How banks are missing the “millennials” mark?

“Banking is essential, banks are not,” Bill Gates, then CEO of Microsoft, famously said in 1994.Mobile phones, however, are essential. And many of us today are doing a majority of our banking transactions on the mobile.

Forrester had this interesting thought –“The moments that characterize the mobile mind shift are getting shorter. Simple triggers — messages, sounds, even tactile sensations — spur consumers to take action, both on devices and in the real world”. Forrester defines this quick-reaction subset of mobile moments as micro moments

Millennials are digital natives — the first generation to have grown up with Internet-enabled devices and digital technologies — and they expect real time engagement with brands.

According to a study by Viacom Media, banking, as an industry, runs the highest risk for disruption. 53% of the Millennials they surveyed said they didn’t think their bank offered anything different than a competing bank. 71% said they would rather visit the dentist than hear what banks have to say. 73% would rather handle their financial services needs with Google, Amazon, Apple, PayPal or Square than from their own nationwide bank

India has a strikingly young population, especially compared to China. It has 440mn Millennials, larger than China (415mn)

Forrester estimates an increase in Indian smartphone subscribers to 286.3 million in 2016 — an annual compound growth rate of 61.25% since 2010

The increasing popularity of mobile payment platforms such as Venmo and Apple Pay, among millennials in particular, should be cause for concern

So what must banks do to engage better with the Millenials:

  1. Become “Gurus”

Financial marketers have a clear opportunity to become financial gurus to Millennials. This generation is hungry for knowledge, is ready to learn digitally, and would prefer simple, easy to understand content to make better decisions about their lives.

Bank of America’s initiative “Better Money habits” launched in collaboration with the non-profit Khan Academy is one of the examples of interactive education resources targeted at the Millennials.

  1. “To service is to sell” will be the new philosophy. Banks will leverage the rich customer data to “service first” , rather than sell. Sales will happen because banks anticipate service moments that lead to a sale. This will need large technology investments for banks to sense “customer moments” in real time & respond to them. Millenials will demand that.

Again research shows that “marketers will build their own contextual marketing engines to connect with customers not through campaigns, but through ongoing interactions. To do so, they will have to combine systems of insight and systems of engagement”. Marketing in banks tends to be “push” based, I think it needs to transform to a “customer pull” paradigm.

  1. Think ‘Outside the Bank’

Millennials are the experiential generation. They focus on today’s needs and take on debt for vacations, relocation or education. Research from Facebook IQ has shown that Millennials tend to show off not through the ownership of things but through experiences.

How can financial marketers leverage this knowledge to bring an “experience edge” to their marketing. American Express provides its members with livestreaming concerts on its unstaged website, and Chase treats some of its Sapphire cardholders with VIP access to music shows who can then share their experiences via social media.

None of this is new & brands should find more exciting partnerships – with writers, photographers, designers, social sector leaders, and other influencers. Research shows that “Such collaborations could result in storytelling initiatives with advice on different experiential topics in connection with financial matters behind them. Communications should be built not so much around a transaction, but rather all the exciting things you can do with it”.

  1. Embed analytics into Mobile banking: Show customers an accurate forecast for their spending.

Mobile banking can do far more for customers. They have the data to help me live better.

DBS digibank leads in the Indian market with its budgeting and spending tool. This allows customers to manually categorize transactions and autopopulate transactions like bill payments; they can also choose to receive email alerts when they hit 70% to 90% of their budget. DBS digibank also provides a basic saving tool to enable customers to assess their spending and save money. In terms of advice and planning, ICICI Bank offers customers a few useful tools, such as calculators for mortgage payments, investments, and pensions.

Mobile banking offers the opportunity to cross-sell to existing customers and to promote additional services. Most banks have real time data & yet most banks don’t use this data to help build a better “context”. Most banks don’t use the context of a customer’s current product portfolio, recent life events, location, past behavior, and other factors to offer personalized marketing in their mobile apps.

Will Banks get “Amazoned”?

