The New Consumer Demand: I Want My MDV *

*MDV (def.) Massive Data Visualization

It’s my data.  Give it to me.  Oh, and help me leverage it, too.

This demand is customary in the business world, but increasingly it comes from the mouths of consumers.

How Did We Get Here?One way: be your own landing page link!

The consumerization of data analysis is not new. You could put your finger on any point in the timeline of humanity, as far back as the invention of the printing press.

A key inflection point in the 1980’s occurred when the widespread adoption of personal computers made us all publishers.  Later we got networked and could share our documents and spreadsheets.  It continued in the 90’s with email, and the advent of the Worldwide Web for searching and sifting, managing virtual folders, bookmarking, saving, copying, sharing etc.  In recent decade,  we built a habit of  tapping data stores for making decisions – in online shopping with its price comparison engines.  For most of us, a Google search is our first resort.

Today our social media tools help us to sort and manage our relationships, connections, conversations, and the statistics about those sorting processes, into visual and mental maps about our lives.   Hmmm….Is your organization generating customer data that’s worth sharing with your customers?

As Clay Shirky remarked in his book “Here Comes Everybody“, the problem is “not information overload, it’s filter failure”. We really can only care about the most meaningful data.  Which data is that? How do we decide? What tools are available?  I mention a few cool ones below.

The Tyranny of Time

That issue is inflated by the tyranny of time.  We each only have so many waking hours in each day.  Joke alert: I booked a couple of hours this Saturday afternoon for some spontaneity, but I may have to time shift it to Sunday. Hmm, I’ll just mark it as Tentative on both days. We’ll see.

We depend on data, and love when it is presented visually.  If you have used your smartphone to scan the merchandise QR code, or compare prices with a Google search while “showrooming” in a store, you get the value of massive data visualization on a small scale.  If you use a free GPS app on your phone to navigate to a new destination, you get it.  If you filter your Twitter feeds using Lists, you get it.

Who’s Doing It?

InMaps sample
Visualize and zoom in on your LinkedIn connections via InMaps

The new mantra is: Gimme my data, in a way that helps me gain insight to make better decisions faster.

One problem:  detecting the useful faint signals in all that data is often a daunting task, but usually yields a few “Aha!” moments if you know how to leverage tools, whether you are a consumer, producer or business.  A few people are making progress in this area, like Coloci and LinkedIn Labs’ InMaps (visit http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com ) which gives you a new way to visualize your connections and discover new relationships – an absolute must for any sales prospector.  In the enterprise space, new entrants like Qliktech are invigorating the space long dominated by established players like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Microstrategy.  In the catalog retailer space, we now have Pluris Marketing.  Have you tried them?  Have you found others you’d recommend?  Are you onto the “Quantified Self” movement?  Have you synced your FitBit fitness tracking device today?

What are you doing to give people transparent access to their data?  Whatever you decide to to, it just might make you their hero.

Why We Buy: the Science and Gamification of Loyalty

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Resized, renamed,...
Image via Wikipedia

Gamification is not just playing games online.  It involves an understanding how the science of game mechanics can motivate us to achieve our goals.

Being a Fan Foundry involves applying principles of human motivation.   Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Need” suggests that once our basic food, clothing and shelter needs are met, we are free to satisfy higher level needs like belonging, learning and self-actualization.  We humans are a constantly striving bunch.

Sales and Marketing professionals have long studied Maslow, B. F. Skinner and others to learn how to recognize and interpret “buy” signals, improve the buyer experience, increase qualified leads and convert more sales.   Whether you are in retail, e-commerce, enterprise sales, education, politics, contract negotiation or consulting, a review of some basic principles might help you discover ways to  improve your results.

In this upcoming series of “Why We Buy” articles, we examine the science and review real world examples of their application, so you can consider how they may fit your own business challenges.

Use the “Keep in Touch” button (right sidebar, top) to receive monthly notices of upcoming installments in this series.

“Why We Buy” Topics (click live titles to visit articles; more to come)

  • Default (path of least resistance or effort)
  • Sunken Cost (good money after bad)
  • Aspiration (status seeking)
  • Achievement
  • Challenge
  • Reward
  • Progress tracking
  • Competition
  • Pride (emotional investment)
  • Reciprocity (tit for tat)
  • Status – (gain/loss)
  • Gratification (delayed or immediate)
  • Reinforcement (thanks, BF Skinner)
  • Resource Slack (tomorrow never comes)

More to come!

Related Articles:

Gamification: How Competition is Reinventing Business, Marketing and Everyday Life (Mashable)

Engaging Patients with “Gamified” Mobile Care (Healthcare IT Solutions / Perficient)

Gamification is Bullshit (Persuasive Games)

Persuasive Games:  Exploitationware (Ian Bogost on Gamasutra)

Default: Path of least resistance or effort

from the Fan Foundry “Why We Buy” series  

Like water flowing downhill, human tendency is to take the easy way and the familiar way.   This has implications for website design, e-commerce, sales negotiations, marketing automation, training and fostering loyalty.

Design

In Web design, Recursive (repetitive pattern) Web navigation follows this principle.  It’s all about consistency and reliability.  Early Web designers borrowed print publishing navigation techniques, and today still use these familiar layout patterns to ease the user experience.  We expect websites to offer a top of page menu bar that persists as we navigate the site’s pages.  Minor clues such as changes to the menu bar’s colors or other features help us trace our journey of discovery through the site, so we can confidently concentrate on consuming content without losing place.  Some designers call it “breadcrumbing” after the children’s fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, in which the two lost children found their way out of the woods by retracing their trail of bread crumbs.

