Category: User experience

Technology is about to change your business forever. Yes, again. (pt.2)

In part one of this post, we established the majority of UK small businesses are already struggling to keep up with digital technology; 82% of these firms still do not have a mobile-friendly site, even though the majority of web searches have been conducted on mobile devices since 2015.

In other words, nearly all of the country’s businesses are already three years behind their customers.

That’s a far, far bigger problem than businesses seem to understand; every year, more and more browsing is done on mobile, and more money is spent using mobile devices. That’s not standing still – that’s going backwards.

But it’s nothing compared to what’s in store. Because the next explosion of technological innovation is already underway and it’s frankly terrifying. Bear in mind that every type of technology mentioned in this video is already in use or at least in development:

Ultimately, markets will decide which of these innovations will take off and which die. And markets are people. Markets are customers. Markets are your customers.

What’s certain is technology has proven to be instrumental in shaping consumer habits – so at least some of these innovations will change the way your business operates forever:

Your customers may not want to speak to you

National Australia Bank’s “virtual banker” can already recognise 13,000 variations of 200 common questions from its business banking customers. And in terms of artificial intelligence (AI), that’s nowhere close to its full potential. In fact, many renowned futurists, like Ray Kurzweil, believe AI may become indistinguishable from human intelligence within the next 30 years.

Despite AI’s infancy, a recent Salesforce study found 69% of customers already prefer AI chatbots to human interaction for simple queries. And who wouldn’t? Nobody likes long call queues. And when you do get through, you often end up speaking to a robot-like operator with no knowledge of how to answer the simplest questions.

Even a small technological improvement in AI – fuelled by customers wanting a richer experience – will see an even greater number of people preferring to interact with a robot, which will further fuel innovation, and the cycle of development will repeat. It’s why companies like Google have invested heavily in organisations such as DeepMind (who they acquired for $500m in 2014), which teaches computers to think and learn like humans – including teaching new skills to themselves and then to other computers.

In short, the ability of machines to understand human language and behaviour may change the way businesses interact with customers forever.

There will be no such thing as “using a computer”

This is what a quantum computer looks like:

Well, kind of. That’s just what houses it. You can’t really see a quantum computer, because it works by shining lasers at atoms. Yep, a quantum computer is just a bunch of invisible atoms.

While the technology is too young to be particularly useful, the method it uses to solve equations means these computers could soon be almost infinitely faster than existing computers – while being so tiny, they’ll occupy virtually no physical space.  

Now, are you ready for your head to really hurt? This is what a carbon nanotube looks like.

They’re made from a material called graphene; with a width of just one atom, graphene is technically two-dimensional. It’s so light, even the mildest air current will make it float. It conducts light, electricity, and heat extremely efficiently, and it’s 200 times stronger than steel.

Now, imagine the potential of quantum computers combined with graphene. It would mean everything and anything could be a supercomputer. Your shoelaces. Powerlines. False eyelashes. Literally anything.

So, as much as the computer and the smartphone changed consumer habits, that technology looks seriously antiquated by comparison. You won’t have to make a conscious decision to use a computer, you’ll constantly be using a whole network of computers for everything all the time.

It’s likely that the combination and mass adoption of quantum computers and graphene could completely reshape the physical world as we know it – opening up mind-boggling new business opportunities and challenges.

No more middlemen

Have you heard of Bitcoin? No, we’re not going to try and explain how it works – that’s not important, but you have to understand that blockchain development services for supply chains is important.

What is important is the technology that powers it – the blockchain. No, we’re not going to explain how that works, either. All that matters is to understand which parts of your business it could affect – which is absolutely every part of it.

Put simply, blockchain technology’s strength is that it removes the middlemen from virtually everything that involves data. It’s an unhackable system that anyone can use to directly send any type of data anywhere. Document storage, the transfer of money, and sending contracts could soon be facilitated by blockchain on a mass scale – all of this data could be securely exchanged from person-to-person (or business-to-business) without the need for anyone to manage that process.

Blockchain has the potential to do to the internet what Napster did to the music industry. And early adopters like American Express, BHP Billiton, and Apple are already capitalising on blockchain’s power.

In just a few years, your customers may expect to book, pay for, and receive your goods or services via some kind of blockchain-powered solution. Why? Because it will be quick, secure, and cheap for them – three of the key reasons that drive huge numbers of people to adopt a new technology.