Unloved, undifferentiated, and incapable of innovation — that’s what today’s digitally savvy users, primarily including high-school students, entry-level workers, and thirty-something professionals, believe about the banking industry says a recent survey of Millennials. And this segment is going to be huge in India. India’s Millennials, 400 million and growing, are increasingly going to do their banking very differently.

Nonbank solutions for financial services are not just imminent — they’re already here. Today’s digitally savvy retail banking customers are rapidly turning to alternate payment mechanisms including Digital wallets. And they’re looking forward to other technology giants entering the market such as PayPal, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Smartphone penetration, connectivity, development of the India stack and the Internet of Things are a few trends that will shape the way consumers transact in the future. 
 Mobile based payment solutions will 
drive merchant acquisition by developing lower cost solutions. Research shows that this can drive merchant acceptance by 10X by year 2020, resulting in over 10 million merchant establishments that will accept digital / mobile payments.
Banks may be sheltering under the assumption that banking cannot be “Amazoned”. Amazon Payments has seen middling success so far in its attempt towards transforming the payments ecosystem. Amazon’s $6 billion processed in 2016 compared to PayPal’s $336 billion, according to Goldman reports.
The music CD is being unbundled as customers buy individual tracks online Power has shifted to customers: it’s no longer about the products that marketers want to sell but about the content components that users want to consume & mash up together.

The new battlefield lies in the control of the user interface and the customer intelligence system that supports it. Companies that build highly equipped Customer intelligence units will win in the coming days.

And yet, Banks often think of Customer centricity as a “fluffy” topic. But Banking tops the list of industries at risk of disintermediation by digitally savvy customers including millennials. And banks seem secure in the belief that this business is very hard to disrupt & too regulated to disrupt. Key findings from the Millennial Disruption Index (MDI), a three-year study of industry disruption at the hands of teens to thirty-somethings (Millennials) found that 71% of Millenials would welcome a new bank from Amazon, Google, Square, Apple or Paypal. And yet there are contradictions: banks are probably amongst the few businesses that have an “extreme level of data” about customers. Banking also was amongst the early adopters of analytics & so has the institutional capacity to understand customers better. And Banks has invested in a huge amount of technology that can enable customer centricity. And yet Technology is transforming the way digitally savvy customers think about and manage their finances.

In India, there seems to be a mad race by private sector banks to show Digital superiority. A lot of Apps are being launched. But at its core, the issue of being Customer centric still eludes many banks. Banks need to be committed to having an innate knowledge of their customer and using that knowledge for the customer’s benefit. Today most analytics teams in banks spend most of their effort in doing analytics that will benefit the bank: reduce risk, increase cross-sell & reduce cost. Maybe analytics focus should change to look harder at spotting customer behavior changes that can help customize products & services.

Chris Skinner, Chairman of the Financial Services Club and author of the book, Digital Bank, said, “A digital bank is a bank built with a vision to reach out to customers through digital augmentation. It is built specifically to offer the customer the service of their choice through the access of their choice.”

Product complexity is one of the main reasons why consumers don’t use Digital instead of cash.

Bank marketing has typically been staid. No bank has tried to disrupt the way it is positioned & in fact risk re-positioning the category or industry. Some years ago, a group in the U.K. asked consumers what brands they’d like to sit next to at dinner. Facebook, Apple, Nike, and a few other brands were mentioned. No bank brands were at the table. Let’s face it bank brands don’t really stir up any emotion in consumers.

With more than a Billion Mobile users & almost 450 million Internet users, there is a dramatic change in consumer expectations. Consumers want banks to be as easy to use as Uber or Ola is for them! Increasingly, banks will need to win the battle against other banks and non-banks to convert those better-informed online shoppers into customers. Paytm has recently launched a bank & recently Axis bank has bought Freecharge, to give wings to its Digital bank plans. Would these banks risk being disrupters or would it be business as usual? Axis bank in one swoop gets over 50 million FreeCharge registered wallet users and over 2,00,000 merchants. Will Axis bank treat this base of “mobile first” customers very differently & create a whole new Digital bank?

CMO’s need a new kind of team?

