Tag Archives: future

The Rise of The Conversational Commerce

Last week I was speaking in Seoul in Digital Marketing Conference for 400 marketing leaders. My topic was around conversational commerce: a topic that I have been writing about a lot.

conversational commerce

Speaking about Conversational commerce in Seoul 2017

I was trying to find an answer to three burning questions that are keeping me awake at night:

  • Why Conversational commerce is happening right now?
  • What it actually means?
  • How your brand should act?

1)Three big trends enabling conversational commerce

a) Mobile-first world

Messaging apps have already surpassed social media apps in popularity. Our audience is not mobile-first, they are increasingly mobile-only and becoming messaging only. WeChat has already shown the future of messaging-first digital ecosystem.

Our audience want the service and content in the platforms they are using.

b) AI-first world

Aptly in the same city I was having my presentation around conversational commerce, Alphago Go-robot beat the hell out of Lee Sedol, the world´s best (human) Go player. It was not even close match, not to mention that apparently in 37th move in second match Alphago did a move that had not been ever done in Go history and was called the most beautiful Go move ever.

Artificial intelligence will enable machines (or robots, if I may) to emulate human-like traits and behavior.

c) Digital platforms will become assistants predicting your needs

There will be more virtual assistants than humans in 2021. All the big digital companies (Apple with Siri, Samsung with Bixby, Google with Allo and Home, Amazon with Alexa and Echo) are building the assistive layer to their products.

Because of mobile platforms and evolved AI, companies are able to predict what you need and provide you personalized service.

2) What Conversational commerce actually means?

 I would define conversational commerce as “enabling people to interact with brands with way that is natural to them”. Interaction is limited to customer service or selling products. There is only handful of brans that people would actually want to have conversation with and the odds are your brands is not one of them. The natural way to communicate means two things:

  • The style you communicate: Whether it is with Emojis and Slang with text or using voice
  • With what device you are communicating with: It can be either chat (with human), chatbot (with robot) in messenger or using internet-of-things device (currently Google Home, Alexa devices. In the future whatever device you will think of).

The benefits of conversational commerce for user are:

  1. Convenience: Use whatever method and device you feel comfortable.
  2. Personalization: You save time (not necessarily money) as you get recommendations suitable for you.
  3. Decision support: Conversational commerce helps you to do decisions easier by learning from your behavior and predicting your next move.

3)What it means to your brand?

There are five key considerations you need to take into account when considering your conversational commerce –strategy:

1. Don´t get caught by hype

Conversational commerce is bigger thing than Chatbots. Chatbots have been one of the first trials on making it work. And they have not been particularly successful yet. Facebook bots have had failure rate of 70% so they were able to get to 30% of requests without some sort of human intervention. That does not mean that people don´t want good service through their messaging apps. They don´t necessarily want it through chatbots.

2. Choose your pilot market wisely

Compared to social media landscape, messaging landscape is much more fragmented especially in South-East Asia. This means that you might not be able to replicate your activities in one market to another.

3. Find the right partners

You don´t necessarily need to create every algorithm from the scratch. There is already quite developed ecosystem around conversational commerce that you can tap into.

4. Provide value and make life easier for your consumer

Like I said earlier, majority of the people do not want to have a conversation with brands. They want to have value whether it is through buying products or getting good consumer service. While you might be interested in creating the most witty Chatbot ever, it might be more wise to first ensure that you are providing straightforward utility first and then start extending to more human-like interactions.

5. Be fun and natural

That being said, the great opportunity with conversational commerce is ability to humanize otherwise transactional brand-human relationships. When you have ensured that you are providing value and clear benefit to the user, the personality of your chat can be a true competitive advantage.

We are living in the peak of hype cycle with conversational commerce and there will be round of iterations when it will truly live to its promise. My point is however clear: it is not question about will the conversational commerce happen, it is how and when it will happen?

