How your product decisions can affect your customers

Expanding, updating and growing are things virtually every businesses strives to continually achieve. Success is generally measured on business growth and if you aren’t continually finding ways to improve your services to customers and introduce new innovative solutions to maintain your competitive edge, you’re business can suffer. But when does evolving and growing your products and services reach the point that it may counteract what you’re trying to achieve in the first place and cost you customers?

Understanding your customer

It all comes back to understanding your customer. The number one rule in any business, you need to know who your customers are and have an in-depth understanding on what it is that they want and need from you. If you don’t now this you are simply gambling with your business.

In this day and age with technology ever changing, the way in which we conduct daily business and make decisions are also changing, so too are business needs. Data security for example, is on the minds of everyone – both businesses and individuals. Knowing that your data is going to remain in safe hands with increased cyber-crime and differing international law is at the forefront of any IT strategy and is a major factor in provider selection.

Knowing how your customer will feel about new changes, developments and products that may affect them and if they can adapt and see value is crucial. If they aren’t ready for change or don’t see value in what you’re offering, there’s always the risk that they may turn to your competitor.

The same can be applied in the opposite spectrum. It is essential to constantly research and follow trends, anticipate future developments in your customers’ markets and lives, and know what your customer will need before they do. Educating them on how your business can alleviate any future issues is a sure way to maintain and satisfy your customers.

The impact your decisions can have on your customers

We’ve all seen and heard and maybe even experienced for ourselves when a provider makes a decision that costs them our business. There couldn’t be a better example showing the consequences not listening to your customer can have on your business than that of Macquarie University, who recently dropped heavy hitter, Google.

After expressing concerns about their data being housed in the United States – due to US legislation such as the Patriot Act, allowing US law enforcement access to data, Google agreed when they signed Macquarie back in 2010 to maintain the Universities data in a European datacentre instead.

Fast-forward five years, and Google clearly forgot the fundamentals of customer retention. Macquarie’s Chief Information Officer Mary Davies revealed Google had decided to relocate the universities data to a United States-based datacentre. The exact problem the University was wanting to avoid when signing with Google in the first place.

“Data security is a top priority at Macquarie University, and following a decision made by Google to move our stored data from Europe to the United States, we initiated a market search to look at alternative options,” wrote Davies. “The result: Office 365 – a Microsoft cloud product suite with services hosted locally in Australian data centres.”

What to take away from this

Long story short, Google lost a huge client simply because they failed to listen to their needs and did not demonstrate having their customer’s best interests as a priority. Every business decision made effects customers, and businesses need to value each client they have and ensure they are doing everything possible to adhere to their needs.  Keeping abreast of competitors strategies is another crucial element, if Google had perhaps thought to set up their own data centre in Australia they wouldn’t be in the position they are in with Macquarie and perhaps could have acquired other business from Australian universities in the process.

How your product decisions can affect your customers

Remaining Relevant in the Digital Age

In order for businesses to remain relevant within today’s rapidly changing digital age, they need to reinvent themselves regularly. SMBs have limited resources and rely more heavily on staff members being as effective and efficient as possible to be ahead of their competitors, utilising the benefits brought by mobile technologies and cloud collaboration, for example.

Mobile Friendly

In 2016, it is estimated that a quarter of the world’s population (2 billion people) will own a smartphone, according to figures by eMarketer. Within society, mobile devices are continuing to grow in usage for both personal and business use. It is important for businesses to understand how these devices are being used in order to gain a competitive advantage and remain at the forefront of customers minds.

Changing and adapting with these changes is what allows businesses the best opportunity to increase profitability. Each year Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times according to Moz. These are mostly minimal changes and do not affect search results. However, occasionally there are more significant changes and can have an impact on search results. For example, in April 2015, Google introduced a change dubbed ‘Mobilegeddon’, an algorithm that ranks mobile friendly websites higher in search results in order to encourage and improve user experience on mobiles.

Understanding the Cloud

Cloud Storage is a term that has been floating (pun intended) around for a while now and is attracting more interest as technology advances. It is expected to grow more than 17% by 2016, according to Gartner, which only goes to show it is here for the long haul. Cloud storage is becoming a popular option for small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) as well as larger businesses as an alternative to adding and maintaining more additional storage in house.

As each business model varies, so to does its cloud requirements. Therefore, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to cloud, consequently it is important to create a cloud strategy that makes sense to your business.

Collaboration

Networking and collaboration is becoming easier and more readily available at home, at work and even in schools. Through the use of technology and web based applications we are able to share almost anything in one way or another. Work places and schools are beginning to see the value of collaborative environments and are using these systems to build networks and relationships as well as to communicate globally. Today location is not a barrier but an opportunity. Global communication is achieved at the touch of a button and allows SMB to take larger steps and reach a global market without investing large amounts of money at high risks which was the case in the past.

In order to stay relevant in the minds of consumers, businesses really need to be doing all (if not at least one) of the aforementioned activities. It is imperative for business longevity to remain up to date and informed of the trends of consumers to best meet their needs and wants. Without this, it is easy to get left behind and while the rest of the world continues to adapt and adjust.

