Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Digital Customer exposes the need for value in all interactions

We already have digital versions of ourselves populating our increasingly digital world: Your Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter profiles, your Amazon and Google footprints are all examples.
For the most part they are not yet autonomous. But it cannot be long before the 'MeBot' - an autonomous and intelligent you - becomes a ubiquitous part of our daily interaction with people, things and data.
All of which strongly suggests that brands and organisations must start developing strategies that place the digital customer at their heart.
Let me be clear, that digital version of you will always be informed by and learning from the real you. But increasingly it will be the digital rather than analogue version of you who will be making the transactions (tilting, as these thing are, to online more heavily by the day).
And if Digital You has got the spends - Digital You is going to be the target.
So what does advertising/targeting/relationship-building/comms/PR/you-name-it look like when it is aimed at our MeBot?
Well - I suspect MeBot's will rapidly learn which lies to ignore, which content sources to trust, which deals are for-real. They may even be less swayed by the Herd mentality humans find it so hard to resist (think of the impact on the Stock Markets...).
This is likely to starkly expose some of the realities and truths of relationships of trust - such as...

  1. Customers are not inhabitants of your omnichannels waiting to be managed from one to the next. They live in a 4D world with limitless touchpoints. The analogue digital combination will evidence that by the truck-load. Map that!
  2. Customers are not waiting to be engaged, made your friend, or have anything else 'done' to them. They need a reason to interact with you... which leads us to point 3.
  3. Customers are not loyal. Forget loyalty - focus on proof of value. Unless you are offering a good enough value proposition your wheels will just keep on spinning.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The road to frictionless has hardly begun

Image via : https://amckinnis.com/3-ways-to-create-frictionless-transactions/
A fascinating evening at Imperial College last night. An opportunity to hear from Google and Amazon  and others on Voice.

Voice is becoming increasingly important - with 85 per cent of brands now actively working on their voice strategies (according to Vaice - a voice tech agency offering pro bono help to brands and agencies to engage in voice).

We heard about encouraging efforts from the likes of Snips (who have a blockchain-supported edge-computing solution to the data-grab dilemma many businesses, orgs and people may fear of the increasingly dominant platforms (such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook) and a personal favourite, Voiceitt, which is out to make voice accessible to those whose speech may be challenged by stroke, cerebral palsy and other debilitating conditions (including age).

Amazon shared the model it uses to make decisions about Alexa Skills to build. Unsurprisingly it starts with customer value...

Customer Value / Complexity x Frequency Potential x Frequency Maximisers

To be honest, that's pretty much the formula for success applied since widgets became apps, on web or mobile. I could argue it's a pretty solid formula for success in pretty much anything.

But it has been for a long time.

And that's the bit I think the excitement about Voice is missing currently. There was a lot of focus on the value of content and the continued broadcasting of it. There was talk about designing for personas, but none of this addresses the shift we should be looking for in business models.

When the web arrived, this was also the first reaction; how can we make money with this novelty?

It's real impact is how it shifts the way we can organise, cut out traditional supply chains etc. That wasn't identified immediately for the most part.
Then apps - what new capabilities could we play with?

We will also see a repeat of BYOD - my home is full of voice devices. My office (apart from our Collab) isn't. A generation of kids is growing up right now using voice for search, to learn, to discover music, to play games, to do the stuff they want to do with technology. Alexa for Business is already live in the US.

The big stuff, the new business models, the real impacts on how we behave (and since we are social beings, build relationships and organise), these come when we start considering what it means to have ubiquity with the new technology:

  • How will we behave when voice is everywhere in everything (and I will package personal recognition without  the need for a screen with this)? 
  • How quickly can the AI behind voice learn enough about our emotional state to make use of it? The reasons behind our behaviour are somewhat more complex than current marketing typically grasps (See Behave for a crash course).
  • Do we need new rules to cope with the fact that voice literally speaks to our most instinctual selves (bypassing much of the frontal cortex brain activity where are our logic and judgment are most developed).

Voice strategies must go beyond a tone of voice for a brand. They must look to a future in which the majority of information exchanges are done out loud, where a few clicks is friction too far, where single sign-in is in the dustbin of history and customer intimacy is of the highest fidelity and at ubiquitous scale.