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Virtual Reality Just Needs Its Own Pokemon GO

Augmented reality has been up and coming for years. There were already augmented reality games for Nokia N95. For various reasons it never really took off. Just as we ticked off augmented reality as the buzzword that will just dwindle and die, Pokemon GO happened.  And in just couple of weeks Nintendo´s stock has gone up (and back down), searches for Pokemon porn (I did not even know about this subgenre) skyrocketed, many people have died, amount of daily users has surpassed Twitter and people spend more time on Pokemon Go than Facebook. And let me repeat, Pokemon GO is an augmented reality app.

The success for Pokemon GO is easy to dissect to these three principles:

1.Easy to start, hard to master
Pokemon Go is simple game, you can start it right away but mastering it takes a lot of time. If you need to explain what you get from VR experience it is too complicated, it has to work right away.

2.Global brand attracting wide range of audience
Pokemon works on many levels and many audiences. For some they are totally relevant at this life stage, for some nostalgia and for some just cute. Until there are blockbuster game or movie (with household name) done in VR, there will be no Pokemon GO phenomenon in VR.

3.Perfect combination of real and digital
Pokemon Go did what Fitbit failed to, got people moving. People still crave for human connection and perversely Pokemon Go has given it. We need cute characters to get us out, move and meet new people. Like Pokemon GO, VR makes our boring reality more interesting but it has even more opportunities. With VR you can totally escape your boring life. Quite an intriguing promise I would say.

Virtual reality will probably also be driven by porn, but there are still couple of hurdles for the success. The VR glasses are still quite clunky and you look dorky when you use it (not to mention you start feeling sick). Therefore, you need more people looking dorky that you can start using VR openly (e.g. skinny jeans, man buns, athleisure). Other part is that VR has not really yet come pass the stunt phase where it is just cool to do something with the technology instead of doing cool things that have true meaning. This is opportunity for advertisers though, because it is still quite easy to make good impression with quite basic VR installations especially in events. This Singleton section was one of the most popular booths in Epicurean festival in Singapore. Main reason was the virtual reality whisky tasting:

singletonvrbooth

There is no question will the VR blow up. It will. The real question is timeline. Two months ago no one would have talked about augmented reality and now it is the hottest technology in town. In this digital age, you just need to one big hit and it will hit immediately.

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The Guide To Predicting The Future

“Two decades is a sweet spot for prognosticators of radical change: near enough to be attention-grabbing and relevant, yet far enough to make it possible to suppose that a string breakthroughs, currently only vaguely imaginable, might be then have occurred. ..
Twenty years may also be close to typical duration remaining of a forecaster´s career, bounding the reputational risk of a bold prediction”
-Nick Bostrom (Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers and Strategies)
 
Not unlike other fields, advertising industry is full of bold predictions. Majority of them are completely off-the-mark. Predictions seldom come with accountability. The temptation to come with sexy soundbite lures you more than truly thinking about potential outcomes (or actually predicting the future). It is better to have a bold opinion than to be right:
 
“An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today. ”
Evan Esar

I have read in multiple sources that this year will be the year of VR. This is a great example of Amara´s law, overestimating nascent but highly visible technology on short run:

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

VR is currently at the sweet spot of being obscure enough that making predictions about it can raise eyebrows (no one should not be shocked anymore that future is mobile for example). On the other hand, there are enough tangible examples of it so people can understand it. The innovations that will truly revolutionize advertising are harder to grasp at this moment or have not even been developed yet. When they will truly happen, they are too obvious then to catch the headlines.

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Who Will Be The Master of Internet Universe?

Web is dead.

That is the title of one of the greatest articles ever written about digital revolution four years ago to Wired. The main points about that brilliant piece are still valid, although speed of mobile revolution surprised many of the players for a while. The main idea of the story is that web starts to resemble more and more traditional industry with handful of players. Web is oligopoly and certain verticals almost resemble monopolies.

If you simplify the consumer-facing web business (so I am excluding infrastructure and other boring things which is where the real money is), it is about three things: products, commerce & advertising. Products enable you to connect to the Internet: smartphones, computers, watches, television sets, fridges and whatnot. Commerce is about being able to buy things from Internet and advertising is what it is: bombarding you with messages to buy more stuff.

