Category Archives: digital advocacy

Mobile is dead. Long live mobile. 5 tips for brands in an untethered world

mobile is dead

I recently heard a director of digital and e-commerce of a retail brand say, “we don’t really care about mobile” and nearly shat myself.

I’d recently had Mexican, and it wasn’t agreeing with me.

I’m kidding…their statement did almost cause an involuntary bowel movement.

Luckily I have a strong sphincter (read: I do kegels) and the crisis was avoided.

I was, however, momentarily stunned by the statement of someone I assumed knew that mobile commerce was one of the largest contributors to retail revenues in 2015 – to the tune of a projected $104 billion according to Internet Retailer.

With mobile accounting for more than 30% of all US e-commerce traffic, I chalked the executive’s statement to early morning alcohol consumption, clandestine drug use or undiagnosed Turrets.

But as I thought on it further, I realized that perhaps the functional addict of an exec was actually on to something.

A decade ago websites were the holy grail for e-commerce.

Five years ago SMS was an absolutely essential component of brands’ marketing strategies.

A few years ago having a mobile site or app was critical to a brand’s success.

And now brands are weighing the importance of having a wearable strategy.

All this to drive traffic, increase engagement and conversions on websites, mobile sites, and apps.

With the advent of IoT, wearables, ‘smart’ devices, and thin clients are going to enable incomprehensible levels of engagement – making the actual platform used to connect virtually irrelevant.

This shift is changing the way we interact with the world around us and the brands that want to reach us.

So in honor of the wayward exec I maligned, here is my top 5 list for preparing for an IoT world.

1. Accept that people are always on.

We are always reaching for our devices. Sleep seems to be the only time we’re not literally on our devices. But with devices like the Apple Watch doubling as a nightstand clock/alarm clock, we’re closer than ever to achieving actual ‘always-on’ status. At a glance, we can get weather updates, stock tips, heath status, schedule and virtually any random piece of information one desires. No longer are we required to ‘boot up’ a computer or suffer some cumbersome process in order to get information. Today, we can just ask Siri, Cortana or any of a dizzing number of virtual assistant (even on our damn tvs!) and activate/initiate some desired action. With IoT, there’s no going back.

2. Be diffuse but don’t dilute.

water down

Once upon a time, mobile sites we trimmed down versions of full desktop sites. The thought process was that with the smaller real estate, users wouldn’t be able to process the same amount of information, and that information overload was the equivalent of a poor user experience. So many brands opted for ‘brochure’ mobile sites, stripped of the functionality available of desktop sites save a few basic options. Today we know better. With smart phones housing increasingly powerful processors, greater real estate for presenting content from larger screens, and loads of data about mobile user behavior, having a mobile site that functions like a full desktop site or offers the same utility, and is adapted to mobile user behavior ensures that you’re enabling your users rather than hampering them. In the age of IoT, brands will become adept at applying the lessons learned in mobile to wearables to avoid watering down utility.

3. Meet your audience where they are.

meet people where they are

I’m sure you’ve heard of brands adopting a multi-channel or omni-channel strategy as it relates to targeting their users. Basically, these terms refer to the evolving mindset that you can no longer build it and expect them to come. Today, you’ve got to meet them where they are, which increasingly requires that you first understand where they are, and second how to engage them in those spaces. You cannot simply say, “I’m going to make my website available on mobile and tablet devices and wearables” (unless you want to fail miserably). Yes, you should have an approach or strategy for intelligently being present in the spaces your users are, but don’t blunt the efficacy of your presence with a one-size-fits-all mindset.

4. Build bridges back to you.

hyperlink

I once received an email offer in my inbox with no hyperlink to a landing page or the website for the offer itself. There was no specific call to action or clear indication of how to take advantage of the promotion. Outside of communicating that there was a sale, the brand didn’t make it particularly easy to take advantage of it. Major miss. If you’re a brand with a compelling offer, make sure that you make it super simple for recipients of that offer to take advantage of it. For example, if you’re offering 20% off at checkout and that ad is my entry point, make sure there’s a cookie that auto fills the promo code box at checkout and the user doesn’t have to backtrack to find the code.

5. Think like a user.

personas

I recently read an article about a shopping app, in which the app’s creator was the first user/shopper. The article went on to explain how the app’s creator continued to use the app to shop, even though he had thousands of shoppers and a staff of thousands. Why? Because knowing the user experience from a first person perspective was critical to ensuring that the app contained to meet the needs of shoppers. As a brand, it’s one thing to have an idea and quite another to see how you idea manifests in the real world. Make sure you’re putting down your marker, stepping away from the white board, and walking in the shoes of your users to know exactly what their experience is in the real world. As a corollary to this point, make sure you build personas which speak to the different types of people who will engage your brand, so you’re thinking through not one user journey, but the many possible user journeys of the various users.

