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Architecture Needed to Monetize APIs

The Harvard Business Review Article, “The Strategic Value of APIs” says, “…there are multiple ways APIs can generate growth for companies. While many may see APIs as just a technical concept, they clearly overlook the rising strategic significance of APIs. Particularly with the internet of things bringing digitization to all kinds of products and services, the influence of APIs is growing far beyond technology firms. All CEOs may soon need to
find ways to align APIs with their growth strategies.”

shutterstock_210232156The three major trends of social, mobile, and cloud are greatly impacting how businesses and customers connect and engage with their customers and employees. APIs are a foundational technology that enables companies to participate in the digital economy. APIs open up the potential for the creation of entirely new businesses models or the establishment of new primary channels for products and services. The ecosystem created by connected enterprises, customers and suppliers via APIs have an economic effect – The API Economy.

Providing programmable access to systems and data can provide strategic and economic value. For example, the APIs provided by Amazon, eBay and Facebook are the primary means for paying customers to access their platforms. Like these born-on-the-web companies many traditional companies are looking to provide systems as platforms and offer information and services via APIs. These platforms require a modern architecture as well as a business strategy to monetize APIs.

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B2B Content Marketing: What type of content has the most clout?

Marketing to other businesses (B2B) is very different from marketing to consumers.  We’ve heard and talked a lot about Content Marketing in past, although it mostly has been focused on consumers – B2C. I just came across an interesting bit of research from Eccolo Media that looks specifically at content marketing in the B2B space.

eccolochart

Infographic by Eccolo Media

For the past few years, Eccolo Media has been surveying B2B marketers and buyers to get a pulse on the market. In their 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey Report they created an infographic describing which content has the most clout for B2B.

The first thing to note from the report is all the different types of marketing content that are available and used by B2B marketers.  Most of these are tried and true marketing vehicles: white papers, email messages, case studies, product brochures.  But Eccolo Media has also asked about webinars, blog posts, ebooks and even podcasts.

B2B customers consumed all of these content types. In fact, no less than 25% of the respondents consumed at least one of these types of content. That tells us that various types of content are important to reach the right audience.

However, the most revealing data is shown in the chart I’ve included here: What content types are the most influential for a B2B customer.  You can see that our old friend “product brochures and data sheets” still come out as the top influencer. White papers and case studies  came in second and third.

For all those marketers trying to influence B2B customers through email campaigns, the survey results here show that email influences only 15% of the buyers. That is only slightly higher than social media and print magazines. Also interesting is that tweets on Twitter were the least influential of all the content types.

Again, this data is for B2B marketing only. When you are looking to create or update your content strategy, you should take into account this kind of research data.

CMO Pressed to Lead Customer Experience But Progress Lacking

Advertising Age has a short but interesting article on how CMO’s Pressed to Lead Customer Experience Efforts, But Their Progress is Lacking.   Customer Experience has a huge overlap with Digital Transformation.  It’s many of the same technologies and change in process but geared towards your most important constituent, the customer.  Here’s a few quotes before I add my own commentary.

Note the Top CMO Expectation

Note the Top CMO Expectation

So expectations are high regarding who is in charge of creating the customer experience. However, it’s not as easy as it seems:

“It’s a new expectation and it’s a difficult expectation,” said Laura McLellan, VP-marketing strategies at Gartner and author of the report. Ms. McLellan said the opportunity to lead customer-experience efforts is an opportunity for CMOs to gain more influence within their companies, but they risk leaving that influence on the table if they don’t take the reins soon. “Now is the time,” she said.

Even though CEOs were expecting CMOs to master customer experience, only 6% of respondents cited customer experience as their company’s important strategic priority in 2014.

Laura McLellan goes on to say that it’s hard because of the newness of the discipline.

Why It’s Hard

Let’s think of three hard things:

  1. Taking up a new initiative that’s still being defined
  2. Breaking down organizational and process silos in your company
  3. Combining technologies that haven’t interacted much before to create new functionality

Now combine those three things together and you’ve got customer experience.  What makes it more difficult is that while it makes sense for a CMO to take the reins on this, it represents a sharp change from previous roles and responsibilities.   Technology figure heavily in this and with it comes a need to understand the implications and the dependencies of those technologies.

