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I recently wrote an article about why so many strategies fail. Today though, I want to focus on the flip-side of that coin. I want to share with you my personal top 5 picks for the best business strategies of all time. Enjoy and more importantly, add your own examples in the comments below! - Tom Wright

1. Airbnb Forget All About Scalability

I love the story of Airbnb. We know them today as one of the fastest growing tech companies, valued at over $10bn, who have changed the way we travel probably forever. But did you know that they started out about as low tech as you can get?

The first Airbnb rental that ever took place, was the renting out of 3 air mattresses on the floor of co-founders Brian and Joe’s apartment. They made $80 per guest. It seemed like a great idea for a startup, so they put up a website and started inviting other people to list their own mattresses for hire.

They got a few bookings here and there – but for the most part, things didn’t go well. So much so, that in 2008, they resorted to selling cereal to make some extra cash (you can still see the original page on their site).

They had plenty of listings on the site, and plenty of site traffic – but too few people were actually making bookings. They were frustrated about the lack of effort they perceived in the listings people were making. So they took matters into their own hands.

The co-founders grabbed their camera, and went to knock on the doors of each and every one of their NYC listings. When someone answered the door, they would persuade the owner to let them in, and then take a ton of photographs of the inside. They touched up the photos a bit and uploaded them to the website in place of the old photos the owners had taken. Within a month of starting this strategy – sales doubled. Then tripled. Then….well, the rest is history.

Best Business Strategies: Airbnb

 

What can we learn from Airbnb?

The thing I love the most about this story, is that it confounds one of the most commonly stated principles of building a tech startup – that you must make everything scalable. What Brian & Joe did was anything but scalable. But it got them enough traction to prove that their concept could work. Later, they did find a way to make this solution scalable, by hiring young photographers in major locations and paying them to take professional photos of owner’s listings (at no charge to the owner).

 

2. Toyota Proves that Humility can be the Best Business Strategy

In the year 1973, the ‘Big Three’ car makers in the USA had over 82% of the market share. Today they have less than 50%. The main reason for this, is the aggressive (and unexpected) entry of Japanese car makers, led by Toyota into the US market in the 1970’s.

Cars are big, heavy and expensive to move around. That’s one of the reasons why the US market was so surprised when Toyota started selling Japanese-made cars in the US, at prices far lower than they could match. The car industry was a huge contributor to the US economy, so one of the first reactions from the government was to implement protectionist taxes on all imports of cars – thus making Japanese cars as expensive as locally made cars.

But the tactic failed. Within a few years, Toyota (and by now others too) had managed to establish production plants on US soil, thus eliminating the need to pay any of the hefty new import taxes. At first, US car makers weren’t all that worried. Surely by having to move production to the US, the production costs for the Japanese car makers would rise up to be roughly the same as those of the local car makers. But that didn’t happen. Toyota continued to output cars (now made locally on US soil) for significantly cheaper than US companies could.

Their finely honed production processes were so efficient and lean that they were able to beat US car makers at their own game. You’ve probably heard of the notion of ‘continuous improvement‘. In the world of manufacturing, Toyota are pretty much the grandfather of exactly this.

Best Business Strategies: Toyota

What can we learn from Toyota?

Most business success stories that you read – especially in the western world, involve bold moves and against-all-odds tales of bravery. Which is what makes this particular story so unique. Toyota spent years studying the production lines of American car makers such as Ford. They knew that the US car industry was more advanced and more efficient than the Japanese one. So they waited. They studied their competitors and tried to copy what the Americans did so well. They blended these processes with the strengths of their own, and came up with something even better.

Toyota proved that knowing their own weaknesses can be the key to success – and be one of the best business strategies you can ever deploy.

Not just that. Can you name a single famous executive at Toyota? I can’t. And one of the reasons is that Toyota’s number one corporate value is humility. Not even the most senior plant executives have named car spaces of their own. The humility that helped them to crack the US market runs deep in the organization, from the executives to the assembly workers.

 

3. HubSpot Creates an Industry then Dominates it

HubSpot aren’t as famous as Airbnb or Toyota. But, they’re worth over $2bn, and more impressively, they’ve achieved that valuation in an industry that didn’t even exist before they invented it themselves. That industry is known as ‘inbound marketing’.

Most of the marketing that we experience is known as ‘interruption’ marketing. This is where adverts are pushed out to you whether you like it or not. Think tv adverts, billboards, Google Adwords, etc. In 2004, HubSpot created a software platform that aimed to turn this concept of marketing on its head. The HubSpot marketing platform helped companies to write blog posts, create eBooks and share their content on social media. The theory was that if you could produce enough good quality content to pull people to your website, then just enough of them might stick around to take a look at the product you’re actually selling (behind the blog).

This was a big deal. I can tell you from personal experience, that ‘interruption marketing’ is really really expensive. We pay Google around $10 each time someone clicks onto one of our AdWords adverts. Remember, that’s $10 per click not per sale. That adds up pretty fast. On the other hand, this blog receives approaching one million clicks per year – at a cost of zero. I’ve written before about how inbound marketing basically saved our business – so it’s fair to say that this example is pretty close to my heart!

They coined the term ‘inbound marketing’ – and long story short, they’re now one of the biggest SaaS companies in the world. But that’s not the interesting part of the story.

Best Business Strategies: HubSpot

What can we learn from HubSpot?

The interesting part of the story is this: HubSpot created a new type of marketing. They then used that type of marketing to market their own company, who’s sole purpose was to sell a platform that created that new type of marketing. Head hurting yet? Mine too.

