Selling To Goldfish: Responding To Decreasing Attention Spans Of Customers

Arif Johari

The average human’s attention span is down from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds today. That is less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish! Another study states that most healthy teenagers and adults are unable to sustain attention on one thing for more than about 20 minutes at a time, although they can choose repeatedly to re-focus on the same thing. So how do we cater to customers who are overloaded with marketing messages?

“If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a million!”
Barry Levinson, Academy Award-wining director.

Personalized videos are the next big hit for content marketing. If done right, they can be engaging, entertaining, and educational. Videos don’t have to be extensively produced; the goal is to create authentic videos with relevant content rather than videos for mass consumption. There are a lot of videos out there; the ones that are most compelling elicit an emotional response, whether it’s through background music, empathy from the speaker, or the video’s imagery. Personalized videos cater to the ego of your customers, who love feeling special, and personalized videos signal to them that you care about them, you want to cater to them, and you will respond to their needs.

“This personalization creates a meaningful connection with your buyer and makes your video that much more engaging. It’s tailored content like this that will help you stand out from your competitors and get you that much sought-after meeting for a pitch.”
Jill Rowley, Partner, Sales for Life.

Aligning sales and marketing

One of the benefits of creating personalized videos is that salespeople get to create content that’s more specific to the needs of each customer; it helps connect them on a more personal level with the customer and it humanizes the brand.

The average customer, according to Forrester, consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchase. From the customer’s perspective, it’s easier to consume videos over lengthy whitepapers. Sales is about relationships, and video is just one more way we can engage and build camaraderie with our customers. Marketing benefits because they’re getting front-line content that aligns with the customer’s needs and helps generate more leads, nurture more inquiries, and effectively connect with customers throughout the buying journey.

Get the right tools

Sales reps assume that creating videos is hard and time consuming, but in this day and age, creating great videos doesn’t have to be expensive or laborious. For a personalized introductory video, you can easily record on your phone and edit using an app like Videolicious that can help produce professional-quality videos in minutes. You can also incorporate existing high-end demos into your personalized video. Imagine a potential customer’s response to getting a video where the salesperson addresses him or by name and identifies issues and proposed solutions specific to their company.

Pro tip: Film in a quieter space with natural lighting and avoid a bland or white background.

Start small

When it comes to creating videos, start small. To get comfortable, start by creating a video business card, which should be under one minute; the whole process – including filming and editing – should take about 15 minutes. Make it a habit to send follow-up videos after meetings so that you’re utilizing videos as part of your sales toolkit.

Pro tip: Do power poses before filming to boost your confidence; you’ll be surprised at how a little boost of positive thinking can improve the tone of your video.

You’ve got to be committed to the process, because a video’s return on investment doesn’t happen overnight. Just like any other sales strategy, not all customers will respond, but being personal and human definitely help you stand out from the crowd of competitors.

Social selling has become such a hot topic that Coffee-Break with Game Changers is dedicating an entire series to exploring its various facets and promoting best practices for salespeople. To listen to other shows in this series, visit the SAP Radio area of the SAP News Center.

Comments

Arif Johari

About Arif Johari

He is a Communications lead, Digital Marketing generalist, and Social Selling advocate. He trains marketing and sales employees to become experts in Social Selling so that they’d leverage social media as a leads-generation tool. He is responsible for executing innovative marketing strategies to increase engagement in social media, customer community, and landing pages through content, events, and A/B testing. He is passionate in making the work processes of the marketing and sales team more efficient, so that they can generate more revenue in a shorter time.

Social Selling Post-Training Momentum Strategies

Arif Johari

Your employees are probably excited to participate in a social selling training and enablement program. But what happens when the classes are over and they return to their day-to-day job roles?

The gauges of social selling success include how well and how consistently your team executes their lessons in the real business world and add value to your company’s marketing and sales goals – as well as how accurately you are able to monitor their progress and provide guidance. What are some of the practical strategies and best practices to help you encourage strong social selling adoption, maintain momentum, and monitor execution.

Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”Malcolm Gladwell

At its core, social selling is the art of leveraging social networks to build relationship with prospects and customers. When it comes to social selling deployment, put yourself in the salesperson’s shoes. What motivates them? Who do they listen to? How do we make social selling fun for them?

