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Digital Strategy

Google App Search Indexing

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Google App Search Indexing

Google has recently overcome one of the big challenges for search engines - the ability to see and index content contained only within apps which have no web counterpart. 

Google started indexing the content from apps two years ago and now have over 100 billion deep links into apps in their index, including popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb and Pinterest. Google report that 40% of searches that people complete on Android devices surface app content.

The ability to present mobile app specific content becomes increasingly important for retailers like Indian based Flipkart who recently announced plans to remove the capability to purchase from their website and moved to an app only model. In line with the new functionality, Google provided an example of finding accommodation options in search results from the HotelTonight app.

To provide the ability to search app content, Google creates a virtual instance of the app, completes a real time search and returns relevant results to the user. In addition, users will also have the option to stream some apps that they don't have installed. For example, by clicking ‘Stream’ next to the HotelTonight app result, you’ll get a web based version of the app, so that you can quickly and easily find what you need and complete a booking, in just the same way as if you were in the app itself. The option to install the app is also prevalently featured.

Strategically, this is important for Google to continue to build their relevance as the mobile web evolves and ultimately benefits users by linking them to the most relevant information. It will be interesting to see how they continue to expand the list of supported apps including retail apps.

See the app results in action: 
 



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Micro Mobile Moments

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Micro Mobile Moments

Consumers no longer go online, they live online... People are spending significantly longer online, however, that time is no longer made up of a few long sessions, it's now driven by short bursts of online activity. Previously idle moments like waiting for the bus, standing in line or sitting through TV commercials are now filled with digital engagements. The customer journey has changed into hundreds of what Google defines as 'intent-driven micro-moments' with each one an opportunity for brands to shape customer decisions.

Google recently quantified this through their Consumers in the Micro-Moment research, which identified:

  • 80% of Australians say they now access the Internet more often, but in shorter bursts
  • 81% of Australians say their smartphone searches are more focused on the information that they need immediately (like finding store locations, choosing where to eat or finding directions), compared to their desktop searches
  • 95% of users will turn to their smartphone for immediate information, ideas or advice
  • 71% of people who used their smartphone to search whilst instore trust online reviews more than the word of the sales person

Digital commerce provider Demandware recently highlighted a similar trend in their shopping index which measures digital commerce growth and is based on analysis of the shopping activity of over 200 million shoppers across 1,300 websites worldwide generating billions of dollars in revenue. They identified that phones are the driving force of digital commerce growth and shoppers are doing more than just browsing via their mobile - phones accounted for 94% of the year-over-year increase in traffic, 74% of the growth in items added to an online shopping bag and 47% of order growth.

They also identified the trend towards consumers engaging in short bursts of activity - the index shows that duration of shopping visits on mobile devices decreased 37%, whilst cross device shopping increased 10% between Q2 2014 and Q2 2105. 

This presents a number of opportunities for marketers:

  • Create a connected strategy for cross device shopping and allow shoppers to pick up where their previous ‘micro-moment’ left off
  • Tailor your customer journey to meet consumer’s 'I want to know', 'I want to do' and 'I want to buy' moments - either via products of services that provide customer utility or via content that answers their questions
  • Use personalisation on key customer touchpoints such as email or websites to accelerate the customer journey deep into their shopping experience

In short, mobile devices are changing the way we do things and where we do them.

Learn more via Demandware’s Shopping Index or Google’s Micro Moments research.

Consumers no longer go online, they live online...

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Wearable Tech In Clothing Fabric

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Wearable Tech In Clothing Fabric

One of the most exciting announcements from Google's recent I/O developer conference was their Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) division demonstrating Project Jacquard.

At its core, the technology is a conductive yarn that can be woven using existing industrial looms for mass-market apparel and upholstery. The created threads connect to circuitry (which will eventually be the size of a jacket button) that can react to gestures or whatever other 'quantified self' attributes  - such as heart rate - a designer might dream up.

Project Jacquard has the potential to make interactions more natural and seamless. Potentially a significantly better experience than Google's prior wearable flagship product - Google Glass. It should also enable manufacturing at scale to keep pricing low.