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Back to School – the digital version. Another top five list.

back-to-school-digital

Back to school can be a daunting time for busy parents trying to eke out those last days of summer.

What can be especially trying is the planning and shopping for back to school items.

What to get, where to get them, and at what price are issues that cause many a sleepless night.

It’s no wonder that retailers start advertising early in an effort to drive traffic towards their physical and digital stores.

But as shoppers become more discerning about products and price conscious, retailer have to do more to appeal to shoppers.

So here are my top five tips for winning over your online shopper.

1. Make it mobile. I say this so much, I sound like a broken record – or Max Headroom. But I’ll say it again. Make it mobile. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to navigate a full desktop site from a mobile device. Sure, I can pinch and squeeze, but why do I have to? There are plenty of other sites out there that are catering to the mobile shopper. And if you’re trying to win dollars from other retailers, do yourself a favor and make your user’s shopping experience as simple as possible. And it starts with making your site mobile.

2. Offer mobile only promotions. Everybody likes a bargain. More importantly, folks, especially moms, don’t want to feel like they’ve missed an opportunity. When you have a mobile only promotion. That is either offered only if a user sees it when they’re browsing your site from their mobile device, or which can only be redeemed while shopping on your mobile site, you’re giving shoppers a reason to take advantage of that offer – because they don’t want to miss it. Mobile only promotions is a great way to drive traffic to your mobile site and increase mobile conversions.

3. Apps. Apps. Apps. Dialing up a mobile app on your device is far easier than trying to access a mobile site from your browser. And although it may not seem like much, for a busy back-to-school shopper, time is often of the essence. Making sure that you’ve got a mobile app that shoppers can easily access from their mobile phones or tablets, means that they don’t have to worry about accessing the internet or being on a strong wifi signal to browse and shop. The mobile app is also great for sending push notifications alerting your users about new offers and promotions.

4. Wish lists are a must. As kids get older, shopping with parents just isn’t…how do I say this delicately…cool. After a certain age, your kids would much rather hang out in the mall with their friends, then be seen in public with you. Life’s cruel like that. They don’t want you picking things out for them (your tastes as so blase). And they certainly don’t want to try things on with you lurking outside of the dressing room like Quasimodo. But when it comes to back to school shopping, that can be a good thing. Especially if the stores you patronize offer wish lists. With a wish list, your petulant teen (or pre-teen) can go online, find the things that they like, and shoot you a link to that wish list for you to purchase from the convenience of your computer or mobile device. No muss. No fuss.

5. Shop with your phone. If you just enjoy the act of shopping and would much rather see, feel and touch items before you buy them, then shopping with your mobile device as your companion. Retailers have come to expect that shopper will be comparison shopping, looking up product details and reviews, taking pictures and generally vetting them with mobile phones on the ready. In fact, many retailers are using beacons to identify which shoppers are really paying attention to their phones and using this as an opportunity to communicate special offers, savings or promotions while the shopper is on or near the store. So make sure that you’ve got a full charge before you head out, you could be in for extra savings.

6. Coupons! I know I said this was a “Top 5 List” but I realized that there was one more tip for busy shoppers. There is a whole industry around helping shoppers ‘clip’ digital coupons that can be used either online or at checkout in-store. RetailMeNot, for example allows you to search for a retailer and offers up a results page replete with coupons that could potentially save you dough when you’re shopping. So if you follow Tip No. 5 and have your phone on you when you shop (at home or in store), mobile (and online) coupons could really impact your bottom line.

Take that competition!

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Holiday shopping tips for the digitally challenged.

2015-black-friday-cyber-monday-sale-657x420

I know it’s mad early to be talking about holiday shopping, but luck favors the prepared.

Nearly everyone is familiar with Black Friday.

It’s the biggest shopping day of the year, where retailers slash their prices and shoppers act as if the world is coming to an end.

There have been countless stories of people being trampled – trampled when store doors open as people literally rush to savings.

I’m not a Black Friday kind of dude.

If I’m going to go shopping and try to save money at the same time, I’m going to do it intelligently.

And I’m going to do it online.

While Black Friday is a boon for brick and mortar establishments, it’s also a win for online retailers who offer similar savings for folks not inclined to deal with holiday shopping crowds, but are still looking for bargains.

Online shopping on Black Friday has become so popular that it spawned a completely different shopping day, devoted entirely to the online shopper: Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday, for the uninitiated, is like Black Friday, except its wholly online.

Instead of rushing to your local Target to stand online in the hopes of snagging that 42″ flatscreen LG, simply flip open your laptop, type in the URL and viola! it’s in your cart.

No muss no fuss.

