Dockless bikes – digital transformation on two wheels

Dockless bikes  – digital transformation on two wheels

As I was walking along Broad Street, Oxford I saw three students cycling. One of them, a young woman, stretched out her arms and shouted spontaneously, “Isn’t it great to be alive ?”

It was a timeless scene.  The Autumn Sun was hot and bright making the ancient Oxford colleges beautiful.  Many of the students were dressed in sub-fusc – dark clothing with gowns worn on formal occasions at Oxford University.

Yet, change is coming to the cobbled streets of Oxford. A new type of bike is appearing. Brightly coloured and garish … all powered by a digital transformation.

Dockless bikes – the new digital transformation

Oxford is one of a number of UK cities which is targeted by the dockless bike companies. These range from mulitnationals like Ofo (Chinese with revenues of $3Bn) and oBike (Singapore) to local UK startup, Pony Bikes.

Why Oxford? Oxford has a long heritage of cycling. In fact our local Council has just unveiled new signs on all of the major roads into the city, proclaiming Oxford as a “cycling city”.

Convenience – a new way to rent bikes

The concept of Dockless bikes is simple. Register with one of the companies and download their App. Locate a bike, use your App to unlock it and then – the key thing – leave it where you want.

Pony pricing model

Pricing is simple too – Pony Bikes charge 50p for 30 mins.

The key thing about this business model is convenience. You can literally leave your bike anywhere within the city – unlike other schemes in the past you don’t have to find a special docking station.

The Uber of bikes ?

People have called this new scheme the “Uber of bikes “ but I believe there is much to it than that.

Like Uber, these schemes are built on data. They will know when people cycle, where they start, and where they go. This data can then be used to identify hotspots for bike demand. It’s a great example of Web 3.0 – using digital technology to move physical objects around to meet demand.

The companies involved are also heavily dependent on Venture Capital Funding.  Ofo raised nearly $600 million dollars in funding and there is a growing list of Dockless bike companies worldwide.

Challenges

However these schemes create new challenges.

These companies have trucks (and also bikes with special carriers) that patrol the city picking up bikes and redistributing them where they are needed.  There have already been instances reported in our local press about people vandalising the bikes.

And you do see the odd dockless bike left in strange places ! I saw one in the middle of a field in the Oxford Green Belt….   The question is not so much why it was left there as how did they get home ?

Banner image.jpg
Double take… dockless bikes like Pony stand out !

Learning from Uber / working with the community

When I first heard about dockless bikes I was sceptical. I own a bike and I cycle as much as possible. Oxford already has thousands of bikes and lots of bikes shops so I was a little surprised to find that the local Council is supportive of dockless bikes.

However when I interviewed Oxford Council’s champion for cycling, Louise Upton, in relation to a charity bike event I’ve been working on, I got a different perspective.

The council’s stated aim is to get more people in the city cycling, In 2011 17% of commuters in Oxford cycled to work. The council have a very ambitious target of growing this to 70%.

They prefer people to be riding well-maintained bikes with working brakes and lights.  The Council have even put in place a code of conduct to ensure that the providers fit into Oxford.

Oxford already has a significant problem with abandoned bikes – typically students at the end of their years. One college alone has around 65 abandoned bikes every year. This represents nearly 15% of students in the College.

And, of course, unlike schemes like London’s Boris Bikes, these schemes cost the Council nothing.

Punctured ambitions or freewheel to success ?

So, will this new transformation stick ? There are many reasons why the dockless transformation may not take off…

Maybe there isn’t the demand. Maybe there are already too many companies competing in this space. Maybe we’ll end up with a bike share graveyard, as has been reported in the Chinese city of Xiamen.

For my part, I hope it succeeds.  The more people who cycle the better. The more cars we remove from the roads the better.

But, above all, if this innovative scheme brings more joy to more people on a sunny Autumn day in Broad Street, then it’s all good to me.

I’m a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world.

#Digitaltransformation #Docklessbikes #Innovation

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Living to tell the tale – #Thisissuccess

Living to tell the tale – #Thisissuccess

I wrote this article as part of LinkedIN’s content series on the topic of success in the UK. #Thisissuccess.

