Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Disrupt Or Get Disrupted

There's a couple of phases that have been going around in my head for the last week or so.

These are:
- If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem
- Change is the only constant

Both reflect my feelings about the current progress of digital transformation across a range of industries. From taxi services through to financial institutions, new models of working based upon technology and data, have now disrupted existing companies and sometimes entire markets.

So if change is happening all the time....

Who is leading your disruption?
You probably have at least one person in your organisation who is the advocate of digital change. They may be a lonely voice shouting about the need to 'embrace change', 'test and learn', ' fail forward' or 'adapt agile'. Or they may be a senior manager with the drive, staff and responsibility to push digital to the top of the agenda. either way, these people need the support of the exec team and remit (including budget) to trial new things that could mean the difference between your organisation being a Blockbuster or the next Netflix.

When will the change happen?
Most of us are among the disrupted rather than the disruptors - Only 7% of companies surveyed by Gartner in 2014 felt they were truly digital and of the remainder, only 83% felt they would be digital by 2017.

An inability or resistance to transform and adapt in an ever-changing world is a big failure these days. Nothing stays the same for very long in business and This Shit is Gonna Get Faster.

Don't be complacent
Larry Page and Sergey Brin once said "Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one." Does your organisation run on apathy and complacency? If so... change get it or stand a significant chance of disruption!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Will better distribution help eCommerce in Scotland?

If you live in Scotland, and in particular the West Coast of Scotland from the Clyde Estuary up to the Hebrides, you will no-doubt have seen the Oban Express van as it whizzed past.*

However last week logistics group John Menzies acquired Oban Express with the wonderful claim that it could “transform e-commerce in remote parts of Scotland”.

The aim is that this take-over should give this large facilities and distribution company a greater geographical reach, by including the 45-strong vehicle fleet that typically runs between Glasgow and the West. This acquisition, driven by online retailing, also follows the purchase in June of this year of AJG Parcels of Inverness.The integration of both companies into the group should apparently "help keep down the cost of deliveries on behalf of national carriers to more isolated areas".

However, in my opinion, there can only be a truly better ecommerce delivery approach in Scotland if:
  1. Companies such as Menzies invest in these recent purchases and grow the capacity of their operations in remote areas.
  2. Travel networks (e.g. roads) are improved
    E.g. it doesn't matter how far or fast the van goes, if it is stuck behind a slow driver on the single-carriage all the way up to Fort William or waiting for a land-slide to be cleared on the Inveraray road.
  3. Big and small ecommerce companies alike stop charging unfair amounts for deliveries to the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
    E.g. I live 12 miles from Glasgow and was recently charged a premium by one company for shipping a small parcel (a mobile phone)!
  4. This is accompanied by the roll-out of decent broadband internet, which is still incredibly patchy across a lot of the land north of the English border.

* Dear Top Gear, here's an idea. Stop featuring bloody Italian supercars or unobtainable Aston Martins on your programme and do a piece on the amazing handling & performance characteristics of the Ford Transit and Iveco vans driven by the courier services to the North of Glasgow!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Think Like A Start-Up

In my recent session at the Marketing Society I talked about the need to think like a start-up.

I'd therefore like to clarify further what I mean by this:

1. Support a test & learn culture
I was once told "The biggest issue with failing in not failing.... it is failing to pick yourself up again afterwards", but this is only part of the approach you need. You must also foster a culture that supports failure when it inevitably does happen, by encouraging innovation and testing to find out what works (and learning from those things that don't).

2. Be prepared to pivot
Accepting you are wrong is a humiliating experience and it is also a viable business strategy if your proposition or market isn't working. Lots of start-ups have changed their business model or product to suit a better customer need.

3. Learn from everyone you can
Big businesses tend to know a lot about their current situation (e.g. their products and typical customer attitudes & other insight). However start-ups learn quickly... they have to. But in my opinion it is their approach to fast learning that interests me.
They ask everyone, from people who have used their website or app just once... through to mentors and others who have done similar things many times before.
They ask about their product or service: what people liked, what they didn't like and more importantly how it could be improved.

Does your company do these things?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Do Hearts Not Stars Indicate Twitter's Plans

So today Twitter has traded the star “favorite” icon / button for a heart-shaped "like" one. This change takes it further away from it's origins as a stream of personal updates to being more of a sociable social network.
The heart, the almost global symbol of affection, moves Twitter closer in interactions terms to Facebook (which has had the 'Like' button for ages), Instagram and even Periscope (the app-based personal video streaming service owned by Twitter which uses hearts as an instant method of feedback).

But does this move also signal something else?

It has been well publicised within the tech & online community that Twitter hasn't been without more than its fair share of issues. Culminating this June with the departure of Dick Costolo as CEO and the instatement to the role of co-founder & Chairman Jack Dorsey. 

Could this move be an attempt to be more like bigger competitor Facebook (which since April 2013 also owns Instagram)? This may make Twitter more popular or useful in the Social Media community... which may in-turn make them more attractive to a buyer. 

But which large tech player would consider buying Twitter at this stage? Something to look-up on Google I suppose :-)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Digital Transformation Consultancy is Big Business

It seems that every consultancy is suddenly talking about digital business transformation or disruption. And just like the digital disruptors, who have been encroaching on the territory of traditional organisations with new and exciting business models that threaten to eat their lunch... the more traditional management consultants and strategy firms have all been getting in on the digital transformation consultancy game.

 From all the marketing information I've received over the last few months, it would see that you're not a modern consultancy unless you produce a white paper on the subject of Digital Transformation and the 'uberization' of business.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

This Shit Is Gonna Get Faster

The pace of digital and technological change has accelerated over the last couple of decades.  Since I started work in the late 1980's everything has changed:

  • There's no such thing as a job for life
  • Wearing a suit to work does not make you the most important person in the room (or indicate you're the highest paid)
  • More and more things (products) now exist as software: music players, cameras, audio/visual editing tools, etc.

To give you some idea of the speed of innovation, TechCrunch launched its Disrupt conference in 2011 where just 45 start-ups demonstrated their products & services. This year at the same conference.... there are 5,000 of them.

