Tag: features

Exploitative Businesses & Divine (and Tech) Interventions

When I wrote ‘Design the Future’ about Design Thinking, it had a brief overview of the behavioural aspects of innovation – from an innovator’s and user’s perspective.
There was a mention of nudges (not sure I used the term though).
I have been of the (possibly obvious) view that, as companies get increasingly sneaky, especially when selling ill-health or stuff we don’t necessarily need, that despite how creative their marketing gets, customers too keep pace by becoming resistant to the nudges.
I also think the Ben Franklin Effect probably wears off, and that people aren’t exactly suckers to keep giving. Of course, it varies for people, their preferences, value trade-off, etc.
Unless business are sincerely trying to benefit or create a good habit in customers, I’ve personally never been a fan of exploitative nudges. Which is why, while some soft drink or fast food ads and initiatives are creative and impressive, you know it isn’t promoting something great in customers.
Two recent events seemed to be a sort of divine intervention to nudges and business practices that aren’t exactly in the best interest of customers.
First, Cristiano Ronaldo removing Coca-Cola bottles during a press conference at the Euros coinciding with a $4bn fall in the company’s share price. Nothing against the company in particular, but not a fan of global giants that proudly continue to promote ill-health.
The Second, email marketing. While useful to businesses including mine to spread the word, it also has become increasingly sneaky in that they closely track numerous user interactions. I recently got an email about an offer. Opened the email because the subject line was interesting, but immediately realized I didn’t need it. Instantly, the next mail appears, asking if there was something missing in the offer (previous mail). That was pushing it.
As per developments discussed at Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that ended about a week ago, Apple will be putting more limitations on email marketing and in-app advertising. They’ll likely be preventing marketers from knowing when users have accessed their emails, among other features.
During a recent project with a company trying to create a positive habit in customers, the analytics team had a list of around 140 data points/actions on the app to track. I found some more to take the tally to 200. While the overarching service is beneficial to customers, I wasn’t overly proud of my contribution and faced the moral dilemma of whether we should track so much, or simply create a more effective user experience that might achieve the dual objective: one for the customer and one for the company.
Interesting how some businesses offer invasive tech to businesses, and other businesses offer defense against such tech in the form of new features on their products.

Social Media, What Next?

Hybrids come naturally in most businesses. Hybrid products/ services. The easiest example that comes to mind, is the BMW X6 (something between an SUV and a sedan). I don’t think that particular line has been very popular, though it does look massive, and reasonably cool. A more common hybrid is a mutual fund or similar investment program. Another recent hybrid is the Connected Camera by Samsung. We are surrounded by hybrids.

Hybrids attempt to give you the good of two or more worlds, and unfortunately more often than not,  not the best of those worlds.

Surprisingly, I don’t see any hybrid social media sites yet, that have tried to take a shot at Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (unarguably the top 3 social media sites on the net today) by capturing the good bits from all three.

All three lack certain features, or are an overkill when it comes to certain  features. And they’ve been around long enough for some, if not a lot of us to have started getting bored of them. Here are some of the lacking & overkill features.

Facebook recently added a ton of sections to the Timeline (I know a good number of people who find the Timeline itself way too complicated). Anyway, the new sections include one for movies you’ve watched (bringing to you, the likes of themoviedb, etc.), for books you’ve read (that’s like shelfari or goodreads on FB), for tv shows (phew.!). All in all, overkill.!

LinkedIn’s got a lot missing. It won’t let you add an acquaintance without knowing their mail id. But if you select that person as a friend, it doesn’t complain. Then why the fuss differentiating between everyone from an acquaintance to a long-lost childhood friend? Look at it differently, and I might raise an eyebrow (if I could) if someone I’d just interacted briefly with at a conference added me as a “friend” on LinkedIn. The discussions pages on LinkedIn are just bleeding boring. Plain, dull, and I think its something to do with the layout as well.  Sleep-inducing. I’ve already written enough about my reservations with the endorse feature already.

And a la Twitter, while quite progressive in thought with the ‘all-you-can-do-with-140-chars’, could have been way more useful from an information sharing point-of-view, if the limit was more like, say a paragraph. Because unless you’re at a school chatting with friends or reading one-liners or short jokes off my Twitter page, apart from getting news updates, most of the interesting stuff is still a click-of-a-short-link away. And the click takes you to a big post or news article. I have a view about a lot of things, but it’s difficult to sit them comfortably in 140 chars. Now imagine if you could tweet a short-link along with a short note sharing your views about a certain event or news item. Kind of like a comment on FB. Maybe even have a conversation about it there  with like-minded people. Wouldn’t that make Twitter more interesting?

What I had in mind about a new social media site, is a hybrid that can be used for professional as well as personal purposes. Firstly, because it would be less complicated than managing stuff across 3 or more sites. And because I believe for most of us, our Facebook profiles would be a better reflection of who we are in real life (if you’re extremely formal and uptight, and are more at home on LinkedIn than for FB, that too would reflect easily on FB, right?) Instead of everyone looking all formal and uptight on LinkedIn when they may be just the opposite in real life and on FB. It would even make it more accurate for your colleagues or prospective employers to understand your personality better (of course, they’d only have a limited view), enabling better job fits. LinkedIn is a little too formal, a little lacking and quite boring. Facebook’s alright to stay connected. And Twitter does really well when it comes to communication, but it does feel a little too restrictive.

So if you do plan to create such a site after reading this, I wouldn’t mind 15% of revenues or the venture funding received 😉

Just kidding there, but let me have your thoughts on it. On what next after Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn?

What Next

Social Media images:Courtesy sayingitsocial and DesignBolts

Layers of BS

Ever realized how much time we spend each day either building a thick layer of ‘unnecessary’, and/ or scraping a thick layer of it.

Rather than build quality products and services, we tend to build our own imaginary features, declare our products/ services to be the absolute best without the real stuff to prove it. Facts are covered up, hyped, or even distorted.

And customers on the other hand, while listening to people brag about their ‘best-in-the-galaxy’ offerings, have to spend most of their waking hours in a state of suspicion, of products and services they buy, of people they interact with, of ideas and suggestions they are given. Because, more often than not, there’s always a layer of bullcrap that customers are mentally scraping and making their own deductions. And usually, the more the BS, the poorer the impression they have of what you have to offer.

Sellers will ridiculously inflate prices. Buyers will be aware to some extent, and both will go through the motions till they arrive at a common ground. And it isn’t just about price. It’s the same with quality, safety, and a lot of such critical factors. One hypes it, the other either falls for it to whatever extent, or doesn’t at all.

Rather than spend time in building quality products and services, we have come to rely more on confident BS based on an illusion of supposed facts that we have created, and what we pass on to every new employee at most companies.

More emphasis is given on teaching the shortcuts, rather than on the product/ service or business know-how. Employees too would rather learn some quick fake facts about something they’re trying to sell, rather than know what they offer, inside-out; so that they could perhaps better understand it, better understand the customer, and help build an even better product/ service.

Guess the meaning of ‘learning the ropes’ has, over the years, slipped down the very same ropes.

Our innate attitude is towards avoiding that extra mile, towards quick fixes, rather than in the direction of building something that lasts.

The way I see it, that extra mile today usually saves several hundred extra miles in the long run.

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