Tag Archives: creative

What bricks and mortar can teach ecommerce

A very nice man came round to our house one night this week and interviewed Mrs H about her shopping habits online.

This was part of some research that a cross-supermarket industry body is conducting into home shopping. He wanted to find out as much about her online shopping habits as possible.

The questions were fascinating – all centred around habits which can’t be tracked online. “How many supermarkets do you shop with?” “Have tried using Tesco Click and Collect?” “Have you tried the new Sainsbury iPhone App?” He asked her if she recognised a QR code (no, not the specific code… it was whether she knew it was a QR code, and yes, she did).

The man even wanted to see where in the house the computer she does her online ordering from is located. He noted that we had wireless in the house and asked if her iPhone used the WiFi network. He showed photos of Tesco in Korea who are using QR codes in a subway station to let customer order food while waiting for a train – shown in the video above.

The interview got me thinking about what I could do to improve a website if I was a supermarket chain. And it didn’t strike me until I went to buy some ground coffee from the local supermarket one morning.

I went in to buy the coffee and looked at the shelf. Do I want Tesco brand or a non-Tesco brand? Fair trade or not? Strength 1,2, 3, 4 or 5? There’s a special on that one over there. The one next to it has more coffee and works out cheaper though.

And that’s what you can’t do online. Most people shopping online, especially for groceries, know specifically what they want to buy. But people who go into shops can buy additional items on impulse. Something catches their eye and ends up in the basket or trolley.

It happens with items other than groceries as well. A customer goes into a mens clothes shop for a shirt. And they see another shirt or cufflinks or a tie and maybe end up buying all three.

This isn’t a case of “related products” or “suggested products” – it’s impulse buying. I don’t think I’ve bought many things on impulse from Amazon, and Mrs H claims it never happens when buying groceries online. However when we go shopping in a “real world” supermarket, we’ll always buy at least one thing we didn’t set out for.

To make this happen, screen design needs to radically change from a single product per page, to a shelf-style, where a customer can see a variety. Most ecommerce sites aren’t designed or built to show variety (with the exception of colours or sizes). It’s the opposite to real world shops where you never see a single product style on a shelf.

How Creative Agencies can increase sales

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Last year at the NMA Top 100 party a number of former colleagues who have gone on to start up their own creative agencies asked how our sales model works at Endava. Last week I went through some of the suggestions to another person who is starting up a new agency, and they recommend I publish these thoughts on this blog.

The main issue with small creative agencies is that the creative director does the selling. Creative directors are excellent at selling, and that’s exactly why it’s the main issue.

The reason why that is the main issue is because at some point the creative director will make a successful sale, and move into the delivery mode for the client. The project may take a couple of months or longer, and once the creative director is ‘free’ to continue working outside of that project – everyone looks to the creative director and asks why there’s no other work in the pipeline.

The new business pipeline will be erratic and delivery will be even more difficult.

The solution

If you’re a creative director reading this, chances are your blood is already boiling despite recognising the issue. Take a break now because the next part will make you even more angry.

Hire a sales team.

The instant reaction from small creative agencies at the NMA event was extremely negative towards sales teams. Many agencies have been sold an external telesales teams or tried employing sales people and spent too much time and effort without any returns.

My suggestions are

  1. Start with a telesales team to book introduction meetings.
  2. Use in house telesales teams. As a small company it’s very difficult to outsource telesales.
  3. Only hire telesales staff with experience. It’s a tough job that requires thick skin, and you need someone who knows what they’re in for.
  4. Sit the telesales people near to the creative teams so that both teams can overhear each other. Encourage feedback and conversation between the two teams.

Once you feel comfortable with telesales results, hire a sales person. You will have a steady stream of leads/ a pipeline, and the sales person will be able to work on the pipeline to convert some potentials into paying customers.

As for the creative director, they could become the best pre-sales person to work alongside the sales person, but the key point is to let the creative director work on paid for projects, not the constant flipping between sales and delivery.

Book review: Future Minds

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Just reading Future Minds by Richard Watson was a story in itself!

I started reading the book as soon as it was released, because after I read Watson’s first book, I’ve been thinking about his trends of the future ever since, and regularly comment on his blog. About one and a half chapters from the end though, I lost the book on the tube one night (after a few “sherbets” I should add), never to be seen again. I emailed Watson, asked for a second copy and it arrived. Thank you Richard. I waited until I’d finished reading “What Would Google Do?” before finishing off Future Minds.

By Watson’s own admission, Future Minds started off as a different book to it’s current title. Watson wanted to write a book on the best places to ‘think’. What’s the most appropriate architectural layout of a building? What works and doesn’t work? Is a messy desk more productive than a tidy one? Thankfully my the messy one wins over the tidy one (e.g. my next door neighbour at work!).

