Category Archives: Web

Mashable offers favourable view on JockTalk

With JockTalk appearing at Demo12 at the same time as Beta launch there is an opportunity for the great and the good of the digerati to get their hands on the concept and offer some feedback.
First out of the blocks is Mashable with an insightful and very positive review of the platform. Their analysis is spot on and it is comforting to know that the simplicity and power of JockTalk can be communicated so effectively in a world that is becoming increasingly complex as a result of digital explosion. I am now really looking forward to the reviews that will follow the presentation later today.

The Digital Prairie – still up for grabs

I have recently completed a digital marketing audit for an SME in a fairly niche sector involving enterprise software. It has reminded me that the digital opportunity is still largely unknown in some sectors and first mover advantage exists for the brave and nimble. Although the main thrust was PPC and Natural Search performance, I also reviewed use of social media – partially toward better natural search results.

I looked at seven companies in the sector and evaluated their use of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Wikipedia. The following table sets out what I found:

Top Level Audit findings

The difference between Company 6 and Company 1 is dramatic. Both are successful businesses but only one uses Social Media channels in a meaningful way. It is no surprise that Company 6 also has the best natural search performance and also engages with PPC – one of only two of the companies reviewed to do so.

Clearly not all buyers are engaged with digital marketing channels and so companies can still be successful without engaging in the space. All the companies I looked at had a website and although some were better than others I suspect all are supporting the sales cycle. However, it is clear that the Internet is becoming increasingly important in generating leads in the majority of sectors and so there is catching up to be done.

Trade between individuals, companies and even countries is as a result of networks, and networks exist both on and offline. Just because companies are not engaged with digital networks doesn’t mean they are disconnected entirely. However, throughout history human beings have migrated to faster, simpler, sexier means of communication and the social media channels reviewed above fit that criteria.




In defence of Morrisons

Yesterday, reported that retailers were losing millions because of poorly integrated touchpoints. It goes on to say many are playing catch-up and can’t understand why “retailers are allowing sub-standard websites to damage online sales opportunities”. Of course in an ideal world all major retailers would be investing in the digital channel but I think Morrisons has a defendable argument as to why they are late. I should say from the outset this is my analysis and I don’t have an inside track on what Morrisons is doing.

If you drive down the M5 between Bristol and Exeter you will see one reason why, in Morrisons case the website is not currently the centre of attention. They are investing £95million in a new regional distribution centre and the project is slightly behind. However, it is a very important project in support of allowing Morrisons to distribute nationally.

The group is also only half-way through an IT infrastructure roll out at an estimated cost of £310m. The project, called “Evolve” will be completed in 2013 and is a five year upgrade of virtually every system and process the business has. The upgrade will support the groups planned expansion to 600 stores whilst saving support costs and providing operational benefits and efficiencies. Back in 2004 Morrisons also paid £3.35bn to acquire Safeway and has some problems integrating the 327 stores and IT systems into its own.

Also, Morrisons only announced that it would have a go at online sales in 2010 and even then was cautious because of keeping costs under control. Recent news compared Morrisons to the sales Tesco and Sainsburys are achieving online but that hardly seems fair given Tesco’s was the worlds first online grocer and Sainsbury started online in 1998. Having said that, the recent acquisition of a 10% stake in FreshDirect is designed to accelerate the groups knowledge of how to run an online business. They will actually get a seat on the board and the ability to learn about the systems and processes FreshDirect has. They also announced the acquisition of Kiddicare back in February who is an online retailer of cots, nappies and push-chairs.

8th September, Morrisons announced its interim results for the half year to 31st July 2011. Although Morrisons financial performance is good, they can only do so much. Revenue is up as was PBT (to £449m for the period) and cashflow was £667m, £97m up on the previous period but with higher outflows due to capital expenditure. They have also initiated the first phase of the planned £1bn equity retirement. As a result debt grew £238m to £1,055m but they do have a £1.26bn revolving credit facility available until 2016 and with £494m not drawn down.

Can they also invest in a major multi-channel, integrated customer experience programme? I would argue they already are by getting solid building blocks in place both in terms of systems and knowledge. This will put them in a very good position to accelerate development of mobile channels and possibly even overtake some of the competition.

It’s getting emotional

Last week we entertained the world’s press in our labs – OK a slight exaggeration, but with the might of CA’s PR department we did have over 40 people from various European media organisations including Portugal’s main TV channel and the UK’s FT. The reason they visited Foviance was to attend CA’s press launch of phase two of their web stress campaign which included the measurement of web stress using EEG – electroencephalography.

