Category Archives: Consumer Experience

20 for 2020: My predictions for the year ahead

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Image courtesy of Evie Shaffer on Pexels – Thank You

From the obvious to the not so obvious, for the last few years I’ve shared my musings for the year ahead at the break of each year and 2020 is set to be a big one so I’ve put some thought into a big list.

The below 20 predictions are informed by insights derived from three places; recurring conversations I’ve had with colleagues and clients over the last year as we look ahead together, industry roundtables and networking discussions and correlations derived with my team of data wizards (scientists make them sound rather boring) from multiple data sources.

I’ll certainly find it interesting to look back in a year and see how many were along the right lines. Grab a cuppa this is a 10 minute read (if you’re not skimming it)…

1. Voice will have a bigger say

Voice assistants continued to dominate 2019 with increased adoption of in-phone and in-home use, couple that with a wider acceptance that Alexa really isn’t interested in what you do in your spare time unless you ask her to be and it’s no wonder that by 2023 the estimated adoption will almost double from just over four billion in 2020 to eight billion voice assistants globally (source: Statista). 2020’s usage will extend through hands free use of ear buds and in car adoption.

2. 5G will destabilise mobile data expectancy

It was a big promise for 2019 that was never really delivered against so as it’s again marked for bigger adoption in 2020 many mobile experts are calling out that in fact when it does work it simply puts pressure on areas still in 3G (sometimes still 2G) to bridge the gap. The knock on effect to this is that supply chains are becoming more complex, more fragmented and finding it harder to deliver against consumer expectation at scale. This is not great news for brands with an audience who like to globetrot.

3. Next hour delivery will surge forwards

Yep, we’re a demanding bunch when it comes to getting what we want, when we want it wherever the heck we are. The rise of cashless societies and intelligent end to end supply chains – with the latter end being wherever our mobile phone is – and Amazon continuing to narrow the timeframe means we should expect; that last minute mascara drop, the oh sh*t I ran out of nappies drop and the night on the town LBD drop within an hour of hitting BUY NOW.

4. Data will make decisions

This might sound a bit obvious, but actually for all the hype around using data big or small, most brands are only really just getting to grips with analytics let alone algorithms. Brands that win will have a smart data lake set up to make insightful decisions. These decisions will be built around their consumers, geared for business profitability and secured for brand strength.

5. AI will get emotional

After years of dabbling with empathy notes through the use of AI we’ve teetered on the edge of putting it to good use, and I’m not talking about sophisticated spam (otherwise known as programmatic advertising). 2020 will see  the use of emotional AI to better predict a users need or desire and to ensure those needs and desires are reflected in how the brand interacts with them from that point on. This will move interactions from functional to emotional understanding of each journey stage from advertising through to CX for the lifetime of that relationship. The boundary between tech and human must remain intact however, it should be sentient not systematised stalking.

6. Our brains will start interfacing with computers

Not as crazy as you think! Yes it’s true Facebook acquired CTRL-Labs in 2019 and Elon got Neuralink working on rats, but closer to home there were several successes across 2019 to translate neuro-signals directly into computers in the medical field, to name a few; Texas Tech Uni translated EEG signals into emotional data, a team of scientists in Washington invented a device that can control neural circuits using a tiny brain implant controlled by a smartphone to help uncover brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, Dartmouth College Researchers identified a non-verbal, neural marker of autism offering potential to diagnose autism in the future. MedTech seeps into other industries so I suspect 2020 will see this technology being played out for experiences, I only hope Facebook don’t control the road there!

Talking of Facebook…

7. The social tech giants will feel a stronger spotlight upon them

More rigour will be put into setting rules and regulations that lend to ensure the services of big social platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter help solve real, non-trivial, problems rather than create them. Following the political clusterf*cks of the past few years and the pending elections in 2020 the pressure will be on to ensure that humanity is enabled through social connection, not persuaded, influenced and cheated. Brands that win will demonstrate transparency and honesty in how they operate and use these platforms.

