Category Archives: Physical Web

Pervasive Memory Physical Web Transform Touchpoints

The (Smart) Customer as a God

Customers will send “intentcasts” out to the marketplace, revealing only what’s required to attract offers.

Our friend Doc Searls carried the flag this weekend in a major piece he wrote for the WSJ. We loved this passage:

“Big business continues to believe that a free market is one in which customers get to choose their captors. Choosing among AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon for your new smartphone is like choosing where you’d like to live under house arrest. It’s why marketers still talk about customers as “targets” they can “acquire,” “control,” “manage” and “lock in,” as if they were cattle. And it’s why big business thinks that the best way to get personal with customers on the Internet is with “big data,” gathered by placing tracking files in people’s browsers and smartphone apps without their knowledge—so they can be stalked wherever they go, with their “experiences” on commercial websites “personalized” for them.

It is not yet clear to the perpetrators of this practice that it is actually insane. Think about it. Nobody from a store on Main Street would follow you around with a hand in your pocket and tell you ‘I’m only doing this so I can give you a better shopping experience. But that is exactly what happens online (as The Wall Street Journal has shown at length in its investigative series ‘What They Know‘).”

One Smart Page

The most disruptive page on the Web.

We believe in fewer words, more action. But we also know that the flood of innovation – and change – all around us can be overwhelming. It’s nearly impossible to keep up, or to focus intently on one idea.

To help you spot opportunities, we offer One Smart Page. Think Drudge Report meets Fast Company, and you get the idea. Click on over and see for yourself.

You’ll find hundreds of links to innovators, disruptors, researchers and entrepreneurs. The links will keep changing, because we want this page to represent the most promising initiatives in the race to make everything smart.

The Disruptive Innovation Machine

Identify, Differentiate & Interact with… Everything

Look out your window. Thanks to four disruptive forces, everything you see has the potential to be a business opportunity, if you keep three words in mind: Identify, Differentiate, and Interact.

The Disruptive Innovation machine lists these four disruptive forces around the edges (not coincidentally where disruption happens first) and has three empty boxes for you to add a phrase to correspond with each essential word.

That is, what can disruptive innovation help your customers IDENTIFY? How can it help them DIFFERENTIATE this person… place… thing… idea… event from all else? What options can it offer them to INTERACT with it?

Let’s walk through an example of how you might use the Machine.

You could start by thinking of a specific segment of customers. For this example, let’s imagine you run a busy doctor’s office and the segment you are targeting is busy tech-savvy patients.

The Machine will help you figure out how your office could leverage wireless devices and one or all of the disruptive forces that are starting to rip apart existing business models. These forces (Digital Sensors, etc.) are shown at the outer edges of the Machine.

Write a noun in the first box, which stands for Identify. You are trying to combine three words to describe an innovative new service you could provide to your patients. Let’s use “DIET.” This means your service will be identifying proper diets for patients.

Now, we need an adjective for the Differentiate box, which means on what basis will you be helping patients differentiate between diet options? We could write easiest or cheapest, but for now we will write “HEALTHIEST”.

Finally, we need a verb for the Interact space, which represents how patients will access the results. You could write demonstrate (for video demonstrations by a nurse). Let’s stick with “DEMONSTRATE”.

As you use this tool, try various combinations, and try to include the disruptive forces in your answers. For example, a doctor’s office could list different ways to use Digital Sensors (noun, in the Identify box) to better serve patients. It could encourage certain patients to wear a wristband or other device that monitors the patient’s health and reports any anomalies to the healthcare provider.

Likewise, the physician could leverage Pervasive Memory to utilize patient’s sensors data over a period of months and years. This doesn’t have to involve more work for the doctor; numerous apps are flooding the market that accomplish such feats. The trick is mostly for healthcare providers to recognize these disruptive forces and incorporate the best of them into interactions with patients.

The Digital Innovation Machine can produce countless possible innovations, and many of them will generate millions or billions in profits over the next few years. At first glance, you might underestimate the power of this tool. We’d be happy to discuss it, if you like. This sort of thinking is also described in detail in our book.

7 Ways to Radically Improve Customer Service


Outsmart your competitors. Buy the book


What if …

1. Your customers booked customer service time through an online calendar, and reps contacted the customer at the scheduled time?

2. When customers opted to leave a message rather than wait on hold, they could choose a specific call back time (and actually get called back)?

3. You connected each product customers used to an analytical service at the company, so that reps could more quickly diagnose problems and offer customers relevant guidance?

4. Using such a service, you solved customer problems remotely, minimizing or eliminating the need for a call? Even better, you solved problems before customers were aware of them.

5. You could eliminate data silos, so that all customer information is instantly accessible to any rep?

6. Ratings and specialties of specific service reps were posted online, allowing customers to choose (and rate) who serves them? What if rep compensation was tied to these ratings?

7. Voicemail trees were posted online, and you allowed customers to click at a specific point in the tree to initiate the call, thus skipping the entire navigation process?

Of course this list could be much longer, but this gives you the basic idea. Now that you have a starting point and a roadmap, where can you disrupt your industry?

[Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, available now on Amazon.]

