It’s been a little over a year since Amazon used this video to announce its store of the future, the Amazon Go store. It’s the retail equivalent of a concept car.

As you enter the store you identify yourself by using your phone to show the Amazon app to scanner on a gate and then you’re done consciously interacting with the technology or people. You pick up what you want, put it in your bag and go. Amazon automatically charges you for what you’ve taken.

scanning smartphone

There are no chips on the food. Visual sensors track what a person takes.

During the year-plus of development, with a prototype store open only for employees, Amazon has worked through many issues. What if two people come in together, one scans, they both take items and leave? What about taking three items from the shelf and putting two back? What if a bunch of people enter dressed as Pikachus – as Amazon employees did in an attempt to fool they system. (They failed; the system worked.)

Today the first store in Seattle is opening to the general public.

Amazon hasn’t said what it plans to do with the technology. The first store is small, only 1,800 square feet, and they could open many mini-marts around the country. They could scale it up to supermarket size and start using it in Whole foods. It could be sold to other retailers, as Amazon sells its Amazon Web Services (AWS).

shopping in Amazon Go store

Would it work in a bookstore? Other types of stores?

Amazon knows that faster ecommerce websites attract more customers, and are betting that’s the case with online newspaper sites, too. No doubt a quick shopping experience will attract many people to retail stores, too. It’s all about a superior customer experience.

Once again Amazon is miles ahead of the competition, even though they gave them a 14 month warning.

Photos from New York Times article.

“Talking About” is one of Facebook’s most important brand page metrics; they consider it so important that they place it at the top of each page, right next to its name and the number of page Likes.

Recently a small “vanity” page I created had more people talking about it than the Best Buy, Southwest Airlines, and Microsoft pages – combined. Continue reading

Renaissance painting of Cupid in thoughtIn many B2B companies sales and marketing don’t get along very well. Often marketing thinks that sales doesn’t understand what it does and doesn’t respect the leads that it generates, and sales thinks that marketing generates very poor quality leads that are a waste of time to follow up on. Continue reading

Contrary to the Alec Baldwin, TV/movie stereotype of sales people, the number one skill of successful sales people is listening.

Only by listening can you find out what the prospect wants (in addition to their needs), shape a solution and overcome their objections. We’ve all experienced clueless sales people who just launch into their pitch and know how offensive and ineffective that is.

So what does this have to do with online marketing?

Online marketing, in virtually all of its forms, is the perfect way to listen to, and learn from, your market and customers.

Of course, social media marketing involves listening, because people are going to comment on and Like (or dislike) your posts.  Central to social media marketing is responding to those comments and carrying on a conversation (“conversation” itself is a term that you did not hear used in marketing 10 years ago). Wise organizations can shape their future messages based on that feedback, and even carry those insights into their offline communications.  And using social media monitoring tools, you can research the social media universe to see what people are saying about you outside of your social media channels on other blogs, etc., and see what people are saying about your industry and competitors, too.

All other online channels provide real-time opportunities to listen to your market, too.

  • Launch a PPC campaign and in a very short time you’ll find out what keywords people are searching for your products and services with, which ad messages compel them to click and what offers get them to take an action.
  • Online advertising, email marketing, marketing automation – they all provide more opportunities to get rapid feedback that you can use to shape your messages and programs.
  • SEO may take a bit longer to develop, but the lead generation results can be even more valuable, so be sure to apply the learnings from listening in the other online channels when creating your SEO program

In his book, Direct from Dell, Michael Dell talked about how the Internet is the perfect pricing machine: Dell can put a new computer on its website for sale at several different price points, and within just a few hours they can see which price will generate the most profit for them.

The usual industry term for all of this is “optimization”. But you can think of it as just good old listening and responding.

This was originally posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog.

Did you find this post useful? You’ll find dozens of actionable strategies and tactics in my interviews with 10 sales and marketing leaders.

For forever LinkedIn has had really poor search. Here’s an example I ran across today.

I was searching for CEOs in Boston area companies with 50-1000 employees, etc. And I noticed that one company had 3 CEOs (actually more than one company had multiple CEOs).

Here were the results:

LinkedIn search result

One person was the real CEO.

One person was in the office of the CEO. (Okay, CEO was in their title at the company, so that’s understandable.)

And one person works at the company and is the CEO at another company that doesn’t have 50-1000 employees.

It’s this third case which is especially annoying because it happens all the time. It makes searches less useful, and it means that some of your ad spend on LinkedIn that is targeted by title is wasted – maybe a lot of it. (The modern version of “I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted, I just don’t know which half.”)

poor LinkedIn search result

LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft, which has some of the most sophisticated search technology in the world. It can’t do better than that?

In October, 2013, Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post. I could have written “struggling Washington Post”, but that’s kind of redundant for most newspapers these days.

Now WaPo has reported a profit for the past two years.

When most companies acquire newspapers these days they cut, cut, cut. Bezos did just the opposite. Initially he invested tens of millions of dollars into the newspaper, hiring and using data to improve their digital experience. That was just the beginning.

Within a few years its Web traffic had doubled, subscriptions were way up and their smaller staff was posting far more online content than the New York Times and even BuzzFeed. Licensing their new, speedy content management system to other newspapers may be an auxiliary line of revenue, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) is for Amazon.

A strong conversion experience for non-subscribers on the website is also important in increasing paid subscriptions, as I recommend for Phase 1 of my Bullseye Marketing Framework.