Everyday objects such as clothes, furniture, blankets or car seats could be transformed into interactive surfaces. Perhaps you'll be able to change your TV channel from your sofa cushion?  Google's first design partner is Levi Strauss & Co so it's likely we'll first see Project Jacquard appear in an interactive pair of jeans.

Project Jacquard will allow designers and developers to build connected, touch-sensitive textiles into their own products.
— Google ATAP

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Mary Meeker's 2015 Internet Trends Report

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Mary Meeker's 2015 Internet Trends Report

Mary Meeker has just published the 20th version of her influential annual assessment of digital trends and the Internet economy. She has a history of recognising the biggest digital trends and identifying the most important start-ups.

Her Internet Trends 2015 presentation runs to 196 slides and is heavy with detail. Below is my tl;dr version with 17 key slides highlighting the relevant global trends.

You can view the full presentation below or download the PDF.

 

There is still significant upside for mobile advertising spend growth. Print continues to receive significant media spend relative to the number of eyeballs...

 

Mobile video viewing has provided an opportunity for different video orientations... (see snapchat, periscope and meerket)

 

Apparently men use pinterest too...

 

Visual media drives Internet usage for teens...

 

consumers now expect almost anything to be available just in time...

 

Cyber attacks grow in scale and awareness...

 

creative and knowledge based jobs continue to outpace routine and manual occupations...

 

The millennials have arrived as the largest generation in the Workforce - soon to be the generation with the highest purchasing power...

 

It's not all about money for millennials...

 

Opportunity for Incomes to be materially supplimented by additional income streams...

 

Tencent provides insight into the scale of hundreds of millions of chinese internet users...

 

India is rapidly entering the internet mainstream with over 200 Million internet users, growing over 37% last year...

 

The Indian market is already driving growth for global Internet Leaders...

 

Indian Internet use continues to be more mobilised than almost all other countries...

 

Design continues to heavily influence leading customer experiences...


You can view the full presentation below or download the PDF.


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Net-A-Porter’s Social Shopping - The Net Set

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Net-A-Porter’s Social Shopping - The Net Set

Net-A-Porter recently announced that it will launch its own mobile (and Apple watch) based social network called The Net Set. The platform combines user images with products and leverages image recognition software to recommend the closest product match from Net-A-Porter’s range, then offer that item for purchase. It’s an interesting play by Net-A-Porter and continues their push into content and publishing where they are already leaders in this field via their shoppable print Magazine Porter. Both of these initiatives see them building and managing a platform themselves, therefore minimising reliance on existing media channels and deepening customer engagement. 

Another notable recent social commerce launch is LikeToKnow.it which was launched by RewardStyle in 2014 and is used by brands such as Matches, UrbanOutfitters and Vogue. LikeToKnow.it makes brand and user Instagram feeds shoppable by sending an email with the product featured in any Instagram posts that have been captioned with the LikeToKnow.it URL. The functionality requires registration and is very similar to Like2Buy, another shopping work around that bypasses Instagram’s current commerce and external linking limitations.

If The Net Set app gains traction, Net-A-Porter is uniquely positioned since it will provide a more consistent user experience, minimising the impact of customers bouncing from social network to the site and back, as well as potentially mitigating issues around cart abandonment and inventory availability. Net-A-Porter’s recent merger with Yoox should also enable them to scale and fund required growth in technical infrastructure, user acquisition and inventory range.  


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Next Generation Geolocation Services

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Next Generation Geolocation Services

Have you ever had a package incorrectly delivered? Tried to find an address in Japan? Been unable to validate your address in an online form? It's time for a modern solution!

what3words is seeking to revolutionise location information and addressing with a simple and memorable solution. The UK startup has partitioned the whole planet into around 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares, and assigned each square a unique 3 word address. The solution removes the need for street numbers, street names or postcodes. The interface is amazingly simple and memorable - it's very easy to remember three little words.

what3words has been translated into multiple languages and has a really small file size (10MB for the details of the whole earth) so it can be used on basic devices without Internet connectivity and in the developing world.

