Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Washington Post Reversing Key Newspaper Trend

“We’re adding dozens of journalists,” Fred Ryan, the Post’s publisher and CEO, told Politico last week. 

“We looked at what succeeded for us in 2016 and made investments there"

Monday, December 26, 2016

10 Years Of Retail - a sobering view

As 2016 comes to a close, a look back over the value of the top USA retailers shows who the losers have all been... the tradional bricks & mortar companies.
And the winner.... Amazon

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Better Data not Bigger Data

Big Data is Big News. Big consultancies and senior managers are all using the term "Big Data" these days. The words are the "Information Superhighway" of this decade*. Over-used, over-hyped and mis-understood.

In practice I tend to refer as something as "Big Data" if I can't inset it & work with it in an Excel spreadsheet... even though we've has databases for half a century that can deal with more than 1,048,576 rows (which is actually the maximum rows you can get in an Excel spreadsheet).

However there can be a lot of insight that can be gleaned from much smaller data sources. You don't need to have access to every single customer record in a database to analyse most trends about your users. You only need to examine a smaller accurate and representative data set. It can't be incomplete, out of date or incorrect.

So shouldn't we really use the term "Better Data"?

*BTW: What is this decade actually called? Sure we had "the Eighties", "the nineties" and even the "noughties"... but are these "the teenies"?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Who Invented The Hamburger Icon?

The hamburger icon is now a part of our online mobile experience. It sits there in the top left-hand corner of our small screen devices acting as the gateway to a number of other services & functions.

By its very presence we are reassured that additional things lie behind our current view and that they will be exposed by a single tap. In short... the hamburger icon is a simple universally understood metaphor for displaying further menus & navigation.

So how did we come to this collective understanding? Who originally thought that three horizontal lines was a sufficient way of depicting the menu behind it?

I think that whoever invented the hamburger icon deserves praise for creating something so simple and yet so useful. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Caring : the difference between good and great people

I've just completed a post on Linkedin that I've had brewing for some while.

It's titled "Why Caring Makes The Difference" and I spend a explain in 500 words why I think caring makes a difference in industries as varied as hospitality and the digital one I work in.

Also, whilst I was writing it, I thought about my care for what I do and how it makes a difference to me too. It's therefore not just about having the opportunity to surround yourself with those that give a monkeys about what they create.... it's being in the middle of it helping them to deliver improvements that make a difference.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Internet Population is HUGE now!

In 1995 less than 1% of the world population had an Internet connection, now around 40% do.

And, if you plot the rise in the internet population over the last 10 years you see that there has been a steady growth rate. [source]

According to the Central Intelligence Agency (yes, the CIA!) the biggest single country with a connected population is China, with over 626,000,000 users. This is the same as the USA (3rd), India (4th) and Japan (5th) combined!

Monday, December 12, 2016

What Users Find Most Valuable About Apps

Google have just released a useful report on the adoption and usage of mobile apps.

Named "How people discover, use, and stay engaged with apps" the document is a helpful resource for those who are looking to develop or improve their apps.

There's some good insight included, such as whether price or privacy are most important when deciding whether to install an app. And that the average number of apps that users have installed on their smartphone is 35.

But perhaps the most important finding concerned what users find most valuable about their favourite apps... and the perhaps unsurprising finding is that they rate usability highest. Yup, the fact that they’re easy to use and navigate makes users love apps the most.

Read the full Google report here

Friday, December 9, 2016

What is Agile Marketing ?

I use the term Agile Marketing quite a lot these days and regard it as an approach that organisations need to adopt.

Here's what I mean by this:

1. Embrace test & learn
The days of "fire & forget" for a campaign are over. If you are launching a digital marketing initiative lasting longer than a week, then you really need to consider how you're going to improve it over time. For example... Sending an email out to more that a handful of people? Then test multiple subject lines first
Note: This approach also goes hand-in-hand with the philosophy that...