Meanwhile…

8. Deepfakes will work harder to stir up controversy

DF tech is not only hugely sophisticated now but more scarily it’s widely available. With the upcoming presidential election already something of a controversy I suspect that will be a big target. I only hope (as I know so many others do) that the general awareness of this tech and indeed overall fake news is leaving audiences informed enough to stop the spread.

but there is hope!

9. Not for profit news will take force 

Whilst the eye of Mordor will be on the social and for profit news platforms, the growth of nonprofit, public serving news teams will start to make a difference. In the states there are several state specific newsrooms that have sprung up over the last couple of years, and across Europe we’re seeing the same too. They will win by providing their communities with independent, balanced, informed and trusted news so that local communities can make their own decisions.

10. Humans will reconnect without tech

There is fatigue around being constantly connected to each other all of the time and just because we can be on the internet, doesn’t mean we should. In the workplace we will see continued efforts to create spaces for people to come together away from email, more workshops will take place outdoors away from the office, day to day people are booking WiFi free holidays, escaping up mountains or under the sea, families are enforcing mobile phone free time and making more effort to bring generations together more often. Hooray for real hugs and not virtual ones!

OK, we’re halfway through..

11. Pier-to-pier services will grow

Whether you’re getting your IKEA shelves assembled, your car pooled, your business funded or your lost luggage returned by a guest staying at the hotel you just left – pier to pier support networks are taking off in clusters around the globe and I think we’ll see an upward surge in adoption of these services.

12. Demand for on Demand will rise and simplify

We’ve seen a proliferation of streaming services and the (ahem) rollout of 5G should make it easier to access content on the go but, it’s been getting messy and service providers have got desperate in the greedy race against each other. 2020 will be the year consumers realise they don’t need to spend as much on entertainment and will choose their preferred supplier and cut the rest.

OK, less about tech and more about people…

13. People will focus on fun more

The last decade has largely been about saving for your future self, a self that for the masses has been thrown into turmoil by political and economical strife. As we stride into the ‘Experience Era’, we do so with consumers who are realising once again that life is for living  and freeing themselves of the shackles their previous generations held them to. We will see much more fun and excitement in how people go about their every day whilst still keeping an eye to what’s next. Brands that win will embrace and enable this as often as they can.

14. GenZ will make treads on writing the change for our future

2019 saw a huge uprising in GenZers self proclaiming to be the generation that will save us all from the damage we have caused; the world, the news, our images, our self esteem and so on. 2020 is set to be stirred up and driven even more by GenZ seeking to change the future whether; Greta Thunberg for climate change (I imagine you know who she is), Billy Monger for Adversity (a double amputee F1 racer) or Tiffany Zhong for smart investing (she’s one of the worlds youngest VC’s). And if you think you’re older and wiser you should still be listening because according to McKinsey and Gartner GenZ will make up 40% of consumers before 2020 is out.

15. Brands that ignore CX will lose out

We have seen first hand how the digital evolution is fundamentally altering consumer expectations; changing how companies and brands create, deliver and capture value. Simply changing technology or ‘doing’ digital is not enough. Our BAV  studies (you can learn about this here) showed that brands that create connected experiences for and around their consumers (CX) see on average: 51% uplift in differentiation from those that don’t, +38% brand esteem (strength and stature), 41% increase to become a top preference, see +21% emotional commitment, have +17% commitment and loyalty and +31% pricing power. It quantifiably strengthens not just the brand but the sustained business growth.  The Forrester CX Index shows that every CX focused business profited in 2019, an insight also backed by the S&P 500 that additionally highlights those that didn’t embrace CX fell in value.

