Still competing for the future

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The Future

I recently read the business classic by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad “Competing for the Future” and even though the book is 20 years old, a lot of its wisdom resonates with me today.

20 years ago was back in the day when Bill Gates was viewed as a computer industry challenger, where CNN was the radical innovation and where Motorola was king of mobile. Perhaps not the labels you would adhere to them today, but still they have each had a tremendous impact on their industries and on virtually every person on earth’s lives.

I want to share some of Hamel and Prahalad’s wisdom with you – and save you reading some 330 pages.

Lesson nr. 1 – Learn to forget

A fundamental life lesson really, is the ability to not become a prisoner of ones past experiences, an ability that can dramatically enhance your life, and an ability that for business managers can mean the difference between existing tomorrow or become categorized together with tyrannosaurus X.

Every manager carries around in his or her head a set of biases, assumptions and presuppositions about how their industry is structured. How one makes money, who the competition is, what the customers want, what technologies are available and so on. On top of that comes the cultural mental framework of beliefs, norms and values. Together these preconceived notions of “how we do things” can form a bomb under the very survival of a company if they are allowed to become too settled, too ingrained, too much part of a company’s dna.

In 1994 Microsoft might have been the new kid on the block, but by 2007 they were famously the old “stuck in their way” company that laughed at the iPhone because it didn’t have a keyboard. Business is always changing, fall asleep at the wheel, and you will surely crash.

As, Peter Drucker, another revered business scholar has expressed the need to learn to forget “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

Learning to forget is incredibly hard, but fortunately businesses can learn to do this and re-code their corporate genetics.

Lesson nr. 2 – Be a rebel

Do not allow industry conventions and best practices to go unquestioned, to re-code corporate genetics managers must dare to ask questions about everything. Including questions about themselves.

Managers have a knack of elevating their own knowledge to equal fact, believing that what they think and do is, by virtue of their status, inherently correct. And when managers gather they are incredibly adept at confirming this notion with one another, spawning a general acceptance of business as usual and delivering little more than a blurb of sameness.

This creates the perfect opportunity for a rebel to make his or her mark. Companies that create the future support these rebels. They encourage their subversive behavior and celebrate their passion for breaking the rules. It’s the rebels that spot the white spaces and the blue oceans, because they are not prepared to accept established dogmas and traditional industry boundaries. Back in 1994 it was companies like The Body Shop or Swiss watchmaker Swatch that celebrated these rebels, today it’s companies like Google and Airbnb.

Lesson nr. 3 – Dare to sound a bit wacky

Since customers are notoriously lacking in foresight, companies have to lead the way. To re-code company genetics, managers must become leaders. They must be able to envision the distant future and communicate their vision, even when the response is rolling eyes and ridicule.

In the book, Hamel and Prahalad provides their 1994 contribution to visionary thinking by proposing that, instead of having to drive all the way to the supermarket, hike across vast parking lots, wander endless aisles and wait impatiently at the checkout, why can’t the supermarkets just mail us a weekly cd on which we can wander a virtual supermarket and place our order? Now in 1994 that was CRAZY talk. Now, in 2014, of course the only crazy part about that is the cd! I buy 50% of my groceries, 80% of my shoes and 100% of my books online.

Companies that create the future offer more than incremental innovation and feature enhancements, they amaze customers with new products that they didn’t even know they wanted. Not saying that listening to your customers is not important, of course it is, it is vital in order to stay in business today, but to carve a path to the future you need incredible foresight.

To me it seems the recipe for foresight is one scoop deep industry knowledge, two scoops knowing your customers and three scoops of imagination. It’s a fine art being able to balance knowing what could potentially be possible and recognizing the limits of it. Rush off in some headless burst of innovation enthusiasm and you could find yourself hurtling over a cliff. On the other hand, stay constant and watch your business become obsolete. Boy, business ain’t easy!

Lesson nr. 4 – It takes a village

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, so too does it take a community effort to bring innovations to life. Hamel and Prahalad speak of a company’s strategic intent as being the underlying point of view that emanates throughout the company, a shared belief in the company’s long-term vision and a communal sense of direction.