2. You need to understand that you're not going to get it all right first time
In much the same way as your developers create an MVT (minimum viable product) that releases working but evolving software to customers, learn that your marketing campaigns are never going to be the best they could be unless you change them based upon insight and understanding. And rapidly....

3. Use data to gain insight and understanding
If you are not using your digital analytics tools to their full capability, they you are doing you and your organisation a disservice. Use clack tracking, surveys and even the raw data to understand & refine what your users want (and are not getting). Then also Learn who are your true social media influencers and online friends. The finally...

4. Become your digital agency's best friend and worst enemy
Unless you have in-sourced absolutely everything to do with your digital marketing & development (from programmatic display media through to website testing) then you're going to be using an agency. Therefore get to know their strengths and their weakness... and play to them to get the most of out them... ideally for the best value possible.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

You Are Not A Digital Transformation Consultant Until....

Take a look on Professional networking social platforms (such as Linkedin) or some job listing websites... and you will see people stating they are Digital Transformation Consultants or something similar. I know.... because I'm one.
But am quite dubious of some of these people, who just seem to be Digital Project Managers or Digitsl Business Analysts who have just given themselves a new title.
So here's my short list of things a person who claim to be Digital Transformation Consultants should have done:
  1. Transformed something
    It is pretty obvious to state and nobody is criticising someone for consistently delivering decent projects to scope and budget... but if a person hasn't actually transformed a business, they shouldn't say they actually have.
  2. Delivered something
    Yes, I know I said above that just being a Project Manager isn't enough to qualify as being a Digital Transformation Consultant, but neither is not having a hand in the delivery. If a person just comes up with a few lines in a PowerPoint presentation about "a move to digital" or "facilitating self-service" and then moves onto the next job... then that's not enough in my opinion.
I'm sure I'll add to this list in future.

So have I missed anything?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

No tills, No assistants. Is this the future of Retail?

Amazon has caused quite a stir today with its concept Amazon Go concept store.

 Apparently via some technical wizardry of sensors and computing power (but no mention of RFID) Amazon can now allow you to walk into a store, take an item and walk out again.... without handing over cash, credit cards, etc.

The store will be officially launched later in 2017, but as an might gain some momentum.  And with one of the biggest names in online retail behind it, it's got an even better chance of being successful (or at least of having different individual features adopted across the High Street).

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas & How Twitter Users Love Planning

On the run-up to Christmas 2016, Twitter have released an interesting Infographic about shopping behaviour and using the rather long hashtag #christmasisallaround

There's some interesting findings and some pretty obvious stuff mentioned, but overall it provides a useful insight into the planning of the festive season. Especially by Millennials.

Full PDF version is here


Friday, December 2, 2016

Google Mobile Friendly Test Site Revamp

It is good to see that the useful Mobile website friendliness testing tool from Google has had a bit of a face-lift.
I wonder if the functionality, to check just how compatible a website is for mobile compatibility, has also changed....

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Everything Is Software - including your Christmas Presents

The world is gradually and surely turning into software.

Once upon a time we only had physical products to: keep us entertained, support us in the office and help us improve our everyday lives..... But now we have a raft of digital products and services that deliver our needs.

Consider the average teenager's Christmas present list 20 years ago and it would have included items such as : CD/tape music player, Compact Discs (or cassette tapes), pocket camera, alarm clock (well, I asked for one), games, etc.
Now all of these are all available as apps in your average smartphone and mostly free ones.

So what software is the average teenager asking Santa for this year?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Why Include WWW When Marketing Your URL?

I've seen a bunch of recent criticism (on Linkedin actually) for a company that used "www" at the beginning of their URL in some of their marketing material. Although there was a bunch of other issues with the advert shown.... in my opinion the use of "www" in the web address didn't even warrant a mention, let alone an outburst of ridicule. But apparently this was a major modern digital marketing faux pas.

