Here we go! I’m trying something new and that is I’m starting a podcast. I wanted a way to be able to document content, thoughts, ideas, in a more consumable format. Not that I don’t like blogging, but as you know, consistency isn’t my thing. I hem and haw over the content that I write and more times than not, I have thoughts that are spur of the moment and I want to document them. So going to an audio format seems like an idea to try and see where it goes. Below is the first episode. I have a few more in the works. I hope to publish weekly, but it may be every two weeks. We’ll see how well I keep that up. I hope you subscribe. I will be submitting to all the major podcasting networks soon. This is just my introductory episode, so I thought I’d publish this one first. Looking forward to your feedback as I go along on this new format journey. Thanks!
“This year’s going to be different.”
You said that on January 2nd, didn’ you? When you made that new year resolution list “official” in your head, on a piece of paper, or printed out and posted on your bathroom mirror. “This year, I’m going to do it. ” you said.
It’s January and by now, almost every “resolution” that you set out for yourself you are likely to have already broken. Diet. “Dry” January. Getting to the gym three days a week. 365 Day Photo Challenge. We all do it. We set out to accomplish some personal ambitions that really take habitual behavior changes. I’ve been there. All of those listed above has been me at some point in the last few years. But just because you didn’t stick with a particular resolution doesn’t mean you still can’t grow, achieve goals, or learn something new. All it means is that you get to reset and focus on something from your list, just not the entire list.
Never Stop Learning
As I sit and watch my two children grow during the school year it is important to me that I also demonstrate that I’m growing too. Therefore I try to make a point to my kids (as does my wife) that we are constantly learning new things. We are diving into technology to help us do our jobs better. We read books on topics that we have interests in. We watch YouTube videos that aren’t someone else playing a video game. I’m constantly consuming content to help me in a variety of areas of my life from my job to my hobbies to my general interests.
That doesn’t mean we don’t do our fair share of Netflix/Amazon binging as well. We do, but I’d say it is far less than it used to be.
Sources of Personal Growth
I’ve been using Audible for about a year now. Nothing against real books, but I find that audio books fit my lifestyle more. There are certainly pros and cons to audio books from real books. If you are a highlighter / margin writer, clearly audio books aren’t going to fit the bill. I commute up to 3 hours a day between train, walking, and driving. So for me to just pop in my headphones and start listening, it works. Additionally, I recently discovered the speed setting, so now I listen to books at 1.25x to 1.5x speed, allowing me to cruise through books faster. The biggest downside for me is focus. I really can’t do two things at once when I listen to audio books. As soon as I open an email or even scroll through social media while listening to an audio book, I lose my place and concentration. I also take a break between business / career focused books and personal pleasure books. So I have a staple of Star Wars books in my library.
Udemy & Coursera
Udemy and Coursera are two sites that take slightly different approaches to education. Udemy is a site with tons of courses from anyone who can put a program together that gets approved. There are quality courses ranging from how to program to building augmented reality apps, to how to use Microsoft Word. Tons fo courses and tons of options.
Coursera on the other hand is the opposite spectrum in that these are university/higher education level courses offered through the online tool. I consider this online learning for those who want to get high quality content. Universities endorse these programs and your certificate of completions go towards specializations or even some online degrees from universities such as University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois, Northwestern University and more.
I’ve personally done both and feel both have their place in your learning arsenal. If you are just looking to get into a topic, I’d start with Udemy to get your feet wet. If it is something you really want to dive into and having licensed professors is required, then jump to Coursera.
This is the newest addition to my self learning arsenal. I asked for the unlimited subscription for Christmas and I’m not regretting it. I did make sure there was at least two courses I wanted to take before asking, and the topics are pretty narrow right now. However, between learning more about wine to guitar to filmmaking to comedy, I have a number of courses in my library at the moment. Right now I’m learning poker from Daniel Negreanu, photography from Jimmy Chin and Annie Leibowitz, comedy from Steve Martin, guitar from Tom Morello, and wine appreciation from James Suckling. I do like the big names that add gravitas to this subscription versus some of the others. Each has their own purpose. I doubt you’d ever see a Rand Fishkin doing an entrepreneur or SEO class on Masterclass. You are likely going to see him in other outlets.
LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com)
Paid with Premium LinkedIn membership or through corporate accounts.
Formerly Lynda.com, LinkedIn Learning (LNL) is their online continued education offering. Similar to a lot of other sites that offer courses, LNL has a variety of topics related to business, design, and productivity. I’ve had a Premium LinkedIn account for a while and have taken several courses to work towards a competency. The value of the topics range, but I do find that if I need to brush up on a business topic this solution suffices. My employer now offers this as part of their employee benefits, which is a nice offering.
