Behavioural economics

Will websites exist in 15 years?

Increasingly customer experiences are starting and finishing in purely vocal and aural environments.

The increase, breadth and depth of predictive and always-getting-smarter technologies such as AI and machine learning are already making keyboards and screens redundant.

By 2033 your home, car, phone will be interconnected and will know you so well they will predict what you want before or as you want it.

If websites do exist in 15 years, they likely won’t be  recognisable, incrementally improved, versions of what they look like today. Today’s experiences will look positively prehistoric.

Future students will look back and laugh at un-personalised experiences, and be baffled over the effort we all currently take to physically navigate websites to solve our tasks.

So what’s your plan for the future?

Wrapped up in our own bubbles – part 1

There are several big picture issues floating around on the internet at the moment all of them revolving around filters, personalisation, social conversations, social media, anonymity and privacy vs conversations specifically tied to your real life and the real you. I’m going to try to tackle these issues/discussions one by one and hopefully finish up with a few summarised thoughts, potential implications and lots of questions worth mulling over in the coming weeks, months and years. The issues are too big for just one post however, so consider this to be part 1.

The first issue to tackle is the discussion around filters and personalisation. Eli Pariser, the former Executive Director of MoveOn.org, argues that more and more individuals and companies are wrapping themselves in ‘filtered bubbles’ of information, and that this is ultimately a bad thing. A ‘filter bubble’, is “A filter bubble is a concept developed by Internet activist Eli Pariser to describe a phenomenon in which search queries on sites such as Google or Facebook or Yahoo selectively guess what information a user would like to see based on the user’s past search history and, as a result, searches tend to play back information which agrees with the user’s past viewpoint. Accordingly, users get less exposure to conflicting viewpoints. And according to Pariser, the filter bubble is “that personal ecosystem of information that’s been catered by these algorithms” which, based on past choices, reflect a person’s existing viewpoint.” Source.

I strongly encourage you to watch the video below as Eli draws out, but stops short of describing, some of the impacts of a filter bubble, and what that means for individuals, groups, collectives, societies and nations.

What Eli touches on, but doesn’t go into a great deal of detail about is what this means in the medium to long-term and about the implications of companies. political and social groups trying to communicate to a broader audience. In an era of ‘over-personalisation’ where your future search and online results are influenced by past decisions it becomes easier to be convinced that you are right, because Search Engines – both algorithmic and social – deliver what you want to hear, read and see, and are influenced signficantly based on what you’ve previously asked for. How does an individual grow sufficiently to take in broad opinion if the search results they receive cater to what they know, not what they don’t know? Over time, the delivery of this personalised information leads to more like-minded searches, which in turn deliver more like-minded results. Breaking out of that cycle could be very difficult – how do you for example tell algorithmic search engines that you want to be challenged, if you don’t know what some of the alternatives are?

The challenge for business should be plainly obvious: How do you talk to the unconverted where they aren’t getting the information they might need because years of search history indicates they don’t know and an algorithm doesn’t isn’t programmed to recognise that they might need it? How do you get to individuals that should be looking at you and considering your services but where you might be prevented from delivering that information to new groups because a search engine, or personalisation algorithms have decided that your message isn’t relevant, even if it is. In an online environment a future challenge (to start working on solving now) is how to get your message to those that aren’t already singing from the same hymn sheet.

This may not be a massive issue right now because the internet is still relatively young, and personalisation more so, but consider the current generation growing up now – next generations students, consumers and leaders – how will their lives be affected, and how will businesses talk to individuals who have never known any different?

Perhaps Donald Rumsfeld said it best when he posited this:
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

On to part 2.

As easy as Yi, Er, San

One part of marketing and communications that I’ve observed companies the world over doing poorly is translating their websites into multiple languages. Western companies in English based societies, generally, are particularly poor at translating their website(s), marketing collateral and consumer contact channels into foreign languages – even where relatively high percentages of the population speak other languages.

Australia seems to be equally, if not especially, behind in this area, but I can’t really see why. Australian businesses have more incentive than most to embrace non-English based trade, internal market expansion and exposure.

Australia prides itself on being a multicultural society and a business community heavily exposed to Asian economies. Yet glancing at the websites of the companies that make up the ASX20 only a handful have foreign language options, and of those, some only address specific sections of their websites in languages. One large financial institution for example does do a very good job of translating ‘moving your banking to Australia’ in a handful of languages. But what it doesn’t do is translate the whole website, or core parts of the website into any one of those languages for domestic consumers who might prefer, and have better language skills, in their native tongue, rather than in English.

Some stats about Australia, from the always reference-able Wikipedia:


“According to the 2006 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for close to 79% of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are Italian (1.6%), Greek (1.3%) and Cantonese (1.2%); a considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual. A 2010-2011 study by the Australia Early Development Index found that the most common language spoken by children after English was Arabic, followed by Vietnamese, Greek, Chinese, and Hindi.”

 

The important statistic above is the 79%, and then flipping it. What the data really means is that 21% of the population speaks at least one other language other than English which may be their preferred language, and or,  the bilingual members in the household speak no English at all. That is a huge market, and a huge market opportunity. Using 2011 population estimates based on 2006 census data, that 21% represents approximately 4.7 million individuals – almost equal to the combined populations of Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide.