Watson has an easy reading style. When I received the second copy of the book, I finished the last chapter and a half in one tube journey into work. And I’m not a fast reader at all.

What I appreciate about Watson’s research is that it forces the reader to take a step back from normal life and look at it from a macro view. You want a more personal communication style? Then write a letter rather than a short email. You want a child to learn about something? Then let them read a paper encyclopaedia rather than perform a Google search. While you’re reading the book, real life experiences will occur that confirm Watson’s narrative. As with the first book, you find yourself like a nodding dog whilst reading it.

Watson goes into the process of creative thinking. Creative thinking will (according to Watson) become vital because machines and efficiency drives (Lidl need fewer shelf stackers because they simply put the pallet on show in the supermarket) will be able to perform a high percentage of all the tasks we currently perform. The only thing machines are less likely to be able to do in the medium term is creativity.

Whilst his attempt at creative thinking is good (we don’t get our best creative thinking at work or in front of a computer, so take a long lunch break with the rest of your team and have a glass of wine), the best book I’ve read on creative thinking is from What If? and I’ve nothing else seems to come close.

One of Watson’s recommendations is that for a day each week, you should turn all devices off, and your thoughts will naturally start to file themselves together, and you’ll be able to think much clearer. When I met Watson, I said that this seemed very similar to the monotheistic faiths that all describe a Sabbath as that day of rest. Watson actually goes a step further and said that one day a year, try to do absolutely nothing – again most monotheistic religions have at least one day a year of fasting and all work is forbidden – in order to forget about our usual activities, and be able to concentrate (when was the last time you did that for 10 hours straight?).

I met Watson at the RSA where he gave a talk on the book (a long highlights version is on YouTube). His thoughts clearly polarised the audience. The first question from the audience was a woman who said that last week she opened the front door and saw some black clouds above. She went back inside to look up the weather report on her computer, and when it said “rain”, the penny dropped and she realised her reliance on technology had taken over her common sense. Other people simply think he is anti-technology however I think he’s trying to call out “Use it in moderation!” In the last 10 to 15 years the general population has jumped head first into social networking, Googling and texting. He’s not saying any of those three are necessarily bad, he’s just warning that they don’t replace face to face friendships, encyclopaedias and conversations respectively. 

In summary I found the book as thought provoking as the first one. It’s useful to work inside IT/digital media and have someone talk about technology use in moderation, and to remind me that my creative thinking doesn’t occur in the office or in front of a PC – like most people, it’s upstairs in the shower. Now that’s a thought to leave you with.

 

Rupert Murdoch’s speech

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I’m well aware of many of the regular readers of this blog aren’t exactly fans of Rupert Murdoch, so I’m on thin ice on this one…

Rupert Murdoch gave a speech last night to the Centre of Policy Studies in London. My favourite part of the speech is this excerpt:

If children in the poorest parts of the world can learn how to read and write – as well as do maths and science in schools with dirt floors and tattered textbooks – there is no excuse for the way British children are being failed by well-resourced schools. 

We must not stifle the growth of the brightest. 

As Margaret Thatcher exhorted: “Let our children grow tall, and some taller than others if they have it in them to do so.” 

In other words, we must celebrate a culture of success. The rise to prominence is too often accompanied by a surge in cynicism by the traditional elites. 

I am something of a parvenu, but we should welcome the iconoclastic and the unconventional. And we shouldn’t curb their enthusiasm or energy. 

That is what competition is all about. Yet when the upstart is too successful, somehow the old interests surface, and restrictions on growth are proposed or imposed. 

That’s an issue for my company. More important, it’s an issue for our broader society. 

These are the small thinkers who believe their job is to cut the cake up rather than make it bigger. 

In my own industry, for example, digital technology is offering a chance for British companies to make their mark here and across the world. 

When The Times was founded in 1785, its influence was confined to a handful of important people in this city. Today, its content echoes around the world every day. And it has digital competitors who were not even conceived a decade ago. 

In the past too, television programmes were confined to a single screen. Now they can be watched whenever you want and wherever you are – whether on a mobile phone, a tablet or a computer. For all the change, we are still at the early stages of this revolution. 

It’s not just media. This is an exciting period in every sector. And our competitive passions should be stirred by the sense of challenge and opportunity. 

In short, Britain needs companies robust enough to compete in this global market – whether in finance or pharmaceuticals, transport or telecommunications, retail or entertainment. And we need to attract the brightest talent, regardless of background and ethnicity. 

In other words, Britain should be a magnet for the best students and best workers from around the world. 

What might a successful Britain look like in this new century? 