In a nut-shell, HubSpot had an idea for a cool new way of marketing. Most companies would have taken that new way of marketing, and applied it to something that they were already selling. But instead, the HubSpot guys decided to monetize the marketing strategy itself. They took a whole bunch of concepts that already existed (blogging, eBooks, etc) and packaged them into a ‘new way of doing things’. Not only that, but they created an awesome narrative, and then proved how powerful this new way of marketing could be, by building a $2bn business from it. They smoked their own dope, and made themselves very very rich in the process.

 

4. Apple’s iPhone Launch Shows Tremendous Restraint

Ok I hear you – this is such an obvious inclusion for the ‘best business strategies’. But as one of the first people to adopt smartphones when they came out in the 1990’s this is something else that’s pretty close to my heart. I remember using Windows Mobile (the original version) on a touchscreen phone with a stylus – and it was horrible. I loved the fact that I had access to my email and my calendar on my phone. But I hated the fact that my phone was the size of a house, and required you to press the screen with ox-like strength before any kind of input would register.

Thankfully, a few years later, BlackBerry came along started released phones that were not only smart, but much more usable. Sony Ericsson, Nokia, HTC and a whole host of other manufacturers all came out with reasonably solid smartphones, all well before 2007 when Apple finally released the iPhone.

I remember arriving at the office one day and my boss had somehow gotten his hands on one of the first iPhones to be sold in the UK. I was shocked. Normally I was the early adopter. I was the one showing people what the future looked like. And yet, here was this guy in his mid 50’s, with his thick glasses, showing off a bit of technology that I’d never even seen before.

And that is the masterstroke that is the iPhone. The reason why every single smartphone I’d ever owned had sucked in comparison to the iPhone, is because there’s no real market in selling phones to geeks like me. We’re too few and far between – and either too poor or too stingy to drop any real cash on new tech. Apple could easily have created a phone much earlier than it did and sold it to me. But it didn’t. Instead it waited until the technology was mature enough to be able to sell to my boss. Someone who is far less tech savvy than me. But also far more financially equipped.

Best Business Strategies: Apple

What can we learn from Apple?

The big learning here is that first mover advantage is often not an advantage. A well executed ‘follower’ strategy will outperform a less well executed ‘first mover’ strategy every single time. One of the most common misconceptions in the startup world is the concept that it’s the ‘idea’ that matters the most. The truth is, the world’s most successful companies were rarely the first ones to innovate. I’m looking at you Nokia. At you Kodak. And at you too, Yahoo.

In fact, being first is probably a disadvantage more often than it’s an advantage. Why?

  • Your market isn’t well defined and doesn’t even know your product type exists
  • If you have a market, it’s probably the early adopters – by definition, that’s a niche market
  • The technology will hold you back rather than power you to success
  • Every single person that comes after you will have the advantage of learning from your mistakes

People, and especially tech companies, get carried away with being first. But you need to think very seriously about whether ‘first mover’ or ‘smart follower’ are the best business strategies for you.

 

5. PayPal Dared to Challenge the Status Quo

There are certain industries that you just don’t mess with. Industries like Aerospace, big Supermarkets, Semi Conductors, and Banking. Actually, banking is probably the hardest industry of all to try to disrupt, because the barriers to entry are huge. You need mountains of capital, a ton of regulatory approval, and years of building trust with your customers around their most important asset – their cash.

Banks are old. Their business models are largely unchanged in hundreds of years, and they make huge amounts of profit, without actually making a single thing. They’re insanely powerful and almost impossible to displace. But for some stupid crazy reason – PayPal didn’t seem to care. I can tell you from personal experience (I worked for a bank), that the name that strikes the most fear into the executives of the banks is PayPal. Here’s why:

  1. PayPal spends less money on technology than even a medium sized bank does. Yet its technology platform is far superior.
  2. Consumers trust PayPal as much if not more than they trust their bank. Even though PayPal has been around for a fraction of the time.
  3. When a customer buys with their PayPal account, the bank has no clue what the customer actually bought. The transaction appears on the bank statement as merely ‘PayPal’. That gives PayPal all the power when it comes to data mining.
  4. PayPal is quicker to market with just about any kind of payment innovation going.
  5. PayPal refuses to partner directly with banks – instead opting to partner with retailers directly.

In a very small space of time, PayPal has managed to insert itself as a whole new method of payment on the internet (and offline) – giving a very real alternative to your trusty debit or credit card. But how the heck did it manage to do it? Let’s take a look at why PayPal had one of the best business strategies ever.

Best Business Strategies: PayPal

What can we learn from PayPal?

There are two huge pillars of success to PayPal’s story. The first is simple – stone-cold balls. They got a fairly lucky break when they accidentally became the favored payment provider for eBay transactions. This was followed a few years later by their $1.5bn acquisition by eBay themselves. eBay were smart enough to mostly leave them alone, and their newfound sense of boldness saw them strike a series of deals with other online retailers to try and replicate the success they’d had with eBay.

This is where the second pillar of their success comes in. Partnerships. Banks had always been wary about forming partnerships directly with retailers – instead they relied on their scheme partners (Visa / MasterCard) to do that for them. They didn’t want the hassle of managing so many different relationships, and were extremely confident about the fact that credit and debit cards would always be at the heart of the financial payment system. But the problem was that MasterCard themselves were already working on a partnership with PayPal. Leaving the banks out in the cold. Today, PayPal commends an amazing 20% market share of online payments in the US – and 62.7% of the eWallet space. Almost all of that growth has come from their direct relationships with merchants large and small.