Marketing had always been considered a creative function. Over the last few years, there has been this rush of views that almost seem to suggest that Marketing is now only Math!This Forrester chart had almost predicted the death of creativity & the rise of Left brain rational thinking. Maybe the “death of the right brain” was a bit exaggerated! What we really need is “balanced brain marketing”. And with CMO’s making massive investments in technology, the need to bring in “balanced skills into the Marketing function” is even more critical! Technology can make the customer experience meaningful, if it is deployed “thoughtfully & creatively”.

Left Brain

Left Brain marketing

Gartner had predicted that 2017 was the year that CMO’s were supposed to spend more than CIO’s on technology. Gartner surveys seem to suggest that it has happened.

But it’s more important to assess the impact on the customer: “is Martech driving greater efficiency for marketers which may often diminish the experience for the customer”. So CMO’s have to guard against using technology for mass messaging! And with >than 5000 Martech companies to choose from, CMO’s need to navigate this landscape & think before they commit to either a startup or to IBM, Oracle or Adobe? And the IBM & Oracle’s of the world have to think harder about how they sell, how they implement & how they can bring more innovation into their products? Read more here:

I had also written about this trend here:

David Raab writes this amazing blog & he does not belive that CMO’s are spending more than CIO’s-I  have paraphrased him below:

On an anecdotal level, I’ve never seen or heard of a company where the marketing technology group was anywhere near the size of the IT department. And from a revenue perspective, there’s no way that marketing technology companies make up half the total revenue of the software industry. 

International Data Corporation (IDC) announced a report with authoritative figures on the topic. Actually, the study estimates spending on 20 technologies and 12 corporate functional areas across 16 enterprise industries in eight regions and 53 countries, comparing the amounts funded by IT departments and by business departments. They haven’t published the figures for marketing in particular but did graciously provide them to me with permission to reprint them here. Without further ado, they are:

As you see, marketing technology expenses for 2016 are estimated at $82.3 billion, which is just 6.7% of the $1,235.3 billion for all categories. Slightly more than half of the marketing spend is business-funded, which presumably means it’s spent by CMO’s. But that wasn’t what Gartner had in mind: they were definitely comparing corporate IT budgets against marketing IT budgets.

Another very important point he makes is : “Another reason I prefer the IDC figures is that surveys consistently show that marketing technology is far down the priority list of IT managers.  That wouldn’t be the case if martech spend were equal to all other tech spending combined. Indeed, one of the main reasons that marketers have been eager to take control of their technology has been the neglect, benign or otherwise, shown by corporate IT”

I think the more important trend to consider is how the Marketing structures are undergoing changes. A recent report suggested that only 3 percent of marketers get full value out of their tools, but they say better technology strategy (39 percent), analytics (36 percent) and training(33 percent) would help them better leverage their martech stacks.

How are CMO’s & CHRO’s staffing their Marketing functions?

Laura McLellan, a research VP at Gartner, was the one who boldly predicted that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs.

But more importantly she called out a significant change that she saw happening in the Marketing function:

 Marketing departments should sell the idea of a marketing technology office (MTO) to CIOs, who would have to relinquish control of certain customer-facing technologies and hand responsibility for the function over to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

Here is my reaction to this:

  1. Think about what changes in the structure of your marketing team are you & your company ready to make: Are you ready to hire a Chief marketing technology officer & will he report to the CIO or the CMO? Think collaboration rather than team expansion. The IT team can be your best friend if you get the structure right. Marketers who can truly understand the intersection of marketing and technology are rare. Most marketing organizations still struggle to find qualified people to support the evaluation, purchase, implementation, and use of these new marketing technologies
  2. More importantly, think about the companies Digital roadmap & see how the CMO can align into the Digital transformation plan-you need a large scale digital transformation to actually impact the customer experience!
  3. Research data shows a very strong correlation between how marketers rate themselves in personal tech adoption and how they rate their companies in Martech adoption (Source: Walker Sands State of Marketing Technology 2017). This has implications to how you hire & bring in appropriate senior folks into the Marketing teams.
  4. Creative technologists-you need a breed of Liberal arts folks who get “technology & who can bring the customer as the center of all thought, while you implement all the high tech.