Lacking a compelling sense of direction, few employees feel an urgent sense of responsibility to contribute to the company’s future competitiveness. Most people won’t go the extra mile, if they don’t know where they are heading.

Unfortunately businesses are too often caught up in a quagmire of bureaucracy, designed to keep checks and balances and preventing people from turning left and right. Bureaucracy blocks initiatives and creativity by constraining the range of available tactics. Managers become frustrated by orthodoxies about which channels to use, the definition of products and markets and the lack tactical freedom.

The point is; companies have to trust their employees enough to give them a map marked with a desired future destination, and then let them discover the best way to get there. Appeal to every person’s internal explorer, let them relish in the joy of discovery, and you will cultivate a sense of destiny in your employees that will make them feel like they are part of building a legacy – something that is bigger and more important than anything anyone could accomplish on their own.

I think Hamel and Prahalad are as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. I am fortunate enough to live in a country that celebrates freedom and work in a company that celebrates the team as well as the individual.

Still every day I think about how we can become a lot better at daring to do different.

4 Amazing Examples On How Easily Manipulated We Are

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behavioral economy

The last couple of weeks I have been knee-deep in books, blogs and videos on behavioral economy and social psychology. They are fascinating subjects; a look in to the underlying psychological factors that shape the decisions we make. What strikes me the most is how unbelievably easy we are to manipulate.

I, for one, like to think I’m pretty much in control of the decisions I make. I have worked in sales and marketing for years, I think I can spot the “tricks” a mile away. No .9 charm price is going to sway my decision. I know the fresh fruit and veggies are placed at the entrance to the supermarket, it won’t fool me in to thinking that the rest of the supermarket is an abundance of freshness.

It is easy to spot the “bigger” persuasion techniques, such as .9 pricing and “deal of the day”, they might draw your attention to a product, but I think most of us will base our decision to buy on a weighing of costs and benefits, and not just because it had a .9 price or was labeled a certain way.

It’s the small little manipulation techniques that have me completely intrigued and perplexed at the same time.

Want someone to like you – hand them a warm cup of coffee

Our brains work in mysterious ways, the interconnected neural network that inhabits first floor does not seem to be very good at separating seemingly unrelated events.

For years, Professor John Bargh has proven how easily we can be primed to feel a certain way. In numerous experiments he has tested the effect of having someone hold a warm or cold beverage first and then ask them to rate a stranger’s friendliness afterwards.

The people who were given the warm beverage, felt the person was kind, friendly and when asked if they would hire the person for a job, they said they likely would.

The exact opposite was true for the group of people who held the cold beverage, they were much less inclined to hire the stranger and they had a much lower opinion of the stranger’s friendliness.

How on earth can this be true? Well, according to Nathalie Nahai, author of “Webs of Influence”, the part of our brain responsible for processing physical temperature, is also involved in processing interpersonal warmth, and the same area also plays a role in our social emotions, such as empathy, trust, embarrassment and guilt.

Our brains simply can’t distinguish between these unrelated events, because they are processed by the same area of the brain. This explains why these experiments keep showing the same results time and time again, even when people have been forewarned that external influences are at play.

As a public service I’d just like to say – beware of politicians and salespeople handing you warm cups of coffee!

One word makes all the difference

In a fascinating TEDtalk psychologist Elizabeth Loftus talks about false memory. She describes memory as a bit like a Wikipedia page, we can construct pages ourselves and add new information – but so can other people. A bit scary really.

In an experiment they constructed a scene of an accident and showed it to people. Afterwards they asked half how fast the cars were going when they hit. The other half were asked how fast the cars were going when they smashed.

Just by changing one single word, hit/smashed, the results were remarkably different. The “hit” people estimated that the cars travelled at 34 mph and the “smashed” people estimated 41 mph.

Moreover the “smashed” people were more than twice as likely to say that they saw broken glass in the scene, when in fact there wasn’t any.

All it took was one single leading word and suddenly the whole incident was more dramatic and more violent.

I don’t even want to start speculating where evil people could and do use techniques such as this!

The power of default

If you really want people to choose a particular option, make it the default.