 

What are the Best Business Strategies You’ve Ever Seen?

Ok, so that’s my top 5. Now it’s your turn. Tell me about the best business strategies you’ve come across. The ones that made you smile and say ‘damn they were smart’. Add you own to the comments below, or share them with me via social media.

Over to you!

innovationawards + recognitionbusiness strategyexperience designrankingstipsbrandcell articlesglobal trendscompany culturebusinessperformancestrategyBusiness Model InnovationKnowledgeKnowledge ManagementDesign Thinking

Design thinking is a framework that combines critical thinking, cross functional collaboration, empathy, iteration, and curiosity to deliver innovative solutions. Many companies are leveraging design thinking principles to grow their businesses.

Here are some of our favorite examples.

1) Airbnb

In 2009, Airbnb’s revenue income was limping. At one point the company was earning a mere $200 a week. What happened? How did Airbnb go from anemic to titanic?

The Airbnb team realized that rental listings had poor quality pictures. So, several of the team members flew out to New York and took their own high quality pictures which they then placed on their website. The result? A 100% increase in revenue ($400). Instead of focusing on scalability, the team turned inward and asked ‘what does the customer need?’ By applying a design thinking methodology to their business, Airbnb had turned a corner.

Their New York experience became a miniature experiment from which the team learnt some big lessons, one of which was that empathy could be just as important as code for a business’ success

 

2) Ericsson’s Innova

The Swedish telecom giant has leveraged design thinking principles to build its own innovation center called Innova. Innova is similar to a startup incubator but only runs within the company. Internal ideas run through funding rounds (similar to VC financing).

Innova emphasizes the importance of rapid prototyping to get an MVP (minimum viable product) in front of the stakeholders. Furthermore, Innova creates cross functional teams in order to connect the teams with company partners and customers.

Since its creation over five years ago, 4000 ideas have been submitted to Innova, with 450 getting first round funding, 45 receiving second round funding, and 5 ideas having become products.

 

3) Burberry

Burberry, located in London, is a global luxury fashion producing clothing, fashion accessories, fragrances, cosmetics, and sunglasses. In 2006, the global fashion, accessory, and fragrance company’s sales were tepid as Burberry was growing at a mere 2% per year.

In order to grow revenue, the new CEO Angela Arhendts understood that the company need to connect with a digital demographic that reaches for their phone in moments of want or need. Design thinking hammers home the importance of designing with the end user in mind. Empathy can unlock new potential for a company.

Angela and her team decided to innovate around Burberry’s core heritage while reaching out to “the luxury customers of the future: millennials.” The company crafted a marketing strategy that connected with the values of a younger customer base, that was “cool and innovative,” and would convince younger people to become loyal customers.

 

Burberry created a personalized marketing campaign that connected with a younger demographic. For example, the company invested in building their social media presence, with their Facebook page gaining more than 1 million followers by 2011, the largest at that time for a luxury brand.   

By the end of 2012, revenues had risen to $3 billion, and Burberry had transformed itself into one of the most digitally innovative brands. The insights gained from developing empathy with a business’ end user can lift the organization. Though Burberry does not use the phrase “design thinking,” their human centered approach draws from its most important processes and principles.

 

4) Mint.com

Mint.com, a web-based personal financial management website, allows users to see where their money is, where it moving, and to view each separate account from their phone, computer or tablet. Bank accounts, investments, and credit cards can easily be synchronized on Mint, which then categorizes the expenses to help the user visualize their spending.

Drawing on a human-centered insight, the team noticed that financial software was time-consuming and cumbersome. The team designed an easy to use software that implemented a mobile platform and aggregated data.

Part of Mint.com’s success is that the creators employed empathy to design a website that enables to easily track how they are spending money. Even though the company does not specifically refer to design thinking in its creative process, their human-centered design demonstrates they built a product that illustrates a core principle of design thinking: truly understanding the position and mindset of the user.

Mint.com quickly became a success. Within 2 years the company had 1.5 million customers and was purchased by Intuit for $170 million.

brandcell articles

As the world’s best-selling manufacturer of luxury cars, creativity has been important to the success of the BMW Group. A century-old company, it has achieved an impressive tradition of innovation.

Now, however, as a tidal wave of change is sweeping through its industry, the need for rapid innovation at BMW has become more urgent than ever before. For example, as a result of autonomous driving, they expect their business to change more over the next decade than it has during the past 30 years. The escalating reality of cars without a human driver means coming to terms with new customer habits and expectations, changing global markets and all-new competitors as tech companies foray into their industry.

To stay ahead, BMW realized the importance of accelerating its innovation process into a more systematic approach, and they also quickly understood that the workplace could play a pivotal role in that effort.

The BMW Innovationswerk facility, in a suburb just north of the Munich headquarters, is a new center where innovations and new technologies can occur in a novel way. With the help of their design partner for spatial strategies Die Planstelle, Steelcase and IDEO, it was purposefully planned for cross-functional teams doing forward-facing explorations into the cars of the future. Here, the essential modes of creative work — focusing, collaborating, socializing and respite – are optimally supported.

“We wanted to create a special place to innovate with users at the center to support the process. And this is exactly what the space does,” says Sebastian Schelper, who headed the Innovationswerk project for the BMW Group from 2013 till 2016.