However it is my belief that this speed of change, although on an upward trajectory, is going to get faster.

How fast? I've no idea. But if I'm right, the tools for delivering better and more customer-focused products will only get more efficient and the competition to create new and improved services will only get stronger.

Things are going to get crazy and brilliant at the same time... and I'm looking forward to it. So maybe sometime soon that suit of mine will one day stay in the wardrobe and only get used for family events.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Showrooming or Web-rooming?

Physical retailers have been suffering at the hands of eCommere for years. The ability to browser and buy from the comfort of your own sofa (or bed) has been a growing and compelling proposition, especially compared to the madness of Christmas or sale times.

And now, thanks to in-store Internet connectivity and smartphones online shopping continues to grow at the expense of in-store retail. Consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices (mobile phones, phablets and even tablets) in stores to: get product information, check competitive prices and obtain feedback from reviews & social media contacts. They are therefore using the in-store experience to 'showroom' by looking at, touching and even experiencing a range of products only to then convert online.

However this is only part of the story, as the reverse experience is also true. In a recent PWC survey, 70% of the respondents stated that they started the purchase process online, but converted in-store.

This process, now know as “web-rooming" is a growing trend that has benefited from the factors such as:

  • a focus by retailers on an improved in-store experience 
  • better staff training, to help customers purchase rather than put them off 
  • better and immediate stock availability 

The graph below, taken from the report, outlines the specific reasons why the respondents prefer to buy products in-store instead of online:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Digital Product Design Has Arrived

The creation of a major product tended to be an opportunity practiced only by a limited number of major organisations. The process of: research & development, manufacturing and distribution was the domain of the large company who had time, budgets and resources available. 
These days getting digital products to market is simpler and speedier by comparison. You don't need huge departments taking ages to create something that either succeeds in a known category or fails & folds without trace... online products can be created, launched and refined much much easier. Product owners can now understand their use and customers quickly... then iterate, improve, evolve and pivot to create something better.
It used to be that a physical product portfolio was pretty much set in stone from day one. Deviating from it was difficult and ground breaking. Now digital products cut across categories and almost defy definition as they merge features and functions from multiple industries all at once.

Everything is now becoming software. Ideas are formed, mashed up and reformed in a single development cycle.. rather than being fixed from one product generation to the next.

  • The pace has changed.
  • The environment has changed.
  • The approach has changed.

And the digital product manager is now able to create wonderfully useful and beautiful products that solve problems and look good too.

It is undoubtedly the age of the digital product and therefore the digital product owner or  designer is in the driving seat for the new economy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Future of Digital - thoughts Part 3

Further thoughts on the future of Digital, inspired by the Marketing Society's Digital Day 2015.

Q: What steps do you need to take to sustainably capitalise on the potential of digital within your business?

Collect and use data intelligently:
Whatever you do… ensure that you both collect data correctly and then use it in the best way possible to learn more and maximise value. E.g. Amazon, Google and Uber (as well as Scottish Unicorns: FanDuel & Skyscanner) have all built businesses based on interpreting and using data.

Think like a start-up:
With a small and dedicated team with the right combination of skills, experience and effort you can accelerate your digital output. Even the bigger digital-only businesses now buy smaller start-ups because they have the desire combination of product, skills and  intellectual property or just an idea.

Retain the best staff:
Keep the good ones and encourage the average ones to find out what they are good at. The biggest problems are those who have a misplaced sense of entitlement or use their efforts against others rather than as part of a team.

This is the third post on the Future of Digital, the first can be found here , the second can be found here.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Future of Digital - thoughts Part 2

Further thoughts on the future of Digital, inspired by the Marketing Society's Digital Day 2015.

Q: How have digital channels evolved and what will be the next big digital trend to capitalise on?

The speed of digital change is getting quicker, learn to deal with it. Focus less on the next technology, device or trend and far more on making sure your organisation can complete (this means being innovative, agile and ready to learn from its mistakes). Apple's slogan at its recent product launch was "the only thing that's changed is everything" and this is right.  5 years ago the iPad launched, now I am seeing tablet numbers decline across a lot of client websites compared to mobile traffic.
More shocking is the fact that 52% of all the companies from the Fortune500 in 2000 now don't exist!

Q: Which new technologies are passing fads and which are game changers for their business?
Over time every technology will eventually become obsolete. NFC, wearables, home thermostats (The Internet of Things) connected to your app, etc. will all one day be the equivalent of the fax machine or the telex. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t investigate some and adopt different ones that either take your on your journey of digital maturity or that meet the needs of your customers.

This is the second post on the Future of Digital, the first can be found here.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Future of Digital - thoughts Part 1

Following on from some questions I was asked at the Marketing Society's Digital Day 2015, I have decided to write-up my thoughts on the future of digital.

This basically takes the questions I was asked on the day and answers those here.

Q: What are you expecting audience engagement to look like over the next 5 years?

An increasingly demanding and savvy customer:
We have to meet the needs of a customer who more & more have either grown up with digital technologies or adopted them & lives online.  Regardless of channel, location and device the customer now expects a response in the next 3 seconds or they get frustrated, in 5 seconds.... forget it.

Forget about generic messages, they won’t cut it anymore
Sending & providing the same information to everyone is going to have less & less effect, relevancy is key. This obviously creates an issue for those who do not have technology & marketing systems integrated.

Have an acute focus on the customer
Understand each touch-point with your prospective or returning customer and then do everything within your power to minimise their frustrations and maximise their delight. Your website, mobile app, kiosk and should be optimised continually to make them better… if you don’t, your competitors will!

Friday, October 2, 2015

DigitalDay2015 - some thoughts

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Marketing Society's Digital Day 2015.

Held at the The Drygate Brewery in Glasgow, it was attended by over 100 digital marketing people from agencies and brands in Scotland.

