New consumers and new business opportunities


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A talk I gave in Leeds in April 2009 to a bunch of business people about consumption in the age of digital media and new business opportunities.

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New consumers and new business opportunities

  1. 1. Web futures: consumer behaviours and business opportunities Leeds, 28th April 2009
  2. 2. Hello Leeds! So today I’m sketching out a few things that are going to be critical in designing products for consumers and developing businesses in a networked, web world. I’m going to talk for about 40 mins... firstly around consumers and trends we’ve identified that we believe are significant and ways in which people are creating services and products to meets those trends. Then I’m going to talk about just three significant business trends before ending on ways to think about building businesses that live in a networked world.
  3. 3. I’m James Boardwell and I principally do social research - research and analysis on what people do and why. I do this to help design better things. Having been a lecturer and then a producer and research manager at the BBC (looking at Future Media) I now work at...
  4. 4. Rattle, where I’m one of a team of only four. Rattle is a specialist agency, researching and designing and building around the “social web”.
  5. 5. Examples of what we do include social web apps, like this ‘alpha’ service for BBC News using twitter to deliver a breaking news service that people can follow in the spaces where they ‘live’ online.
  6. 6. Or this service for the Science Museum Outreach team that enables teams of schools around the country to communicate about the projects they are working on.
  7. 7. We also build things where we are the clients. This is Folksy ( the UK’s biggest handmade / craft / design marketplace. Launched in summer 2008 it has had over 30, 000 items listed by over 5, 000 sellers. There’s an interesting backstory to why we did this built around some consumer research... I’ll talk about that later if I have time.
  8. 8. Muddy is another service we have built, again, built on research we did that identified a ‘need’. Muddy indexes and categorises content, providing structure, so you can create better navigation / user experience and also things like Topic Pages around people, places, events. It launches as a full product next week. The original client was the BBC.
  9. 9. All our work starts from research. Mostly is starts from research with people, but not always...
  10. 10. We don’t design for this: This is the broadcast model - one to many. This is TV. We are not native to this world.
  11. 11. We design for this: This is the network model, this is the web. And whilst it may not look very special it’s really, really quite profound. We are native to this.
  12. 12. Consumers I want to start by looking at people, consumers, and the things that they do in the hope that some of these things will create some synaptic trigger relevant to your business and what you do.
  13. 13. “3c Consumers” Connectedness Creativity Community The 3c consumer was coined by Trendwatching ( a few years ago. Look it up, it’s a neat concept and one which we look to when designing services. Fundamentally it’s about the desire for consumers now to be connected (to you, other people, the concept), creative (allow them to have some input and tailor things how they want to) and do this with other people, as part of a community, however loosely defined.
  14. 14. You can see the 3c consumer everywhere now. This is just one random example of how the 3c consumer is implicated in on the ground policy initiatives, in this case helping to identify problems that the council can fix (because the council don’t have eyes in the backs of their head but they have an active audience of citizens who everyday inhabit the territory that the council is tasked with maintaining. So, why not help them to help you?
  15. 15. This is a more ‘consumer’ example. The Walkers Favourite campaign has been a remarkable success and succeeded in tapping into the 3c consumer Pysche because the call-to-action is simple, they didn’t try and impose a rigid structure to the campaign, rather they let people ‘self-organise’ around it and they did...
  16. 16. Albeit loosely. But those loose bits add up to something quite significant. Walkers is now all over the web, in the places where their consumers are. And their consumers feel INVOLVED and CONNECTED to Walkers now because the competition is genuine, they’re not treating their audience as simpletons, but as a team of helpers. This youtube clip is great. Look up gamesdojo who is one of many giving a critical review of each new flavour and uploading it to Youtube. He went to the eort to upload it to youtube and share it! This guy is a PASSIONATE USER. He’s the Man.
  17. 17. “3p Consumer” Personalisation / Privacy Presencing Paying for stuff I like the 3c concept. I want my own. So I made one for today. The “3p consumer”.
  18. 18. Personalisation Text We’re familiar with personalisation, it’s all around us. Increasingly your products and services are going to have to reflect the kind of personalisation, the kind of EXPRESSION that the web has shown people want. Platforms may be generic but the way you express yourself on the web is fluid, malleable, the same as your identity. Your ipod may remain the same (for a year or so) but the tunes don’t. Ditto the future of your product or service.
  19. 19. Personalisation Moo ( have built a service on Personalisation. What they do isn’t rocket science, they print stu. The clever bit comes in allowing people access to ways to personalise what they print. That’s clever and that’s mainly achieved through teaming up with services that have content...
  20. 20. Privacy With personlisation comes issues of privacy. Expression involves sharing and sharing involves letting go. How you manage this will be critical. I’m not going to dwell on this for now but sufice to say it’s not just a legal issue, it’s how you interface with your consumers how you allow them to manage their privacy so that they feel in CONTROL. You only have to see how Facebook have mishandled this to see how it can potentially wreck a business overnight.
