SocietyOne Eyes Off Disruption in Personal Lending

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For decades, many Australian business sectors have been asleep at the wheel – underinvesting in digital technology, employee skills and strategic thinking. Which sectors? They’re the ones people complain about on Twitter and Facebook – retail, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and financial services. And you can add utilities into that list (but that’s a subject for a future post).

In many ways this is what we’d expect. In the industrial era – business was designed to maximise the profits from investment and expenditure – and that’s what they were doing. We call it creating “shareholder value”. But times are changing. We are no longer living in a world where industrial era business models rule. They are the dinosaurs of the 21st century and those companies and industries that don’t look to reinvent their business models will not only face declining revenues – they’ll risk disappearing altogether.

Don’t think it can happen to you? So did Kodak.

When Google created their own financial services division, they fired a shot across the bow of the slow moving personal lending businesses in the UK. What Google understands is speed to market – and disruption. And remember, they have the inside view of what we search for, what we click on and how long we stay there. The shift to digital – the massive transformation in the way that we think, shop and live has largely been driven by access to Google’s services – and financial services is just the next step in a long journey for them.

But it’s not just global internet giants who will disrupt the market. Smaller, agile players are entering the market – rethinking the old business models and out-flanking them. Take a look at SocietyOne. Connecting borrowers and investors in a peer-to-peer fashion SocietyOne takes “crowdfunding” to a new, more knowable level. It’s designed to match investors and borrowers in an interest rate/risk online pitch-off. Check out their introductory video. Looks like no bank that I know. And that’s the point.

Closed slimmer_jimmer via Compfight

Scale Your Digital Marketing with Marketing Automation

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In these challenging times, we are all asked to do more with less. For marketers, this means coping with an explosion of channels, transformation in the expectations of our customers and an abundance of data that can, in equal parts,  obscure or facilitate insight.

So where can you turn to scale your marketing efforts?

The first generation of marketing automation software provided a great way to deal with an increasing volume of broadcast style communications. But in this digital – multi-directional world, marketers must be more responsive, engaging and yes, social.

My just released report, Scaling Up with Marketing Automation, provides a birds eye view of the marketing automation landscape, presents the key strengths and features of a range of vendors and examines how these solutions can help marketers do more with less. You can download a snapshot of the report here.

laughing cow chotda via Compfight

I’m Just a Little Bit in Love with This

I'll Give You All I Can...

I’m just a little bit in love with a great presentation by Martin Weigel.

I didn’t want to get in the way between you and this presentation – but it’s important to remember that there is a huge perception gap between what WE think consumers want, and what they EXPECT from us. It’s not even that we have to CLOSE the gap – just acknowledge it is there. Then we can get to work on truly inspirational customer experiences.

I'll Give You All I Can... Brandon Warren via Compfight

Gustin Shows Why Retailers Still Don’t Get Digital

Gustin to transform retail

For years, Australian retailers have under-invested in digital. They held back technology investment, closed down innovation programs and hired traditional marketers when they should have been growing their own breed of tech-savvy innovators. And while retailers had their heads in the sand, the world changed.

Recent failures like ClickFrenzy have been down played and it’s clear that even the retailers with some digital budget are unprepared for the fast moving transformation taking place thanks to mobile.

In spite of all the trends, facts, figures and forecasts, retailers remain unconvinced. What is driving this myopic view of the future of business? In many ways, it feels like a classic illustration of the The Innovator’s Dilemma – companies (and indeed a whole industry) misses out on new waves of innovation because they are unable to capitalise on disruptive technologies.

But I also think retailers are captives of “Big Thinking”. Because they operate at scale, big thinking clouds their judgement. It’s easy to discount competitors when they generate sales that are fractions of a percentage of your business. But it’s not the percentage that’s important, its the velocity and momentum.

