Forget B2B. Forget B2C. Embrace E2E: Everyone to Everyone. Business and consumers alike are voting with their wallets and making mobile, tablet and personal 2-in-1 devices the “first screen” – relegating laptops, desktop PCs and wall-mounted flat screen TVs to “second screen” status. They are messaging one another. And they are talking about you. Are you listening? Hello?
A few organizations have adopted the playbook to address this shift. It seems, however, that most are not even thinking about the user-centric, user-generated, user-driven, mobile-first, E2E experience. That makes it a huge opportunity, if you set your mind to it.
Aaron Shapiro, blogging for the Harvard Business Review, cited the “Software Layer” as an area of focus for optimizing this E2E User experience, no matter what business you are in. I have incorporated some of his thoughts into the following 20-page storybook. It’s a quick read (lots of pictures), and it outlines a framework for how Users interact with your Business through a Software Layer. Enjoy!
I hope you find it useful in framing your thoughts on how to compete and excel.
Suffice to say, the race is on, and competing is not optional.
Make this the year you embrace the Software Layer of your business to drive User engagement, new opportunity, and new levels of success.
How is your organization adapting to the “Everyone to Everyone” world? Love to hear your stories.
The bloom is off. Aside from FB’s business results, such as their abysmal financials and their ads’ anemic, low-end response rates, there are some basic usability issues I have found. Neither I, nor my post-teen children, nor the new teeners, can figure out why these issues persist and, frankly, we can do without them. Maybe some of these things can be fixed within the platform, but many of the issues are user/behavior based.
1. Zero Privacy – Bill Joy said it over 20 years ago: you have zero privacy, get over it. What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube. If you don’t want people to know something, don’t say it, don’t video it, don’t post it, don’t comment.
2. Snooping Parents – at any age, there are just certain things you don’t even tell the fam.
3. Peer Pressure – How many times lately have you clicked the Like button based on guilt, pity, sarcasm, or some promise of reward? What, then, is the value of a “like”, once we’ve polluted the Likestream with insincerity?
4. Tasteless junk – sometimes I just don’t want to know about others’ nasty habits. And not everyone has the same sense of humor. Xenophobia runs rampant. Look it up.
5. Career suicide – Hiring and prescreening include Facebook reviews. ‘Nuf said.
6. Filter failure – This is arguably an umbrella issue in that it touches upon some of the other #fails listed here. And, yet, it is separate: You can’t selectively filter your friends’ feeds. Not everything in your friend feeds is relevant or even interesting, and it can’t be filtered to show only what’s interesting to you.
7. Plummeting cool factor – All of the above factors feed a sense of disillusionment. Or is it just me?
8. Alternatives – Tumbler, Instagram and Twitter are just as capable of perfoming the essentials. Tomorrow: who knows?
I’ve only listed 8. I’m sure there are a couple more. Chime in!
QR Codes work well, except when they don’t – but they can! Following my New Year’s Resolution to stop doing dumb things (wish me luck), and coming on the heels of multiple successes in which QR codes have helped my clients win new customers, I offer herewith my take on the value of QR codes.
I love QR Codes and all 2-dimensional (“2D”) codes for two reasons. First, they help to combine the best of the physical world with the best of the digital world. Second, they make life easier by eliminating the need to memorize, type, or otherwise manually translate a URL in order to render content digitally. The highest use of 2D codes is to bridge an excellent real world experience to an excellent online experience.
As of this writing, however, we are in a place where their use is not widespread, so be aware of situations in which your printed content and your online content probably should not substitute and, rather, might need to be a bit redundant. Each version must still stand on its own, since many people just haven’t added the QR code app on their phones and are thus not yet acclimated. As businesses continue to slowly adopt QR codes, the inflection point where more widespread adoption occurs will probably come when a large consumer market play embeds it into the way they do business. Think: retail.
Marketers love QR codes because they make interaction with the physical world clickable and, therefore, measurable. I get to do more of what I love, too: obsess about large CRM data sets, mining and combining it to detect the faint signals of user behavior that can help our clients personalize the customer experience and delight people. Everybody wins!