A study done on the percentage of a nation’s population willing to donate their organs to medicine after death showed some remarkable results.

Opt-in opt-out study

It seem the people of Denmark are particularly cold hearted and unwilling to donate organs, whereas the good folks of Sweden are much more inclined to donate. How can this be? Denmark and Sweden are culturally similar nations, as are the Netherlands and Belgium, and Germany and Austria. How can it be that some nations are so much more willing to donate than others?

Turns out that when the questionnaire was handed out, the countries on the left hand side were asked to tick a box to opt-in if they wanted to donate their organs.

The countries on the right hand side were asked to tick a box to opt-out if they didn’t want to donate their organs.

And what did people do? The exact same thing – they didn’t tick anything! Resulting in dramatically different results.

So can you trust statistics? Well, only to the degree you can trust the person who designed the questionnaire or the form you are filling out, as the design will have a dramatic effect on the end result.

As Benjamin Disraeli, 19th century English Prime Minister, said “there are lies, damned lies and then there is statistics”. Seems he might have been on to something…

It is for this same reason that 42% of people click on the first result on search engines result pages and only 8% click on the second result. We choose what is served, whether out of laziness or a blind trust in other people’s choices, I don’t know. What is truly remarkable is, that even if you switch the first and second search result around (which should then serve you a lesser quality result first) people still choose the first option!

Want something to look fantastic? Place it next to something inferior.

My favorite behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, gives in his book Predictably Irrational some startling examples of how attractiveness really and truly is relative.

For example, did you know that restaurants can increase their overall revenue by including high-priced entrées on the menu, even if no one buys them? How can this be, I hear you ask. Well, people will typically not choose the most expensive dish on the menu, but they are inclined to choose the second most expensive dish. So by including a high-priced dish, you can lure people into choosing the second most expensive dish.

The same persuasion technique comes in to play in many product displays. Imagine you were looking at buying a new TV, and you were presented with these three TV options:

  • 36 inch Panasonic for $690
  • 42 inch Toshiba for $850
  • 50 inch Philips for $1480

Which one seems like the better deal? Is the Panasonic a better deal than the Philips? $1480 might be a bit hot, and 36 inch might be a bit small. Likely you will choose the middle option, because next to the other two, this one seems like the best deal.

And finally, my favorite, imagine you were going on a vacation, you have to choose between Rome and Paris. It’s a tough choice, both vacation packages come inclusive of hotel, breakfast and sightseeing tours.

If your travel agent really wants to sell Rome, he will include a second but inferior Rome option, like Rome without the breakfast. You will immediately recognize that Rome and Paris all inclusive are similarly attractive options, and you will also recognize that Rome without breakfast is an inferior option.

What happens is that this inferior option makes Rome with breakfast seem even better. In fact so much better, that now Rome with breakfast looks even more attractive than Paris with breakfast. And next thing you know, you have booked your vacation in Rome – with breakfast.

I hope you have enjoyed these few examples of just how easy we are to manipulate. I don’t really like the word manipulate, it is a very negatively charged word, and I don’t think these techniques are only for “evil” use by any means. I am simply fascinated by how seemingly small and insignificant things can have a huge impact on the choices we make, and I think we would be wise to slow down sometimes and think before we act.

What’s the deal with Innovation?

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Innovation Idea

It sounds sexy so it must be good

Innovation is the business equivalent of sex. Everybody wants it, many claim to be doing it in abundance, only few actually are and if you are not careful it could end up killing you (bye bye Blockbuster, Kodak and Motorola)

Innovation is confusing. It seems to mean something different to everybody and it’s practiced in a million different ways. If you search Amazon it will deliver 61,733 books with innovation in the title and Google serves up a discrete 250,000,000 results.

So what’s the real deal with innovation? What does it even mean and is there some way of making the topic at least somewhat manageable?

Let’s start with definition. The word innovation originates from the Latin word innovare, which means to alter, renew or restore. I find this puzzling; the definition is not as dramatic or action packed as I thought it would be. If all that is required to innovate is to alter something, then no wonder every Tom, Dick and Harry are prancing around claiming to be doing it.

