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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.” 

 

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Topics: Artificial Intelligence Machine Learning Innovation Digital Customer Experience customer engagement

In Your Customers' Mind - A Tale Of Technology, Marketing and Emotions

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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.

 

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Topics: Neuromarketing Digital Customer Experience Innovation

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?

 

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Topics: Digital Customer Experience Innovation Future

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:

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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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Topics: Digital Customer Experience Mobile Innovation Internet of Things Retail

SMXL 2016 - The Revolution of The Retail Customer Experience

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What is the first thing you do when you wake up and the last before you sleep? Behind this (apparently futile) question we can find the fate of the retail customer experience.

We tried to find proper answers during Neosperience's speech at the SMXL 2016 conference, a three-days long tour de force of discussions about digital and mobile marketing.

The Micro Moments, as canonized by Google, have been the starting point of the panel, not surprisingly entitled "Riding The Micro Moments Wave".

The awareness that the rhythm of our existence is marked by the mobile revolution is certified by three stats:

15 - The minutes between when we wake up and when we turn on the smartphone.

150 - How many times we check, on average, the smartphone during the day.

177 - The minutes we spend, on average, every day looking at the screen of a mobile device.

Linking these statistics together, we can highlight that customers today do not go online … they live online. Better yet, they experience an endless sequence of moments, in a nonlinear balance between the online and offline worlds.

The consumption habits - of contents and products - have deeply changed in a competitive environment where the customers face an information overload. The smartphone has become the first screen, the reference for our daily activities; this leads to a complete revision of :

How we search the contents - Each day on Google there are 3.5 billion searches. 60% of these now comes from mobile.

How we communicate with the brands - In the developed markets, we spend more time using apps than watching television.

How we choose and buy the products - Nearly 60% of customers starts shopping on a device and continues or ends on another device or in-store.

We are witnessing the customer journey revolution. Your brand must learn to seize the moment and engage customers right in the moment of truth, because the attention span is falling down (8 seconds), and time becomes the scarcest (and most valuable) resource.

The speed of the mobile revolution can be harsh for those companies that still follow the rigid patterns of traditional marketing. Where there is a danger, however, there is always also an opportunity: by 2020, there will be over six billion mobile users worldwide.

It is not that the 4 Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) will become useless, but they must be rewritten to acquire new relevance in the digital global markets. The social and economic model promoted by the spread of mobile technology, in fact, shows unique features:

INCLUSIVE

It potentially grants to everyone the access to knowledge, cultural and financial resources (for example, Coursera, Kickstarter and Duolingo).

COLLABORATIVE

It favors an approach of team working among people who are physically away and that connect through your smartphone screen (Qurami, Waze, Quora).

INTELLIGENT

It encourages a more intelligent management of the resources, and allows you to continually reinvent your personal and professional existence (Uber, Airbnb, Mint).

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Today, the retail companies can take advantage of an increasing set of technologies that was simply unthinkable just ten years ago: digital signage, mobile apps, the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, beacons, machine learning, artificial intelligence, chatbot, smart analytics.

The problem, then, becomes how to make sense of the technology, starting from the centrality of the customer experience, and without betraying the brand identity (based on the archetypes, and a granular and layered storytelling).

The winning model of the most successful companies is based on awareness that digital customers do not just want to buy a product, they want to live fulfilling experiences.

Brands like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, Starbucks, Nike remind us that the tipping point to reach the personalization and relevance is to recognize the uniqueness of the client and his journey.

Needless to say, today a retail strategy that is not mobile-first is simply unthinkable. This does not mean, however, that the mobile devices will lead to the death of the physical store.

If it is true that over the past 5 years the in-store traffic has decreased by 57%, it is equally true that the value of every single visit has almost tripled.

When added to an omnichannel strategy, and used as a proxy of the customer, the mobile helps retailers to meet the demand of "What I Want, When I Want, Where I Want it".

Analyzed in this perspective, the smartphone becomes:

A new access door to the physical store.

'Near me' searches have doubled in less than a year. 76% of users that looks for local information on the smartphone then visits the physical store within 24 hours. 28% of these visits turns into a sale.

A new - and privileged - in-store advisor:

91% of customers turns to the smartphone while in the store, looking for ideas on how to solve a given problem. 82% of customers uses the smartphone to search for further information on something they are about to purchase.

Moving forward, we must answer another critical question: What does it mean to build a retail customer experience in the age of mobile connection?

Google comes in help again with the research about the Micro Moments. To offer memorable experiences to customers, a retail brand must develop and cultivate three qualities:

BE THERE - The ability to show up when and where the customer has a need or desire.

BE USEFUL - The ability to be there with relevant content, and to become a primary reference.

BE QUICK - The ability to think and act fast. The speed is essential across all stages of the customer journey.