What’s Broken – Why QR Codes Disappoint
According to Forrester Research, however, those who do click on QR codes – primarily young, affluent males – generally hate them. This is mainly due to the bumbling mis-steps of marketers.
Firstly, QR codes are ugly – – although plenty of people have found ways to fix that (read on).
Secondly, many people are confused about how to scan them. This is exacerbated by the walled gardens created by competing companies. Microsoft (just one example) has/had its own unique 2D code technology, which require(d) its own unique reader app. How lovely.
Third: the various free downloadable apps required to read QR codes don’t all function the same way, although that condition is improving.
Last and worst: user disappointment. Simply being redirected to the same byzantine website available via large screen device is uninspiring, to say the least. People typically avoid browsing websites on a small phone screen, so why use a QR code to force them? Effective QR codes don’t link to ordinary websites. Instead, they link to an instantly satisfying, sharable experience – on a par with music, photos and email, or content that is uniquely useful wherever the QR code is displayed.
Try thinking of a QR code as new type of “share this” or “dig deeper” button, a way to augment enjoyment of the real world, and a delightful sharable experience. That thinking alone should keep you out of the weeds, but to be thorough, here is a list of best practices.
How to Fix It – Turn QR Codes into a Viral Experience
Here are some basic items to consider when contemplating use of 2D and QR codes.
1. Audience awareness. Again, most people are not acclimated. Do the obvious: include instructions to help new users engage. Even savvy users need to be informed on what rewards to expect. Include a caption below the QR code explaining where it leads. For some examples, see the last page of this QR Code usage guide I created for a print / QR code campaign promoting an iPhone app.
2. Usage patterns. If you plan to use QR codes multiple times for multiple campaigns, treat each as its own campaign – complete with strategy, goals, success measures, etc. Then, for each instance, caption each code with the URL, app instructions, Call to Action and reward info. Set the stage for fulfillment by setting user expectations before they scan your code. See the example linked in section 1 above.
3. Size and placement. Your 2D code must be of sufficient size, placement and proximity to be easily scanned. This excludes TV (too fleeting), subway (no wireless signal means no way to access the online content) and Billboard (too distant; depending on which reader software you use, your own pulse may cause your handheld phone/camera to shake too much to reliably scan the code). Ideal: printed material or flat surface, within arm’s reach, up close and personal.
4. Visual Appeal. You can beautify a QR code, either through free experimentation, or for a price using a reputable designer. It’s not just a nice touch, it’s also a branding opportunity, so we can expect this beautification trend to increase. Whereas the lowly barcode has faded like a footnote into the borders of package labels, the comparatively prominent physical placement of a QR code could harm the beauty of your content or its location – a slippery slope, indeed. Who wants a future where a physical, beautiful world is obscured by electromechanical codes? Fine for robots, not for me. Moral: beautifying and right-sizing your QR code makes it buzzworthy and increases sharing.
5. Mobile-optimized. Create an experience that is based on portability, location, SMS, sharing, or instant fulfillment and feedback – anything but an ordinary website. The destination content must be consumable on a mobile device and, preferably, enrich the user experience or advance the user toward fulfillment of an expectation or promise that motivated their interest.
6. Convenience. Think: Is a 2D code the fastest, easiest and/or only way to access the content, share it, and/or fulfill some need? If so, great; go for it. If not, think about other ways to deliver content more effectively. Again, an ordinary website is not a value-add experience and not a fulfilling one. Please stop that.
7. Engagement. Make it memorable. Reward users, rather than disappoint them. Make your destination content instantly useful and satisfying. Include share buttons so your audience can tweet, email, post and rave about the cool experience you provide. Give users an experience that makes them feel connected, excited, curious, interested and productive. Want viral? Do that!
My take on QR codes: end of a fad! They are here to stay. QR codes and 2D codes can help you create a satisfying customer experience and, done well, convert sales.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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“Why We Buy” Topics (click live titles to visit articles; more to come)