Three More Ways to Disrupt Your Industry


Outsmart your competitors. Buy the book


Sensors make dumb products smart, gathering information from the environment that you can use to gain competitive advantage and to better serve your customers. Through sensors you can learn how customers actually use your products, and guide them in gaining greater benefits from them. For example, instead of just building a thermostat to control the heat in a building, you could add additional sensors to determine the way air circulates through the building and identify energy inefficiencies.

Sensors can detect minor problems in your products before they become major problems, and allow you to fix a problem before your customer is even aware of it. This could reduce your average response time for a problem from four hours down
to immediately.

Sensors can create additional revenue streams from existing products. An appliance company could add weight sensors in a refrigerator and create a new business automatically replenishing food items as soon as they run low. A B2B manufacturer could install sensors in its distributors’ warehouses and do the same.

2. Let customers make or assemble their own products.

The disruptive forces we write about in Smart Customers, Stupid Companies push each industry closer to personalization, because tailoring services for customers is just part of acting smart. The closer you move production to a customer, the greater the opportunities to personalize.

Lego toys have often been used as an example when explaining mass customization, since standard pieces can be combined in unique ways to create unique products. But even Lego realized some years ago that it could allow customers to design their own products online, then have the necessary piece shipped to them. The more modular you make the pieces that combine to create your products, the greater your ability to allow customers to combine individual parts in unique ways.

There’s a whole spectrum of possibilities. You can manufacture a product yourself, and then allow the customer to superficially customize it. You can make a product and design it so that customers customize it in a substantial manner; this describes perfectly how customers install apps on smartphones, tablets, and computers. The challenge is to conceive of ways to leapfrog your competitors and generally accepted industry standards.

At the same time, technologies such as 3D printing raise the increasingly real possibility of locating mini “manufacturing plants” at the customer’s location. You could literally have your customers make the entire product.

3.) Sell an ongoing service, not just a product.

In recent years, printer companies shifted their focus from selling printers to selling ink. But most customers still have to remember to buy more ink. What if printer companies sold printers that never ran out of ink, and charged on a per page basis?

Our not-so-secret wish is for a smartphone service that sells guaranteed phone service, rather than a phone that stops working eight months before your contract expires or the phone is “eligible for upgrade.”

Many people would gladly pay 30 cents a mile for car transportation, rather than have to buy a car for $35,000.

From your company’s viewpoint, selling a service locks in an ongoing relationship and revenue stream. In many industries, the manufacturer has no relationship with the end user and simply makes a sale every few years, at best.

This is an extremely vulnerable position in which to be, and turning products into ongoing services may offer significant benefit not only for your customers but also for your firm.

[Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, available now on Amazon.]

A Perfect Storm of Disruptive Innovation


Outsmart your competitors. Buy the book.

Smart customers want to talk to, access, interact with, and ask questions of your company. Right now. From wherever they may be.

We live in a world in which whether you are out in the woods, at a client’s business, or in your living room, you can connect information and processing power with people and devices that need it right here and right now.

This is a giant departure for everything that has come before in business, life, and the world. Today, unless there’s something wrong with our phones or computer, we are almost never without access to guidance, to others, to ideas, and to possibilities.

As the word “disruptive” suggests, this change is not happening in a steady and predictable way, but rather in a manner that most threatens established organizations, which are slower to change. The main question is pretty simple: Can your firm anticipate the impacts of these forces so that it gets smarter faster than competitors and customers?

These four forces are not operating in isolation…the opposite is true: They are building on each other. This creates countless opportunities – but also dramatically raises the bar for delivering “ideal” (much less truly differentiated) customer experiences:

▪ Social Influence means that the opinions and experiences of countless other people come between your firm and its customers.

▪ Pervasive Memory makes it inevitable that companies will begin to profitably leverage the data generated by the trillions of interactions and transactions made through digital devices.

▪ Digital Sensors expand exponentially the scope of actions, events, and behaviors firms can sense…and to which they can respond.

▪ The rise of the Physical Web has begun. Today, we are linking objects and locations in the real world like we do on the Web.

These forces will require every business to rethink, and in many cases reinvent, their business models. They are not unpredictable, but potent and unavoidable.

“What level of customer experience must we provide, and how will we do it?” becomes a life or death question for senior executives, and the time to answer it is now.

[Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, available now on Amazon.]

Physical Web

Nook worth more than Barnes & Noble

Warning to bricks and mortar merchants

Microsoft’s new investment in Barnes & Noble’s Nook division pegs the value of that “virtual” division at twice what B&N is worth. That ought to give every established business reason to pause.

Perhaps your business has spent decades building physical facilities? It’s tempting to think these assets provide your firm with an advantage. The reality may be the opposite; that investment may limit your flexibility, and serve more as an anchor than a strong foundation.

B&N is in a unique position, and no one – including me – knows how the publishing industry will sort itself out.

I do know, however, that all bets are off. Not just in publishing, but in all industries. Most businesses are radically underestimating the degree of change that is approaching.

Physical Web

Physical Web Strategies

Goodbye Tower of Babel. Hello, rest of the world.