Easy access if you are a Facebook user, private or public groups are a great way to not only
While learning from some of the greats like Tom Morello or Carlos Santana from Masterclass is fantastic, they are not really diving into learning guitar. They cover a lot of other aspects, including their style, emotion, gear, etc. However, if really want to learn how to play guitar/bass/ukulele, then Fender Play is the way to go. I like this subscription because they cover a wide variety of skills from practice skills to riffs to full on songs in a variety of genres. Pick your path and go. Also you can do it from your computer or mobile phone. There are plenty of popular songs to work from and the instructors break down each song in a logical way showing chords and strumming from different angles as well as clear explanations.
2018 seemed to be the resurgence of podcasts. From new ones starting to others really taking off, podcasts have picked up steam and I see no letting up in 2019. As we become a more mobile world, podcasts are giving authors a new way to communicate that is beyond their blog. The audio medium allows for passive content consumption. Like Audible, podcasts have no shortage of content from comedy to celebrities to influencers to the mom or dad down the street with a unique point of view they want to share.
The nice thing about podcasts is that depending on the source, you can also get them as part of your daily routines through Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Some of my favorite podcasts include:
- B2B Growth & B2B Revenue Leadership
- HBR Ideacast
- Grammar Girl
- The Garyvee Audio Experience
My last source of continuous learning is through several news aggregators for websites and blogs I try to read. I currently use Feedly and Flipboard as my two go-to apps for content. Each offer streams of content based on topics and sources I subscribe to. Feedly really just a content hose from the sources I designated. Flipboard, however, is more of a learning machine based on topics of interest and it helps surface new sources of content based on my behaviors.
Clearly I’m not consuming content from all these sources in one given day. I go through my ebbs and flows of which tool I fall into. Some are part of my routine, while others are sporadic depending on my mood and what I’m digging into. My constants are probably Audible/podcasts for my commute (when I’m not listening to Spotify for music), then Flipboard/Feedly for day-to-day news. I don’t sit down with a Masterclass or Fender Play unless it is the weekend and I have some extended time to spare.
Where do you go to for your continuous education? Do you formally enroll in programs or do your own pacing of learning? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Hello, 2019!! Now that we’ve put 2018 behind us it is time to focus on what will drive the future of customer experiences. While I know this is a little later than “normal” for a predictions posts, but it is still January so I’m calling it still fair game. While I’ve personally done these in the past this year I’ve asked some of my industry peers, really my friends that I’ve come to know via social
I am thrilled to see what is in store for us on social media in 2019. My prediction is that we will
Live Video: Instagram and Twitter already have the live video capability, but 2019 will be the year LinkedIn releases their own version of live video. LinkedIn Company Pages recently got a facelift, and the reasoning behind the new look and feel positions LinkedIn to add live video. Instagram should pull back focus on IGTV and look to merge the Stories and IGTV features, this can bring further advancements for Instagram Live. Twitter needs to continue progressing their live feature. I am a fan of newly added “live audio,” but video needs to mirror competitors like Instagram and make it easier for live hosts to interact with their audiences.
Analytics: As marketing continues to become more digital, marketers need to have better analytics to make key decisions and analyze performance. After Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, we started to see an advancement in the analytics provided for both personal and company pages. One thing we need to see in 2019 is the capability to export personal and brand data. Companies can do this via third-party tools, but the capability needs to come from LinkedIn directly. Twitter is on a mission to increase engagement and drive meaningful conversations, but in order to do that, they need to map out what those goals mean analytically – I hope to see more defined metrics from Twitter in 2019. If my prediction of Instagram merging stories and IGTV (dare to dream, right?!) comes true, then we need to see better analytics on stories and Instagram Live. With video, marketers need a better understanding of average time/percent watched – I predict Instagram to roll this out with all video options in 2019.
There’s a lot we can see from all 3 platforms next year, and while I hope it is all of my wants and desires, I know whatever comes out will help brands strengthen awareness and relationships.
New types of content assets are worth trying. VR is one. Virtual reality is really an underused tool and partially that is because not all consumers have the headset. But given that you can watch virtual reality videos as 360 versions on a phone or app, and not very many events are using them yet, it’s the perfect time to jump right in and make this strategy a big differentiator for your company. You can now buy cameras for under $100 and they work!
Digital Engagement Coordinator, Nelson Education
In 2019, the line between the digital and the “real” will become less and less significant. As developments in the technology allow us to access, create, and share AR objects of our own with just our phones, AR will become more and more integrated into our everyday lives. We’ll use it for everything from buying Ikea furniture, to learning to count, learning to dance, and learning a language. This may be the year I’ll buy my first smart glasses. If I do, it will be because they’ll add value to my life not only through features like AR directions to new places, but because they’ll allow me to look up from my phone and have better interactions with the people around me. It’s my hope that AR developments will take us in that kind of social interaction direction in 2019. One thing we can all count on next year is that the amazing people working in augmented reality will surprise us. By this time next year when we’re making 2020 predictions, they’ll have come up with something that none of us have even dreamed of as of today.
