All posts tagged digital

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B = f(P,E)

Behaviour

Design revolves around finding a pain point or gap and then creating a solution for it. That’s the essence of what good design is and what good design should be. But my design interests have always sat slightly to the left or right of that core principle. What drives me is the reasons, behaviours and cognitive biases that make someone want to use (or not!) a piece of design, a service or a pattern, and not necessarily the thing itself. More importantly, I want to design products that actually move the cognitive needle – drive people back into itself and with that return, allow it to change us in some way shape or form – often quite literally.

One of the major themes in my work is the idea of a “life space” – A “life space” is the combination of all factors that influence a person’s behavior at a given moment in time, not just the screen in front of them. Therefore, a life space may include instantaneous thought, memory, drives and motives, personality, biases as well as the situation and external environmental factors.

Personality

There have been numerous studies over the decades, looking at the way the brain evolves and changes over the course of our lives. Every situation we encounter, every life moment we live in has an effect on the brain. It’s what gives us our individual personalities.

It’s an ever-evolving and solving 1.5kg blob of plasticity.

I started working in Investing Solutions four or five years ago and one of the areas I studied at length was the effects of stress on the brain. I was really fascinated to discover that hormonal responses generated by stressful situations generate subsequent risk taking attitudes. I was also blown away to discover that there is now enough empirical evidence to suggest that exposure to long-term stress can cause what’s know as ‘Hippocampal Atrophy‘ – Something normally associated with memory-loss conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s a pretty frightening side-effect when you stop to think about how hugely stressful the lives many of us live are.

Environment

What if we could create the opposite effect? What if we could actually use the digital experiences we create to start to reverse the effects of atrophy and change certain Behavioural Biases to make us behave better or just think differently? In theory it may actually be possible to stave off the effects of stress and mild forms of depression – maybe even before they appear – using brain focused functions so simplistic in their design that they seem almost too good to be true.

What’s commonly know now is that within the suffers of stress and forms of depression is a tendency to “amplify” unpleasant information and that makes the brain overreact to negative emotional stimuli. It’s also been shown that the children or partners of mental health patients are potentially at higher-than-normal risk of developing the same condition themselves, in part because they may inherit their parent or loved ones trait to overreact. It’s an inherited behavioural bias. So working backwards from suffers themselves, to some of the people around them, may be a really important place to start.

Reversing a behavioural bias and start to “rewire” the brain isn’t as complex as it might sound. We just need to design the right experiences into the services we build.

The trick is going to be teaching people (implicitly or explicitly) how to control the activity that is generated in a network of interrelated brain regions that are directly linked to stress and depression – the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. We can already do that using basic Neural Feedback Displays – hell, I’ve been playing with several cheap and cheerful EEG gizmos for years now. They don’t do much more than let me see roughly and crudely what’s going on inside my head, but that’s somehow a good enough place to start and it gives me a deeper connection to myself. When I perform an action, it shows me what the reaction inside my brain is, and that starts to show me more about myself than I knew before.

One of the exercises I’ve been studying shows neural feedback in the form of a thermometer on the screen. You show people sad or negative pictures that might ordinarily raise their “temperature”, and then get them to try to lower that “temperature” by adopting more sanguine mental states. After a while you start to work what the reaction looks like and in doing so create a sort of mental pro-action to stop it occurring in the first place. It’s therapy friends, but not as we know it.

You can start to reverse the behavioural bias. Over the course of a period of time you can start to change the actual structure of the brain. Which is a pretty neat concept.

There’s another technique where a pair of faces is shown to someone on a screen every few seconds; either neutral and sad, or neutral and happy. Then a dot replaces one of the faces, and the user is asked to click on the dot. During one particular experiment using the dot technique, some people had the face replaced by the dot selected at random, but other people always had the dot replace the more positive face in the pair. Over a period of time of engaging in the dot technique, the group that had the dot replacing the positive face, where in effect being trained to avoid looking at the sad faces.

