Tag Archives: Endava

Views from the US this week – Snowden, Waze and Alcatraz

What better way of preparing for a trip to the US than riding 100km around London from midnight?
What better way of preparing for a trip to the US than riding 100km around London from midnight?

This last week has been a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work. It started on Saturday night with Nightrider London – cycling from Alexandra Palace in London via all the famous sites in London to Crystal Palace and back again. It was 100km of surprising hills and wonderful sites, and to make it slightly harder, I cycled from home to the start, and the start was at midnight. The aim of the ride was not only the exercise, but also to support the fantastic Kids Inspire charity which help children from challenging backgrounds (it’s not too late to donate).

As soon as I got back from the cycle ride I was off to Endava’s New York office. I travel to New York every six weeks or so to work with the team there. The office is three years old and already has a great client list spread across the United States, and there’s still a lot more opportunity in the market place.

This visit was slightly different because we had a sales presentation in San Francisco. I’ve been to San Francisco once before, also for a sales presentation (back in the IMG days). The last visit was first thing in the morning, so we flew into SF in the evening, had dinner with the client, presentation in the morning and flew straight back out.

This time, the visit was just as short – I was only in San Francisco for 20 hours, but the presentation was in the afternoon so I went for a run around the city centre and the docks in the morning where we saw Alcatraz and some seals. The sun was shining, it wasn’t too hot, and the sales presentation went really well. All in all the city really appealed.

Unfortunately I could only stay on the west coast for a short period of time because I needed to get back for some prior meetings on Friday and we’re going on a family holiday for a special weekend (both my birthday – a big one, and a friend’s birthday).

Data privacy in the news

During my time in the US, the media was full of coverage about Edward Snowden, the latest so called whistle-blower who has told the press that the US government stores all the intra- and inter-American phone records.

The media has been balanced, mainly because the public opinion in the US is equally balanced. According to a poll of Americans, 56% found it acceptable that the government has this information. I agree. My opinion is that it’s similar to all the surveillance cameras we have in London – I don’t really care about them because I’m personally not doing anything wrong. And if, Heaven forbid, we get a nasty Right Wing government who might take advantage of all these phone records and cameras, well I expect I’ll have bigger issues to deal with than my phone record analysis.

Two of my favourite pieces of analysis about the Snowden incident were in the San Francisco Chronicle. First was Peter Scheer who wrote in an opinion column:

“The logic of warfare and intelligence has flipped. Warfare has shifted from the scaling of military operations to the selective targeting of individual enemies (think of “body counts” during the Vietnam War). Intelligence gathering has shifted from the targeting of known threats to wholesale data mining for the purpose of finding terrorists.”

And on a slightly lighter side (but there was a serious undertone to the article), Caleb Garling wrote an article with some advice on guidelines to avoid leaving a digital footprint.

“Do all your social networking in person at a local bar or restaurant – provided you pay cash for your drinks, there aren’t security cameras and no one takes your pictures and posts it to Facebook”.

Just imagine that last point – real world social networking!

Dotcom bubble

For my friends and colleagues in the UK who think we’re in another dotcom bubble, you’d have loved the front page of the newspaper. The headline was “Building on tech’s success, Job growth spurs record breaking need for apartments, condos”

The current need for housing the boom in the technology sector in Silicon Valley has exceeded the first Dotcom bubble. Astounding.

And to add fuel to the fire (or perhaps ‘adding washing up liquid to the bubble’), Google has officially bought Waze, which I’ve commented on previously. Google has bought it mainly so that no one else can buy it. Those competitors included Facebook and Apple. Spending $1.03bn on a defensive investment like this, for a company with no notable historical revenue (let alone profit) is a pretty big sign of the market.

Book review (and much more): The Intention Economy by Doc Searls

The Intention EconomyOn 6 October 2009, Endava hosted an event for all the Premier League Football clubs (and a handful of European ones too) called Football Club Website of the Future. It was to mark the end of the transition of the IMG Digital team over to Endava.

We had a number of high profile speakers at the event including some of the Premier League clubs, IMG, Facebook, and Deloitte, who produce the annual Deloitte Football Money League report.