A government that spends modestly, because it leaves its people free to make their own decisions for themselves … 

Citizens who look out at the world with confidence, because they have grown up accustomed to taking responsibility for themselves, and are allergic to the culture of dependency…. 

Corporate and technological sectors that thrive on change, and use the freedom of the market to innovate and grow. 

Above all, a successful Britain would have a society that cherishes opportunity and creativity – making opportunity available to all, and believing that there is creativity in all, where individuals do not feel guilty of wealth or being exceptional, but work hard and exercise humility. 

 

So there you go. It’s about education, which breathes creativity, which breeds opportunity, which leads to commercial success.

The full speech is available on News Corps’ website.

Starting a Creative Revolution at Work

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I first read this book some 3 or 4 years ago whilst working at IMG. One of the senior Creative Design guys bought the book and handed around to a number of people.

It’s full of handy tips on how to make people around you become more ‘creative’. Creative in this sense is simply to think a little more laterally, rather than the art or design sense.

In fact, I’ve always disliked the term ‘Creative Agency’ or ‘Creative team’ (such as a graphic design team), because it implies that they are the team who are responsible for new ideas, and no one else. I’ve worked for a number of other companies in the IT sector who have had some incredibly ‘creative’ ideas on new products, new processes and ways of improving parts of the business, each of which haven’t had a ‘Creative team’.

Anyway, back to the story of the book… I saw it on Amazon a few days ago and was amazed to see that it’s now out of print, because I found it so helpful. Anyone who has worked with me for the last 3 or 4 years knows that I have a couple of pet hates, such as starting a sentence with ‘But…’ – well this book is responsible for it.

The next time you are having a conversation and someone starts a sentence with ‘But…’, ask them to rephrase the sentence, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with their reaction. Their facial language will pause whilst they try to articulate why they tried to squash whatever it was that you were talking about so quickly, and they might even change their mind.

I’ve picked up colleagues and customers on answering with ‘But…’, and almost always had a good reaction – even if it’s forcing them to consider what they are saying.

If you like the example and are interested in more helpful tips to encourage creativity rather than squash it, you can buy it from Amazon for less than a fiver including delivery.

Nice homepage, Quidco

Quidco have redesigned their website, and one of the ideas I like the most is that they show in real time how many people have registered on the site. It gives a good sense of scale and success of the website, and is implemented nicely.

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If you haven’t joined Quidco, I recommend you have a good look.

Basically their business model is that all their referral/affiliate fees are passed back to their customers… i.e. me and you. They take a £5 annual charge, but only once you’ve earned £5 in cashback, so you don’t really lose anything. It turns the tables on sites like moneysupermarket.com and the other price comparison websites, who earn all their money from referral fees (and don’t pass anything on to the customer). 

 

How the iPhone has changed everything

I visited a creative agency yesterday that one of our clients is already using. It was an informal, introductory chat more than anything, and the topic turned to mobile phones.

Before working at IMG/Endava, I worked for SmartTrust, part of Sonera – the previously state owned telco in Finland. That was back in 1999, and we spent a lot of time trying to educate the masses on the power of a mobile phone as an identity device, a payment device, all in one productivity device, and so on.

Finland was by far the most advanced mobile-friendly country in the World, and I remember that even at that time you could buy a can on Coke at Helsinki airport via text message (the payment would appear on your phone bill at the end of the month).

At the meeting yesterday, the agency had been asked to think about our client’s future business – next year, 5 years time and even further than that. On the subject of customer interaction, everyone (the client, the creative guys and obviously us as well), were sold on the idea of mobile technology as a key part of the future… especially using iPad & iPhone applications.

We have pretty much stopped having to educate our clients on the benefit of mobile versions of their websites, because they now have iPhones, and even if they don’t, they still want iPhone apps. All of this is thanks to Apple for making the iPhone such a success via an excellent user experience.

What our clients, and yesterday’s agency were surprised to hear, is that when you develop an app for one platform, it’s not as portable as say, a website, across platforms. They find it amazing that to develop an app for an iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, and so on, requires several parallel streams of development. And then there are the differences between iPhone apps and iPhone web apps.

To further confuse the landscape for our customers and end users, the mobile operators are releasing their own app platforms, such as Vodafone’s JIL platform as a way of trying to get some app revenue back from Apple and the other vendors.

So just when our customers feel content with a new technology, they become confused again with the array of options, platforms and complexities that they don’t want to think about.

In some ways I thank Apple for managing to educate the masses on the advantages of the mobile device (beyond making phone calls, text messages and emails!), but in some ways they have opened a Pandora’s box of multiple standards and platforms which is only going to become more confusing for the foreseeable future.