So does adding the prefix, short of World Wide Web, really look dated or unprofessional?

I don't think so.

Whilst technically you can have either (with or without the "www" sub-domain) I don't think it makes a bit of difference whether you show it or not.


For Search Engine Optimisation benefit, make sure your site is available on just one of the two URLs ("www" and "non-www") and not both at the same time... by redirecting all traffic to the main one

You can obviously decide not to show the "www" in your adverts if you want to make better use of space (again, make sure you have the correct URL redirection in-place)

Fake News on Facebook

It seems that Facebook is in denial about the amount of fake news that now propagates across the popular social media platform.

So whilst the general user (you and I) find some mirth in reading hilarious and sometime almost truthful articles... Facebook claims these false news sites are not an issue.
Thereby admitting that they actually are!

Note: Fake news isn't a new thing. In the UK newspapers have been publishing knowingly a
nd blatant fake news items for decades. And some have even made its very creation a business. 
I'm now off to look at the supermoon to see if I can find that World War II bomber the Daily Sport once told me had landed there.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Social Media Maturity Matrix 2016

A path to the comprehensive and effective organisational use of Social Media - Updated from 2012 to 2016

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How inappropriate are your emails?

Just how inappropriate can an email marketing campaign be?
Here's one for Village Hotels I have just received, that in my opinion crosses over the line of decency.
What do you think?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Digital Strategy For Dummies

Ever get that sinking feeling you're not hitting the spot with your digital strategy?
Have you looked through slide after slide of PowerPoint presentations only to think "Mmmmmm...... It all makes sense from a multi-channel engagement perspective... But I'm sure there's something I've missed".
Or do you lie awake half the night worrying that the ROI model for your client's latest online business case doesn't quite line up with their commercial plans or board expectations?
Perhaps it's because there's no single framework for a comprehensive digital strategy. And there's no 'one size fits all' model when looking to transform processes and engagement via a new Digital self-service platform.
In short....Wouldn't it be good if there really was a "Digital Strategy for Dummies" guide?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why does Google Analytics show cities not postcodes?

As you may have seen in Google Analytics, it is possible to identify your digital visitors down to the city level. This is cleverly done by Google taking multiple data sources and then "guessing" where visitors are coming from.

Firstly there is something called reverse IP address lookup. This is when your Internet Service Provider gives information away about where you are connecting from. Then there's other big hints online users give away about their location, such as using a Chrome Browser on a mobile device or use Google Maps to look at their local vicinity. Each gives Google major indications as to where users actually are.

But this "guessing" does not go down to postcode level in Google Analytics.

My view is that some postcode area (e.g. PA = Paisley) are so broad they cover hundreds & hundreds of square miles and even postcode districts cover large amounts of land & people (e.g. PA1).

However postcodes themselves change over time can be so detailed as to cover as little as one house.... which would identify a person or household, which is against Google's data policy.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Wider CIO Role In A Digital Age

The role of the CIO has evolved over the last decade or so. In my opinion this is primarily as the technology services, digital products and online marketing industries have changed considerably over that period.

Cloud, Apps, SaaS, micro services, and a bunch of other technologies & paradigms now means that:
  • Hosting a online service with 99.9% availability is just a £10/month subscription rather than a £100,000 per year investment
  • Developers no longer go to offices and work where work is, but instead sit in their bedrooms and offer themselves to the most innovative opportunities
  • Your customer (or customer's customer) is now online at any time... and more than ever before likely to be viewing your services via a smartphone
  • The new Chief Digital Officer role came & went, with a lot of their work being picked-up by the CIO (and some by the CMO)
  • Vendor lock-in is less of a concern than a vendor that doesn't have an API

All this also means the CIO role in the digital age has become more strategic than ever to the CEO. 

This is because, as software replaces more and more things, every business is becoming a technology business.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Personas vs Customer Segmentation

I my opinion the process of developing customer segmentation is different from creating personas.
Segments are different customer types based upon similar attributes such as demographics (and usually just cuts of your existing customer data). They are typically used to focus marketing spend.