At the event I gave the introduction/ welcome presentation, and discussed two key concepts based on the experience moving from IMG to Endava:

  1. Football clubs have unrivalled levels of loyalty – a fan might change clubs once in their lifetime, compared to moving around financial services companies every few years.
  2. Technology trends in the marketplace.

The technology trends became a regular part of all our future presentations and events. As I look back on the various industry conferences we’ve spoken at or hosted, I can see how they developed from the Football Club Website of the Future event.

The first trends we highlighted included the following:

  1. Content won’t be free for much longer. Content overly relies on the advertising model as a source of funding. In the future, users will pay tiny amounts per page or function (such as a web search on Google, etc.) and there will be a central ‘agency’ for distributing these micropayments back to the content author.
  2. The web needs an SSO (Single Sign On) system to be the single method to log on to all websites with the same username and password (or another form of authentication such as facial recognition or text message). Facebook Connect had been launched for little under a year when we hosted Football Club Website of the Future, and I thought it was a brilliant first attempt at a web-wide sign on system. However, I didn’t (and still don’t) think Facebook is a trusted brand that I would use for everything across the web. I wouldn’t use it for my tax returns, share dealing, pensions, and so on. I would want the SSO system provided by a fully trusted organisation such as Visa, Mastercard or HSBC. It probably wouldn’t be a government or a dotcom company.

These trends have evolved, and I’ve started documenting them in much more detail since reading The Intention Economy by Doc Searls.

I was recommended to read The Intention Economy by a client when we travelled to Romania to show them one of Endava’s delivery centres (where the project management, development and testing is executed). At dinner one night I went through some of the trends, and the client asked whether I’d read The Intention Economy. I hadn’t even heard of the book at the time. The client said that many of the trends ran parallel to Doc Searls’ thoughts.

When I returned to the UK I bought the book within an hour of landing.

When I started reading the book, it was a strange feeling. It was like someone reading back to me some of the presentations I’ve been giving for the last four years (only he is infinitely more articulate and structured!)

The book covers a dozen or so different topics for the future under the banner as a customer-centric economy. These include the Single Sign On concept above, the unsustainable advertising bubble, cookie tracking, modern legal contracts, so-called loyalty schemes, big data, ownership, and the core of the new economy: VRM.

I first reported about a VRM tool (it was a mobile app) that I’d seen on holiday in Israel last summer. I called it a personal CRM tool at the time, which Doc Searls calls VRM, for Vendor Relationship Management.

The concept of VRM or The Intention Economy is simple – we are constantly being pitched stuff all the time – buy this, buy that, this is why you need this or that. However technology should enable us to say “I want this thing, who wants to match the price I’m willing to pay?”

The example in the book is landing at an airport and entering into your VRM system “I want to hire a car, with 5 seats, and can hold 3 large suitcases, and I want to pay $x for 6 days”. Searls calls these ‘personal RFPs’ (Request For Proposals). After submitting this request, the hire companies will return a result with offers.

I don’t agree with everything in Doc Searls’ ecosystem.

He highlights the overuse of cookies, i.e. tracking technology. Although the use of cookies has become too much – his example is the top fifty childrens’ websites installed a total of 4,123 cookies seems extreme. These cookies are then used on other websites to make the advertising more relevant. However cookies are mainly used to track behaviours, not individuals.

The chapter on online loyalty is over simplified for the real world. I often give an analogy that website personalisation [via the use of cookies] is the online equivalent to an old fashioned shopkeeper who recognises customers when they walk into their shop. This is a good thing – I like how Amazon knows about me and recommends relevant products.

Whilst I completely agree with Searls’ key point that the advertising industry has become a huge bubble that now sustains such a large industry, it is necessary. If there was no advertising, customers simply wouldn’t know about new products or services. There needs to be a balance. In June last year I posted an article about Tencent in China, who have revenues of $1.5bn per quarter – not from advertising:

I find it fascinating that whilst most US/ UK B2C digital offerings are focussed on advertising models, especially Facebook and Google, Tencent are earning money from subscription models and e-commerce.

Why isn't The Intention Economy owned by Creative Commons?
Why isn’t The Intention Economy owned by Creative Commons?