When I was careering down the Matterhorn, it’s safe to say that “success” was definitely not on my mind. In fact nothing at all was on my mind except basic survival instincts – principally how do I stop myself before I go over the edge?

I was in my early twenties, young and – as you’ve no doubt guessed – a bit reckless. Against all the odds I had got to Cambridge University – the first person from my school to get to Oxbridge in over 10 years. I had just climbed the Matterhorn without ropes. I guess you could say I was successful.

Except, as my accident on the way down showed, to me there’s no point in achieving things if you aren’t there to enjoy it! (I slid out of control for about 15 metres, then managed to stop myself – I’m not sure how- about 10 metres away from a massive drop!)

I think this same lesson applies to business in a number of ways.

Think of the bigger picture

First, when defining your goals, think of the bigger picture. Is success for you reaching a career goal – be it Director Level, a certain salary – or is it staying there? Is the goal just to climb the mountain, or to come down safely as well ?

In my own business experience there comes a point when you need to make a transition from a talented and driven individual to a key player in a team.  And this requires that you delegate and trust other people.

Personally I find this hard but the best times I’ve had in business so far have always been when I’ve been part of team that has created something amazing. For instance, last weekend we launched a The Great British Bike Off, a new charity event in Oxford. The core team were all volunteers but we worked together well to overcome the many challenges and obstacles to putting on a major ground-breaking new event in Oxford City Centre. And we had a ball doing it too.

Failing is an essential part of succeeding

A mantra of the Growth Hacking world is “Fail Fast, Then Fail Better”.  In my own business career I have taken lots of risks. I’ve always liked to get involved in “skunkworks” projects which are under the radar.  An example is when I worked with a programmer in IBM to create a user customisable on-demand training catalogue for delivery in print or online format. This was years before the print on demand revolution.

Sometimes these activities succeed. Sometimes they don’t. They key thing for me is to not to be afraid to try. And of course to ensure that failure is not too expensive or painful.

The Growth Hacking world has the concept of a Minimal Viable Product. This is a great way to mitigate risk of a new technological innovation. If it looks like it will be a success then you can always invest more. If not, then you can deinvest.

At the end of the day, what success stories would you share?

Roger Monte Rosa
A young Roger with the Matterhorn in the distance

When mountaineers share their tall stories in the bar over a few drinks, the best stories are not when everything goes well. On the contrary, the best stories are when you have succeeded against the odds. When the weather has turned against you, when you’ve been avalanched or when something has gone horribly wrong.

Achieving success in Business is also rarely smooth. Brad Stone’s excellent book, The Upstarts, outlines in fascinating detail the trials and tribulations that Uber and AirBNB had to go through to achieve their success: from early prototypes of the Uber app that just didn’t work, to poor wifi infrastructure, to legislative challenges – to name but a few. The key thing is that both companies kept going, they rode their luck at times but they were successful because they perservered.

If at first you don’t succeed …

So, my advice is simple. If you have a good idea then go for it. And if you find yourself still alive at the bottom of your particular mountain just dust yourself off and start again.

There’s always another day.

GDPR – big sticks but carrots too for Marketers to create a competitive edge

GDPR – big sticks but carrots too for Marketers to create a competitive edge

Much of the focus and attention surrounding the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation  (GDPR)  has been around the big sticks that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will wield. The level of fines will be significantly increased  – up to 4% of Global Turnover or 20M euros, whichever is the higher.

Some Marketers could infer that the new regulations effectively kill off Direct Marketing..  But there are carrots too for organisations.

As Elizabeth Denham the ICO commissioner said in a speech to ICAEW in January 2017 that the new Accountability principle offers a payoff down the line: –

“not just in better legal compliance, but a competitive edge. We believe there is a real opportunity for organisations to present themselves on the basis of how they respect the privacy of individuals and over time this can play more of a role in consumer choice.”

So what I wanted to focus on in this article was how Marketers could use the new GDPR regulations to build a competitive edge.

But first – why am I qualified to talk about this ? I’m a Marketing and IT expert who has worked on implementing major direct marketing campaigns worldwide (email, print and social media) for IBM and Ricoh Europe. I have first hand experience of working under laws very similar to GDPR as I have run campaigns in Germany. The German Federal Data Protection Act (2003) is very similar to GDPR, as I’ll explain later.

