shorts

Bad doors and bad design are everywhere.

We need more people who care so deeply about good design.

Don Norman started complaining about doors over 25 years ago. Doors shouldn’t need instructions – the shape of them can guide you through just fine. So why do so many doors need instruction manuals right on the side of them?

When most people complain about something, nothing happens. Don Norman is not most people – he’s a psychologist and cognitive scientist. Don Norman thought about, and wrote about his complaints so incredibly thoroughly that he changed the world.

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Growth

Made Simpler: The Endless Debate on Return on Investment for Digital

Return on Investment is a topic I often revisit. First of all because I think it is always important to be able to provide insights in the value (Return) of Digital. Second of all since I prefer to find the simplest way for myself to discuss Return on Investment (ROI).

The Basics of ROI are Simple

Just to take you back to what I wrote earlier about ROI and which is still valid. ROI is something simple and exists for a long time. Long before Digital was entering the enterprise, people were calculating ROI for desk phones, office lease or anything else in which they could or had to invest money and wanted to know the return. ROI in itself is just a basic calculation:

ROI = (Gains – Investment) / Investment

Input is everything

Every calculation is as successful as the input that is provided. So leverage the right data and don’t fall into the trap of vanity metrics. For me Vanity Metrics are identifiable by either one of these two characteristics:

  1. You are reporting Aggregated Numbers (example: total number of users since day 1)
  2. Non Actionable Metrics (example: followers on Twitter)

Making ROI simpler to discuss

While ROI is just a calculation, you could avoid the whole debate or have an easier time presenting by making things less abstract. These are three questions you should ask and answer:

1. Does it Make Money?

Simple question, simple answer. If the answer is yes, your next question is: can you make sure it makes enough money so it is worth the investment. Based on my personal experiences: most often you can. As soon as something is making money you can start optimising and tweaking it to grow this stream of revenue. I am fully aware revenue is not profit, however if you do something new (or in a new way) and it is making more money than the old way for a similar investment you basically already did your ROI calculation.

2. Does it Save Costs?

Are the things you are doing more effective or efficient with the use Digital? Are you saving the company money on execution while not jeopardising any revenues and margins? If so, you’ve got a clear winner, since you have just lowered the overall investment while kept the gains at least similar.

3. Does it Make Customers Happy?

Paying customers are the bread and butter for most companies. Therefore if you support your customers by making them happy  via digital you are reducing the risk of them going elsewhere. Retention is a lot cheaper than acquiring new customers. Making your customers happy in order to retain them is a very smart investment with very concrete returns.

The answers on these questions are the answers to the ROI question

Remove the abstraction where possible: ROI is just a number, it is up to you to make it into something tangible. The sweet spot of course is when all three questions are answered with a ‘yes’. With two out of three you are still pretty good and even with one “yes” it still can be a no brainer to move forward. Just remove the abstraction and speak a common language with your stakeholders.

 

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Opinion

The future of News is not just Messaging it is Conversational AI

Quartz has released it’s first news app for the iPhone. That in itself is not spectaculair, almost everybody creates apps nowadays especially news organisations. However the concept that Quartz uses is unique. Though it is not the current state of the app that gets me excited it is the next state.

Quartz for iPhone has all of that. It’s an ongoing conversation about the news, sort of like texting: We’ll send you messages, photos, GIFs, and links, and you can tap to respond when you’re interested in learning more about a topic. Each session lasts just a few minutes, so it’s perfect for the train, elevator, grocery store line, or wherever you have a spare moment to catch up on the news.

Messaging is not unique

Of course messaging is not unique. There are plenty of apps doing messaging and there are news services leveraging messaging platforms to distribute their news. For me what it makes unique is the interaction with the messages / news events.  With every message a little feedback is collected that gives you either more information on the news event or brings you to the next.

AI is coming to speak with you

Of course you don’t want to answer with standardised messages, nor do you want to have a conversation about topic you are not interested in. You want to have a  conversation  that feels more human than just pushing some buttons.

