Sunday, January 28, 2007

Digital Divining...... The Next BIG Things!

Now that the sunscreen has been put away and the clogged roads back to the city have been endured, it is time to devote some attention to things Digital for 2007 – so here are my predictions of the next big things in the digital services space....

  • Saturation Reached - The latest ABS survey shows that Internet Usage has risen STEEPLY. Now > 50% of all internet users use broadband. In higher income households, access to the internet is over 80% (and at 90% for >$120K p.a. households).

    This is significant - more homes than not (and the most of the wealthiest homes) have high speed internet access. This firmly establishes the internet as a viable, permanent and essential channel– an essential part of the overall mix.

    A digital strategy is no longer optional and an under-funded digital strategy is a disaster waiting to happen.

  • Boom Go the Strong Brands - Smart companies have clung onto control of their brand in the online space.

    It is increasingly important to be clear about your brand, what you offer, who you want to reach, your values, etc. Confused brands will suffer in digital channels - consumers can click away faster than you can explain.

    Brands which have compromised their position through quickly inked deals based around shared branding, being one of many players in a portal or, shock-horror, who have been sold short-sighted media plans from agencies (adding some banner ads to a traditional media buy is not a digital strategy), will see the strong, clear brands stride past them in building strong, commercial value-adding customer relationships.

  • The Start of The Invisible Internet - with the arrival mass-market of high-speed wireless internet (3G data) we will see new “always connected” devices. Special purpose entertainment devices, smart-billboards, connected POS devices and more.

    Consumers will no longer have to consciously connect to consume digital services, advertising and content…. And the internet will start to become “invisible.”

  • The rise and rise of digital services - 2007 is the year of digital services (commercially connecting advertising, marketing and technology).

    Digital channels allow you to make an offer to a customer, with a built in ability to "act" on that offer - which means customers providing information, transactions and customer self service. This is REAL business with REAL money changing hands and the numbers are getting big. Corporations want experienced specialists who can connect the creative, the content and the commerce in a robust and secure way - and that is the domain of the Digital Services specialists.

  • Internationalisation at break-neck speedInternet usage in Asia is growing at twice the rate of North America and internet users in Asia, Europe and Latin America outnumber the North Americans by 3 to 1. Investment in commercial solutions in these markets is on the increase, so expect new competition in international markets - and expect these international players to reach further into yours.

    Digital channels are truly international - learn to reach, support and service customers in their local markets and learn to use their local language.

  • YOU will reign SUPREME - it isn't insignificant that Time Magazine named YOU as the Person of the Year, acknowledging that 2006 was the year in which user-generated content went mainstream and the power of the connected consumer bubbled to new levels.

    This trend of the collective power of informed (and uninformed) connected consumers will accelerate. Brands could be built and broken in days and weeks as the harshest judges of all - the customers - build on their new-found power to no longer be the silent majority.

    Be careful what you say, be careful what you do - because I (and many, many, many more "I's") am watching you!!
I could continue with some more of the traditional "wallpaper predictions" ..... Internet Advertising Will Continue to Rise (no kidding!) .... eCommerce will continue to grow (of course it will!) ..... More customers will serve themselves via digital channels (why wouldn't they?) ..... and convergence will continue (what's going to stop it?), but these things are now stating the bleeding obvious.*

The next big things of 2007 and beyond are those deep, cultural, structural things that will redefine the marketplaces in which we work.

It is an exciting time - the momentum is building and there is growing evidence that we are, in fact, changing the world!

*(Albeit that they weren't so obvious when I was saying them in years past - mind you, I am the guy who, in 1995, was kicked out of the boardroom of one major bank in this country because "customers will never want to access their bank accounts over this 'internet thing' you talk of….").

Sunday, January 21, 2007


The weekend edition of the Australian Financial Review pickedup a snippet on the news-wire that the number of people in the US who have dropped a "traditional telephone service for wireless" rose by 40% to 21,000,000 in the first half of 2006, when compared to the first half of 2005. It went on to say that "about 11% of households had at least one wireless and no wireline phone service."

This is an interesting, but certainly not surprising trend. As somewhat of an "old man of the internet industry" here in Australia (I started what I believe was the very first web development company in Australia in 1994) I have a long and vivid memory of the talk about the "wireless dream." As early as the mid-nineties we were talking about the potential of wireless, and even worked on a few early projects in TCP/IP based field-force automation and very early SMS. The issue was always about the bandwidth and the capability of the devices.