Your competitors will be literally everyone – including the big players

Even if quantum computing hits some kind of wall, the internet will still become far more powerful and far-reaching than its current iteration. Companies who’ve been quick to capitalise on its potential have an enormous head start, and now have the potential to control the space completely.

Take Amazon, for example. Within the next 10-20 years, the idea of the “local business” could be dead – all thanks to Amazon.

Amazon already demonstrated its ability to transform consumer habits (contributing to the demise of the traditional high street) while it was merely an online bookstore. That’s a problem for two reasons:

  1. Amazon is now way, way bigger than you could possibly know
  2. By their own admission, Amazon wants to compete with every business in the world.  Yes, even yours:

Think of literally any product or service. If Amazon were to take its strategy of aggressively acquiring businesses, and combine it with automation, people-less delivery systems (like drones and self-driving vans), and home 3D printing, there would be literally nothing Amazon couldn’t supply to a customer anywhere at any time.

Again, Amazon’s plan is already in full swing, and all of this technology already exists. When they combine, the impact on small businesses around the globe could be profound.

Should you just give up?

Never give up! Don’t be scared of technology, and don’t be intimidated by the big boys like Amazon. Every challenge is also an opportunity, so arm yourself with a future-proof strategy:

  1. Embrace and adopt the technology your customers would benefit from (start by asking them what that is!)
  2. Declare guerilla warfare on big players like Amazon by exploiting their weaknesses (there will always be something you can give your customers that they can’t). Find out what that is, and get in first.
  3. Prioritise the “human” element. Even the smartest machines will never have emotional intelligence – so make sure that’s central to your operations and marketing.

Ready to explore chatbots, future-proof strategy, and emotionally-intelligent marketing? We’re already there! Call 0161 660 6735 to speak to a human being.

Shopping comes to Instagram

instagram shopping

Instagram has launched a new function for the platform which provides a more immersive experience for users and an exciting opportunity for e-commerce brands.

Shopping for Instagram enables you to tag up to five products per image (20 per carousel) which works in the same way as tagging a friend in an image but provides information on the cost of products.

As a user, you can tap the products for pricing, click for further information, and visit the business’ website when you’re ready to buy.

In 2017, Instagram announced that 120 million users had visited a website or directly contacted a business via the channel (source Instagram). What’s more Sprout Social’s 2017 Index found that 71% of users were more likely to make a purchase from a brand after a positive social experience.

The focus of Instagram is to share beautiful imagery that tells a story to users. Unlike Facebook, users tend to follow people and brands that they genuinely take an interest in and as such can be much more engaged. This new functionality makes it easier for brands to connect with their customers on a more immersive level and creates an easier path to purchase. Brands will start seeing a big increase in organic conversion rate as users will be able to make more informed decisions before they click to the site.

How has Instagram shopping performed?

The function has already been trialing in the US since last year and companies have seen some amazing results:

Tyme increased traffic by 44%

Spearmintlove revenue increased by 8%

Lulus grew their following on Instagram and generated over 1200 orders
Reference

Unfortunately, Instagram Shopping is not currently available for promoted ads – fingers crossed they will open this out for advertisers in future as it will provide huge opportunities for new and growing brands. Are you looking to take up Instagram shopping for your posts?

The feature is currently available for businesses in United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Brazil.

Next steps

If you are looking to grow your social media marketing activity, please get in touch to discuss how we can add value to your business, even if you are just looking for some advice.

If you would like to work at CandidSky and develop your career prospects, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

And finally, take a look at our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.


SEO, UX & CRO: how do they interact for success?

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), UX (User Experience)  and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) are too often treated as separate entities. But getting all three aspects of a marketing strategy nailed is key to increasing website traffic, engagement, conversions and retention… and who doesn’t want that?

With so much focus on driving traffic to a specific area on a website and high rankings, the element that gets forgotten about is the focus on not only keeping that traffic on the website, but increasing their conversion.

From my own experience in previous positions, I‘ve been in the unfortunate situation where the design department have conveniently forgotten to bring the SEO team into a new web build discussion until it is ‘too late’ to make any design changes. One reason for this ‘selective amnesia’ is largely down to the belief that SEO and UX cannot work hand in hand, and that SEO recommendations will be detrimental to achieving a well-designed website. Well, unless your marketing strategy is to solely use word of mouth as your main traffic driving channel, your results are likely to reflect the lack of integration across different departments.

