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Take These 5 Steps And Reinvent Your Customer Journey Map

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The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

With the wisdom of this Chinese saying, let's start 'our journey' to discover how the 'customer journey' has changed in the last five years, pushed by the evolution of mobile technology, and what this means for your Brand.

The rise of the born-digital generations of customers (Millennials and post-Millennials) makes your traditional customer journey map obsolete. Every single map that you have used in the last decades is now useless. How can you recover?

In the digital ecosystem, everything changes at such an impressive pace that you risk losing sight if you do not get a new compass, a unique perspective to engage and monetize customers. The disruption brought in by the smartphone is unprecedented and requires drastic measures.

First things first, we need to clarify the difference between traditional customer journeys and the digital customer journey. We can simplify and streamline the two processes:

Traditional Customer Journey

Think of it as a (mostly) linear sequence going from the Awareness to the Consideration and then Purchase:

  • This funnel unravels across few touch points, well-known and presided by marketers;
  • The customer has a limited set of alternatives;
  • The communication is usually top-down and lead by the Brand;
  • Customer's choices are influenced by the 4 Ps of marketing, by routine and the trusted opinions of my closed circle of friends and relatives.

Digital Customer Journey

A neverending journey, not necessarily starting from the Attention/Awareness or ending with the Loyalty:

  • This funnel unravels across an increasing number of touch points, both in physical and digital worlds.
  • The customer has tons of alternatives;
  • The communication is always two-way;
  • Customer's choices are rarely influenced by advertising, price or routine. The circle of trust includes the online communities: social networks, e-commerce reviews, forums and blogs.

The evolution of technology reshapes the essence of the journey and this, in return, defines the pillars of your marketing strategy. In our ecosystem you should never underestimate:

  1. The arise of young customers - the picky millennials and the elusive GenerationZ.
  2. The growth of connected technologies - trackers, wearables, beacons, the Internet of Things.
  3. The dawn of Micro Moments - real-time mobile interactions, driven by specific intents.

The digital customers are accustomed to living surrounded by connected devices that melt the offline and online worlds. They build their identity by interacting with their virtual and pshysical communities, and do not recognize any other way of experiencing (life, emotions, and relationships).

In our markets, made flat by the globalization, your customers refuse to be considered as part of an indistinct mass. Each customer wants to be treated as an individual. This rejection of the massification requires that you invest your marketing efforts on the personalization and relevance of contents and experiences.

Today, there is a question to answer: Why should people buy from you when they can choose from a potentially infinite set of alternatives? You are not simply battling against your neighbors; you are fighting against thousands of suppliers from all over the world. Even a great, unique product might be not enough to win.

What then? The customer experience becomes the real key to differentiate your Brand, and the creation of a new customer journey map the ground to deliver personalized experiences. You need an innovative approach to the mapping of an unstructured journey, or your clients will still be strangers, inanimate figures you do not know anything about.

Luckily, you can still rely on a few basic requirements that have not changed ever since the idea of ‘customer journey map’ was considered for the first time. While the contents and the framework evolves with technology, you will always have to start your planning from these foundational elements:

Buyer Personas + Customers + Emotions + Research + Touch Points + Objectives + Measurement

On the one hand, marketers need to reach the customers when they stand in the early stages of the journey; unfortunately, that is the most obscure moment. The Brands usually know very little about customers' emotional profiles, and the traditional research methodologies does not provide useful data that show what clients were doing and thinking before - let's say - they entered your website or store.

That is exactly why you need a revamped version of the journey mapping. Starting with the following prerequisites.

RETHINK THE JOURNEY

Of course, behind a new mapping there is a new journey. Every single social and technological trend leads to the inevitable reinvention of the customer journey. There is no value in a map that ignores the different sources of interaction brought out by the mobile disruption.

The innovation extends the relationship between companies and people, to embrace the added value for both Brands and customers. Stay eyes wide open and willing to test and learn new means of engagement and fidelization; only then you will earn customer's loyalty and trust.

ENGAGE THE CUSTOMER

The foundational element of the journey is the traveller, of course. And yet, you might be surprised to know how many marketers still design their journey map starting from the company and the products instead of the customers.

Since the whole point here is to improve the relationship between your clients and your business, the only way you can build a map that actually works is to bring the customer's perspective into the process. Describe not the experience that you want to provide (or you think you are providing) but the experience that people expect (and you are actually providing).

UNVEIL THE EMOTIONS

The key is to understand how people take decisions and choose what to buy and how to buy. In a world where the smartphone has become the first screen and the attention span is lower than ever, not all customers are alike, and not all journeys should be considered equal.

People embark on very different journeys, driven by peculiar behaviors and personality traits. Each journey has different touch points that can be influenced by unexpected causes and intents. Individual needs, emotions and expectations lead to very personal behaviors. If you do not study these patterns (i.e. Psychographic profiling), you will not be able to reach the contextualization required to appeal each person.

CONNECT THE DOTS

Mobile technology reshapes the journey, influencing both the space and time of the interaction. The smartphone reboots the entire experience of communicating, searching for information, and connecting with people and brands. According to Nielsen, half of customers believe that mobile is the most important resource in the purchase decision-making.

Mobile platforms already account for more than 60% of total time spent on digital media. Your strategy should think mobile and act local, combining location and behavior to deliver meaningful contents, wherever your customers are. Connect the dots to get a holistic view of the ecosystem.

UNLOCK THE (SMALL) DATA

While it is still hard to understand what customers think and do in the early stages of their journey, companies can now take advantage of something they did not have before. Something that shuffles the cards on the table: small data.

Connected technologies create a large quantity of information about the customer's path; you only have to find the way to unlock the power hidden into this information. The key is to match the different sources and step from Big to Small data. Always remember that the real value not the information itself but what you do with this knowledge.