 

A HUMAN PLACE

According to Schelper, to reinforce the importance of fluid thinking, there are no right-angle walls anywhere at Innovationswerk. Natural materials such as wood walls blend with industrial surfaces such as concrete floors. The furniture was carefully chosen to add stimulating color and texture. Most important, Innovationswerk was designed to holistically support the creative process across the full spectrum of their workplace needs. “It’s a human place,” is Schelper’s simplest explanation for why Innovationswerk works so well.
The heart of the facility is three large enclosed team rooms. They are the primary workspaces for teams that iterate a project over several months or up to a year. Integrated large-scale boards provide persistent visibility for photos, notes, sketches, reactions and ideas – a wealth of informational and inspirational content gained during primary observational research. The boards become a tangible, immersive context for the work of the team. They also serve as an interactive canvas where the teams can synthesize diverse streams of information into actionable opportunities.

Nearby, a small “tinker lab” allows teams to quickly prototype their concepts, and a videoconferencing room means they can easily connect with people outside the facility to collaborate and gain expertise.

“We wanted to create a special place to innovate with users at the center to support the process. And this is exactly what the space does,” SEBASTIAN SCHELPER Head of Innovationswerk project, BMW

 

SUPPORTING I & WE

Just outside the team rooms is a large open area where smaller groups can break away to focus on specific problems. Alternatively, an entire team can use this space as a secondary focus area if the scope of their work has outgrown their room, or if they want to put their work in a different context to gain a different perspective. There’s plenty of room for prototypes here—even an entire car can be driven into the space.

A much smaller space that’s equally important to the creative process is an enclosed meditation room offering inspiring views of nearby trees and fields. “When you’re dealing with so much information, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed,” explains Schelper. “You can go into the meditation room to take a break, center your thoughts or get connected with your intuition. You can even take a nap here. It’s part of the whole ecosystem of spaces that support people’s needs.”

Near the entrance is an open kitchen and lounge area. This is a place for informal collaboration and socializing, with teammates as well as colleagues from BMW Munich locations who use Innovationswerk as an occasional drop-in workspace. In this way, the facility is “a unique magnet,” says Schelper, where serendipitous interactions often result in gaining useful knowledge and perspectives.

As important as each of the Innovationswerk spaces is to the process of creative work, it’s their immediate adjacencies that assure a holistic solution. When spaces are too far away from each other, Schelper notes, they don’t get used often. As a result, some important aspects of creative work are underserved. Nurturing creative work means supporting a multiplicity of thinking modes and needs, without prioritizing one over another.

“A key thing I’ve learned from this project is that creativity is really a combination of analytical pondering of a problem as well as letting your inspiration and intuition flow,” Schelper concludes. “It’s the combination of both that is facilitated by this space and makes it a success.”


Source Steelcase  

innovationcustomer experienceexperience design

THE ALLURE OF innovation has always been in the chance of finding the next “big thing;” however, businesses often find themselves on the treadmill of relentless innovation as markets mature and technology advances. In addition, innovation has a poor track record of delivering commercial success for businesses. Often, the value of the innovation requires a broader system of products and services for the true benefit of experience to be available to consumers.

Great customer experience is both a necessity and an advantage as competition for customers intensifies. Unfortunately those that use this to their advantage are often the nimble start-ups who emerge free from legacy constraints. They can often set the bar higher than many pre-existing businesses will be able to meet.

Yet the growing complexity of operating in the omni-channel world where the customer relationship is always on, makes understanding — let alone improving and existing customer experience a challenge for all. The journey a customer has with a business typically crosses multiple functions and managers. Customers often wind up dealing with a headless beast of experiences with inefficient communication and too many businesses make the mistake of assuming that superficial design efforts can fix the problems.

The age of image as brand is closing and fixing the experience at the 11th hour through brilliant design cannot create value that doesn’t exist. Businesses must accept the limitations of placing blind-faith in innovation and brand and focus on keeping customers engaged, without sacrificing the quality of the experience, while developing new products and grow into new markets.

The key is to understand that engaging customers in experiences they find value in. Innovation, brand, and customer experience all support this goal, but they aren’t the end-goals in and of themselves.

The successful businesses will be the ones that learn to navigate the most efficient course, keep the passengers happiest, build faster engines, all while keeping the plane in the air. They will use a new playbook that begins with understanding the strategic role of experience and how to use it to design products, services and customer interactions accordingly.

This playbook has a name: experience design. It’s based on a simple idea that everything a business does should be based on the following assumptions:

  • An engaged customer is worth more than a loyal customer
  • Engagement comes from meeting expectations, which means being relevant, which means providing value
  • It’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one, so figure out how to grow value for existing customers while they still are customers.

Experience design is not a checklist, a recipe, or a series of maneuvers; it is a way of thinking. It uses brand as a compass for identifying differentiated value and experience. It considers how products, services, and solutions play a role in delivering value over time and how this must be accounted for even in the early phases of innovation or the product design process. It considers all stages of the customer journey as opportunities to provide value and further engage customers. And it brings the concept of time to the table as a way of exploring options, innovation, implications, and interdependencies.

Experience design doesn’t replace innovation. It complements the efforts. Innovation should augment and extend the current portfolio and brand. Innovation for existing products, services, and customer experiences is low hanging fruit and doesn’t require hiring innovation consultants. It starts with visibility into how you act and then fixing problems and enhancing strengths.

Deeper innovation efforts can begin by looking at the interface between what is changing at the limits of value you provide and the emerging needs of your customer, since you will use value to drive adoption. And innovation can’t occur in a vacuum. It’s never too soon to start planning for how a new product or service integrates along the lifetime of the customer relationship.

Experience design doesn’t replace brand strategy, but pushes beyond the traditional approach of defining brands. It advocates using the concept behind the brand as a way to identify and define value for customers in ways that can be differentiated in the way that products and services deliver value. And this becomes the purpose and intent of the business — to deliver products, services, and experiences that deliver the value that the brand represents, as a way of giving the brand meaning.