A Columbia Journalism Review interview with CIO Shailesh Prakash and Director of Product Joey Marburger offers many more insights into how the company changed.

Technology:  It’s been proven over and over again that speed matters. In some industries, the correlation is more direct, like in retail. You have a site and you change nothing except it becomes much faster, you see the sales change.

If you’re used to a lot of other slow mobile sites out there, specifically news, and you come to us and it’s significantly faster, you may be more likely to come to us on a regular basis. And you’re more likely—which we see already in the data—to consume more content, hit the subscription meter faster, consume more ads, you name it.

User Experience: It was Bezos who brought this up. He said that when Amazon made the Kindle, they didn’t think, ‘Let’s get rid of the book and come up with a new way to read books.’ Their whole approach was, ‘How can we keep everything that’s fantastic about a book and also add in the gifts of digital?’

Culture: It’s been three years since Jeff bought us. I’d say we’d probably be where we are maybe five to seven years from now. And who knows if we would’ve done half of what we’ve gotten done. But Jeff didn’t just reach down to the newsroom and say here’s a brand-new culture, here’s a bunch of things you should do, here’s what Amazon does, so you should copy it. The sheer thought of him spread throughout the company. Over night, we thought there wasn’t much we couldn’t do

Compensation: The number one criteria that grows our compensation used to be operating income. Did you or did you not hit the operating income target that was agreed upon at the beginning of the year? It was crystal clear whether you got your bonus or not. We were all in it together. When revenue was slowing and operating income is the target, then what do you do? You cut costs. There’s no other way out.

When Jeff bought us, within about six months, he threw that out. Now there are three other criteria. It’s basically: How fast do you move? It’s very subjective. The second one is that there are no sacred cows, to push experimentation. The third thing is debate, but commit. So you can argue all you want, but once we agree, then there’s no undermining. Those are the three things that now very subjectively drive the compensation.

Market focus: We had for a very long time a tag line that said ‘For and About Washington.’ One of the big changes and explicit changes in strategy has been to go after a national and international audience. One of the things we’ve tried to do is to look at platforms we might be able to over-index on to get there faster. Take Facebook. One in seven humans visits Facebook every day. It’s not possible to grow nationally and internationally if you say, ‘I will send them 10 articles.’ If we want to grow nationally and internationally it is really not an option to just ignore that platform.

Very interesting. Check it out.

And if you’re interested in this topic, The New York Times’ “Innovation” study is available to download from our website.

Google released its Arts & Culture app in 2016, and it was nice. It catalogued art all over the world, and was a nice way to learn about and keep up with art and culture topics, including 3D tours of the Taj Mahal and other sites. But it wasn’t a must-have app.

 

Google Arts and Culture app showing Taj Mahal

That changed in December when they added a new feature. You now can take a selfie with the app and it will look through its database of art works and, using AI, find the image it thinks most resembles you.

Google app comparing Louis Gudema image with artwork

 

Kind of baroque, but I can accept it.

It took a few weeks for the feature to be discovered, but now that it has Facebook and Twitter are full of postings from people showing what they were matched with. And the app has been downloaded over 1 million times and has a 4.3 out of 5 rating.

Supposedly the feature that drove the early popularity of Facebook was its “relationship status” with options such as single, in a relationship, and it’s complicated. That was understandably popular with its early college-only crowd and differentiated it from the college’s print-only version.

Uber was inherently viral because a person could say to a group of friends, “I can get us a ride real fast with this new app. Watch this.” And then they could talk it up and show them that they could see the rating of the driver in advance, no cash payment was necessary (their credit card was already connected), the tip was included, and so on.

These are examples for consumer apps and the drivers for business adoption of tools like Slack or Trello were very different. But whatever your target market, it’s critical to figure out what will make your product or service must-have.

There’s an old saying about services, “People don’t want a drill. They want a hole.”

Unless someone needs a lot of holes, buying the drill may not make sense.

Xerox is taking a similar attitude towards printers with its new managed print services (MPS).

With MPS, Xerox is moving partners from being primarily printer salespeople to service professionals. The goal is to make printing operations within the customer’s company more productive, reduce their total printing costs, and increase partner revenue – even if fewer printers are actually sold.

Managed print services can include:

  • Conduct a thorough, up-front assessment to analyze customer’s current printing infrastructure.
  • Monitor, manage and optimize customer’s total print output environment, end to end, regardless of printer brand.
  • Provide a roadmap to reduce the number and types of printing devices and supplies while meeting the needs of customer business.
  • Proactively identify and solve potential printing problems and replenish supplies before employees are affected.
  • Reduce environmental footprint through printing less paper, consuming less energy, generating fewer greenhouse gases and keeping waste out of landfills.
  • Training employees for a smooth transition so they are more productive and satisfied

And much more.

When people say that the U.S. is moving toward being a service economy, they often are thinking of industries like hospitality, fast food, fitness, transportation, and healthcare. Many of these industries have low paying jobs.

But with B2B services and some personal professional services the pay can be very good. There are hugely successful services firms in IT, consulting, custom manufacturing, financial services, marketing and advertising, and many other industries. For years IBM’s consulting services has been its fastest growing division. These services often turn into recurring revenue relations with companies.

Custom and professional services can be very good businesses, even for traditional equipment and manufacturing companies, if they’re solving the customer’s real problem.