However to get there, you first have to be comfortable to be in such a situation and that is this stage of the app. It conditions you to interact in a message style with news. It might be the first time that you are doing this, so you better used to it in a comfortable way.

Though I don’t think it will stop with messaging. It might end up to be more conversational and very difficult to distinct from an actual person such as the AI presented in ‘Her’. Though before getting there it will need a lot of information and it gets that information by every response you give to a message.

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shorts

Tesla Summon – Disrupting the Disruptors

Self driving cars are not enough anymore, or at least that might be the line of thinking within Tesla. Why have car drive you, why not just let a car drive from A to B. Of course this might be less disruptive than it sounds. However you could imagine that it takes the burden of a lot of things. Or as Tesla themselves describe it:

Using Summon, once you arrive home and exit Model S or Model X, you can prompt it to do the rest: open your garage door, enter your garage, park itself, and shut down. In the morning, you wake up, walk out the front door, and summon your car. It will open the garage door and come to greet you. More broadly, Summon also eliminates the burden of having to squeeze in and out of tight parking spots.

Which is brilliant of course. You could also think of a scheduling option that as soon you reach your destination and you let your Tesla to find a charging station and charge itself. Removing that burden as well. Since of course it is a needless burden to charge an intelligent car and it would make the experience a little bit more magical. If it is about saving time, summon is obvious. You could imagine that the concept of a drive-through restaurant changes in a pick up restaurant where the Tesla drives by to pick up the meal, pays by passing through sensors and gets the meal to you in a timely manner.

Disrupting the disruptors

For me this is just common sense, go from self driving with a human to completely autonomous driving to completing tasks that don’t require human assistance. However the really disruptive part would be if Teslas would become part of a smart swarm, imagine you are a Tesla owner and you have a party with 8 of your friends. Now you most likely would either go for ordering multiple (or a big) Uber of Lyft or a similar service, or go by public transport. Imagine if you could summon a backup Tesla to get you from A to B. So you can not only use your own car, you can use available cars in the group of Teslas around you. Of course there needs to be an attractive business model around this for me as a Tesla owner. However if Tesla ownership means that you can always summon and use your Tesla at the moments you need it and offer it to others when you don’t need it (and get something in return) and for others it means that they can use a Tesla even though they don’t have to own one. It might be the thing that disrupts Uber or if Uber handles smartly the one thing that even strengthens its position.

However if you don’t own a Tesla you cannot drive in it, it will drive you from A to B. The benefit from owning one, is that you can pretend you know how to drive and disregard the intelligent capabilities of your car, having the nostalgic feeling of driving a car, just like in the old days.

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shorts

The unintended consequences of innovations

In the slums of the future, virtual reality junkies satisfy their violent impulses in online entertainment. An expert player discovers that the line between games and reality is starting to fade away.

When technology is an abstraction or becomes more hidden than there can be unintended consequences. It is too easy to say that things as shown in the video below won’t happen. Though think about this: when you are working on a task on Mechanical Turk are you working to help a student with his thesis or working on a task for an oppressive regime, when entering some words to match a difficult to read text in a Captcha are you just matching something to proof you are not a bot or are you translating a book with dubious content? It is sometimes hard to discover what actually happens with your input.

We should strive to make sure these unintended consequences won’t happen. Of course not every technology will end up the be new Skynet, though as every new technology (and old technology as well) has upsides we need be wary of potential downsides as well. For me understanding the potential challenges that a new technology brings helps me to understand the potential upsides a lot better.

The short film below (Uncanny Valley) shows what could be the dark side of Virtual Reality. If the topic of unintended consequences of technology interests you I would also recommend the British television series Black Mirror which is created by Charlie Brooker.

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The Web

Content Blocking is How the Internet is Meant To Be

Content Blocking killed the ad supported business model and even though it gets some companies in trouble. It will spur innovation and business model reinvention for content publishers. If your visitors can block whatever they want (or better phrased: whatever they don’t want), what is the thing you have to offer that is worth their time and money. Hint: it is not just better content.