This is where any smart company will have the CIO working very closely with the CMO to enable this.  Both sides need to contribute and to ask for help where necessary.

Let me leave you with on final thought on making this work:

She also stressed how much work it takes to get companies to rethink the way they do business in order to improve their approach to customer experience: “This is a huge change-management process.”

The UK Gets Its First Digital Bank

Thanks Liza Sisler and Elizabeth Dias for pointing to the source articles.  The flip side of Digital Transformation must be Digital Disruption.  Probably no better example of that disruption exists than the Financial Services Industry where so much of the friction can be smoothed by digital technologies.  On example of this is the UK first digital bank.  Information Age has a short article on the new Charter Bank and what it may mean against older competition.

Consumers are increasingly valuing what these ‘non-bank banks’ have to offer: Accenture has found that one in five consumers would be happy to bank with PayPal – a firm born in Silicon Valley, not in the Square Mile.

There is increasing pressure on banks to remain relevant. But there are those making waves. Lloyds Banking Group recently announced its intention to double-down on digital banking, closing branches and cutting costs. In the US, BBVA Compass announced that its agreement with startup Dwolla to offer real-time payment facilities to customers makes it the first mainstream bank to open its technology platform to digital developers like Dwolla. Such bold moves, even a couple of years ago, would have invited ridicule and a fair amount of controversy.

- See more at: http://www.information-age.com/it-management/strategy-and-innovation/123458848/digital-transformation-how-banks-are-cashing#sthash.KozBPxEM.dpuf

Other Examples

But Charter Bank isn’t the first in the world.  The United States has many examples of these digital disruptors.  Forrester’s article, “Digital Disruption Hits Financial Services” (Behind a paywal)  It’s very informative on the types of companies starting up to transform the way the industry does business. Of the 18 categories of disruption, Digital Banking has 11 examples including Fidor Bank, Go Bank, and Smarty Pig (best name so far).

What’s perhaps the most interesting is the concept Forrester pounds home that the disruption works because they disinter-mediate incumbents.

Digital Disruption Via Disinter-mediation

Digital Disruption Via Disinter-mediation

There Will Be Blood

Yet another article with a catchy title and compelling content comes from Bradley Leimer at American Banker.  His basic premise is that trouble looms on the horizon for many banks.

The industry feels uneven, the business model itself for the vast majority of players a bit muddled. David Kerstein of Peak Performance Group projects that by the end of this decade there will be 40% fewer banks and 50% fewer credit unions.

…..

The banking industry has traditionally thrived on these areas of friction. It is, of course, where we make much of our profit. Historical friction complicates our customer journeys. New fees and constraints on evolving forms of money movement and management, elongated processes to validate and verify identity and account ownership, non-contextual evaluation of risk to extend credit – these are all cumbersome user experiences that fail to leverage data and associated knowledge in our systems. Friction in the financial system comes from the industry’s strong aversion to risk and attachment to historical centers of profit, its less-than-innovative reaction to regulation, as well as organizational structures focused around inflexible systems and processes.

Our model simply must change to reduce this embedded friction, whether it is in the form of fees or complicated processes. We must keep up with the simplicity, usability and transparency customers now demand.

If we return to the flip side of the coin, digital transformation drives disruption.  A few years ago I spoke to a few directors at a bank who reaped nice fees from international transfers.  They faced something we even more today.   The service that provided for international transfers had revamped itself and was now a competitor undercutting the fees.  It’s a perfect example of disinter-mediation.  At that time they had two choices:

  1. Keep going with their current business model and do whatever they could do to keep their profitable customers for as long as possible
  2. Accept that lower fees would happen, jump on board, revamp their international transfer business, and make up in volume what they would lose in profit from individual transactions.  This of course implied that they would take business from other banks not ready to deal with the disruption.