FourSquare & Google are watching you!

IOT & digital businesses will produce an unprecedented amount of location-referenced data, particularly as 25 billion devices become connected by 2020, according to Gartner estimates. Every month, 50 million people use Foursquare’s two mobile apps and websites: Foursquare and Swarm.Foursquare is an example of a company which has built a business out of consumer location data. A lot of this the data comes from Foursquare’s partners, which integrate the company’s data into their services, often sending location signals back to Foursquare. This includes companies like Twitter, Snapchat, Apple, and Pinterest, along with about 100,000 other developers. And now they have launched the Pilgrim platform which enables third-party apps to leverage Foursquare’s ability to know where a consumer is using location history, contextual clues, and current physical location. Today Apps like Foursquare & Google are watchng us as consumers very closely!

And these Apps are developing features that are adding value to our lives.Foursquare’s Explore feature provides a visual solution, giving users the ability to search by vicinity with just a few quick finger taps.

While Foursquare started as a social check-in app, it is now leveraging its database of check-ins at nearly 100 million public places. Sometime back Foursquare predicted that Chipotle same-store sales would fall 29 percent after the Mexican chain was hit with E. coli outbreaks. The actual decline announced by Chipotle ended up being exactly 30 percent. Foursquare Analytics allows brick-and-mortar retailers and restaurant chains to understand how their own company is performing vs other retail companies.

As the VC Hunter Walk explains:

Your credit card company has a tremendous amount of data on where you, and the world, shops. Not purchases at the SKU level–they largely don’t know what you bought at West Elm or Cheesecake Factory–but they do know that you spend $350 at a furniture store and $75 at a casual food chain. Now extrapolate this over millions of customers. Using co-visitation data they could recommend to me other establishments visited by folks with similar spending patterns. “Hunter, because you enjoy West Elm you might also like SF Modern Design located at 1000 State St.” This would be especially helpful when traveling.

But none of these credit card companies are (a) skilled at building consumer facing applications, (b) upstream of purchase decisions and (c) have place level data for retail establishments. Oh but wait, Foursquare has all of those. By combining with Foursquare, the credit card companies could finally justify and preserve their transaction fees (in the face of competition from other payment options) but working to drive demand to the local retailers. Today they do this in very non-scalable ways such as one-off marketing programs such as AmEx Small Business week.

In India, we now have over 1.2 billion telecom subscribers. We now have in every consumer’s pocket, a device, with an array of sensors for collecting spatial data. This data is incredibly valuable. And it is getting picked up from a wide variety of sources- including global positioning satellites, Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) beacons, Wi-Fi hotspots, remote sensors, and visible light communication (VLC) sources.  Mobile moments are now the new battleground to engage & grow customers.

And offline & online worlds are coming together like never before. Environments that consumers think of as offline, such as malls or retail stores, have begun to use tracking technologies to improve their understanding of shopping behavior. Security camera footage feeds into software that analyzes shopper demographics; public Wi-Fi networks sniff device data and track in-store foot traffic; and some store shelves are getting “smart,” with facial recognition and mobile device sensors to improve in-store messaging

The location is a core element of a customer’s context. Using location data is more important than just capturing the attention of nearby smartphone owners — it’s about powering contextual marketing. Location data will increasingly enable marketers to track the foot traffic and in-store sales attributable to their digital marketing efforts.

Before analyzing and acting on location data, marketers must ensure that they have the right to collect it and can anonymize it

And yet mobile applications are not delivering the level of customer engagement that was expected. Gartner predicts that by 2019, 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps.

The future is about more sophisticated organizations interpreting contextual information. GPS coordinates, for example, are not simply an address but could be “derived information” that concludes she is at home or at the office or on vacation. This requires marketers to have back-end data and logic to deliver contextual experiences.

Companies need to start thinking about how they will leverage “context” into their marketing!


Are P&G & Wal-Mart enemies!