"Activating customer journeys to capture value requires journeys to be treated like products that need to be actively managed, measured, and nurtured. How well companies are able to do that will dictate how successful they are in making customer journeys a competitive advantage." (McKinsey)

Photo by Mahkeo on Unsplash

Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy with the latest trends and advancements of digital customer experience.

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5 Books Every Digital Marketer Should Read This Summer

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Once you stop learning, you start dying.” This famous quote by Albert Einstein is still relevant to understand a major truth of the digital era: the only thing that is constant is change, and so you should never stop learning if you want to stay relevant.

Of course, this applies both to companies and individuals. Inspiration is all around us and it will empower you to gain competitive advantage, if you can get out of the comfort zone. What better way to improve than by reading a smart book?

The American political journalist P.J. O’Rourke once said that you should “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” What’s not to love about this sentence? Learning is such a critical process that we have chosen it as one of the steps in The DCX 7-Steps Checklist, a guide that’ll help you build an amazing customer experience.

The problem with reading, today, is that we are all caught in a fast-paced world with a short attention span. Too many things happen around us, so many sources to check and so little time to do it. We are quite lucky, though, because someone else has done the hard work for us. Authors that have tackled the challenge to help digital leaders to keep up with the evolution of marketing and technology.

The more provoking is the book you read, the more you will be forced out of your comfort zone. Once you question your beliefs and layered knowledge, then you are ready to move forward. It is not just theory: In the era of the digital transformation you can’t hack your growth if you still rely on the old-fashioned way to do things.

You need innovative approaches to old questions. How can I grow my business? How can I overcome the challenges of the digital transformation? How can I engage and monetize my digital customers? How can I convert random customers into loyal brand advocates?

If you are looking for an answer to these - and many more - business problems, you might find useful insights through the pages of these five books every digital marketer should read.

EVERYBODY LIES, BY SETH STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ

Part technology research part psychological study, this book offers an illuminating look at what the Internet can tell us about who we really are. Everyday we create a vast amounts of information with our web searches, and all thiese data reveal truths about ourselves and our world that we did not even imagine.

What percentage of white voters did not vote for Barack Obama because he is black? Do violent films affect the crime rate? How regularly do we lie about our sex lives? The answers to these - and many more - questions are hidden behind what we type on Google in the safety of our room.

HARNESSING OUR DIGITAL FUTURE, BY ANDREW MCAFEE

Co-written with Erik Brynjolfsson, "Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future" is one of the most exciting books of 2017 so far. This is a must-read analysis of the effects of the digital disruption, a guide for the digital leaders, marketers and CEOs who truly want to understand the power of exponential.

To survive the big wave of digital shifts, in fact, "we must rethink the integration of minds and machines, of products and platforms, and of the core and the crowd. In all three cases, the balance now favors the second element of the pair, with massive implications for how we run our companies and live our lives."

PRE-SUASION, BY ROBERT CIALDINI

Robert Cialdini is the renowned author of Influence, a bestseller dated 1984. At the end of 2016 we have finally seen the long-awaited sequel, titled Pre-Suasion. This book is destined to become even more relevant than Influence because it comes out in a era when marketing and psychology are more intertwined than ever.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? Using a rigorous scientific approach, Cialdini "shines a light on effective persuasion and reveals that the secret doesn’t lie in the message itself, but in the key moment before that message is delivered."

HOOKED, BY NIR EYAL

We always emphasize the importance of a well planned, meaningful customer experience on the road to business success. But there is a plain fact that none can ignore: If people don't like the product you sell, your strategy is more than likely doomed. So, how can you develop and market a product or service that customers will love?

Nir Eyal tries to find an answer in his book "Hooked: How To Build Habit-Forming Products". Want to be the next sensation? Try with the Hook Model, "a four-step process embedded into the products of many successful companies to subtly encourage customer behavior."

ORIGINALS, BY ADAM GRANT

"Originals - How Non-Conformists Move The World" is yet another brilliant take on how we can generate new ideas, improving the world in the process. Sharing powerful and surprising business stories, Adam Grant offers groundbreaking insights about rejecting conformity and improving the status quo.

The book "
explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent."

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

If you need more food for thought during your Summer vacations, you can also download The Mobile Engagement Playbook, a collection of relevant insights that'll help you to overcome the challenges of the digital transformation and grow your business exponentially.

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Biometrics – The Future of Payments And Customer Experience?

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What if you could authenticate your payments with a scan of your finger or your iris? What if you could take a selfie to authorize a banking transaction? Would you do it? Set aside all fears, the future of payment authentication is strictly connected to our body.

Biometrics are already considered the most important technology to transform how we make purchases, online and offline. An advancement that will improve security, but also shape a completely different customer experience.

If you take a look at the news of the past months, you will see a pretty obvious red thread: today, the traditional passwords are not sure, if they ever were.

Yahoo has reported three attacks in less than one year, with million accounts hacked using a forged cookie to bypass the user password. The same has happened recently to millions of Xbox and PlayStation accounts.

If your account has been compromised, you not only feel exposed; you are also in danger of losing all your personal data. That usually means other passwords, banking accounts, all sorts of sensitive information.

Traditional passwords are faulty in so many ways. First, they are based on the assumption that people will act smart for his own safety, creating a complex string. The reality is, most of the times the passwords we choose are simply lame (who said birth date?).

Second, they are easy to steal or hack. At the end of the day, they are just a sequence of numbers, letters, and keyboard patterns. Of course, a longer sequence will make a better shield but, then, it becomes harder to remember.