This kind of attentional-bias training, is so simplistic that most good scientists would bet that it could not alter psychological symptoms. But they’d lose the bet.

In both the examples above it’s been proven that stress-related responses – for example, increases in heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels – to negative stimuli – are significantly reduced using both techniques. These stress responses are a key marker of depression, and they diminished roughly one week after the experiments began. Incidentally, some people in the experimental groups also developed fewer defensive responses to negative faces, such as startled blinking however the people in the control groups showed no such improvement.

In another experiment researchers at Cardiff University showed eight people how their brains reacted to positive imagery. After four sessions the participants with mental health conditions had seen significant improvements in their depression.

Was it a placebo effect? Possibly. But so what, that’s still a positive outcome!

As part of the same experiment another eight people with mental health problems were asked to do the exercise but just think positively and were not shown the brain images. They showed no change over the same period of time.

The researchers said they believed the scans allowed participants to work out, through trial and error, which sort of positive emotional imagery was most effective for them.

Once you’ve taught someone the mindset to lower that temperature or unlearn that negative thought, it’s a simple case of asking them to try to recreate that mindset in their daily lives, in normal stress related situations – Call it mindfulness, call it brain-training, call it CBT… you can even call it brainwashing if you like… it’s doesn’t matter, call it whatever best fits – the point is not the label that matters, the point is the start point of the process. You show people the mirror and they start to see themselves.

Summary

There have been plenty of experiments that have failed too by the way. Or shown only a correlation to success in a percentage of the people in the test. Which is totally to be expected.

To me, the interesting aspect of all these techniques is simply that they start by giving people an insight into themselves and their biases and only then do they work towards letting people control their own brain activity.

Most people (especially those living with stress or depression etc) are actually acutely aware and really interested in a way of engaging with themselves.

I’m not suggesting we mass ship EEG devices like EPOC to sufferers of anxiety, stress and depression so they can see what’s happening in their heads – but what I am suggesting is that we can build experiences that help people to understand themselves better and by starting there, we might in turn be able to start to help people reverse or reduce the effects of some of the conditions that can debilitate a lot of people.

People are dynamic creatures with dynamic thoughts, emotions, and psychological forces. To understand people you have to consider all possible factors that influence a person’s behavior and consider how those factors interact and change in time to influence the person’s present state.

So in designing solutions that start to move the needle on behaviour and start to break biases it’s imperative that we look at all the factors and start to influence people piece by pieces. Reversing negative brain patterns and negative cognitive biases starts with understanding the individual and moves out from there to a series of small interactions that gently nudge the brain into reverse.

It’s a noble idea I know… and probably one that many of you would scoff at. But my brain is already growing out of the curiosity of where this might lead me.

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The Biological Power of Push

You’re in a bar. You’ve just found three people in close proximity to you on Tinder that you find attractive, so you’ve swiped them to the right to let them know you’re nearby & interested. Each swipe with your finger sets off a small chain-reaction of events within your body that can be as narcotic as crack. The game is on.

For the record – the story of this type of mating ritual did not exist until a few years ago, so what we’re about to observe in this bar is something totally new… A whole, uncharted set of triggers, behaviours and reactions designed in an app-developers head and released into the wild with very little thought beyond the potential to change the dating game. This really is the frontier of HCI (human computer interaction).

You close the app, switch off your iPhone and start to slide it back into your pocket and then IT happens… the vibration occurs almost the second the device is inside your pocket and you know somebody might just have reciprocated your virtual advance (or your mum has just texted to tell you not to get too drunk & be quiet when you come in).