I won’t tell you the outcome but I will tell you this happens everyday here.  To quote Bradley again, “There will be blood”

As much of traditional banking services become a utility, those that leverage personalized banking experiences for their profitable customer niche segments will thrive. As we move further into digital experience, the next decade will be even more incredibly disruptive than what we saw in the recent economic downturn.

There will be blood.

Bottom Line

Like many other industries, there exists both opportunity and disaster in the changes brought by digital transformation.  It’s up to each company whether they grasp the opportunity or sit tight and wait for the disruption to occur.

 

First iOS Apps from Apple-IBM venture

Around Q2 last year Apple and IBM announced their joint venture. At the time, I sw it as IBM ensuring everything works with iOS.   CNET’s latest article highlights some of the first fruits and it’s a little different than expected.  They focused on developing industry specific apps focused on productivity within the digital channel.  I can’t say as I disagree with it.

Plan Flight, for instance, is designed for pilots to manage their in-flight activities to help airlines save costs, while Passenger+ is intended to help flight crews offer personalized services to passengers in-flight. Another, called Retention, targets the insurance industry to help agents keep top customers in the fold. The government-focused apps focus on helping caseworkers and on crime prevention.

Business Wire also has a list of the apps: (They also go into much more detail on support, strategy, etc. Worth reading everything.)

  • Plan Flight (Travel and Transportation) addresses the major expense of all airlines—fuel—permitting pilots to view flight schedules, flight plans, and crew manifests ahead of time, report issues in-flight to ground crews, and make more informed decisions about discretionary fuel.
  • Passenger+ (Travel and Transportation) empowers flight crews to offer an unmatched level of personalized services to passengers in-flight—including special offers, re-booking, and baggage information.
  • Advise & Grow (Banking and Financial Markets) puts bankers on premise with their small business clients, with secure authorization to access client profiles and competitive analyses, gather analytics-driven insights to make personalized recommendations, and complete secure transactions.
  • Trusted Advice (Banking and Financial Markets) allows advisors to access and manage client portfolios, gain insight from powerful predictive analytics—in the client’s kitchen or at the local coffee shop, rather than the advisor’s office—with full ability to test recommendations with sophisticated modeling tools all the way to complete, secure transactions.
  • Retention (Insurance) empowers agents with access to customers’ profiles and history, including an analytics-driven retention risk score as well as smart alerts, reminders, and recommendations on next best steps and facilitation of key transactions like collection of e-signatures and premiums.
  • Case Advice (Government) addresses the issue of workload and support among caseworkers who are making critical decisions, one family or situation at a time, on the go. The solution adjusts case priorities based on real-time analytics-driven insights, and assesses risk based on predictive analysis.
    Incident Aware (Government) converts an iPhone into a vital crime prevention asset, presenting law enforcement officers with real-time access to maps and video-feeds of incident locations; information about victim status, escalation risk, and crime history; and improved ability to call for back-up and supporting services.
  • Sales Assist (Retail) enables associates to connect with customer profiles, make suggestions based on previous purchases and current selections, check inventory, locate items in-store, and ship out-of-store items.
  • Pick & Pack (Retail) combines proximity-based technology with back-end inventory systems for transformed order fulfillment.
  • Expert Tech (Telecommunications) taps into native iOS capabilities including FaceTime® for easy access to expertise and location services for route optimization to deliver superior on-site service, more effective issue resolution and productivity as well as improved customer satisfaction.

Driving Digital Transformation with Expanded eCommerce Solutions

In 2014, online stores are on target to generate an estimated $294 billion, or approximately 9% of all U.S. retail sales, according to forecasts by Forrester Research. They also report that by 2018, e-commerce market will reach $414 billion, with transactions made with tablets and smartphones accounting for about 20%.

shutterstock_140618308 (1)The announcement of Perficient’s acquisition of Zeon Solutions expands our already considerable e-commerce solutions capabilities, with a front leader of e-commerce technology and new partner Magento, an eBay company.  With a consistent 26% share of the e-commerce market Magento is seeing more and more online stores adopt their powerful software. Magento Enterprise Edition is a complete ecommerce solution for businesses that are ready to take control of their online sales channel including:

  • Attract and retain more customers through enhanced search engine optimization (SEO), customer segmentation, targeted promotions and merchandising, product suggestions and ratings & reviews
  • Make buying easy with powerful search functionality, layered navigation, customer-assisted shopping, multiple payment & shipping options and return authorization management
  • Foster brand affinity with rewards programs, wish lists, gift registry and gift cards, to name a few

Perficient is focused on creating digital business transformations, adding partnerships and services and solutions that can help companies define and deliver their digital ecosystem strategies.  We have created a powerful end-to-end digital solutions experience that effectively address market changes and helps realize lasting business results for our clients.

