Archive for the ‘Customer Made’ Category
In February, I wrote part one of this series in conjunction the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project started by Becky Carroll and Jay Ehret. Over the next year, Becky and Jay are going to write a series of posts which analyze the current Starbucks experience, make suggestions for improvement, and then compare at the end of the year. Readers are invited to contribute with comments and suggestions.
It’s been nearly two months since Starbucks closed all of their stores for a nationwide in-store education and training event and reopened promising to transform the customer experience with newly energized partners. I can only speak for my local stores, but I have not seen any difference. My grande sugar-free vanilla breve latte tastes pretty much like it always did, which is to say that it’s generally good, but with occasional inconsistencies, depending on which barista makes it. Ok, so perhaps the event was in fact a PR event. Starbucks certainly got lots of free publicity as a result.
Last month at their annual meeting, Starbucks announced a laundry list of new initiatives designed to transform the customer experience including a new brewing and espresso machines, a rewards program and a new unique coffee blend (Pike Place Roast) which will be hand scooped and ground in store. Starbucks also took a page out of Dell’s playbook by launching MyStarbucksIdea.com.
Involving Customers in the Innovation Process
Like Dell’s Ideastorm, MyStarbucksIdea.com is an online community idea market where customers are encouraged to suggest and vote on ideas for improving the Starbucks experience. A team of 40 “Idea Partners” is responsible for reviewing, commenting on and consolidating the entries and for presenting “most popular and most innovative ideas that are the best fit for Starbucks” to key decision makers.
I’m a big proponent of Open Innovation. Inviting your customers to help design the experience gives company insiders fantastic perspective on real customer needs and desires. It also goes a long way in helping to ensure that the ideas and innovations that are selected are ones that will resonate with customers. The reason most companies haven’t eagerly adopted an Open Innovation program is that it requires giving up control. If a company asks for feedback and customers speak loud and clear the brand needs to be prepared to act. If they don’t, they risk damaging the relationship with their most engaged customers.
GoodNews / Bad News
The good news is that Starbucks is asking customers to participate in the process. The bad news is that the site looks like a collection improvements that are already in the their marketing plan. The “Ideas in Action” section lists those ideas that are being taken forward. Almost every idea listed in this section is either something that Starbucks announced when they launched the site (Wi-Fi, Rewards, Pikes Peak Roast) or already had in test markets (Splash Sticks, Bite-sized pastries). Authenticity is what’s lacking. I applaud Starbucks taking the bold move of involving customers in conversations about the experience. They need to resist trying to control the conversation if they want to be seen as genuinely caring about what the customer has to say.
Folks in social media circles like to talk about the value using customers as brand ambassadors who advocate for the brand through social media. Of course, armed with a video camera and an internet connection, people don’t need to be asked by brands to be ambassadors. Remember Nick Haley’s iPod Touch ad? The really passionate ones just do it. When it comes out as good as Nick’s did, the brand can’t help but be happy. But what if your passionate customers create something that really doesn’t represent your brand in a helpful way. What if it’s so “cheesy” that it starts getting some serious YouTube traction. Is this kind of free advertising,”good” advertising?
Chris Abraham pointed this one out on his blog today. The person that made this video (and I assume composed the song) is clearly passionate about Hillary Clinton. I wonder if this is the kind of brand ambassador Hillary is looking for.
Is soon as the title of this post hit Twitter, I received a couple of comments suggesting that UGC won’t hurt your brand if you properly supervise it’s creation. That’s great if you are in-charge, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. There is no way to supervise or manage this. You can only respond to it (or not).
So how does user generated content like this affect a brand. Is it helpful? Can it be detrimental? If it happens to you, how will you respond?
A friend send this link to a video about the new mi Adidas Innovation Center in Paris. Adidas, which was one of the early brands in SecondLife, is demonstrating their innovation abilities in the real world with this new store. The have blended Entertainment, Education, Co-Creation, and 3D-Virtual technologies into an exciting, interactive retail experience.
With just a few steps walking and running on a catwalk-style scanner, foot and pressure sensors analyze shape, size and pressure points. Customers enter details like color and accents on a large touch screen. An interactive “virtual mirror” (recently on Gizmodo), allows the user to try on their personalized shoe (or any other shoe) without taking off their own. And last but not least, the new scan table picks up RFID technology embedded in the shoes to display specific product information.
The purpose of the store is two-fold. Adidas has always been about innovation and they want to use this retail platform to showcase that. They also want to attract a younger demographic and believe the highly interactive nature of the store will be appealing to younger customers who have “been brought up on video games”.