Doc Searls is the editor of Linux Journal, so he is a strong advocate of open source. He puts his case for open source in the book, however it’s unbalanced and I see the software industry from the opposite side of the fence, where vendors do want to earn profit from selling software. He then moves on to discuss why Creative Commons (essentially open source Intellectual Property). At the end of that chapter I agreed with his thoughts on this, and decided so change some of the content strategy on this blog – make it more open and not hold back on personal thoughts. However, The Intention Economy book is copyright!

It’s a shame that Searls doesn’t have any retail experience. Although he cites a number of conversations with CEOs of huge retailers, they are completely biased towards their own model (e.g. of not having loyalty schemes) rather than providing a balanced argument.

The Intention Economy is the best business/ technology book I’ve read for a long time. I thoroughly recommend you read it. The style of the writing with lots of short chapters, and an opening argument and closing ‘so, then’ closing argument makes it easy reading.

Most importantly though, Doc Searls gets across how companies need to get back to customer centric organisations. The current organisational trend is that branding and marketing and advertising and other departments within an organisation are becoming more distant from paying customers, even during the recession.

We need to reverse the trend and put the customer first. This can be accomplished through changing corporate culture (making senior managers physically meet customers in their own environment) and systems such as VRM.

I’m delighted to see large organisations begin to do this. At the Visa conference last week, before I’d finished reading The Intention Economy, I could see how the CEO and CTO were discussing key concepts from the book – putting customers first.

2012 favourites

For the last couple of years (2011 and 2010) I’ve listed my highlights of the previous year. Continuing the tradition, here are the highlights of 2012.

Favourite new gadget

iPlayer on the Xbox is simply superb. You don’t need the handset at all – just switch on the Xbox, use Kinect to fire up the iPlayer app and choose a programme, and then it’s voice activated from then on. It’s also the only way to watch programmes in HD on iPlayer.

Battlefield 3 has been my favourite game of the year so far, although I haven’t played the latest Call of Duty Black Ops 2 yet.

I installed Windows 8 at the start of the year on a Virtual PC and liked it a lot. Some of the staff at Endava are using it as their primary operating system. I haven’t done that yet because I haven’t had the time to spend a couple of days transferring everything from Windows 7 to 8 – backing up, restoring and all that.

However I have moved over to Office 2013. It’s super stable (I’m still using the Preview release)and there’s a few new features (such as opening and working in PDF documents) and it’s just ‘nicer’ to use.

Favourite book

I started reading Bear Grylls’ autobiography Mud, Sweat & Tears, and couldn’t put the thing down. I don’t read particularly quickly, but three days after picking it up I’d finished it. It’s one of those books where you wish it was longer. Bear has had a remarkable journey so far, and I share some of his values – the outdoors and Scouts being prime examples. Definitely worth a read.

Chris Hoy’s autobiography was also enjoyable. I received some feedback about last year’s favourites all relating to cycling, so I won’t go into any more detail about the book here!

Favourite iPhone app

Continuing the don’t-mention-cycling theme, Strava is my favourite app of the year. It’s brilliant. Strava records all your cycle journeys, split’s them into ‘segments’ such as a stretch of a single road, or even a mile long set of roads, and then compares all the cyclists (or runners) who have travelled that segment. It turns your commute and weekend rides into an addictive competition.

After Apple completely messed up maps, there was a void left with free, decent, mapping apps and after my summer holiday to Israel where I found M8, it’s my favourite app for car journeys.

Favourite award

I’m truly honoured to have won Sitecore Site of the Year for the second year running. This year’s award went to The Open, and I know how hard the team at Endava work on the site both year-round, and during the event. A huge well done to all the team.


How to define the value of innovation

This week was really busy, spending half of it out of the office – including a day in Ireland with a potential client we have wanted to work with for a while now.

I went to a conference on Tuesday afternoon hosted by SDL. We have implemented SDL’s social media listening tool SM2 on a customer project, and I’ve stayed in touch with the team there ever since.

SDL’s event was a thoroughly useful afternoon out of the office, full of interesting client case studies, talking about their digital channel rather than social media.

One key message from Tim Wade’s Best Western hotels’ presentation was that their digital channel was about storytelling. Their customers stay at hotels and it forms part of their life – they can tell stories about staying at the particular location.