In the end, the retail world follows one basic rule:

It is less important for a shopper to be present in-store than for the store to be present wherever and whenever a shopper needs them.” (Google)

 

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Topics: Digital Customer Experience Mobile Retail Innovation

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.

 

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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Topics: Digital Customer Experience Mobile Innovation

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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Topics: Mobile Google Content Marketing Digital Customer Experience Innovation

Conversational Commerce - A New Paradigm For The Customer Experience

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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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Topics: Digital Customer Experience Mobile Innovation Future Retail Social Networking

WWDC 2016 - macOS, iOS 10, tvOS: Everything Apple Announced

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On the same day in which Microsoft has announced the acquisition of LinkedIn, Apple claimed the attention of the entire tech world with the WWDC 2016.

As usual, Apple’s developers’ conference arrives few weeks after the Google I/O, renewing the eternal rivalry for the heart (and wallet) of the customers. How did it go? Did Cupertino overshadow Mountain View? Here’s everything you need to know about the WWDC 2016.

The first impression we get, scrolling down the list of the announcements, is that Apple is rapidly moving toward a seamless integration of its family of devices. This will allow the users to switch from one device to another more easily. Just to name two examples, Siri is coming to desktop computers, and so Apple Pay, that will soon work on Safari.

Besides the big changes, however, we have also seen a bunch of incremental updates and redesigns, from the new notifications and lock screen interactions for iOS to an Apple Maps that eerily looks like Google Maps.

The list of changes and improvements coming to Apple's operating systems and devices is rather long, but Tim Cook broke the keynote down into four areas: iOS, OSX, watchOS, and tvOS. Developers will get access to the previews right away, while mere mortals will have to wait till fall.

APPLE WATCH

The arrival of the watchOS 3 will bring the Apple Watch to a whole new level as it will load the apps seven times faster than before, thanks to background refreshing and a massive use of the memory. Customers will also see two other very welcome updates: the new “Dock” interface to jump from one running app to the other; and “Scribble”, a new way to respond to a message, simply drawing the letters with a fingertip instead of using a traditional keyboard.

APPLE TV

With the launch of the new tvOS, the Apple TV will also grow up, thanks to new features that will expand its range and better integrate the TV with the entire Apple’s ecosystem. One example: if you download an app on your iPhone, and that app has an AppleTV version, it will download automatically. More, you will be able to access the different apps with a “Single Sign On”, and you could use Siri voice search to find content, even within third party apps. Last but not least, with the new OS the iPhone will become an improved remote control.

MACOS

After fifteen years as OS X, the OS for Mac simply becomes macOS. The first macOS in Apple’s history will be called Sierra, will hit the shelves next fall, and bring a slew of new stuff. Few examples:

  • Your Mac will recognize you when you are sitting in front of it and automatically unlock.
  • You will copy something on your computer and paste it on your iPhone or iPad and vice versa.
  • Siri will move to the macOS following the Chatbots mania, and will help you carry out your daily activities or execute complex duties.
  • Apple Pay will not be confined to the mobile world anymore, and you could use it to make purchases via Safari browser.
  • The macOS will help you free up space on your hard drive, automatically backing up and removing copies of the data you have not used in a long time.

IOS 10

Apple’s smartphone will also debut a new OS, simply called iOS 10 and presented as “the biggest iOS release for users ever.” Is it really? Here are the main features:

  • The redesigned lock screen will have rich notifications, quick interaction with apps, and expanded 3D touch.
  • Siri will get the long-awaited integration with third party apps so that you could ask her for a Uber lift asap.
  • QuickType will become more smart and contextual, to understand what you really want to say.
  • VoIP apps will hook directly in the phone app to create a unified and less annoying experience.
  • Apple’s Maps will move in the predictive direction, improving suggestions and eerily resembling Google Maps.
  • Apple Music and Apple News will get a fresh new look, in hopes of attracting more customers and investors.
  • HomeKit, Apple’s standard for all things home automation and IoT, has not been abandoned and will get an ‘aggregator app’ - called Home - that will bring all the devices into one smart hub.

These and many more updates will reach your device in the next months. Apple’s purpose is to change (once again) how people connect with technology, and ultimately build a more meaningful and seamless customer experience. Which WWDC 2016 announcement excites you the most?

The Verge has compressed the entire 2-hours conference into a 10-minutes video. Check it out:

 

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Topics: Digital Customer Experience Innovation iOS Mobile Apple

Mobile App Marketing - 5 Core Elements Of Successful Strategies

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Everyone wants to build the next Snapchat, Uber, or Angry Birds. Developers usually assume that their app can become the next big thing because it is a solid product, with a clear value proposition and the aim to improve customer’s life. However, this is just the beginning.