Is all this technology to sell sneakers just a gimmick? I don’t think so. Look across the sports world today and you will see that technology has been incorporated everywhere in an attempt to boost performance. And it’s not just for the pros. The biggest market for sports technology are the amateurs who want to excel in their particular sports passion. Everything from real-time vital signs monitoring to the latest in golf club design is eagerly scooped up by the sports enthusiasts. If you are in the sports shoe business, an interactive, technology-based experience store might be just the ticket to driving brand engagement.
A few weeks ago, there was considerable buzz about the Delta Airlines Twitter page. There were initial hopes that Delta might actually be behind it. In the end, it appeared to have been a Delta employee, but whether he/she was acting alone or for the company is not known. The page has been quiet for 2 weeks so one can assume that the experiment is over. That said, It looks like Delta is trying some new ways of connecting with their customers and adding value to the travel experience.
Today, I was invited to check out their new microsite: Siteseer Travelcast. It contains short video travelcasts of featured destinations presented by delta employees. Think about the air travel experience. It’s generally unpleasant. You do it for the destination. When you are traveling to an unfamiliar place, its great to get suggestions from people who have been there on what to do, where to eat, etc. Does Delta have untapped assets that they could use to provide this guidance to their customers? You bet they do! Flight attendants, pilots, ground crew live in most of Delta’s featured destinations and know the landscape. Now I am not naive enough to believe that there isn’t some “paid for” placement of advertising for the shops and restaurants presented in some of these videos. Nevertheless, I’m getting some really useful information presented with a human face, and that helps me to engage with the brand.
Siteseer is only one element of Delta’s new customer focused approach. On their website is a link to another microsite that discusses all of the innovations they are currently testing. Things like zoned seating, language lessons, RFID baggage tags, restaurant buzzers, etc. It also has a place for you to leave your ideas or travel tips and the plan is for the site to evolve into a truly collaborative forum:
Delta.com/change represents a whole new way for Delta to connect with the global community and, ultimately, redefine the travel experience. Out of the gate, this site will serve as an informative tool, tracking all the exciting changes going on with us and showcasing travel tips and ideas from people like you.
Very soon, though, it will evolve into something truly collaborative—truly revolutionary.
We envision a forum for open, honest dialogue between airline and air traveler. A place where your ideas may very well influence how we operate in the future. And a stockpile of user-generated tips that will make travel more enjoyable and sane for us all.
All of this is really good stuff and I applaud Delta on the steps they are taking. From a Sense & Respond standpoint, they are really reaching out to Sense what their customers want them to be. The challenge will be for them to consistently deliver all of these great new innovations while at the same time, getting the basics right. I have not flown on Delta in over a year. Perhaps you have. Have you noticed a difference in Delta?
<via IG’s TrendCentral>
With funding from Build-A-Bear, this new store is hoping to do for toy cars what the aforementioned chain did for stuffed animals. Hoping to offer a bonding experience for fathers and sons, the store will enable customers to create custom toy cars by selecting the type of car, body style, paint and sound effects, and locomotion style. Additional accessories ranging from decals to tire treads will also be available. The first Ridemakerz store opens on Friday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with a second store opening planned for July in the Mall of America.
I predict this will be hot! Check out the website and see what I mean.
Chief Linden, Philip Rosedale said today that Linden Labs is going to make the core codebase for SecondLife available to developers. Considering that the contents of SecondLife has been developed entirely by user “residents” and the number of registered avatars has grown exponentially over the past year, the move to open source is a natural progression. After all, Linden has a limited number of developers and there is much work to be done to meet the needs of its growing population and to make the software more palatable for less powerful computers (like most of us have).
Given the growth of SecondLife, the vision my many in the software development community that a 3D web is the shape of things to come, and the success that other projects like Firefox and Linux have had using the community to build the code; this move is smart and should help keep things moving. It can also lead to some interesting new capabilities:
“There are lots of handicapped people using ‘Second Life,’ It’s one of the really inspiring things about it,” Rosedale said. “There are a lot of ways of connecting people to their computers, not just mice and keyboards but gaze detection and neuromuscular stuff” that Linden Lab doesn’t have the manpower to address, but he hopes outside programmers will.
Someone also could “hook up an exercise bike and fly around ‘Second Life’ while exercising,” he said, or write a program for accessing the world from a smart phone.
