cough]
However, if you want to see a 'proper' company apology, take a look at the one from David Needleman the CEO of JetBlue airlines, written by him when customers were left stranded for significant time due to weather (and possibly bad service).
Note: This is the man who writes to individual letters called 'Blue Notes' to staff in his company who show superb customer service.
Nothing is more important than regaining your trust
Friday, October 24, 2008
Visionary of the Year:
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, whose book Groundswell sits on many of my peers' bookshelves (and mine included, when I get it back from a client I lent it to)
Innovator of the Year:
Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams the founders of Twitter.
(Which I mist admit to using, but less-so recently)
Brand of the Year:
Dell, for making the most in-roads to using new communications technologies, etc.
(E.g. For Dell Idea Storm, PR Blog, etc.)
Note: I'll obviously take credit for mentioning all of these winners in this blog and therefore expect my honorary membership to be in the post tomorrow [grin].
Thursday, October 23, 2008
"puts a thousand songs in your pocket."
(For those who are really interested, you can read about the lifetime of the music player at http://www.ipodhistory.com/ - should you be that way inclined)
Today and 100’s of millions of white headphones sales later, they make up 29% of the company’s revenue.
Peer-to-peer influence is a strange thing when you investigate it further. Now, thanks to social media and the 'always connected' society, everyone has the potential to influence everyone else. However, "not all influencers are created equal" as the report says. This has therefore created a new breed of Super Influencer! (Fabio Turel goes into more analysis about the report's findings here).
However, what the report does mistakenly do is depict the network of connectivity between individuals as a set of 1-to-1 connections .
I'm sure the visuals done were not meant to be exactly representative of the exact web of connections the report goes into more detail about, but were done by a graphic artist to a brief. However, had his/her brief been a little more realistic it may have looked something more like this:
(a social network data visualization based on a model that is based on "mobile particles that randomly bounce off each other")
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
If this works as planned, it could give an influence ranking of you and your contacts, potentially charging more for the advertising on the pages on more influential people (and therefore potentially appying a value to the individual's social graph).
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Celebrity is also not just a traditional media focus, it affects digital media as well. 4 of the top 10 entertainment sites are blogs and actors, (soda) pop stars & others take up a significant amount of the top search engine places, with some stars' search results very likely to infect your PC from dodgy downloads such as screensavers.
So, are these pop-stars, footballers, models and other media darlings true influencers?
The relationship between a celebrity and their fan base is often termed 'Parasocial', meaning:
“the seeming face-to-face relationship that develops between a viewer and aThis one-sided affair, increased thanks to 24 hour coverage of cultural icons, creates false / insecure relationships that are not an exact replica of the day-to-day relationships that normal people have. If influence is the ability of an individual to affect another's behaviour, then technically celebrties do have influence. For example in research by Cole & Letts in 1999 they found that 9% of the young people in their study stated that their idols had influenced some aspect of their attitudes and beliefs.
However, don't confuse the two. Just because a celebrity looks attractive or has something to say (most do), it doesn't make them automatic influencers. Others (Boon & Lomore 2001) has shown that while some participants in a Canadian study indicated strong attractions to their celebrity idols, the participants did not feel they were inspired to change their own behaviour based on those celebrities’ lives, choices or accomplishments.
Monday, October 20, 2008
"Online is not immune from the economic downturn, but while other sectors see
falls in expenditure the Internet is still experiencing an incredible increase
and is propping up the entire advertising market."
Friday, October 17, 2008
So, despite online advertising revenues growing, newspapers claim that with a huge site with lots of adverts comes the awful burdon of generating sufficient advertising dollars across all of it. Those days of generating huge online editions that were not only copies of the paper-based product, but enhanced versions with loads of additonal topics/opinions/comments, may be a thing of the past.
Yes, you did read that right. Newspapers online are considering reducing the size and number of adverts they display (and some are already doing it) .
Note: The problem apparently comes when everyone wants to spend money buying up the homepage, but don't care about the rest of it. Therefore newspapers struggle to find the right online ad sizes that they can sell premium advertising revenue for.
To quote media economist Robert Picard,
"newspapers keep offering an all-you-can-eat buffet of content, and keep diminishing the quality of that content because their budgets are continually thinner. This is an absurd choice because the audience least interested in news has already abandoned the newspaper."
Does this mean...
- That newspapers have to buck the current trend of blogging and building social networks to create inventory?
- That they have forgotten about seriously monetising their long-tail of niche content?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
This is exemplified in Google's mission statement "Don't be evil", even mentioned in their 'Code of Conduct'. Its partly a way of reflecting how balanced the company wants to be (in everything from its search results to the treatment of its staff in the workplace) and partly a method of separating themselves from Microsoft (often regarded as 'The Evil Empire') . I think this statement (partly a Bill & Ted philosophy and partly a commandment) does a lot to add humanity to a large company.
So how do you describe your company in human terms? And more importantly...
.... how to your customers?
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
In a recent Reuters interview, FT's CEO John Ridding announced:
- Sales of the paper has just risen by 20% (Asia & Europe) and 30% (US) from August to September
- Registrations to FT.com have significantly increased (also boosted by a slight relaxing of their paid content model)
- Page views are double year-to-date, with a 300% increase on the week of 22 September
(Goodness knows what they were last week then!)