16. Successful brands will show loyalty (proactive CX) before expecting loyalty in return

Smart brands know that profitability is better related to loyalty rather than constant market share growth. Having spent years challenging lazy marketers to stop handing out briefs that have the objective ‘to grow’ in them (obviously you want to grow if you’re marketing!!!) I am finally seeing many, many more brands leaning in to proactively sorting their CX offering so they can offer credible value to consumers before expecting purchase in return. These brands will win in 2020 and the next decade belongs to them.

17. Businesses will combine and simplify their revenue portfolios

Brands and businesses that understand their consumers have already started aligning silo’d teams around combined business models as an output, combining;  sales, marketing, customer services and product development. This helps de-silo customer data and provide a ‘one customer pov’ (if you believe in such a thing).  2020 will see the knock on effect of this, and as business model innovation leads to full attribution and one overall return so we will need the coming together of all revenue-driving teams.

And to end on a few big points…

18. Climate change will force business change

At some point in every business value chain there is a crossroad with nature and the ignorance to the impact of these crossroads has been displaced too much over the last few years. There is nowhere to hide and no excuse to do so anymore and I think 2020 is the year that businesses will be forced to stop ignoring the signs as their bottom lines decline whether directly or indirectly related to climate change. A mixture of social responsibility, shifts in management, technology adoption, consumer awareness and consumer loyalty combined have got us to a critical mass for changing business models in order to address their damage on our climate.

19. Consumers will enforce profit and purpose to become combined metrics through their purchase decisions

Further to my point above, consumers buy into brands that consistently and clearly stand for something good. 2019 called for brands to DO stuff not just SAY stuff and 2020 will see the evolution of this. My mantra remains steady as we head into this next year ‘Good Businesses will do Good Business’. It’s not complicated; if you’re damaging the climate then you’re damaging your bottom line. So if you use plastic packaging, find a way to stop. If your product is full of unsustainable sources, find sustainable ones. STOP putting the emphasis on your consumers and START putting it on your business.

20. Businesses will recognise that people (not tech) will lead them into the future

From start ups to global corporations, the era of relying on technology to drive the future is shifting to one that recognises more widely that technology should drive the people to drive the future. I think we will see a reprioritisation of effort and investment around human centred thinking and doing within organisations, this in turn will be reflected on how these businesses act outwardly and the uplift on brand strength and business performance will be visible. As Henry Ford once said, ‘A business that makes only money is a very poor business.’

And there you have it, if you got to the end THANK YOU. I hope you found some of it interesting and the very best of luck to you and your business in 2020.

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I’m comfortable being uncomfortable

It’s six months since I started the biggest job of my career to date. My days bring with them a constant Wile E. esq feel of laying the tracks as the train speeds to the cliff edge whilst I’m speeding one step ahead to build the bridge that will carry everyone over safely to the other side.

I don’t actually know what the other side looks like yet, but since jumping in to this role I’ve learnt once again to trust my instincts and the many years of experience I have leading change.

Allow me to give a little background; I’m a CXO. A what? Great question. A CXO, a ‘Chief Experience Officer’. A fairly newly created space on the expanding c-suite of companies that design for the next rather than the now. Over the course of 27 interviews, 3 countries and 6 months a handful of my now team and I crafted a job description that is part ‘sh*t to get done’ and part ambition statement. This was the first hook – we don’t really know how this will go but what I do know is that I feel energised.

I constantly seek to make a difference with every small action and to balance positive disruption and forward impact. When I’m in our agencies I look around me and the small but rapidly growing teams assembling are passionate, excited and if they were honest probably a bit scared. Most of all though we are hungry.

I’m frustrated (as always) by the ‘we don’t do it that way’ computer says no mentality of some of the structures and processes in place but hey, whilst I can’t (and don’t want to) break all the rules, we can definitely create better more modern and future proof ones.  I’m excited by the gravity of people pulling together and that excitement wouldn’t be as sharp without the frustration to balance it.

Everyday I turn my phone on in the morning to watch my emails argue out my day and my calendar level up in Tetris – the demand on my time and my brain is exhausting. I love it.

