Category Archives: Commerce

GDPR, the best thing since spliced breadcrumb trails

Every site is ‘thanking us for our data choices’ but are we really taking the time to understand what our choices are? We all have a data footprint but to what extent we may not be entirely aware.

Since the beginning of the transactional web these footprints have been collected, stored, connected and maybe now and again actually used. I say now and again, because most businesses I come across haven’t really worked out the value of data to inform anything beyond their CRM program. It’s often left to one side when it comes to shaping a business model, design approach or even NPD. More often, instead the point of view comes from inside the boardroom or with an eye to the competition and what they’re doing.

But that time has passed, relevance centred businesses are servicing an ‘Age of You’ – the internet era that goes beyond eco-systems and leverages insight to inform purchase journeys and their wider experiences around a users actual needs and desires.

In this web 4.0 world where the IoT is starting to pivot around the individual not the brand, GDPR has come into force in order to harmonise data laws whilst protecting consumers who don’t quite know what the data cost of all this connectivity is. And it’s putting emphasis on businesses to be held more accountable. HOORAY.

The age of ‘my data, my internet’ is on the horizon and the exponential rate that technology will advance this far outpaces nearly every legacy data lakes in place today. So what to do? Now that is a question I’m getting asked in an equally exponentially increasing rate.

I have some simple starting questions that have helped me shape some of the data strategies I’ve been working on with clients embracing GDPR as a chance to positively shake themselves up (Chapeaux). These are just starting points and they will open up more questions but I have found if you keep coming back to them every time you disappear down rabbit hole, they help.

First things first, there are three main types of data:

1st party; the stuff you collect directly and that you ask for the permissions to own

2nd party; essentially someone else’s 1st that they share with you (normally advertisers and publishers)

3rd party; the kind of stuff you can buy from anywhere and is generally diluted and generalised (i.e. not very useful to anyone so I’m not going to cover this)

Your starting point is likely to be a ton of archaic stuff that’s been collected for years, decades even, and not really modernised. Or if it has been modernised it will have been done so through a brand or business lens therefore adding to it’s linearity.

You don’t need to chuck it all out though, where there is data there is insight you just need to know how to mine for it, so my first question: What can this existing pile of data tell you?

There will be many assumptions, heed caution. If you don’t believe the assumptions (and trust your gut on this one) get a data wizard (some call them scientists) to mine it for you. They will be able to develop a question set with you then deploy speedy algorithms and methodologies to offer up a different set of useful insights.

Once you know what your data knows, you’ll have some gaps against your objectives which leads to the next bit…

It’s likely you’re working for or with a brand or business who think they need to own all the data. You don’t. In fact it’s quite greedy to assume you should. I’m not saying a big bank of addresses is all redundant (do not underestimate the power of email) BUT 2nd party data can be a super useful shortcut to getting to know the answers to the gaps that the data you already have doesn’t give you right now.

Google for example, know quite a bit about most audiences you are likely to be trying to reach and engage. “Google conquered the advertising world with nothing more than applied mathematics. It didn’t pretend to know anything about the culture and conventions of advertising — it just assumed that better data, with better analytical tools, would win the day.”

And Google was right.

I didn’t say that by the way, Wired’s Chris Anderson did a little while back. I totally agree – as does most of the internet.

So, question number two: Who are your trusted 2nd party data partners?

Your lead agencies should have a good view on this, but you will too. Within your organisation you will have worked with media and publishing partners on initiatives and activations, plus a whole host of other partnerships will have proved useful along the way. Look at what’s worked and bring them into the fold then widen your horizons to the likes of Google. Once you a clear view you can work out how you’ll use each one to plug your 1st party gaps. Make two tidy lists; one for 1st party and one for 2nd party, then put them to one side for now.

The next bit is more tricky, and that’s working out a data roadmap to get you over your immediate hurdles and propel you into a consumer centric model so you can effectively operate in the ‘Age of You’. So, question number three: How are you going to map and further extend your two data sets to give you the answers you need, now and for tomorrow?

Using data to; inform the creative process, brand storytelling or simply just for personalised targeting and messaging requires using data to generate a contextual, or even better, an emotional connection. But there is a line, and this is where GDPR is reinforcing the interests of consumers. Balancing the digital data economy, with commercial opportunities and consumer rights is a minefield unless you truly start thinking consumer first. Your data map should flip every question you’ve asked yourself as a business or brand thus far to be just this, so instead of ‘data will help us do X and Y’ instead ask yourself ‘by knowing this piece of information about our consumer we can help them do X and Y’.

Once you’ve built out your consumer maps based on what (1st and 2nd party data points) you need to know in order to deliver on their needs and desires, you’ll be in a good place to start mapping your own goals to them, but another watch out – never reverse them or you’ll be right back to where you started in no time.

The GDPR applies to all businesses that are established in the EU, regardless of whether the data processing takes place in the EU or not. And if you think you have a loop hole, even non-EU established businesses will be subject to GDPR if your business speaks to consumers in the EU. You can’t stick your head in the sand over this one and the world isn’t go to wait for you to figure it out, so best to get cracking.