Even before the moment you receive that good vibration telling you that you’ve scored, some very interesting things are already occurring inside your body. When you found those three potential mates in the bar and flicked them across to the right with your thumb, your body went into adrenaline high-alert, waiting in anticipation for that reciprocal swipe to the right. Now that you’ve actually received one, your body is going full throttle through the gears of excitement, stress, anxiety and joy. In the time it takes for you to take your phone back out of your pocket and unlock it, the hypothalamus sends a message instructing your adrenal gland to produce even more of the hormone testosterone. Testosterone is what we call an anabolic steroid and one seriously potent chemical. As the hormone fans out across your body it will start to have its physical effect on your physiology almost instantaneously. It also returns to the brain, changing the very way you are going to think and behave.

Using one little app you just went back through 30,000 years of evolution to your primitive Neanderthal roots… Biologically speaking anyway.

The hypothalamus, a brain region found by projecting lines in from the bridge of your nose and sideways from the front of your ears, regulates our hormones, and through them our eating, sleeping, sodium levels, water retention, reproduction, aggression and so on. It acts as the main integration site for emotional behaviour, in other words it coordinates the hormones and the brain stem and the emotional behaviours into a coherent bodily response. When, for example, an angry cat hisses, and arches its back, and fluffs its fur, and secretes adrenalin, it is the hypothalamus that has assembled these separate displays of anger and orchestrated them into a single coherent emotional act.

In that bar at the moment of success, when you received the green light to advance to first base, the hypothalamus just did the same thing to you as it did to that hissing cat. In literally milliseconds it totally re-engineered your whole body for the task that’s about to start. Testosterone just increased your confidence and appetite for risk. Even if the next move you make fails and they decide you are just not worthy of them, you will have emerged with much higher levels of testosterone than when you first entered into the bar. However, had you lost the game completely, and you had been left hanging because they’d swiped you to the left, the opposite would have happened and you would have unknowingly found yourself with a much lower level of testosterone. Good news though, as the victor, when you do decide to proceed or even go for another potential mate in the bar, you’re going to be doing it with those elevated levels of testosterone, and this androgenic priming gives you an edge, making your reactions much quicker. You’ll find yourself beating any others to the swipe, sending the Push & Ping quicker than ever before. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of primal, digital joy that turns all the winners into adrenaline junkies… Literally.

Over the years Scientists have replicated these effects with athletes, and believe the testosterone feedback loop may actually explain winning and losing streaks in sports. It’s the same thing here, only we’ve just marketed it on a massive scale, away from elite athletics, and created a whole new generation of people riding the same waves of hormone fuelled adventure.

Pre-attentive processing

There are some other factors at play during this little explosion of bodily reactions too. Research in experimental psychology has found that perceptual acuity and general levels of attention increase as more senses are involved. In other words, vision becomes more acute when coupled with touch, touch with smell, smell with audio etc. The explanation ventured for these findings is that information arriving from two or more senses instead of just one increases the probability that it is reporting a real event, so our brain takes it more seriously. By virtue of being hunting in the wild and the digital signals coming out you in this urban environment, your brain is even more fired up than normal. Sounds obvious I know, but it’s a huge factor in the explanation of the success of mobile.

Another interesting variable is that the brain is actually quite a slow processor and has quite a neat trick that saves you from your fatally slow consciousness. When fast reactions are demanded it cuts out consciousness altogether and relies instead on reflexes, automatic behavior and what it called ‘pre-attentive processing’. Pre-attentive processing is a type of perception, decision-making and movement initation that occurs without any consultation with your conscious brain, and before it is even aware of what is going on. So in that busy environment – the urban world – because of all the factor and stimulants around you, there is a large amount of auto-pilot going on. A much different set of bodily functions being iniated than in the early days of say, online dating, when everything was desktop based.

The long game

There’s a really brilliant part of the brain called the amygdala that assigns emotional significance to events. Without the amygdala, we would view the world as a collection of uninteresting options. That charging grizzly bear in the woods would impress us as nothing more threatening than a large, moving object. Bring the amygdala online, and miraculously the grizzly morphs into the terrifying and deadly predator and we scramble up the nearest tree. The amygdala is the key brain region registering events in the outside world and initiating the suite of physical changes known as the ‘stress response’. It also registers signs of emotional change outside the body, such as rapid breathing and heart rate, increased blood pressure etc.

