Pipedrive just made me smile

I’m in the habit of googling promo codes before I sign up to anything online or before I buy something. I did that this morning as I was signing up for Pipedrive. This was the page I landed on:

 

It made me smile. Their brand image for me just got that bit better. I thought they were awesome before. Now I’m sure.

Embracing the Airbnb experience

This post was originally published on www.webintravel.com on 20th October 2015

airbnbIt was interesting for me listening to Julian Persaud of Airbnb simply for the number of times he used the word ‘experience’. He had a lot to say, of course, about the company and his last role with Google. But that word kept cropping up – he even used the phrase ‘touching the Airbnb experience’ when describing what the rest of us might call ‘using the app’.

One could be cynical of course and imagine that this phrase is drummed in to him as part of some sophisticated internal PR drive. But that doesn’t really matter because calling a person’s interaction with Airbnb – with any of their touch points –is that person’s brand experience. And a company that really understands that (even if it’s ingrained as part of internal brainwashing as some cynics might have it) is a company that is riding the proverbial wave of contemporary consumer-centric thinking.

Julian talked about the experience as it pertains to the actual stay of course, citing his 1,000 nights of hotel stays when at Google as a bit of a blur.

But crucially what Julian and Airbnb understand is that ‘experience’ is not just about the stay. It’s not just about the holiday or the flight. I would go as far as to stay that, in some senses, those obvious aspects of the experience – the stay or the flight – are almost trivial. What Airbnb does is focus on every touch point – on every interaction someone might have with the brand over and above the actual thing itself.

And I can pay personal testament to this. A year or so ago I applied for a job with Airbnb (I didn’t land it). And even the job application process with them is a delightful experience and that’s something I can say even though the ‘experience’ was ultimate unsuccessful. The email I received from them when making my application was simply a ‘nice’ email. Most of you reading this I’m sure will have had job applications with other companies where your application wasn’t even acknowledged.

So I’m prepared to look past any cynicism. Julian works for a company that understands the importance of experience when it comes to job candidates. It’s no surprise that they totally get it when it comes to ‘touching the Airbnb experience’ on a mobile device. You know: using the app.

User Personas – more important than ever

user-personaSeveral years ago whilst working at one of the world’s largest design companies the idea of ‘customer centricity’ was not merely an important notion or guideline – it was one of the core founding principles of almost everything we did. Indeed, Design Thinking has the ‘customer’ as one of its three underpinning pillars.

To help us understand and relate to our customers we created customer personas.

One example of one type of Persona from a Wikipedia page:

(User Experience) Personas are defined as fictional characters created to represent the different user types that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.

Understanding customers ensures that we’re able to create relevant and appropriate experiences. This is true with product and service design of course but increasingly the opportunities we have to apply this to communication design are huge.

Creating personas in product design cycles whilst incredibly useful is not straightforward. There are challenges that we always face in securing the data that will inform our personas. When identifying patterns of behaviour and the aspirations and desires of customers, we often have to rely on small sample sets and, most significantly perhaps, rely on people being objective with their answers when sat in focus groups for example. Whilst product designers will engage in a lot of observation (I’ve heard it called ‘watching humans in the wild’!) they also have to rely on people telling them what they like and want – a research area littered with problems.

Organisations now have opportunities to create highly informed (comms) personas.

By highly informed, I mean data-driven of course.

Data is nothing new – Amazon have been doing their recommendations for years and 10 years ago I was doing email A/B testing – looking to understand some basic consumer preferences.

But there have been some significant changes over the last few years that have brought data to the fore.

 

  • Mobile, internet usage in general and the e-enabling of services and communications means there is now data defining many more of us and there’s a lot lot more of it.
  • Social Media
  • Ultra sophisticated adtech and media platforms integration
  • The ability to store, crunch and access data can be done by entry-level hardware.
  • Almost as soon as the above became true, cloud services now mean the most sophisticated platforms and software are at our fingertips with minimal investment.
  • The ability to choose and publish bespoke and curated content instantly.
  • Marketers and advertisers have finally come to the realisation we’re moving from a brand centred advertising model to a customer-centred personalised and customized experience informed and delivered by digital.

