Sunday, 13 February 2011

Creativity vs analytics: How to find the balance in developing your online strategy

  I stumbled across this interview piece I did a while back for B2B Marketing Magazine and thought I should post here. 

With the rise of Multivariate Testing (MVT) and other analytics tools, more and more brands are using data-driven, actionable insight to develop their marketing strategies. But is this approach clashing with or even restricting the ability to develop a creative, experiential brand differentiation?

Zia Zareem-Slade, head of experience planning at EMC Consulting, works closely with user experience and creative experts and is often faced with this conundrum. Should businesses rely solely on analytical data to define their marketing strategies? Or should creativity lead the way?

B2B Marketing asked Zia to put together her five golden rules for best practice in finding the all important balance. Here is what she came up with….

1.     Creativity needs insight
Creativity is not simply a dark art based on instinct, most creatives will tell you that their most successful ideas are often information driven. As a creative team you are trying to get people to respond in a more meaningful way. In order to develop a solution that actually achieves this, you need some level of real insight and therefore you need to ensure that  the insight generated by Analytics and MVT are comprehensible to the creative team .

  1. Do not leave analytics to IT!
The biggest failure I see is when companies aren’t using MVT at all. Add to this, the misconception that this should be owned by the IT department - wrong. As we approach 2010, the digital world will continue to grow and disciplines such as MVT will need to be integrated across all disciplines as standard. So now is the time to start.

  1. Be measured and focused
Analytics and MVT are powerful tools, but it’s all too easy to either try and chuck every variable into the mix and test everything all at once, or use the analytics to the point of knowing every number but knowing nothing all at the same time. It’s key that you don’t get over excited, but stay measured and focused. You need to be clear about what you are trying to find out, and where it fits in with your wider objectives.

4.     Know what your customers are doing
Analytics and MVT are your eyes on the ground and can answer questions such as ‘what are customers getting distracted by’ and ‘where are our customers going’? This is how you enhance and improve the experience of customers. Here you can test all variables including buttons, font size etc. It tells you statistically what your customers find best. However MVT should not replace user testing because what customers tell you they want through user testing can be different to what they actually want. MVT is sure fire way to determine this. It gives you unique insight in to how they actually want your website to look. Then it’s down to the creative team to come up with a solution that meets these requirements.

  1. Work together
This might come as a surprise, but both sides should be perfect ‘bedfellows’. Ultimately, what both sides are aiming to do is modify a brand and people’s experience of it. The key is for both sides to work in tandem with each other, not against each other.  Designers can’t do their job without analytics because they need to know what is going on, in order to make sure their ideas are in line with what customers are responding to.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Yet again..

It's been a very long time since I've updated this blog although I have been posting things of interest to my posterous site.  The thing is I think it might be a while until I in the meantime here's some pics of the Tigs...

Monday, 24 May 2010

M&S: Moving from multiple channels to true multi-channel

A few years ago we used to talk about how one-day people would be able to research online, buy on their mobile and pick up in store.  Despite the UK’s love of mobiles though, it took the game changer that is the iPhone to make retailers realize that plenty of people would use these nifty little devices to interact with their brands.

So I was pleased as punch on Wednesday 12th May at 7am when I found that the mobile version of the Marks and Spencer website had gone live (I may have had a little tip off that it was coming that week not just relentlessly checking out of curiosity).  

As one would expect the sites structure and content is simplified, making it easy to navigate but it simply extends the web experience and thereby feels familiar.

What I really wanted to know though, was, how easy would it be to buy? Given the recent addition to my wardrobe, I’d say it’s easy and wonderfully pain free.

For some reason I always find myself drawn to the category of ‘Dresses’ so there I was.

It was clear how many options there were:
1 to 12 of 222 (that’s some scrolling) and the results are sorted by Best Selling with the option to amend.

The pictures though small, are clear enough that you can recognise an item you’re familiar with and browse the collection if you’re interested.

The title of the product is clear, as is the price.  But the part I was most impressed with was that it showed me how many reviews there were and the star rating.

Why was I impressed with this? Well it would have been an easy thing to drop in order to getting the mobile site out of the door.  

And by placing it where space is exceptionally limited then, I believe it demonstrates how valuable M&S and their customers find this user generated content.

Scrolling down the page and you reach the 12th dress so time to hit next, select from the pagination options or to my surprise, narrow the selection based on size or colour. 