Third, they are inconvenient and somehow awkward. When you have to authorize a payment you do not want to waste your time typing a password made of more than twenty characters and containing upper cases and special symbols. This is customer experience at its worst.

So, with their illegal behaviors, the hackers have fulfilled a role of public utility: they have shown to the world that we need other means of authentication. Especially when it comes to making a payment. That is why biometrics has become so popular in the last few years.

Philip K. Dick, one of the greatest readers of the future in Science Fiction, in the Mid Sixties wrote a story about a world where all activities would be managed by scanning one’s fingers or iris. You had to guarantee your actions with your own body.

At one point, the main character was not able to exit his apartment, because he had months of unpaid rent, and every single door scanning resulted in a failed attempt. In his dystopian perspective, the author had foreseen what is happening right now with biometric authentication.

Biometric verification is any means by which a person can be uniquely identified by evaluating one or more distinguishing biological traits. Unique identifiers include fingerprints, hand geometry, earlobe geometry, retina and iris patterns, voice waves, DNA, and signatures.” (TechTarget)

Fingerprinting is the oldest example of this type of authentication, and it is still today the most popular form of biometric. According to a 2016 research by Visa, two-thirds of customers want to use biometrics when making payments, because they think payments will be faster and easier.

Biometric identification and verification has created a great deal of excitement in the payments space because it offers an opportunity to streamline and improve the customer experience. Our research shows that biometrics is increasingly recognized as a trusted form of authentication as people become more familiar with using these capabilities on their devices.” (Jonathan Vaux, Executive Director of Innovation Partnerships at Visa Europe)

From the customer's point of view, today biometric measures have two major applications:

  • They can be utilized to log into the mobile app, adding an extra layer of security (i.e. banking apps that use voice authentication).
  • They can be utilized to authorize a single transaction, online via the app or in the physical retail store (i.e. Apple Pay and Android Pay that use fingerprints).

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We see a growing interest, and it is not by chance that Juniper Research has listed it as the most disruptive technology in Fintech for the upcoming years. Today, its success is due in large part to the proliferation of fingerprint readers in smartphones. In the future, though, other factors will get into the game.

One brilliant example comes from MasterCard Identity Check, a new mobile app to allow customers to authenticate and authorize a transaction taking a selfie. The ‘selfie pay’ enable app users to confirm a payment not only via finger scan but also via selfie recognition, showing their face to the smartphone camera.

To avoid any attempt to deceive the authentication process, the system requires the customers to blink, instead of just staring at the camera, to confirm that it is really their face.

We have long said that the passwords we use today are dangerous because they can be hacked and used against our will. What about biometric tech? One constant issue is that, unlike passwords, they cannot be changed. So, they have to be stored somewhere by the financial company to be used and reused without problems or delays.

This poses various questions about the privacy of the process and the security of the data. Regarding the first issue, let’s get back to Jonathan Vaux:

One of the challenges for biometrics is scenarios in which it is the only form of authentication. It could result in a false positive or false negative because, unlike a PIN which is entered either correctly or incorrectly, they are not a binary measurement but are based on the probability of a match. Biometrics work best when linked to other factors, such as the device, geolocation technologies or with an additional authentication method.

That is the reason why biometric payments mostly use a two-factor authentication, a security process in which the customer provides two authentication factors to verify their identity.

Three-quarters of customers see the two-step verification as the most secure means of payments available today. Customers, in fact, are not yet confident that a fully biometric process will be able to defend them against malicious attempts of hacking.

Then, there is the data security concern. Where is all this personal information going? Who is storing it? Are the data protected from hacking? Are there limits on the data usage?

The answers will decide the future of these technologies. Biometric factors are the most personal and sensitive. They can be used to streamline and improve the customer experience but they also lay open to abuse. It is our duty to avoid the worst ‘cyberpunk’ case scenario.

Download The Mobile Engagement Playbook, a collection of relevant insights based on many years of Neosperience's expertise that'll help you to overcome the challenges of the digital transformation and grow your business exponentially.

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How Artificial Intelligence Is Disrupting Your Organization

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Whoever reads a science fiction novel ends up thinking about smart machines that can sense, learn, communicate and interact with human beings. The idea of Artificial Intelligence is not new, but there is a reason if big players like Google, Microsoft or Amazon are betting precisely on this technology right now.

After decades of broken promises, the AI is finally reaching its full potential. It has the power to disrupt your entire business. The question is: How can you harness this technology to shape the future of your organization?

Ever since the human has learned to dream, he has dreamed about ‘automata’, objects able to carry out complex actions automatically. The mythologies of many cultures - Ancient China and Greece, for example - are full of examples of mechanical servants.

Engineers and inventors in different ages attempted to build self-operating machines, resembling animals and humans. Then, in 1920, the Czech writer Karel Čapek used for the first time the term ‘Robot’ to indicate artificial automata.

The rest is history, with the continuing effort to take the final step from mechanical robots to intelligent machines. And here we are, talking about a market expected to reach over five billion dollars by 2020 (Markets & Markets).

The stream of news about the driverless cars, the Internet of Things, and the conversational agents is a clear evidence of the growing interest. Behind the obvious, though, we can find more profitable developments and implications for the Artificial Intelligence.

Back in 2015, while reporting our annual trip at the SXSW, we said that the future of the customer experience goes inevitably through the interconnection of smart objects.

The AI is a top choice when talking about the technologies that will revolutionize the retail store and the physical experience we have with places, products, and people.

The hyperconnected world we live in has a beating heart of chips, wires, and bytes. This is not a science fiction scenario anymore; this is what is happening, here and now, even when you do not see it.