It’s reminded me that I thrive amidst an assembling puzzle, playing out the chess board whilst figuring out what piece you are on any given day. I’m glad we have the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ agencies out there and people to run them because that’s boring to me. Got a problem but you don’t know where to start? Great. Losing customers with only a vague idea what to? Excellent. Your market’s been thrown into turmoil by a #movement? Bring it on.  Your business is chaos and a watertight process won’t stop the sinking feeling? That’s us.

We’re building a practice that meshes business transformation, creativity and technology to address growth challenges anchored in human centred design thinking – in doing so we’re helping our clients design and build their futures.

I don’t have a crystal ball but I do have faith in how things change because the system of change is always fundamentally the same. The pace will be different, the complexity governed by how many people do, or don’t know what they’re doing. But it will happen, it will keep happening and we’re at the front of it.

What a brilliantly uncomfortable journey to be on.

WileThatsAllFolks

Image found on Google and likely sourced from Looneytunes originally – Thank you!

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Good Businesses DO Good Business

I am thrilled to be embarking on a new chapter that builds on my last 15 years of collective experience to start defining what a new era of ‘Experience’ looks like. If like me, you’ve been trying to design for the world of connected everything, in and around audiences of ‘I want everything now’, then you too will know how hard it is to actually deliver something impactful.

And impactful is a big word. To distill that I don’t mean worthy, but put simply I do think we have a responsibility as marketers to enable good businesses to do good business.

I’m excited to be joining a team of brilliant minds who want to help design and deliver the next series of experiences for brands who are built around business ideals that have stood the test of time. If you instantly scathe this thought it’s probably because you’ve been spammed by crappy ads for too long and that’s what you think marketing is now. Sadly a lot of brands/ businesses are still just worried about selling stuff first then listening second.

Let’s pause here… pick a brand you’ve worked with or for, then go right back to the beginning of their existence and you will likely see that their success grew from standing for something, and dig further you’ll find that ‘something’ had the intent to impact positively.

What I have seen over the last few years is that the pressures of technology on a brand, whether in the shape of; Google as a search engine or as a competitor, Amazon as delivery partner or a competitor or trail blazing brands breaking the expectation barrier – is that sh*t got really fast and they struggled to keep up with the pace of life it delivered.

So, as most emerging technologies slide into the Gartner trough and we have a little breathing space to pull our brand pants up a bit, I personally find the millions of connections that need to be woven together properly are a brilliantly complex challenge. It’s a bit like smashing a Rubik’s Cube into Connect4, throwing in Twister and trying to nail the game.

Now we’re talking.

My aim is to spend the next chapter working out and proving the scales of impact for individual businesses. Impact that is built on their original true values, shifting them into modern thinking behaviours and realigning them against the moving needs of their audiences. By doing this I believe ‘Experience’ will become an understood term that not just couples, but instead intricately weaves ‘Digital’ and ‘Traditional’ marketing together.

Creating value for the first shared connection to the last and back again. Designing for the consumer first, not just wrapping a brand around them. Building business thinking principles not just design thinking ones.

This is good business practice which will hopefully return good business whatever the measure of impact.

 

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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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Cannes Lions 2017: From stories to experiences

Movies like Terminator, iRobot or Minority Report didn’t predict the future, the creators just opened up a new way of thinking within the realms of their scripting.

Similarly, as an industry, we advertisers pride ourselves on creativity and storytelling. We strive to create new ideas and worlds every day and communicate these through stories. Our stories get seeded online and then evolve amongst communities online and offline. They’re influenced globally by opinions and cultures, evolving and developing as multiple varieties from that one original core. The best stories transcend through the industry as ways of inspiring others.

But we must move beyond just stories. In today’s ‘post cinematic’ world we have so many new and exciting ways of creating, telling and sharing experiences; immersive mediums, alternate realities, cognitive and predictive data, connected and intuitive ecosystems. All of these things push the boundaries of storytelling, so why then, when for years we have successfully told linear stories, do we suddenly get ‘tech fear’ and limit ourselves at the hands of technology stressing over whether it’s been done?