 

The above makes for some powerful opportunities that marketers cannot ignore.

We can now get customer-centric – know and communicate with people in ways that simply were not possible only a few years ago. The personas that we can create now are dynamic and ever evolving and they differ in a number of ways from personas that product designers might have used say ten years ago.

 

  1. We don’t need to ask anymore: Areas of interest, desires, aspirations and specific behaviours can be inferred directly from actions (clicking, liking, searching and watching etc). We don’t now need to rely as much on older, more traditional research tools like real-world observation, interviewing or focus groups.
  2. Dynamic and Evolving: Ten years ago, product designers would typically have created personas that would have then remained static for the duration of the design cycle. Today, our digitally informed personas can and should be dynamic and evolving with every subsequent digital interaction. Every single open or not open of an EDM or like on Facebook must further inform and refine what we know about that customer.
  3. Potential Granularity: Product designers may have created 6/8 personas as part of their process. Today, although not necessarily articulated as such, a simple comms strategy over a year with a few dynamically created emails, some dynamic and personalised web content and a few up/cross sell initiatives could mean we’re running hundreds of different brand experience journeys – each effectively driven by a ‘sub-persona’.
  4. Automation: Rather than having to build the personas today we are able to create the framework and the rules to allow the personas to build themselves. This is a subtle but distinct difference. And it means being able to do the simple stuff very easily and puts complex and sophisticated highly customised and personalised communication channels at our disposal.
  5. The Product: I alluded to the old static personas of years ago and, of course, in the product design world of TV’s and the like, products were essentially static too. If we think of our product now as our brand communications, our product can be as dynamic as the personas that inform it. A few clicks and searches over the next week inform my persona-type changes. I should reasonably expect that to mean a different email and landing page next week. Dynamic persona – dynamic product.

As these opportunities to know customers better and better become increasingly available it will be incumbent on all organisations to understand who they are talking with and, to varying degrees, look to personalise communications based on who they are talking to and when.

 

 

 

 

Why having everything on Spotify sucks

collectionsThe other day I was hiking with a very good friend of mine. An industrial designer by training and someone who’s fascinated by new technology and its implications, I was keen to understand what he now used to listen to music – another passion of his.

His answer was brusque and bordering on defensive – CDs. And he still buys them. I told him that I hadn’t bought a CD for years and was right into Spotify. “I can understand that”, he said, “but I’m still doing the CD thing.”

Why would anyone still be buying CDs? The same could be said for DVDs in some segments of society and perhaps even books?

There are a number of subtle reasons why some are not embracing the likes of Spotify and Netflix:

Curation: Let’s get that one out of the way to start with. It’s a word I know a lot of people don’t like but it still makes sense. I had a girlfriend years ago whose brother had a huge record collection in a separate room of the house. He was the coolest guy on the planet as far as I was concerned. He’d built that up over the years, perhaps even stolen a few of the records and certainly gone without other things in his life. And there it was – a physical manifestation – a collection defined, earned and realized by him.

I probably have access to all of that music via my Spotify account, right? Millions of others do too. I earned that right with a small monthly subscription. There’s nothing of me in it – no stories, no effort, no sacrifice and nothing defining me in my vast collection.

recordrack-discocolumbiarecords

Ceremony: When I lived with a friend back in the UK we used to listen to music in the evening – listen to vinyl records. And, like many others, we used to cue music up. This was done by someone sitting on the floor next to the line of albums that were stacked on their ends on the floor and going through them one by one until we collectively identified another track on we wanted to listen to. This album was then lifted up and left poking above the rest as we continued looking for the next track.

What was going on with activity? Well it was a shared experience – a specific ceremony around choosing and listening to music. Although not quite the same with CDs, something similar exists and you can point your dinner guest over to the CD rack, for example, and ask them to choose some music to put on.

Readers-007Status: Closely related to the above but perhaps more specifically about books is the idea of our displaying our tastes – something that was (and still is) manifested in our reading books in public typically on public transport. I know several people who happily admit that they miss this aspect of the behavior when holding up a faceless and ‘coverless’ kindle or phone.