“All that becomes extremely easy to do,” said Rosedale, who will speak tomorrow at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The details for the more technical readers out there, according to an AP report are as follows:
The code will be available under the GNU Public License, a widely used agreement among open-source developers that allows them to legally modify and share software. Linden Lab will review and test some add-ons, modifications and bug fixes, and incorporate them into the official version of the viewer, which can be downloaded for free.
Monday’s announcement doesn’t cover all the software behind “Second Life.” The program that controls the underlying infrastructure will remain proprietary, though Rosedale said open-source “is absolutely our direction.”
Fortune has an exclusive interview with Rosedale as well as comments from Electric Sheep, one of the largest in-world construction companies, and IBM who worked with my company, Circuit City, to open a virtual store in SecondLife. It’s worth the read.
Patricia Seybold, in her new book Outside Innovation: How Your Customers Will Co-Design Your Company’s Future, explains the difference between traditional “inside-out” innovation and “outside in” or customer-focused innovation:
Traditional innovation: “Traditional ‘inside-out’ approaches to innovation assume that our subject matter experts (within our company) invent and design innovative new products to meet needs customers may not even realized they had. Then our marketing and advertising departments make prospective customers aware of those needs, wrap a brand experience around our innovative products, package and price those offerings… and bring them to market.”
Outside-in/customer-focused innovation: “The ‘outside-in’ approach is to flip the innovation process around and assume that customers have outcomes that they want to achieve, they have deep knowledge about their own circumstances and contexts, and they are not happy about the way they have to do things today. They will innovate – with or without your help – to create better ways to do things or to design products and services that meet their specific needs.”
There’s obviously a big difference in these two approaches, but the impact to organizations who don’t understand that the game has changed is much larger. Just as the Consumer has begun to take control of media, they will also demand a starring role in co-creating your company’s products & services.
This is an evolution that makes perfect sense. In traditional innovation, we don’t really know what our customers want – we may think we do, but at best we’re shooting in the dark, and hoping we hit something. From a marketing and sales standpoint, our new products are “pushed” through the sales channel to the customer, who often has to be incentivized with discounts, rebates and other creative “carrots” to persuade them to buy. The result? These programs cut into gross margins and profits, and usually aren’t very effective.
In contrast, if you really understand not only your customers’ needs, but the critical outcomes they want to achieve, you can then work shoulder-to-shoulder with your key customers to “co-create” products that meet those needs. There’s no need to “push” your offerings, because customers will gladly pay a premium for products and services that make their lives easier and more profitable. The result? Higher margins and profits for the company.
I am just starting to read Patricia’s new book, but I can already tell I’m going to like it. Open innovation is one of the key trends in the world of business right now, and this book looks like a terrific guide to what it is and how to implement it in your company. This concept goes way beyond creating products that meet customer’s needs. Embracing the customer as a partner is a way to transform and elevate your brand. As competition increases and the ability to differentiate yourself decreases, are you asking your customers to help define your brand’s experience???
It’s official. Time has named “You” as the person of the year. Good call. Time recognized what many of us already know: Millions of people have embraced the technology, personal media and the internet to create, co-create, share and produce content.
I look at my family as a really small microcosm of the phenomenon. We used to watch TV, network TV. Now, my 12 year old daughter creates websites and entertaining spaces on Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom. I joined with millions of others and began blogging this year. I also have embraced SecondLife.
It’s your new world. Have you jumped in?
Karl Long over at Experience Curve posted about an innovative new feature that Amazon is running:
Nice little interactive “e-tailing gameshow” from Amazon, essentially they are putting up 4 products with super low prices ie. xbox for $100, or a full suspension mountain bike for $30. The community votes on which product they want for the cheap price. The winning product will have a limited quantity (1000 xbox’s), and will go on sale on thanksgiving day at 2pm EST.
No surprises on what people are voting for…. the $100 xbox.
|IBM employees in Second Life at a break-out session after a keynote address.
I’m not sure if this post is about SecondLife, Innovation, Co-Creation or all of the above. Read on and you can decide. This past Summer, IBM conducted the latest in it’s series of “Innovation Jams“. The “Jam”was conducted online over the course of 72 hours. During that time, every IBM employee was invited to join in a candid, broad-ranging exploration of enterprise-wide issues, challenges and opportunities. IBMers were asked to post ideas on specific issues and topics, build upon the ideas of others and rate the ideas that had the greatest potential to transform their company. Everyone — from the CEO to a college intern fresh off campus — had a say in the matter, and this time, they invited customers to participate.