Content Blocking was released in iOS9 and was presented by Apple as the following:

Use the Content Blocking extension point to give Safari a block list describing the content that you want to block while your users are browsing the web.

Which means that you can install an application on your iOS device which will block certain content in any webpage in Safari. Content only will be blocked in Safari not in other web windows that appear in other apps.

To make things clear before moving ahead:

What Content Blocking is Not

Content blocking is not new. There was a long list of ad blocking extensions available which let you block ads in your browser on your desktop. There are extensions such as Ghostery that allow you to be very specific in what you or what you don’t block. Also you could install a specific profile on your iOS device or setup a specific DNS or VPN connection to filter out content from sources you don’t like. It always has been there, the big change is that it moved out the nerd section (profiles, DNS, VPN, proxies or extensions) and got easy with just installing an app.

Second of all content blocking is not stealing. It is not taking money away from people whose content you read. It is deciding not to download certain elements on pages of publishers on your device. Office proxy servers often block already such elements (ads, tracking or platforms as a whole such as Facebook). The publisher is free to force you to have everything downloaded before reading, though you are free to not do so (and also to not consume the content).

Why this is what the Internet needed

Content blocking is what the Internet needed first of all since page size is increasing each year in almost exponential fashion. At the same time traffic is moving more and more to mobile and even though our bandwidth in general increases, it doesn’t always catch up and therefore load times increase.  Big pages consume more battery on your mobile device, big pages cannot be loaded in some cases and if you are on a bandwidth limited mobile plan you burn through your data quickly.

A content blocker makes sure that the page is being downloaded significantly faster on your mobile device. which is the key feature for me. It is not about blocking content per se, it is about speeding up the loading times and making sure content gets there faster. In this lengthy review of Ben Brooks you can see that pages are being loaded up to almost 62% faster. In this review about Crystal (one of the content blockers for iOS) on betanews it shows that bandwidth savings can be over 50% depending on the websites you are visiting. Also some of the blockers just keep you sane and block everything about the Kardashians.

Publishers should leverage Content Blockers

These numbers are not just in the interest of the user. It should be in the interest of the publisher as well. Page abandonment increase linearily in the first 4 seconds of a page visit. Which means that the longer somebody has to wait the more likely he or she drops of. After 4 seconds of waiting 25% of the people left. When shopping 40% of the people leave a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Why as a publisher wouldn’t you be supporting content blockers at all since it could increase your direct conversion.

Source: Kissmetrics

Source: Kissmetrics

If people prefer to use a content blocker to speed things up or to block ads you could say they are wrong. However if many people are telling you they have a problem that your platform is to slow and solved the poor experience by content blocking and you decide to ignore this, you are either stubborn or visionary. I would say most likely the first though the long term will learn me if it is the second.

Your issue is distribution, not destination

During one of the many meetings with smart people I had last year one of them drafted the issue most organisations have to be one of distribution not destination around content. Content Blocking provides a solution for distribution (getting things faster on your own terms). There are several ways to tackle this issue, especially going outside the bounds of your original destination. For example companies such as the Washington Post are using Facebook Instant articles and Wired chooses to have some exclusivity with Apple News. The companies are publishing on a platform they don’t own, but deliver maximal distribution and a very smooth and integrated content delivery integrated in the platforms.

If in the end it is wise to publish on platforms you don’t own is a whole other question. Though mixing the content across platform could be a very effective way of getting your content in front of the right audiences without having to worry about Content Blockers.  Since those won’t work in Facebook’s native application or in the Apple News app. However which content is served (such as ads or trackers) next to the content of the article is not the ultimate decision of the publisher, it is done by the platform owner.

Solve distribution, don’t block the blockers

Content blocking is something that is still relatively small now, though it is a clear signal from users that there is a demand. If users have an easy way to turn of ads and trackers and speed up the page they will do it and in some cases they are even willing to pay for an app that help them to do so. Even if they don’t pay, they are willing to go to the process of downloading an additional app to improve their overall experience. For publishers this is an important lesson to learn: it is not just about creating high quality content that people are willing to consume and / or pay for. It is about the whole experience around the content as well. If users are now optimising their own experience, it means that as a publisher you are not trying hard enough for your users.