This year I was honoured to be invited to judge the Cannes Lions mobile category and it was clear to me that when creativity and technology meet there are a few key trends emerging across the globe:

  1. Tech for tech’s sake is taking a back seat, FINALLY! The pioneers of converging an idea with the pace of life today are really doing their research to nail the killer insight at the heart of an idea, and you can see how this helps the idea evolve but not stray.
  2. That said, few are brave enough to state they don’t quite know what they’re doing (which is OK by the way as long as you are ‘doing’) and so stick digital and social amplification plasters over the cracks in an idea and talk about reach (I’m rolling my eyes now).
  3. Too many brands are quick to experiment but slow to adopt and scale, they come with an award in mind but lose sight of their audience in doing so.
  4. Very few have really, truly wrapped their minds around how to move from telling a story to putting their user at the centre of it to create an experience.
  5. Those brave enough to explore new terrain are doing so with a cause at the heart of it, which is empowering, I salut you.
  6. Ethics and morals aside for a moment, there’s still a ton of opportunity to just do really cool shit that leaves your brand emblazoned on the minds of those you want to buy your product.

Two words in most of the case studies and two that I hear every day are; Disruptive and Innovative. For me, true disruption emerges at the convergence of technologies, ideas and of course stories.

I was excited to see the bar is inching up, however there is a whole new world we can create through the next generation of stories and experiences that is currently untapped.

Whilst I love a good story, it’s definitely left me fuelled to continue to push for experiences, ones that make hairs stand on end, screeches escape mouths and eyes to well up, all of which happened in the jury room #justsaying.

Cannes Lions 2017

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Personalisation with a side of ease

As someone who travels a lot there’s nothing worse than stepping off a long flight, red-eye kicking in, knowing you’ve still got to claim your luggage, find your transfer, get across town, find your hotel, complete an arduous check in process and get up to your room before you can finally collapse on the bed.

So imagine my excitement when I spent a day with the top tech bods in the travel and hospitality industry reinventing the entire future-scape for the upgrade needed to cater for Gen X & Y travellers.

We talked a lot about the automation of the journey. How we could put in place a centralised data approach with intelligence systems connected to smartphones and robots aiding the various staff throughout. Whilst I find that really exciting, I’m sure you won’t want to be bored with the tech stack, so to let you in on how it might feel in 2025 I’ll summarise a brief walk through of a typical business trip, we’ll start with stepping off that plane again…

The second you switch from flight mode a signal is sent to your smart suitcase where the built-in tracker connects to your phone as you make your way through customs, you time getting to the conveyor belt perfectly. You pick up your case and activate the next signal, which is sent to your driver who now knows to get to the pick up bay within a three-minute window, avoiding parking fees, congestion and more importantly you being irritated by him not being there.

Your GPS switches to your driver who you find with equal ease. You collapse in the back of the car, whatever music you want is synced automatically, the temperature adjusted and an update sent to your hotel with your live eta feed updating your awaiting concierge.

On arrival your check-in is confirmed through facial recognition, you’re then greeted personally and swiftly shown to your room whereupon your climate is again synced, your drink and snack of choice is freshly prepared and your smart TV pre-loaded with your favourite channels. You can even activate a holographic in-room personal trainer should you so wish…

Your dinner table is reserved at the time you would normally eat and on arrival you see that the menu is based on your culinary preferences with wine recommendations to match. Not only that but the seasonal info and the history of the restaurant Chef are sent to your mobile because they know you like to read the background to what you eat and how it’s prepared.

After dinner, you retire to the lounge and login to a guest screen which is loaded with your business itinerary, options to tailor your travel and where to take your clients, plus recommendations on what to do with your spare time.

You relax, confident that every detail has been taken care of.