In scientific lingo, the stress response system is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). After perceiving a stressor from the Amygdala, the hypothalamus sends a chemical message to the pituitary gland. From here a new chemical message is sent out of the brain through our blood, to the producers of stress hormones called the adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys. This message has caused another hormone to start leaking out of a adrenal glands and across your body at the same time as the testosterone takes it grip, and this hormone is the really interesting one – meet Cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone, more specifically a glucocorticoid, produced by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex. It is released in response to stress and anxiety. Cortisol works in tandem with adrenaline, but while adrenalin is a fast-acting hormone, taking effect in seconds and having a half-life in the blood of only two to three minutes, cortisol kicks in to support us during a long siege.

Imagine the game of Tinder you’re playing is like hiking in the woods and you hear a rustle in the bushes, you may suspect the presence of a grizzly bear, so the shot of adrenalin you receive is designed to carry you clear of that danger. If that noise you hear turns out to be nothing but the wind in the leaves you settle down, and the adrenalin quickly dissipate. But if you are in fact being stalked by a predator and the chase lasts several hours, then cortisol takes over the management of your body. It orders all long-term and metabolically expensive functions of the body, such as digestion, reproduction, growth, storage of energy, and after a while even the immune function, to stop. At the same time, it begins to break down energy stores and flush the liberated glucose into your blood. In short, cortisol has one main far-reaching command: glucose now! Tonight isn’t the first night you’ve gone Tinder hunting, it’s a regular pursuit and every time you pull out your phone to play, at that crucial moment in your life, cortisol has in effect ordered a complete re-tooling of your body’s factories, away from leisure and consumption goods and got you ready for all out war.

Think about it for a moment… In that moment between push & ping you’re body has completely changed. Clever, huh?! The point is this, and I cannot emphasise it enough: when faced by situations of novelty, uncertainty, opportunity or choice, you FEEL the things you do because of changes taking place in your brain AND your body as it prepares for action.

In the brain, cortisol, like testosterone, initially has the beneficial effects of increasing arousal and sharpening attention, even promoting a slight thrill from the challenge, but as levels of the hormone rise and stay elevated, it comes to have the opposite effects – there is a difference between short-term and long-term exposure to a hormone and that is a very important distinction to remember. In a lot of digital services we’re designing, either by choice or by accident (likely accident) we’re promoting the production of cortisol by spacing out actions and events across prolonged periods of time.

Conclusion

Just to finish off this little story about the wonderful world of Tinder, and before we go too far down this path of biological reductionism, I have to point out that hormones do NOT cause behaviour. They act more like lobby groups, recommending and pressuring us into certain types of activity and behaviour.

Your brain does NOT have to comply to hormone attacks. If you are on a diet, or a religious fast, or a hunger strike, you can choose to ignore the messages of hunger. You can, in other words, choose your own actions, and ultimately take responsibility for them. Nonetheless, with the passing of time and repetition, the biological message, at first whispered can become more like a foghorned bellow, and that can be hard to resist. Which takes me back to the original principles I discussed around creating experiences that not only create an emotional reaction, but also experiences that are spread out and sustained as a series of commas and not full-stops. That’s when habits start to form.

In that second in the bar when your phones goes Ping and you know you’ve hit a potential jackpot comes a minute and rapid shift in body, maybe a slight tightening of the muscles, a shiver of hope, an almost imperceptible shot of excitement which spurs you into action to follow up the invite. What is the point we have to ask, of our sensations, our memories, our cognitive abilities, if these do not lead at some point to action, be it walking, or reaching, or swimming, or eating or even writing? I like to think of this reactions as ‘the gut feeling’. So you see, the little game of Tinder hunting you play in that bar is far more exciting than you can possibly know… Just be careful not to get too addicted to it. Despite your frequent successes, you might also end up following the narrative arc of tragedy, with it’s grim and unstoppable logic of overconfidence and downfall, what the ancient greeks called Hubris (which is where the term Hubris Syndrome is derived) and Nemesis. There are a myriad of ways in which decisions and behaviours can stray from the axioms of rational choice and as we observe the new generation evolving in a digital world we are truly starting to see the actual effects of this new ‘lawnmower man’ existence. It all starts with one swipe to the left or right.