On the long run, good content won’t be enough. A seamless, fast and non intrusive content experience will become the norm either facilitated by third party solution such as content blockers, third party platforms such as Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News or by publishers themselves after they have cleaned up their platforms and make things less bloated and privacy invasive. The content experience will improve nevertheless since the bar has been raised and content blockers have shown how great the experience can be, it is up to the publishers to accept this new reality and either be actively part of it to make the change happen or to see how they are being changed from the outside (or bypassed…).

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Growth

Always focus on behaviour instead of events when setting goals

Getting people to embrace digital, whether these are your customers or your employees is a very difficult thing to do. At least when you focus on continuous movements. It is easy to get someone to move once, just nudge them. However do you want to nudge people over and over again to ensure they don’t stop moving? I guess not, that is a lot of work and won’t scale, plus getting nudged over and over again is something that will annoy people over time.Doing things that don’t scale

Doing things that don’t scale

Of course it is important to do things that don’t scale to test your hypothesis. Therefore it is good to test if a nudge will move people and what else you could do to get people moving. This is very event driven, how to get people to do X. However at a moment in time you need to think on how to move beyond this non scalable approach and scale up rapidly. Non scalable efforts often cannot be sustained on the long term.

Remove heavy lifting from the equation

Non scalable activities are heavy lifting, or can be heavy lifting when there are a lot of these activities. The challenge is how to have the same or better results without that heavy lifting. One thing I do is by switching the goal focus. Non scalable activities are often very event driven, do X to achieve Y, where X and Y have a one on one match, or a two on one match (twice the X to achieve one Y). However what you would like to achieve is to minimise you interactions to still achieve the same outcome. To do so often you have to focus on a behavioural goal and less on a event driven goal.

Since if you can start changing behaviour from people to do Y, it will require less activities from your end to make them do Y over time. Which means that the heavy lifting will disappear for a certain group of people and the attention can be on a smaller group of people who have a harder time to make this change.

A practical example

Imagine you want your employees to create content whether these are tweets, LinkedIn updates or blog posts doesn’t really matter. If your goal is to make sure every employee creates X amount of messages in Y period of time, you are very event focused. Which means you will work to achieve X in period Y. If you want to repeat this a second time, you still have to invest the same amount of time to get your employees moving the needle in the same direction. Basically you are just hopping from time period to time period and probably have a feeling it is a Groundhog Day.

But if you change your goal to enable your employees to create X amount of messages every week, you are very behaviour focused. There is no end to this period and you want your employees to make the number of messages they produce into a habit. Something they do over and again. So instead of pushing for a number in a limited period, you are approaching this as a longer term project to change the behaviour. Which most likely implies that you have to invest more time upfront (since you have to learn people how to do X time and time again) while you will have to invest less over time since the employees will be available to repeat their learned behaviour time over time without your involvement.

How the practical example will look in theory

To illustrate the practical example a little bit more abstract, you could think of these three lines:

  1. Units of Y (messages, blog posts, bright ideas, shares, cookies) produced by a person
  2. Total investment of your time (and / or money) to make people to do Y
  3. Average investment per person to help them to do Y

If you would focus on event driven goals, than the graph would look like this:

Event driven goals

Clearly average time spend per item / action stays the same over time. Which means if you want to get twice the results, you have to invest twice the time.

If you would focus on behaviour driven goals, than the graph would look like this:

Behaviour driven goals
The average time you have to spend per item will decline over time. Since people change their behaviour you don’t have to invest the same amount of time over and over again, which means a more scalable solution.

Focus on event driven goals if you want to be busy

The graphs show that if you want to be busy: just focus on event driven goals. You have to invest the same amount of time over and over again to get people moving. So if your goal is to build up head count or to create the perception you are indispensable for doing this, just focus on events. You will get the results you want, and you still have to do the heavy lifting, it is like being a worker at the conveyor belt, doing the same trick every few minutes. Until of course a robot arrives taking your job….