Hand made men’s clothing manufacturer, Gustin, illustrate this shift beautifully. They launched a Kickstarter campaign some time ago with the aim of raising $20,000. The premise was simple:

  • Capitalise on their growing brand and reputation for premium menswear hand-crafted in San Francisco
  • Allow for pre-purchasing of products through crowdsourcing – perfectly matching the demand and supply chains
  • Deliver the retail items to customers directly at wholesale price

Now, with two days before the campaign closes, Gustin have massively over-reached their goal. Currently sitting at almost $407,000, Gustin have smashed the target, connecting with almost 4000 new customers and validating not only their approach but also whole product lines.

And all this was done by taking an outside-in view of their business.

Until other retailers can transform the way they think about their business, their customers and the experience they provide, they will continue to struggle with this new world of digital.

Let Your Customers Tell the Story of Your Brand

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We have lived for many years with the illusion of control. We believed that we could:

  • Control the experience of our brand
  • Manage the way our brand was represented
  • Dictate the messaging people used when discussing our brand

To administer this, and to reinforce our sense of ownership of our brand, we created processes, guidelines and tools of management that enforced consistency, clarity and style. We measured our control in pixels and pantone colours. And we sat at our desks in the contented glow of our three ring binders, style guides and brand books.

And because we controlled the medium in which our brands were discussed (or at least paid large sums to those broadcasting our messages), we came to see this belief in control as truth. This, in time, made us happy.

And then along came the web. It was billed as a levelled playing field but it was really a simulation of what had gone before – the means of publishing production remained centralized, controlled and administered. But a new power was created. The ascendency of the geeks was underway and the promise of the world wide web remained tantalisingly close – veiled behind layers of code and techno-speak.

It was not until the advent of the social web that publishing, distribution and creation was democratized (of course, consumption is another question). Now, anyone with an internet connection (yes, even mobile), can engage in the publishing process.

This social media free-for-all remains a challenge for many brands. In fact, despite Australian audiences ranking amongst the most avid consumers of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, many companies still tread warily around the edges of social without a clear strategy to engage, participate or simply listen.

But for every story of risk and corporate fear, we also see celebrations. For whether we like it or not, our customer use the products and services we create – generating unique experiences and amazing results.

Look what happens when high school student Melody Green produces a video documentary of her school science experiment. Not only does she tell the powerful and exciting story of a young girl learning about high altitude science (should be more of it) … it generates story after story:

Getting behind this kind of momentum is a brilliant move by GoPro and the High Altitude Science folks. It’s a great example of what can happen when you do let your customers tell the story of your brand. But it’s amazing what happens when you not only let that story be told, but you actively promote that as PART of your brand.

Just think … you could do that too. Today rather than obsessing over the negative, shine a little light on the great things your customers say. It might just amaze you.

The Brand Behind Your Buttons

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Sometimes the most important aspects of brand experience happen below the level of our consciousness. Think of the sound that is made when you close the door of your car. Manufacturers spend millions researching, designing and engineering that experience. Same with the exhaust note of a Harley Davidson. All of this careful thinking and planning has been crafted to heighten and differentiate your experience of a PARTICULAR brand.

This approach should also be applied to the digital domain.

Over the last dozen years or so, I have built a number of online platforms for clients or employers. Each time, I have focused on designing not just a “user interface” but an on-brand experience. And this process begins, surprisingly, with buttons.

BrandButtons

Marc Hemeon, designer at YouTube, eloquently connects the use of web buttons with brand experience. He proposes “the button test” – and sets a surprisingly easy challenge. Can you pick the brands that use the style and colour of the buttons shown in the image? I bet you can. But more than that … can you pick the call to action, the behaviour and your sense of intention that is connected to that button? That’s the important and interesting part!

When I am thinking through and planning a digital platform, I focus on user behaviour and intention. I plan for interaction and process but I also take a leaf out of Amazon’s books. I plan for trademarking. Imagine coming up with a single button that brands an experience, explains a process and corresponds with an inherent behaviour. It’s the digital equivalent of a “Kleenex” – where the act of using a tissue has become synonymous with the company that produces the product. Amazon’s 1-click purchase button is the prime example.

As Marc’s button test shows, the smallest element on your website delivers brand impact. Maybe we should pay more attention to the digital brand experience rather than just making the logo bigger.

Funnel Conversion: Make it About Your Customers

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It’s one thing to have a marketing insight, but quite another to do something valuable with it.