Digital Policy & Governance
Principal, NativeTrust Consulting, LLC
Digital transformation failures of the past several years and the recent shifts in data privacy awareness (driven by global laws & regulations) will cultivate new digital practices in 2019. We will see more rigor in digital strategies and the development of honed digital policies. This will ensure that marketing and operations are aligned with the organization’s perspective of digital opportunities and risks, which tactically translate into building of personal relationships and moving away from historical messaging around products and pricing.
Customer Service – Bots and AI
I see 2019 as a year of internal changes for customer service, which will speed up the response times for customers working with agents. Companies are going to spend more money on continuing to improve agent access to knowledge bases through the use of improved search engines, or what some will call AI. This will enable agents to find answers quicker and in a more centralized and controlled manner. I also see decision bots being deployed for simpler tasks. An example of this is creating a bot logic to determine if a credit can be granted to a customer instead of having to escalate the request to a next level agent and waiting in queue for the answer. In some cases, these bots will be able to respond via chat or Messenger channels instead of engaging an agent at all, leaving the human agent to manage more complex concerns.
Managing Director, Digital Marketing
My big prediction really is that 2019 will be the year of mobile disruption, and with 5G coming online, the media landscape, as well as smart cities and IoT/IIoT applications will finally come to fruition. And I believe the laptop/desktop is just about dead, and we’ll see renewed interest in tablets and phablets as alternatives.
My Prediction: Customer Experience Becomes a KPI
I love all the predictions of my friends. For my prediction, I believe that focus on customer experience will start to become a KPI that is measured at the highest level in an organization. We will take key metrics from different areas of our organizations from call centers to web to mobile to path-to-purchase and loyalty and use these to fuel a new KPI. I don’t know if this is a new measure of a NPS or something more complicated, but senior leadership will start to want to measure the totality of CX for their organization and how it impacts them.
So Where Will 2019 Take Us?
Take any industry and you will find the topics above are relevant. Technology is driving so much change in customer experience development
All of this won’t be effective for organizations without some rules of the road and governance. I think Kristina’s topic is one that is the unspoken part of any digital transformation and improvement of customer experiences. Finally, Al hits it on the head when it comes to customer interactions because after social media, a call center as
I didn’t want to grow up. I wanted to be a Toys ‘R’ Us kid for life. Even as I got older, I still enjoyed going into “the” toy store. I took my kids. They’d ask me every time we passed by one, “Dad, can we go to Toys ‘R’ Us?” And many times, we did. We didn’t always buy something, but we went in. Why? Not to tease my kids, but to spark their imagination. No other store had the sheer volume of toys, and that was special.
Toy Shopping is Tough This Year
Maybe it is just me, or maybe it is just the sign of the times, but toy shopping in 2018 is tough. Asking our children for ideas for Christmas, and not just for ourselves to give them as gifts, but for family members as well is like asking them if they want to go to the dentist or clean their room. It is like pulling teeth or a chore. They don’t want to do it. Please, flip through this Target catalog and circle what you want. Let’s get on Amazon and search for toys. “There isn’t anything I want.” “I can’t find anything.” “Why don’t they have more video games?” We’ve heard every excuse. My wife has even resorted to dragging them TO Target and browse the toy aisles to no avail. It’s just not the same.
No other store, short of an actual Lego store, could you find so many sets from different series,
Everyone is Trying to Capitalize on the Toys ‘R’ Us Void
This weekend I was in Home Depot getting some items for a project I was going to make for a holiday gift. As I walked in the main entrance I was not only greeted with the normal light bulbs or grills or even holiday ornaments. I was presented with a kids bicycle! Wait, what?! Then I saw a bunch of temporary displays in the aisle with coloring books, drones, kids floor mats for cars to drive on, and more. Moving through the aisles I saw more of these next to end-caps. Every open space in my normal spacious home improvement big box was now filled with non-home improvement items. Here is just a fraction of what I saw.
Now, Home Depot isn’t the first store to try to edge into the toy space, even when Toys ‘R’ Us was around. Kohl’s has been doing it for years, with a small space, and then getting larger around the holiday. For them, it is also bleeding into electronics and now the strategic partnership with Amazon to have their in-store experience certainly has helped them move beyond the department store retailer they were known for.
Amazon Can’t Fill the Void
No matter how you slice it, Amazon isn’t the answer to everything. The convenience of the e-commerce giant can’t fill the experience of flipping through a catalog and imagining playing with a toy. It can’t let you hold the box, shake it, flip it over to read the back, and imagine it in your toy room. It can’t show you, up close and personal, the entire collection in a setting, right next to each other ready for you to dream about having them all. Nope, you can just swipe through a few photos, play a video (maybe) and see if it has good reviews or not. And to boot, not every cool toy is sold on Amazon.