We are already starting to hyperlink the physical world like we have the Web. Your smartphone can use “augmented reality” applications to get information that is linked to physical objects and entities.

Point your phone at any one of 90 million homes, and the HomeSnap app will tell you all about it. Turn your phone towards the village center and Yelp will show you the direction of each restaurant, along with reviews for each. The award-winning astronomy app StarWalk turns an iPad into a magical tool for stargazers, identifying any constellation when you point the iPad in its direction.

Imagine you are traveling in Spain and don’t speak Spanish. Word Lens lets you point your phone at any sign or printed page, and it replaces all the Spanish words with English ones. This is so effective it’s almost creepy; you still see the sign, but the words you can understand replace the ones you cannot.

Room 77 helps discriminating travelers search hotels room-by-room by amenities and floor plans.

Bookmark a tree, building or beach

As you make new discoveries in the real world, you will be able to bookmark them. If you are hiking deep in the woods and discover a beautiful clearing under a giant oak tree, you can bookmark it so you can easily find it on your next visit.

SoundHound lets you identify any song you hear playing, even if it’s simply being sung by a kid on a street corner. Microsoft Tag and Google Goggles both allow companies to tag products so that customers can simply scan a code and see whatever information, demonstrations or offers the company chooses to attach. Such elements can be changed in real time, to enable timely offers or to accommodate sifting inventories. Think of a blouse with such a tag; the attached offer could promote 50% off a matching skirt, until that skirt is sold out and the offer immediately shifts to promote a different accessory.

UpNext offers 3D maps of major American cities, which let you zoom in on any section, block or building. This app lets you immediately get a sense of distance between locations, or simply learn what the building you are headed towards looks like. If you are looking for an Asian restaurant in a neighborhood or a fun attraction, UpNext highlights all the buildings that meet your criteria and gives you a concise written summary of each. Thanks to integration with Foursquare, the app can also help you find nearby places where your friends are currently gathering.

Get the idea? We are in the early stages of tagging and linking the physical world, but that doesn’t mean that it is far off in the future. Much of the necessary technology already exists. It means that most corporate executives and business strategies have not yet recognized that the real world is being linked like the Web – but with more impactful consequences.

To anticipate the business opportunities to come, we suggest you think both small and large. Physical Web technology will solve small but frequent problems like losing your keys in your house, your car in a parking lot, or your kids outside playing.

It will also tackle huge problems like companies not really understanding which of their activities are profitable, which processes are broken, and which customers represent the future of their industry. Linking the real world will allow both managers and individuals to take an increasingly granular view of the world, understanding what works and why.

As the Physical Web rises, pretty much everything a company does for its customers will become more interactive, dynamic and open to scrutiny.

Digital Sensors Physical Web

Siri, “Wired for War,” Ends Up in iPhone

Apple’s friendly assistant was born on the battlefield

As you probably know, Apple bought Siri, they did not develop the personal assistant in-house. According to Wade Roush, the algorithms that make the (original) app work… are the product of years of defense-sponsored research at Menlo Park, CA-based SRI International.

In other words, Siri has its roots as a military application, not a consumer one. Over the next few years, we are likely to see hundreds of consumer and business applications that result from technologies used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dr. P. W. Singer’s remarkable book, Wired for War, highlights how technology is changing warfare. I despise wars, but read the book when originally published with the recognition that the military drives many innovations, and many of these end up powering commercial applications.

This passage from the book shows how technology even ends up blending warriors into society, creating a stunningly narrow line between war and everyday life:

One of the most familiar unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is the Predator. At 27 feet in length, the -propeller-powered drone is just a bit smaller than a Cessna plane. Perhaps its most useful feature is that it can spend up to 24 hours in the air, at heights up to 26,000 feet. Predators are flown by what are called “reach-back” or “remote-split” operations. While the drone flies out of bases in the war zone, the human pilot and sensor operator are 7,500 miles away, flying the planes via satellite from a set of converted single-wide trailers located mostly at Nellis and Creech Air Force bases in Nevada. Such operations have created the novel situation of pilots experiencing the psychological disconnect of being “at war” while still dealing with the pressures of home. In the words of one Predator pilot, “You see Americans killed in front of your eyes and then have to go to a PTA meeting.” Says another, “You are going to war for 12 hours, shooting weapons at targets, directing kills on enemy combatants, and then you get in the car, drive home, and within 20 minutes you are sitting at the dinner table talking to your kids about their homework.”

This passage troubles me to no end. I give a lot of speeches, and a few times have brought family members along to a particularly appealing venue. It was almost impossible to concentrate appropriately on either my family or speaking obligations, and I stopped that practice. I can’t imagine why it makes sense to allow drone pilots to live with their families while they are at war.

But technology breaks down walls. (What time do you stop working? Your spouse and kids might dispute your answer, given how often you text or check email.) Since we’ve poured billions of dollars into developing new technologies to support our troops, these technologies will come home along with our soldiers.

In these wars, American forces have used a broad assortment of drones and robots. Devices that many executives still consider to be “science fiction” have been used for years on the battlefield under far worse conditions than the average shopping mall, one of the many places they are likely to end up next.