Ever since that presentation, I keep hearing that marketing is all about storytelling. Last week I hadn’t really heard the concept. I just checked Wikipedia and just a few weeks ago someone added a subsection “In marketing” to StoryTelling!

There were other good presentations and the one that I enjoyed the most was from Greg Oxton. Greg is from the Consortium for Service Innovation. While the CSI sounds like the blandest of bland industry associations, Greg focussed on his presentation on “Observations on Innovation”. His audience participation with 150 people was admirable (How do Americans do it so well – are they taught presentation skills at pre-school?)

At the end of this recession, we’re seeing many companies in the IT sector falling away, and others grow rapidly. Innovation is absolutely vital to growth, mainly because it demonstrates differentiation, yet most companies aren’t very good at it. Greg’s raised a number of key points

Most companies want to eliminate risk and uncertainty, yet innovation is naturally risky and uncertain.

If we are really confident in an idea, then it’s probably not innovative.

Greg worked with the audience to demonstrate why innovation is usually a group exercise and even more productive with people if different backgrounds and agendas. If you take an existing team from an organisation and ask them to come up with new ideas, you probably won’t get nearly as good ideas as people from across the company – and this includes customers as well.

Greg drew a value model for innovation (shown below). The chart demonstrates that the value of your work is at it’s highest when you’re doing something for a customer (and the customer can be internal) and applying new thinking. Anything less than this, and your value is a commodity.

Our current work model is based on 50 year old manufacturing companies who required staff to go to work for 40 hours to produce an expected number of widgets for the week.

In the services industry where value is far more important, the amount of hours worked is largely irrelevant. Imagine walking into work and after a short time, producing a great idea. Logic would suggest that you’ve either done your day’s work (after communicating your idea!) or you should set to work on implementing it. So why do people leave work at 5/5.30/6/etc.? – It’s merely a hangover from the manufacturing industry.

One last point about what Greg said.

Most companies are not worthy of the people they employ.

What this means is that companies often find excellent people, but culturally need to pigeonhole them into a specific job role. And worse, the job role has a generic job description that applies to the lowest common denominator. So that excellent new employee is now restricted to the specific task in hand utilising a tiny percentage of that person’s capability.

Greg listed a few companies solving these problems where staff come and go as they need to, are hired and fired by peers rather than managers, write their own customised job descriptions and other new concepts that most of us struggle to imagine.

If you can watch Greg give this presentation again, I recommend you try to watch him at work. I’ve searched for him on YouTube and the video of his previous presentations seem to be very poor quality. If you can’t get to see him live, contact Nick at SDL a call and ask for the presentation handouts and when they’ll be releasing the videos of this week’s event.


New York report


The problem with holidays are that after returning to work, they seem to have happened so long ago! I’ve been back from holiday (please read the Holiday report) 3 weeks and it feels like… well, a lot longer.

Part of the reason it feels so long ago is that I returned to the UK on Tuesday 4th, flew to Germany to see a client (about a really fascinating new project – more details when I’m allowed to report it) and back on the 7th, and spent the 9th to 14th in New York meeting existing and [hopefully] new clients.

I love New York. I have a cousin who has lived in New York for a while, and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit there several times.

Professionally, I’ve always thought that with such a huge home market, the US offers a more varied hi-tech labour market. In the UK, earning a salary in London rarely offers the opportunity to move to another city with the same standard of living or future flexibility. In the US you can experience the same standard of living (salary, house prices, etc.) up and down the East Coast, West Coast, and a dozen cities in between.

Cost of living – there’s nothing more sobering than listening to Americans talk about the cost of ‘gas’. Petrol to you and me. Gas in New York state is hovering at around $3.80 to $3.90 a US gallon. That’s £0.63p per litre. I filled up my motorbike when I returned home for £1.39 per litre. In conversation a fortnight ago I was lacking compassion for high ‘gas’ prices.

There were several events while I was in New York – it was the start of the American Football season on Monday, the final of the US Open on Monday, September 11th was on the Tuesday and it was Fashion week the whole time.

American Football – I have no comment. Although if I’d said that during a commentary, there would have been three ad breaks during that comment. OK, I do have a comment – it was the highest scoring opening weekend of American Football (I feel it’s necessary to always qualify the sport you assume the wrong shaped ball) and I’ve noticed how much bigger all the professional sports have become – more on the commercial aspect later.