I attended all day and was lucky enough to be asked onto a 'Think Tank' Panel session along with:
  • Stephen O’Donnell, Director at STV Creative
  • Loral Quinn, Head of Digital Strategy and Insight at Aberdeen Asset Management
  • Calum Shepherd, Head of Digital Strategy at The Scottish Government 
During the Q&A session we got to chat through some perspectives on the future of digital based upon our own experiences.

Overall it was a good day as a whole and a great 30 minutes on the sofa with some very knowledgeable and friendly peers in the online industry.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Is there space in the boardroom for the CDO?

There's loads of discussion online and in companies generally about the role of the CDO - the Chief Digital Officer.

The traditional 'C Suite' must be getting pretty anxious these days, with a new CxO role being suggested as one of their members everywhere they turn.

The list of new senior roles appearing more recently includes:

  • CMO : Chief Marketing Officer
  • CIO: Chief Information Officer
  • CXO: Chief Experience Officer
  • CSO: Chief Strategy Officer

One does wonder if there will be enough seats around the boardroom table to accommodate all these new executives (or more cynically, if there will be anyone left to do the work).

Russell Reynolds, an Executive Search firm describes the Chief Digital Officer role as having the following capabilities:

  • Able to plan and execute long-term strategy around driving customer awareness, engagement, experience and monetization. 
  • Familiarisation with web, mobile and social media and possibly local as well. 
  • Experience in developing new channels and business models, as well as innovative products and services. 
  • Tech savvy, with the ability to manage developers and ask the right questions

However, what I would add to this list is the ability to operate and communicate as the Exec level. There's no point an appointed CDO having all the technical skills and knowledge if they do not have gravitas or the ability to put forward their points eloquently to their senior level peers.

The boardroom seating plan may be getting squeezed, but as businesses evolve and develop... can any major organisation afford not to have digital representation at the top level?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Everything Has Changed

It's not often that I find an image that sums a lot of things all at once, but this final frame from the recent Apple iPhone 6s launch sums up:

  • My position on why every company needs to up their game digitally
  • Why organisations should focus on the customer & experience, not the device
  • That change in inevitable and moving at a faster & faster pace

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Photographing The Castle

Last weekend I got my new drone up and took some photos & video of Inverary Castle. This was done whilst Best of the West Festival went on in the background and with the permission of The Duchess of Argyll.

Hunting Scottish Unicorns

A couple of days ago I posted an article up to Linkedin about The Search For the Next Scottish Unicorn. This mentioned the two Scottish Billion Dollar tech start-ups (Skyscanner and FanDuel) and asked the question about which would be the next. Both, according to sources online, are now worth over £600,000 and so qualify (at the current exchange rates) as tech unicorns.

It will be interesting to see which Scottish tech start-up is the next to reach the 10 figure sum and how that fact will be measured & proved - quite possibly by the investment amount and the percentage taken.

So which ones will be next? Here's some suggestions on who this could be:

Described at the 'Tinder for Fashion' Mallzee is the shopping app that lets you browse and shop over 100 stores from the comfort of your own device.
Having recently raised $4 million (£2.5 million) from a handful of investors including the Royal Mail, the start-up is poised for big mCommerce growth.
The exact percentage taken for the £2.5m injection is not clear. However, give that CEO and founder Cally Russell turned down £75,000 for 15% equity from Peter Jones on Dragons Den (therefore potentially valuing the company at £500,000) so one has to assume that a similar or better deal has now been agreed.

Clear Returns
Clear Returns is a Scottish firm that produces clever software which helps retailers by identifying which goods are sent back by customers and more importantly why.
Founder Vicky Brock raised £110,000 from Angels Den and Angel Academe a couple of years . It's exact valuation is unknown, but it has a decent client list including Scottish-based high street retailer M&Co.

Have I missed anyone?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Scottish eCommerce Charges Are Unfair

If you are a Scottish resident in one of the Highlands and Islands regions, then you'll be only too aware that a lot of eCommerce sites charge you more for your delivery.

Well this fact hasn't gone unnoticed by Citizens Advice Scotland, who a published a report this week on this subject. They found that although fewer online retailers now charge additional fees for delivery to the Highlands and Islands... those that still do are unfortunately charging more than they did in 2012. On average Islanders are now paying 15.8% more and Highlanders have to pay an additional 17.5% for their goods to be shipped to them.

Citizens Advice Scotland identified that only 3.8% of the surveyed retailers now exclude some part of the Highlands and 10.9% exclude some of the Scottish Islands from their delivery offering.

Whilst it is understandable that there's more effort involved in getting a parcel to the remote regions of the UK, has it really become harder in the last 3 years? Or are these retailers (or their fulfillment parrners) using unfair ecommerce delivery pricing to increase their profits?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

UK is now mobile first

Smartphones have now taken over as the preferred device for going online in the UK.

Yes, for the first time the phone has become the device of choice, overtaking the laptop as the primary means of connecting to. Meaning that the UK has joined a select list of countries that are mobile first.

Once regarded as the 'second screen', mobile is now the main screen for a lot of users. They don't use a desktop or laptop as their principle device and sometimes use their smartphone... they consume content and use online functionality on their phone by default. Your customer now expects to connect to whatever they want, wherever and whenever they want.

And yet still so many companies are catching up. They have either got no mobile compatible presence or have a very poor one. And some have just mobile optimised their campaign landing pages, but not the rest of the customer experience (perhaps hoping that the user will be so surprised that the landing page worked correctly on their phone, they would forgive the company for a poor subsequent experience).

Is this as a result of a lack of foresight, poor investment, slow development or just plain ignorance? 

Monday, August 31, 2015

eCommerce Must Put Mobile First

In my mind there's no doubt that the main device to design a company experience for (both now and in the near future) is the smartphone.... especially as far is eCommerce is concerned. This is what Forrester calls "The Mobile Mind Shift" - the customer need to browse, buy and engage with a retailer vie their device of choice. And these days this is typically their mobile phone.

Consumers are increasingly demanding online experiences that work on any device at any time.  But with smartphone decision making and purchasing on the increase... the mobile web must now be the primary concern of any retailer. 