Living as we do with an abundance of data, what marketers increasingly need is a way to filter the information, distil it for insight and apply their business and brand knowledge in a way that creates value for both the business and their customers.

But where do you start?

Eloqua has compiled 40 infographics covering a swathe of marketing disciples from the back office to the front of house. There are charts on analytics and marketing automation, social media, email marketing and lead management.

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Armed with this data:

  • Consider your own marketing challenge
  • Find a chart that speaks to your problem
  • Compare and contrast the chart data to what you know about your business

Now … think about how you can close the gap or solve your challenge. Do you need help? Resources? Budget? What can you do within the next three weeks and what can be delayed until 2013?

STOP.

All this makes perfect sense. But before progressing, consider how this plays out with customer experience in mind. Which of your priorities also provide wins for your customers? What does it mean to recast your efforts through the lens of the customer?

With an abundance of data we can easily lose sight of our customers. Marketers must continue to maintain focus not on their marketing processes but on the constantly changing customer landscape. If you aren’t focusing on your customers, rest assured your competitors are.

The Shift from Mobile First to Mobile Only

GoogleTrends-YearofMobile

Constellation Research - Digital Disruption Trend Report Every year the mobile marketing industry boldly announces that THIS will be the “year of mobile”.

In 2005, Sony Ericsson, O2 and Samsung added new features and capabilities to their mobile handsets, delivering 2Mb cameras and GPS to blur the lines between the personal digital assistant and the cellular phone. It was the year that BlackBerry conquered the world and the Apple iPhone was still two years away from it’s game changing launch.

Mobile Device Saturation Outflanks Marketers

Over the last seven years much has changed. But perhaps the most astounding change is the near saturation levels of mobile phone usage – not just in the US, Australia or Europe, but globally. The World Bank reported in July 2012, that mobile phone access now reaches 75% of the planet’s population. And Google Trends reveals an unprecedented surge in mobile marketing interest.

GoogleTrends-YearofMobile

And yet the question remains – how ready are enterprises for the demands of a mobile-ready world?

Marketers have been slow to adapt – first to the web and then to the mobile. Consumers (ie 75% of the global population), however, have not, embracing every new wave of mobile innovation with open palms. The World Bank report suggests that rather than petering out, the “mobile revolution is right at the start of its growth curve”.

Digital Disruption: Lessons from Asia Pacific’s Digital Trajectory

Asia Pacific is not just an economic juggernaut – it is also a petri dish showcasing the consumer behaviour and business impacts that are being wrought by the shift to digital. And while many enterprises have begun to respond with a “mobile first” strategy – designing customer experiences around the mobile device, our trend report on digital disruption suggests that this may not be enough. For many consumers, the future of digital may not involve a desktop computer at all. Mobile first may not be enough – it’s time to consider what it means to have a web experience that is mobile only.

For marketing leaders, there are five key lessons that can be drawn from Asia Pacific and applied to any market:

  1. The Internet experience is mobile with a social heart.
  2. Consumer adoption is disrupting patterns of media consumption and transforming the buyer’s journey.
  3. Digital adoption will drive marketers’ thirst for mobile solutions.
  4. Marketers will turn to marketing automation to scale execution.
  5. The shift to digital requires a re-casting of the marketing funnel.

Download a copy of the report to learn how mobile and social adoption will change your market strategy.

Invisible Digital is the Force for Next Generation Branding

Next Generation Branding Happens from the Outside In

Apple does it. Amazon does it. Nike does it. Google does it too.

All are ranked in the top 50 of the 2012 BrandZ most valuable global brands report. Yet even within this exclusive collection of brands, some stand out from others. It’s not just that they encompass all that represents a strong brand as suggested in the report – “innovation, trust, reputation, responsible citizenship” – but something far more important. They are brands that exist from the outside in – brands that are created by the consumer experience that radiate back towards the company.

And they achieve this through the innovative use of digital strategy.