The future of products and services appears more and more linked to the development of intelligent functions and features. Take a look at what has been done already with the embedded AI, that can enable your product to:

  • Communicate with the mobile connected ecosystem - Just think about what we can already do using Google Assistant on the smartphone, or the Amazon Alexa device.
  • Interact with other smart objects that surround us - The Internet of Things has completely changed the way we experience the retail store (and our home, with the domotics).
  • Assist the customer, handling a wider range of requests - The conversational interfaces, like Siri and the chatbots, act as a personal tutor embedded in the device.

As the years pass by, the gap between weak and strong AI widens increasingly. A theory revived by a recent report by Altimeter, not by chance titled “The Age of AI - How Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming Organizations”.

The difference can be defined in terms of the ability to take advantage of the data to learn and improve. Big data and machine learning, in fact, are the two prerequisites of the modern smart technology.

So, on the one hand, we have smart objects that can replace the humans on a specific use case - i.e. to free us from heavy and exhausting duties - but do not learn or evolve in time.

On the other hand, we have the strong AI, the most promising outlook: An intelligence so broad and strong that is able to replicate the general intelligence of human beings. It can mimic the way we think, act and communicate.

The “pure AI” is aspirational but - apart from the Blade Runner charm - this is the field where all the tech giants are willing to bet heavily. The development and implementation of intelligent machines will define the competitive advantage in the age of AI.

According to BCG, “structural flexibility and agility - for both man and machine - become imperative to address the rate and degree of change.” As you can see in the following graph, you should look at the AI through four lenses:

  • Customer needs
  • Technological advances
  • Data sources
  • Decomposition of processes

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First things first. It is important to incorporate the technological advances, gather the different data sources, and map the different processes involved. However, it is way more important to start from the basics, the customers.

Many types of research tend to focus on the tech-side of the moon but there is something you should never forget: everything starts with the customer. This is the pillar of every organization, and it is not going to change because of smart machines.

Know your customer” means that you must to understand their needs, desires, pain points, and behaviors. Your business potential lies in the acknowledgment of the centrality of people.

The AI is a tool, not the purpose. The ultimate purpose is to create the best customer experience, blending technology and emotions so that you can engage your customers, monetize the opportunities, and increase the relevance of your brand.

Everything is connected to the customer:

The opportunity (and risk) of AI is not just in a device that will play a song or order tickets to a concert. The value of systems based on machine learning is based on their ability to sense, communicate, learn, act, and adapt over time and to connect with other systems that do the same so that they can anticipate and act on a range of needs - be they related to medicine commerce, service and support, or customer experience.” (Altimeter - The Age of AI)

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Now that the boundaries between what is human and what is artificial blur, there is one last element that you should never forget. The relationship with your customers is grounded in trust.

Transparency (in the use of data, in the management of the real-time interactions) is essential to win the distrust when the distinctions between human, AI-assisted, and AI interactions could very well disappear.

As Pedro Domingos, the author of The Master Algorithm, once said that the “Artificial Intelligence is not so scary as it seems when it translates into artificial smartness.

Download The Mobile Engagement Playbook, a collection of relevant insights based on many years of Neosperience's expertise that'll help you to overcome the challenges of the digital transformation and grow your business exponentially.

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The times are a changin”. It is only been 10 years since Vargo and Lush described the shift from a product-centred view of markets to a service-dominant (SD) logic. Since the goods themselves are never just ‘goods’ but service providers, this marks the definitive shift from tangible to intangible assets as the major sources of value.

The reason is simple: the ‘Homo Oeconomicus’ went extinct. As mere consumers we needed ‘utility’, so we were always looking for goods and services in order to maximize it; as humans we need ‘feelings’, and we are willing to embrace all the things that can enrich and nourish our experiences.

Digital customers are at the forefront of this evolution, but it is not just about the millennial customers. The phenomenon is cross-border and goes beyond the demographics, underpinning the idea of the emergence of a new ‘Experiential Customer’.

People buy experiences, not just products”. A leitmotiv, a matter of facts. Several psychological studies show that people live happier when they spend their money on intangible experiences, rather than material things. Even when they buy something tangible, they judge the value of a brand based on the quality of the customer experience.

The race to relevance is paved with information linked to psychological, emotional, personality and lifestyle-related dimensions. This simple evidence underlies a drastic change in people’s needs, and the nature of this shift is primarily psychological.

Given the premise, what are the consequences for companies and brands? That’s the point. We are entering a new era where the idea of being in customers' mind involves not just the abstract concept of market positioning.

Since our needs are not stable and can vary at any second, understanding the feelings and emotions that motivates your customers becomes the most important challenge for your company, as it provides valuable real-time information - potentially for every moment of truth.

Human communication is a combination of both verbal and nonverbal interactions, and this is especially true when it comes to the communication of the emotions. Recent studies have shown that 93% of affective communication takes place either nonverbally or para-linguistically through facial expressions, body gestures, or vocal inflections.

Technological innovation has helped the researchers in the discovery of this fascinating field, and giant steps have been taken in a relatively short time: feature extraction and 3D modelling, bio-sensors (ECG, EEG, EMG, GSR, eye tracking, wearables), pattern recognition, Natural Language Processing (NLP), machine learning, records management, big data analytics, to name a few.

These new technologies have made possible - and feasible - the detection and recognition of emotions, and more and more companies have shown interest for a wide range of purposes, sometimes known, sometimes not. In the field of marketing and advertising, as you would expect, the ability to capture and predict the emotive responses from customers can lead to many interesting applications.

Today’s emotion detection and recognition systems incorporate touch and touchless-based technologies, and comprise a combination of various software tools, such as facial expression recognition, speech and voice recognition, bio-sensing software tools and apps.

The increasing interest leads to the increasing number of tech companies focused on fulfilling this need: Detecting human emotions by analyzing these meaningful non-verbal cues.