 

In ‘digitizing’ services and media distribution we’d do well to not lose track of some of the emotional drivers and peripheral activities that give and have given so much meaning and to people.

Doing digital must not simply be about efficiency of distribution and availability and giving everything to everyone.

It must also be about struggle, about self and about it somehow being a manifestation of ourselves for others to see. There’s something too easy about having access to everything on Spotify – the effort to build something – the struggle – is missing.

#Times Plus – #Murdoch’s Times – That One – #Fail

 

Some time ago I took advantage of The Times (TimesPlus, Times+) offer via their iPad app to sign up for a month’s subscription for just GBP 1.0

Whilst not a big fan of The Times’ general positioning (editorialy wise) , I love the app – unique as far as I can see on the iPad offering, as it does, a beautiful electronic paper experience.  Being a succour for experience I have glossed over some of the content issues I have had.

Recently though I noticed the (now usual price) monthly subscription charges on my credit card bill.

So, I thought I would log on, review my details, my monthly charge and my statement… you know, all the usual stuff we now expect to be able to do online.

But can I do that with The Times? Can I hec.  Nothing is available.  No review of payment details.  No indication of the current subscription charge.  No details of payments taken to date.  nothing.

I have been in touch via email with their help team.  Apparently I can cancel by emailing them they told me.

These are the last two emails we’ve exchanged:

From Me:

Thanks for your reply.

Why is there not the option to Manage my own credit card details and view recent payments as there is with every other website I do transactions with?

From them:

Thank you for your reply.  We do not currently have the facility to link our payment system with the ‘My Details’ area of the website.  Our online development team does review feedback from readers and they are aware of the demand for this feature; we may be able to offer this facility in future. I will of course pass your comments to the development team for their attention.

“Are aware of a demand for this feature”?

Really?  No shit Sherlock.

Hopeless.  Really hopeless.  What a joke.

 

Creating Magic Moments

Magic_moments

Have you ever had a birthday or Christmas or other occasion
when someone has given you a gift and you’ve thought, ‘that’s just what I
wanted’?  I do hope that it’s
happened to you. Do you remember how nice it felt?

There are many reasons, of course, why that particular gift
might have hit the spot.  Perhaps
it was the latest book by an author you particularly like or the latest CD from
your favorite band.  It may of
course have had some more specific contextual relevance for you pertaining to where
you were ‘at’ in your life at that time. 
You may have been planning a trip and someone gave you a travel guide
for your destination. Or you may have simply renovated your kitchen and a kind
and thoughtful person saw some lovely crockery thinking it would look resplendent
in your new beautiful cupboards.  It’s
these sorts of gifts that can feel a lot more special than those that, whilst
no less generous, just don’t seem to have much thought behind them.

Whilst it seems like rather cold and odd language to use, these
cases of great gift giving are examples where one person had demonstrated an
understanding of the recipient.  It’s a cold way of speaking about a lovely moment, I know,
but I did warn you. 

The reason I am breaking it down to this level is that I feel
that companies and brands also have a real opportunity to create these special
moments – Magic Moments – as I’ve seen them called, by simply doing exactly the
same thing – by simply demonstrating to their customer that they understand
them – that they have made the extra bit of effort to get to know them. 

And whilst there are many ways of being very clever about
this (I’m thinking about rigorous data mining algorithms employed to churn
through millions of point of sales transactions as popularized by people like
Tesco in the UK with their Club Card) it’s often some very basic thinking along
with the simplest of customer insights that can, if acted upon, bring a smile
to the face of the customer. 

I’ve recently started using the products of two companies
with whom I have had little or no interaction before.  And, in some ways, there is a gaping chasm between the
experience I’ve had with one compared to that which I’ve had with the
other. 