Personas should also go into defining the customer's attitude, propensity to buy, purchase history, device usage, etc. They are there to shape the user experience by giving you (crude) stereotypes to build product/functionality and create content for.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When Does The Nastiness Stop?

The World is a paradox.

As a parent we each teach our children to be considerate, share their possessions and respect others. "Everyone is equal", "play nicely with others" and other such phrases are stated to the younger generation in a concerted effort to encourage them to grow up with care and love for their fellow man.

But as adults we live in a dog-eat-dog world where some people in the playground of life refuse to play nicely with others.

Therefore as we grow up, we gradually come to realise that not all things are equal and that love & respect are a rare commodity. And that people don't always get the comeuppance they deserve.

Isn't it a shame?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Digital Roles Overlap

I think it is becoming harder and harder to understand all the roles a modern and competent digital organisation needs. In my opinion this is because each specific skill-set now overlaps others.

This makes is difficult to classify some roles and the people that could fill them. 

Hopefully this diagram goes some way to explain things.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Can Google Continue To Increase Revenues?

You've no doubt heard the phrase "nothing lasts forever", well that line works just as well in business as elsewhere. Yet in recent years Google seems to have bucked the boom & bust trend on other online companies and continues to record record revenues.

As this graph from shows, Google posted $74.54 Billion in revenue in 2015.
Google's revenue is mainly made up by advertising, of which Google AdWords is a major factor, which in 2015 accounted for $67.39Billion or over 90%. Currently Google is the Internet company with the highest market capitalization, $373Billion - 5 times its revenue.

But the question for me is.... is this rate of growth sustainable?
Or more realistically I think we need to ask at what point Google's revenue slows down as it finds the optimum way to extract money from advertising customers.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Traditional news wants new media to fund them

A think tank has called for online giants Google and Facebook to pay for the news they take from media outlets and then use on their own websites.

No, it is actually a real article!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Does Digital Help Create Social Isolation?

Social Isolation is where a person (or people) have a complete or near-complete lack of contact with the society in which they live.
  • News websites mean you don't need to walk out and buy a newspaper or go to the library
  • eCommerce websites and apps mean you don't have to go to the shops
  • Online games mean your kids don't want to walk out to the local park and kick a ball about
  • Virtual Reality cuts you off from everything so that you don't even have to engage with a real person (or possibly a human looking avatar)
However, in creating online / digital systems and products that allow an individual to communicate with a computer user interface, but not a real human... are we actually adding to this isolation?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The benefits & pitfalls of Scottish companies selling online

As a specialist digital consultant, I speak with a lot of Scottish businesses of all sizes about the opportunities that eCommerce can bring. Most agree that using the Internet to open up new markets and sell a greater amount of products is of commercial interest to them – who wouldn't want more customers and more revenue?

However a lot of businesses have still to venture into eCommerce and time after time the same key reasons for not doing so keep cropping up:

  • Concerns about the cost of setting up and running an online business
  • Concerns that “you need to be technical” 
  • Concerns about online payments and security
  • Concerns about distance selling and the appropriate regulations
  • Concerns about delivery, returns, etc.
  • Concerns about getting & keeping customers
However, help is on-hand from Scottish Enterprise for those organisations who want to learn more about how to go about setting up an online store and grow their business via electronic means. Courses, workshops and dedicated digital and eCommerce expertise via specialist consultants are all available.

Plus it is important to remember is not just about selling to the home Scottish market, eCommerce opportunities also lie abroad. In fact, back in 2013 a report on Scotland’s Digital Future stated that more than 90% of eCommerce in Scotland was already being conducted with other UK or overseas customers. It is therefore unsurprising that in the last few years a Scottish Enterprise workshop on the topic of International eCommerce has been run in many locations across the country. I sometimes help take this popular workshop and it covers topics such as: researching new markets, translating content, global payment methods and international digital marketing techniques.