It's my observations that:
  • Regardless of where the customer is (at home, at work, on the go, in a store, etc.) they use their smartphone to shop. Sure, they may still use a tablet or desktop & laptop PC, but the mobile is what they have immediately to-hand... literally.
  • The customer is often either cautious about downloading retailer apps or doesn't update them often when they have them. This is different for essential apps they my use day-to-day (e.g. Social Media platforms) which preoccupy their mobile time.
So where does this leave a retailer that doesn't deliver a site that works correctly on the small screen?

Lagging behind.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Smileys, Emoticons and Emojis

Using just words to convey your thoughts or ideas can be difficult. It's even more tricky when you only have a small number of characters, such as when you send a text message or when you tweet & post to your favourite social network. How are those reading to know when you're being serious and when you have your tongue firmly in your cheek? 
Because you intersperse additional icons and images into your words. A smiley, an unhappy face symbol or something more complex. 

Back in 1963 Harvey Ball invented the smiley in an attempt to improve employee morale at The State Mutual Life Assurance Company in Massachusetts. Harvey was only paid $45 for the 10 minutes of work it took to create the design, but neither him nor his employer copyrighted the design. The idea blossomed and the little yellow smiling face he created have been used for many things including the symbol for the acid house dance music craze of the late 1980's (apparently by adopting the smiley face badge image from the 1986 graphic novel 'The Watchmen'). 

emoticons are a digital way to create Ball's smiley online my using plain text (they don't need a specific font or even a high resolution screen). 
Their use first occurred in September 1982 when Scott Fahlman a computer scientist using the Carnegie Mellon University message board first proposed that the two symbols :-) and :-( could be used online to distinguish jokes from serious comments.
The emoticon theme has been extended over time into creating other well-known symbols, such as one winking, one poking out its tongue and one being sick.

Despite looking similar, emojis are different from emoticons in key ways: 

- they are not created by using plain text to represent a face or other icon
- they are created when technology companies agree on a reference for an image
- they can be implemented slightly differently by each technology platform or smart phone operating system builder

Emojis haven't been around as long as emoticons. They were created in the late 1990's by the Japanese communications firm NTT DoCoMo. However according to a study from The University of Bangor, the Emoji is now the fastest growing language in the UK and evolving faster than ancient forms of communication, such as hieroglyphics.

Friday, August 14, 2015

News Corp Blames Digital Again

News Corp's CEO Robert Thomson has been out attacking Google, Facebook and Linkedin once more, this time accusing them of "Kleptocracy, Piracy and Zealotry".

Yes, the organisation that: breaks into voicemail, publishes fiction as truth and plays politics with its publications...has claimed that online social networks are spammers that help themselves to content without paying for it.

He also publicly stated that “The words Intellectual Property don’t appear in the Google alphabet."- but far be it for me to tell a journalist that you can make any words from the alphabet.

Thomson went on to further attack the new media sector by saying "None of them actually create content, and they certainly have little intention of paying for it, but they do redistribute the content created by others – they would argue that such redistribution is a natural extension of their role as social networks. I would argue that much of the redistribution is an unnatural act”

All this smacks of hypocrisy... especially given News Corp in 2005 bought MySpace, then a leading social network that in June 2006 surpassed Google as the most visited website in the USA... before watching over its decline and its sale in 2011 for less than 8% of its purchase price.

Also... given that News Corp has only recently decided to change the direction of its WSJ and Dow Jones publishing sector to focus on digital media efforts and that its own Social News Agency Storyful is responsible for finding and redistributes news stories (and apparently hiding Rebekah Brooks in their offices)... methinks they need to keep their insults to themselves.

Full story here: 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Finding Google Tag Manager a little hard?

I've worked with Google Tag Management System (also called GTM or Google's TMS) on several different client implementations and still admit to being a little confused by some of the more complex functionality. It seems that despite setting up a Google Tag Manager Fundamentals online training course and certification, it is still pretty hard to do anything beyond the basics.

Furthermore, with the recent introduction of GTM Version 2, things have been moved & renamed in the user interface.

Luckily Google seems to have appreciated this too and have got the people behind the product to star in a couple of short videos about it.

Hopefully these short resources will help.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Can a car have too much technology?

I'm a gadget fan and love my in-car audio or 'infotainment' systems, especially when they have a decent user interface.

However, the new Audi TT comes with some of the most impressive and also unnecessary computer technology I've seen... including a virtual cockpit that changes between views of dials to a full screen Google maps overlay.

It does therefore beg the question of whether a motorcar can actually have too much technology.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

That’s Not My Digital Strategy

Those readers who have read with their children may well be familiar with the “That’s not my…” series of books. 

For those who have not had this privilege, the repeated concept of every book is a series of pages that all say what something is not, in an effort to explain what something actually is.
e.g. “That’s not my Dog…(to a sheep)... it is too fluffy” or “That’s not my car…(to a space ship) it is too shiny”.

Given I have spent a fair amount of time on this blog, consulting and in other ways attempting to explain what Digital Strategy is and how to correctly implement it… I thought I’d adopt a different (and slightly more childish) approach and explain what Digital Strategy is not.

A New Website:
That’s not my Digital Strategy, because it is just the implementation of a customer-facing front end to your organisation.

A Business Transformation:
That’s not my Digital Strategy, because a business transformation programme has responsibilities beyond the implementation of the projects or work streams that deliver a digital strategy.

A Digital Platform:
That’s not my Digital Strategy, because although a Digital Platform can have the capability to provide online functionality across your organisation… it is not the thought & business case preparation beforehand nor the subsequent use and commercial measurement of that activity.

A Digital Marketing Strategy:
That’s not my Digital Strategy, because it is just focused around the acquisition and retention of online customers, not the whole concept around the delivery of useful features such as self-serve functionality.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Who Digitally Mentors Your Board?

I see a growing trend in many organisations (both large & small), where an increasing number of staff are becoming digitally savvy and utilising their online knowledge in their daily roles. But who is providing the necessary board-level guidance to a company? Who is equipping your senior team with the skills and advice necessary to drive forward the digital change?