For example, at the beginning of 2016 Apple has acquired Emotient, a San Diego-based startup that uses artificial technology to detect emotion from facial expressions. Though it is not clear yet what Apple plans to do with it, the company's technology has primarily been used by advertisers and retailers.

Technological giants such as Tobii, Google and IBM, along with key innovators such as Affectiva, Noldus Information Technology, Kairos, nViso, RealEyes and others, are continuously shaping and nurturing an ecosystem of Emotion Detection tools and platforms.

The emotional side of the customer represent a whole new world of business opportunities. The aim is to work with brands and retailers to help them with a variety of tasks, such as the prediction of customer behaviors, the real-time measurement of interests, preferences and feelings, to figure out what a shopper (or a supershopper, maybe?) thinks of the display of merchandise.

This is happening right now. Even if you are not doing it, someone else is. What will happen in the next future?

No simple answer here. What is certain is that people ask for compelling customer experiences and fulfilling emotional connections. With other human beings, with products, and with organizations.

The future of brands is heading towards an increasingly close link with customers as humans, non mere consumers; all these technologies will be at the centre of this new, deeper relationship.

Stick with us, as we will explore this topic even more in our future articles.

Download The Mobile Engagement Playbook, a collection of relevant insights based on many years of Neosperience's expertise that'll help you to overcome the challenges of the digital transformation and grow your business exponentially.

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10 Inspiring TED Talk Videos Every Digital Leader Should Watch

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What is better than a fair amount of inspiring TED Talk videos to kick off the new year? The digital leaders must stay always on top of things, ready to put their beliefs into question. We live in an age where the only constant is the constant change, after all.

Whether you are trying to improve your business strategy, to establish yourself as a true guide for your employees, or simply to find your inner motivation, there is a TED Talk waiting for you.

Through the years, the world’s leading thinkers have made their mark with brief - and yet disruptive - speeches, ranging from marketing to technology, from creativity to self improvement. As a fact, we have gathered lots of “ideas worth spreading”, and we have now something close to 2.000 talks available online.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed, though, because we have done the hard work for you. We have selected 10 of the most inspiring TED Talks ever, those that have affected us as digital marketers and entrepreneurs.

YOUR ELUSIVE CREATIVE GENIUS - ELIZABETH GILBERT

Elizabeth Gilbert, the bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, “shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person being a genius, all of us have a genius.

WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM - STEVEN JOHNSON

Steven Johnson, the author of Mind Wide Open, talks about the birth of ideas. People often thinks they are individual ‘Eureka’ moments but maybe history tells something different.

HOW GREAT LEADERS INSPIRE ACTION - SIMON SINEK

Simon Sinek, the author of Start With Why, shares his powerful model for inspirational leadership. A model that starts with a golden circle and the question ‘Why?’

WHAT CONSUMERS WANT - JOSEPH PINE

You know we are obsessed with the importance of the customer experience. Joseph Pine, author of Mass Customization, tells us why authenticity is so hard to sell.

CHOICE, HAPPINESS AND SPAGHETTI SAUCE - MALCOLM GLADWELL

What does it have to do a spaghetti sauce with the power of choices and the pursuit of happiness? Follow Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell and you will know.

404, THE STORY OF A PAGE NOT FOUND - RENNY GLEESON

We all have experienced the 404 - Page Not Found. Is it a failure in the connection between a brand and a customer? Or an incredible choice to build relationships? Ask the expert Renny Gleeson.

YOUR BODY LANGUAGE SHAPES WHO YOU ARE - AMY CUDDY

Your body language affects how others see you, band how you see yourself. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how ‘power posing’ might have an impact on your life.

THE PUZZLE OF MOTIVATION - DAN PINK

Everyone needs motivation in his life. Career analyst Daniel Pink shares his experience, starting with something that marketers often ignore: Traditional rewards aren't always effective.

VIRTUAL REALITY AND THE EMPATHY MACHINE - CHRIS MILK

On the tech side of the TED, this one by Chris Milk is one of the best talks ever. Virtual reality, storytelling, interactions, emotions, even business: you will find this and much more.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN OUR COMPUTERS GET SMARTER THAN WE ARE - NICK BOSTROM

We close the list with Nick Bostrom's talk, because the topic has never been so current and intriguing. Is it true that machines are becoming smarter than humans? And, if so, how will the world change?

Need more inspiration? Download The Mobile Engagement Playbook, a collection of relevant insights based on many years of Neosperience's expertise that'll help you to overcome the challenges of the digital transformation and grow your business exponentially.

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4 Mobile Technology Trends For 2017

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Mobile is the future.” With these very words in 2010 Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google at the time and now Chairman of Alphabet, gave us a glimpse of what was going to happen. And he definitely hit the target!

Almost seven years later, mobile has disrupted the way we relate to the world. We are living a transformation far from being over. Many changes await us around the corner of the new year, and it is time to understand what are the main mobile technology trends for 2017.

The Internet has been certainly the primary catalyst for the revolution we have witnessed in the past decades, and yet there is no doubt that mobile technology is not just a small wave a sea storm.

When the Internet crossed the threshold of the house, to accompany us in all the activities of our daily lives, then we have entered a new era. We have gone through the mobile-mind shift, and the customer experience changed forever.

Mobile use overtook desktop use in 2010. Mobile search on Google overtook desktop search in 2015. As citizens and customers we live surrounded by dozens of different devices, and the screen of the smartphone has become the main reference for all our activities.

We check the phone within the first 15 minutes of waking up. Mobile is not just another channel, is a proxy of the customer, an entirely new lifestyle.