Brain-Explosion

The hour between Dog and Wolf

I was recently pointed in the direction of an incredible book called ‘The Hour Between Dog and Wolf‘. It is an excellently written piece about how human biology contributes to the alternating cycles of irrational exuberance and pessimism that destabilise banks and the global economy – and how the system could be calmed down by applying biological principles.

The author John Coates is a senior research fellow in neuroscience and finance at the University of Cambridge. He previously worked on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs, and ran a trading desk for Deutsche Bank. In 2004 he returned to Cambridge to research the biology of financial risk-taking.

In his book he goes into meticulous detail about the way the body reacts to experiences and the idea that they can sharpen the mind and call forth an overwhelming biological reaction we know as the ‘fight or flight’ response, which I previously wrote about.

The world is now littered with millions of seemingly irrational reactions to fake, un-important experiences such as apps, games, grinding and virtual socializing. It’s not just about recent advances in technology either – Winston Churchill recognized the power of these so-called “non-lethal experiences” when writing of his early years. He recounts a regimental polo match played in Southern India that went to a tie-break in the final chukka: “Rarely have I seen such strained faces on both sides,” he recalls. “You would not have thought it was not just a game at all, but a matter of life and death. Far graver crises cause less keen emotion“. He is of course referring to ‘the zone’ that people enter when they’re engaged in an activity so deeply that they lose all sense of reality.

When I talk about neuro mechanics and functions that might fire up the reward center, I’m talking about trying to keep people on a winning streak and stimulating (simulating?) feelings of euphoria. When we’re aroused by success, our appetite for opportunity expands and we want more of it. The ‘Tinder‘ generation are chasing a new kind of dragon. The dragon that goes PING and tells them there’s a match. There’s a flip-side too, on a losing streak we might struggle with a kind of digital fear – reliving the bad moments over and over. In those cases stress hormones linger in our brains, promoting a pathological risk-aversion, even depression. John Coates warns that during the down cycles of losing or being withdrawn from the highs, the stress hormones can circulate in our blood, contributing to recurrent viral infections, high blood pressure, abdominal fat build-up and even gastric ulcers.

‘Digital’ is now as much a biological activity, with as many medical consequences, as facing down a grizzly bear.

Recent advances in neuroscience and physiology have shown that when we engage in deep experiences, for example JawBone Up24, our bodies are doing a lot more than just ‘thinking’ about the outcomes and not just because it’s linked to physical activity. We actually start to crave the lessons we learn from the data it shows us. Our bodies, expecting action, switch on an emergency network of physiological circuitry, and the resulting surge in electrical and chemical activity feeds back in to the brain, affecting the way we think and behave. In this way body and brain twine as a single entity, united in the face of the approaching data storm. We’re talking about micro-milliseconds of cognition and excitement too. Most of the time we’re not even aware it’s happening. But it’s just enough to keep our sub-conscience aware that it’s something worth repeating.

One of the brains regions responsible for this early-warning system is the Locus Ceruleus (pronounced Ser-u-leus), so called because it’s cells are cerulean or deep blue. Situated in the brain stem, the most primitive part of the brain, sitting atop the spine, the Locus Ceruleus responds to novelty and promotes a state of arrousel. When a correlation between events breaks down or a new pattern emerges, when something is just not right, this primitive part of the brain registers the change long before conscious awareness. By doing so it places the brain on high-alert, galvanizing us into a state of heightened vigilance, and lowering our sensory thresholds so that we hear the faintest sound, notice the slightest movement. Athletes experiencing this effect have said that when caught up in the flow of a game they can pick out every voice in the stadium, see every blade of grass.