It's not just a case of showing your CEO how to Tweet (her teenage daughter has probably already shown her how to do that) . It's a case of making sure the board and other executives have the capabilities & understanding to be able to seize the power that digital change can deliver.

In my experience & opinion there are four different approaches to providing these skills and experience directly into your C-Suite (A Chief Digital Officer, A Digital Non-Exec, A Change Director or External Consultancy). However each situation is different and in reality your solution to this may be a combination of two or all of them.

Whatever route is chosen, this injection of senior level capability typically has to help the company leaders through a fast-paced delivery of new products, services, processes and technologies.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Apple Pay looks to boost UK Digital Payments

Back in October 2014 Apple launched Apple Pay in the US as part of its iOS 8.1 update. The Cupertino giant then saw 1 million American activations in the first 3 days.

However over here in the UK we have been awaiting news of a similar launch. Many blogs have been written about getting Apple Pay in the UK and false hints & rumours that Belgium may be the first European country to get the new digital payment service haven't helped. But on 8th June at Apple's WWDC 2015 the silence was broken and the announcement was made that Apple Pay is to launch in the UK, making us just the second country to adopt the service... ahead of Canada and other candidates.

More surprising was the news that we'll get Apple Pay in a matter of weeks, as plans for a July 2015 launch are now underway. Meaning that key UK retailers such as Marks and Spencers and Waitrose will offer you contactless / NFC payments via your iPhone this Summer. Furthermore, TFL will also offer Apple Pay across its network.

However, if you can tap in & out on buses and tube trains around London from next month using both your iPhone and your NFC-enabled credit card... does this spell the beginning of the end for the Oyster Card system?

Monday, June 29, 2015

A New Role to Lead Digital Business Transformation

Corporate change isn't a new thing. Businesses have always had to assess, re-think and re-invent themselves as the world changes around them.

In the past this was a lot easier though. Organisation had years (or sometimes decades) to change their ways. But more recently the cycles of technical innovation have increased, which means the speed of digital change is much quicker. In fact, those in market sectors which were first to be affected by online (e.g. Retail and Travel) had longer to transform their businesses than those being disrupted now - such as Financial Services and some parts of the Transport industry.

So how are some businesses dealing with Digital Transformation & change and how are they setting themselves up to understand and embrace the effects?

1. Create a Chief Digital Office role
Whilst just creating and hiring another senior role in the business might not be everyone's cup of tea, a fair number of organisations have hired (or promoted from within) a CDO to lead up their digital change.

2. Use a Digital-based Non-Exec Director
Although similar to taking on a CDO, a digital-centric NED provides their experience and skills to guide a company board. This role is usually filled by a new Non-Exec Director who has previously had a senior role in digital transforming another business. 

3. Creating a Director of Change
Whilst not exactly a direct comparison to either a Chief Digital Officer or a Digital-based Non-Exec Director role, some company's decide to wrap up their adoption of online tools and processes in a more general senior change position

4. Alternatively they could hire an agency / consultancy.... and most large & well-respected management consultancies are unsurprisingly only too keen to state how they've always been involved in digital transformation and have all the answers....

Friday, June 26, 2015

Do not curate, create

Four years ago I wrote a blog post that Content Curation Sucks. Since then I've seen more and more people try to establish themselves as specialists in their field by collating and distributing the same stuff online over and over again. It's boring, repetitive and not at all interesting to most users to see the same stuff published vie social media ranging from Instagram to blogs... but still the legions of 'me to' curators of constant content churn out the same crap.

Why? It baffles me.... really.

Recycling is not the same as original production of thoughts and concepts. It also doesn't make you an expert, just because you repeat and re-tweet the thoughts of others day-in & day-out as if they are your own.

So stop it!

Instead of considering how you are going to republish someone else's work, think about but how you are going to interpret it and develop it with your own ideas and approaches.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Digital Leadershift - get ready for a BIG BANG

Transforming your organisation from an analogue dinosaur to a Digital First one is hard, very hard. You not only need the right team of people, the right technology and the will to change internal processes, you need this change understood & supported at the senior level too.

But this isn't about getting the CEO to blog or the Managing Director to Tweet (they should know how to do that already), it is about having the right drive from on-high to correctly sponsor and if necessary push through the required changes that a digital transformation needs.

In short, it needs a shift in the mindset of the leaders to a digital way of working... or a digital leadershift.

However different market sectors and industries are affected by the disruptive effects of digital in different ways. And to illustrate this best, a recent report from Deloitte Digital depicted a 'Disruption Map' that shows the extent to which 17 industries are affected across two dimensions: Degree of Impact (The 'Bang') and the timing (The 'Fuse').

As we know... some industries are already in the middle of their shift. Sectors such as retail (High Street eCommerce has been a beacon of online innovation for the last few years) and Leisure (The consumer travel sector has both blossomed and suffered as online acquisition, customer self-service and aggregation has affected airline travel, etc. - and just look what the likes of AirBnB and to a certain extend Google are doing to the hotel market).

So it is probably no surprise that the leaders in those industries that have already been affected are nearly all digitally savvy. But what about other sectors where the fuse is much longer?

Well in a lot of cases key individuals from shorter fuse industries have moved across to help other verticals understand and manage their way through this disruption. For example, senior staff from tech start-ups are now finding roles in Financial Services and Professional Services.

But other senior managers in those where the disruption hasn't really hit yet are less aware and prepared for the changes that are bound to come. Some may know the Big Bang is coming, but for others it could be a big shock.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sports thinking is Digital Strategy

Think about all those qualities that make a great football, rugby or other team and you will reoccuringly come up with the same things....

Aren't these the same things you want in your digital strategy and transformation plan?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Should we really bother with personas?

I've been a huge advocate of UCD (User Centred Design) for around a decade now. I've implemented large multi-device websites and specified & delivered major digital platforms based on this approach. However quite recently I've been thinking that just basing the user interface and functionality of digital services around a few key personas might not be the entire story.