I select the pagination option and accidentally hit the … that appears between 5 -19 and get thrown into an error. Not great, but nothing that as a user I can’t recover from, after all I’m still impressed that I can do any of this at all.

I select my item and am pleased that all of the  supporting content that is used online is available:

Multiple shots of the product:
Product details: 
Delivery options:
Size guide
So there was little in the way of cross and up sell but to be honest I’m not surprised, nor disappointed.

With 2 simple selections, size and quantity there it is, in the basket. 
Now, this is the bit I was expecting to be tricky and arduous but to my surprise it was as easy as, well, buying online.

Integrated with my online account, I didn’t need to re-enter any details other than my credit card. There was one little sticking point however, and that was that the Forgotten password functionality, did not work meaning I ended up having to go to the website to get my details anyway. (But I checked this again today and it seems that this functionality is now working which is great).

As I went through the order process I decided to try click and collect, as my local store is one of those that are participating in the current trial. 

Great, no delivery charge, no waiting in, no having to visit the post office on a weekend and invariably I always find myself in M&S on a weekend anyway.

With confirmation of my order both on the mobile and email I felt pleased at how easy it had been to place my order via my mobile – this will be great for all those last minute gifts and flower orders.

A few days later I popped into my local M&S and went up to the counter, “Hi, I should have an internet order for collection,” I said. I expected to be asked for an order number, a print out of something or other or greeted with a little surliness at least, but I was pleasantly surprised. The chap behind the counter simply asked me to write my name down, and as I did so he said ‘Oh yes, I remember that,’ he asked me to wait and within 2 minutes there was my little package.  I confirmed my address and voila off I went with my new purchase. 

If you’re wondering wouldn’t it be easier to have gone in the shop in the first place then the answer is no. My local M&S has only a small clothing section and I was kind of pleased that the item I had selected was not available in-store and it would have defeated the point of me testing out the site and services!

So well done M&S, the brand positioning of Your M&S was truly realized by allowing me to buy what, when, where and how I wanted and providing a (relatively) seamless experience across all channels.  

Sunday, 25 April 2010

In-Store 'Kiosk' Still Proves Challenging

When I was out shopping recently, I noticed the appearance of shiny macs displaying the stores website in a number of stores.  I only managed to get a pic of one, in my current favourite, COS but there was a similar set-up in Maharishi.

Interestingly the one in Maharishi was on the opposite side of the room to the cash desk and both my hubby and I felt free and happy to use it.  However, the one in COS was tucked into a standing box right next to the cash desk (see picture) and, despite being in the store for some time, I didn't see anyone use it.

Of course, I may have just been in at the wrong time and just missed a flurry of users but it would seem that there are a couple of factors that may be contributing to low usage. 

The positioning means it's hard to work out whom it's there for.  Near the cash desk sends the message it's not for customers to use on their own. 

It's relatively low, and like those annoying train ticket kiosks, you'd need to crouch down to see the information clearly - not a great move.

And if you did crouch down then you would also be in the path of the staff coming and going from behind the desk and the stock rooms, which makes you feel like you're getting in the way. 

The website doesn't look up stock in other stores, nor can you purchase from it, so what is the role of having the website in the store exactly? 

It's nice to see stores trying to enable the multi-channel experience, and I'm delighted that there were no big clunky roller mouse c.early 00's, but there is still room for improvement  to make the experience truly deliver ROI for businesses and value for customers.  

These issues, lack of clarity of purpose, poor positioning and poor usability are the same challenges that made the kiosk projects of the late 90's and early 00's fail. The amount of hardware sitting gathering dust and being tarnished with the word failure was rife, and I fear that retailers are potentially making the same mistakes again. 

So what does it take to get it right?
As is my answer with most things, I think total experience design is the way to success: 
 - Clear purpose  
 - Observation
 - Meeting customer (or staff) needs
 - Test and learn - don't just shove the thing in the store and then never pay attention to it, observe how customers (or staff) interact with it, what it gets used for, how natural people are with it and refine accordingly. 

Just as the arrival of Anthropologie in the UK shook up expectations for the in-store experience I'm sure the opening of  Best Buy in Thurrock this week will do the same for multi-channel. 

Friday, 12 March 2010

A letter to blog...