If you’re a truly savvy digital shopper, you know that Cyber Monday type deals are available all year round.

But it’s only during the holidays that online retailers really promote these savings.

So this year, as you make your list and check it twice, make sure you’re bookmarking your favorite sites, because the savings you’re looking for are only a click away!

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What’s a CD? Top 10 signs you’re dealing with a digital native.

digital native jokes

I recently took a train ride with David Polinchock (@polinchock), a technologist I had met over decade ago through James Andrews (@keyinfluencer) when I was still in private practice.

David was part of the Entertainment Technology Center, a division of Carnegie Mellon’s research arm that sought to leverage academic brain power with business.

Back then, we launched a sponsored research project to develop the DigiBoxx, a self-serve kiosk for music, where you could refill your iPod or MP3 device with music on the go.

This was 2003 (or ’04) long before the arrival of multi-gig devices capable of storing buttloads of music.

And while we didn’t have license the first to address all those pesky copyright issues, we did develop a working POC and that was a start.

Fast forward to 2015, and David and I are still pushing the envelope.

No longer the bright-eyed optimists, we chatted nonetheless about how far technology had come and what we saw on the horizon.

When the conversation turned to our kids, he talked about his daughter’s Digital Natives presentation at SXSW.

Come again? Say what?

Apparently, he had pitched SXSW to stop talking to old fogie stogies like us about technology and have actual digital natives – who only know the world of gadgets  speak from their unique perspective.

I was simultaneously offended, envious, and intrigued.

Who the fuck are you calling old?

I love SXSW. Why can’t I go?

Why aren’t my kids presenting at SXSW?

When I finally worked through my mixed emotions, I tuned back in to hear him describe a world view he gained listening to his daughter and her co-presenter.

Oh right…..some 12 or 13 year old child prodigy who builds his own computers co-presenter.

This is the era of Digital Natives.

Talking to David made me think about how technologically different the world is for today’s youth than it was for any other generation.

We’re not so far removed from floppy discs, but kids today only know USBs.

Their Boost mobile starter phones have more computing power today than desktop computers in most financial institutions a decade ago.

But rather than drone on endlessly about what digital natives are and are not, I figured I’d grace you with one of my top ten lists.

Here are the top ten signs that you’re dealing with a digital native.

1. They’ve never bought a CD. It’s not that they’ve never purchased music. They just don’t need all the bells and whistles of album jackets, jewel cases and shrink wrap. Long gone are the days where you rushed to the store to cop an vinyl album. Then went 8 tracks. Then cassettes. CDs are media evolution’s latest victim. Digital natives get their media the minute it comes out – online. And if they do buy it, it’ll be on iTunes.

2. Netflix is their Blockbuster. Remember rushing to Blockbuster to rent the latest hit movies on DVD? Digital natives don’t. In fact, they probably don’t even know what a Blockbuster is. Digital natives dial up their movies on Netflix or Hulu or HBO Go. Maybe they hit a Redbox (to give their parents that nostalgic home movie watching experience). But watching movies at home (or on the go) is a digital streaming experience.

blockbuster-closing-041210-webjpg-7775ba2fdd8fda15

Good riddance to you sir!

3. Screens are keyboards. Digital natives know only the world of touchscreen inputs devices. They tap not type. They text 50 wpm using just their thumbs. When I was in high school, I took a typing/word processing class. The target was 50 words per minute, and you were considered expert if you typed above that. Today, the screen on a mobile device is the equivalent of a keyboard and digital natives feel right at home typing – I mean tapping – away on their screens.

4. They’re OS agnostic. Digital natives are equally versed in iOS and Android. Unlike the old guard, they take no sides and have allegiance to the device that meets their needs in the moment. Today it’s more about utility than brand. If it works right, they’ll buy it. Brand be damned! Hence competition between device makers remains fierce.

5. Google is a dictionary. Digital natives Google everything. When I was a kid a dictionary and the encyclopedia were how I figured things out. Didn’t know how to spell a word or it’s definition? I looked it up. Want to know the capital of Kazakhstan? I looked it up – it’s Astana – BTW. Digital natives simply Google it. Can’t spell? No worries, Google will offer you the correctly spelled word as an option.