  21. 21. Presencing This is really important and the “P” I’m going to concentrate on. Managing how others see you online matters. Presencing is about ‘locating’ in the broadest sense, it’s about locating you as an individual, your identity through comments you might make on a blog or on instant messenger and it’s also increasingly about locating you on maps, representing your geographical activity (many symbian / smartphones now use triangulation and GPS to locate you and services like Google now provide ways for you to expose this data to a network of other people). What’s particularly interesting about presencing is our desire to do it. How your audience and how your business presences itself is going to be really important in how you engage with your market as it’s a more immediate and personal form of engagement than say posters or TV or banner ads.
  22. 22. Presencing Twitter is one of the pre-eminent forms through which our expression of presencing takes shape. Twitter is mundane, often banal and BECAUSE of that it’s REALLY FUCKING POWERFUL. People have dismissed it for being dull, a vanity / solipsistic medium but that misses the point. It’s a critical form of expression because it is so very HERE AND NOW.
  23. 23. Presencing non-humans Presencing humans is interesting but presencing non-humans (objects, products, things) is just as important. The activity of things will be increasingly important to telling stories about your business and your products (and in fact could become part of the service you oer, a central part of your brand). This is a screengrab from a project that a wonderful company called Stamen did called Cab Spotting It tracked taxi’s in NYC and o the back of that told stories, found relevant touchpoints into other worlds.
  24. 24. Hardware + Data + Web = Personal Informatics This stu is an example of personal informatics... data which tells stories. And as I’ve alluded to it doesn’t have to be about people...
  25. 25. e.g. botanicalls It’s about everything around us. The city is like a big computer. Each object is connected. Some are more connected than others. Some have voices which we can hear through wiring them up to the www. This is botnaicals. It’s a plant which tweets when it needs watering. Why? Partly because it can. Partly because it helps to know when we should water it. Partly because on aggregate these things start to say things about us, the world. Imagine if your garden was hooked up like this, if it could say what needed attention, when dierent htings were growing, what was in bloom, what was dying. Your garden would live not just in (my case) a suburb of Shefield but would be connected to the wider world. I could see which same plants were blooming elsewhere I could be a better gardener, but the real benefit would just be to hear my garden talking. HELLO GARDEN.
  26. 26. e.g. BIG things It’s not just plants. Tom Taylor allowed Tower Bridge to be better connected and gave it a voice we cold hear. Not it tells anyone who wants to know wherever they are in the world, what it’s doing. Why? Because it can, because commuters like to know (over 1, 300 follow tower bridge), because the stories it tells are small but they are also BIG, they have significance because it’s the Tower Bridge, it’s key node for London.
  27. 27. Making it useful Tom Taylor (again) likes bringing dead things to life. Here he does this by telling you what of the things above are near you, when you put a postcode or address in the website (or your phone) and it maps these. It’s bloody handy. And whilst ‘cats’ may not be a key thing to be near, it’s actually kind of nice to know they’re there. This is the future. You can see it now.
  28. 28. Taking digital out into the world Data And another way to bring dead things to life is through that old (dead) media of print. Tom’s colleague Russell (see the had the idea to put the things he found on the web his friends had written into a newspaper. Because he likes reading newspapers. They have value and an ‘aordance’ that means in some contexts (on the bus, tube, loo) they are far more useful than a screen. And there is ‘social currency’ in seeing your stu in print and seeing it on the kitchen table.. you reach new audiences. This is a really well crafted newspaper btw. And the logistical work that goes into it is non- trivial. They’re developing this further and taking breathing new life into the internet (and potentially giving newspaper printers a lease of life).
  29. 29. Paying for stuff What I’ve hopefully sketched out, above are “new contexts”, new ways that people are engaging with things. And people will pay for these things. This may come as a shock. Monetising the internet is not something many people have managed to do, despite the hype. But people are paying for SERVICES and not (usually) CONTENT. They’re paying for things that provide a service for a SPECIFIC NEED / CONTEXT. This is hugely important. Niche things PAY. I’ll say more about this later. The platform that is critical for leveraging new contexts is of course The Mobile. 1. web never had a built in micro-payments system, mobiles do. 2. mobiles are context aware and we pay for things in the right context... at a screen our need states are limited (e.g. work, porn!)
  30. 30. design for a connected world, design for sharing I just want to end this section by pointing to an obvious point really which is: DESIGN YOUR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES TO FIT NEEDS AND DESIGN THEM TO BE SHARED. To do this you need to think more critically about WHO you are trying to engage....