Dear Blog,

I'm sorry I have neglected you. It's not because I have found more comfort in my posterous or because I've been hanging out with all the tweetkids in twitter..I promise to pay you attention soon...thinking about innovation cultures, organisational culture, how the fashion pack are failing, and the exciting world of experience design...till then my blog..xx

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Redefining the interactive mag experience: Mag+ (Bonnier R&D concept video)

There's a plethora of mag / touch screen / reading concepts / demos out there but I particularly like this one. What I enjoyed the most was hearing about and seeing the rationale. I also like the consideration given to a "chewier piece of content."

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

From Mashable: Vitrue’s Top 100 social brands for 2009

Vitrue's Top 100 social brands for 2009:

1. iPhone
2. Disney
3. CNN
4. MTV
5. NBA
6. iTunes
7. Wii
8. Apple
9. Xbox
10. Nike
11. Starbucks
12. NFL
13. PlayStation
14. Adidas
15. BlackBerry
16. Sony
17. Mercedes
18. Microsoft
19. Samsung
20. BMW
21. Nintendo
22. Best Buy
23. ESPN
24. Ford
25. Honda
26. Ferrari
27. Gucci
28. Nokia
29. Major League Baseball
30. Dell
31. Coca-Cola
32. CBS
33. ABC
34. iPod
35. Mac
36. Turner
37. Nissan
38. Toyota
39. eBay
40. Amazon
41. Victoria's Secret
42. Nutella
44. Disneyland
45. Audi
46. NHL
47. Red Bull
48. Verizon
49. Intel
50. Subway
51. Hewlett-Packard
52. Puma
53. Kia
54. Fox News
55. Porsche
56. Jeep
57. Dodge
58. Pandora
59. Walmart
60. Zappos
61. Suzuki
62. McDonald's
63. Krystal
64. T-Mobile
65. Skittles
66. KFC
67. Volkswagen
68. NBC
69. Sprint
70. Pixar
71. Motorola
72. IKEA
73. Pepsi
74. Cisco
75. REI
76. LG
77. AT&T
78. Converse
79. The Gap
80. Chevrolet
81. Luis Vuitton
82. Toys"R"Us
83. H&M
84. Philips
85. General Motors
86. Pringles
87. Visa
88. Prada
89. Panasonic
90. IBM
91. VH1
92. Hulu
93. Oracle
94. Burberry
95. SEGA
96. Sears
97. Avon
98. Jet Blue
99. Lacoste
100. Comcast

Some other interesting findings from Vitrue include:

- Game consoles dominate the top of the list: (Wii #7, Xbox#9, PlayStation #13, Nintendo #21)

- Luxury brands appear on the list this year with good representation: (Gucci #27, Louis Vuitton #81, Prada #88 and Burberry #94)

- Media brands make up 8% of list: (CNN #3, MTV #4, ESPN #23, CBS #32, ABC #33, Turner #36, Fox News #56, NBC #68)

For the full breakdown:

Thursday, 31 December 2009

The last place you want to go, A service story

I might be showing my age here or a slight snobbery (or both) but I must confess that Dixons had well and truly fallen off my shopping consideration list.

Whether it was the memory of those pretty horrible stores where some spotty teenager would grunt at you whilst surrounded by electrical detritus or the confusion over Dixons stores becoming Currys digital, unless of course you were in an airport, I can’t really pinpoint the point when they fell off my radar but suffice to say it, they had.
Recently they made a resurgence into the public consciousness with their witty, irreverent and rather risky ads:

And although I smiled at their boldness – it kind of reinforced the view that it offered a less than satisfactory experience. After all, they make the achingly cool place sound kind of nice…
Anyway, I recently met with some senior members of DSGI who were telling me about the efforts to reinvigorate Dixons and the virtues of their service offerings:

 - Free delivery = Check
 - Price Match Promise = Check
 - Installation and removal of old appliances = Check

Good on them I thought.

Fast forward a few days and my lovely Mum decided she wanted a new TV, and of course she needed it within a week as the Virgin Media people were coming to install new services. So, as my better half offered to trawl the web for a good deal I happened to say “oh check Dixons, they’re supposed to have good delivery options.”

Later that day, with a good deal found, we placed an order on
Magically they were able to deliver that week. The only downside so far was that whilst they could tell us the date of delivery, they couldn’t tell you the slot or even better, let you choose one.  Mum had an appointment that she couldn’t miss so I figured we’d take the risk and hope we could resolve any issues once Dixons were able to confirm the slot.

The night before the delivery was due, my Mum received a phone call from a lovely lady called Nicky* she informed Mum that they would be delivering the TV between 7-11am. At this point Mum told her that she had to leave at 9.30am for a hospital appointment, and asked if the nice lady could call me to rearrange. Nicky said it would be no problem to sort out but that she would call her back to confirm.