6. Apple radio station. ITunes is dead. Today, your iPhone has Music. No more iTunes. Digital natives live in a Beats Music+Apple world – which you get free for 30 days BTW. Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud, MixCloud, and countless digital radio stations have made it such that terrestrial radio stations hold low sway over digital natives, who configure and share their own playlists and find artists through underground videos on the interwebs.

apple-music

7. Emoji is a language. When my kids got their mobile phones, virtually every text message included emojis. Not just one mind you, but streams of smiley faces, tear streaked to connote laughter, thumbs down to express disagreement – you get the picture. Emojis are in such high demand with digital natives that whole marketplaces developed for Facebook and Apple who both saw fit to add a bunch more to their keyboards.

emojis

8. Everything swipes. Tinder, Fruit Ninja, Zillow, everyone uses swipe navigation to streamline the digital natives’ user experience. Swipe navigation makes using mobile devices seamless allowing them to engage content in increasingly sophisticated ways. And as 3D technology and AR move content off screens into 4D space, digital natives are primed to creatively leverage these applications.

9. Gaming as a social activity. If you’re a parent, you want your kids outside getting exercise, socializing and interacting with other kids. For digital natives, gaming is social. Most gaming systems (and virtually all computer games) let you play against other gamers virtually. And with immersive VR worlds and Google Cardboard, you can still be outside inside.

10. Multi-taking is the norm. Digital natives are comfortable using multiple screens simultaneously. Measuring how many screens a viewer uses while watching a program is a thing marketers track and want to know because digital natives rock multiple devices as matter of course. This always on always accessible characteristic defines digital natives.

digital multi-tasking

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Godsend or Devil’s spawn? Five pros and cons of the Apple Watch.

apple watchApple just held one of its infamous events, where they unveiled the Apple Watch and the newly redesigned MacBook.

And while folks (including your’s truly) were thoroughly impressed with all the updates to the Mac: slimmer profile, lightweight, no fan, etc., the clear, hands down star of the show was the Apple Watch.

Not since the release of the original iPhone has there been this much hype over a device.

Nearly every day, dozens (if not hundreds) of articles and blog posts have been devoted to speculating what types of apps are going to be preloaded on the device, it’s functionality and features.

The authors of these pieces fall squarely on one side of the debate or the other.

The Apple Watch is either a godsend or the spawn of Satan.

Let’s examine the five most telling assessments of the Apple Watch and decide for ourselves, shall we?

1. The Apple Watch will make us healthier.

giphy

Like FitBit, Nike+ FuelBand and Jawbone, the Apple Watch enables it’s wearer to monitor and track their fitness activity. Whether you’re walking or running, climbing stairs or taking your dog for a walk, the Apple Watch lets you track all your fitness activities. Apps integrating Apple’s Healthkit, allow you to track things like weight, BMI and biometric readings. With haptic responses and wireless syncing with your iPhone, the Apple Watch promises to be both your fitness diary and motivator, keeping you on track.

2. The Apple Watch will permanently shackle us to our jobs.

Apple Watch handcuffs

The thing about wearables is that they’re wearable. So if you’ve got a device that’s constantly updating your emails, your meetings, your text messages, and pinging you with alerts and reminders, the argument goes that you’re always going to be ‘on.’ No longer will you be able to say, “I left my phone at my desk or in my purse,” because that watch on your wrist doesn’t come off.

3. The Apple Watch will make us more productive.

flash

Apps like OfficeTime offer the promise of increased productivity, by allowing you to tap your watch at the beginning and end of every activity, and by the end of the day, week, month, provide an accurate record of what exactly you spend your time doing. Other apps, like Evernote, are porting their functionality to the Apple Watch, allowing users to access a slimmed down version of the app from their wrist.

4.  The Apple Watch is a distraction.

smartwatchdriver

We’re already slaves to our mobile devices, staring at them every five minutes, phantom buzzing in our pockets, on a constant search for power sources to keep precious life flowing into their silicon innards. But with a phone, it’s often tucked away, in a case, pocket, or purse, and therefore not as much of a distraction. You can leave it at your desk and walk away, put it down or turn it off and Viola! problem solved. The Apple Watch, as a wearable, will not be discretely tucked away, but a constant vibrating, beeping, buzzing distraction on your wrist, always within eyeshot.

5. The Apple Watch is an elegant piece of design.

apple-watch-paris

Few can debate that the Apple Watch is a thing to behold. Like Rolex, Chopard or Breitling, the Apple Watch is design, if nothing else. I’m pretty sure I got a woody the first time I saw it. But I’m a fanboy, what would you expect? If you want decide to buy the Apple Watch because it looks good, who could fault you? No one – but the haters of course, and we’ll forgive their pettiness, won’t we.

If you want to track your steps in a sleek, stylish way, the Apple Watch is for you. If you want to be able to check your alerts, respond to texts, read emails without having to pull out your phone, the Apple Watch is for you. If you’re and early adopter simply trying to stay up on the latest and greatest technology out, the Apple Watch is for you.

At the end of the day, the Apple Watch is just a watch. It’s not even really a watch because you’ve got to pair it with a phone, which means that it’s functionality can only truly be experienced when connected to another bigger, less inconspicuous device.