Here is a world that, from that learned intimacy, prediction must follow.

The immediate battle field is on two fronts:  First to intimacy and first to prediction built on it. The road to frictionless has hardly begun.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Actions speak louder than faux rationality

Photo by taha ajmi on Unsplash
When trying to understand human behaviour our biggest mistake is to seek the rational in what we think or what we believe. 

"Rationality resides in what you do" - Nassim  Nicholas Taleb.

If you ask people why they do something, or even ask them to accurately describe what they do, the answers are clouded by self-justification and self-protection - obscuring the actual. They will tell you what they think they do (or even what they think you want to hear). They will tell you what they believe is accurate.

Observing what they do often reveals significant differences between their belief and the real.

This has obvious and applicable benefit in reducing the risk in innovation. Respond not to what people say they do or think they do, but what they actually do. A-B testing, Design Thinking and Lean Start-up methodologies are all rooted in this.

The faux rationality of conclusions drawn based on our constructs of behaviour and abstractions there-on (replete with our own cognitive biases) is where we reintroduce risk. When this doesn't fail we should far less seek to repeat - than count ourselves lucky. No-one stays lucky forever.

Mathematics does not allow for constructs or abstraction. It demands precisely defined objects and relations. Without which - no algorithm can function.

Nvidia's research into teaching robots to perform tasks by having them observe humans illustrates again how the pursuit of AI is revealing to us what is really rational about people.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Predicting how long your job will last

If you want to predict the future, look at what has stood the test of time.

When we talk about the future of work - naturally there are going to be new roles. There may be less or different tasks, the latter more likely.

But what you can bank on is that the roles that were here 100 years ago are far more likely to be here in another 100 years than those roles that have been with us for just a few short years.

That's not to say none of the new ones will stand the test of time, but a far higher percentage of the old ones will.

The longer anything lasts - the longer it is likely to continue to last. This is one of the lessons we can draw from Antifragility and other work by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He would say it is a lesson we can learn from the wisdom of our grandparents.

Will a teacher's job exist in 100 years time? 90% yes. Will a social media strategists? 90% no.

We are often dazzled by the new and make projections into the future on very shallow data. This fails. As AI is proving all over again.

To create value with AI the proposition needs to be reframed in terms of prediction. But unless the correct weighting of what has come before is built into the programming, researchers find they hit the problem they call 'catastrophic forgetting'. The solution is to build in virtual memories (eg Deep Mind's Differential Neural Computer).

For AI to succeed it has to factor for what you and I instinctively know - the longer something has lasted, the longer it will succeed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The professional touch: And other ways to kill your effectiveness

What does being professional mean in a digital world?
Once it was 'professional' to complete and perfect products to the nth degree before releasing them from secrecy. Now it is the norm to release Betas and Alphas to learn from doing, to measure response, to shape to adoption and behaviour.
In the same way professional writing, publications, presentations and thought leadership once served to provide a clear and final view. This was how it was. No argument expected and few tolerated.
Blogging, and other social media changed that - a space was created where ideas were kept alive rather than shot dead to be stuffed and placed on the wall as some kind of trophy.
The digital world requires a different kind of 'professionalism' - one which is less about the refinement of the 'professional touch' and more about using your skills to engage, learn and iterate.
This is a world in which a messy kitchen is more valuable than a neat and tidy professional one. Clay Shirky came up with the analogy in an interview I conducted with him 10 years ago. He argued that people felt less comfortable about joining in if they entered a kitchen in which nothing was out of place. If there was a little bit of mess, we were more likely to pick up a utensil and help out.
There's evidence from the world of dodgy fonts, too. While the professional approach is to use clear fonts with limited amounts of variation in size, emphasis or hue, what actually works is somewhat different.
Studies at Princeton discovered hard to read - or what designers call 'ugly' fonts deliver greater retention of what has been read. If you want to land the message make it ugly, messy and... naturally add some emotion.
Professional detachment is of low value in this last case. Creating memories does not simply rely on the world we experience externally. It is as much about our feelings at the time of experiencing. Let the excitement shine out.

Maya Angelou — 'At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.'
If we accept that we can scale our effectiveness as professionals when we gain engagement, and in so doing can better land an idea, then what passes for professional communication demands to be reappraised.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?