IBM pledged to invest $100 million on the best ideas to come out of the Jam. One of the four markets explored was called “Going Places” and it focused on topics such as travel, transportation, and virtual experiences. I participated in the discussion and being fascinated with Secondlife, I spent most of my time in this area of the forum. The discussion around virtual worlds and SecondLife in particular was enthusiastic and there were apparently enough good ideas to convince IBM to put 10% of the kitty into developing a presence in SecondLife.
Reuters has a story up about IBM’s continued push into Second Life and other virtual worlds: IBM accelerates push into 3D virtual worlds
IBM has embraced Second Life to an extent unmatched by any other major company — it has more than 230 employees spending time in-world, and it owns some half-dozen islands. Some are open to the public, but most are private, with restricted access for the public. In the Reuters article, Chairman and Chief Executive Sam Palmisano (photo & Second Life avatar to the right) talks about these efforts:
“Big Blue has already established the biggest Second Life presence of any Fortune 500 company. It is also looking to build a 3D intranet where its clients will be able to discuss sensitive business information.”
According to the article, he will be meeting with “in-world” employees on one of IBM’s private Second Life islands on November 14th after a real world town hall meeting with 7,000 employees in China.
So far in Second Life, IBM has set up a simulation of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, using data that tracks the position of the ball to re-enact points several seconds after they happen. It has also held virtual events such as an IBM alumni reunion.
IBM has it’s very own “multiverse evangelists”. IBM created these visionary positions within the company to go out and preach the virtues of virtual worlds to their customers and to the world(s). These evangelists recently detailed IBM’s Second Life activities in another Reuter’s article: IBM eyes move into Second Life ‘v-business’
Seeing how they practically coined the word “e-commerce”, you have to think they are serious about this emerging v-business. Sam Palmisano is quoted in the article as saying,
“We always ask the question, ‘if you knew 20 years ago what you know about the Web today, what would you do differently?’” Sandy Kearney, IBM’s director of emerging 3-D Internet and virtual business, told Reuters in a Second Life interview.
“The Web took decades. This will likely take half that time.”
Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Vice President, Technical Strategy and Innovation, IBM Corporation wrote about IBM’s efforts in virtual space in his blog with:
In his blog article, Irving Wladawsky-Berger writes,
“About two years ago, a study conducted by the IBM Academy of Technology concluded that technologies and capabilities from the gaming world would have a very strong impact on all aspects of IT, and made a number of recommendations for follow-on activities, which we have proceeded to implement.”
Irving goes into great detail in his blog about how IBM is entering virtual space, and what they are finding out about doing business in virtual space. It’s well worth the read!
The one thing that has always defined IBM is that they are pretty good at being the middleman, the broker between disparate systems. If you are an IT Director, and you have a mix of hardware and software systems, IBM can come in and help you to get it all working and talking together. There’s a very revealing quote in the latest Reuters article on 3D virtual worlds, and I truly think this exposes the (virtual) space where IBM wants to dominate:
“A spokesman for IBM said its goals go far beyond Second Life, although it currently has its largest virtual world presence there, and that the company eventually wants to see all multiverses integrated into a seamless whole.”
That seems to be the core strategy with IBM and v-business, to be the glue for all of the virtual worlds that may emerge. We will never have a single all encompassing virtual world controlled by a single corporation, it’s just not going to happen, and it’s never happened in the past with any other technology. Do you think that maybe a few IBM employees have a copy of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash on their office bookshelves. Can you say “Metaverse”? Hardware is dead; look at the sell off of IBM’s flagship ThinkPad division to China. This is the future direction for IBM, and an extension of what they already do very well.
Irving closes out his blog entry with this observation:
“So, here we are in 2006, once more facing a set of fledgling technologies and capabilities — massively multiplayer online games and virtual worlds – that are already being used by many millions out there. Once more we have the very strong feeling that this will have a huge impact on business, society and our personal lives, although none of us can quite predict what that impact will be. It will be fascinating to see where this ride takes us in the future.”