But shortcomings aside, like the FitBits, Jawbones and Nike+ FuelBands before it, the Apple Watch adds another layer of utility for folks seeking that extra edge.

 

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Want to increase diversity in tech? Make it cool. TechCool.org

Ethnicity in tech US

There’s been much ado about the diversity gap in tech.

The big dogs, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter, EBay and Apple, have all released data, showing how much of their respective work force is made up of minorities and women.

Needless to say, the stats aren’t encouraging.

For the most part, tech is a white male dominated field.

Depending upon where you look, there’s anywhere from a 70/30 to 90/10 male to female ratio in tech.

From an ethnic perspective, the stats are far more sobering.

Generally, tech in the US is 58% white, 34% Asian, 2% Hispanic/Latino, and 2% Black (and 2% “other”).

The diversity gap stems from the fact that hiring in tech companies isn’t proportional to population.

While Blacks make up approximately 13% of the US population, they represent only about 2 to 3% of the technology workforce.

The disparity is palpable, especially when you think about the billion dollar valuations of tech companies like WhatsApp, Instagram and Tumblr, and how few people of color are up in the cut.

As a self-professed Black techie, I see this disparity every day.

In the majority of the tech circles I’m in, there are very few Black/brown faces.

We need more color in tech.

But how do we get there?

It’s one thing to know what the problem is.

It’s quite another to solve it.

Tech firms have begun recruiting at HBCUs and asking colleges and universities to recommend qualified Black students at job fairs.

But in my opinion, we’ve got to start earlier.

Obviously, exposing our youth to technology and fostering a love of math and the sciences is key.

Growing up, my father encouraged me to be an engineer.

I can still hear him in his thick Nigerian accent saying, “Chibuzor, you are going to be a engineer.”

That was his thing.

His first son was going to be an engineer, by hook or by crook.

Despite his aspirations for me, I simply wasn’t interested in joining the geek squad.

I fought him tooth and nail and I got an economics degree instead.

Today, I’m scraping together a meager existence and engineering jobs remain unfilled – or filled by white and asian men.

I could kick myself.

Who knew that Uneze had such foresight?

Why did I resist so vehemently?

Was his delivery so suspect that I gave it little to no weight?

Or was I just not checking for an industry I found to be so square?

Tech simply didn’t do it for me.

Looking back, it makes me wonder how many Black parents wanted their children to go into math and the sciences, but couldn’t instill any excitement in them to take it up?

All the Neil deGrasse Tysons of the world, much like Uneze before him, aren’t turning urban kids on to science.

My first proper experience with tech was cool.

I helped launch a Harlem-based start-up called DigiWaxx.

DigiWaxx was an online digital music promotions company that created a digital platform which made sending physical copies of records to DJs obsolete.

While it was primarily music and artist promotion, we pioneered what became the standard in digital distribution of promotional content.

The technology we employed was very rudimentary (at the time), but it was still tech.

And it gave me a glimpse into the myriad of non-traditional opportunities that existed in tech.

It also exposed me to the some really progressive folks on the leading edge of technology – most of whom were Black.

Folks like Russell Simmons and (360hiphop.com and Global Grind), had whole teams of Black techies, who simply did not fit the stereotype of tech.

Today, I’m steeped in technology helping brands to build mobile websites, mobile and tablet applications, and immersive interactive experiences.

I’m also spreading the message about how cool tech can be to Black and brown kids to help overcome the diversity gap.

How?

Well for one, I’ve started TechCool.org.

Well, I haven’t actually started it.

I just copped the URL yesterday when I was thinking about writing this blog.

And roped my man into creating a logo for me (soon come).

But that’s besides the point.

What tech lacks is the cool factor.

When most of us think tech, invariably we think nerd (sorry Neil).

We don’t think rockstar.

But tech is full of rock stars, and I’m focused on bridging the diversity gap by helping to put the cool into tech.

If you’re the parent of a young Black kid, you know they emulate the rock stars.

Well not rock stars literally, but cats in the public eye.

Roll out a phlanx of sports or media superstars, and your kids are wide-eyed, imitating their moves on the court, pantomiming their videos or reciting their lyrics.

We’ve got to elevate tech to rockstar status, to excite kids about the possibilities.

I’m starting an organization whose primary mission is to encourage young Black kids to take up technology by exposing them to the superstars in the space.

My plan is to partner with celebrities as a catalyst to spark interest in tech, and do it in a way that inspires them to explore tech professions in the future.

I did a pilot of this program a few years ago with the Police Athletic League of NYC, called the Digital University, where we gave youth first hand experience with audio and video production, web development and social media management and marketing.

We brought in DJs to teach them how to mix, VJs to show them video mixing, gave them cameras to shoot video, video editing software to create movies, and brought in a celebrity or two to keep them inspired.