Open new worlds Germany
One of the Direct Marketing campaigns I’ve run in Germany

Reforming data protection – the plus side for Marketers

It’s interesting that, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website refers to GDPR as Data Protection Reform. GDPR is an evolution of existing laws and practices which were first introduced in nearly 20 years ago – before Facebook, before Google, before Smartphones. However there’s more to it than just updating Data Protection laws for modern technology. It’s also about responsibility – changing the way organisations think about the personal data of their clients or target clients, and managing customer data sensitively and ethically.

In this context there is no difference between B2B and B2C:  we are all consumers and we will all have a right to expect Marketing organisations use our data responsibly and in accordance with the law.

If Marketers learn to respect the privacy of their consumers, and to avoid activities which are likely to annoy, offend or cause distress then these individuals are much less likely to complain to the ICO.  More importantly Marketers can develop a new relationship with their consumer and this is where Marketers could start to make a competitive advantage.

The new approach to Privacy gives more power to consumers. Consumers will have more control over their data. They’ll have stronger rights to be informed about how organisations use their personal data, and they will even be able to obtain and port their personal data for their own purposes across different services.

This really changes the relationship between the company and the consumer. Marketers will need to be much more specific and transparent about what they are using customer data for. Gaining consent from consumers to use their data will be more complex:

“consent will need to be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous, and businesses will need to be able to prove they have it if they rely on it for processing data. A pre-ticked box will not be valid consent”

Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner

However the plus side is that, with imagination and planning, Marketers should have much better data about their consumers, and – crucially – consumers should be more receptive to receiving Marketing messages.

So, here is my advice for where to start to capitalise on this advantage.

 

Quick Wins

 

Make sure you comply with the existing regulation. GDPR in fact assumes that organisations are already compliant with DPA.  In particular there are a lot of straightforward things that you can do now to improve your marketing and to comply with the legislation.  These include.

Take notice of your Privacy Notice – this is a requirement of DPA and ICO have published guidelines as to what it should contain. The key thing is that the Marketing should pay special attention to what this says and make sure that it accurately covers the Marketing activities you are planning to do with customer data.

If you don’t think this is important, then this should focus your mind.

Cancer Research was recently fined £16,000 for profiling potential donors (using third parties) to assess their wealth. In their judgement the ICO highlighted that this wasn’t explained in their Privacy Notice and so it happened without the knowledge of the individuals.

Double- optin –Under the double optin an individual has to confirm their consent as follows…

How double optin works (Source: Mailchimp)

 

Although this isn’t required until GDRP comes into force, in my experience it is good practice.  When I’ve run campaigns in the German market (where they have had Double Optin laws since 2003) the nett result is that getting your customers to confirm their email address not only gives you much cleaner data but it also gives you “warm” contacts who are expecting to hear from you.

Best of all it’s actually not that difficult to do. Tools like Mailchimp already have Double Optin built in.

In practice, however the ICO is unlikely to fine you over a missing Privacy Notice or confusing Optin statements.

 

Sweat the big stuff

 

Opt out processes – make sure you have robust internal processes for Opting people out / removing them from your database(s).  Make sure that it is really easy for people to opt out.

(Note if you are a charity under the new FPS you have to respond to requests to opt out within 28 days).

Marketing Data – review what data you keep on individuals. Is itadequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed” ?  Remove any unnecessary data.  Remember that your customer data maybe held across multiple systems – e.g. CRM system, email tool.

Consent   –  are you sure that you have consent from your contacts for marketing purposes ? Can you prove it  ?

Importantly – if you use lists bought in from third party then you can’t rely on their consent.

In May 2016, the ICO fined Better for the Country Ltd for sending out 500,000 texts, urging people to support its campaign to leave the EU. It obtained the phone numbers from a third party and did not have the consent of the people it sent text messages to.

No one wants to receive one of these !

The ICO states that you are not required to automatically ‘repaper’ or refresh all existing DPA consents in preparation for the GDPR. However it has to be a good idea to play it safe. And, it’s good practice to ensure that you definitely have consent and any new consent gained needs to meet the GDPR standard on being specific, granular, clear, prominent, opt-in, properly documented and easily withdrawn.  Cleaning your marketing database will also bring additional benefits anyway.