Apple’s Innovation: Invisible Digital

The excitement around the launch of any Apple product is palpable. From the first iPod through to the latest incarnation of iPhone, Apple has mastered the art of slow burn communication. There are various “leaks”, glimpses and mockups that find their way into the online world. Rumours of impending announcements are made and message boards, blogs and social media sites explode in anticipation. Meanwhile, the retail experience is perfected – employees are briefed and educated, supply chain is primed and inventory is delivered. And often, as in the case of the iPhone 5, the announcement is simply an exercise in expectation setting – it’s a pre-announcement of an announcement, a pre-launch of the launch. After the announcement, products can be pre-ordered online, ready for delivery or pick up after the launch.

It’s a carefully orchestrated strategy designed to prime the market and maximise sales. It is an experience that uses digital to connect the dots – from expectation setting through ordering to delivery. And yet, it’s a digital experience that does not call out its existence. At almost every touchpoint, customers experience a sense of digital innovation without the accompanying sense of interruption or dislocation. It’s digital that is invisible.

  • Invisible digital drives footfall: Retailers understand the importance of footfall – of having people physically in your stores – and Apple is no exception. But while many retailers struggle to drive people into store, Apple can orchestrate vast queues of people to line up for hours just to pick up their new device. Sure, these customers could choose to have their iPhones delivered to their home, but that would exclude them from a very public ritual that is beamed by mainstream media around the world. Orders may be placed online, but fulfilment (in all its senses), is delivered in person.
  • Invisible digital orchestrates engagement: Apple chooses not to actively participate in social media, ploughing their efforts into activities which create remarkable experiences for their customers. Whether it is an ad hoc visit, a reservation at the Genius Bar or the excitement of picking up  a new device, the free WiFi at the Apple Store ensures that customers can create conversations around this experience, taking photographs, blogging, sharing and tweeting.
  • Invisible digital casts a brand halo: When we purchase a product or service we are investing a small amount of our reputation into a brand. And as we use that product or service there is a cross-halo effect that takes place – we share our own reputational glow with that brand and the brand, in turn, reflects upon us. Invisible digital allows this to happen seamlessly – and with each micro-interaction, the personal and public brand becomes ever more closely aligned.

The Bottom Line: Invisible Digital Sets the Stage for Next Generation Branding

Google claimed top ranking in the 2007 BrandZ report with Apple well down the list at 16th. It seemed at the time that Google were unassailable. Five years later, they are ranked 3rd behind IBM, and have suffered a 3% drop in their brand valuation (with a brand valuation that is only 60% of Apple’s $182 million). The need to innovate is relentless, but innovation must not focus on technology alone. Innovating the customer experience must become a priority for brands and invisible digital may be the key.

Invisible digital is not about technology in the traditional sense. The technology simply enables a flow that transports customers from one experience to another. The touchpoints, the interactions and ultimately, the aggregation of experiences creates next generation brands. Some brands understand how this works. Others must accelerate their efforts and investigations or risk falling further behind.

Sydney Cycleways Changing the Way We Experience Sydney

Years ago I did some work in Munich. Our office was in the centre of town and my hotel (if you could call it that) was just outside the central business district – but rather than catching a can each day, I thought I’d try cycling.

At the front of the hotel was a bike rack with bikes that could be hired by the day, hour or week. Once you had setup an online account, the bikes could be unlocked remotely via text message. And the best thing was that you could stop “renting” the bike just by relocking it into one of the many racks scattered throughout the city. It was brilliant and supremely convenient.

But most importantly, it changed the nature of the relationship that I had with the city. Rather than rushing from point A to point B, I was able to breathe in the architecture and style of the city. I could see the people and the way they lived. I felt part of a living landscape – and years later I still feel an affinity with the city.

This is partly why I am so excited to see Sydney’s cycleways threading through the CBD. Sure there are great, environmental reasons why they are a good idea – but beyond this, it is about reimagining and recasting the way we relate to the city. It’s about what it means to live, work and thrive in a city like Sydney.

Over on the SBS Cycling Central site is a great interview with City of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. She talks about a grander vision – of a larger cycleway network within the City of Sydney, connecting with other shires across Sydney. But she also talks about what it means to live in a city and how we need to own and design the city that we want to live in. And that is something that we should all share in.