However, market melt-downs don't happen that often and if you can't plan a profit then I guess you can't plan a financial crisis to benefit from either.... well, most of the city folks can't apparently.
But the FT does have further plans to improve its website, including: adding (more) video, providing more formats (Fancy using a Kindle anyone? No, I didn't think so!) and ignoring the taunts that it is cannibalising its print version.
However upbeat about the benefit of the recent crisis Mr Ridding is, he's also quite sobering in his parting thoughts:
“No one has necessarily nailed the business model in media, but we feel that we’ve got a pretty strong vision and operation.”
Monday, October 13, 2008
Having ventured again to the land of cuckoo clocks, cheese & chocolate, I became a little heavier, happier and once-again amazed by the professionalism and quality of everyone in the country I've had dealings with. From hotel staff & train conductors, through to store owners & the executives we met, everyone seems to been intent on providing a professional service. When I asked a friend & former colleague why it was that everyone one in the country had this approach he replied:
"Quality is in the DNA here"Having now returned to the UK, I've now thought more about how other countries, companies and individuals could learn from the Swiss and their approach to quality. In a commoditised world where one product is now so globally similar to another, its nice to know that quality can still make a difference.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I guess there's a tendancy to forget about customers when you're working for a bank that has not only been nationalised, but when the entire country is teetering on bankruptcy. Or should there be?
Is it really enough to place a message up on your homepage for over 24 hours that merely says:
We are not currently processing any deposits or any withdrawal requests through our Icesave internet accounts. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause our customersMor recently (today) they have placed a link through tothe UK Govenment's treasury website that explains further the plans to protect UK citizen's savings, but where's the:
1. Regular updates from senior people in Landsbanki (its parent bank - nationalised)
2. Informative statement's from Icelandic Financial Services about the situation
3. Link through to other useful information
Although this bank's fate may be sealed, you wonder what the lack of messaging on other loss-making financial services sites may be doing to easy their customer worries... and therefore what it may be doing to their longer-term reputation.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
However, neither Roy Greenslade nor the report writer Claire O'Sullivan from the research company Metrica, can offer no explaination or even an hypothesis for this upward trend.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Its meant that I've been regularly exposed to the recorded voice, just before I'm connected to a 'Customer Services Representative' saying:
“This call may be recorded or monitored for quality, training or security purposes”
Taking the time to break this sentence down the other day, whilst I was repeatedly put on hold, I realised how bad a job this message does of reassuring the listener.
1. They May be doing this if they want to
2. How is this conversation being stored?
(Note, if you then pay with your credit card is the voicemail system PCI-DSS compliant?)
3. Who's quality, yours or theirs?
4. Training, aren't they not already trained enough to speak with customers?
5. Security? Is for their security not mine?
Surely there must be a better message? Something more likely to provide even a small amount of assurance to their customers that they have their interests at heart, perhaps?
I'll wait to find out. Well, I've been waiting long enough on hold already......
Friday, October 3, 2008
The document below shows how they are leveraging social networks to improve the communications between their staff, current and past, creating an Alumni site which as of July 2008 had 45,000 members.
However, as well as highlighting how IBM is using modern social technology... I can't help but think that they are also using it to cut down on the fragmentation of communication caused by various employees (past and present) setting up networks on: Facebook, Xing, LinkedIn, Orkut or other publically available social networks.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
However, lets just think about this for a second. We allow others to give us an opinion and depending upon the amount of influence they have, we trust that opinion less or more. Therefore the customers (In reality everyone, for we are all customers of some products & services) are influenced differently, but to some extent we value the input of people we don't know. It is now possible for anyone to influence anyone else.
Before you deny this, consider if you've ever read a review on Amazon before buying a product or checked on the eBay seller before bidding on their item.
On the Internet, information about past transactions may be both limited and
potentially unreliable, but it can be distributed far more systematically than
the informal gossip among friends that characterizes conventional marketplaces.
Resnick & Zeckhauser 2001
This report is interesting as it tries to explain why buyers trust unknown sellers in the "vast
electronic garage sale" known as eBay, which, although isn't a social network to the precise letter of the definition, definately creates a sense of community, feedback and trust.
So, its not suprising then that http://www.universalmccann.com/ have recently published their latest research report entitled "When did we start trusting strangers?".
Hint: Way before social media became a popular term and perhaps we may have to look back even before Mr Resnick & Mr Zeckhauser started their research.
This report identifies a trend called casual influence, showing how its incredibly easy to influence other consumers by using quick voting and recommendations. They indicate that influence and online have almost become one and the same thing, as they put it:
There are so many tools to do this that we no longer have to really think actively about influencing
Food for thought?
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Well, in Interbrand's most recent research of the 100 Best Global Brands, the only 3 companies that come from the UK are:
- HSBC - Financial Services (No. 27)
- BP - Energy (No. 84)
- Smirnoff - Alcohol (No.89) - its parent company is Diageo
The rest of the World is represented as follows:
- Canada : 2
- France : 8
- Finland : 1
- Germany : 10
- Italy : 4
- Japan : 7
- Netherlands : 3
- Republic of Korea : 2
- Spain : 1
- Sweden : 2
- Switzerland : 5