But it also means measuring that value from the customer’s perspective, and continually investigating new areas of value that are natural extensions for the brand. When you look at the world in this way, it becomes easier and more natural to proactively identify gaps between what a customer may need or expect, and what they are likely to get. And this can also become a framework for ongoing evaluation and modeling change as new products and services are considered.

Experience design provides a way for the business and the designer to both discuss objectives and options. It creates a way for business to invite design to the table earlier, and understand how design can help solve problems. And it also helps businesses rethink how they engage design partners in ways that are more likely to produce success with less risk.

It’s time to start the conversation about how the integrated view of experience design can change how we pose and solve the problems ahead.

Source wired

innovationcustomer experienceexperience designdesignbrandcell articles

If you've ever wondered if it was possible to actually rank brands based on consumer experience and data, you're not alone. WPP's Group XP unit has been curious too and now they have some answers.

According to a new report, Group XP's The Experience Index, which considered revenue, branding, store design, content, online presence and data from Millward Brown and BrandZ, Pampers ranks No. 1 when it comes to brand experience, with Disney, Paypal, DHL and Facebook rounding out the top five (see full list below). 

"This is the first time we've attempted to leverage the hard data and insight, based on BrandZ's largest and most substantive, ongoing consumer brand survey, to quantify the financial value of well-managed and delivered brand experiences," said Iain Ellwood, worldwide strategic growth director for Brand Union, which is part of Group XP. (Group XP is made up of Brand Union, retail and brand consultancy FITCH and brand experience agency SET and SET Live.) 

Added Ellwood: "It takes the conjecture out of the amorphous idea of 'brand experience' and assigns statistically sound financial metrics and customer impact to its impressive contribution to brand value." 

According to Ellwood, Group XP wanted to move past the idea that the "'experience' of certain celebrated brands" was actually the best consumer experience. "It took for us to decode and categorize the elements of brand experience from the bottom up to really draw out how innovative approaches to business models and technologies specifically come together to create customer experiences that can generate completely new revenue streams," said Ellwood.

"It creates a way for companies and brands to measure experience and to use those metrics to improve their experience over time," added Ellwood. "As a result, we believe the Experience Index is a breakthrough study that will change how companies and brands view the value of experience and manage their marketing and media mix."

Check out the top 30 global brands: 

 

  1. Pampers
  2. Disney
  3. PayPal
  4. DHL
  5. Facebook
  6. Apple
  7. Google
  8. IKEA
  9. UPS
  10. Visa
  11. Nike
  12. Huggies
  13. FedEx
  14. Southwest
  15. Deutsche Post
  16. Amazon
  17. Samsung
  18. Sky
  19. Ecover
  20. Tesla
  21. Colgate
  22. Omo
  23. BMW
  24. Bose
  25. IBM
  26. Adidas
  27. Verizon
  28. Mercedes-Benz
  29. Under Armour
  30. Ferrari
 
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Experiential marketing has had a huge year, largely due to the rapid development of new technology and a millennial driven experience culture.

Related trends are evolving daily and experiential marketing has very much become an individual and personal experience, often driven by virtual reality (VR) or multi-sensory campaigns. Consumers are now demanding experiences which incorporate the brand’s story with their own, creating shareable and, arguably more importantly, relatable moments.

For us, 2016 has proved that it's not enough to use tech just for the sake of using it. It can add huge value, but if its use is not amounting to an authentic and personalised experience, it's not worth doing.

With 2017 set to be an even bigger year for the industry, the focus will be on risk taking in order to capture consumers’ attention and break through the marketing clutter. New companies are popping up every day and existing marketing agencies are creating experiential divisions as separate entities to deal with industry growth.

Experimentation with content will offer brands the chance to build meaningful connections with consumers, and the evolution of communication mediums, such as VR and AR, are both poised to have a huge impact on how brands interact with audiences. As such, our predictions for the experiential industry can be divided into key areas: evolution of content and evolution of consumer touch points.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality is set to shake up the industry even more, as brands begin to see the benefits of providing truly immersive consumer experiences which connect online, in-store and live experiences.

2016 has highlighted that while VR in any form is a disruptive technology, the most successful examples stem from when the medium is used to enhance a story, be it a brand or consumer story. As such, while VR can offer a platform to fully immerse consumers in a different world entirely, the use of passive VR experiences at consumer touchpoints may be just as impactful. Allowing VR technologies to compliment the overall event experience rather than draw focus away from it will prove hugely powerful in a retail environment.

A recent study by Carphone Warehouse predicted that around 10% of British homes will have a virtual reality device by Christmas 2016 with VR headsets tipped to be this year’s Christmas present of choice – VR is becoming mainstream and marketers better be prepared for it!

Local and long term engagement

With the evolution of content and consumer touch points comes the ability to extend an experiential campaign much further than the end of an event. Events will form the basis of entire campaigns rather than acting as a standalone marketing effort, with memorable on site activations living on long after the event comes to a close.

Engaging with consumers post-event will become part of the experiential journey, facilitated by new technologies and developments which will ultimately repurpose and expand upon brand ideologies initially used to immerse consumers at event touch points. The growth of 360-degree videos on mediums such as Facebook and YouTube in 2016 has highlighted the demand for experiential consumer engagement online, away from live events, and is set to see a huge level of development in 2017.