For a social selling program to be successful, we need to enable sales people to engage prospects throughout the buying journey because 70% of a B2B buying journey is already completed before a customer makes the first contact with a salesperson. So each salesperson in the digital age needs to be equipped and dexterous with social selling tools.

Follow-up actions are as important, or more so, than the training and enablement event itself. Trainees who go through training and enablement sessions won’t necessarily remember or execute all that they’ve learned, especially if some of these training sessions exceed three days.

To maintain training momentum, strategies include:

  • Communications
  • Gamification
  • Recognition

Communication

The most important factor for a successful social selling program is maintaining post-training momentum. People can easily forget about the training they’ve received, so it’s vital to provide constant reminders through various channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, newsletters, virtual meetings, and in-person events. The trainees get content on the importance of executing what they’ve learned and stories of peers who have used social selling successfully; this is when an always-on communication strategy comes into play. We’re always in front of the trainees, telling them, “Hey, this thing works!”

When it comes to following up with the trainees, it’s important to have a two-way communication rather than simply pushing content. There needs to be an open discussion about what trainees want to learn and what motivates them to execute what they’ve learned.

Gamification

Gamification motivates social sellers through friendly competition and incentives. Having several contests each year to drive social selling results through competition creates a fun, exciting atmosphere. The contests can be based on pipeline and revenue attributed to social selling or social selling index (SSI) score.

Public recognition

Recognition is another essential motivational tool. Sharing success stories and featuring outstanding performance during an all-hands call gives trainees validation for their excellent work. We can also award badges to social sellers that they can showcase on their Linked In profile for personal brand-building.

Often, successful social sellers share their success stories both internally and externally to recognize and amplify their success.

Social selling has become such a hot topic that Coffee-Break with Game Changers is dedicating an entire series to exploring its various facets and promoting best practices for salespeople. To listen to other shows in this series, visit the Changing the Game with Social Selling channel.

Comments

Arif Johari

About Arif Johari

He is a Communications lead, Digital Marketing generalist, and Social Selling advocate. He trains marketing and sales employees to become experts in Social Selling so that they’d leverage social media as a leads-generation tool. He is responsible for executing innovative marketing strategies to increase engagement in social media, customer community, and landing pages through content, events, and A/B testing. He is passionate in making the work processes of the marketing and sales team more efficient, so that they can generate more revenue in a shorter time.

Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.

Comments

Emma Reeve

About Emma Reeve

Emma Reeve has 20 years of experience creating world-class marketing initiatives that focus on customer and audience experience for technology, finance and pharmaceutical industries. She is currently the Global VP of Storytelling for SAP driving customer experience through storytelling. Prior to SAP, she has led strategic audience engagement on both the corporate and agency side from interactive storytelling; brand communications; digital creative and gaming; advertising; sponsorships and partnerships; branded events; interactive media; e-commerce; and social media strategy. While integrating storytelling as a key tenant professionally, Reeve has also used it as a tool is raising awareness philanthropically. She tells personal stories of women in Rwanda and their path towards hope through skills training, education and community support, while inciting a movement that encourages people to get involved in being part of the change in the world. Reeve communicates strongly her passion that storytelling can engage anyone to empathize, take action, make decisions and more - but at its core it is at the center of making change.

Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.

Comments

Joerg Koesters

About Joerg Koesters

Joerg Koesters is the Head of Retail Marketing and Communication at SAP. He is a Technology Marketing executive with 20 years of experience in Marketing, Sales and Consulting, Joerg has deep knowledge in retail and consumer products having worked both in the industry and in the technology sector.

Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.

Comments

Ursula Ringham

About Ursula Ringham

Ursula Ringham isthe Director of Digital Marketing at SAP. She manages social media and digital marketing strategy for the small and midsize business community. She was recently recognized as one of 15 Women Who Rock Social Media at Top Tech Companies. Prior to SAP, Ursula worked at Adobe and Apple in their Developer Relations organizations. She managed strategic accounts, developer programs, edited a technical journal, managed content for an entire website, and wrote and taught course curriculum. In her spare time, Ursula writes thriller novels about the insidious side of Silicon Valley.

Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.

Comments

Tim Clark

About Tim Clark

Tim Clark is the Head of Brand Journalism at SAP. He is responsible for evangelizing and implementing writing best practices that generate results across blog channels, integrated marketing plans and native advertising efforts.

Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.

Comments

Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.

Comments

Timo Elliott

About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence. He was the eighth employee of BusinessObjects and for the last 25 years he has worked closely with SAP customers around the world on new technology directions and their impact on real-world organizations. His articles have appeared in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, ZDNet, The Guardian, and Digitalist Magazine. He has worked in the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Silicon Valley, and currently lives in Paris, France. He has a degree in Econometrics and a patent in mobile analytics. 

Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.

Comments

Todd McElhatton

About Todd McElhatton

As the CFO for SAP North America, Todd oversees the financial activities of the United States and Canada, including forecasting and planning, driving efficiencies, and leadership of the Commercial Finance team, to ensure the overall financial health of the region. Todd brings a 25-year career in finance management, leadership, and business growth with a number of high-profile names in the technology space to his role on the SAP North America executive team. As vice president and CFO of VMware’s Hybrid Cloud business, he led a global team overseeing all finance functions including long-range strategic planning, capital investments, business development and pricing. During his tenure at Oracle as vice president of business, sales and finance operations for Cloud Services, Todd was a key member of the team instrumental in improving the business unit’s profitability, and personally managed a broad array of finance functions that included forecasting and pricing strategy, while leading a global team. After serving in a series of regional and global operations and finance-based roles at Hewlett Packard, Todd assumed overall financial responsibilities as vice president of finance and CFO of Managed Services. He was also previously vice president of finance at WebMD, and started his career as a bank consultant. Todd holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and an MBA from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.

Comments

Drew Bates

About Drew Bates

Drew Bates is responsible for SMB innovation. He writes from SAP Labs in Shanghai China on the topic of lessons learned whilst being on the forefront of modern technology.

Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes and Marius Prohl

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.

Comments

Stefanie Becker

About Stefanie Becker

Dr. Stefanie Becker is HR Project Director for HR Strategy and Planning and working in the Chief Operating Office in HR. In her role, she is striving for enabling SAP HR to become a more data-driven organization. Additionally, she is head of a working group for the International Standardization Organization (ISO) about ‘Human Capital Reporting for internal and external Stakeholders’. Stefanie joined SAP HR in Mai 2017. Prior to that, she was a research assistant at the chair of Business Administration, especially Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior at the Saarland University (Germany). She holds a PhD in Business Administration examining the relevance of ethical issues in Human Capital Management.

Marius Prohl

About Marius Prohl

Marius Prohl is an Analyst for HR Data and Insights working in the Chief Operating Office in HR. In his role, he is striving for enabling SAP HR to become data-minded organization. He drives People Analytics projects that apply advanced analytics methodologies (e.g. Predictive Analytics) to investigate people-related questions and support data-driven decision making. Additionally, he is creating people analytics training programs to enable HR colleagues to make use of data in a meaningful way. Marius joined SAP through the HR Early Talents Program and worked in various HR Business Partner roles in Germany and the US prior to his current role. He studied Industrial and Organization Psychology at the University of Heidelberg and the California State University East Bay.

Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.

Comments

Andrea Kaufmann

About Andrea Kaufmann

Andrea Kaufmann is the global head of marketing and communications for SAP Health. She is responsible for the development, planning and execution of the marketing and communications intiatives for the SAP Health division.

More Than Noise: Digital Trends That Are Bigger Than You Think

By Maurizio Cattaneo, David Delaney, Volker Hildebrand, and Neal Ungerleider

In the tech world in 2017, several trends emerged as signals amid the noise, signifying much larger changes to come.

As we noted in last year’s More Than Noise list, things are changing—and the changes are occurring in ways that don’t necessarily fit into the prevailing narrative.

While many of 2017’s signals have a dark tint to them, perhaps reflecting the times we live in, we have sought out some rays of light to illuminate the way forward. The following signals differ considerably, but understanding them can help guide businesses in the right direction for 2018 and beyond.