To read more about the acquisition of Zeon Solutions, click here.

 

Lessons from 2014: Healthcare and Patient Portals

There was a lot of talk about Healthcare and Patient Portals in 2014.  Health insurance exchange portals started to mature a little bit with healthcare.gov finally coming on line.  The Affordable Care Act requires providers to provide access to medical records for patients and many have looked to implement patient portals.

Looking back, here are some important lessons that we learned.

Healthcare Informatics said that despite many challenges facing patient portals, patient portal usage continues to grow.  In an October 2014 story, Survey: Patient Portal Usage Growing Despite Reservations, Gabriel Perna talks about a survey conducted by HIMSS that “More healthcare provider organizations are adopting patient portals, much of it facilitated by the electronic medical record (EMR) vendor.”  Still, cultural issues were identified as the biggest challenge to patient engagement initiatives.

Patient Portal Awareness. Source: TechnologyAdvice.com

 

Janice Jacobs, Healthcare Life Sciences (HCLS) Social Media Director, Dell Services wrote an article called Best Practices for Patient Portals. She lists the following components as necessary for best-in-class patient portals:

  • Branding and user experience are key.  You have to focus on functionality as well.  I’ll take this one step further and say you need to really design based on personas.  Most patients will never use your patient portal.  Some chronic-disease patients will use it all the time. And some people will use it while they are in treatment periods and forget it when not.  The experience has be tailored for each of these types of users.
  • Information display – you have to “deliver and display the information in a way which is most intelligible and actionable to patients and caregivers.” She shows an example of test results that show the results, but provide no context or guidance about what the results mean.  A better approach is lay out the results so they are easier to consume, provide context (i.e. this number is too high), and are more graphical for the lay person.
  • Use appropriate language.  This applies to all healthcare portals too.  Providers and insurance companies tend to speak in their language or medical terms too often.  Lay people may not understand that when they want to see an eye doctor that they have to look up Ophthalmology, which is even spelled funny.
  • Anticipate obstacles for patients.  As mentioned before you will have all different types of users, some who may be very familiar with your portal and others who are not.  Find out what are the barriers that people encounter and come up with a plan to fix them.

Finally, I presented “Healthcare Portals: 5 Core Needs for a Great Experience” at two IBM conferences in 2014.  You can see the slides referenced here in a blog post by Michael Porter.

Lessons from 2014: How to get more clicks on Facebook.

Merry Christmas!  As I have some time off at the end of the year, I’m looking back at information I have gathered in my reading list that I find interesting.  I came across the article We tested all the best advice to get more clicks on Facebook. Here’s what worked by Kevan Lee at Buffer’s Social blog.  As I re-read the article I had a funny feeling that I’d commented before on posts by Kevan Lee.  Sure enough, I found two other blogs posts from this year that contained information from Kevan.

What is intriguing to me about this article is that Buffer used a very methodical approach to testing each of their theories.  Too often I see companies just try things without really following a good scientific methodology.

First Buffer started with a baseline of how their Facebook page performed.  This is critical because you can’t measure what works without having a baseline.

Here are the seven techniques Kevan used to see which were the best at getting users to click on a Facebook post:

  1. Post to Facebook at non-peak times
  2. Post more frequently to Facebook – six times per day
  3. Post less frequently to Facebook – once per day
  4. Ask questions in the updates
  5. Change the style of the update
  6. Post only link updates
  7. Post different types of images with the links

That seems like a pretty good list of techniques. I won’t go through the results for each test here – you can read through Kevan’s blog post for the details.  However, here is an example of the results from the first test – posting at non peak times:

Source: https://blog.bufferapp.com/facebook-marketing

Here they found a big increase in clicks at 11:00 pm, even though they were posting less frequently at this time.  Very interesting.