The US Open was quite amusing. For the rest of the week, whenever a USan heard I was English, they wished me ‘well done’ on Murray’s first Grand Slam. The first couple of times I tried explaining the difference between English and British to no avail. If the Mexican’s or Canadians ever win something of note, I will wish those same people ‘well done’. Congratulations Murry.

September 11th was strange. It was the 11th anniversary and America is now trying to move on, which meant many of the memorial services are now being toned down and shortened. Going through that transition was always going to be painful. I read about NBC interviewing the mother of a reality TV show during the September 11th memorial service, but that was put into context on my train journey into work the day before when I was sitting opposite two chaps in their fifties also commuting.

“Are you guys working tomorrow?” One man asked his friend.

“Yes. What about you?” The friend answered.

“No, we have the day off as a memorial. I’ve organised a game of golf because I don’t get a lot of time on the weekends any more. You could have joined if you were also off.”

On my way into work I bought a coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. Naturally it was a drive through. It was a lovely coffee. Once I finished the coffee on the train I read the cup. You know what it’s like when you’re a bit bored. There were 10 copyrights and trademarks on the polystyrene cup. Everything that wasn’t produced directly from an animal was copyrighted. What’s the point of paying for a trademark for “Dunkin’ Decaf”? What’s wrong with just ‘Decaf’?

On to technology, it was also the announcement of the iPhone 5 while I was in New York (some disappointed colleagues in London thought I would be bringing a few handsets home). One of the expectations of “the 5” was a contactless payments capability. Go to New York and observe how far away they are from contactless payments – shops still swipe the magnetic strip. I never used Chip & PIN, and I told people (including some very bored cashiers) about contactless payments. The UK is so very, very far ahead of the US (well, New York) in payment types. It reminds me of how far ahead Europe was in mobile technologies. And on that note, USans still pay for incoming calls to the mobile. Why don’t operators just setup cold calling call centres?

Finally, one more observation. In every meeting that we had with senior managers, if we met them in their own office, they had Facebook open on their monitor. Every meeting, without exception.

More people working from home


One of the things I like about Endava is the working from home culture. There’s an understanding that some roles and people are able to be done from home just as well as from the office.

And it seems that Endava isn’t alone. More people are working from home now than ever. According to one estate agent, they have seen a fivefold increase in requests for demand for homes with a workspace in the last five years. Not all people who work from home require a dedicated workspace, so I think that fivefold increase in homeworkers is a small percentage.

According to the ONS, 2.43 million people now run a business from home, which is a 28% increase between 2001 and 2011. The number of commuting employees rose by 1.5% to 24 million. I’d be interested to see the missing, middle figure here – of employees working from home.

The Internet and mobile telephony has fundamentally changed the ability to work from home. It has given us the tools to work remotely sometimes more efficiently than the office.


11 Dos and Don’ts of Website Optimisation


I went to an interesting conference yesterday hosted by Webtrends titled “Successful Site Optimisation with Webtrends”. The main topics were about multivariate testing, which doesn’t get most people’s pulse racing, but it was presented in an interesting way with lots of useful tips.

Multivariate testing is a natural next step up from A/B testing.

A/B testing is where you have two pages that do the same thing, and track which one gives better results, whether it’s increased registrations, higher click through rates or more revenue, etc. These two pages will run for a certain number of users or a time period, to give good comparisons. Think of it as having two large research group.

The problem with A/B testing is that these pages are usually fundamentally different, so it’s difficult to know which difference made users increase metrics on one page over another. Hence multivariate testing was born. Multivariate tweaks the ‘control’ page, subtly changing any of the following:

  • Content (copy)
  • Colours
  • Format
  • Page section behaviours (making whole section clickable, or just an image, or just the text next to an image)
  • Audience segmentation.

These multiple changes can run in parallel as long as they are measured correctly.

At the conference, Webtrends asked who in the audience show a different landing page for new users compared to returning users. It sounds obvious – if a user has already come to your site before, they probably know the basics, so show them more detail, or entice them to actually buy something on the second visit. Out of 60 people in the audience, only 4 companies said they show different pages for new and returning visitors, and one of those companies were MoneySupermarket.com who gave a case study later on.