When a team of psychologists, linguists, and software engineers created Woebot, an AI chatbot that helps people learn cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for managing mental health issues like anxiety and depression, they did something unusual, at least when it comes to chatbots: they submitted it for peer review.

Stanford University researchers recruited a sample group of 70 college-age participants on social media to take part in a randomized control study of Woebot. The researchers found that their creation was useful for improving anxiety and depression symptoms. A study of the user interaction with the bot was submitted for peer review and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health in June 2017.

While Woebot may not revolutionize the field of psychology, it could change the way we view AI development. Well-known figures such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates have expressed concerns that artificial intelligence is essentially ungovernable. Peer review, such as with the Stanford study, is one way to approach this challenge and figure out how to properly evaluate and find a place for these software programs.

The healthcare community could be onto something. We’ve already seen instances where AI chatbots have spun out of control, such as when internet trolls trained Microsoft’s Tay to become a hate-spewing misanthrope. Bots are only as good as their design; making sure they stay on message and don’t act in unexpected ways is crucial.

This is especially true in healthcare. When chatbots are offering therapeutic services, they must be properly designed, vetted, and tested to maintain patient safety.

It may be prudent to apply the same level of caution to a business setting. By treating chatbots as if they’re akin to medicine or drugs, we have a model for thorough vetting that, while not perfect, is generally effective and time tested.

It may seem like overkill to think of chatbots that manage pizza orders or help resolve parking tickets as potential health threats. But it’s already clear that AI can have unintended side effects that could extend far beyond Tay’s loathsome behavior.

For example, in July, Facebook shut down an experiment where it challenged two AIs to negotiate with each other over a trade. When the experiment began, the two chatbots quickly went rogue, developing linguistic shortcuts to reduce negotiating time and leaving their creators unable to understand what they were saying.

Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

The implications are chilling. Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

In this context, the healthcare community’s conservative approach doesn’t seem so farfetched. Woebot could ultimately become an example of the kind of oversight that’s needed for all AIs.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that chatbots have great potential in healthcare—not just for treating mental health issues but for helping patients understand symptoms, build treatment regimens, and more. They could also help unclog barriers to healthcare, which is plagued worldwide by high prices, long wait times, and other challenges. While they are not a substitute for actual humans, chatbots can be used by anyone with a computer or smartphone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of financial status.

Finding the right governance for AI development won’t happen overnight. But peer review, extensive internal quality analysis, and other processes will go a long way to ensuring bots function as expected. Otherwise, companies and their customers could pay a big price.

Elon Musk is an expert at dominating the news cycle with his sci-fi premonitions about space travel and high-speed hyperloops. However, he captured media attention in Australia in April 2017 for something much more down to earth: how to deal with blackouts and power outages.

In 2016, a massive blackout hit the state of South Australia following a storm. Although power was restored quickly in Adelaide, the capital, people in the wide stretches of arid desert that surround it spent days waiting for the power to return. That hit South Australia’s wine and livestock industries especially hard.

South Australia’s electrical grid currently gets more than half of its energy from wind and solar, with coal and gas plants acting as backups for when the sun hides or the wind doesn’t blow, according to ABC News Australia. But this network is vulnerable to sudden loss of generation—which is exactly what happened in the storm that caused the 2016 blackout, when tornadoes ripped through some key transmission lines. Getting the system back on stable footing has been an issue ever since.

Displaying his usual talent for showmanship, Musk stepped in and promised to build the world’s largest battery to store backup energy for the network—and he pledged to complete it within 100 days of signing the contract or the battery would be free. Pen met paper with South Australia and French utility Neoen in September. As of press time in November, construction was underway.

For South Australia, the Tesla deal offers an easy and secure way to store renewable energy. Tesla’s 129 MWh battery will be the most powerful battery system in the world by 60% once completed, according to Gizmodo. The battery, which is stationed at a wind farm, will cover temporary drops in wind power and kick in to help conventional gas and coal plants balance generation with demand across the network. South Australian citizens and politicians largely support the project, which Tesla claims will be able to power 30,000 homes.