In this future-scape our aim is to democratise an executive level of assistance so that everyone can have his or her own ‘Parker’ rather than having to rely on ‘Manwell’.

do not disturb

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OMMMMMM G

We’re living in an omnichannel world, but what does that actually mean?

I’m getting a lot of questions around this at the moment, whilst the concept is fairly easy to understand, the minutiae of what it means to a brand is not quite so simple to grasp, so here’s a quick digest…

The word itself is derived from the word Omnis which can mean all or universal. And rather than linear use of channels, most of us are used to cross channel planning so really, omnichannel is the evolution of cross channel planning, done really well. 

To take that one step further, I would summarise it as; the true continuity of a brand or content experience that extends beyond a single place and crosses through multiple channels.  

Consumers are exposed to brands at multiple touchpoints, often at once, they could be looking at something on a mobile whilst in a physical store for example. As a brand therefore, planning for both the mobile experience and the physical store experience to be consistent would be part of omnichannel planning, it should be woven together with an invisible thread.

Essentially those brands that connect the components of an experience and the data around them; research of product, purchase, price, customer service and so on, will be the ones that shape a new dimension of customer decision.

It is indeed an intricate web we must weave.

Spider_Web_by_Autar

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The future belongs to connectivity

I spend a lot of my working life developing strategies for brands that need to move from broadcast, through audience engagement, to immersive connectivity, thinking three years into the future as a minimum, then I leave work and step into a broadcast heavy advertising bombardment and it saddens me.

That’s not to take anything away from the clever ads out there, but just imagine a future where advertising is intelligently informed, rewarding at just the right moment rather than randomly broadcast in a vain attempt to get your attention. 

Imagine that subtle product placement is integrated into how you live your life; your fridge is able to provide branded recipes based on it’s contents, your car can recommend a restaurant based on the time of day and your preferred driving routes, that restaurant then has your cocktail waiting on arrival with your preferred gin of choice.

It might sound mildly creepy to some but to me this everyday surprise and delight is an ease of living I am waiting to embrace.

I want brands to enable me to accomplish more, more seamlessly. We’re a few steps away from living in a truly connected world so every exchange between me and any brand should be streamlined at the very least. 

All we’re missing is the common language that connects all our smart devices but this will arrive soon and brands that adopt this thinking now, will be the ones that write the first chapter. 

Brands need to understand that they should be replacing my behaviours, not reinventing them; my ask is simple really, get to know me, then make my life better. 

gin cocktail

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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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Technology enables, trust endures

I’ve been handed an influx of briefs recently from brands wanting to adopt copycat approaches, spending their budgets on stepping into their competitive space with ambitions to shout louder and ‘become the authoritative voice’, it’s sadly reminiscent of the work I was doing ten years ago.

Every brief looks the same; ‘we want to drive traffic to our website’, ‘we want to increase our share of voice’, we want consumers to buy our products and love us for it.

Technology has given us access to anything we want, whenever and wherever we want it, which should be exciting. Yet in this increasingly cluttered space, brands have reverted to vanity exercises based on the assumption that their consumers have the time to seek out their content and care enough to do so.

Technology needs to be respected as a powerful enabler, it means so much more to consumers to have a personalised and useful experience in our immersive Internet of Things, so the focus for brands has to go beyond content.

Leading brands to understand that content and functionality must work together to reflect what consumers are trying to achieve is a key part of my everyday, yet convincing key stakeholders to put the needs of their audiences first in order to serve them is hard.

I truly believe that the brands who don’t make consumers the focus of their decisions will continue to drown amongst those who do. Those that succeed will command attention through engaging and value adding experiences.

In today’s omni-channel world great consumer experience is both necessary and advantageous, the bar is set high, it’s no longer about developing loyalty schemes, today an engaged consumer is worth more than a loyal one.

An engaged customer is one that has had an expectation met, which for a brand means, being relevant and adding value.

Less noise and more cut through is called for.

image courtesy of http://zeteo.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/silence-conserve.jpg

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