Get ready for GDPR – and tailor your messages to your audience

 

Extended information about consumers – under GDPR consumers can be specific about what they are signing up for. So rather than just saying “Sign up to receive information” – it is better to identify what you will use their data for. This is actually a good opportunity to identify customer interests – such as:

  • sign up to receive insights about XXX
  • sign up to receive information about special offers
OCVA email notice
This explains what you’re signing up for…

The key thing here is that you deliver against your promise.  Rather than send out -a one size fits  general newsletter to your contacts, send personalised messages tailored to their stated interests. That way you are much more likely to get a better response.

Profiling of data – there is a lot in the regulations about profiling and especially automated profiling. The bottom line, for me, is to think carefully about how you will augment existing data and – if you are planning to do any tele-matching (e.g. to find out phone numbers for your customers) then make sure your customers are informed.

Data on children – anyone under 16 cannot legally consent. (You have to get the consent of their parents or guardians) So, you need to be very careful about marketing to children. If children aren’t in your target audience then at the least it’s worth asking your customers if they are over 16.

 

Having your carrot and eat it – a win win

Just as the new GDPR regulations will punish poor marketing practices, they will also reward good marketing practice.  There could well be a significant plus side to this work: a better relationship with your customers.

If they have knowingly opted in to receive your marketing communications; if they have freely told you what they are interested in; if they are comfortable with the way that you use their data – then they will trust your brand more, and they are far more likely to respond to your marketing messages.

For me, that’s the win win.

 

I’m a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world.

Smart Directions: the imperative to change in the Print Industry

Smart Directions Conference May 2017 : Better Business – Invaluable Insights for Printers

The focus of this year’s Smart Directions Conference 2017 was on seeking out ideas and inspiration that can help print businesses to prosper and grow.

  • How can you diversify to strengthen your product offering?
  • How can you get the best out of your staff?
  • What benefits could the fast evolving trade printing
    sector deliver?
  • Could it be that your own body language holds the key to growing sales and profitability?

Expert speakers at the The Smart Directions Conference provided the answers to these questions and more.

Digital transformation – the imperative to change

While printers may see opportunities in the way consumers are delivering a backlash against digital advertising, they are also coming under pressure to embrace digital through their technology and processes, as well as their service offering.

In this presentation I looked at what digital transformation means for printers and how they should respond.

“Digital transformation” was explored by marketing consultant Roger Christiansen, who described digital print as a “quiet revolution” – with virtual stock, faster time to market, printing locally and on-demand services continuing to see off the threat of e-books.  Digital Printer Magazine

 

Roger at Smart Directions Conf 2017 4

If you can’t beat them, join them – reaching your MVP in Social Media

If you can’t beat them, join them – reaching your MVP in Social Media

I hear a lot from senior managers of a certain age that Social Media isn’t for them. They feel that they should participate but Social Media seems to be an alien world, for the under 25s only.

So here’s my advice on how you adopt some of the practices of Growth Hacking and the Social Media world to build your own presence and take advantage of Social Media tools.

Why MVP ?

Growth hacking is the new approach to development. It’s all about fearlessly getting to market and growing as quickly as you can using whatever methods you can (some not so legal!).  Fail fast, then fail better..

The idea of an Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is that you get to market with just enough so that you can launch, and establish the market opportunity.  If you are successful, you then develop as you go to meet market demand.

You can use the same approach to Social Media.  You don’t need to invest lots of money to build a presence. You can get started very cheaply and easily, and build from there. Provided you follow some key principles.

Don’t underestimate the power of Social Media

Whatever your views on Social Media, no one can deny that it has incredible power. Take, for example, the Champions League Match between Dortmund and Monaco. The match had to be rescheduled due to a bomb attack on the Dortmund bus, and there were thousands of Monaco fans needing accommodation in Dortmund.

German fans turned to Twitter to offer accommodation to Monaco fans.  What was amazing was not just that Monaco fans could find accommodation but the goodwill generated by the many shares on Social Media of Dortmund and Monaco fans together.