All innovation is not created equal

Innovation seems to be suffering from hyperinflation; the reason for this is to be found in the immensely lucrative promise of this word. Some of the world’s largest and most successful companies have risen to their stardom on the back of innovation; think Apple, Google, Amazon.

Who wouldn’t want a piece of that pie? Unfortunately, the desire to be associated with this kind of success has led to the extensive overuse of the term. When innovation is treated as a commodity, its meaning becomes diluted and the respect this fine art deserves dwindles.

Fortunately we do not all have to be a Steve Jobs, Larry Page or Jeff Bezos to be innovative, but we do have to actually contribute with something new that creates value in order to rightfully apply the term to ourselves.

The operative word here is value. Innovation without value is “just” an invention. Try searching “most useless inventions” and you will get a very long list of more or less bizarre contraptions from shoe umbrellas to baby-mops. I’m sure the inventors thought they were fantastic, but the market decided they did not provide sufficient value to become viable products.

Innovation is all about the practical application of inventions; it is about making the most of already invented technologies and making them better. “Better” can be many things, it can be smarter, faster, cheaper, tougher, simpler, easier etc. “Better” means supplying new or additional value to consumers.

If a product fails to deliver new or additional value, then consumers will reject it and it will not be an innovation.

The Innovation Map

Consider innovation as a map with four corners, four directions a company can take their innovative processes in. Imagine that North and South represent the innovations that aim to either create new markets or aim to manage existing markets respectively. Then imagine that East and West represent the amount of alterations used in the innovation, ranging in the East from minor change to, and sometime even a reduction of, technology, to the West where there is an extensive change in technology taking place.

Innovation Map

In the Disruptive North-East corner, we find the innovations that come sneaking into well established industries and disrupts them. Often by offering very similar products or services, but in a simpler and/or cheaper version, effectively making it possible for a completely new segment of consumers, who previously either couldn’t afford them or found them too complicated, to use the products.

In the Radical North-West corner, we have the innovations that dramatically change industries and/or societies. These are the true game changers, they take how things are usually done, and turns them on their heads, creating new market opportunities with new technologies and new products.

Then we have the South-East corner, if any position on the innovation map has a lesser status, it must the this corner. This is where Incremental innovations take place; the daily battle for survival for many companies, where innovation can seem like an overexerted attempt to remain relevant in the eyes of the consumers. Every new flavor, scent, color and shape that companies spew out of their production lines fall into this corner.

In the last corner, the South-West, we find the Sustaining and sometimes Breakout innovations. This is where good products are made even better. It is a bit of a tricky corner; the innovations that land here are the ones where the added value in terms of new technology is too great to be considered Incremental but not different enough to be labeled Radical.

The Innovation Map is a guide that can help you locate a particular innovation. Bear in mind that innovations by nature are ever evolving creatures, therefore products may well wander from one location on the map to another over time. For example when the first Smartphone saw the light of day, it was a radical innovation, it changed the mobile phone into a computer. But every new version of Smartphones since then have been innovated in order to manage the existing market, it has mainly done so by adding more and more features to the products, therefore the placement of the Smartphone has changed from initially being Radical to now being Sustaining.

I hope the Innovation Map will help you get some clarity on the subject of innovation and I would love to hear your take on it.



Is customer service differentiation ok?

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customer serviceThere has been a lot of talk lately around here about the way banks treat their customers differently depending on the amount of business they give them. Many feel that customers without great financial means are treated poorly, given a lesser service and are not valued as much – which is seen as unfair, undemocratic and unethical.

One bank even had the audacity to be quite frank about it, and openly stated exactly how much service they intended to give to customers of various business brackets. If you didn’t like it, you could choose to either do more business with them and get better/more service or find yourself another bank. Here, in Denmark – one of the world’s most egalitarian countries, that was regarded by many as a really big deal and very controversial.

Many took serious offense. Personally I was a bit surprised at the strong response, I thought it was kind of nice to hear something that sounded almost like honesty from a bank…

The heated response this situation caused, might also have been fuel by the fact, that the decision was directed towards private customers, I doubt we would have seen the same reaction had the bank just wanted to get rid of their unprofitable B2B customers.

