The EU TRUESSEC programme is an inter-disciplinary initiative to foster trust and confidence in new and emerging ICT products and services throughout Europe. The project intends to achieve this by encouraging the adoption of appropriate assurance and certification processes.
Last week the Digital Catapult (the project coordinator) held a debate entitled “Can you trust digital products and services?”. One of the inputs to this was a business survey run by Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), which examined issues surrounding trust, labelling and certification. This found, for example, that 80% of businesses felt that that ICT security certification is a valuable tool to reduce cyber vulnerabilities of ICT products or services.
Cybersecurity is an essential foundation for trust. Labelling may help in some circumstances. But neither are sufficient to ensure trust. For trust, the buyer needs to believe that the seller is offering a product that will do what it claims at a price that is fair, that the seller will be there to help if something goes wrong and that protection is there as a last resort.
New and emerging ICT products are frequently subscription-based, with free or discounted entry points and business model based on upsell over time. Although the buyer is a person, the seller is now invariably a software program and the store is invariably digital rather than physical. All this makes for a new and complex trust dynamic. Products will embed sales algorithms built on AI technologies that have the goal of increasing average revenue per customer. The product will have to learn to create a trusted relationship, even as it tries to extract more revenue from the user.
The latest survey from Marketing Sherpa reiterates that consumer trust in online channels is far lower than in traditional channels. Vendors of ICT products will need to shift their thinking from the supply side to the demand side. A good start would be a behavioural study to understand the causes of reduced trust online and predict what will happen as the product becomes the channel.
If you need to know whether a software application meets your exact needs (for example that it will interface to your current system), testing prior to sign-up is an essential activity. Many cloud-based applications use a minimalist front end listing the reasons to buy, but not fully describing the functionality provided. In the ‘Freemium’ business model the customer can play with the application and find out what it can do for themselves. I recently got a free account with a web conferencing tool to find out whether it would meet my needs.
But testing was painful. I was constantly presented with messages asking me to ‘upgrade’ and buy a monthly subscription (with great savings if I paid for a year in advance!). The navigation continually pointed me towards features that I could not use as they were unavailable in the free version. Support via online chat yielded the bare minimum in terms of answers. That company lost a prospective customer.
Computer software used to be sold to us by people, a natural person to person process. Now it is the software itself that (often covertly) sells to us, which for humans is unnatural. Instead of selling to us just once when we first buy the product, software sells to us all the time we are using it. It constantly upsells the next subscription tier, or the purchase of extras, which can leave the user feeling irritated or manipulated. Cloud-based application providers need to carefully consider the integrity of their offering if they are to establish a loyal customer base.
2. Collection of large volumes of historical data. Big data tools mean that we can now collect, store and use datasets large enough to reveal real behavioural insights.
3. Better analytics. Which enable more accurate prediction of future customer behaviour based on historical behaviour.
The first publicised example is a campaign by Stella Artois. Every time a targeted individual visits a bar or pub in response to a targeted mobile ad, the drinks company pays a per-visit fee to the location intelligence company, Blis. The system measures incremental footfall uplift against a baseline set by historical behaviour. As a result, the linkage between cause and effect is more visible and measurable than ever before.
The next step? Perhaps healthcare organisations might respond with messages targeted at those same individuals, advising regulars not to go to the pub as they have already visited too many times in the last month.
Content marketing is nothing new. It is what marketers have been doing for decades; putting stuff out there to generate awareness of a business, get people interested in the offering and trigger a desired action.
The difference today (and perhaps the reason we invented a new term for it) is that in the digital world there are millions of times more messages, simultaneously vying for people’s attention. Every piece of content (or collateral, call it what you will) must work that much harder to cut through.
There is lots of good advice out there on how to write, so I won’t cover well-trodden ground, but often content misses the target because the foundations are not in place. With that in mind here are my 3 principles for effective B2B content marketing in our current, highly cluttered environment.
A quick search for good examples of B2B value propositions leads to the conclusion that the tech industry has forgotten what good looks like. We seem to be confusing taglines and ads with value propositions. Even Google’s definition: ‘an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers’, misses the point. Words like innovation, service and feature bias the definition to the supply side. And attractiveness is different to value.
A value proposition is the basic idea we have in mind when we create collateral, not the content itself. The value proposition must be clear about:
For ____________ (target customer)
Who ____________ (statement of the need or opportunity)
Our (product/service name) is ____________ (product category)
That (statement of capability) ____________
Unlike ____________ (the most likely alternative)
Our product (name) ____________ (statement of value)
Here is the framework applied to Force.com back in the day when cloud computing was the latest thing:
For IT managers and professional developers who need to build and run business applications and web sites without eating up valuable IT resources our Force.com is a cloud platform that enables customers, partners and developers to quickly build powerful business applications to run every part of the enterprise in the cloud unlike traditional software platforms our product doesn’t need networks, servers, storage, a complicated software stack or the people, space and power to run them and as a result applications can be built five times faster at half the cost.