Don’t over-estimate Social Media

But, there’s also a lot of hype about Social Media…   Not everyone uses Social Media. And the world of Social Media – like much in the Digital World – is highly fragmented.

Im alot cooler on the internet
This T shirt says it all !

Even in the UK, where we have a relatively high level of literacy (above the European average according to Digital Economy and Society Index DESI 2017 )  there are 5.3 million people who have never used the internet. (Office of National Statistics)

There is also a dark side to the internet. Millions of accounts on the leading platforms are actually fake accounts – and nearly 77% of all internet activity in Europe is “dark social”;  untracked and off the radar. (eConsultancy, Feb 2016)

In the UK, there are 5.3 million people who have never used the internet. (Office of National Statistics)

The Key point is that it is highly unlikely that 100% of your customers and prospects will use Social Media. And it is extremely unlikely that they will use Social exclusively as a channel to find out about your company or your products.

Social Media is a channel not a strategy

So you have to include Social Media in your strategy, but don’t make Social Media the strategy. Social Media platforms provide great communication channels to your target audiences.

But remember that Social Media platforms are highly fragmented and tribalised. So my advice is:

  • Link your messages on Social Media to all of your other channels. Don’t treat each channel (and this applies as well to email newsletters, campaigns, website, PR) as a silo. Link everything together. This will probably save you work too !
  • Consistent messaging – have consistent messages which you deliver across all of your channels.
  • Adapt for different audiences: different audiences have different expectations on the various Social Media channels (and this also applies to email, web sites and so on). For instance, platforms like Snapchat and Instagram tend to be highly image orientated. LinkedIN tends to be more thoughtful and business-like.

However beware of generalisations… because…

Rules – what rules ?

You see a lot of articles setting out rules for how to maximise use of platforms like LinkedIN, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter etc.

However in reality there are no hard and fast rules. Twitter didn’t even invent the Hashtag:  end-users created this. But this is exactly how these platforms develop and innovate…

rules what rules

Social Media is still relatively new. Most of the major platforms are under 10 years old and there is a lot of change going on in this sector.Facebook owns WhatsApp

  • Facebook introducing new Business features
  • Facebook owns Instagram and is introducing new features to counter the rise of Snapchat
  • Microsoft owns LinkedIN
  • Twitter may charge for Premium membership

Content – quality not quantity

According to Marketing Week, nearly 60% of all corporate content is clutter.  To be fair this doesn’t just apply to Digital content (how many people actually read brochures ?) however Social Media makes it deceptively easy to create and distribute content, without any of the usual balances and controls you would normally apply to a printed piece, or content for your website.

Unintegrated marcomms

People say that the average life of a Tweet is 18 minutes – so, if you add it all up, the vast majority of digital content has no impact, and is quite possibly never read.

So, my advice is as follows,..

  • Quality not quantity – If it isn’t worth saying then don’t say it !!  (Be honest, who actually reads #Mondaymotivation tweets ?)
  • Be consistent – each Social network is a Communications channel… have a clearly defined objective for your messages and adapt them for each channel.
  • Cut and paste blogs for each separate channel

Play the game – when you get to your MVP you can be selective over who follows you

If you are going to participate then you need a Minimum Viable Presence – this means a credible number of followers.

  • So, for LinkedIN, this means at least 200 followers, preferable over 1000 to become an All-star Profile.
  • For Twitter and Facebook, at least 500 followers

There are a number of simple techniques to do this. Contact me to find out more.

This means that you will have to accept a lot of poor quality followers … people who have no business value… but I would say that you can be fussy about your followers once you’ve got to your MVP…

So, my advice is that, to get the best out of Social Media you need to put it in its place.  It’s a valuable communications channel, which can really add value and reach new people in new ways.

Just don’t put too much effort into using Social Media.  No more, no less.

I’m a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world.

Digital transformation in Publishing – my presentation to The Galley Club

Digital transformation in Publishing – my presentation to The Galley Club

Here’s my presentation to the Galley Club last night on Digital Transformation in the Publishing Industry.

Here’s a write up of the event by members of the Galley Club.

an excellent account of e-business transformations and what this means for publishers today

 

A great insight into the varied Digital World