In parallel to this going on in our offices, it transpired that UX company Fhios had been acquired by One to One Interactive and would be joining their neurological marketing department. At the Insight show last summer Fhios presented the research they conducted into neuro-marketing and the presentation covered their findings, which like our own, implied a link but really called for more research in the area. Like Foviance, it would seem that they have carried out more work in the area.

It was only two years ago that neuro-marketing firm Neuroco was acquired by Neurofocus and in parallel there has been a number of other neuro-marketing hardware and service solutions entering the market from (mainly) US companies. Some provide a hardware / service solution using headsets that they send out to 100’s of participants at a time. 8 node versus 32 node data capture is a question that is starting to gain followers as well as the need for statistically significant sample sizes vs. qualitative depth studies.

Martin Lindstrom has talked about the cross over between the emotional psychology of why we buy for some time and his most recent book called “Buyology” (the truth and lies about why we buy) has become a best seller. The book describes what was learned through a 3 year project costing millions and using EEG and fMRI data capture to study what happens in peoples brains as they watch commercials and interact with brands. There are some really interesting findings in it and once again it raises the debate about emotional engagement and subconscious reactions to a new level.

I think we are on the cusp of something big and firmly believe that over the next 3 years neuro-marketing will grow in importance and become a recognised and essential tool in the marketers kit bag. To be able to measure emotional engagement and then design experiences or interactions with a mind toward how emotional engagement will be impacted is surely the holy grail of brand engagement. It offers firms like Foviance a potentially very interesting intersection between behavioural psychology, micro-economics (becoming know as behavioural economics), neuroscience and marketing.

Mobile internet about to explode!

Pornography has been behind the rise in adoption of many media forms and is widely attributed with the growth of the Internet. So now, with the launch of iPorn ( an iPhone porn site we will probably see an explosion (if I can still use that term) of mobile internet users.

So 2009 will finally be the year of mobile internet and we can all stop predicting each year that it will be this year. What a relief, finally we can get on with some real work. Now where is my iphone….

Customer Experience in retail

This is brilliant! The website is from a Dutch retailer called HEMA. Their first store opened on November 4, 1926, in Amsterdam and now there are 150 stores all over the Netherlands . The link is to HEMA’s product page and although you can’t order anything and it’s in Dutch if you wait a couple of seconds things start to happen.

Shanghai #2 November 2008

There was nothing across the river 15 years ago
There was nothing across the river 15 years ago

One of the first things you notice on the drive in from Shanghai’s international airport is the number of VW and Ford motor cars on the road and very few other brands. VW’s are locally made and servicing & repairs are easier as parts are available – a valuable facility given the negligible use of indicators or concern for other motorists (or indeed passengers as far as taxi’s were concerned). “The Chinese manoeuvre, signal and then mirror” my local contact tells me. As a result nearly all the local taxi’s are VW and despite the economic downturn there are a lot of them with a typical fare costing less that a decent Latte in London.

In the papers Tuesday morning the two major stories were the US bail out of Citibank to the tune of $25b and the Chinese government’s rescue of the bean producers. The price has dropped so far that local farmers may stop planting which could lead to shortages down the line. Ironically, US bean growers stand to gain as imports will have to rise – an unsatisfactory outcome which at least everyone agrees on. The difference in the measures taken illustrates perfectly the wide variation in issues caused by the economic downturn although building work doesn’t seem to have abated. The entire city looks like one big building site and the pace of change is phenomenal. I was told that 15 years ago there were no buildings on the other side of the river. Now it is home to some of the most breathtaking skyscrapers in the world.

I am in Shanghai on business representing one of our customers in the mobile, or should I say ‘cell’ phone sector. Is the UK the only region to continue refer to these devices as mobile rather than cell? We seem never to have got it right and I remember getting my first ‘car-phone’ back in early 90’s! Maybe one day we will finally catch up.

The research is interesting on a number of levels and not least because our client has asked us to test a prototype device that uses a different input mechanism. Radical design and risk taking are seldom seen in the mobile arena and since the launch of the iphone everyone seems to have become a follower. A radical departure this may not be but at east it is challenging current thinking which can only be a good thing.

Of great interest was the market and perception differences between what in the west we are told about the Asian market, and what is in fact the reality. Connectivity for calls and text messaging was a big issue. 3G is an aspiration for most of the people I heard talking – who ranged from people working in Financial services to Teachers. The service delivery was a constant feature of the conversation and clearly there are issues with local providers. Although I experienced excellent connectivity via my Blackberry for email and picture messaging it seemed that none of the research participants had the capability or if they did, they didn’t use it.