This fact alone states the importance of mobile, and tells us why - as marketers and digital leaders - we should always plan our business strategy starting from mobile devices.

The mobile revolution runs eight times faster than the Internet revolution, and that means essentially two things:

You are already late

It is a fact, customers are quicker than companies when it comes to adopting new technologies. If you do not have a mobile-first (if not mobile-only) strategy, you are probably already lagging behind your customers and your competitors.

Whether you are a small local business or a large global organization, you must act fast to employ innovative mobile technologies and face the consequences of the digital transformation.

Don’t rest on laurels

The essence of technology is evolution. If you believe that the dusty customer-facing webview application that you developed five years ago is still your top solution, then you might have a problem very soon.

The customer journey evolves every single day, a map that has multiple touch points and unravels across different channels and devices, online and offline. You must always be with eyes wide open, to recognize and implement new disruptive trends.

Now we are at that time of the year when we draw conclusions about what happened and turn the gaze to the future to see what will happen next. If 2015 was the turning point for mobile marketing, and 2016 has been critical (just think about the AMP), we can certainly say that 2017 is set to be a benchmark year.

New devices promise to enter the stage; new dynamics will change the foundations of your digital strategy. And you will have to find new meaningful ways to improve your customer experience, and to “Be there, Be useful, Be quick.

Here is our short list of the main mobile technology trends for 2017.

LOCATION-BASED MOBILE

In the past few years, beacons, geofencing, and push notifications have had a relevant role in shaping marketing strategies, even more so for retail brands that have a physical point of sale. While the ‘M-Commerce’ is rapidly surging, the store will not disappear anytime soon. It will just evolve, and mobile technology will be crucial in this evolution.

82% of customers consult their smartphones while in a store deciding what to buy. ‘Near Me’ searches have increased twofold in the past year. Google has launched a separated search index dedicated to mobile results and contents.

Mobile devices will continue to be the most powerful tools that marketers can leverage to engage with their customers, increase foot traffic to their stores and encourage conversions. Location-based services will be more and more prominent, in the name of “the right answer at the right time.

MOBILE SHOPPING JOURNEY

The shift from desktop to mobile has had profound consequences for the customer journey. Today, the path to discovery and purchase is by no means linear. The dawn of the digital customer - called ‘supershopper’ by Google - clearly highlights how the funnel has changed.

In a multi-device ecosystem, customers move from one device to another, from one channel to the other without a predictable scheme. If you add that they also skip between the online and offline worlds, the journey becomes even more complicated.

There is one constant, however, in this brand new customer journey, and it is mobile technology. The ‘supershopper’ - and particularly the millennial supershopper - is driven by technology. Just take a look at these data collected by Facebook:

 

MOBILE BUSINESS GAMES

The enormous success of Super Mario Run (10 million downloads and 5 million dollars generated in 24 hours), coming in the wave of the Pokémon Go craze, demonstrates once again the power of mobile games. Games have become a serious business and represent the top preference in mobile app development, together with social networks.

Virtual and augmented reality already have a special place in the gaming industry. The evidence of maturity will be their integration with the business applications (i.e. virtual showroom) to boost the customer engagement with a future-proof approach.

When considering digital marketing, however, games do not mean only ‘Videogames’. It also translates into ‘Gamification’. The dynamics of games implemented in a business context, in other words, can be your best chance to improve your customer experience.

There are many ways to leverage gamification but they all have the same effects when included in an omni-comprehensive strategy: Increase sales through mobile and in-store; Strengthen customer engagement; Encourage retention and customer loyalty.

MOBILE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

The evolution of the artificial intelligence does not only concern mobile but what is certain is that it will find its deepest application in the interaction with mobile devices. We might not see it fully deployed in 2017, but we already have all the seeds of revolution.

More and more developers are starting to embed Artificial Intelligence into their products, to communicate with apps (Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa), interact with other objects (the Internet of Things, Google Home), act as a personal tutor embedded in the smartphone (chatbots, conversational interfaces).

Voice search, machine learning, instant apps, smart commerce, connected cars, enhanced security protocols, virtual insurance agents, domotics: connect the dots and you will have a groundbreaking platform that will lead you to the next generation customer experience. Online and offline, mobile and in-store.

Which of these trends do you think will have the greatest effect on your business?

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Key Findings From The 2016 State of Digital Transformation

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Digital transformation’ is undoubtedly one of the most common buzzwords of our times. Following this wave of modernization, most companies are undergoing varying extents of renovation.

The problem is whether companies are moving along the right path or not. How are you dealing with the challenges of an epochal shift that promises to impact businesses even more in the years to come?

Useful insights may be found in the 2016 State of Digital Transformation report by Brian Solis and the Altimeter team. This is the second edition of the research, and it comes out a couple of years after the first release. A proper perspective is to check what has changed in the meantime?

Even though everyone is talking about the digital transformation, it is pretty interesting to notice that there is no single view on the meaning of the word. We face one of those terms that means different things to different people.

One way or another, though, everyone is investing in technologies connected to the digital business shift. If you focus only on the adoption of the latest tools, however, you miss something critical. Technology, in fact, is just one side of the coin.

In the race to the digital leadership, the difference between followers and leaders comes down to one element: How holistic is the process inside the organization.

Simply put, is the digital transformation a concern of one single department (namely the IT department) or a shared common vision of the entire company? While IT remains influential in driving this business revolution, silos do not work well in our mobile ecosystem.

The digital transformation is “the realignment of or investment in new technology, business models, and processes to drive value for customers and employees and more effectively compete in an ever-changing digital economy.” (Brian Solis)

The value for customers mostly translates into an engaging, innovative, and seamless customer experience across all stages of the journey. In the age of Micro Moments, as defined by Google, the creation of amazing experiences is impossible without considering the role of mobile:

The smartphone and all other mobile devices “are completely upending traditional customer journeys. These mobile-first moments play out in common scenarios when someone is intent to do, buy, or learn something.