Credit where credit is due: Parts of this post were taken from a fellow WordPress blogger here: http://pacificrimx.wordpress.com/2006/11/11/ibm-cool/
Collaborate with your worst customers: In the words of Bob Dylan, “When you ain’t got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose.” You have little to lose by collaborating with a customer who is dissatisfied with your offering and probably intends to leave. Typically, we don’t do this, because it’s painful, but these customers may actually provide the innovative solution to your challenges, as well as growth. Ask them, what’s working and what’s not. Chances are that they will tell you. Then ask them, what would you like to happen and how would you make it happen? The key is to move you out of the reactive relationship with a customer and to have them participate in creating a vision, or even a solution. People typically don’t resist the ideas that they helped create. It’s important to remember that every time you solve a problem, that you have created a potential product or service, if packaged and replicated properly. Don’t just look for customer satisfaction or retention; look for ways to produce customer success. Show; don’t tell. Famed product design firm IDEO created prototypes of the original Apple mouse and iPod out of everyday materials, such as a bar of soap. In an age where most people have a camcorder and computer, it’s very easy to create a mock-up or some other proof of concept for an idea. Remember to always tell the story from their point of view; show how it will improve their lives. Hide your innovative idea inside a Trojan horse project. Stop wasting your time trying to drum up support from people who don’t see the value of innovation. Instead, identify the key stakeholders in your organization who are pro-change and innovation. Work to understand their point of view, their plans and pet projects. See if you can include your innovative ideas inside their projects like a Trojan horse. This means that your project will have to support someone else’s agenda and goals. Through these Trojan horse projects, you have the freedom to experiment, validate your concept, demonstrate success through metrics and build your innovation constituency, all with minimum resistance.
“Technology-related products and services will increasingly be shaped by 12 underlying principles, or “technology values.” These values —- such as simplicity, efficiency, and personalization —- represent the characteristics that consumers will look for in products, services, and technologies over the next 10 to 15 years.”
So says Social Technologies, a Washington, DC-based research and consulting firm in a newly released study entitled The 12 Consumer Values to Drive Technology-related Product and Service Innovations. The study makes its conclusions based on today’s trends and change drivers and by looking at emerging technologies were going to help fulfill these needs and desires in the future.
I think this is some really insightful stuff. Businesses that embrace these values early are the ones who will succeed the customer-driven economy. How many of these values are you building into your latest initiatives? The full list follows. It’s worth the read!!!
Graphic courtesy of David Armano – Logic+Emotion (also worth the read!)
Top Technology Values—Highlights
Consumers increasingly want to create, augment, or influence design and content, and share these creations with their peers. Supporting user creativity will be increasingly important to consumer technology, and will become more mainstream in coming decades.
Consumers will increasingly look for products and services that align with their specific personal needs and preferences—whether in the aesthetics of a product or in its functional design. More goods will be created to match individuals’ unique specifications.
Simplicity will have growing value for consumers confronted with information overload, time stress, and technological complexity. Simplicity’s influence is already evident in new, stripped-down devices that offer just a few functions, as well as in minimalist interfaces that conceal breathtaking complexity. The common denominator of all these efforts is that they are human-centered—and thus easy to learn and integrate into busy lives.
As consumers are bombarded with more tasks, choices, and information, and as demographic changes such as aging reshape consumer markets, they are looking to assistive technologies for help. Consumers will seek to bolster and extend their natural abilities—with technologies ranging from pharmaceuticals that enhance mental performance to robot aides for the elderly.
Products and services will need to embrace the principle of appropriateness to ensure that they are suitably designed for users with varying physical needs, resources, cultural characteristics, literacy levels, etc. Appropriateness will aid in the spread of technology products and services to new markets and to diverse user segments.
Already well-established in mature markets, demand for convenience will rise as a technology value for consumers all over the world. Consumers will look for technological products and services that give them what they want and need on demand and that reduce effort and relieve time pressure.
Connectedness gives consumers what they want, when they want it, and will grow exponentially with the expanding global information infrastructure. Consumers will look for products and services that seamlessly integrate with this global network.
Efficiency is the ratio of output to input—or, put simply, the ability to do more with less. It will become more important to technology as consumers search for products and services that let them manage emerging resource uncertainties, rising costs, and other pressures.
Intelligence will be enabled by innovations that increasingly shift information and decision-making burdens from the user to the device or service. The demand for greater intelligence will come in response to factors including complexity, aging, and the desire for personalized experiences.
Protection will be sought by consumers in a world that feels increasingly insecure. Consumers will look for technology-enabled products and services that strengthen their sense of personal security and protect their families, homes, wealth, and privacy.
Consumers will look to technological products and services to maintain and, increasingly, improve their health and wellness. The search for health-enabling solutions will extend beyond traditional health and medical products and services to include more of the things consumers use in their everyday lives, whether at home, work, or play.
Consumers will increasingly look for products and services that embrace sustainability—reducing the “human footprint” on the environment while maintaining quality of life. A variety of technologies offer ways to minimize resource use, waste, and pollution while improving human welfare.