Monday, 14 February 2011

I'm falling in love with Ocado

It may be that I'm getting caught up in the general romantic atmosphere that prevails today (and I thought that I was past all that!) but I think that I am falling in love with Ocado.

Can you fall in love with an online grocer you may ask?  Well... maybe not, but they are certainly ticking as many of my boxes as it is possible for an online grocer to do, and my wife is becoming increasingly jealous of the way I talk about them so maybe we can have a future together...

Ok, so maybe I've over-played it slightly but I've just seen another great example of why Ocado seems to "get" mobile and is integrating it into their activity so nicely.  I've already talked about their use of SMS notifications, to remind their customers about a delivery and advise them of the details of the delivery (including the driver's name and the van they'll be driving).  They were also one of the first retailers off the mark in releasing transactional apps for the iPhone (store) and Android (store) devices.  In fact, considering the general service and quality of the food (I'm sure covered in blogs/articles elsewhere) the one blemish that I can note is their lack of a mobile optimised site - they have retired their 'lite' site, stating that because of "huge improvements in mobile technology" most customers shop with Ocado "via our main Ocado website".  

I think that this is a bit of a missed trick as a mobile site would better, and more appropriately, support the mid and lower range smartphones.  Certainly, they realistically have the majority of their potential mobile traffic (and indeed revenue) tied up with the iPhone/Android apps and yes, other phones can use the main website, but it would be good to see a mobile optimised site nonetheless.

Anyway, the latest tick in one of my boxes came along this afternoon:

An Ocado delivery truck, with an SMS call-to-action, whereby new users can get £15 off their first shop.

Sure enough I gave it a go and received an SMS back with a unique code that can be redeemed online.  A simple mechanic to set up, executed nicely, and driving new users from ATL to online and with tracking of unique codes to prevent mal-redemption and ongoing analysis.

Doesn't it make you wonder why more companies don’t do the same...? 

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Nokia played the fiddle while their platform burned

Ok, so I'm mixing metaphors (or something like that) but in light of Nokia CEO Stephen Elop's leaked memo to his staff (which is looking increasingly plausible by the minute) it feels very appropriate.

You can read the full memo, and the Engadget take on it, here.  To save you some time, the key points that I have taken from it are:

  1. If you're in unavoidable trouble (the "burning platform") then you need to take drastic action (jump off the platform) to avoid the inevitable peril.
  2. Nokia have lost the top end of the device market (mainly to Apple).
  3. Nokia are starting to lose the mid-range market (mainly to Google).
  4. Nokia are starting to be squeezed in the low end of the market too (by Eastern manufacturers).
  5. Nokia have historically been crap at executing.
  6. Nokia have ignored the way the market has evolved.
  7. Nokia are at "crisis point" and need to catch up and catch up very quickly.
  8. To catch up, Nokia need to do something 'different'. 
For me to cover off all of my thoughts about Nokia, what I think of the memo and and why I think they are where they are would take an awfully long time.  So I'll try not to ramble on too far - I know from reading a couple of Tomi's blogs that once you see how far down the scroll-bar on the right goes, you soon start skim reading.  I'd also like to state the context of my position early on - I used to work for a Mobile Marketing and technology company, that was acquired by Nokia as part of their shift into the services space in 2007, and then worked for them for two years.  So I am no Nokia expert but I certainly have an understanding of how the business works and, more importantly, how they were executing in a digital ecosystem.  However, I also have no "agenda" against Nokia (as I know some ex-Nokians do).  Indeed, I would much rather they succeed than  fail as the market needs a credible alternative to the fast-becoming Apple/Google duopoly.

To be honest, the content of the memo is pretty damning stuff - especially considering that this is from the CEO of one of the largest, most respected, most trusted and most successful multi-national businesses out there.  That it is the most read story on the BBC News website also says something about it's significance.

Unsurprisingly, ex-Nokia executive turned author, public speaker and (way too verbose - which coming from me, says something), blogger, Tomi Ahonen has had his say in a blog post that both suggests the memo is a fake and then provides a range of, primarily semantic, rebuttals to the points in Elop's memo.  Ahonen's position is nothing less than symptomatic of the internal issues that Nokia has faced for a number of years.  Nokia became a victim of their own success - I have talked previously about how Symbian (their proprietary operating system) was the Woolly Mammoth of operating systems, unable to adapt to the changing ecosystem.  Well, for "Symbian" read "Nokia"...  So I won't dwell on Ahonen's points here because, to be frank, I don't see that they are that relevant. 

Nokia was the undisputed king of mobile devices with the largest market share and foothold in pretty much every market and device category.  As many Nokia-philes will go to great pains to tell you, they pioneered many of the features that other manufacturers have subsequently emulated and bettered, such as mobile browsing, mobile applications and touchscreens.  

And this, in itself, tells the story... 

Nokia did things well, and they did them efficiently and on a large scale (they are ultimately a very good manufacturing company after all).  But then they seemed to be content (dare I say arrogant?) with this position and the market evolved around them, not least catalysed by the growth of the digital channel in general and the emergence of the iPhone.  Nokia's response was to try and move with the market, but to do so in a way that was poorly judged and poorly executed - their higher-end devices were roundly criticised and their ecosystem (Ovi and services) was a hotch-potch of acquisitions and (often duplicated or competing) internal development projects all shoved together with (apparently) little strategic thought.  But that was just the top-end of the market, Nokia could still rely on the mid and lower end (such as emerging markets) couldn't they?  