Mobile is the centerpiece of all things to come, but at the same time it is only the first piece of a disruption that will lead us to a customer journey that we can’t even imagine now: Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, cloud computing, just to name the ones already seeding.

The average organization will probably need to rethink their entire structure and ‘modus operandi’ - in the name of scalability, flexibility and resilience - to survive the impact of all these trends and new devices over time.

What comes out clearly, reading the report - based on the input of more than 500 digital transformation strategists and executives - is that “innovation has become a key priority in digital transformation efforts. This trend is rapidly gaining momentum as companies look to the startup ecosystem as a means to innovate and tap into the new expertise and talent often missing from more traditional organizations.

Here are four key findings from the 2016 State Of Digital Transformation, that you should take into account when planning your next moves:

  • The customer experience has established itself as the top driver of the digital transformation. 89 percent of marketers, in fact, is already convinced that the customer experience is the primary field of competition for businesses.
  • “Evolving customer behaviors and preferences” is cited by 55 percent of those responsible for the transformation as their primary catalyst. Only if you fully understand how your customers are changing, you will be able to respond with timely, personalized and relevant contents.
  • Only 54% percent of survey respondents have completely mapped out the customer journey within the last year or are in the process of doing so. As said, the mobile shift has completely disrupted the customer journey. If you do not map the new behaviors, touchpoints and channels, you will walk in the fog.
  • A mere 20% of digital leaders are studying the mobile customer journey and/or designing for real-time micro moments in addition to customer journey work. The smartphone is the primary source of information for customers, even when they are in store. To engage them, you need to be there and everywhere.

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Google AMP – The Future Of Mobile Marketing: What You Need To Know

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What is Google AMP Project? Mobile devices have changed the way we access information. As a consequence, they have disrupted the news and communication industry, promoting new tools to create and share contents.

The problem is: While publishers now use the mobile web to reach readers, the customer experience is often discouraging, and leaves a lot to be desired. As usual, people and technology evolve at a quicker pace than companies. Let’s get back to the question, then: Is Google AMP the next revolution for mobile marketing?

When you search for something on Google using your smartphone, you may stumble upon some boxed articles at the top of the result page. They come with a mysterious acronym, AMP. It stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, and it aims to become the new standard for the mobile web.

Almost one year ago (October 7, 2015) on the pages of Google’s official blog was published and article titled “Introducing the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, for a faster, open mobile web.” A few hours later, digital marketers already had shivers of terror down their back.

They were just recovering from the smash caused by the mobile-friendly algorithm, and they feared another SEO revolution. A small step for Google, a huge workload for brands. Despite everything, however, the AMP Project has gone on the backburner, and marketers’ attention has been drawn by other priorities (i.e. Pokemon Go).

But it was only a matter of time before AMPs would come back as an urgent topic. And here we are, one year later, witnesses of the official launch of the project. The assumption is that customers do not have time to waste. In a world of overabundant information, they want to find the right content at the right time.

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Speed is all that matters in the mobile era. This is true for users, and even more true for publishers:

"Every time a web page takes too long to load, they lose a reader - and the opportunity to earn revenue through advertising or subscriptions. That's because advertisers on these websites have a hard time getting consumers to pay attention to their ads when the pages load so slowly that people abandon them entirely."

The big Internet players know that time is money, and they are competing on developing a technology that will allow users to load contents instantly. Facebook Instant Articles is yet another example, a cornerstone of Mark Zuckerberg’s project to create a self-sufficient ecosystem for its customers.

The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project is an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere. The project relies on AMP HTML, a new open framework which allows websites to build lightweight pages:

"We want web pages with rich content like video, animations and graphics to work alongside smart ads, and to load instantaneously. We also want the same code to work across multiple platforms and devices so that content can appear everywhere in an instant - no matter what type of phone, tablet or mobile device you’re using."

Like any significant new technology, accelerate mobile pages are still surrounded by a halo of doubts. How do they work? How will Google rank them in the result pages? Should companies jump on the bandwagon?

Here are the most common concerns, and everything you need to know to face this challenge well prepared.

HOW WILL AMP IMPACT SEO

Let’s start with the obvious question. How are AMP and search engine optimization connected? Right now AMP is not directly a search engine ranking factor but it is evident that this technology will affect the rankings one way or another.

What we know now is that “AMPs are completely separate from a typical mobile site. The mobile and AMP versions will each be annotated separately as alternates." (Jim Robinson, founder and CEO of ClickSeed). The same content will have two different versions, then.

The fact is that speed is one of the most critical elements in how Google ranks the different pages. AMP focus on speed and ease of use, and it is likely that they will indirectly influence where Google places the two different versions in the results:

"If we had two articles that from a signaling perspective scored the same in all other characteristics but for speed, then yes, we will give an emphasis to the one with speed because that is what users find compelling." (Richard Gingras, senior director of news and social products at Google)

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WHAT TYPES OF BRAND SHOULD USE AMP?

Right now the AMP results focus on two different types of contents: news and e-commerce results. Informative contents are ideal for accelerated mobile pages, and it is not by chance that the sites currently using AMP are news-based publishers like Google News, Forbes, Time Inc., Buzzfeed.

If you are a publisher or simply have a company blog and you want to grow your audience, you should definitely think about implementing AMP as a part of your content marketing strategy.

There is also another type of brand that might find AMP useful, e-commerce websites. First in line we find eBay, one of the most recent adopters of the technology, with over 8 million AMP-based nodes in production. The idea of having a carousel of product at the top of the result page is tempting, isn’t it?