But is it ok for businesses to say to customers that they don’t want them, or give them a lesser service, because they don’t make enough money off of them?

This is a question you had better be prepared for a hefty discussion about if you dare ask. At least if you happen to be in Denmark…

It is difficult to defend treating people differently when the only thing that sets them apart is money, nonetheless I have, in business, without a shadow of doubt done it myself plenty times.

Have I rescheduled small deliveries, and thereby inconvenienced another customer, in order to accommodate a big one? Yup. Have I held the store open after hours for somebody with a fat wallet? Oh yes. Would I do that for all customers? Hell no.

Of course all customers are important, and all should be treated with a high degree of service, I would never advocate poor service, but fact is that some customers are just more important than others. And what makes a customer more important – well the amount of money they spend. That’s how the cookie crumbles – it’s not personal, just business.

I didn’t always see it this way. Back in the good ol’ days, before reality hit me, when my naive (but beautiful) Scandinavian belief in fairness and equality for all still prevailed, I would have been pretty horrified by even entertaining the idea that it could be defended to treat people differently, based exclusively on how much money they were spending.

But that was before I became responsible for the financial success (or failure) of a business.

A digital future for an analogue industry

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furniture digital marketing

Times are changing

The furniture industry has a reputation for being an Ol’ Boys club with a lot of face-to-face interactions and many industry trade shows to attend every year. My own experience from the industry more or less supports this reputation, as with most reputations they are often founded on at least some degree of truth, as they say “where there is smoke there is usually fire”.

Many industries have undergone great transformations over the past ten years, as they have had to adapt to new buyer behaviours with the shift from bricks to clicks retail. I have previously touched on the subject of e-commerce evolution, where we ten years ago found it unlikely that online retail of things like shoes or clothing would ever become popular, today we love it and most of us have at least at some point shopped online for these items.

I wanted to find out more about the general attitudes towards the use of digital tools as part of sales and marketing among the furniture retailers where I live; in Denmark. I wasn’t able to dig this information out from the corners of the internet, so I set out to conduct a survey on my own, and although it has to be said that my survey carries zilch statistical validity, it does give a good indication of certain trends and attitudes prevalent in the furniture industry.


So where is the furniture industry heading?

It is doubtful that the furniture retailers can remain behind their fortified arguments about their products being unsuited for online retail, due to their bulky nature and relatively large price-points, for very much longer.

Although the vast majority of sales still takes place in a physical store; roughly 3% happen purely online (USA & Europe combined data), it would be very unwise to ignore the impact the web has on the industry today. According to a study done in the UK by the Javelin Group the web has a direct impact on 42% of sales and this number is expected to increase to 69% by the year 2020.

So even though you might conduct the actual transaction within the four walls of your showroom, whether or not the customer will even venture into your store in the first place is very much influenced by what they experience online.

Furniture could be one of the last remaining online retail frontiers – so when will they conquer it ?

Probably sooner than many furniture retailers are prepared for. I spoke with many retailers during my survey and I got a clear feeling that most are aware that e-commerce is something they need to include in their business strategy, but they are very unsure of what exactly they should do to make it a success.

I understand where they are coming from; when you venture into uncharted territory where there are very limited established best practices to follow, you must have the guts to set the rules on your own. And that’s scary stuff when you have existed in an analogue world for donkey’s years.

Many fear that online trade will cannibalize in-store sales. This is my advice to them; with limited growth predicted for the industry at large over the next 5 years, and the only discernible growth is taking place on the web, online trade might very well eat away at in-store sales, but if you don’t cannibalize your own store someone else is sure to do it.

When Retargeting Smells Like Stalking

Posted on had the eerie feeling someone’s watching you? How do they in mysterious ways keep bumping into you no matter where you go? Pop! Right in your face – again. Ugh, it’s down right freaky.

I often feel this way after a good dose of online window shopping. The next many many days, the stores that I have visited just keep showing up on my screen everywhere I go. Constantly I must be presented with the same jackets, shirts, shoes or whatever I have been looking at. I know what they look like thank you very much, I was the one who found them remember, I don’t need to see them again every 10 minutes.