Uh oh...

They could... but of course those markets changed too.  And Nokia (apparently) still refused to see what most people outside of the business have seen for a while.  Nokia became like King Canute, convinced that they could hold back the inevitable tide.  Until they did away with their previous CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, and brought in ex-Microsoft man Stephen Elop.  The significance of this is that they recruited from the outside rather than, as was usually the case previously, internally.  Now it seems that the fresh pair of eyes, directed internally, is starting to realise that significant action is needed in order to get Nokia back into it's stride.

And so what should they do and how can they address this?

Well, there have been persistent rumours that Nokia will buddy up with Microsoft (Elop is ex-Microsoft after all) and run Windows Phone 7 in some of its devices.  Whether that is instead of, or alongside, Maemo and Symbian remains to be seen (indeed, the WP7 thing is still only a rumour of course).  There has also been talk about Nokia partnering with Google to run Android in their devices instead but I don't even see this as a starter to be honest - there are too many areas in which Nokia and Android compete, not least with mapping (i.e. Nokia Maps vs. Google Maps), that there would be undoubted friction in such a relationship.  After all, services, and the advertising running on them, is where the money is.  That is not so say that there isn't overlap with WP7, it's just that Microsoft also seems prepared to compromise given its need to re-gain a foothold in the market (witness the partnership with Yahoo for search).  Perhaps the two, much-maligned, former-behemoths would form a formidable partnership, capable of competing with Apple, Google and the plethora of mid/lower-range competitors in the mobile space.  Only time will tell if it even happens and whether, if it does, it will be a success, although Google's VP of Engineering seems relatively unconcerned with the prospect, tweeting "Two turkeys do not make an eagle", as reported by Ewan at MIR.

One thing is for sure, the entire market seems to be waiting with baited breath for an announcement that is reportedly due on Friday and whatever other news comes out at Mobile World Congress next week.  

And we thought 2010 was an exciting year, jeez 2011 is getting interesting already...

Monday, 7 February 2011

One man can't lift half a piano, but two men...

As I start writing this, I haven't made my mind up about the title of this post.

This is mainly because I'm not 100% certain where this post will lead itself (a slightly damning enditement on my writing, I accept).  I opened up my thinking by wanting to talk about the affective use of multiple channels, something that we've talked about quite a bit to existing and potential clients, and is a pet peeve of our Client Services Director, Sarah Cantillon.  However any piece talking about the use of different channel needs to not just reference how channels can co-operate, but also how they should integrate.

But that said, I've written a few times before about how mobile can act as the "integration-glue" between offline and online and also how we in the digital industry, need to understand that whilst we recognise the differences between mobile and online, consumers don't, meaning that we should be taking a more holistic view and so, cater for the user who mainly reads his email on an iPhone; or who uses their mobile device for messaging but doesn't have a data bundle and so will only use their home PC for browsing.  So I'll try my best to not drag myself off on a tangent and focus on the point in hand - using different channels for each others mutual benefit and the use of appropriate comms that support and compliment each other.

Basically... channel sequencing.

Unfortunately, too many comms programs are black and white - there is a preferred channel and underneath that a hierarchy of alternatives.  This may be that Direct Mail is used if they hold your address and you have opted-in, or if not, will contact you using email, or then outbound call, and then maybe mobile if nothing else is possible.  However this plays out, the last choice channel will most likely get the poorer "quality" consumers and so suffer from a lower response rate and be seen as less effective (note that this isn't a pop at the lack of use of mobile, just the lack of using multiple channels effectively).

This could be symptomatic of a number of things - one being a company using different agencies, each responsible for a different channel and so with vested interests in pushing their own at the cost of others; or maybe lazy thinking on behalf of the brand and their planners; or maybe both of these.  In any event, what seems clear to me is that, to effectively use multiple channels is to do so by using each in a coordinated, consistent and (a word we use a lot here) appropriate manner.

Why not prompt the consumer, who's given you the email address of the account that he checks once a fortnight, that you've just sent him an email with some exclusive offers by sending him an SMS, or even an MMS (which can compliment the email content and design) and so improving open and possibly click-through rates?

How about sending an email to a customer, letting them know that they'll be receiving a DM piece in the next week with details about changes and new feature to their account, so that they are less likely to file it in the bin without opening it?

And why the devil not send a text to a customer, asking them when they would be able to receive an outbound call and so reduce hang-ups and non-answers?

Channel sequencing is an evolution and extension of using each channel in the right way - where I would always advocate using the right channel, to say the right thing, at the right time.  For example, don't use SMS to introduce or demonstrate a new product - use a richer channel such as email or MMS;  don't use an email to send important information that the consumer needs to retain - use DM;  and don't send a discount voucher that they user needs to take into a store by email - use DM or, even better, SMS or MMS.

Of course, it's not as straight-forward as just saying it.  Putting in place the capability to manage your customer communication in this way is not an overnight job - particularly as most businesses, both technically and in terms of their comms rules, are not set up to support talking to their customers in this way.

But thinking about it, why not use all of the channels available to you to support each other, making them work harder together, and generate a higher response rate, RoI or opt-in* than they would otherwise do independently and so, together, enabling them to carry the proverbial piano.

* insert relevant KPI here