To do multivariate testing, you need to develop a culture within the business to try different ideas. Most organisations want to design a single solution for web pages, and implement those. The concept of creating multiple designs, copy and user behaviours for each page is alien.

Multivariate testing also requires more people. At the minimum, you need the following:

  • Optimisation analyst
  • Creative specialist
  • Web develop
  • QA

As mentioned earlier, MoneySupermarket.com gave a case study of how they implement multivariate testing. Steve Willey from MoneySupermarket.com explained that they have 120 million visits a year, and 6.7 million individual customers. This gives them a large control group to test updates.

Steve spoke a lot about the optimisation culture within MoneySupermarket.com, which is vital to fight the subjective decisions that most organisations take with design and content. His key recommendations were:

  • Set objectives
  • Take small steps
  • Educate the rest of the business
  • Keep wowing stakeholders with results.

It took MoneySupermarket.com two years after the first A/B test before optimisation became cultural. The first test was to controversially remove a large amount of content from some pages which gave improved conversion results.

MoneySupermarket.com have an SEO expert in the optimisation team to ensure they don’t lose their top spot for most keywords. 

For new products, they always A/B test before launch. They always try to avoid new launches without any data of how well it will perform. Sample sizes are usually around 10% of the audience, giving pretty quick results to MoneySupermarket.com.

One of the things I noticed in a number of the case studies were how calls to action (e.g. the text on links and buttons) are more subtle rather than direct. For instance, ‘Next step’ worked better than ‘Book now’ on the sites.

The next speaker was Tom Waterfall from Webtrends. He gave 11 Dos and Don’ts of Site Optimisation:

  1. Do constantly test. Results only last for a certain period of time (e.g. during a sales campaign, perhaps with above-the-line support)
  2. Do make sure you have the right resources. Research from Forrester shows that the right resources will make the testing more successful.
  3. Do keep it simple. This reduces the risk internally and externally. It helps keep the test shorter and easier to analyse. Copy tends to have the most profound impact on visitors, and adding a chevron (>) helps. You can go into infinite detail about Add to cart buttons.
  4. Don’t forget to sell yourself on every page. Keep adding security information, free returns/ delivery/ service/ etc., and publish information about the amount of content, customers, products or even ‘Likes’ that your brand or products have.
  5. Do make use of other technologies, including analytics, insight database, eye tracking and heat maps.
  6. Do think about the audience. Tom gave a great example screenshot when he was looking to buy a pair of [men’s] shoes and the recommendations on the page included some women’s clothes. So have some recommendation rules to prevent these simple mistakes. Have a think about the audience based on their location, or the traffic source (where the user came from), their previous behaviour on your site, and if possible, demographic data.
  7. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Break the changes down from A/B testing to smaller multivariate tests. Try to test one thing at a time (although you can have multiple tests at one time, just not all on the same page). In summary, make sure you can analyse the results from your tests. And test each language separately – what works in one language probably won’t work the same in another.
  8. Do plan ahead. Have a long term plan of tests. As soon as one test has finished, start the next test, hence the need for a team, with a pipeline.
  9. Do think radical. Firstly, the more radical the changes, the bigger response you’ll get from users. MoneySupermarket.com sometimes push (or ignore) the corporate brand guidelines because they guidelines are sometimes subjective, and Steve’s team can prove that bending or changing the rules will give improved revenue.
  10. Do consider future trends. Tom recommended everyone should be testing on mobile, tablets and web, and on the first two formats, companies should be testing app and browser versions. Companies that took future trends into consideration more than two years ago stopped designing mouse hover over effects and lightboxes which don’t work well on touch devices.
  11. Do have fun with testing. Tom’s examples were a little lacking (read: corny!) here, so I’ll give an example of one of our customers a couple of years ago. The customer produced a mobile app, some tactical social media implementations, and a YouTube channel. All three were the first implementations of their type for this client. Everyone within the Endava and client team said what they thought would be the most successful initiative (and why), which gave us more ideas for each project.

The morning was a really good session, so thank you to Webtrends and MoneySupermarket.com for sharing so many useful tips for website optimisation.