I recently signed up with a cable TV provider here in
Singapore – Singtel and their MioTV package.  I should say at this point that they have generally been
very good in coming to my house when they said they would and the guys have
been helpful and pleasant in setting up the kit and helping me out.  But using the set top box is like
suddenly being asked to man one of those workstations you think of when you
visualize NASA’s Mission Control replete with Ed Harris pacing impatiently
right behind you.  Ok, I exaggerate
a bit, but I’m a very tech adaptive person (I just made that phrase up) but I
find navigating my way around this particular cable TV menu system a complete
nightmare. I’m almost always the one helping others find their way around
computers and other devices so I really wonder how some people I know would even
begin to understand what I find a real struggle.  As I side note, I should say that, despite the intense
frustration over the menu system, I am eternally grateful to Singtel for giving
me the opportunity to now watch F1 in glorious high definition. 

Contrast that experience with the one I have with an iPhone
application I recently downloaded called Walkmeter from Abvio. Walkmeter measures the time of your walk
and fully exploits the GPS functionality on my iPhone to give me distance,
average speeds, comparisons with the last time I did the same route and
overlays the route on Google Maps. 
It’s a joy to use.  And
what’s key here is that it took me no time to get used to using it and that was
without using any instruction manual. 
What was particularly engaging for me – what really put a smile on my
face – was that the application almost seemed to anticipate what I’d like to
see it do.  As I explored it for
the first time there were a couple of moments when I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be
cool if it…’ and almost before I could finish the thought the application was
doing exactly what I wanted. 
Brilliant.  What a feeling –
these guys were thinking of me when they designed this.  The application seemed to know what I
wanted and, it also seemed to know I’d like things that I didn’t know that I’d
like.  Without sounding too
Rumsfeld – like, it delivered twice – firstly by anticipating what I already
wanted from it and then by delivering great functionality I hadn’t even
realized I wanted. 

Now whilst my experience of these two products is hugely
different, I can’t help thinking that it would only have taken some basic customer
centric research or observation techniques to enable Singtel (or whoever does
their remote control user interface design) to make a better UI and ultimately
a better experience.  It wouldn’t
have taken much to ensure that I had some Magic Moments as I enjoyed with the
Walkmeter application.

We just need to ask some basic questions when thinking about
these points of engagements with our customers to create our own Magic Moments
for them.  What is it they actually want to do at this moment?  What else might they doing at this
moment?  Where are they at this
moment (physically and also with reference to the rest of their day of their product / service journey with the
brand)? 

Make me smile and surprise me – give me magic Moments – and
I’ll be back.  Oh, and I’ll also
tell loads of people about you. 

Oh Come On! Don’t you get it yet?

Screen shot 2010-05-26 at PM 02.34.34

Ok, so I received an email
from AsiaRooms.  It had a nice
picture on it and the now obligatory logos of both Facebook and Twitter.
 

The text in the box read
as follows:

Stay up to date with all the latest
news from AsiaRooms.com by following us on your favourite social networking
site. Be the first to receive expert advice and top travel tips as well as news
of exciting up and coming events plus our best deals and newest special offers.
So what are you waiting for…?!

Now, I spend a lot of my
life encouraging brands and organizations to engage with their customers in the
social media space so what’s my beef here?  Read the text again and think about it.  Now let me summarize it for you:

Please give us the opportunity to
market at you on your social networking sites.  And please let us market at you quicker than we are
currently able to market at you (we don’t want to wait for you to visit our
website or for you to read our emails – we want to get you when you are socializing)
And we use words like ‘tips’ and ‘exciting events’ and ‘special offers’ but
actually, yeah… we just want to market at you.

Worrying right?  I’d have preferred something like:

Here at AsiaRooms we’re keen to
understand what you think of our products and services.  Let us know by getting in touch via
Twitter or Facebook.  Share with us
and some of your fellow travelers your experiences. We are keen to see some of
your photos and videos and every month we’ll ask you all to vote for a winner
who’ll win a luxury weekend break courtesy of AsiaRooms.

Just a thought ….

 

Gliider – A Review

Siew Hoon (all round Goddess of Web in Travel)- asked me to review Gliider.

Screen shot 2010-03-30 at PM 12.44.50

A few days ago I was asked if I would test-drive the Gliider
travel-planning site.  Their
tagline, incidentally, is ‘Plan Funner Trips’ – make of that what you
will.  I’m already thinking I might
not be part of the target demographic.