Until Musk made his bold promise, batteries did not figure much in renewable energy networks, mostly because they just aren’t that good. They have limited charges, are difficult to build, and are difficult to manage. Utilities also worry about relying on the same lithium-ion battery technology as cellphone makers like Samsung, whose Galaxy Note 7 had to be recalled in 2016 after some defective batteries burst into flames, according to CNET.

However, when made right, the batteries are safe. It’s just that they’ve traditionally been too expensive for large-scale uses such as renewable power storage. But battery innovations such as Tesla’s could radically change how we power the economy. According to a study that appeared this year in Nature, the continued drop in the cost of battery storage has made renewable energy price-competitive with traditional fossil fuels.

This is a massive shift. Or, as David Roberts of news site Vox puts it, “Batteries are soon going to disrupt power markets at all scales.” Furthermore, if the cost of batteries continues to drop, supply chains could experience radical energy cost savings. This could disrupt energy utilities, manufacturing, transportation, and construction, to name just a few, and create many opportunities while changing established business models. (For more on how renewable energy will affect business, read the feature “Tick Tock” in this issue.)

Battery research and development has become big business. Thanks to electric cars and powerful smartphones, there has been incredible pressure to make more powerful batteries that last longer between charges.

The proof of this is in the R&D funding pudding. A Brookings Institution report notes that both the Chinese and U.S. governments offer generous subsidies for lithium-ion battery advancement. Automakers such as Daimler and BMW have established divisions marketing residential and commercial energy storage products. Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and General Electric are all experimenting with various electric propulsion systems for aircraft—which means that hybrid airplanes are also a possibility.

Meanwhile, governments around the world are accelerating battery research investment by banning internal combustion vehicles. Britain, France, India, and Norway are seeking to go all electric as early as 2025 and by 2040 at the latest.

In the meantime, expect huge investment and new battery innovation from interested parties across industries that all share a stake in the outcome. This past September, for example, Volkswagen announced a €50 billion research investment in batteries to help bring 300 electric vehicle models to market by 2030.

At first, it sounds like a narrative device from a science fiction novel or a particularly bad urban legend.

Powerful cameras in several Chinese cities capture photographs of jaywalkers as they cross the street and, several minutes later, display their photograph, name, and home address on a large screen posted at the intersection. Several days later, a summons appears in the offender’s mailbox demanding payment of a fine or fulfillment of community service.

As Orwellian as it seems, this technology is very real for residents of Jinan and several other Chinese cities. According to a Xinhua interview with Li Yong of the Jinan traffic police, “Since the new technology has been adopted, the cases of jaywalking have been reduced from 200 to 20 each day at the major intersection of Jingshi and Shungeng roads.”

The sophisticated cameras and facial recognition systems already used in China—and their near–real-time public shaming—are an example of how machine learning, mobile phone surveillance, and internet activity tracking are being used to censor and control populations. Most worryingly, the prospect of real-time surveillance makes running surveillance states such as the former East Germany and current North Korea much more financially efficient.

According to a 2015 discussion paper by the Institute for the Study of Labor, a German research center, by the 1980s almost 0.5% of the East German population was directly employed by the Stasi, the country’s state security service and secret police—1 for every 166 citizens. An additional 1.1% of the population (1 for every 66 citizens) were working as unofficial informers, which represented a massive economic drain. Automated, real-time, algorithm-driven monitoring could potentially drive the cost of controlling the population down substantially in police states—and elsewhere.

We could see a radical new era of censorship that is much more manipulative than anything that has come before. Previously, dissidents were identified when investigators manually combed through photos, read writings, or listened in on phone calls. Real-time algorithmic monitoring means that acts of perceived defiance can be identified and deleted in the moment and their perpetrators marked for swift judgment before they can make an impression on others.

Businesses need to be aware of the wider trend toward real-time, automated censorship and how it might be used in both commercial and governmental settings. These tools can easily be used in countries with unstable political dynamics and could become a real concern for businesses that operate across borders. Businesses must learn to educate and protect employees when technology can censor and punish in real time.