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) I feel is a channel normally thrown in with implementing new landing page designs, with multiple elements being tested at once and not being particularly thought out about what is being tested, but has enormous potential to make a real difference to website performance.

Most companies undertake an element of SEO marketing, therefore identifying where to gain that competitive advantage from a website perspective is even more crucial. This is where UX and CRO come in.

One way to think about how these three channels work together is:

SEO = art of driving traffic to the site

UX = keeping traffic engaged on the site

CRO = turning traffic into customers/taking a specific action

SEO satisfies search engines, UX and CRO satisfy people.

While the goals of each channel might be slightly different, they are part of the same customer journey, and all need to be successful in order to maximise a website’s potential. Imagine if a website focused solely on SEO, yes organic rankings will improve (hopefully) and a lot of relevant traffic will arrive on the website, however, if the level of UX doesn’t match the level of SEO, users will simply exit the website when served a potentially confusing poor user experience.

Crossover between SEO, UX & CRO

UX and CRO appear similar on face value, however, there are slight differences that demonstrate the value that can be achieved by focusing on both channels.

UX is intended to make your website easier, to navigate around, and to take key actions on. CRO is intended to help you make the actions you want them to take available and taken more often such as download that white paper, submit an enquiry or join a newsletter mailing list.

In addition, poor user experience metrics such as time on site, pages per session and bounce rate inform search engines that ranking this site too high will also provide a poor user experience to their audience.

In fact, a positive user experience is becoming more and important from an SEO perspective with factors such as a site showing its secure, mobile-friendly and has a fast page load speed all impact organic ranking positions in a positive way.

Therefore, neglecting the time needed to ensure your website traffic is being served a positive user journey and can convert easily, has a detrimental impact on your SEO efforts.

CRO is a channel that is likely seen as the least important of the three based on the recognition and promotion it gets industry-wide, which is hard to comprehend when it is the channel that can most impact your revenue, ROI and build brand loyalty through conversions.

A comprehensive CRO campaign should focus on combining data-driven insights with user experience, A/B Testing, competitor analysis and in-depth user testing. It is an area of the marketing mix that should be consistently evaluated, and despite there being best practice elements involved there is no one-way of CRO that’s fits all scenarios, and should, therefore, be tailored to the customer’s behaviour, intent and objectives.

Getting out of the siloed mindset

Obviously saying this is the easy part, the challenge is implementing this into the internal processes within a company environment. This should start with involving all departments at the beginning of each web build/project to ensure SEO, UX and CRO are factored into the design. 

In a previous blog, I refer to the impact of siloed marketing channels and how cross-channel marketing is crucial to driving real value in a campaign. Well, this blog follows the same train of thought in the sense that design and channel teams working in a siloed fashion can lead to siloed outcomes.

If your company is undertaking a new website build project for a company, ensuring not just design drives the outcome, but the strategy in general also plays a role.  To create a product that the client is happy with and drives quality traffic and conversions is a win-win for everyone. Experimenting with new page layouts, for example, has the potential to not just benefit SEO performance, but provide a more suitable page for your PPC traffic to land on, increasing ROI and decreasing costs.

Next steps

If combining SEO, UX and CRO is an area you want to explore further, please get in touch to discuss how we can best support your wider marketing objectives.

If you would like to work at CandidSky and develop your career prospects, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

And finally, take a look at our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.

User Experience – from toilets to taps

A walk through everyday life

User Experience. It’s a term thrown around like confetti at the moment. It’s hard to escape if you are developing a digital product. Everyone you come into contact with, from project managers to designers, developers, strategists and directors will tell you about the importance of User Experience (or UX for short).

If you are not already familiar with the term, this is how the Nielson Norman Group, a leading UX consultancy, describe it

“User Experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

What is interesting is that this does not specifically refer to DIGITAL products. As a UX designer I look at everyday life through a UX prism. Simple questions we all ask are, in reality, all elements of a User Experience – your personal, every day user experience journey. Why do those icons on the microwave make no sense? Why is the TV remote control like the cockpit of a jet fighter? Notably, the Apple TV remote is the antithesis of these. More on Apple later though.

A personal bug bear of mine is the touch screen interface inside a car? What good is a touch screen you can’t look at? It looks great but is almost impossible to use in a practical, day to day, situation.

With that in mind, here are some other great, and not so great, examples of every day user experience issues and/or solutions.