The kids loved it and we opened their eyes to the numerous possibilities which existed for them to explore tech-based professions.

Although PAL ultimately opted to teach a cooking class instead of continuing to offer the program – because home ec is more important than tech..duh! – we were able to establish a proof of concept that the right program taught by the right people, with the right level of cool could connect with kids in a meaningful way.

That experience has inspired me to go all-in and form a not-for-profit singularly dedicated to rebranding the tech industry to make it more enticing to our youth.

So stay tuned for more updates as I bring TechCool.org to life.

It will probably start off with a blog, and then some speaking engagements, before I’ve got bonafide programming and a formal offering.

But I’m committed to giving tech a facelift and helping to close this divide.

Feel free to share your thoughts on my plan and hit me up if you’re interested in being a part of the TechCool movement!

 

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HBO give us free! Cable, your days are numbered.

hbogo

I’ve been trying to contain my excitement over something I just heard.

“What’s that?” you ask.

Brace yourselves…

Next year you can get HBO without a cable subscription.

Now let it sink in.

Awesome right!?

I know.

Like many of you, I’ve got a two year contract with Fios for my TV, internet and phone.

When I switched from Comcast to Fios, I signed up for the bundled service with that great introductory price.

Once I added the DVR box, the additional set top boxes, and premium channels to the mix, that “great introductory price” went away.

And I end up with a bundle costing me a cool two bills a month.

Outside of the occasional on-demand movie or DVRd show I missed when it originally aired, I was just throwing away money with my cable subscription.

With the exception of HBO, I rarely watch anything on EPIX, STARZ, or any of the other premium channels I pay so dearly for.

So you can imagine my delight to hear that I’ll be able to decouple from cable and still get my HBO on.

Well maybe you can’t actually imagine my delight – but I am delighted damn it!

It’s true.

I started transitioning away from cable a few years ago when I got my Apple TV.

With Hulu Plus, Netflix, and iTunes, I’ve got access to virtually the same content as if offered on premium cable channels.

And the HBO GO app also allows me to watch all the content on that channel (albeit with my cable subscription) on the go.

The bigger thing for me, though, is not the decoupling of HBO from cable, it’s the precedent that HBO has set with this move.

Already, premium networks like EPIX, STARZ, ESPN, and Showtime have apps that let you access their content on demand.

With Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire and gaming systems like Xbox and Playstation all offering streaming services, once other broadcast companies follow suit, you’re no longer going to be beholden to the cable companies.

And soon(er than later) you’ll be able to cut the ties that bind (literally and figuratively) and get rid of that stupid cable bill.

We’ll have to see what kinds of deals HBO is able to strike with other set top box manufacturers, and how many of them ultimately end up carrying the channel.

But it’s definitely a sign of things to come.

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My Top Ten Takeaways from INBOUND14

INBOUND 2014

At this time last week, I was leaving INBOUND14, HubSpot’s annual conference, which brought together some of the biggest and brightest in marketing, technology, e-commerce and business.

Over the course of four days, I sat through numerous keynotes, talks, breakouts and hands-on learning sessions, led by industry titans like Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek, Guy Kawasaki and Martha Stewart.

Yes. I said Martha Stewart.

I finally had a chance to go over all my notes in Evernote (I’m kinda digging Evernote, y’all) and I’ve put together a list of my top ten takeaways from Inbound 2014.

1. It’s all about context.

While everyone is talking about mobile, mobile, mobile, we should be talking about mobile in context to the overall user experience. Our focus should be on how optimizing users’ interaction with our brands regardless of entry point (desktop, tablet, mobile or kiosk).

2. Experience over technology.

If you line up two similar products, side-by-side, the one that performs better is the one that’s going to win. When you’re competing for users’ time, attention and money, you’ve got to create an exceptional, seamless, quality user experience, for all touch points.  Brands should focus on ensuring that their website, mobile site, application, or products enhances the user experience.

3. Blend the physical with the digital.

Users are expecting brands to provide them with greater information to enable them to make informed decisions in real time. The best brands are allowing users to seamlessly move from physical (a product with a QR code) to digital (which is scanned and provides product information and “Buy Now”, “Add to Wishlist” or “Email to a Friend” options) are the brands that are going to win.

4.  Think customer first.

Old school marketing put the brand voice first. New school marketing puts the consumer voice first. Today’s engagement focuses on the consumer and is tailored to address their needs. More listening and less talking. When designing online, mobile or interactive experiences, the focus should be on building (or deepening) brand equity rather than selling.