I then received a voicemail from Nicky* telling me that due to Mum’s circumstances they would arrange for delivery between 7am-9am and that she would try me back later to confirm. She also then phoned Mum and informed her of the times.

Now this may sound all fairly straight forward but what impressed me was that Mum wasn’t treated as simply one of a number of deliveries that had to be made, or as if she was a pain in the ass but instead she was treated with kindness, empathy and most importantly as a human.

Fantastic service.

But it didn’t finish there. The next morning at 7.30am I received a phone call from the delivery drivers telling me that they would be delivering within half an hour.
So, I called Mum to let her know but, I’m too late she’s had the same call from the delivery guys herself. Later on I received a text from her to tell me it’s all delivered, no problem. When I saw her later that morning, I quizzed her…"What were the delivery guys like? Rude? Impatient? Drop it off on the doorstep?"  "Nope, not at all" she replied, "they were lovely, polite and helpful," brought it straight in and popped it down right where she asked them too.

I must say I’ve been impressed, Dixons service way surpassed my expectations (hence writing this post) and for me they have placed themselves well and truly back on my consideration mix. Well done Dixons!

Things to crack:
1. Allow users to see delivery options when ordering
2. Allow users to select delivery slots – preferably in one hour slots but if 4 is all that’s possible then go for it
3. Align service proposition with brand – it did confuse Mum why Curry’s called her regarding her delivery when she thought we’d ordered it from Dixons.
(I know, I know but it confused her and I’m sure there are others)

*Nicky - I'm sure that was her name but I may be mistaken. 

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Customer Engagement & The New Consumer Demands

As a planner I'm always looking for ways to create customer engagement for clients. Typically we do that by finding ways to meet customer demands in ways that create an emotional connection, or value, or of course, both. As 2009 comes to a close there were two reports relating to these topics that were published. I am proud, honoured and slightly surprised to have been a contributor to them but thought I should mention them here:

The first is the 4th Annual Customer Engagement Survey Report from cScape and E-consultancy. “It is the most comprehensive and influential report  available on customer engagement, based on a survey of more than 1,000 companies and agencies. Companies can benchmark their customer engagement strategies and tactics, and see how others are adapting to changing customer behaviour and increased use of social media and the mobile channel.” As the most comprehensive survey of its kind it includes commentary from experts such as Jim Sterne, Dr Dave Chaffey and none other than my talented colleague Richard Wand.

Some highlights are:
  • 55% of company respondents regard customer engagement as essential for their organisation
  • The presence of companies on social networks has almost doubled from 23% in 2008 to 44% in 2009
  • 31% of respondents say their interest in customer engagement relates to emotional investment in their brand
My piece within the report looks at the need for organisations to be more ‘ballsy’ when considering their ventures into new or social media spaces but the full report is definitely worth a read. To download visit:

My contribution to the second report came as a little more of a surprise. I was pointed to the new report from Paypal titled  “Online Retail: the new consumer demands” naturally I was intrigued and downloaded a copy. Being slightly old school I printed it off to read on the tube home. Very quickly I realised that those clever folks at The Future Laboratory had undertaken the report. However, on reading I came across several comments by myself and after the initial surprise I remembered doing some interviews whilst I was in Dublin at a Google conference.  Anyway, it makes for interesting reading, other than the obvious “growth in online shopping” the report also reveals that:
  • Four in ten (41%) city dwellers surveyed have increased their reliance on online shopping over the last year, despite having easy access to local shop
  • Quicker, more reliable home delivery services (16%) and greater choice (12%) has helped persuade an estimated 15.6 million people living in urban city areas to move more of their shopping online over the last 12 months
  • Glaswegians and Mancunians have moved more of their shopping online than anyone else
For a full copy of the report click here

Work Hard & Be Nice To People - Anthony Burrill

I ventured to the Selfridges sale recently and while in the changing rooms was struck by this print on the wall. Not only do I like it aesthetically but it tickled me to hear the chap in the changing room talking to his colleague about how hard they had been working and how he couldn't wait for his break, and then transforming into the epitome of helpfulness when a customer was about - perhaps the message had struck a cord.
 I noticed on the print that this was the work of Anthony Burrill and I was pleased to come across more of Anthony's work at and in particular his work for The Economist, and pleased to hear that he'll be part of the If You Could Collaborate exhibition in January 2010.

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