Indeed, the technologies used for this kind of repression could be easily adapted from those that have already been developed for businesses. For instance, both Facebook and Google use near–real-time facial identification algorithms that automatically identify people in images uploaded by users—which helps the companies build out their social graphs and target users with profitable advertisements. Automated algorithms also flag Facebook posts that potentially violate the company’s terms of service.

China is already using these technologies to control its own people in ways that are largely hidden to outsiders.

According to a report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, the popular Chinese social network WeChat operates under a policy its authors call “One App, Two Systems.” Users with Chinese phone numbers are subjected to dynamic keyword censorship that changes depending on current events and whether a user is in a private chat or in a group. Depending on the political winds, users are blocked from accessing a range of websites that report critically on China through WeChat’s internal browser. Non-Chinese users, however, are not subject to any of these restrictions.

The censorship is also designed to be invisible. Messages are blocked without any user notification, and China has intermittently blocked WhatsApp and other foreign social networks. As a result, Chinese users are steered toward national social networks, which are more compliant with government pressure.

China’s policies play into a larger global trend: the nationalization of the internet. China, Russia, the European Union, and the United States have all adopted different approaches to censorship, user privacy, and surveillance. Although there are social networks such as WeChat or Russia’s VKontakte that are popular in primarily one country, nationalizing the internet challenges users of multinational services such as Facebook and YouTube. These different approaches, which impact everything from data safe harbor laws to legal consequences for posting inflammatory material, have implications for businesses working in multiple countries, as well.

For instance, Twitter is legally obligated to hide Nazi and neo-fascist imagery and some tweets in Germany and France—but not elsewhere. YouTube was officially banned in Turkey for two years because of videos a Turkish court deemed “insulting to the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” father of modern Turkey. In Russia, Google must keep Russian users’ personal data on servers located inside Russia to comply with government policy.

While China is a pioneer in the field of instant censorship, tech companies in the United States are matching China’s progress, which could potentially have a chilling effect on democracy. In 2016, Apple applied for a patent on technology that censors audio streams in real time—automating the previously manual process of censoring curse words in streaming audio.

In March, after U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News, “I think maybe I wouldn’t be [president] if it wasn’t for Twitter,” Twitter founder Evan “Ev” Williams did something highly unusual for the creator of a massive social network.

He apologized.

Speaking with David Streitfeld of The New York Times, Williams said, “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”

Entrepreneurs tend to be very proud of their innovations. Williams, however, offers a far more ambivalent response to his creation’s success. Much of the 2016 presidential election’s rancor was fueled by Twitter, and the instant gratification of Twitter attracts trolls, bullies, and bigots just as easily as it attracts politicians, celebrities, comedians, and sports fans.

Services such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are designed through a mix of look and feel, algorithmic wizardry, and psychological techniques to hang on to users for as long as possible—which helps the services sell more advertisements and make more money. Toxic political discourse and online harassment are unintended side effects of the economic-driven urge to keep users engaged no matter what.

Keeping users’ eyeballs on their screens requires endless hours of multivariate testing, user research, and algorithm refinement. For instance, Casey Newton of tech publication The Verge notes that Google Brain, Google’s AI division, plays a key part in generating YouTube’s video recommendations.

According to Jim McFadden, the technical lead for YouTube recommendations, “Before, if I watch this video from a comedian, our recommendations were pretty good at saying, here’s another one just like it,” he told Newton. “But the Google Brain model figures out other comedians who are similar but not exactly the same—even more adjacent relationships. It’s able to see patterns that are less obvious.”

A never-ending flow of content that is interesting without being repetitive is harder to resist. With users glued to online services, addiction and other behavioral problems occur to an unhealthy degree. According to a 2016 poll by nonprofit research company Common Sense Media, 50% of American teenagers believe they are addicted to their smartphones.

This pattern is extending into the workplace. Seventy-five percent of companies told research company Harris Poll in 2016 that two or more hours a day are lost in productivity because employees are distracted. The number one reason? Cellphones and texting, according to 55% of those companies surveyed. Another 41% pointed to the internet.

Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, argues that many product designers for online services try to exploit psychological vulnerabilities in a bid to keep users engaged for longer periods. Harris refers to an iPhone as “a slot machine in my pocket” and argues that user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers need to adopt something akin to a Hippocratic Oath to stop exploiting users’ psychological vulnerabilities.