Where Shanghai and London are similar is in the impact the economic slowdown is having on the sector. I heard plenty of stories of budget cuts, projects being delayed and a general concern over the medium term future. However, out to dinner at one of the nicer Chinese restaurants on Monday night I noticed there were more Westerners dining than Asians. Economic slowdown there may be, but Shanghai still offers plenty of opportunity and it isn’t just the local businesses that are making the most of it.

My visit to Shanghai #1

This is a short post because I am writing it on my blackberry. The reason is that the Chinese authorities appear to block wordpress access over the internet but do not via mobile internet. The same is true of twitter and various other websites I use regularly at home but cannot access here.
Ironically, the reason for my visit is to observe some mobile (cell) phone user groups. None of the participants so far use mobile Internet although all bar one would like to. There use is mainly texting with aspirations to watch TV on the bus and subway.
I wonder if mobile internet could offer freedom from the government restrictions placed on accessing certain content? My colleague described the control as being over “one big pipe” that comes in to China. If the same control does not exist over mobile the next 10 years could see a cultural revolution of a different kind.

Salary details published online is the brain-child of Robert Hohman (ex President Hotwire), Rich Barton (founder of Expedia) and Tim Besse (also ex Expedia). The website launched in late August following beta trials and inception earlier in the year. The idea emerged in the summer of 2007 after the founders wondered what would happen if someone left an entire company employee survey on a printer and it got posted to the web. The initial idea expanded and the website now offers three things – for free!

The first is that it provides detailed company reviews that encourage employees to highlight the pros and cons of working for a firm with advice for senior management. Perhaps the dichotomy between criticising the company you work for with the potential to damage your own market value vs. the desire to ‘offload’ keeps the feedback honest. Whatever the motivation I didn’t read many ‘hotheaded’ reviews and I really like this idea as it has the potential to provide a canny employer with a no holds barred, finger on the pulse insight in to what employees really think about the company management and strategy at a grass routes level. If not the actual strategy then at least the employees perception of what the strategy is which is perhaps more important feedback.

The second is Employee ratings on workplace factors and leadership. The website asks employees to rate their employee against a range of criteria such as work life balance, benefits and more. They are also requested to provide a CEO approval rating which is shown as a score.

Finally, and perhaps the ‘killer’ piece of the website is that it provides real time salary information by company and by title. So I can see for example, that a Senior Consultant at Deloitte has an average salary of $95,723 and a Senior Manager a salary of £162,140. Quite useful to both employee and employer.

The fact that all the information comes from real employees is the crucial point of differentiation for the website. It is free to use and all the information is ‘anonymised’ so there is no fear of your employer finding out if you say something less than complimentary about them.  It is pure genius and surely it won’t be long before it is integrated with job listing sites to give an extra dimension to a recruitment decision.

The use of a “Wisdom of the crowd” approach in business is becoming increasingly documented – I reviewed Gary Hamel’s book ‘The future of Management’ recently and the theme is used as the basis for his ideas. Perhaps the Glassdoor provides a legitimate opportunity for crowd insight toward a companies strategy. I suspect however it will be a while before employers actually use it as they will no doubt dismiss it as only a report on the extremes.

New website for guitar studies

My seven year old son is learning to play the guitar at school and so when I read about the launch of “academy of guitar studies” I thought I’d take a look. I have been playing guitar on and off myself for about 25 years and this year decided to learn lead guitar, having been primarily a chord monkey so far. The press release suggested this website would be a resource for anyone learning or playing the guitar and so I thought it would be useful to both of us.

One of the most useful resources for learning to play guitar is YouTube. I know a number of people who log in to view video lessons that show how to play different riffs and chord sequences and providing you can either read music or use tabs then you can get pretty much everything you need with a bit of diligent searching. The problem is that you have to wade through a lot of irrelevant stuff to find the good. I have also used which provides a wide range of resources and through this website you can access a range of additional websites that provide video guitar lessons, product information, and much more.

So back to the grandly named “academy of guitar studies”. The site is a dissapointment as it is essentially an online shop dedicated to books about learning to play the guitar. The homepage doesn’t communicate what the website proposition is at all other than through the misleading tagline “your one stop shop for guitar education and accessories”. Clearly it isn’t.

It is handy to have all the books in one place and the menu structure has some interesting categories in it that assist you with finding music for special occassions or different types of music, but there is no search function. Also, you have to sign up to see a newsletter rather than get a look at why you might want to sign up (I didn’t). The price check I did against Amazon came out on par so if you are a regular Amazon customer I can’t see any reason why this website might make you order from it. Search yes; order no.

So not a one stop shop unless all you need is a new book and you are having trouble finding something specific.