The solution should reduce costs for online merchants by reducing redelivery fees and also opens up significant opportunities in developing countries where addressing standards have not yet been defined or for personalised services where increased location granularity is advantageous.

It even makes a great word disassociation game. Checkout:

See how what3words plans to address the world:


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Top 50 People In eCommerce 2015

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Top 50 People In eCommerce 2015

I'm excited and hugely humbled to be included in Inside Retail's inaugural Top 50 People in eCommerce list. My inclusion is also great recognition for my colleagues in the Michael Hill digital team and their continued success.

A judging panel of eight industry experts selected the Top 50 based on their level of industry influence as well as their active involvement in the digital strategy and implementation for an Australian-based eCommerce business. Other consideration factors were innovation, the individual's impact, market size and value. 

The list is a great sign for the continuing maturity of the Brisbane digital scene with other local talent being nominated including Nathan Bush (Super Retail Group), Michael Gillespie (Domino's Pizza) and Cameron Parker (ex Blackmilk).

The Top 50 is filled with people and businesses that I personally admire and respect including Jane Cay from Birdsnest, the team from Shoes of Prey, Justin and Lex from Surfstich, and the boys from Vinomofo. The calibre of people on the list is high and shows great signs for the continued growth of online retail in Australia.

View the full Top 50 People In eCommerce 2015 list.


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Choose Your Walled Garden

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Choose Your Walled Garden

a free and open world depends on a free and open Internet...
— Vint Cerf

Quartz recently confirmed that millions of Facebook users have no idea that they're using the Internet. It seems that they have no perception of the Internet, only Facebook. The trend was initially noted three years ago by a researcher at LIRNEasia whilst surveying Indonesian’s about their Internet usage. They key conclusion? “It seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook.”


The trend has also be repeated in Africa with recent research identifying that the number of respondents saying they used Facebook was much higher than those who said they used the Internet.

At the recent World Economic Meeting in Davos, Sheryl Sandberg announced that in the developing world, "people will walk into phone stores and say 'I want Facebook.' People actually confuse Facebook and the Internet in some places." 

For many, their first interaction with connected services and sharing is Facebook - they simply aren't aware of the possibilities of the broader Internet.

Facebook is attempting to appeal to developing nations in a number of ways:

  • Facebook announced in their latest quarterly results that 85% of their monthly active users connect via mobile devices. To provide connectivity in developing nations, Facebook has developed a lite version of their app for areas with low quality data connections and high usage of low end Android devices. The lite app requires just 250 Kilobytes of storage (compared to the full version's 25 Megabytes) and is designed to work in areas with 2G data network coverage. The app has been released in developing countries including Bangladesh, Nigeria, Nepal, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
  • Pricing is a significant factor, in India you can purchase a data plan that provides access only to Facebook for $2.50 per year.
  • Finally, Facebook is also planning solar powered drones to provide cheap Internet access to the two thirds of the world that currently have no access.

Connecting the next billion users to the Internet is a noble cause, but that Internet should be unfiltered and open - not enclosed via a proprietary platform.

Additional Quartz surveys found that many respondents "never" follow links out of Facebook. If one service has the vast majority of user engagement, it follows that content, advertisers, application creators and other services  will all flow to that service, possibly to the exclusion of other platforms.

As Vint Cerf (one of the founders of the Internet and currently working on the Interplanetary Internet) noted, "a free and open world depends on a free and open Internet".  Openness and connectivity has driven online innovation over the past few decades and will be required to continue to do so.


Walled garden - a software system where the service provider has control over applications, content, and media, and restricts convenient access to non-approved applications or content. This is in contrast to an open platform, where consumers have unrestricted access to applications, content, and much more. (Wikipedia)
 


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The Internet Of Things For Retail

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The Internet Of Things For Retail


The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment. The topic was a key item on the agenda at the recent National Retail Federation (NRF) 2015 expo in New York and has the opportunity to be truly transformative. It’s an area of retail that is full of buzzwords, but is likely to have a significant influence on future customer retail interactions.