Procter & Gamble (P&G), the world’s biggest consumer goods company, has been exploring a long-term partnership with Future Group akin to the one it has with Walmart in the US, that could involve joint sales forecasting and planning, exclusive product releases.

And yet in the US, there have been signs of tension between these giants.

Wal-Mart is focusing on improving the store’s physical image by reducing clutter and focusing on private label brands that offer consumers the chance to save more.P&G on the other hand, wants Wal-Mart to accelerate sales of its products, maintain higher prices on some of its key items and provide additional shelf space. This battle will continue & it will interesting to watch how it pans out in India, where P&G has less clout. And yet FMCG companies are operating in a “data dark” environment where they have hardly any data about customers. So on one side, the huge walled gardens of Facebook, Amazon & Google are forcing them to spend money on Digital media & on the other side Retailers like Wal-mart have consistently build a treasure trove of customer data.

FMCG companies can use the data produced by Retailers very effectively. Organized Retail is still small in terms of sales contribution for most FMCG’s companies in India. But this will change over time & it would be interesting to see how Retailers & FMCG companies develop their relationships! Western countries have adopted these partnerships, calling them Efficient Consumer Response initiatives (ECR).

It’s amazing; P&G was always the bully till the early 1980’s. It used the enormous consumer data that it obtained through market research to bully retailers! Then retailer’s developed sophisticated Point of sale systems & began to bully P&G right back. Wall mart was of course the gorilla of the pack. And yet surprisingly, in the mid 1980’s, this adversarial relationship between the two gorillas began to change!

Robert McDonald was the P&G CEO & was a man on a mission: to make Procter & Gamble the most technologically enabled business in the world. To get there, the 31-year company veteran and former US Army captain oversaw the large-scale application of digital technology and advanced analytics across every aspect of P&G’s operations and activities. Here is what he says:

“It would be heretical in this company to say that data are more valuable than a brand, but it’s the data sources that help create the brand and keep it dynamic. So those data sources are incredibly important. Therefore, we go to the extreme to protect whatever consumer data we get. It’s a board-level enterprise risk-management issue for us”

Hearing this from P&G is truly heretical-can data rival Brand equity in the P&G world! I wrote about this earlier. How companies store, transform & use their data will become as potent a marketing tool as Brand equity itself! Companies have huge amounts of data now and there is technology & skill sets available to decode it.

If used powerfully enough, data about a customer can transform the customer experience!

Here is another comment from Robert McDonald about P&G’s data partnerships: “For companies like ours that rely on external data partners, getting the data becomes part of the currency for the relationship. When we do joint business planning with retailers, for example, we have a scorecard, and the algorithm is all about value creation. Getting data becomes a big part of the value for us, and it’s a big part of how we work together. We have analytic capabilities that many retailers don’t have, so often we can use the data to help them decide how to merchandise or market their business in a positive way”.

P&G’s Gillette unit, for example, claims to have mined Wal-Mart data to develop promotions that increased sales as much as 19 percent. More than seventeen thousand suppliers are given access to their products’ Wal-Mart performance across metrics that include daily sales, shipments, returns, purchase orders, invoices, claims and forecasts. And these suppliers collectively interrogate Wal-Mart data warehouses to the tune of twenty-one million queries a year

In India, the first meeting on ECR took place on 10 December, 1999. The attendees included representatives from J&J, Nestle and erstwhile FoodWorld & PwC. But I wonder how this initiative has developed or are we in the stage where FMCG companies are the bullies in the neighborhood !! I am sure there will be some startups who are trying to disrupt the FMCG space!

Data, data everywhere!!

Wal-Mart, a retail giant, handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes—the equivalent of 167 times the books in America’s Library of Congress.

Homework Overload

Only 5% of the information that is created is “structured”, meaning it comes in a standard format of words or numbers that can be read by computers. The rest are things like photos and phone calls which are less easily retrievable and usable. But this is changing as content on the web is increasingly “tagged”, and facial-recognition and voice-recognition software can identify people and words in digital files.

And this is creating a situation of “Analysis is paralysis”. It is leaving marketer’s confused about what data is valuable & what is pure noise.