Live streaming events

Similarly, the live streaming of experiences in 360-degrees is expected to advance in 2017. Following our successful 360-degree live stream of Latitude Festival in August using EE’s 4G network, the access to such experiences is expected to come to scale throughout the year. The live stream trend has been bolstered by Facebook’s live streaming function, however in order to fully immerse consumers, combining live streaming with 360-degree technologies is a sure-fire way of achieving success. By enabling consumers to engage with a live event as and when they choose, and incorporating both the physical and digital landscapes we can create a highly personalised, on-demand campaign.

The technologies not only encourage engagement from those who could not attend but also provide a mechanism for those in attendance to revisit the event, stimulating feelings and emotions that they felt at the time by offering an experience which is as immersive as possible without actually going back in time (we’ll save time travel for 2040).

Engaging the senses

Trends such as pop-ups which have taken off in the past decade are now commonplace and are at risk of becoming redundant as consumers are inundated with news of brands ‘popping up’ left right and centre. Instead, their success is much more reliant on in store use of multi-sensory stimulation and technological experience immersion.

While the visual sense is incredibly dominant in humans, experiential marketers should look to provide more enriching environments in a bid to engage consumers further and increase brand recall. Roadshows and mobile experiences are an excellent way of fulfilling the multisensory brief whilst also increasing the feeling of exclusivity. Get the creative treatment right, and success will follow.

All in all, 2017 is set to see the experiential industry flourish, with key trends from 2016 evolving and becoming much more focused. The crux of the matter is that consumers are demanding more from brand experiences and while technologies can be used to enhance these experiences, examples of successes and failures in 2016 should guide how these technologies are used.

Ultimately, brands should look to focus on human centric marketing, creating meaningful experiences which embody their key messages. Improvements in data collection have meant that consumer activations can be much more personalised, relevant and local, with experiential activations offering a new form of market research through on site data collection. Could 2017 be the year we fully integrate a brands CRM strategies into wider experiential campaigns?

Data allows us to assess real-time trends which is hugely powerful in providing the opportunity to identify demand and predict potential problems. The rise of experiential marketing across a variety of industries has demonstrated excellent staying power thus far, and the increased reliance on immersive experiences to build brand trust and loyalty is not something that will change anytime soon.

Source thedrum  

business designcustomer experienceservice designengagementHuman-Centered DesignDesign ThinkingEmpathic research

As we head into 2017, the millennial generation is now the largest domestically and worldwide, outnumbering even the Baby Boom generation from whose loins they sprung, according to Pew, which tracks such things.

So it's more important than ever to be sure that your customer service practices and customer experience design are ready to serve these young customers the way they want to be served. The time to get this right is short; the millennial generation, also known as Gen Y, has a purchase power as well that will soon equal and then eclipse that of the Baby Boomers. To compound the effect, it’s not just consumer (B2C) dollars they’ll have under their control. These young customers are also becoming decision makers at major corporations, thus controlling purse strings that affect the success and failure of those of you with B2B companies as well.

With the impending new year, let me offer a year-end recap on how to provide the best customer experience and customer service for millennials, adapted from my Forbes Media ebook on the subject, Your Customer is the Star: How to Make Millennials, Boomers and Everyone In Between Fall in Love With Your Business.

1.Your customer-facing technology needs to be intuitive, and it needs to simply work.Millennials have grown up with digital devices that bundle communication, entertainment, shopping, mapping and education all in one. From an early age, smartphone use has been the norm. Millennials have always had Internet at home and in school. MP3 players have long offered them ubiquitous music options. Naturally, then, millennials embrace and align themselves with technology.

Because of this identification with technology, millennials tend to adopt new technology more quickly compared with the more skeptical approach of previous generations. Technology has become far more user friendly during millennials’ lifetimes, particularly when compared to what previous generations encountered. The relentless focus on simplifying the user interface at Apple, Amazon, Google and other less visible technology players has set a new standard of intuitiveness across the tech industry that millennials accept as the norm. Businesses should be careful not to throw clunky, alienating technology, systems, or processes at these customers and expect patience or understanding as customers struggle to find a workaround.

2. The customer experience—and the purchasing decision–is now a social experience.Millennials express their sociability online as well as in real life (“IRL”), particularly in the many arenas where online and offline activities and circles of friends overlap. Offline, millennials are more likely than other generations to shop, dine and travel with groups, whether these are organized interest groups, less formal groupings of peers or excursions with extended family, according to Boston Consulting Group data. Online, their sharing habits on Facebook, Snapchat and other social sites, and the opinions they offer on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon reflect their eagerness for connection, as do their electronic alerts to friends and followers (via Foursquare et al.) that show off where they are, where they’re coming from and where they’re headed—online alerts that reflect and affect behavior in the physical world.
 

This social behavior has big implications for those of us who serve customers. Millennials tend to make buying decisions collaboratively, and they don’t consume food, beverages, services, products or media in silence. They eat noisily (so to speak) and very visually. They review, blog and Tumblr, update Wikipedia entries and post Youtube, Vine and Instagram videos. Often these posts concern their consumption activities, interests and aspirations. All told, as Boston Consulting Group reports, “the vast majority of millennials report taking action on behalf of brands and sharing brand preferences in their social groups.”

3. Your brand needs to be open to customer collaboration and co-creation. Millennials enjoy the possibility of collaborating with businesses and brands, as long as they believe that their say matters to the company in question. They don’t necessarily see a clear boundary between the customer and the brand, the customer and marketer, and the customer and service provider. Alex Castellarnau at Dropbox, the popular file transfer service, put it to me this way: With millennials, “a new brand, service or product is only started by the company; it’s finished by the customers. Millennials are a generation that wants to co-create the product, the brand, with you. Companies that understand this and figure out ways to engage in this co-creation relationship with millennials will have an edge.”