Remaining Relevant in the Digital Age

How the IoT enables the design of better products and more accurate services.

Did you know that 40% of products that enter the market fail? This represents an enormous amount of wasted product development and marketing expense, illustrating the importance of getting the development process correct from the very beginning, starting with customer needs.

This is why companies are spending increasing amounts of time collecting and analysing streams of real time data from users. This data is then turned into actionable information, which explains how customers are actually using the products feeding directly into future product development. This stream of real time data is generated by connecting all kinds of everyday products (things) such as thermostats, fridges and ovens to the internet so usage statistics can be collected and sent back to the manufacturer. Hence the title Internet of Things! This does not stop with appliances and products, IoT helps to more accurately optimise inventory management and supply chains within businesses.

Data informs better product development and marketing

Thankfully, advanced analytics companies are increasingly finding ways to handle and analyse this mountain of data not just retrospectively, but even in real time, helping companies accelerate the speed of product innovation and thus their competitiveness.

Usage data helps companies design products that perform better, potentially cost less, and most importantly are aligned with actual customer needs. Collecting this information, however, poses a challenge due to both the large amounts of data as well as the range of different formats.

This enormous amount of data, known as big data, is therefore often difficult to combine and analyse. In fact, companies are currently only using 1% of the data at their disposal to their commercial benefit.

Using Big Data for Commercial Benefit

A great example of real time promotions comes from Dominos Pizza. Dominos collects data from its mobile applications to make better targeting decisions for its discount offers. Dominos Pizza analyses the data collected through coupon redemptions and links this to the geo-location data of the orders enabling them to tailor coupons to pizza preference and order size within a specific area resulting in higher conversions.

This benefit can also extend to tracking the movement of products through fleet management using intelligent transport. By 2020, more than 70 percent of mobile phones are expected to have a GPS capability, up from 20 percent in 2010. It seems like common knowledge but yet we are only just beginning to see the benefits of this real time data to manage and develop outdated procedures to best suit the business and the customer.

It is estimated that the potential global value of smart routing in the form of time and fuel savings will be about $500bn by 2020. This is equivalent to saving drivers 20bn hours on the road, or 10 to 15 hours every year for each traveler, and about $150bn on fuel consumption.

How are you using data to better serve your target market?

Customers want products that meet their wants and needs. Be it in ease of use, design or price. Collecting, combining and analysing data has the potential to help create products and services that are more closely aligned to actual customer wants and needs than ever before. As such, the company most successful at collecting and using data will therefore increasingly be the most competitive company in their industry.

Are you collecting and using data to give your customers a better experience?

Tell us about it in the comments below!

How the IoT enables the design of better products and more accurate services.

The Internet knows you better than you do

It’s bold to say the Internet knows us better than we know ourselves, but as we see more of what Big Data and the Internet of Things can deliver, it’s not hard to imagine a future where technology can pre-empt human need.

Big Data and the Internet of Things enable smart technology

This kind of smart technology was already making waves over a decade ago. Back in 2005, Pandora launched a streaming online radio station, backed by their music recommendation engine. It worked much like the ‘warmer/cooler’ schoolyard game – as you rated the songs you heard, Pandora’s engine got to know your musical taste, and customised the station playlist accordingly.

As a reasonably harmless case of artificial intelligence working in favour of its users, Pandora is often cited as an early demonstrator of the Internet responding to human need.

At the other end of the spectrum, remember when Target was called out for using their customers’ consumption patterns to tailor marketing campaigns? Using credit card data linked to customer profiles, the retail giant was able to analyse variations in purchases over time, and make educated guesses based on previously observed statistical trends.

According to the article in the New York Times:

Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.

News of one father discovering his teenaged daughter’s pregnancy through a targeted mail campaign, further amplified the question on everyone’s lips in this age of the internet – what about privacy?

The trade-off of privacy vs convenience

Time Magazine argues that although a majority of users say they wouldn’t trade their privacy for online convenience, their actions imply otherwise – so where should we draw the line? Will erring on the side of caution deprive us of true progress? Obviously, it depends on the circumstances: how you feel about what you’re giving away, versus what you get in return.

“The Internet of the future will go from doing things when we ask to doing things before we ask.” – Tony Fadell

Nest CEO and Google Glass lead Tony Fadell envisions a future where technology can proactively alert holidaymakers about the risks of an upcoming trip. He believes information on his ‘quantified self’ could have been weighed against his medical history, environmental data, and location data to warn him that his water-skiing injury was entirely predictable. Fadell suggests that in the future, even sensor readings from vehicles and holiday equipment could contribute toward a personalised risk analysis for adventurers.

Science fiction is becoming reality

There’s no denying we’re heading toward a future not too dissimilar to what’s been speculated in science fiction. However it remains to be seen whether we end up with altruistic helpers capable of smart data analysis, or something more akin to Skynet, where we lose our privacy and freedom.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your views in the comments!

The Internet knows you better than you do