I know the idea behind retargeting, as this (at times super annoying) marketing tool is called, is to nudge and remind a store visitor of the items they looked at in the hope that they will return to the store and complete the purchase. But there is also such a thing as frequency, which is the amount of times you present these little nudges to your potential customers, and boy do some online retailers get this wrong!

In particularly I find online clothing retailer Zalando to be overly zealous in their deployment of retargeting. They seem to be hunting rather than targeting, and I am apparently the prey. As is common with us prey, we don’t much care for our hunters, so we hide and make sure we never ever cross your path again. Which in your case, Zalando, means you have freaked and annoyed me sufficiently that I will not visit your otherwise very nice online establishment again for fear of being hunted days on end with the same images over and over.

Took me less than 10 minutes to bump into these 3 ads (4 actually since one ad was not enough in one of them) and this has happened non-stop for well over a week now.

Zalando 123

Sometimes less really is more. I’d appreciate a little friendly nudge now and then, maybe with a nice discount incentive to encourage me to return and make the purchase. But this kind of frequency has the opposite effect, I don’t want to go back because by now I’m fed up with Zalando.

As a marketing professional myself, I also appreciate that frequency can be a particularly difficult beast to master. I think what I would do, would be to test my way forward. Split test different frequencies and pair them with different buyer profiles.

Hopefully that should prevent campaigns from being are so far off target it resembles some kind of “shock and awe” strategy.



Didn’t Know You Could Shop Furniture Like That?

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Today’s world of savvy consumers expect a lot from online retailers; whether you are pure-play online or store plus online, you cannot ignore the power of the modern consumer, as a retailer the viability of your existence is at the mercy their clicks – they can make you or break you.

Although brick and mortar stores still account for 90% of the revenue created, there is a clear shift in the purchasing habits of shoppers, they are migrating online. A survey by UK’s webloyalty shows that overall online purchasing has increased by 27,6 percentage points over the past ten years[1].

Ecommerce evolution

When you think of furniture you don’t immediately think online shopping. But maybe you should. Just maybe furniture today is where shoes were 10 years ago. Back then everyone was saying that you couldn’t buy shoes online, that you had to try them on first. And along came Zappos and ASOS and changed all of that!

Today online sale of furniture account for 8% of the total industry sales in the US and it’s forecast to grow 45% by the time we hit 2015.

But how exactly do you buy furniture online? I wouldn’t trust buying a new sofa from just seeing a picture on a website! Well, some pretty nifty creative gadget are now available courtesy a few businesses with enough foresight to see that this is what tomorrow’s shopper wants.

I want to share two of them with you.

The first one is called LoveMyHome and before I get on with how awesome they are, I want to have full disclosure and let you know that I work with LoveMyHome, but that doesn’t make them any less awesome 🙂

LoveMyHome supply the furniture industry with interactive product visualization tools that help you and me when we shop furniture online. First up is the issue of viewing products properly, that means knowing what a product looks like from all angles. Don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t buy an armchair that I didn’t know what looked like from the back. That’s where 3D product visualization comes into play – it allows you to spin the furniture around, zoom in and out and change things like fabric or material if the furniture comes in different colours.

LoveMyHome 3D Room Designer
LoveMyHome 3D Room Designer

Second issue when buying furniture is will it fit in my house. This problem has always existed, whether you shop online or in store. I often get misled when it comes to the size of things when I’m in a furniture store because the store space is so huge it makes the furniture appear smaller than it really is.

Then when you receive delivery of the new King size bed, you realize why they call it King!

So LoveMyHome created a super user friendly 3D Room Designer that allows you to draw your room or house to scale and then place furniture in it to see if it will fit. It is fun to use and you can jump into your own design and take a walk in your own virtual home. It resembles a computer game when you are in this mode, and it is a powerful experience to see your home and the new furniture online like this.

A great way to really understand what something will look like before you buy it. The furniture store equivalent to the fitting room!

Check it out for yourself I think all furniture retailers should have this feature as part of their website.