  31. 31. Think about different use cases Research tends to think of people in terms of attitudinal ‘types’, “tribes”. This is useful. However, equally as important is looking at the activity of engagement (peer group, publishing, performative, private etc.). This diagram is just one way to think through developing (social, web) services and campaigns. Here people are seen in terms of the level of engagement. Not all people will engage and it’s how you identify your passionate users and their needs and create feedback loops from these users back out to everyone else that is crucial. The implication is that campaigns, services, products are now in perpetual “beta”, they are continually evolving the engagement with the audience. No more the big TV ad and then the monitoring of that campaign for ‘eectiveness’. You’re now “always on”. ;) We’ve got a heap of other “engagement models” and ways to think about audiences constructively.
  32. 32. Business trends I’m just going to mention three trends which we come across a lot and which we believe are having a huge impact on business, particularly B2C.
  33. 33. Niche The Long Tail. You’ll have heard of this and if you haven’t pls see: and the associated book The crux is that while once business depended on the BIG sellers, the ‘head’ of the power curve, now with the web we can sell everything as we don;t need expensive high street stores. Our inventory is potentially unlimited (for e.g. Amazon, The “transactional cost” of selling an ‘unpopular’ item is the same as a popular item. But the margins on unpopular items can be far far higher. This seems counter-intuitive but if you have someone who wants Deliverance on DVD they really want it and they’ll pay for it. In this way the Long Tail becomes potentially more lucrative than the ‘head’ (now often a place for loss leading items to drive sales into the Long Tail). Businesses are being built in the Long Tail (lovefilm, Lulu, Amazon,, Apple’s App Store). See niche as a Good Thing.
  34. 34. Bringing consumers into the design process Your consumers are now far more connected. They share reviews, stories, pictures and you are often unwittingly part of that. Your consumers are smart, they know your stu at least as well as you (OK, perhaps consumers of prescription drugs don’t but hey). There are a growing number of examples of businesses drawing on their consumers to help with new product development, testing and “marketing”. Lego realised back in 2000 that there were a legion of fans of lego creating their own products (putting ‘technology’ in, designing new forms) and oering quality feedback that Lego was not tapping into. They decided to act. The business had been stagnating. They invested money in a programme to bring the customer into the design process and this proved to be hugely successful - a new raft of ‘technical’ products for (young and old) ‘adults’ was created (mindstorms) and the business was re-born. Marin bikes in the US do the same. Seeing your consumers (or at least some of them) as part of the business can oer huge benefits (but it has to be done carefully and it has to be ‘genuine’). More on Lego here: Design-and-designers-at-LEGO-a-history/
  35. 35. Data is key to business futures For many businesses their data is becoming at least as valuable as their products and is starting to form the basis for new services or at least for others to build services which they can benefit from. Amazon did this with their afiliate market - opening up the book data (and platform) to create a marketplace. Now this doesn’t apply to resource monopolies obviously (diamond mines have other things to worry about) but ‘data’ has value. Dopplr ( is a service built on your travel data (your put in your travel plans and it matches them with others in your network). But this travel data, when ‘meshed’ in aggregate is very powerful. You can see popular places, routes, means of travel. The data says something about you (presencing) and it also oers ways to connect to other services, for example hotel bookings (Mr and Mrs Smith have a tie-in with Dopplr, it fits their brand / market well). So, look at what data you have... at the least opening up your data for non-commercial use may allow others to build better ways to access your services (the Odeon website used to be awful and a keen developer took their data and built a highly usable way to find out what was showing. Odeon took him to court. They should have employed him (he’s now one of the best developers in the country!)).
  36. 36. How do you ‘monetise’ it? By no means fool proof ideas these - if they were I would be on a beach in the Caribbean.
  37. 37. Develop product - service propositions I’m only going to talk about one broad idea here. And that is the notion of “Product Service Propositions” The ultimate example here is ipod + itunes. But there are a myriad of other examples, such as the lo-fi Match Attax cards + binder. I buy the trading cards for my kids every week. The cards are the products. The service / platform in many ways is the binder they put the cards into. Integrating your service into products and vice versa means you have a payment platform.
  38. 38. Another product - service proposition The Nike+ service which integrates with the ipod is another good example. But the iPhone and the App store is another, as is potentially the ereader, the Kindle, and the content delivery system for that. What are your Product Service Propositions?
  39. 39. Recap creativity community data connectdeness dislocation paid for services presencing personalisation niche markets “product service propositions” This is a re-cap. The talk in 15 words.
  40. 40. Remember, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed” This quote by William Gibson is overused but it’s overused for a reason, it’s really good. It puts the emphasis on the niche, the ‘edges’ as a means to plan for the future. I’d suggest that business always looks for ideas about how to cater for the edges as a means for surviving in the mainstream, start to put a little bit of resource into the edge stu, start to play around there. Other people are and if you don’t you may miss the next opportunity to extend the life of your business (or that of your client).
  41. 41. Thank you for listening James Boardwell Credits Leeds Money man iphone itunes ipod botanicalls nike+ laptop moo robots wires Thanks.