My reasoning here is that although a selection of personas may map to the profiles of key website visitor stereotypes, when you start to look at them in more detail you find that your users are all different. So whilst at the very highest level your personas are very different, at the lower level (e.g. the completion of a certain task) a subset of these have alternative needs. And to confuse matters, these alternative needs are shared with users in other personas.

Let's just consider 4 different personas of a typical online service and overlay a few different user profiles over them. As you can see, the personas can cover the main functionality a service provides, but each user has a place in one or more of them. And in the case of some really important users (such as those who need accessibility compliance) they could be present in all 4 personas.

Or put another way... there is no point creating specific personas for each user type. You'd end up doubling your persona numbers just accounting for accessible users if that was the case.

No, that doesn't make sense.... and in this way the developing of personas really doesn't map to something you actually need on your digital project. An understanding of what functionality you need to prioritise over other functionality.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sony's eCommerce Site Needs Work

I've just used Sony's eCommerce Site to try and make a purchase using my mobile phone.

This surely can't be an unusual practice, but the experience was less than optimal from start to finish. With two key issues...

1. The site is not mobile compatible.
It actually looks like the interface was designed for a large monitor. Last I checked, the major Japanese technology manufacturer still made mobile phones.

2. The transaction didn't work
Despite progressing all the way through the process, I get an unhelpful error message at the end.

Come on Sony, you can do better than this.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Content first - Design second

The user experience of websites (desktop,  tablet,  mobile,  whatever) has had a bit of a shake up recently and I think we need to reassess how we approach the development of online content.

Back in the old days of web design and development things were a lot easier. You created a single set of user personas & wire-frames, created a set of designs for the optimum desktop resolution and then coded it up for a handful of recently released browsers.

But that's all changed now and website owners now have to consider a multitude of devices and specifications to gain the most compatibility. In fact, 'mobile first' is now the new mantra for a lot of agencies and in-house teams, who recommend that you get the experience for smallest screen worked out first and move on from there.

But I think they also have missed a trick....It is not just the user experience of your site you have to make sure is usable for all devices, it is the content too. Yes, I am referring to the humble old words and pictures that a lot of digital projects leave to the very last minute, before cramming into a few templates that 'sort of work'.

If we just took more care over the actual content of our sites and planned the user experience around it, rather than considering what we are actually saying and showing to users only towards the end of the process, I think things might be somewhat different. And I'm not just talking about the typical content sites (news, publishers, etc.) here but also brands, eCommerce vendors and other companies with online functionality.

So before you start to plan how your new site will be designed, consider that:
- content has a key role to play in Search Engine Optimisation
- users with low bandwidth (e.g. with a mobile device) will usually have text downloaded first
- having readable text is a major accessibility feature
- introduction, help and error messages can significantly affect your conversion rate

In other words: Content first - Design second 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Do you optimise for organic conversions?

I read recently that on average 70% of website traffic comes from the results that are obtained from online search engines.  This aligns with with my own experience and means that site owners really need to make sure they are making the most of their organic website traffic.

Conversions are the common industry term for a task that ends in success, a goal. And it is about time you ensure your search engine optimisation efforts are focused around conversions generated by the organic results you get from Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

But if your site exists to generate online leads or actual sales for your company, then you shouldn't just be optimising your site for visits, you should be optimising your site for conversions.

But how do you do this?
1. What if you don't know what search terms are actually landing and converting?
2. What if you have no control over which pages are actually displayed in the SERPs (search engine results pages)?
3. What if your SEO efforts are more 'suck it and see' than structured?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is A High Bounce Rate Always Bad?

If you have any form of contact with website reports, you will no doubt be familiar with the phrase ‘bounce rate’.  Google defines Bounce Rate as “the percentage of single-page sessions”, in other words the ratio of site visitors who came to your site and didn't go anywhere else. 

It is one of the most popular online web metrics quoted and is typically cited by website managers as good or bad depending upon the figure…. With “High” usually meaning “bad”.

But is that really the case?

Those with some understanding of bounce figures usually claim that a high rate is a sign of poor design or bad usability. That users have not found what they wanted and then gone elsewhere.
This may indeed be true, however the opposite may also be the case. You see a user may have arrived at exactly the right page they wanted (either via marketing activity or good deep-linking search engine optimisation) and got everything they wanted (such as the right information or a view of a video).

Note: If you only have a single page site, such as a microsite or a holding page for a larger forthcoming site, then you can obviously expect a very high bounce rate.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Counting the cost of Public Sector Channel Shift

A lot of Public Sector organisations are now getting serious (or at least semi-serious) about Channel Shift. Most have by now realised that the potential savings are real and significant.
So coupled with a central Government agenda of cost-cutting, whatever the Administration in place, the digitisation of public services looks set to continue. In fact a recent survey by Goss Interactive highlighted that on average public sector organisations plan to save £1.75m each through Channel Shift in 2015.

But how much does it actually save your organisation to shift customers to online channels?

Back in 2009 Socitm (The Society of IT Managers) worked out the cost to serve for each of the channels being provided by a UK public Sector organisation (in this case a Council). The benchmarking work they carried out showed that the costs per visitor were:

  • £7.40 for face-to-face
  • £2.90 for the telephone
  • £0.32 for web enquiries
However, the direct costs of channel shift can also be supplemented by additional benefits such as:
  • Increase customer service and satisfaction
  • Building engagement and loyalty
  • Meeting customer expectations
  • Freeing staff to be re-deployed on more "low tech / high touch" activities
It is still worth pointing out that providing digital content and self-service functionality only helps a percentage of the population you are trying to help. For example there are 10.8 million people in the U.K. who do not use the Internet and therefore any 'digital first' self-service options for businesses and citizens should not be 'digital only'. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Serious About Channel Shift?

The whole topic of Channel Shift is something that is being discussed in most businesses. Yet very few organisations I speak with actually have a documented strategy of how this shift will be realised.

Firstly, what do I mean by the term?
In my opinion... Channel Shift is the managed process of migrating customers to self-service channels (typically digital ones) to reduce cost and increase availability of service.