The second one is SnapShop. This little fella is really cool if you just quickly want to get an idea of what something would look like in your home. It works as an augmented reality app and can be downloaded for free from the Itunes store.

The SnapShop app
The SnapShop app

You simply take a picture of the area you want to furnish and then place items on top of the picture. There is access to a number of stores directly from within the app which makes it really easy to find new stuff for your home. You can scale items so they look correct in the picture. For me the big issue with this app is that you don’t actually know when you have hit the right size. Not so cool if you buy something you believe will fit because you have scaled it to fit, but in reality it looks like you have purchased a child’s furniture.

Still it is a very cool tool if you just quickly want to see if something would go with the decor of your home. Check it out here



[1] Experian White Paper: “The changing face of UK retail in today’s multi-channel world” page 8

[2] page 19 viewed Feb. 26th 2013

Please The ROPO And They’ll Be Back

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Ok I know that pun was a bit corny – couldn’t help myself.


So what’s ROPO? Why, glad you asked. ROPO short for Research Online Shop Offline, sort of a cousin of Showrooming, and it is what 90% of people do when it comes to purchasing high involvement goods such as consumer electronics and home furnishings. Think about it – didn’t you as well last time you purchased something of significant value?

And we don’t just research in one place, in fact almost half of us use 3 or more channels when conducting our research; smartphone, website, tablet, store etc. All this research has resulted in a purchasing journey that is twice as long today than it was 10 years ago. In 2002 it took us 5.2 days to reach a decision, today the number is 10.3 – and 5.5 of those days are spent looking online. Just when we thought technology was making life faster it turns out to be doing just the opposite. Go figure!

Although the vast majority of purchases still take place in a physical store, there is a clear trend towards less brick & mortar sales and more online sales. Besides up to 80% of consumers indicate that the information they gather during their online research has a direct impact on the purchasing decisions they end up making, regardless of whether the purchase takes place in a store or online.

This speaks volumes for the need to engage consumers while online. If you are a retailer you better make sure your site is experienced as a destination for great content that will inspire, entice and inform your visitors.

Here are 5 tips to for making better online content:

1. – Make it engaging. Capture the imagination of the customer by offering them creative solutions.

2. – Make it relevant. Consumers will leave a site in a heartbeat if it does not answer their questions.

3. – Make it personal. Offer unique solutions that are tailored to the individual.

4. – Make it mobile. Cater to all channels. Anytime anywhere is the mantra for the modern shopper.

5. – Make it complete. Offer solutions to every step of the purchasing journey; from browsing to researching to purchasing.



Fake It Till You Become It – Works In Customer Service As Well

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This is one of my all time favorite TEDtalks. Amy Cuddy talking about how your body language shapes who you are.

The idea that by practicing being powerful we can actually become powerful. That we have a tremendous impact on the events that shape our lives and our everyday experiences by the non-verbal messages we send. Events such as dealing with a difficult customer or having to give a pitch, like a sales pitch or any other social threat situation that we may experience.

The term powerful is not to be understood as having success, money, power or anything of that nature, but rather being assertive, confident and comfortable – and who wouldn’t like to be that?

When you deal with customers on a daily basis, you often find yourself in these unequal power situations. As a salesperson or customer service person you will likely have experienced feeling powerless in front of an a complaining customer. Unfortunately being powerless is a self-reinforcing mechanism; the balance of power tips and it becomes difficult to restore as the customer is more likely to act in an aggressive manner because the more you shrink the more they powerful they become and vice versa.

This imbalance does not do much to promote constructive communication and unfortunately it can result in a lowering of overall service performance as you will fear a similar situation next time you deal with a difficult customer and therefore start out in a defensive and low power stance.  

Now I am not advocating that you should put your hands on your hips and give back as good as you get, but you can improve on the situation by being more powerful yourself. By exuding power you become more confident and people trust confidence as it gives us a sense of security. Your customer will evaluate you much more positively and the likelihood of a successful outcome of the situation will have increased dramatically.

So my advise to everyone is – take two minutes out of your day every day and practice Amy’s high power poses and walk out there and fake til you become it!