Image courtesy of Mccormicky

Direct to consumer has its challenges


Following on from my earlier post describing Endava’s Supplier and Partner day, one of the presenters talked about how some brands have faced new challenges when moving into the direct to consumer space.

Many of the brands that we see, in face most of the superbrands that we recognise, require a retailer as a middle man. 

The top 10 brands of 2011 are:

  1. Coca-Cola 71,861 ($m)
  2. IBM 69,905 ($m)
  3. Microsoft 59,087 ($m)
  4. Google 55,317 ($m)
  5. GE 42,808 ($m)
  6. McDonald’s 35,593 ($m)
  7. Intel 35,217 ($m)
  8. Apple 33,492 ($m)
  9. Disney 29,018 ($m)
  10. Hewlett-Packard 28,479 ($m)

Out of those 10, you usually need to walk into a retailer to buy Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, GE, Intel and HP’s products. Of the remaining four, I would estimate most people buy Apple and Disney products not in an Apple or Disney store, leaving only Google and McDonald’s as direct to consumer superbrands. I think you get the picture.

The Web created a link between brands and consumers. Remember, many brands took a while to create a website, and it took several years to break out of the ‘brochureware’ style site. 

Interacting with consumers? It took the social media revolution for most brands to start communicating. 

However the web didn’t create customer service issues. This started happening with mobile apps. The two main reasons for this is the fundamental difference between web and mobile apps; and charging for content.

The first point is that a website can be changed by the brand, and the customer won’t have access to an older version of it. Now, a brand can produce a mobile app for a current campaign, and needs to think what will happen to that app once the campaign finishes. Think of all those London 2012 apps out there on smartphones… what will happen to them after the Olympics? They will be legacy applications, and it takes a strategic brand to think about the migration post the campaign. In the web world, you can simply redirect the user from the finished campaign to another page. 

The second point is when brands charge for apps, or for the content inside an app. For many brands, it’s the first time they are taking revenue directly from a customer, and this brings on customer service issues they have previously never needed to deal with.

Photo courtesy of Katie Lips on Flickr


Digital Media in Scotland


I’ve just spent the last couple of days in Scotland to mark the opening of the new Endava office in Glasgow. We ran one event in Edinburgh (which mainly focussed on the Financial Services sector) and one in Glasgow, inviting local companies to hear about our view of the Digital Media industry, and the trends that we’re seeing.

The key topics were:

  • Social Media
  • Consumer Insight
  • Personalisation

Social Media

The key starting point with Social Media, is that even Financial Services organisations who don’t understand or want to acknowledge it exists, people are discussing your company, products or service, in one channel or another. Too many people associate social media with Facebook, then perform a search on Facebook and don’t find any results, and then dismiss it. However we recommend that you widen the search, even use Google, and you’ll find specialist forums and other places where you’re being discussed.

After listening, the next step is to formalise a strategy. In Financial Services, this needs to include regulation, governance, security and staffing. The technology (subtle plug – this is where Endava comes in) starts from the listening exercise, through to implementation and operations.

Another key point on social media is that it sets the expectation of the user interface. Look at Facebook, Google + and Pinterest to see how easy a user interface can be, and then look at other sites to see how they lag behind.

Financial Services companies are catching up – my bank’s website has recently been overhauled and most of my monthly tasks can now be done simply rather than the several steps it took a few weeks ago.

Consumer Insight

Sometimes referred to as ‘Big Data’, consumer insight is important at the moment because understanding the customer is vital to increase ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) and/ or profit.

I always give the analogy of the shopkeeper who knows his customers and can advise them on the most appropriate product based on their relationship and previous experiences. Consumer insight is the memory of the shopkeeper.


Firstly, you need some consumer insight to do some personalisation. The better quality insight, the better personalisation.

Amazon is still one of the best personalised websites – with recommendations based on not only what you’ve bought before, also what you’ve looked at, and how other customers have behaved too.

Personalisation can be applied to push communication too – email newsletters and text messages. However it’s vital to keep analysing, in detail, how these personalised messages are improving ROI (Return On Investment) and to keep tweaking them.