Bottom line? You need to know what your data knows, work out what you don’t understand and shift to a consumer first approach.

GDPR data post

Image found on Google courtesy of gigaom – thank you

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the blending edge

It’s the second week of a new year and I’m halfway through writing three future retail strategies.

Though blurred lines won’t be a new premise for most of you who follow this blog, I thought a handy snapshot of where you can expect them to become increasingly blurred across the year might prove useful as it’s the recurring theme I’m hearing myself explain on a daily basis.

So here are my top blurred lines to expect for 2017;

The line between clicks and bricks

For anyone leading the way when it comes to the conversation between shopping online verses in-store, this will have been on your radar for several years by now, but thanks to Amazon bringing checkout free shopping to bricks and mortar in Seattle, this year comes with a whole new sense of anticipation and threat. Admittedly whilst limited at the moment, given the force behind the world’s 7th biggest brand it won’t be long before they’re popping up all over the globe. The internet will continue to spill out of our mobiles and laptops and into the objects around us, the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) has arrived.

The line between humans and intelligent assistants

Not to be confused with Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is autonomous, Intelligent Assistants (IA) are on the rise at a rapid rate. An IA is pre-programmed with data and doesn’t learn autonomously, this means brands are feeling more comfortable with releasing them into their customer service offerings and consumers are more comfortable with interacting with them. The speedy response negates the desire to have an informal chat with a human over the phone and accuracy is vastly improving.

The line between one and many

One of the greatest strengths of the internet is it’s ability to merge consumers needs with others that identify with the same. This pier to pier collaboration is defining what habits emerge and what technology enables those habits.

The line between social power and brand success

Building on this last point, brands are built on what consumers say about you, and thanks to the power of social, what is said is heard far and wide in seconds. You only have to look at the likes of Uber and AirBnB, case studies that are thrown around to show the true power of businesses built on ratings and feedback, to see the reality is that what you say is barely relevant, the true power is with the consumer. Content was King across Web 1.0 and 2.0, Context across Web 2.0 and 3.0. Depending on how sophisticated your brand is, you’re likely somewhere between 3.0 and 4.0 so the consumer is very much your King today.

The line between listening and predicting

Nike built their brand on the philosophy ‘Know me to serve me’ and it sits at the heart of everything they do. Because technology means consumers can have whatever they want at the touch of a button successful brands have a limited window to ‘listen and respond’. The successful retailer will know what a consumer wants before they even know they want it.

It’s clear that the notion of a clear dividing line is drawing to a close.

amazon-go

image found on http://www.theguardian.com – thank you

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Click to Predict

Last year eCommerce saw a rise in click to collect behaviour, pop up millennial hubs, drone deliveries, shoppable store fronts and mobile payment systems like Apple Pay leapfrog forwards. So what does this year hold?

Here are three things I think will start to take off:

  1. sCommerce: 2015 saw all of the major social players roll out their version of the ‘buy now’ button in order to bring shopping to the masses acting on impulse in social media around the world. The trend is set to spike into this year as the tracking of associated likes and comments enable brands to quickly grasp and react to what consumers want.
  2. Pre-cognitive commerce: Is the art of knowing what consumers want before they know they want it. In a connected world where immediate gratification is an increasing expectation, brands will need to be reactive more quickly, not to what shoppers ask for, but to what they may ask for next. 
  3. Truth-based purchasing: Technology has provided a level of connectivity that means brands will not be able to hide anything about their products in the future. Clothes will communicate with washing machines as to how they need to be washed, food will talk to fridges about when they’re going out of date, the national grid will talk to homes about when they are switching to ‘bad’ energy. The margin for creative license in communicating brand truths has narrowed further and will continue to do so.

I wonder who will get it right…

Keep-Your-Heels-Head-and-Standards-High-Coco-Chanel-Poster-Textual-Art-A89P389P1824

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FFS

For many businesses I’m working with at the moment memberships are becoming the new subscriptions. The bar for a credible value exchange is set higher than ever before with freemium models saturating the market, so our hungry audience are no longer satisfied by exclusive content and a glossy cover, pixel enabled or not. 

Today wants tailored and timely, relevant and resonating. Brands are expected to know what their audience want, on a 121 basis, which is fine if you run the coffee shop round the corner and you’ve been there for 20 years watching the town around you grow up and evolve. It’s not so straight forward when you’re scaling beyond your inner circle into a model that not only makes money, but enables you to create a viable business that pays other people money too. 

This shift from having customers to members is a step change for how businesses build everything from their CRM programs to their technology stacks, because in today’s world every piece of data matters, because those pieces of data allow you to be relevant, to everyone. 

It’s easy to get dragged down into the detail, so I’ve put together a little checklist to help:  

Be Focussed

Decide wich parts of your paid membership are going to add the most value and invest on making those amazing first. If you do too many things at once it will not only cost a lot in production, but also in technical development and promotion. 

Be Frictionless

Make it really easy for your audience to receive, digest and share. There is nothing more disappointing to users, or more costly to you, if this doesn’t meet expectations. 