Reduced cost:
Back a few decades, it was humans that were cheap and computers that were expensive. Now, computers (or more specifically: computing power) is cheap compared to the cost of a person. Using self-service functionality via websites and mobile applications has a much lower cost-to-serve than a trained person, even a lower paid one in an off-shore outsourced contact center.

Increased availability:
The web never sleeps and your customers expect that they can now access your site at a time that suits them, not your company. Whereas a decade or so ago you may have had a telephone line staffed to deal with purchases, amends and refunds... not most of this functionality has now moved to a 24/7 online presence. In fact, as far as seasonal eCommerce goes, some of the most high volume times are public holidays (e.g. Black Friday and Christmas & Boxing Day) - days when most staff are either on holiday or otherwise unavailable.

So if your organisation is serious about Channel Shift, what should it do?

The first thing, as I mentioned in my opening paragraph is to have a written strategy. This needs to clearly document:
  1. Who are your user & customers?
    Think you know who your customers are? Think you know what motivates them to engage with your organisation and purchase from it? Think all your customers are the same and have the same needs? Think again! 
  2. What are the user tasks your want to move to lower cost channels?
    It may be easy to say "all of them", but in reality this may be either too much to do at once, or there may be business rules & restrictions that stop you from doing this. It may therefore by better to prioritise and understand the dependencies between these tasks first.
  3. What channels do your customers use?
    This may not be as simple as you think. Different customers may use a specific mix of channels to: build awareness, inform & educate themselves, transact and then carry out subsequent self-service tasks. 
  4. What are your actual current cost-to-serve figures?
    For example, what does it actually cost to serve your customers via each of your channels
This is the easy part... once you have this, the hard part is then working out what you want these customers to do in the future and what channels you actually can manage them to.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The O2 shop is busy - come back soon

What message do you give your online eCommerce customers when your site gets too busy?

Here's an example from mobile phone provider O2.

Oh, it should be noted that this wasn't midday during a sale / promotion or part-way through a new product launch, but around 11pm at night on a normal trading day...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Guest blogging on a new site - why do it?

My guest blog post for went live today.
How to Get 6800% ROI from a Single E-commerce Marketing Campaign

It is already getting quite a few mentions on Twitter and the post has had one positive comment so far.  This is my first post for this site and it will be interesting to see if this builds followers or traffic to my site.

One question I have mostly asked myself recently is why I decided to write this post for SEMRush rather than: my own blog (this one), my column on The Drum or even as a direct post on Linkedin (which I have yet to do yet, but for some reason I am apprehensive about doing).

In short.. I wanted to try something different and in a slightly vain way I wanted to be read by a different audience.

Let's see if this actually happens

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Using a Press Release to get the message across

Yes, I have used a good old fashioned Press Release to announce that we had recently won some work:

I'm still trying to find out the entire value generated by spending this $89 - but already the story has been picked up by different online news sources, including:



and a bunch of other sites

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Are you really a digital strategist?

It's quite funny to me to see the term 'Digital Strategy' appear in job descriptions for roles across the online world, including those I now help clients fill.
Note: it's even funnier to see what some candidates actually think constitutes the creation and delivery of a Digital Strategy and in-turn make them a Digital Strategist.

I therefore thought it would be useful to highlight those activities and approaches that I believe a digital strategist might use in their role.
(Of course, it would be easy to start listing out all the things they are not, but then that list might turn out to be quite long.)

So here's my list:
  • Think strategic
    Always keep the vision of what digital technologies, processes and marketing can do for your organisation and how this change applies to the company aims and objectives. This means that you have to understand the end game, but also how you are going to close the gap between that and whatever you have now.
  • Align the digital strategy to the business strategy
    No strategy exists in a vacuum and yours can add the most value when it aligned with the other competing needs of the business.
  • Champion the digital strategy
    The best person in your organisation to be the digital champion is you (and your team, if you have one). Your managerial peers will need a central senior person they can consult with who 'gets this digital stuff' and can help them. This doesn't mean you suddenly need to exhibit youthful enthusiasm or a stoic 'all knowing' air - you just have to be approachable and communicative to all level. It also means you are the senior stakeholder who works with the different business units to help them contribute to the digital strategy.
  • Own the digital roadmap
    Having the vision and strategy is one thing, having a plan of how this will be achieved (including the key milestones, dependencies and other influencing initiatives across your organisation) is something else. The creation and management of this plan is a key artefact in the communication of how your end game is going to be delivered.
  • Grow internal digital capabilities
    You are not going to achieve your goals by yourself and you therefore need to build the required expertise within your company to take digital forward. Growing individuals and digital teams doesn't necessarily come naturally to everyone, but you can also help across different functions by outlining what skills and experience are needed in both the short and longer term

Monday, January 26, 2015

Probably the best placed online advert

Back in 2010, there was a viral video going around from on-board a cruise ship during a bad storm. The clip gave various shots, including a passenger area, where people are flung about.

However, it wasn't the online video that gave me to biggest laugh, but the advert posted alongside it. Advertising the services of EuroTunnel, which runs under the English Channel and avoids the stormy waters above it.

If this was done on purpose... it was brilliant placement.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Align your Digital Strategy and Business Architecture

Your Digital Strategy should be a vision and roadmap of how customer-facing online content, functionality and technology initiatives will be implemented and managed across your organisation.
But so far there is no common framework for describing the creation and delivery of a digital strategy. 
Note: I'm not too sure why this is, the discipline of digital is now pretty mature. Perhaps it is because online covers such a wide range of subjects from tactical digital marketing techniques through to programmes that transform businesses and create significant customer channel shift. 

Business Architecture is a description of an organisation's structure, usually in terms of governance, services and information.  The Business Architecture Guild (somewhat nebulously) describes it as "a blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organization and is used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands". The discipline is full of strange terms such as TOGAF, OMG & Zachman and there are a number of approaches used to describe an enterprise / business architecture. Each of them trying to align the technical architecture and practices with the larger organisational strategy. 

However... what is clear to me is that very few organisations align their digital strategy with their business architecture. Which means that the two are possibly working in silo'd isolation or at the very least not joined up in thinking, delivery and (more worryingly) in their representation back to the rest of the business.