Focus on behaviour driven goals if you want to get things done

If you want to move forward you cannot expect yourself to do the same thing over and over again and have to hire more people if you want to do more. You want to get things moving without your direct involvement, you want things to scale and preferably only focus on the more difficult situations in which you can really add value by getting people moving. Of course it might be clear that there is moment that everybody (or enough people) is moving, which means that you can move on to the next challenge to solve.

Thanks to Rena Patel for proof reading this piece first :).

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Growth

Four Types of Conversion to Focus on

Focusing on conversions is always easier said than done. There are so many to focus on, so how do you pick the ones that are really important for you. One approach I use is to bucket conversion in four types (and of course as the good consultant I am, I made a quadrant for you to show how). One is not better than the other, you need them all four in the end. Though at least this gives me an indication on what is working and where gaps might be.

Quadrant for conversion

Long term gains and personal connections

For me conversions on digital channels are about two things:
1. Create the start of a long-term personal connection that can lead to a business benefit
2. Or create the start of a (mutual) long-term gain that on itself can also lead to a business benefit

In the end it is always about business benefits to ensure the purpose for which the organisation was created is being served and business benefits are required both on short-term and long-term.

The four types of conversions

For me there are four buckets in which a conversion fits. Each of these buckets accomplish one or more steps leading to a business benefit. You don’t have to do them all to get to your goals, though you most likely want to use a mix to get there.

Exchanging

Exchanging is a really basic conversion. It is for example somebody leaving his information in a form on your website. Often this is very short-term gain (as in: a quick return) that could start leading to longer term gains. Also this aspect is not personal at all, it is somebody just handing over his data, no real connection is being created with your organisation yet.

This is the conversion you read most about it. However since it is a very short-term gain, it means that you have to repeat it over and over again to make it on the long-term and the returns are modest. So in the end you want to either move up or right in the quadrant which can lead to bigger gains.

Consuming

Consuming is a nearly day-to-day behaviour, however this conversion is beyond just reading or watching content. It is about putting something on your device for consumption purposes. This can be downloading a PDF or installing an app. It is consumption in the here and now, but it especially about consumption that continues after the user has left the touch point and decides to revisit the content on his device.

This is a conversion that helps you staying top of mind of the user for a longer period than just the user’s session on your touchpoint. Being top of mind could ensure a longer term gain, since if a new issue arises at the user and you are top of mind for this issue the user might reach out to you.

Sharing

Sharing is what happens on social media and of course content from your touchpoints could also be shared by your users. Leveraging other people’s audience is something that is relatively personal (the individual shares it on his social media accounts) and could provides some short-term gains such as exposure to your content or touch point to a new audience that they carry with them via their social media accounts.

This conversion creates a personal connection, even though it is initiated from the user and not necessarily answered by the organisation. The good thing is that this conversion can help you in growing your audience which in itself could help you in getting more conversions in all four buckets.

Connecting

Connecting is the most personal of the four types of conversions. It is when there is a real connection between the visitor and you (or somebody else of the company). It opens the door for more than just a transaction, it opens the door for a longer term relationship.

It would be unfair to say this is the mother of all conversions. Since it isn’t. Too many people have a lot of good conversations with other people without actual business outcomes. A connection doesn’t mean a relationship and even a relationship doesn’t mean the creation of a business benefit. Though having a real connection with your stakeholders, even though it is just a digital one, could be a very valuable longtime gain. Since it would you enable to have somebody who you could share ideas and experiences with and who could do the same with you.

How you could leverage this quadrant

I would suggest to use this quadrant to map your existing conversions on these quadrants to see what works for you now. Also this mapping can help you to identify any gaps you might have in your conversions. Maybe your focus is only long-term, which means you want to add more short-term conversion or vice versa.  It could be an easy way or you to get additional insights on your performance.

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