We’re seeing four key trends in Digital Media at the moment:

1.       Mobile, mobile, mobile. Despite the title, it’s not just mobile. It’s about the expectation that consumers can access your service wherever and whenever they wish. It doesn’t need to be via Internet Explorer version 8 on a desktop device bigger than 1028 pixels wide. I recently carried out some competitor analysis for a large bank and showed each of the rival’s services on a mobile device – they were unusable.

2.      Single platform – consumer insight and personalisation are linked. Push communication and Content Management Systems need to be linked. You’ll need analytics for all your channels. This all leads to a single platform requirement.

3.      Collaborate. We’re seeing multiple brands work together on joint initiatives because the sum of their efforts is so valuable. This requires some lateral thinking, strategic commercial awareness and clever marketing messaging.

4.      Consumer Insight. We’re seeing two trends linking distributed organisations together. One is social media and the other is consumer insight. The owner of the consumer insight strategy needs to communicate and work with the rest of the organisation. Every touch point with consumers needs to include data collection, and it takes mindset change to achieve this.


The two sessions were really interesting, and I always enjoy meeting companies and people who either haven’t thought about the discussion points, or who are on the path and share their experiences with others.

Contactless and mobile payments

On Sunday I popped into my local butcher (they haven’t all been put out of business by hypermarkets) and tried paying using my contactless debit card. At first, the guy behind the till didn’t want me to use contactless because he didn’t think his till could handle it, but I tried and he was amazed how fast the transaction was finished.

We work very closely with one of the big European payments companies, and had been discussing contactless with them last week, and so I told the sales assistant in the butcher that his transaction fees cost less using contactless than chip and PIN. He said that he’d tell his boss.

The timing was interesting because this morning I went to a presentation at Intellect, “Contactless payments: A retailer’s perspective” by Julian Niblett from Boots.

Here are some of the key points from the presentation, together with his view of the future, and I’ve added some of my comments as well.

  • Boots are the second biggest retailer in the UK with 2,600 stores
  • At the moment a third of transactions use a card
  • Only 30 stores have contactless – a joint investment with MasterCard
  • Less than 2% of card transactions are contactless 

In terms of the value proposition for the retailer, given a choice between rolling out more self-checkouts and contactless, the former will always win because contactless has far less value to the consumer.

That said, their analysis is that first time customers who try using contactless it will continue to reuse it.

Julian asked how many people in the room have used a contactless card. Around a third put up their hands, which is well above the national average. Julian pointed out that watching consumers use a self-checkout, many people still aren’t sure how to insert their card into a card reader properly let alone ‘educate’ them to use another physical method of payment.

One of the issues in Boots’ case is that there’s no business case to offer contactless. Cash is still the cheapest cost at 0.5p per transaction (many of the costs of cash are both subsidised by the banks, and many of the ‘costs of cash’ are fixed). 

Also, contactless transactions cost less for a retailer, but the retailers are wary of the payment companies who have usually increased costs once a new technology rollout hits tipping point. This happened with chip and PIN, and retailers expect the same to happen from contactless.

The near term future

·         Tfl will use contactless cards as an alternative to Oyster this year. This will help the wider public use contactless more often, and consumers are expected to start using them more often in retailers.

·         Visa are going to be helping Boots with a wider rollout across London due to the Olympics.

The longer term

One of the key issues at the moment is that there is no customer demand for contactless. However, retailers can see that there is a demand for using a mobile phone for payments.

We all have more and more cards in our wallets for payment and loyalty schemes. Both of these will move into a smartphone apps, with numerous retailers already leading the way, and PayPal and Google Checkout leading the way with their payment apps.

Julian discussed a great consumer experience all based on a mobile, with coupons, a store loyalty card, payment and electronic receipts, and probably no need for a till at the end of the shopping trip. However there are very few customers who want to shop this way at the moment.

It was a really interesting presentation, and if you’re in the banking or retailer value chain, you should probably get in contact with Julian as he was very open with his analysis and data points (some of which I can’t publish here).

My take on contactless payments is that it will move to mobile, but it will become more complicated for consumers. My debit and credit cards have never run out of battery before – what happens when you want to buy something but have no battery in your phone. In fact, my cards are designed to be much more rugged than my phone – not only do they not require any power at all, they’re also waterproof and shock proof. And therefore they will stick around for a long time.