Seth Godin put it simply in a recent post: Too much data leads to not enough belief.

Luckily in emerging markets the challenges are somewhat different:

  1. Yes data is growing rapidly. But a lot of businesses have not focussed on how they can convert data into information and then into knowledge.
  2. Huge opportunity exists to just create a simple “customer one view” and collate information at a customer level. A retailer could look at how an individual customer is shopping, what SKU’s does she buy and when does she shop. And then put it together with payment data –did she pay by debit /credit card or by cash.
  3. Retailers can then look at how simple data analysis can help build business. Some years ago as a Retailer, I had the opportunity of executing simple campaign experiments on loyalty program data. We sent a simple letter, from the store manager, to customers who had not shopped with the store for more than 6 months and who lived within a 5 km radius of the store. The campaign did wonders and got back many customers to stores across India.

Have a look at this interesting article about this issue

Customer Experience -the Amazon,Uber, Google way!

I have always believed that words like Customer centricity, Customer experience,Customer obsession etc are all fluff unless there are changes in the company’s operating model. Unless customers are given a place in the boardroom, it isn’t likely that we as consumers would sense a difference, despite all the analytics & technology at play. There is this anecdotal story about Jeff Bezos at Amazon leaving a seat vacant at every important meeting & telling everyone to treat that vacant seat as the customer in the meeting.

Now, companies have petabytes of data & a plethora of technology choices with which they can analyze this big data & get big insights. But the rubber meets the road, when the customer gets a better experience because the “customer data ” enables it!

Today I addressed a webinar at the Super CX week organized by Oracle.

Customer experience is changing as a concept & is creating large opportunities for companies who truly believe in bringing the customer up front & centre. Remember, it is easy to talk about Customer obsession rather than embrace it.

India now has close to 450 million Internet users. In fact, we now have over 440 million Millennials & over 390 million Gen Z consumers(born after year 2000). These consumers think very differently & have very different expectations from brands & companies.

And these youth have a social megaphone that allows to wrest the bargaining power towards them!

This leads to a whole new way of Marketing & these are the trends that I see:

  • Marketing will move towards relevancy
    • “Marketing that is done so well that it feels like a service”-To service is to Sell
  • “Marketing as a relationship”
    • Customers would only respond to “profitable conversations”
    • No one wants a relationship, unless it is relevant
  • Mass customization: segmentation to increase dramatically
    • From 3-5 segments that most businesses maintain to lights-out, automatic modelling that is driven by the data
    • Segment of 1

Delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. How do companies embark on such a journey.

A few points to consider:

  1. Support an institutional memory of the customer-different silos or “lines of business” creating campaigns & running them independently means that you do not have a centralised contact history or “intelligence” about customer response
  2. Enable dialogues not just campaigns. If campaigns are seen as just “list pulls”, then anyone who knows basis SQL should be able to do the job. But the consumer is no longer ready to listen to “push marketing” & the creation of a “dialogue factory” is one essential element of a strong Customer strategy
  3. Establish a strong Customer management council: group of top leaders in the company who are able to mediate to solve the issues that arise out of taking customer centric action. This council becomes a strong enabler for Campaign management playing a differentiated role.
  4. Being loyal to customers & not the other way around (customers needing to be loyal to the company). This needs companies to have a longer term view of customer lifetime value & not a short term view of immediate profit. It needs an internal senior level stakeholder who champions the customer cause (CMO?)

Two years back Gartner predicted that by 2017 CMO’s will spend more on IT than CIO’s. Is this happening? So how big is the market for marketing software today? IDC has an answer to that question, $20.2 billion in 2014. IDC expects that the market will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.4% for the next five years, resulting in a $32.4 billion market by 2018.

I would urge CMO’s & CEO’s to first articulate & get board level agreement on a differentiated Customer Strategy. Make Marketing technology & team structure investments after that.

Here is a copy of my presentation at the Super CX week organized by Oracle today. Hope you will evangelize some of these concepts at your company.

Customer Experience Oracle

Data driven Lingerie!