Here are the three techniques that worked the best for Buffer:

  • Share link posts
  • Share in the evenings
  • Create a main image/graphic for your post

Of course this is data only for Facebook for Buffer.  You should follow a similar test regime to see what works best for you on Facebook and other social media sites.

Lessons from 2014: The Problem with Sentiment Analysis

As we wind down 2014, I’m taking a look back at some items in my reading list and bringing forward the ones I found important from a learning standpoint.  The article The Problem with Sentiment Analysis by Sarah Kessler at Fast Company in November 2014 qualifies as one of those “aha” articles.

Analyzing social media has been a hot topic in the past couple of years.  Ms. Keller points out that during the 2012 presidential election season USA Today had a daily story about President Obama’s “sentiment” score versus Mitt Romney’s score.  The score was calculated by analyzing social media posts about each candidate.  In theory, the analysis could show which candidate is getting more positive comments versus negative comments.  And, in theory again, this could tell us about public opinion for each candidate.

However, Ms. Keller interviewed Marc Smith who pointed out that this type of sentiment analysis is inherently flawed.  Marc Smith is a sociologist who specializes in the social organization of online communities.  He went so far as to say about the USA Today stories that “This is remarkably poor data. That this is borderline criminal.”  As Keenan Thompson says in Saturday Night Live, “What up with that?”

Tight Crowd Pattern Graph: NodeXL Graph Gallery

Mr. Smith argues that this type of sentiment analysis only reveals which group of supporters “shouted” the loudest that day. It really tells us nothing about public opinion of either candidate.

What I found really interesting is Mr. Smith’s work on how crowds form around a topic on social media in six different shapes:

  • Polarized crowd in which two groups form and rarely interact with each other.  This is akin to the political sentiment described above.  The Obama crowd did their thing and the Romney crowd did theirs independently.
  • Tight crowd where a small group of people cluster around a conference.  The image in this post shows a tight crowd pattern.
  • Brand cluster in which people talk about a brand, but rarely interact with each other in the crowd
  • Community cluster where multiple small groups form
  • Broadcast network in which many people connect with a media outlet, but not with each other
  • Support network where something like a service center connects with lots of people, but those people don’t really interact with each other.

According to Mr. Smith, looking at the shape of the network lets you see that not all social media posts can be treated the same.  He argues that you should report on the size, volume and content of each major cluster over time.

This makes a lot of sense to me.  If you are measuring sentiment for a particular brand, event or anything else, you should be interested in how the network aligns with your goals.  Say you are hosting a conference – you’d want to see the social network form into a “tight crowd” pattern.  If it doesn’t then something is probably not working right.  Likewise if you are a brand and see the “brand cluster” pattern emerge, you may want to take steps to encourage your followers to interact more with each other, if that is a goal.

If you are involved in sentiment analysis or any social media analysis, I encourage you to follow the links here and take a look at Marc Smith’s research in this area.  Let me know what you think.

Digital Transformation is Relevant to Pharmaceuticals Too

Eugene Sefanov has a post out on our Life Sciences blog.  He includes a video from a TV commercial but I want to focus on the web site for the drug JUBLIA.

Just as their TV commercial was spot on, their product website was just as superb. It ties into the video very well by using the image of, no other than, big toe boxer. There’s a “watch our TV spot” button strategically placed on the homepage. The site contains real “before and after” photos of patients that used JUBLIA, clinical trial results (that are actually easy to digest), and simple instructions on how to use the topical solution. The one recommendation I’d have for Valeant, if they’re listening, is to develop a free mobile game that revolves around the same boxing theme. Gamification can be a fun, simple, and relatively inexpensive way to strengthen the JUBLIA brand in the marketplace for years to come.

It’s another example that everyone is getting in on the “game” where a tv spot is important but the web site has high production value and it’s assumed that it must be a key part of the marketing strategy.

Head to Eugene’s post for the video.