5.  Rethink mobile.

Stop thinking of the mobile device as THE entry point, and start thinking of it as AN entry point. Rethinking mobile means placing the consumer at the center of your strategy (and not the device). It means realizing that sometimes a user is not going to want to interact with you via mobile, and being okay with that. It means to stop comparing mobile to desktop (and expecting engagement, conversions, page views, time on site, etc.) to be the same. It means that if the user is spending any time with your brand over any medium, you’re doing something right.

6.  Stay fluid.

It’s very easy to be set in your ways. But it’s better to be agile and responsive. You should always be listening, be prepared to react and be willing to change. Users respond favorably when they know you’re listening, paying attention to their concerns, and implementing solutions that make interacting with your brand easier or more fulfilling.

7.  Think holistically.

Sometimes, the best way to engage users may, in fact, be offline. Since we always have our mobile devices with us, brands have the ability to seamlessly marry our off and online worlds. By paying attention to more traditional modes of communication (billboards, text) brands can create numerous opportunities for engagement, where the medium is subservient to the message.

8.  Subtract, don’t act.

One theme that was repeated throughout the sessions, was the importance of simplifying your apps to accommodate the user’s primary objectives when interacting with your brand. Brands like Hilton and Torchy Tacos simplified their apps to “bare bones”, which pushed engagement and increased their bottom line.

9.  Think about why we are mobile.

While most of us equate “mobile” with “phone” it really means “the act of moving about freely.” Your mobile strategy should be about enhancing that sense of freedom, and not restricting it. Brands should focus on understanding the behavior of their users, and devising strategies that meet us where we are, rather than forcing us to interact in rigidly defined ways.

10.  Facilitate experiences.

When it comes to mobile, your primary objective is to help people do what their doing better. Moreover, your mantra should be: “Don’t interrupt. Enhance.” Rather than simply push a new app, update or feature, focus on what your customers are doing and seek ways to enhance the user experience.

If you’re interested in checking out some really great recaps of the sessions, visit inbound.org.

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Filed under branding, digital advocacy, mobile, technology

Five signs that you’re a Fanboy

Have you seen this person? Looked in the mirror lately?

Have you seen this person? Looked in the mirror lately?

With the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the inevitable phone wars have begun afresh.

Don’t act like you don’t know what the phone wars are.

The ongoing comparisons between Apple and Samsung or iOS versus Android.

Invariably, these little skirmishes arise whenever Apple drops a new product (and never the other way around).

But that’s beside the point.

Or is it?  Hmmmm….

Anywho, every so often users on both sides take to the interwebs to pronounce their allegiance to (or disdain for) one side or the other.

Your’s truly is no exception.

I’ve been known to malign an Android owner or two in my day.

No. I don’t own stock in Apple, and no Samsung owner ever kicked my dog (I don’t even own a dog).

“So why the hostility?” you ask.

Well, that’s easy.

Usually, I’ve got a cogent argument supporting my pro-Apple stance.

Sometimes, not so much.

My blind allegiance is often questioned, and I’ve always assumed it was because Apple simply made a better product.

But with the release of the iPhone 6, which is really Apple’s version of the larger Samsung family of devices, the questions of my blind allegiance are….well…valid?

So I’ve done a little introspection and I think I’ve got it.

I’m a fanboy.

Like millions of others, when it comes to anything Apple, I go balls to the wall.

I readily admit my fandom, but others can’t seem to self-identify (as I have).

So today, I’m going to share with you the top five signs that you too, are a fanboy.

1. You wait in line the day a new device drops.

More accurately, you camp out for days leading up to the release of a new device.

Only true fanboys place such importance to being the first ones to own a device that they’re willing to risk their lives, brave poor weather, take time away from the families or jobs to sit on a line and wait.

Will they win a prize?

Receive an award?

Be recognized for their achievement?

No. No. And no.

So why do they do it?

For the visceral feeling they get holding a brand spanking new device that no one else (yet) has. That’s why.

Oh. And they’re fanboys.

hundreds-line-up-in-front-of-an-apple-store-in-central-berlin-germany

Now y’all know you’re supposed to be at work! WTF?!

2. You take pro- (or anti-) device claims at face value.

If anything that Apple (or Google) publishes in anticipation of a release gives you wood and you regurgitate the features and capabilities as fact, sight unseen, you’re a fanboy.

So what you’re getting all your information from the rumor mill?

If Apple says it, it must be true. Right?

town crier

3. You take criticism of your device personally.

Everyone knows that Apple’s battery life is notoriously horrible. Or that Android devices routinely freeze, crash and drop calls.

But if you’re a fanboy, and someone utters a word against your favored device, all you hear are fighting words – and you’re literally ready to fight.

I remember when the Samsung Galaxy GS3 dropped.

Several of my so-called friends copped it and were all ga-ga over it.