Be Selfless

Listen, analyse and adapt your model as you go. The most successful businesses are those that put their audience first and their business second. Think of them as your insight tool, fusing the next phase, they are not the end game. 

I appreciate the last one is the hardest, especially with financial goals and deadlines, but it’s the most important in the long run. 

We should all be thinking FFS for the right reasons. 

Image found on Pinterest via wework.com - thank you

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A view on the programmatic semantics of binary trading predication

What the..? You may ask.

Well, I’ll tell you… you see most of my meetings this week have been about the uptake of programmatic, commonly I’m being asked; Is it robust? Is it robots? Are the robots robust? How do I plug it in? Do the robots plug it in? Are the robust robots plugged in?

Breath in.

So, having explained this a lot, I find it’s easier to start with what it is not:

It is not: Real Time Bidding (RTB)

It is not: A new type of media

It is not: A new format, a new device, a new tactic, a new insight or a new inventory. 

It is, quite simply put; AN AUTOMATED PROCESS.

Programmatic Trading simplifies the buying and selling process by digitally connecting the buyer and the seller of the ad space. This brings automation to the process adding operational and pricing efficiencies which take the mundane and repetitive tasks away from humans.

It is important to note that this doesn’t mean that creative is any less important, studies show that creative is still responsible for 70% of the effectiveness, the placement and timing making up the other 30%.

Marketing is, and will always be, about getting the right piece of content to the right person at the right time. Programmatic quite simply means we can be quicker, more effective and therefore scale in a more structured and relevant way. 

I love this example from Nike and Google, it’s a great demonstration of what can be achieved with clever design and RTB, and just recently Unilever have explored the use of video in their Romeo Reboot campaign.

So in summary, you still need a wicked idea, a clever plan and some digital genius behind it, but if you embrace the fact that you can’t be in total control of the real time exchange and you’re prepared to sit back and enjoy the ride, then some really cool stuff can happen. 

And contrary to the title of this post, it’s not that tricky…

image found on adweek.com - thank you

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It’s Hard to be a Diamond in a Rhinestone World

Meet ‘The Millennial’; a sophisticated and digitally savvy shopper, looking to be excited as much by the product as by the experience of researching it and flaunting it.

For today’s time poor, money flirtatious audience this is no longer just about Tiffany earrings Dahling; it’s also about the ‘to die for’ set of champagne flutes, the ‘totes in’ beach bag and even the simply ‘must have’ centre piece for the dining table.

The make up of luxury is getting a make over, and if it’s not pixel perfect then brands will need to prepare to be considered mainstream. 

Not only do consumers want to be enveloped in a beautiful, seamlessly immersive experience, they expect it, so when working with premium brands, I have these three key points as my guide:

  1. Are we sparkling: To be a cut above the rest, we must have the edge when it comes to going from design diamond in the rough, to top quality grade. If we can’t cut through and achieve stand out, we’ll quickly become mediocre. 
  2. Size matters, but not in the traditional way where whoever shouts loudest wins. Today consumers can access content wherever they are and will do so with whatever they have to hand, so our diamond needs to make the most of every screen size out there. I aim to be creating for 5 screen optimization at least, and an extra little tip; think mobile first, and mobile last. 
  3. Less is more. If we haven’t got something interesting to say, then I encourage not to say anything. With the rise of social continuing to grow it doesn’t mean copy and paste everywhere, we don’t have to be ‘always on’. We should be authentic, inspiring, but most of all we must be relevant, be always there, when our consumers want us to be. 

Getting it right takes research, time, dedication and constant evaluation. We must know and understand our audience in order to take our brand to their space in a meaningful way. 

No pressure, no diamonds.

pixie dust

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Content meets Commerce

I was presenting to the CEO of a leading global brand a couple of weeks ago, and was once again starkly reminded of just how divided so many businesses are from the advances in today’s (and tomorrow’s) technology.

One moment we were talking about the fact they still don’t have a cross platform infrastructure allowing them to take content to wherever their consumers are, and the next we were talking about closing the gap and speeding ahead with a technology solution based around Artificial Intelligence. A conversation which leaped around the room; rest assured the irony was not lost on me.

Sat at the table were two generations in ages, yet about six in technological terms.

The fact still remains though, that beyond theory and strategy, businesses across the world are still divided by their operational set up; one half mainly serving commerce and the other, marketing to consumers, and it is in this divide that nearly every client I speak to, struggles to truly step ahead. With one team tracking sales and demand, the other tracking website visits and consumer comments, it’s not surprising really.

To succeed as a brand and truly deliver a holistic experience touching every point of the digital journey a consumer goes on, can no longer be about great content on one side, and a commerce platform on the other… brands must provide the glue in the middle.

I believe this ‘glue’ lies within three key initiatives:

  1. Board members steering the middle management teams
  2. The commerce and marketing sides of the business coming together to provide a service that meets in the middle
  3. Content that differentiates and adds value

I also believe the biggest failure of brands being able to do this, stems from a lack of collaborative belief and belief in collaboration.

In other news, these guys produce super cool content… and this is a cool picture.

Cool Content

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