The usability motto seems to be: “Don’t make me think.  Reassure me.  Keep it simple, familiar and intuitive.  Don’t make me work more than absolutely necessary.  I prefer the path of least resistance and effort”.  Let’s not mistake this for laziness; rather it is an indicator of the fleeting nature of human attention, especially online, especially these days.

Captivate

While directing sales and marketing for Piehead Productions, I visited the Usability lab at Fidelity Investments, where every day millions of dollars in customer revenue are dependent on a pleasing, authoritative visual site navigation experience.  This dependency exists at every touchpoint in the customer experience – not just the website, but also in back-end fulfillment systems, brick-and-mortar locations, phone and email communications, etc.

Visual navigation science research at Fidelity tells us that the most important fields of information on any screen are – in exact order: (a) the top left, (b) the top center of the page (“hotspot”) just below the top navigation bar, and (c) the right column horizontally to the right of that center hotspot. Our eyes tend to focus our vision on these three fields, in sequence, when we first arrive at a website, seeking validation.   Of course, you could short-circuit this process by inserting a huge blinking headline somewhere, but then the site would be perceived as “busy” or “annoying.

According to Marketing Experiments, site visitors typically take no more than 8 seconds at those 3 fields to get  validation by answering the following questions:

  • Why am I here?
  • Did I get what I expected?
  • What else can I do here?

If your site content can promptly answer those 3 questions, people will likely spend more time on your site, value its content, and visit again. Conversely, if your site is confusing and cannot satisfactorily answer your visitor’s questions, then sadly the Back button often becomes the path of least resistance.

Design is part of Content.  Good content, supported by good design, including visual layout that supports visual navigation, convinces people to validate you as a worthy place to confidently transact business.

Convert

How does the Default principle influence and motivate transactions?  Landing page forms, Profiling and Configurator pages are a few useful examples.

Landing Pages. When preparing a landing page, conversation or other transaction setting, use Defaults to speed the transaction and improve convenience.  A website registration page, for example, might be default-set by you with the “I wish to receive email from you” box pre-checked.  The visitor would have to uncheck that box if they wish to opt out.  This might be perceived as tricky or manipulative – until you read the following true story.

Real World Example – Here is an actual current example.   At QVew, I performed an A/B test to determine an optimal approach to build an email list for a particular campaign.   I first configured the landing page form with the “keep me informed” box unchecked.  Very few visitors checked the box.  Later, I revised the form so that the checkbox was, by default, pre-checked, meaning any such visitor form submissions would result in those visitors being added to the email list.  Instantly we began receiving completed landing page forms with the “keep me informed” box checked – almost unanimously.  Visitors had overwhelmingly decided to do nothing and leave the box checked.  Fortunately, email recipient opt-outs are also low, thanks to some attentive follow-up marketing.

In the A/B test above, overwhelmingly people left the checkbox alone.  Checked or un-checked, it didn’t matter.   They followed the path of least effort.  Our subsequent marketing email “open” rates experienced a dip due to the abundance of new “sleepers”, but at least we earned the opportunity to cultivate a relevant relationship, and we subsequently converted some sales and are cultivating new relationships.

Profiles.  Just ask Amazon.  By enabling people to create an account and store a profile and credit card information, you greatly simplify the checkout process and increase the likelihood they will transact with you again.  Amazon, Expedia, Netflix and other large commerce systems “remember” you when your return.  Their Recommendation Engines “flag” you via email with notices about merchandise that match your stated preferences and past buying behavior.

Configurators.  Cell phone and computer sales sites enable people to sort and select product options like size, color, price and other features  options to determine availability of solutions that match their preferences and requirements.  Once done, it’s a simple matter to place your order.

Valuing the Investment of Time and Effort

Here is the important part – and it’s also a glimpse at a couple of additional “Why We Buy” articles that deal with phenoma known as “sunken cost” and “time value”.  Once we have completed a configurator experience, we value that investment of time and effort by saving the page settings and any passwords, and bookmarking the page for quick retrieval.  In the few scant seconds it takes to make a buying decision, we are more likely to re-use a stored configurator page than to re-type our information into a new system.  Following user instincts gives you the opportunity to build loyalty by making people’s lives easier.

For more topics from the “Why We Buy” series,  click here.  Use the “email updates” button (right sidebar) to automatically receive monthly updates.

How are you applying knowledge of the human tendency to follow the Path of Least Effort/Resistance, or Default, to improve your audience experience?

Is the Customer Really in Charge?

The 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Report summarizing an August survey of 1,000 “connected consumers” opens with the conclusion: “Experience matters”.  

When consumers engage with brands online, that online experience influences their buying decisions – a whopping 90+% of the time.  Apparently actions speak louder than advertising, whose conversion rate is comparatively paltry by any standard.

Are Facebook, MySpace and Twitter becoming the Outlet Malls of Tomorrow?  The report highlights how consumers are turning first to the Internet – not surprising for those of us who did their homework online before hitting the Black Friday sales in November. 

Equally influential, the study points out, is that this demographic called the “connected consumer” has become the New Mainstream of consumerism, with only 18% of the surveyed population qualifying as “laggards”.

Commentary

Who’s in charge here? 

While providers of inbound marketing solutions urge marketers to adopt those data-driven marketing solutions under the premise that the buyer is in control, implying that that business must engage online or bust, this Razorfish study points out that marketers have a huge opportunity – nay, obligation – to influence the consumer experience online.  Sounds like a partnership to me. 

Who’s in charge of your customer experience?  How can you tell?  What would you change?  Love to hear your thoughts on this, readers.  Comment below.

~Ed