Product category as we know it will eventually be commoditized. If you want to remain premium, you have to innovate constantly. That is the only way to remain luxury brand in this realm. Cheap smartphones will eventually beat the premium ones. In the future you are able to connect to Internet in whatever device and you do not really have to pay that much of that privilege.
Where the growth will come? Wearables can be the future winner product category, although they have not really yet taken off. The changes are rapid though. iPad was launched only four years ago, created totally new category and is currently at risk of vanishing because of the phablets. So is the life.
 
Current champions: Apple, Samsung
Challengers: Xiaomi and other cheap manufacturers
Disrupters: Luxury brands (Would connectivity enhance Rolex? I say not, but I might be wrong as well)

Commerce will become even bigger and you are able to buy pretty much everything online. Will all the physical retail vanish? Not necessarily, but the point is not about that. It is about that you are able to buy everything online, and majority of people will do exactly that, because it is more convenient and affordable.
Commerce is the biggest opportunity and a space I follow most closely. Strong brands will definitely start to create their own online retail experiences, which would enable them to bypass the more traditional retail channels. In the next decade there will be lots of turmoil in this category and many big players will fall and new challengers will arise. Biggest challenges are not that much about technology (lots of payment innovations happening), but about logistics.
Second interesting point is that idea of commerce has changed with shared economy. Both Uber and AirBnB are selling physical service, which would not be possible without digital channel. How far collaborative economy can be stretched remains to be seen. It can potentially be really big disruptor to the way we do business in general.
Last point about commerce is the ecosystem approach. Apple makes money constantly through App Store by enabling others to make money. Facebook is building app ecosystem with the acquisition of Instagram, WhatsApp and Parse. Both Amazon and Alibaba are enabling developers to build things on their platform.
 
Current Champions: Amazon, AliBaba, Ebay
Challengers: Google, Facebook, WeChat, Line, Apple (Apple Pay) 
Disrupters: Brands, FMCG brands, Collaborative economy players (Uber, Airbnb…)

Advertising will be important, because people will keep on buying stuff. Stuff makes us happy. More stuff makes us even happier. How are you able to buy that stuff if you do not know that it exists?
Will advertising become smarter in the future? Yes and no. In last decade or so, we have had one revolutionary advertising idea. That is SEM. You show people ads when they actually want to see ads. Contextual advertising and retargeting have been nice inventions, but mainly advertising is still based on interruption (some of it being more relevant like app install ads). One of the most innovative companies in the world, Facebook, makes most of its money by interrupting its users in various ways.
The advertising business is relatively simple: it is all about reach. All of the most successful advertising platforms are based on firstly to reach and then secondly the quality of those who you are reaching. That is unlikely to change. However, the biggest task is to try to narrow the gap between the interruption (advertising) and purchase (commerce). The monetary exchange is the only tangible KPI we have and less you have to travel to do it, the better.

Current Champions: Google, Facebook
Challengers: WeChat, Line, Twitter (was tempted to leave it out completely, but I give it a shot still), “Traditional media companies”(although I do not really have high hopes for their complete digital transformation, but they will remain influential on this space as well)
Disrupters: Amazon (the closer you are to the actual transaction, the less you have to interrupt), Content owners (although none of them has done any major moves and have mainly milked the status quo)

The lines are naturally blurry. The quote from Eric Schmidt summarizes the whole situation:

Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon.”

That is also the reason why these big companies are testing weird things and buying obscure companies. Internet has made it easier to disrupt a category and also connect categories in new way. Facebook & Google test drones, so it can bring Internet the people who don´t have it yet. Thus increasing the reach. Amazon tests drones, because shipping is the biggest bottleneck of eCommerce. When your business can start to flourish rapidly, it can also vanish rapidly. There is no time to sleep, because sleep is the cousin of death.

What do you think, who will become the master of the Internet universe?

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Social Media Trends 2014: The Truth According to Me

Good folks at Kurio Digital Marketing Think Thank asked me (again) and 21 other Finnish digital dudes & dudettes some views of social media trends in 2014.