The question is not “Why should we embrace this market”, the question is “Why wouldn’t you want to embrace this market?” This bilingual market overlaps many of the current markets businesses target everyday. Being more accessible to more groups within them can only be a positive.

In an age where businesses at all levels and scales are rushing to seek market advantage using social media to connect, talk and get closer to customers, it seems that many are looking to greener pastures without tending their current crops.

Looking to grow established and new internal markets, being more culturally sensitive and aware, as well as serving tri-beneficial purposes of instantly being more accessible to foreign markets, tourist dollars and the children of parents in Australia who have limited English, it just makes sense to look to all reasonable growth paths and competitive advantage.

Language is universal, doing something with it isn’t, and therein lays the opportunity.

Making Social Media exclusive – the next evolutionary digital step

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece “not so social media” and within it I posed questions about how a business manages the balance on social media (Twitter, Facebook etc) between loyal customers, potential customers who haven’t bought, and those that joined because they might think about buying someday but equally might not.

There’s little debate that social media is huge for consumers and businesses. There’s even less debate that Twitter and Facebook is very useful for quickly spreading messages ranging from as ‘Britney Spears got a new haircut ZOMG’ through to ‘Rebellion in Libya, tell the world what’s happening to us’.

But where there is debate and discussion with Twitter and Facebook is its tangible, monetary value to business. Particularly to those businesses that see it as a ‘push’ service, not a discussion and communication medium. And internal conversations are fast evolving from ‘lets get as many people as we can‘ to asking ‘how valuable are the people we’re getting anyway?‘.

Businesses are now quickly facing up to questions about social media database value, and treating them just like any other database they might have built through ‘traditional’ channels. High-level questions such as:

– ‘How do we deliver real value to loyal customers through social media?’

– ‘When our loyal customers swim in the same pool as people who have never used us, how do we separate them to build meaningful relationships with either, or both, group(s)?’

– ‘We’ve managed to get 100,000 followers on Twitter. How much are they worth to us?’

– ‘How do we determine who is truly engaged, and who isn’t?’

– ‘Do we really want or need a huge database? Or is having a tight-knit, more engaged, database better?’

Many marketers are currently focused on evolving businesses, messaging and campaign offerings to deliver greater, more personalised, experiences – perfectly tailored to individuals or close knit groups of similar users.

How might social media evolve from here: Retention and deeper emotional connection

Social media will undoubtedly evolve from its current form. But as marketers, the challenge will be to ensure that evolution and adoption is valuable too. But how can social media play a part in that as part as a valuable communication ‘bridge’ if the conversation is open to anyone and anyone?

I believe there is an opportunity for businesses to take a more proactive approach to integrating social media into incredibly valuable, but as yet, largely untapped areas in their business, and that is ‘behind the wall’. Adapting social media technologies to membership marketing and retention marketing activities may just be one of the cheapest, and most effective ways of retaining customers. As yet it hasn’t been adopted much, if anywhere.

There is an opportunity to differentiate and add significant value to product and service offerings by qualifying individuals and approving them to join group(s) and channel(s) as a part of the entire customer experience.

The argument for making Social Media exclusive

Social media purists, observers and commentators might rear-up in horror at the thought of organisations locking up social media channels, and that’s fair enough – it’s a new concept.

Making some, or specific, social media channels exclusive to current, valuable clients, might sound ludicrous to some – ‘social media should be open right?’, but if we think about it in a real life situation, nowhere works that way. For example: If you go to a bar on a Saturday night, you don’t have a conversation with every single person in the bar. You will almost always have conversations with people you know or new people who have been introduced to the group by a friend. Now ask yourself why you don’t have a conversation with everyone in that bar? Nothing is stopping you. You don’t know for sure you won’t have anything to talk about with each person, but it might take a lot of time to find the few things that you do have in common. And in the end having the common ground you may have might outweigh the uncommon ground you have, thereby negating the effort and actually producing a negative reaction of avoidance should you see that individual again.

By pre-qualifying who can join discussion channels it actually makes the value proposition for the business and customers more valuable. Customers who are actually invested in the product or service have an open forum to discuss issues while ensuring that the conversation is only had with like-minded, or similarly interested parties. The conversation would be more engaging due to there being a higher starting benchmark and the participants would care more about the outcome of the discussion.

In a more private, like-minded environment more valuable conversations about product innovation, testing and idea generation can be developed, as well as more effectively presenting renewal, reward and retention offerings. Should the customer choose to cease purchasing, or continuing their membership, access to the exclusive social media arenas would also cease – if the customer is heavily invested in these groups some may continue using the product and services to continue having those discussions. Equally, it would allow customers to voice dissatisfaction earlier, and allow the company to respond more appropriately.

The wealth of untapped information that could be shared is mind-boggling, and unbelievably valuable, if you start to think about all the possibilities of what a loyal, exclusive, group of customers might discuss and be willing to share.

Maybe not for everyone

This concept may not be for everyone and every business. But in an economic environment where more and more businesses are competing for eyeballs and dollars, low-cost, effective customer retention and product innovation is fast becoming a major objective of many businesses. It’s all well and good to grow, but if you’re losing em’ as fast as you’re getting em’, then the business isn’t growing, it’s treading water.

People want to feel good about themselves and their decisions. People want to feel exclusive, and that the companies they choose to purchase from care about them.

Using social media as a retention tool is a new way of using a new technology to meet and exceed age-old customer expectations.