Let’s face it, your app is not alone: there are now more than 2 million mobile apps available for Android, and more than 1.5 million in the Apple Store. What makes an app successful is not the fact that it has been created. It is how you can plan and execute a mobile app marketing strategy to engage and monetize customers.

First things first, why should you invest in branded app development? The answer is in one simple number: the apps now account for 86% of the time spent on mobile devices. The smartphone is the primary reference for every single activity we carry on as human beings, customers and organizations. And apps have become the core of the online environment.

The focus on marketing does not mean that a good development and the inner value of a mobile application are not important. If your app is defective, delivers a bad user experience and has a dull design, you will never stand out from the crowd. Therefore, you are doomed.

At the same time, if you do not build a strong ‘reason why’ and a distinctive essence, you would never answer the most critical questions of the mobile era. “Why should I care to download and use your app?”; “What makes it different from the thousands of alternatives out there?

We see a huge opportunity: In 2017, app downloads will hit 108 billion. We also see a huge threat: How can you be sure that your app will survive the competition?

A thoughtful app strategy has four pieces:

  • A strong value - the reason why people should download and use your app.
  • A strong development path - any release is the tipping point for the next one.
  • A continuous marketing plan - the distribution process does not end after the release.
  • A specific monetization plan - the revenue model that will sustain your efforts.

They all seem reasonable pieces, and yet only a small percentage of businesses understand how effectively mobile apps could be used to promote the brand and connect with customers. The results: apps with no value; apps that never get an update; money spent without a marketing plan; developers that have no clue how to monetize their customers.

If you do not have all the pieces in place from day one, you are destined to limp along. The innovation drives fast, and the apps as we know them now are rapidly evolving into something more complex, integrated and smart. Chatbots are the main trend now, but they only represent one of the possible evolutionary paths, together with the digital signage and the Internet of Things.

In this ever-changing scenario, do not make the mistake to cling to old beliefs. Downloads, for instance. We do not really need to remember that mobile marketing is not a matter of downloads, but too many brands still focus on the number of downloads to determine the success of their strategy.

This is the result of a misconception, born and grown when the mobile apps were still for the few, and there was not so much competition around. In today’s crowded stores, downloads might be an eye-catching vanity KPI but they rarely tell too much about the destiny of your app.

Many important companies have learned the truth the hard way that. Even when your app gets downloaded, it does not mean you are hitting the target by delivering a great customer experience:

  • The average user has 36 apps installed;
  • Only 26% of apps are used daily;
  • 25% of apps are never used;
  • 65% of customers stop using an app within three months.

These numbers mean that you need other key performance indicators to be certain that your app is ultimately working. They also tell the importance of an ‘app+ strategy “to maximize their potential to win, serve, and retain their customers in their mobile moments.” (Forrester)

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Sure, there are lots of reasons why even good apps fail to deliver results (ROI, revenues, engagement), but one big reason is the lack of effective marketing. So, how do you create a strategy that puts all the pieces together? These are five core elements you should never forget.

CUSTOMER NEEDS

If you build an app and you do not know what customers want, you will miss the most critical part. One-fits-all strategies do not work with mobile marketing. People determine the way brands should address them and reach them, with their habits and behaviors. Start with a question: “What do my mobile customers need?

LAUNCH PLANNING

Mobile marketing is a long-term effort. This is even more true when you are planning the launch of your mobile application. One does not simply publish the app and wait for miracles. You need to strategize your launch months before the day it actually goes live. Establish your tone of voice, priorities and messaging. The first impression matters.

APP STORE OPTIMIZATION

What is the point of developing a great app if nobody can find it? We all understand the importance of search engine optimization to rank higher with online contents. With more than 4 million apps available, we also need to familiarize with app store optimization, to gain low-cost app visibility, increase the quality of your store page and boost conversions.

USER ACQUISITION

The development is done, your app is online, and your page is well optimized. You have done a good job, but the process is not over yet. Is anyone downloading and using the app? Your marketing effort must focus now on customer acquisition. What channels will you exploit to get customers? Advertising, promotional materials, social media, public relations, community management?

USAGE INCENTIVES

Distribution and promotion are critical to boosting usage. Usage on its part is essential to retaining users, keeping your app top of mind, and making your app profitable. You need to encourage social shares and set incentives to ensure that users do not forget the app: discounts and offers, mobile-only rewards, exclusive events, gamification, advanced loyalty dynamics.

With mobile device sales steadily growing all over the world, you are facing a unique opportunity to reach your customers and engage with them with meaningful experiences in every moment of truth. By focusing on mobile marketing alongside development, you can create a product that not only makes life easier for customers but also makes a profit for your company.

 

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 5 Common Myths About App Store Optimization

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Topics: Digital Customer Experience Innovation Mobile development