In many ways the social media scene has matured and the shifts are not as radical as they were few years back. Many of my answers from last year would not be out of place this year (last year trends can be read here). As majority of the readers of my blog cannot read Finnish, I have translated my predictions below. If you can understand Finnish, the report is highly recommended read.

Before going to my answers, it is important to make the distinction between a fad, a trend and a commodity. Every new thing starts out as a fad (i.e. Snapchat is in that phase). Majority just stay as fads (Chatroulette), but certain things evolve to trends (i.e. brands building their Facebook pages few years back). Only very few make their route to become commodities (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube at the moment). Trends do not pay the bills, so usually only when something is commoditized it starts to make safe business sense. In that way you should approach your social media marketing efforts like investor:

70% of investments to commodities (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
25% to trends (Taking selfies)
5% to fads (Snapchat, Vine)

This is naturally subject to your risk tolerance and your business majority. If you are start-up with nothing to lose, it might sense to flip it other around. And do not get me wrong, my view is that brands should try to ride the trends and fads more proactively. It is just important to realize their business role (such as learning, gaining the opinion leadership, creating the future competitive advantage). Riding on the fads seldom is the way to reach masses.

So with that caveat my social media trends (with couple of commodities and fads thrown in as well):

 1.Biggest Social Media Trends in 2014: Monetization & Mobile-First
There is two big paradigm shifts which are not really trends, but changes which have already happened but keep
a) Money (Show it)
Twitter did the IPO this year, which will affect the user experience. I doubt that the success will not be as good as with Facebook. Mass social media channels are increasingly more bought media than earned media. Therefore community manager or social media director without also access to bought media budget is a position without any real power. In many ways the advancements in bought media (i.e. programmatic buying) have also been way more interesting in recent years than say in, content marketing.
b) Mobile (First)
The switch to mobile is not a trend, it is a change which has already happened.  Consumers  switch wildly between different channels, platforms, devices and even use them at the same time! This puts extra pressure to understanding the consumer journeys. You cannot really understand those journeys without constant testing, measuring and optimizing. Secret to crack the mobile-first challenge is to think holistically consumer-first.

 2. Social Media platform to look out for in 2014: Anything related to visual storytelling
I have talked about selfies before in this blog and they will not go anywhere next year (hopefully twerking will not disappear either). All the applications, which help you to modify and enhance will be hot items next year. China will show the way in this trend. Also, we have to also remember that selfie is a communication vehicle as itself. Combining IM and visual storytelling will be a big thing. Instagram has actually addressed this already with its Direct offering.

3. Biggest challenges in doing social media marketing in 2014: Processes block the real-time success 
Old processes stand in the way of the really great real-time executions. Year 2013 was disappointment in terms of real-time marketing. There were couple of nice stunts, but we should be able to do better than just dunk in the dark (Oreo is still pretty much the only proper case study example). The briefing process that is suitable for traditional big brand campaign just does not fit faster requirements of real-time marketing. My personal New Year promise is to concentrate even more in creating and executing more streamlined, collaborative and more agile way to make real-time success stories next year.

4. Social Media Buzzword, which hopefully disappears in 2014: The whole talk of the social media
If you are still in 2014 talking about social media as a separate unit, you are more old-school than the person still using FourSquare. Consumers switch smoothly between devices and platforms and between virtual and real-life like it ain´t no big thing. What is actually the difference between digital and real-life nowadays? How can your firm address the needs and the behaviors of these consumers in every relevant touchpoints? To separate social media from other digital activities or other activities is just laziness and shutting your eyes of the reality. Digital scene is more fragmented than every before. Therefore it is more crucial than ever to create a big picture of those fragments. We do not need any more social media specialists (or digital specialists for that matter). We need 100% digital people who live and breath like their consumers and have the understanding and empathy to connect with them (and also means to be in the right touchpoints).

 5. Biggest social media hope for the next year?
I do not hope, I just do. And measure, optimize and do it again.

Predicting the future is too much work, I rather create history.

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