Using Gliider works via a Firefox installation file that
adds a Gliider button to the browser toolbar.  This is available for both Firefox and IE and worked on my
Firefox running under Mac OS. 

Firing up Gliider I created a test trip to Jakarta,
Indonesia. The UI was slightly confusing to begin with and I was getting
strange error messages about invalid dates but it wasn’t long before I had my
trip set up.  Gliider then provides
nine folders covering different aspects of trip planning.  These included hotel, flights and
transport etc and there were two user-defined files that I thought was a nice
touch.

Gliider allows you to highlight and then drag and drop
content from a webpage into the respective folder.  This ‘web clipping’ functionality has been around for some
time now and has been packaged into applications, some of which I have heard
about but none has really caught my eye apart from perhaps
Evernote which is
more technology feature driven. Gliider has kept the functionally quite light
focusing more on making web clipping make sense from an activity standpoint.

The clipping worked quite well and Gliider handled the
formatting and the adding of images fairly slickly.  It was a little ‘buggy’ with new clippings not showing up
until I went out and then back into the folder, for example.  I also tried clipping just a URL link
but subsequent clicking on that link didn’t seem to open the linked page.  I’m niggling here a bit though because
for simple clipping of text and images Gliider worked well.

An application wouldn’t really be an application nowadays if
it didn’t pay its due homage to
Facebook and Gliider is no exception.  Using Facebook Connect I can get travel
advice from ‘people I know and trust’ as the text on the Gliider ‘Ask Around’
tab puts it.  Gliider then asks me
what question I want to ask and then posts this on my Facebook wall either for
everyone to see or just selected friends.

As well as sharing via the ubiquitous Facebook, I was able
to share my trip details with up to four other people using plain old simple
email.  I tried this with another
email address of mine and received an email notifying me that the other me was
planning a trip and that I too should download Gliider.  Incidentally the email subject line was
‘a funner trip’ which irked me again…Anyway, collaborators are able to see the
pooled content and add comments. 
Adding comments sort of makes sense but I’m guessing that in reality
travel companions would simply chat about their trip face to face or over the
phone.

The third tab on the Gliider app is for deals and
alerts.  Gliider have teamed up
with at least two third party sites and for my New York trip that I’d added I
had a load of hotel deals for New York from
travelzoo.com.  Gliider say that they plan to expand
the ‘deal’ functionality into other trip components in addition to just hotels.

You wont be surprised to hear that Gliider has its own
iPhone application that I downloaded for 3.60 USD equivalent.  I’m not sure what’s exactly de rigueur
nowadays when pricing apps but I know that I have some great ones that cost me
nothing and my paying for one that allows third parties to pump deals to me
based on privileged travel itinerary information flew in the face of what I
expect nowadays.

The iPhone application provided no additional functionality
over and above the browser plug-in although the interface was well designed –
good to look at and intuitive.  My
initial reaction to the iPhone app was that having all the clipped information
in my pocket when actually on my trip could be really useful, the visitor hours
of the New York Botanic Gardens for example.  It would be a bit like having my own personalized guide in
my pocket that my collaborators and I had populated with relevant content
before leaving for the trip.  At
the same time though I was thinking about all the missed opportunities around
linking my hotel address in Gliider to my maps and GPS for example and Gliider
proactively recommending me other stuff and talking me there based on my
profile and the recommendation of others.

I think Gliider is a nice idea and it takes some
technologies and functionality and packages then into an application area where
the whole idea of clipping content around a subject really makes sense.  The interface is generally good and the
navigation reasonably intuitive. I think there is huge potential to take
Gliider to somewhere really cool by incorporating location and context
awareness and further integrating it’s communication with Facebook and other
communities.  Let’s see how cool it
gets.
 
 

iPhone remote app and Apple TV

Gallery_browse20090624

Last night I got the iPhone Remote App working with my Apple TV properly.  Previously I had only 'paired' it with iTunes and so had not got all the gesture control stuff working.  But now it is apired properly and it does work and it's simply one of the best bits of tech I have ever seen.  Awesome – really awesome.

More here