In fact, there is an entire school of study devoted to “dark UX”—small design tweaks to increase profits. These can be as innocuous as a “Buy Now” button in a visually pleasing color or as controversial as when Facebook tweaked its algorithm in 2012 to show a randomly selected group of almost 700,000 users (who had not given their permission) newsfeeds that skewed more positive to some users and more negative to others to gauge the impact on their respective emotional states, according to an article in Wired.

As computers, smartphones, and televisions come ever closer to convergence, these issues matter increasingly to businesses. Some of the universal side effects of addiction are lost productivity at work and poor health. Businesses should offer training and help for employees who can’t stop checking their smartphones.

Mindfulness-centered mobile apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Forest offer one way to break the habit. Users can also choose to break internet addiction by going for a walk, turning their computers off, or using tools like StayFocusd or Freedom to block addictive websites or apps.

Most importantly, companies in the business of creating tech products need to design software and hardware that discourages addictive behavior. This means avoiding bad designs that emphasize engagement metrics over human health. A world of advertising preroll showing up on smart refrigerator touchscreens at 2 a.m. benefits no one.

According to a 2014 study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, approximately 6% of the world’s population suffers from internet addiction to one degree or another. As more users in emerging economies gain access to cheap data, smartphones, and laptops, that percentage will only increase. For businesses, getting a head start on stopping internet addiction will make employees happier and more productive. D!


About the Authors

Maurizio Cattaneo is Director, Delivery Execution, Energy, and Natural Resources, at SAP.

David Delaney is Global Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, SAP Health.

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.


Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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The “Purpose” Of Data

Timo Elliott

I’ve always been passionate about the ability of data and analytics to transform the world.

It has always seemed to me to be the closest thing we have to modern-day magic, with its ability to conjure up benefits from thin air. Over the last quarter century, I’ve had the honor of working with thousands of “wizards” in organizations around the world, turning information into value in every aspect of our daily lives.

The projects have been as simple as Disney using real-time analytics to move staff from one store to another to keep lines to a minimum: shorter lines led to bigger profits (you’re more likely to buy that Winnie-the-Pooh bear if there’s only one person ahead of you), but also higher customer satisfaction and happier children.

Or they’ve been as complex as the Port of Hamburg: constrained by its urban location, it couldn’t expand to meet the growing volume of traffic. But better use of information meant it was able to dramatically increase throughput – while improving the life of city residents with reduced pollution (less truck idling) and fewer traffic jams (smart lighting that automatically adapts to bridge closures).

I’ve seen analytics used to figure out why cheese was curdling in Wisconsin; count the number of bubbles in Champagne; keep track of excessive fouls in Swiss soccer, track bear sightings in Canada; avoid flooding in Argentina; detect chewing-gum-blocked metro machines in Brussels; uncover networks of tax fraud in Australia; stop trains from being stranded in the middle of the Tuscan countryside; find air travelers exposed to radioactive substances; help abused pets find new homes; find the best people to respond to hurricanes and other disasters; and much, much more.

The reality is that there’s a lot of inefficiency in the world. Most of the time it’s invisible, or we take it for granted. But analytics can help us shine a light on what’s going on, expose the problems, and show us what we can do better – in almost every area of human endeavor.

Data is a powerful weapon. Analytics isn’t just an opportunity to reduce costs and increase profits – it’s an opportunity to make the world a better place.

So to paraphrase a famous world leader, next time you embark on a new project:

“Ask not what you can do with your data, ask what your data can do for the world.”

What are your favorite “magical” examples, where analytics helped create win/win/win situations?

Download our free eBook for more insight on How the Port of Hamburg Doubled Capacity with Digitization.

This article originally appeared on Digital Business & Business Analytics.

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Timo Elliott

About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence. He was the eighth employee of BusinessObjects and for the last 25 years he has worked closely with SAP customers around the world on new technology directions and their impact on real-world organizations. His articles have appeared in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, ZDNet, The Guardian, and Digitalist Magazine. He has worked in the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Silicon Valley, and currently lives in Paris, France. He has a degree in Econometrics and a patent in mobile analytics.