Hasn't the time now come to correctly align the two?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Building a high performance digital team

I've been in this digital game a long time (in dog years, I should have been put out of my misery by now). I've therefore been part of and have personally built-up teams of digital specialists on both the agency/consulting side and as part of client organisations. From a crack development unit that managed to construct a financial services website from scratch in just a few weeks, through to a digital marketing department (starting with just one member) that managed a multi-mullion pound acquisition budget… I've hired, fired, seconded, acquired, procured and borrowed people from all manner of disciplines. And yes, building some wonderful and useful online stuff in the process.

I've therefore listed out the factors that I think are needed in the creation and development of a high performing digital team (plus to help me, I have also asked the team at one of my current clients to add their suggestions too).

A ‘can do’ attitude:
“I've done so much with so little for so long, I think I can do anything with bugger all!” was once the line mentioned to me by one team member over a decade ago. This partly sums up the sort of ‘can do’ attitude that can make all the difference in a smaller team. It is often not the tools, the processes or the technology that makes the difference, it is the mental approach of the individuals.

Yes sure, the phase “work smarter not harder” is often used in management circles, however sometimes you just need a team to bear down on an issue and work at it for a while. This can be especially true when the work in question is a little more mundane or repetitive (e.g. when proof reading content or carrying out user acceptance testing – thanks JM!)

I know this kinda goes without saying, but I did want to mention it. Working with a bunch of smart people who not only know their onions, but also can develop their skills and experience on the project (without affecting it) is usually a pleasure.  

So what do you think? Have I missed anything?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Customer Journey Catherine Wheel

In an earlier post I explained how the Customer Journey for an organisation should not be a linear progression, but a cycle. To illustrate this I used a simple piece of ready-made clip art from PowerPoint and quickly inserted this into my content.

However, given a bit more time, I have now pulled together a better diagram to illustrate what I mean.

In this diagram I have used the same 5 segments to show the cyclical path a user takes (Awareness, Interest/Desire, Action, Experience and Advocacy). But I have also added an inner section that represents the running of Internal Process and an outer ring that represents the tasks that customers perform.

I've used various and more specific versions of this diagram in previous consulting work for clients, but I think this diagram represents a more generic approach which can be adapted as the need arise.
The only real problem I now have is… what do I call it?

For the time being, I think I'm going to use the term Customer Journey Catherine Wheel. A diagrammatic version of the popular firework that hopefully explains the round and spinning nature of both this model and the physical namesake.

What do you think? Is it a silly name? Can you come up with a better one?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Customer Journey should be circular

A lot of different approaches are used for mapping the Customer Journey (the ‘soup to nuts’ depiction of your customers’ progress from unaware & unknown person to satisfied patron). Many typically show the path along different states of customer engagement, with the AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire & Action) model being a tried & tested one that has stood the test of time – I've also referred to it a lot in this blog over the years.

But as we know, one person’s advocacy can be another’s awareness. And especially with online communications (and especially Social Media) now able to facilitate near-instant feedback about an experience or product, the ratings given by one customer can heavily influence a lot of other people to either find out more and alternatively it can put them off for good.  Or to put it another way, your customers are one of your greatest assets and in most cases they should not just be part of your retention activity, they should be used to fuel your acquisition activity too.

This advocacy therefore means that rather than the Customer Journey being a line from awareness through to the experience of the product or service, it becomes a circle looking something like this:

The phase of the customer journey where a person becomes initially aware of something and wants to find out more.

Interest & Desire:
I've merged the two AIDA model phases into one here, as things get incredibly blurred (and with some products such as consumer electronics, brand devotees jump straight from awareness to intense desire). This is also the phase described by Google as the Zero Moment of Truth and can be the period when a multitude of inputs from all channels are considered.

This is the goal, the purchase, the sign-up, the commit phase. You get the picture…. (The First Moment of Truth)

This phase is when the customer actually experiences their purchase and realises the value of what they have procured. (The Second Moment of Truth)

Here is where a customer reviews your service and rates the service you have provided. They can do it on your site or on any number of review and feedback sites, or can use social media platforms to voice their satisfaction or disdain. It is therefore these comments and sentiment that in my opinion keep the customer journey cycling around.

Monday, January 5, 2015

User Experience and Customer Journey – do you know the difference?

As the processes and techniques of digital and multi-channel delivery become more widespread and well-known in organisations, it’s not uncommon that teams, stakeholders and clients become familiar with the terminology used too.  However I quite often hear the term “User Experience” (or “UX” for short) mixed up with the term “Customer Journey” and I think it’s time I clarified things. So here’s my thoughts on the two and why they should not be confused.

User Experience:
From my perspective User Experience is the science (and art) of creating functionality and information that helps the user to carry out particular tasks. In the world of websites and native mobile device applications (apps) this revolves around: understanding users & their needs, mapping user flows through key tasks, creating wire-frames, designing the interface and testing it to ensure it does what it should as well as it possibly can.

Customer Journey:
This is wider task of mapping the entire path of the customer from start to finish E.g. from a point where they are not the customer and perhaps not even cognisant of your product or service, through to the stages where they have become a customer and beyond. There are a lot of different models for how this customer journey can be represented, but regardless it is useful to map this journey for your business.

So do the two cross-over? Yes, in my opinion they definitely do and in fact I believe you cannot properly create the ideal User Experience unless you properly understand the Customer Journey. By this I mean that any UX work done needs to know where it fits in the wider picture of things, what the situation is for the user beforehand and what the end goal is.

For example, if you are creating the interface for a ticket vending machine at a sports ground, it would no-doubt help your UX resource to understand why the user is there, what they should (or shouldn't) have done previously and what they are going on to do. In this example, the creation of the vending unit is not to raise awareness, to educate or to entertain, it is there to help the customer who may already have purchased a ticket to get it printed out as efficiently as possible so that they can go and have the bigger experience they have paid for.

Either way, I suggest that to truly deliver the best for your customers you need to create both and validate them in as many ways as possible, both before and after you have delivered.