4. You need  offer self-service and crowdsourced customer service options. Building the right experience for this new generation of customers requires you to think hard about an uncomfortable subject: where human employees are helpful to customers, and where they just get in the way. Today’s customers often do want you out of the way. Millennials, and those who share a millennial outlook, hold different ideas about where human-powered service fits into the customer experience. Younger customers, through years of experience with online and self-service solutions, have grown used to the way technology can reduce the need for human gatekeepers to ensure accuracy and manage data. So the last thing they want is for your employees to gum up the works without adding value.

5. Paradoxically, millennial customers also crave a true, authentic, personalized experience as customers.  Millennial customers crave the joys of adventure and discovery, whether epic or everyday. Millennials often view commerce and even obligatory business travel as opportunities rather than burdens, due to the adventures that can be had along the way. I’m reluctant to chalk up this phenomenon to youthful wanderlust alone, because the breadth of experiences this generation craves suggests there’s something more at work. For example:

• When shopping, millennials they prefer an “experiential” retail environment, where shopping is more than a transaction and the pleasure of being in the store isn’t limited to the goods that customers take home.

• When millennials dine out, for example, they’re often in search of something exotic, adventuresome, memorable or new to explore during their dining experience. This has helped transform cuisine searches (“tastespotting”) into an adventure—and food truck-following (a concept sure to evoke fears of stomachache in some of their elders) into its own culture.

6. They care about your values as a company. Millennials integrate their beliefs and causes into their choice of companies to support, their purchases and their day-to-day interactions. More than 50% of millennials make an effort to buy products from companies that support the causes they care about, according to research from Barkley, an independent advertising agency. And they’re twice as likely to care about whether or not their food is organic than are their nonmillennial counterparts, according to Boston Consulting Group. When you consider how money-strapped many millennials remain, their willingness to put a premium on such issues is striking. And millennials are concerned with more than political and ethical issues. They also care about what’s genuine and authentic. This interest falls somewhere between a purely aesthetic preference and a search for honesty, for truth. And it’s a powerful force for motivating millennial customers.

Source forbes   

innovationbusiness designcustomer experienceexperience designdesignbrandcell articlesglobal trendsservice designbusinessHuman-Centered DesignDesign ThinkingEmpathy

I recently read a report about the consulting market in the GCC. Valued at about 2.7 $billion. obviously the lion share goes to KSA with 1.25 $billion, growing 9.4%.

However, what caught my attention is Oman. A country with roughly a population of 4.5Million and a GDP of 70$billions. The Omani economy is mostly trade led with high exports. In 2015, Oman has spent $100 million on consulting services, a 7% growth versus previous year.

The reasons behind this increase in GCC spend is the need to step-up their strategic capabilities in various domains to offset slowly their economy's dependence on oil & gas towards knowledge-based economies but also to be able to compete more strategically in the global markets.

In Lebanon, a country with almost similar population size, Per Capita GDP and an economy focused primarily on Services, most companies are yet to embrace the concept of investing on developing their strategic business skills & capacity building by tapping on the intellectual capital embedded in consulting services.

The reasons are many and are also to be found in the traditional mindset of 'doing things in-house' as a way to save money but also as an ego-centric form of saying that “we don't lack the capabilities and we don’t need anyone to tell us how to do things” type of self-reassuring/bragging statement.

And when they do ask for advise, they want to pay the cheapest possible because the painful truth is that they value the returns on Human's intellectual capital, & knowledge in general, way much lower compared to assets or financial capital. Whereas in the west, intellectual capital, innovations & patents are worth much more than the fixed assets of any company.

After all every successful company in the world was built around a great/ big idea and then scaled using applied knowledge, creativity sound strategic decisions.

Let us correlate the above with few recent facts:

-      Today the leading French newspaper shockingly revealed: "half of the banking sector deposits of $155billions is held by less than 1% of the total depositors”. The IMF has warned against this salient inequalities of wealth distribution.

-      According to to 2015 World Economic Forum competitiveness report, Lebanon ranked 101st out of 140 countries. Ranking 61/140 in terms of business sophistication and 95/140 on innovation.

This tells with some degree of certainty, that a substantial number of the country’s top economic actors are only interested in investing on traditional tools and the minimum they can on IC build up in view of maximizing and accumulating profits in the banks. A very short-sighted approach with potentially devastating effects on the country’s economic and social well being.

They are ready to invest on tangible assets, that usually depreciate fast, due to rapid changing technology but little on building up their intangibles such as strategic business capabilities (not only technical skills); Knowledge, R&D, Business model innovation, digital, customer-centric processes & policies and Customer experience all that create sustainable long term value, new employments, wealth creation and increase the stakeholders returns.

This is very awkward in our times when you think that the biggest global driver of value today is innovation which is by definition the outcome of intellectual capital and knowledge-based economy. P&G, PepsiCo, Google, Apple & Samsung to name just few examples are not competing on Assets or Capital anymore. They do on the best talents, knowledge accumulation, acquiring Intellectual capital and attracting strategic advisors & hiring of consulting firms to design & develop the most innovative customer value propositions via cutting edge products & services.

Uber and Airbnb both with astronomical capitalized market values don't own a single asset(cars or hotels). Their success lies in their capabilities to capture human needs and ideate simple solutions, scaled using existing knowledge and technology. This gives food for thought and illustrate my point.