I had one of the first GS3s in my office and had a chance to take it for a test drive.

Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed.

I posted a blog with my two cents, and was immediately set upon for posting negative reviews.

I had to unfriend a few folks after that.

iPhone-5-Android-Market

Don’t know why the illustrator decided to cast the Android as the Jedi. Android is definitely the dark side of the force. Hello?

4. You’ve never owned the competing device.

As a result, you’re totally ignorant about what an iOS device or Android can or can’t do.

It’s hard to offer any legitimate critique of a competing device if you’ve never owned one.

But that doesn’t keep fanboys from making far-reaching pronouncements about the inadequacies of the opposition.

Wouldn't you rather hate in ignorance than admire with full information?

Wouldn’t you rather hate in ignorance than admire with full information?

5. You still rock Blackberry.

There is no more profound evidence to the existence of a true fanboy, than Blackberry owners.

Despite the obsolescence (or near obsolescence – they’re clearly on life support) of Blackberry devices for several years now, there are still legions that swear by these blocky, keyboard bearing pieces of antiquity.

blackberry passport

Will the Blackberry Passport help to revive the dying brand? Not likely. But we have a new device to make fun of!

Now if you have any doubt whether or not you’re a fanboy, ask yourself, “When was the last time you owned <input name of device you don’t currently own here>?”

If you can’t remember, you’re a fanboy.

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Filed under advocacy, digital advocacy, iPhone, mobile

Size matters. Three tips for building a better app.

app under constructionAnyone who knows me, knows I’m in the app space.

I’ve been developing apps, managing the development of apps and critiquing apps for years.

As such, I’ve seen my fair share, both on the development side and as a consumer.

There have been absolute standouts – apps that I swear by, for their sheer utility and execution.

And there have been the sheer fails – apps that deserve to be put out to pasture and their developers shot (acts of mercy, let me assure you).

And everything in between.

What separates a brilliant app from a crap app?

I thought you’d never ask.

There are a number of things that makes one app a star and another a dud.

Anything from great (or poor) UI, to UX, to competitors apps (doing it better or worse).

But today you’re going to learn the three tips for building a better app.

Drumroll please…..

1. Size matters.

size-matters

If you’re going to build an app, remember that you’ve got extremely limited real estate to work with.

As my handy dandy graphic illustrates, with a mobile phone, you’ve only got so much space to work with.

You’re only going to able to place so many buttons before it’s a crammed, jumbled mess.

Not only does it look bad (to have a bunch of buttons) it also reduces the utility and functionality of your app.

And there is nothing, NOTHING, more frustrating than being unable to access a function from your mobile device because the button or icon is too small.

Many an iPhone screen has been shattered from sheer frustration that it’s owner felt being incapable of accessing an item on an app.

With space at a premium, the smaller the screen size, being judicious about how much you place on the screen is essential.

The more stuff you put, the smaller each item becomes, the more difficult it will be to access those items.

People complain of “fat fingers” as the reason for mistyping or shooting out emails before they’re actually done.

But the truth of the matter is that buttons are often so close together that you’ve got to use surgical precision to not make mistakes.

It’s not just button size that’s an issue, text size is just as important.

Tiny text is stupid.

Who wants to use a monocle just to read their screen?

Tip: Make your text big enough to see and  buttons big enough to press.

2. Not there. Put it here.

wireframe-ui-ios

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.

There is limited space on a mobile device.

As such, the placement of buttons and actionable portions of the screen, is as important, if not more than, the size of the button.

I hate apps that place buttons along the screen edge.

Think about how many times you’ve found yourself pressing an “inoperative” button over and over again – seemingly right on the icon.

But never able to actuate.

If you’ve got a protective case like the Otterbox, which has a wide beveled edge along the screen, trying to access any button or navigation element is virtually impossible.

If you’re not conscious about the placement of your buttons and navigation elements, you’ll definitely frustrate your users.

Tip: Space your buttons and navigation elements far enough apart to avoid “fat finger” syndrome.

3. Show me what you’ve got.

menu-alt-512

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “less is more.”

I’m not sure if that’s an actual ‘adage’ versus a mere ‘saying’, but you catch my drift.

The point is, when it comes to apps, keeping your interface clean, and focused on your primary functions and navigation, is best practice.

What to do with all those secondary functions?

Stick ’em in a menu, that’s what!

Users have come to expect that there’s more to your app than meets the eye.

Updating your profile, accessing settings, providing feedback: these are all elements that, while important, don’t need to be front and center.

More importantly, things that are essential shouldn’t compete with the primary functions of your app.

Tuck them away in a discrete, easy to locate and intuitive location – a la the menu.

 Tip: Place non-essential items in a well designated menu.

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Filed under apps, digital advocacy, mobile