Data driven lingerie=Better products

In difficult times,
fashion is always outrageous.

—Elsa Schiaparelli

How can Lingerie & data have any correlation? I am sure you are asking that questions. But bear with me & don’t forget to watch the video that I have provided a link to.


But before that, allow me to digress a bit. Almost 78% of consumers think it is hard to trust companies when it comes to use of their personal data (Orange, The Future of Digital Trust, 2014). And yet Personal data has become a currency today. All of us are leaving our data behind in a digital exhaust that has begun to worry us as consumers.

And yet, the World Economic Forum is calling personal data a ‘new asset class’: “a valuable resource for the 21st century that will touch all aspects of society”. But companies will need to understand how they can gather customer information without compromising the customer’s trust!

A recent PEW report had this to say:

“While enthusiasts see great potential for using Big Data, privacy advocates are worried as more and more data is collected about people – both as they knowingly disclose things in such things as their postings through social media and as they unknowingly share digital details about themselves as they march through life. Not only do the advocates worry about profiling, they also worry that those who crunch Big Data with algorithms might draw the wrong conclusions about who someone is, how she might behave in the future, and how to apply the correlations that will emerge in the data analysis.”

True & co is this interesting company that combines data & design to create an opportunity for consumers to share data with the company thereby improving the appropriateness of the product to the customer. True & co claims to be the first company to fit women into their favourite bra with a fit quiz – no fitting rooms, no measuring tape, no photos – and to recognize that there’s so much more to fit than her band and cup size. The data they collect allows them to match the customer to over 6000 body types on their database.

Research suggests that women loathe the bra shopping experience and the massive $14B intimate apparel industry is dominated by one primarily brick-and-mortar player. So True & co uses big data to make shopping online for lingerie easier & better. They collect over Half a million data points from users to help customize the experience. Since the company launched in 2012, True & Co has collected some 7 million data points They used this data to launch products designed using this data. Body type, implicit explicit preferences etc all mashed together to create a personalized recommendation engine.

Do have a look at this video telling their story:

So consumers are happy to share personal information as long as they see a “value add” for themselves. And organizations with trust-based information sharing relationships with customers will have a significant competitive advantage over those with traditional data gathering relationships.


Sous Chef’s & data??

A Chef’s Data-Driven Empire

Geoff Tracy couldn’t clone himself. But as his restaurant empire grew he did the next-best thing, creating a complex, data-driven system to ensure that his employees always do everything—from plating a salad to setting the dishwasher temperature—the Chef Geoff’s way.

I have not heard of a restaurant that used data effectively to run its business & so Chef Geoff was a huge surprise. Isn’t it amazing how large companies often hesitate to use data effectively & end up setting up a central analytics function which needs to fight turf wars to even enable them to get their hands on data? While at the same time a restaurant like Chef Goeff’s could so effectively use the data to enable its business.

Finally, it boils down to belief, are you ready to make changes in Operations basis what your data tells you. And it is always a Catch 22, unless you make the changes that data is telling you to, you can never prove what is more effective.

I read this interesting statement from D J Patil from Linked In

Data Jujitsu: the art of using multiple data elements in clever ways to solve iterative problems that, when combined, solve a data problem that might otherwise be intractable. It’s related to Wikipedia’s definition of the ancient martial art of jujitsu: “the art or technique of manipulating the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force.”

I have seen that the strongest data-driven organizations all live by the motto “if you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it”. And in such companies, the “data or analytics people” are embedded in the operations! Analytics may not even be a separate function; rather it is the way business is done!

Read this interesting story about Geoff Tracy & how he is building his restaurant business on data steroids!! Also remember that now with Social data streaming in, the possibilities are endless. If Geoff Tracy was to claim his business on FourSquare he would also get access to a whole bunch of Analytics dashboards from Foursquare telling him about his daily check-ins.

Amazon & it’s bold experiments!