Toilet Target Practice

Anybody can tell you that men can sometimes lack a certain… precision in the toilet department. That sense of unpleasant resignation is multiplied when you come face to face with another chaps attempt to re-enact Ghostbusters in the only spare urinal.

In the 1990s, Aad Kieboom came up with a solution at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, and it is simple as it is ingenious – he put a small image of a fly INSIDE the urinal.

 

urinal

Source: https://worksthatwork.com/1/urinal-fly

‘Guys are simple-minded and love to play with their urine stream, so you put something in the toilet bowl and they’ll aim at that,’ says Reichardt.

Although there are no hard statistics on the reduction in cleaning required using this trick, some estimates claim it reduced spillage by up to 80%.

Why does this apply to UX? At it’s heart, User Experience is about understanding your users and what their goal is. The guy that is urinating on the fly feels like he has achieved a secondary goal (target practice; the primary goal being to relieve himself!) whilst the following customer of the urinal gets a much cleaner, pleasing experience. As an added bonus, cleaning costs are reduced so the key stake holder (the airport paying the bills) is happy too. Everyone is happy. High fives all round.

This is great UX top to bottom – a problem analysed, solved, and with clear, measurable improvements.

Oh no, I need a parking ticket…

Ah, parking ticket machines! We’ve all had to look at them and wonder what on earth we are meant to be pressing. By now I expect you are thinking about that machine from last Saturday with the big green button and instructions that could have been written by Donald Duck.

My personal favourites are the ones with letter keys top to bottom.

A well known UX consultant called Steve Krug wrote a book in 2005 titled “Don’t Make Me Think.” This is perfect for this type of interface.

As UX designers we know all cultures read from the top down, and most read from left to right. Some might say this is common sense… we are all pretty experienced in this; we’ve been doing it our whole lives.

The obvious failure here is that this interface clearly has not been tested with people who would use the machine. Forcing a user to interact with a design pattern outside of our everyday experience (reading downwards) puts a strong “cognitive load” on the user that does not produce a positive result: frustration and irritation. Sure, we may all eventually get a ticket out of the machine, but it will only induce a sense of “oh no” next time. If this were your website or product, where a someone can click away to a competitor in a fraction of a second, the user could very well decide that coming back is more hassle than your product is worth.

The take away here is that showing a little UX consideration can significantly improve the users experience – and result in a return visit. And while we are on this point, Forester Research shows that, on average, every dollar invested in UX brings 100 dollars in return. The results can be pretty stark.

 

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
Steve Jobs

 

This brings us full circle. Taps. But not your bathroom taps. Interface taps.
We tap and swipe our smart phones all the time. What once seemed like a foreign concept is now as normal as putting the kettle on.

Much of this can be traced back to the iPhone. Sure, there were similar devices before the iPhone but none genuinely revolutionised the technology industry, created the world’s biggest company and changed the very way we interact with the world around us. That’s pretty fundamental.

With the iPhone’s 10th birthday, and the release of the iPhoneX there has been quite a bit of chatter about whether this new iteration of the iPhone is again revolutionising how we interact with our screens, or moving us backwards to a time before there was an appreciation of how a user interacts with a product.

It is commonly held that the iPhone interface was so easy to understand that anyone could pick it up and understand it with a little patience. As time has gone by, more gestures, taps and swipes have been added that has led to this:

Source: https://www.fastcodesign.com/90150025/the-iphone-x-is-a-user-experience-nightmare – http://www.joannastern.com/ 

“If the iPhone X’s hardware features are the epitome of fluff over function, its new navigation gestures are the epitome of needless complexity over intuition.” (source: http://www.creativebloq.com/web-design/ux-design-patterns-work-91516961)

Time will tell if this is a User Experience disaster, as some are saying, or an inevitable step forward.

In conclusion

The challenges of creating complex interfaces or products that appear visually simple, engaging and enjoyable to use, is something that even companies with the stature of Apple can struggle with. Even though the simplest solution is not always the most attractive, sometimes it can be the most effective. Just don’t get me started on the impracticality of my car’s touch screen user interface.

Next steps:

If you are interested in working with CandidSky and seeing how we can help to grow your business online, contact us today to arrange a call.

If you would like to work at CandidSky and grow your career prospects, take a look at our Careers website for available roles and find out what is like to work here.

And finally, take a look at our other blog posts to see what else we have been up to.