In Lebanon, most observed companies keep doing the same things and expect different results. There is a tendency to blame all shortcomings on the economic & political situation. Only part of it is true. The other part is that customers have changed with the world around them, they are connected, demanding and expecting different experiences, to be valued, understood and served on multi-channels with consistent quality levels. They want their brands to surprise them & delight them but also to play a meaningful role in their life. They want to live and work in a stimulating, creative and dynamic ever learning environments.

To adapt to these customers’ demands companies equally need to design a growth strategy that mandates to review and upgrade their strategic capabilities & acquire new skills & knowledge that is usually lacking or not widely available internally. So accepting to call upon outside professional services of consultants & advisors must be embraced & paid generously as it’s the fastest way to bridge the knowledge gap, acquire and adopt best practices to increase their competitive advantages.

Luckily this is changing slowly as we are now witnessing more & more local companies driven by a new generation of leaders with an open mind to these facts and willing to mutate from traditional capital-based model to knowledge-based one.

We are blessed to be working with some of the country’s top businesses and new leaders who understand the importance of reinventing their organization, adopting new mindset, listening to their customers, sourcing strategic capabilities and trying new ideas.They ask us to help them build internal knowledge, innovate their strategies & services and even create innovation design labs so they build sustainable and differentiated value propositions.

So we hope more companies would start believing and embracing the value of knowledge so the above facts and performance indicators about our country can be improved substantially and make Lebanon with its immense human capital potential and creativity an example of a ‘knowledge country’.

Joe Ayoub- Business design/brandcell consulting.

business designbusiness strategycustomer experiencedigital strategybrandcell articlesglobal trendscompany culturebusinessKnowledge

In the business world, it’s become commonplace to improve relationships with customers by improving the customer experience. As products and services have become increasingly commoditised, providing the best customer experience has emerged as a key competitive differentiator. Companies vie for customer loyalty through personalized offerings, rewards programs, and one-to-one marketing initiatives—all in the name of increasing brand equity. And that’s as it should be. After all, customer loyalty drives business profitability.

However, in the quest to create exceptional experiences for customers, businesses often overlook a critical business fundamental: if you want happy customers, you have to have happy employees—and that comes from providing your employees with an exceptional experience too. Yet all too often there is a misalignment of one degree or another between the experience companies create for their customers and what their employees experience in their everyday work life. Who sees this misalignment better than anyone else? Employees.

The snowball effect

When companies shortchange employees in any number of ways, there’s a snowball effect. Employees become resentful and they disengage. That resentment and disengagement eventually finds its way to customers in the form of poor service and inferior products.

Adding to the disconnect is the fact that employees are customers too—of their company’s products, and potentially of competitors’ products as well. As an employer, wouldn’t you prefer your employees use and champion your products and services? If your relationship with them is poor, like any other customer, they’re likely to take their business elsewhere.

Treat employees like customers

Some forward-thinking companies have recognised that the foundation for a great customer experience is a great employee experience. Leading companies like Microsoft, Best Buy, and Capitol One are taking unique approaches to building relationships with employees, much like they’ve built relationships with customers.

Essentially, these companies know that the solution to the employee versus the customer experience disconnect is right in their wheelhouse—treat employees like customers. This effort pays off in more ways than one. Research has shown that a 10% increase in employee engagement levels can boost a company’s customer service levels by 5% and profits by 2%. Not only that, in 2015 a multi-year study by Glassdoor Research indicated companies with a high level of employee engagement out-perform the S&P 500 by 122%.

In my next post, I’m going take a deeper look into the seeds of experience-driven disengagement and show how it can impact your business.

Source accenture  

business designcustomer experienceexperience designcustomer servicedesignbrandcell articlesconsumer trendsglobal trendsservice designcompany culturebusinessengagementperformancestrategyOrganisational Culture
1- Bain & Company: “Our colleagues are legitimately smart and always interested in helping you progress your career.”

bain-and-company-squarelogo-1481126093417.png

2- Facebook: 
“Great benefits, culture, mission. There is a lot to love about working at Facebook. Most employees believe strongly in the mission.”
facebook-squarelogo-1381810479272-(1).png
3-Boston Consulting Group: “Great career progression, opportunity to learn, collaborative culture, very smart teams.”

boston-consulting-group-squarelogo-1454447438315.png

4- Google: 
“Smart people, data-driven decisions and culture, a mission I can feel good about when I go to work.” 
google-squarelogo-1441130773284.png
5- World Wide Technology: 
“Extremely caring towards their employees as well as their customers. The benefits are amazing."
world-wide-technology-squarelogo-1490198249497.png
6-Fast Enterprises:  
"The family atmosphere makes working together as a team satisfying and successful, as well as the out of office adventures and team building."

fast-enterprises-squarelogo-1452011320742.png
7-In-N-Out Burger:
"Always busy, time flies, with hard work you move up pretty quickly, everyone is so nice and friendly, great positive atmosphere."
in-n-out-burger-squarelogo-1479940244881.png
8-LinkedIn:
"They truly invest in the professional development of employees. Very proactive at making sure that you're in a role you want to be in."

linkedin-squarelogo-1462308283451.png
9-Adobe:
"Great company culture, benefits and overall atmosphere to work. People are very open, knowledgeable and potential for advancement is very much available"

adobe-squarelogo-1439410514152.png

10-Power Home Remodeling:
"The career growth opportunity is outstanding. Everyone in the office genuinely cares about each other and wants to see you be successful. Communication with upper management is incredibly easy also."

power-home-remodeling-group-squarelogo-1460060781152.png

Source glassdoor  



 
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