Jeff Bezos writes an annual letter to his shareholders which is an amazing lesson for any business. He always attaches a copy of his original 1997 letter to reiterate that even today it is Day 1 in his business. He believes that “A dreamy business offering has at least four characteristics. Customers love it, it can grow to very large size, it has strong returns on capital, and it’s durable in time – with the potential to endure for decades. When you find one of these, don’t just swipe right, get married”. Here is a link to one of his letters:

Anyone who thinks Amazon is just another online retailer isn’t paying attention. Amazon is constantly experimenting. You have to compare your business to Amazon & ask how many experiments did I run today & how many of those did I scale up?

In comparison, most legacy companies love structure & defined process. They test few things after a lot of shortlisting & then test them to scale up. They measure them vs financial returns metrics like IRR hurdle rates & only scale up those that pass financial metrics. I have nothing against this rigor. What I believe is that the metrics need to change. Companies must allow far more experiments to happen & measure the one’s which customers start to vote for & then change the system to understand how to scale them.

And mostly Amazon experiments are about how to provide more value to its customers.  Everything in this list of customer-facing projects that set Amazon apart started with experimentation:

  • Amazon 1-Click,
  • Mechanical Turk,
  • Amazon Marketplace,
  • Customer Reviews,
  • Amazon Recommendations,
  • Amazon Wish List,
  • Amazon AutoRip,
  • Amazon Storyteller,
  • Amazon Studios,
  • the Kindle line of eBook readers,
  • Print on demand,
  • Amazon Cloud Drive, and
  • Kindle Direct Publishing.
  • And of course, AWS lives on innovations:

I would like to talk about two Amazon experiments:

  • Courage to change pricing:

At one of Amazon’s meetings, Jeff Bezos said that the company’s goal is to make Prime benefits so numerous and valuable that it’s irresponsible not to be a member. Wow, that’s almost a challenge to consumers to become more responsible!!

Amazon has been experimenting with physical retail stores since 2015. Though their efforts have mostly been experimental, there are lessons in it for Brick & mortar” retailers.

Customer loyalty is much more than a Loyalty program. Many Retailers launch loyalty programs but over time they are not able to clearly attribute the success of these programs. There are vague references to what percentage of sales is attributed to the Loyalty program but no clear mention of how much of that sale comes from repeat customers. The typical approach to customer loyalty shouldn’t end with the launch of a program, emphasizing discounts and offers. Rather it should signal the beginning of a strategic intent: the desire to building a relationship of value to the customer. Companies need to be loyal to customers & not the other way round.

Making significant operational changes is not easy.  Cashiers at Amazon’s physical bookstores now ask each customer the same question: Are you a Prime member? I know that we do get asked this question at many retailers we visit-Shoppers Stop Customer care associates ask if you are a member of the First Citizen program. But what is radically different is that the Prime customer actually gets far more value. That’s because Amazon recently implemented a new pricing structure at its bookstores that could signal a broader strategy for the company’s brick-and-mortar retail expansion.

At the Amazon bookstore in Seattle’s University Village, Prime members who pay $99 for an annual membership— or $ 10.99 per month— can purchase books and other items at the same price that they sell for on

However, if you’re not a Prime member, you pay the list price


  • Bringing in new data, reading your car license plates: Identifying cars would help it speed up pickup times at brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon knows that to truly win the retail wars, they have to attack the grocery segment & provide significant value for consumers. One of Amazon’s many ambitions for the next version of its grocery-delivery service, Fresh is to innovate like crazy. The company will set up a series of “convenience stores,” the Journal reports, where it will sell basic goods like milk, produce, and meat. For customers seeking a quicker checkout, Amazon will soon begin rolling out designated drive-in locations where online grocery orders will be brought to the car, the people said. The company is developing license-plate-reading technology to speed wait times.

    In India, the government is providing the digital data of registered vehicles to banks, insurance companies etc. as a paid service. Here’s the link to apply for the same:

    Can we pick up video feeds from Mall parking lots and automate the process of picking up the license plate dos from the video feeds & then hit the Vahan site & get the name of the owner & car make.

    Post that we keep deduping it with our client databases to get matches & then append the information.

    Amazon is teaching companies to experiment & learn how to build value.Hope legacy companies are listening!