Clear, succinct and still relevant today.
Ofwat has published its assessment of the costs and benefits of retail competition for household water customers.
Quantitative benefits are easier to evaluate than qualitative ones, so it’s no surprise that the analysis focuses on cost savings and efficiency gains, with limited analysis of the non-financial benefits.
Experience from the energy and telecom markets tells us that when price becomes the primary driver of competition, the market can be viewed as consisting of two main segments:
Ofwat’s analysis shows that in the best scenario, household competition will deliver savings of around £8 per household per year and in the worst scenario it will increase costs by nearly £3 per year per customer. Even if the market passed all the financial savings through to customers in the form of lower prices, the case for competition based on cost savings alone is marginal.
Which brings us back to the non- financial benefits. Other markets, telecoms especially, have competed on a number of other fronts: brand values, additional features and value-added services, for example. Whilst bottled water brands have successfully been able to differentiate, it remains to be seen whether that is possible in water supply. Incumbents and new entrants are going to require some very innovative marketing if they are to make a success of a competitive household water market.
Augmented Reality (AR) is finding valuable applications in business. Construction firms and estate agents are using AR to visualise planned developments, utilities are investigating the use of AR to visualise the location of underground pipes and cables. But, as is often the case nowadays, the consumer market is taking the lead. Pokémon Go has become a global AR phenomenon within months of launch, but is it just a game? A survey by the SLANT agency (here) has looked at how Pokémon Go players interact with local businesses whilst they play, with some interesting conclusions.
Businesses can place lures at their location to attract players in and it looks to be working. Slant found that 58% of players visited a business because there were lures placed there and almost half of those stayed at the business location for 30 minutes or more. The average spend of players making purchases was found to be $11.30. In the future we should expect businesses to be just as willing participants in AR games as players, especially as games providers exploit more of the available levers:
The Open Rights Group and Krowdthink have joined forces to create a campaign designed to raise awareness amongst consumers of how the mobile operators capture and use personal location information. The call to action is to opt-out and instructions on how to do that are provided. But in doing so consumers will reduce both the personal value of their mobile device to them as individuals and the broader value to be gained from anonymised data aggregation. Benefits to consumers range from lower cost car insurance for teenagers, to the peace of mind that comes from knowing your child is safe, to the time saved avoiding traffic jams. More widely mass location analytics enable better urban and transport planning, reducing congestion, commute times and making cities more environmentally friendly.
So why encourage people to opt-out of sharing location information? The campaign highlights the risks of data falling in to the wrong hands, the use of data in marketing and the sale of data to third parties. These are issues that resonate with consumers. The Digital Catapult’s recent report ‘Trust in Personal Data’ identifies many concerns. Based on an Experian survey it shows, for example:
And of the sectors surveyed by Experian, telecoms companies were found to be the least trusted. Mobile Network Operators need to take time out from acquisition-related distractions and focus on what needs to be done to rebuild trust. The ORG and Krowdthink provide helpful starting points. Better articulation of the benefits and reasons for using location data; clearer explanations of security, how the data is used and how to opt-out will be a good start. Although complete integrity throughout the customer experience at every touch point will be needed to make a real difference, not just better contract language and collateral.
Marketing is increasingly data driven. A huge supply chain has emerged, profiling people based on their interests, behaviour and purchases and then serving up ads to them in real time through whatever device they are currently using, wherever they are. Throughout all of this, a key principle is relevance. For an ad to be relevant it is shown only to viewers of the target demographic, for whom the product is known to be of interest, at a time and in a place when they are likely to want to purchase, having opted-in… and so on. The more we think about relevance the more variables come into play. This report from Juniper research identifies some context variables for location-based advertising.
But another key marketing concept is the AIDA funnel. Marketing takes the consumer on journey from Awareness to Interest to Decision and ultimately Action. Generation of awareness is, by definition, broad brush. We cannot know all of a consumer’s preferences before she has shown any interest and she will certainly not have opted in to something she is not aware of. Whilst the digital advertising supply chain increases relevance, it does little for awareness and as ad-blocking increases the disconnect will grow. Marketers will seek better tools above the line. Traditional boundaries (for example between advertising and entertainment) will continue to blur and new disciplines (for example content marketing) will evolve, leading to consumer experiences that are increasingly hard to classify. This Yeo Valley ad gave us an early pointer. What would the TV series ‘Friends’ would have looked like if it had been invented by Starbucks?
Andrew Keevil assists technology companies with strategy and marketing, specialising in new proposition development.