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF AMP?

It will take some time to fully understand the implications and the extent of this evolution. It will surely require time, budget and study to the companies that want to embrace the power of AMPs. Being a separated and unique platform, it is not something that you just improvise and decide to do from one day to another.

The pros are many. The most evident is the potential increase in mobile traffic, given that AMP is another door to convey visitors to the official site. Other benefits could be the decrease in bounce rates, due to a higher load speed; an increase in conversions, thanks to a better digital customer experience; and the eternal Google’s goodwill that might have good effects on the digital presence as a whole.

What about the cons? First, AMPs are only served on mobile devices. If your mobile presence is not the core of your strategy, you will not see miraculous results. Second, it takes work and resources to implement the technology, and that translates into investments. Stay prepared to involve the IT crowd, because AMP means code.

Third, not all kinds of contents work with AMP (for instance, you might have problems with images, presentations, video, pop-ups and subscription forms). Last but not least, AMPs have weak analytics insights right now, and even advertising is all but simple (even though Doubleclick by Google has just announced AMP for Ads). If you plan to play with this technology and get actual results, then, prepare to sweat.

IS AMP THE FUTURE OF MOBILE MARKETING?

Given everything we have said, is AMP technology the real deal for the future of mobile marketing? The truth is, we do not know. Behind this new approach to mobile contents, we find Google, and that is usually synonymous with revolution. But we know that not every single revolution is successful, as stated by all those projects that the Big G has canceled or downgraded in the recent years.

The accelerated mobile pages have the potential to disrupt the web, but it has to face fierce competition, with Facebook (with Instant Articles) and Apple (with Apple News) already involved in the mobile battlefield. Who will win the speed race to the new standard?

If you want to know more or get started with AMP, check the official page of the project.

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2016 will be the year of conversational commerce.” With these very words Chris Messina, Developer Experience Lead at Uber, introduced in 2015 the idea of conversational commerce as the main trend of customer-facing apps.

Today, with the chatbot mania in full swing, it is time to review this topic, and see what has happened in the tech world since the pioneering Uber’s first integration into Facebook Messenger. And how this trend is affecting the digital customer experience.

Powered by Uber’s API, Messenger has enabled users to sign up for Uber with one tap and request a ride, even if they had not downloaded the Uber app. All important information were delivered to a private conversation between the customer and Uber on Messenger, without having to leave the discussion.

The landscape, as we know it, is made of mobile devices that disrupt the way people communicate, share, and connect with each other (and with brands). The spread of the smartphone has brought the entire world into the hands of customers, and for years they have experienced it using mostly mobile browsers and apps.

Now, things are slowly - but steadily - changing. The first step in this evolution comes with the huge success of messaging applications. WeChat, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack come in the form of apps but they are not like all the other apps. They show that it is possible to engage customers in a more meaningful way. In a conversational way.

When you look at it from a business perspective, the difference between the traditional and the conversational patterns is evident: in the first one there is interaction but not real-time communication (just think about the push notification); the conversational one, instead, is all about ‘the right moment’. Content and context become so tangled up that you can have one without the other.

Some analysts already say that we are moving towards an ecosystem where the conversational commerce could live without the apps, with the improvement of the vocal assistants (i.e. Siri, Cortana, Google Now), or the development of alternative technologies (i.e. Amazon Echo, Google Instant Apps).

Right now, however, messaging is so huge that it is no wonder more and more brands are willing to join the league. According to eMarketer, 1.4 billion customers used messaging apps in 2015 (31.6% more than 2014), and we will hit 2 billion by 2018. Around 75% of the world’s Internet users use these services, not only chat with friends but also to connect with companies, make a purchase, and get help.

We are seeing at work the same forces that have shaped the social commerce trend in the last two years: Brands discover and embrace the business potential of a tool created to entertain.

What happened with Facebook is now happening with Facebook Messenger, ultimately unveiling what Mark Zuckerberg predicted at the 2015 F8 Conference: Messenger will become a business platform, in the name of a superior customer experience.

That is exactly what we are witnessing today, with the chatbots running all over the place, and bot stores growing within the apps. It is not by chance that Facebook has announced the launch of an API connected to the e-commerce Spring, which will allow users to communicate directly with the service in private chats.

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Since messaging apps now attract more monthly active users than social networks, it is no surprise that companies see them an ideal vehicle for delivering a better experience, creating deeper customer engagement and retention, and ultimately sell more.

The bots (r)evolution is only one piece of the conversational puzzle, and yet bots are attracting attention and investments because their promise is tempting: The automation of services and the creation of more meaningful interactions with customers, at the lowest price.

Conversational commerce (as I see it) largely pertains to utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context.” (Chris Messina)

Chatbots, and conversational technologies in general blend human elements, machine learning, and artificial intelligence so that you do not really know whether you are engaging with a human being or a software.

If properly developed, this is the real deal for the improvement of the digital customer experience. A win-win situation for both the customer and the company:

  • Customers could chat with support representatives, ask for product suggestions, compare product alternatives, get personalized recommendations and offers, purchase with a tap, all from within the messaging app.
  • Companies could automate customer service routines, resolve the issues rapidly, engage in real-time, provide order information and delivery notifications, recommend products (up-sell, cross-sell), analyze wishlists to tailor offers.

The synergy between the conversational commerce and the mobile messaging has the potential to revolutionize how customers connect with brands. It is a step closer to make the online shopping experience more akin to that in the store.

Of course, technology is just a tool, not the purpose. Once again, the main focus should be on creating and delivering an experience that is utterly unique, satisfying and engaging for the customer. Only then the chatbots will be good news for the business and the people.

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