Gartner predicts that there will be 4.9 billion connected things in use during 2015 (up 30% from 2014) and 25 billion in use by 2020. The IoT will impact all facets of consumer’s lives including ‘connected’ cars, homes and offices.

There is a significant opportunity for brands to use the IoT for retail innovation and connected products to make their instore experience more immersive. One tangible example is customer checkout - imagine being able to walk into a store, grab what you want and simply leave. Through a range of sensor technologies placed strategically around stores, retailers will be able to recognise customers uniquely as they enter the store, stores will have customer payment preferences on file, customers will then be billed when they leave the store with the merchandise, essentially bypassing the checkout.

The Internet of Things has the opportunity to be unobtrusive, reduce customer fiction and provide efficiencies (particularly at peak times), however there are opportunities for more immersive experiences. For example, using connected products to allow customers to learn more or have personalised recommendations made for them instore. Retailers could present information in the physical store that the customer has already researched online via their laptop or mobile device. Meanwhile, credit card providers have already partnered with several retailers to offer real-time promotions based on a customer’s location and credit card activity.

The number of connected devices in the IoT will generate inconceivable volumes of data. To provide perspective of the scale of data involved, a new fleet of Boeing planes by Virgin Atlantic will reportedly generate half a terabyte of data per flight. Virgin Atlantic IT Director David Busman recently noted “Literally every piece of that plane has an Internet connection, from the engines to the flaps to the landing gear”.

Ultimately the IoT isn’t just a way to get people to spend more money - it’s an opportunity to help customers get exactly what they need and for retailers to gain a better understanding of each customer’s interests and habits.

Want to learn more?

  • IFTTT (If This Then That) is a service that lets you create powerful connections and a great starting point to understand the possibilities of connected services.
  • Harvard Business Review has a good synopsis of the complexity of managing privacy in the IoT.
  • Cisco has a good visual summary of how the IoT will help retailers and other businesses deliver information and offers to customers.
     

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Default To Open

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Default To Open

Your default mode should be to share everything...
— Eric Schmidt


I'm currently engrossed in one of the books from my Christmas holiday reading list - How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. Eric is Google's Executive Chairman and Jonathan previously managed the company's consumer, advertiser and partner products so they write with authority on Google’s inner workings.

One of the key take ways for me was with respect to business communication. Their view is that when it comes to communication, businesses should default to being open and they should maximize the velocity and volume of the flow of their information.

Two great examples stood out for me:

The Google Board Report
Every quarter, Google executives create an in depth report on the state of the business providing data and insights on the business and products (nothing particularly unusual so far). What is surprising is that this detailed report is shared with every Google employee, along with a video from Eric presenting the slides that were delivered to the board. There are some elements that are redacted for legal reasons, but the default is to provide open communication and share. Google has shared every board presentation in this manner since they listed on the NASDAQ in 2004 and they have not had issues with respect to leaking of confidential information.

The key result is that nobody complains that they aren't aware of what's going on within the company. It's all there for their consumption.
 

Google OKRs
Another example of transparency at Google is their OKR process. OKRs are the Objectives (strategic goals to achieve) and Key Results (the way which progress towards the goal is measured) that every Google employee defines and publishes each quarter. It's a first person account of the things that they are working on and care about. The open nature of this information allows anyone in the business to understand anyone else's business priorities.

The OKR process starts at the top with Larry Page (Google’s CEO) posting his OKRs and communicating them at a company-wide meeting. The various business and product leads will then join in to define what each OKR means for their team and to review how they performed for the last quarter. Following on from this each staff member documents their own OKRs without any doubt of what the company's priorities are for the next quarter.

Google’s OKR process helps to maintain alignment across teams even as their organisation scales rapidly (they currently have over 50,000 employees).

I've been fortunate to work in a number of fantastic organisations, and I can only see an upside for staff engagement with increased organisational transparency. 

A good summary of the book follows, it's a worthwhile read!


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