So what are you waiting for?

What’s in store for digital retailing and Scottish companies?

There’s been a consistent growth in UK one retailing for over a decade now. In fact, the number of UK citizens ordering goods electronically has increased significantly from an already impressive 44% in 2005 to a huge 79% in 2014. This means that nearly everyone with an Internet connection in the UK has now bought something online and actually makes us the biggest adopters of eCommerce in the EU.

This increase also shows no signs of stopping any time soon. All predictions are that more & more products of increasing complexity will be purchased via a browser or app in the future. You only have look back at the types of products bought online just a few years ago… cheap, simple, off-the-shelf, branded and easily packaged- such as books and CD’s (which is how Amazon started off). But now practically everything gets bought online including: complex, expensive, bespoke and considered products – from cruise packages thought to tailored fashion clothing and hand-made furniture if you so wish.

So in my view, the eCommerce future for Scottish companies is very bright and Scottish companies should be no different to any other in the UK when it comes to online selling. There’s still huge opportunities to sell products (and even services) to customers in the UK, Europe, North America and even further afield. Whether you come from the suburbs of London or the shores of Loch Ness, it is possible to sell to the global village of 3.2 Billion online users (which is about 40% of the world’s population).

Unsure what will sell? Well tastes and trends change across the globe, so you shouldn’t necessarily restrict the products that you offer online. There’s also no physical limits on space, so why not put everything online and see what gets bought?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wearables in the workplace

Do you wear a fitness band or have a health tracker app running on your smartphone?

If you do, then you probably use it to track your personal activity such as: steps walked, energy spent, stairs climbed or average heart rate.

But could your employer benefit from your use of wearable technology and is this in your best interests?

Perhaps not, and here's why:

  1. Activity monitor company Fitbit is targeting companies with its products
  2. Court cases are now using fitness tracker data to back-up or discredit testimonies which rely on human movement 
Yup! And if this trend continues....

Monday, April 4, 2016

How to get 6800% ROI from a single eCommerce marketing campaign

Back in 2014, my consultancy (Ideal Interface) had an eCommerce client who was having a couple
of major issues:

  1. The Return On Investment (ROI) from their Affiliate Marketing efforts using voucher codes was highly variable, having a significant effect on sales margins
  2. Conversions rates were falling at key points in the checkout process, as customers were entering invalid voucher codes collected from across the web

The challenge was to take ownership back of the voucher code arena and develop a
marketing programme which would meet the following objectives:

  • Test and develop a Voucher Code campaign that users would go to directly and increase the ROI from Voucher Code usage
  • Reduce the impact on shopping checkout abandon rates where customers entered a Voucher Code
  • Encourage these voucher code users to join the e-mail marketing programme, to subsequently entice voucher code users to become regular customers
  • Devise and test a specific e-mail marketing programme for this list of customers that would increase the likelihood of purchasing again

So what happened?

  • It was established that users searching on Google for voucher codes were the best group of potential customers to target.
  • The first step was to test and develop a Google AdWords campaign based around keyword searches by potential customer using a range of brand name and voucher code related terms such as “<brand> code” and “<brand>; discount code”.
  • Then several adverts and discount offers were tested and optimised within the Google advert copy. This was done to see which would provide the best rate of return and to evaluate the propensity to sign up to an email marketing programme.
  • The impact on the shopping checkout rate was also monitored.
  • An e-mail marketing programme was subsequently devised for this specific list of customers and tests conducted to see which headings, offers and promotions encouraged them to buy again.

The results?