Fast forward to 2007 and it is a very different time. There have been significant advances on both sides of this equation; devices today are amazing and continue to surprise and delight and the wireless networks, well, WOW. I know I have raved about the Telstra NextG network in past blogs, so I won't do that again, but we are in a world where we have now got 3.6 Mbps to the handset (and mooted to be upped to 14.4 Mbps - faster than I get on my ADSL2 connection at home!!).

As for the devices, the handsets available today are fantastic, and the ones on the way look as thought they are going to offer us even more (the Apple Phone [lawsuit pending] looks pretty and clever - no 3G though - and some of the innovations from the major phone makers - like the Nokia N95 - look tremendous). These are incredibly powerful, flexible and capable multi-media computers, sitting in the pockets of consumers, business people, etc.

The link here is that we are reaching, in my opinion, a point of confluence of critical factors which will see mobile access become the dominant connection for consumers and business within the next few years. As consumers get more and more from their mobile, the attachment to the "wireline" will become less and less. In fact, we are probably already at a point where consumers can get MORE from their mobile connection than they can from the old bakelite rotary dialer on the telephone stand in the hall. I reckon the telco's have to like it, more use of mobiles and more acceptance as the primary telephone connection (and a connection to an individual rather than a connection to an address!) means more chances for value added services and new revenue streams.

All of this augers well for us and our position as a leading supplier of mobile solutions. There aren't any excuses for there not being a strong, comprehensive mobile strategy in the plans of every major corporation or government agency; consumers and businesses have the latest mobile technology (or will get it in the next 12-18 months) and are using it... and are turning off some of their traditional communications channels

If you haven't got a plan, call me, because we are REALLY good at this stuff..... and it is this stuff which is a very strong sign that we ARE changing the world.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

CANON ..... Can Do!!!

One of the benefits of the Christmas / New Year break is that it is a great chance to catch up on some reading. In amongst the recreational reading (I recommend Two Lives by Vikram Seth, the guy who wrote the very successful, very readable, albeit huge, A Suitable Boy) I have also had a chance to catch up on a few magazines.

In the middle of all this, I came across the PC Authority Reliability and Service Awards for 2006. According to the magazine's publishers, over 8,500 consumers submitted opinions on 142 products / services / vendors via an open, online survey. Consumers were able to nominate any vendor / product / service in each category, but for inclusion in the survey sample there needed to be 100 individual responses. Based on what I can deduce from the overview provided in the magazine, this seems to be a pretty good quality survey - responses from consumers are at their own discretion, submitted by themselves without interviewer intervention and the sample sizes have some statistical validity.

Amongst this, the standout vendor for me was Hyro client, Canon . Canon was the winner in three categories (most significantly they won EVERY CATEGORY THEY WERE NOMINATED IN!):
  • Inkject Printers - 94% of over 1800 respondents said they would buy from Canon again (only two products received more than 1,000 respondents in this category)
  • Laser Printers - 94% of respondents said they would buy from Canon again
  • Digital Cameras - 96% of over 1700 respondents (twice as many respondents as the second most rated product) said that they would buy from Canon again.

This, in my opinion, is a remarkable result. There is an old maxim in customer service (badly paraphrased) that a satisfied customer will tell, at most, 4 people about their experience, while a dissatisfied customer will tell 10. In an online survey (where the user must be self-motivated to submit a result) to have that many customers provide responses and for the quality of the responses to be so high is testimony to the serious commitment and tireless effort this company puts into supporting and servicing their clients long after the initial sale.

I like these sorts of surveys - in my experience they usually deliver fairly frank and "pure" results. It is hard to contrive an outcome when the results are collected anonymously and the number of respondents is so high. Canon can take a lot of pride in these results.

There is a lot for other companies to take from this example. While advertising (online and ofline) provides you with an opportunity to express your value, proposition, brand values and more, the online environment provides a real opportunity to LISTEN to what your customers are saying about you. There are lots of examples of the power of the 'blogosphere" to garner consumer action when things aren't right (recall the famous Apple iPod battery campaign which kicked off in blogs in 2004/05). This is a great example of the alternative; customers using the internet to tell you when you are getting things right. The new customer relationship is bi-directional and smart marketers are tapping into positive feedback and customer referral, delivered online, as a means to increase customer loyalty and of course, generate sales.

If you are after a "Digital New Years Resolution" then I commend you to expand your online marketing plans for 2007. Leverage the power of the internet as a bi-directional customer engagement tool - this is one of the very tangible ways that what we do can help to change the world!

Happy New Year and we wish everyone a prosperous, rewarding and digitally enhanced 2007!