As a parent, yes, Amazon is great. I buy a product or ten and it shows up on my doorstep two days later. Or I need a last minute gift and I can’t get out to shop. Yep, it fills that void perfectly. Gift wrapped? Yes, please. Click, click, boom. Call me old fashion, but there is just something about walking through a store and browsing. That “discovery” process is not the same when you are clicking/swiping/tapping through screen after screen.
Don’t Call it a Comeback…Yet
So while we have entered the first real holiday season without a physical Toys ‘R’ Us store, it doesn’t mean Geoffrey the Giraffe and the brand is absent. After hedge fund investors decided to retain the name for a future endeavor, Kroger and the Geoffrey company (the subsidiary who owns the IP) brought Toys ‘R’ Us pop-ups to 600 Kroger grocery stores. I haven’t personally experienced one of these, but at least for some kids, the Giraffe is back!
It is just a start and nobody knows what it will really take to get back in the game. With all their physical stores sold and leases taken over during the liquidation, there is still a long road ahead for Geoffrey the Giraffe and the iconic Toys ‘R’ Us brand as a retailer. Compound that with the fact that staple toy makers like Mattel and Hasbro have been forced to cut new distribution deals with other outlets, it won’t be easy to bring everyone back together. So what opportunity lies ahead?
Even if Toys ‘R’ Us Makes a Come Back It Shouldn’t be the Same
There will be case study after case study written on where Toys ‘R’ Us went wrong. How it didn’t innovate enough for the in-store experience. How they could have dominated the toy industry and shopping experience. Now’s the opportunity. What makes a kid today different than a kid of my generation? In some ways, a lot! In other ways, not much is different. Sure we have more advanced technology to make gaming systems amazing. We have robotic dogs that you can interact with your voice. But, we still have kids that want a stuffed animal. We still have our imagination. We still have senses that need stimulation and engagement. And that’s where Toys ‘R’ Us can shine. Bring a new experience to the store. Host gaming competitions. Host build-offs. Bring S.T.E.M. classes in-store to teach kids how to build the next inventions. Robotics coding classes. Turn your store into a playground for the mind and soul! The opportunities are endless than to just be a “toy store.”
Just don’t forget to be a “toy store” that allow kids to pick up boxes, flip them over, see a set all put together. Let them discover and be a kid.
Well, it was bound to happen. First, we had Black Friday, the day in which retailers would traditionally go “in the black” in revenue for the year as they lead up to the holiday spending season. Then it became a shoppers holiday when marketers found a way to capitalize on it to kick off the spending season. Next came Cyber Monday when e-commerce exploded and places like Amazon became a “go-to” place for holiday shopping. Let’s face it, two days a year isn’t enough.
In 2018, welcome to the new retail holiday which I’m deeming the “
Share of Wallet Means Starting Earlier
As marketers, we need to be more creative to get the coveted “share of wallet.” At some point creativity isn’t about a gimmick or cool ad or experience, it is just flat out offering deals sooner than the competition.
Remember when you can get together for Thanksgiving and not worry about running home to get the kids to bed and pre-game your shopping binge run? When Black Friday started to get traction, it was all about who was open at Midnight to get the deals. How many of you have sat in line, in the cold, hours before a retailer opened to be one of the few who got the “hot deal” before they ran out? That game system that little Johnny wanted. Or the doll that little Suzy had to have. I see you’re hand raised (and your “no not me” shaking of head). We’ve all either done it or put serious thought towards it.
However, Midnight wasn’t enough. It didn’t take long before the stores started opening up on Thursday at 11:00 pm, then 9:00 pm, and now 6:00 pm! It’s gotten so bad that stores are now saying “Nope, we’re closed on Thanksgiving…spend time with your family. We’ll be open tomorrow.” It is the anti-holiday as a sign of “good faith” for your shopping behavior. The irony of that list is that Costco is closed on Thanksgiving. Maybe that’s why the deals are rolling out weeks ahead of time. However, even if you aren’t shopping in their stores, you’re online buying gifts from them. E-commerce never sleeps.
The Disease We All Exploit…Getting the Deal
Marketers and companies are no fools. They know how the game is played, especially retailers. The game is this, human behavior loves a good deal. The emotional feeling, the dopamine rush of getting the deal. It is literally a legal drug that retailers, game makers, and marketers all exploit. Do what you can to let a hit of dopamine to be released in your brain. The “feel good” drug that everyone has in their body. Get the deal. This week only. Only this time, don’t wait for the Black Friday deals to happen on Black Friday, get them weeks earlier.
In light of all of this, I firmly believe that retailers will now use the entire month to grease the wheels for the mad dash run of sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. It’s going to be the new trend. Welcome to November, the “H