  • The Google AdWords Voucher Code campaign produced a staggering return on investment of over 6800%.
  • The drop-out rate at the shopping checkout stage for those attempting to use voucher codes halved.
  • Over 30% of customers recruited from the Google AdWords Voucher Code campaign went on to join the e-mail marketing programme.
  • Over 55% of customers joining the e-mail marketing programme purchased again within 2 months.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Digital Product or Proposition

Are you struggling with the difference between a Digital Product or a Digital Proposition? I was for a while, but think I've now found the best way of explaining each:

A product is an item, idea or service for sale that satisfies a need (or want)

A proposition (or value proposition) is an explanation of why your customer should purchase your product. It should answer the question “what’s in it for me?”.
It should therefore ideally:

  • Be relevant - answer the question "why me?"
  • Communicate key benefits -  - answer the question "what will it help solve?"
  • Provide differentiation -  answer the question "why not buy something else?"
  • And.... It is NOT a slogan or a positioning statement

Friday, January 29, 2016

Will One Line Of Code Help Your SEO?

There's been quite a lot of discussion online (and a little offline) about a recent blog article called: How I Sped Up My Site 68.35% With One Line of Code

I think the biggest buzz about this article has been in the SEO community, who suddenly got all excited about a magical way to speed up web pages. Mentioned by Moz (the organic optimisation industry's catnip) you could be fooled into thinking that one person had suddenly found a way to massively boost a site to the top of the results pages.
Note: For those who don't know, the speed a page downloads is cited as one of the numerous factors taken into consideration when search engines such as Google rank (judge) your site... having a much faster page load speed with just one little line of code would be fabulous.
But alas, that's not the case.

You see, I think this article is misleading as it explains how to use an HTML tag called "rel-prerender".

For those who don't know, the rel-prerender tag is used on a website to place into computer memory the next page the site developer expects the users to click on. For example, Google sometimes use it in their search engine results pages (SERPs) to make the experience of clicking on the first result much quicker.

To explain how this works on your own website, let's imagine you are on page 1 and want to automatically call-up page 2 behind the scenes (so that it appears very quickly). You therefore insert the "rel-prerender" tag in page 1 to call up page 2 before it is clicked on.

Where might you use this?
Well you might us it on a login-page (page 1) where the logged-in page (page 2) is usually the next step. You can even use it in an eCommerce site to pre-render the shopping cart I guess.... BTW: DO NOT DO THIS!

But as you would expect, there's a catch. Pre-rendering page 2 is the act of requesting a view of it in advance. So people arriving on page 1 can trigger a page 2 view without ever seeing it and in many cases they won't. This means that in some analytic packages this is recorded as a page impression (not in GA, it's clever like that) and ads on that page may be triggered even when nobody's there to see them. Plus it also adds load onto your servers whenever a page is requested, so don't tell your tech support person you're adding further load onto the system that may never be used.

So does it have an effect on SEO? Well I may be wrong.... but I really can't see how it helps organic site optimisation as you are not speeding up the render of the page you want to appear in the SERPs (Page 1). What you are actually doing is speeding up the potential delivery of the next page (page 2) you expect the user to see.  And that's not SEO, that's a caching strategy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Forget Agile Development - You Need Agile Marketing

The term agile development is now pretty much established as the way to get web functionality built and launch. Focused on delivery of a minimum viable product it aims to build 'something but not everything' in a given time frame. It is so successful now, that marketing and commercial types have come to expect that their technical team or web agency can create nearly all of what they want in record time.

So now its time for a new term. So forget Agile Development for now, your business needs to adopt the practice of Agile Marketing!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Digital Dinosaurs Will Die Out

At a recent presentation I talked about how it was still sometimes hard to get senior stakeholder buy-in on digital projects. You'd have thought by now that most senior managers or executive teams would have read the odd press article on digital transformation or listened just enough to an industry consultant on where the future of communications, technology and innovation are taking us.

But no, there are still the digital luddites who want to dig their heads into the analogue sand and fail to grasp that there's a revolution happening in most organisations.

Luckily, like the dinosaurs, these digital deniers will become fewer and fewer until they not just become the minority... but they become virtually extinct. Hopefully!