Welcome to the Engine Room

You get that all too familiar notification push PING sound from your pocket…. Your body automatically starts to create fuel, and lots of it, in the form of glucose. The body also needs Oxygen to burn this fuel, and it needs an increased flow of blood to deliver this fuel and oxygen to gas-guzzling cells throughout the body, and therefore you need an expanded exhaust pipe, in the form of dilated bronchial tubes and throat, to vent the carbon dioxide waste once the fuel is burned. Breathing accelerates, drawing in more oxygen, and the heart rates speed up. Our bodies, unbeknownst to us, are preparing for the experience when we sense it’s approach. Metabolism speeds up, ready to break down existing energy stores in liver, muscle and fat cells should the situation demand it. Cells of the immune system take up position, like firefighters, at vulnerable points of our bodies, such as the skin, and stand ready to deal with injury and infection. The nervous system, extending from the brain down into the abdomen, has begun redistributing blood throughout our bodies, constricting blood flow to the gut, giving us butterflies, and shunting blood to major muscle groups in the arms and thighs as well as to the lungs, heart and brain. Again, often so tiny a reaction we’re not even aware it’s happening at all.

The very fact we can design experiences that create excitement and anticipation that can change people physically is a remarkable feat. In that millisecond it’s taken for Tinder to fire you a push PING notification to say someone has matched with you we just made Digital become physical. Just think about that, it’s insanely cool.

“YOU HAVE A NEW MATCH” …Bang… rising levels of testosterone increase production of hemoglobin, and consequently your bloods capacity to carry oxygen; the testosterone also increases your state of confidence and crucially your appetite for risk.

This is a moment of total transformation, that the French since the middle ages have referred to as “L’heure entre chien et loup” which translates as “the hour between dog and wolf”

The phrase refers to a specific time of day, when the light is such that one can’t distinguish between a dog or wolf. Under extreme, artificial circumstances we can lose our true selves to this virtual world we swim in.

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf

In the last 15 years we’ve created dozens of new ways of firing up the parts of the body I describe above and at a mass scale. Do we even know what the effect of that might be? For millennia we’ve evolved without this wave of artificial stimulants and suddenly it’s introduced into society, globally, and in vast vast quantities. In fact it’s really only since the advent and mass adoption of the smartphone that things have got really juicy.

My name is Pete, and I’m an addict

There’s more too. The hormone, adrenaline, produced by the core of the adrenal glands located on top of the kidney, surges into your blood when this artificial stimulant – the push notification – is triggered. Another hormone, the steroid Cortisol, commonly known as the Stress Hormone, trickles out of the rim of the adrenal gland and travels to the brain, where it stimulates the release of dopamine, a chemical operating along neural circuits known as the pleasure pathways. Normally stress is a nasty experience, but not at low-levels. At low-levels it thrills. A non-threatening stressor or challenge, like a sporting match, a fast drive, being matched on a dating site, seeing our portfolio increase in our trading apps or beating the system in an app, game or experience, releases Cortisol, and in combination with dopamine, one of the most addictive drugs known to the human brain, delivers a narcotic hit, a rush, a flow that convinces you there is no better moment in the world than this one right here.

It’s all happening inside us every day.

Meaning

In that hour between dog and wolf, we can’t know if we’re safe or threatened. We can’t be sure if our eyes deceive, if we truly know what we think we know. We’re caught somewhere between comfort (ignorant bliss?) and fear. It’s good, of course, to be able to distinguish between the two, but… Most people have never mastered that. It’s why the body reacts in the way it does. Irrationally. Uncontrollably. Even just on a micro level.

John Coates book analyses the phenomenon that occurs in intense periods of time on Trading Floors of major banks. The phrase “The hour between dog and wolf” feels like an appropriate description. It’s about these big heavy bursts of insanity that change people in incredible ways for good and bad. But in the world of small micro interactions we’re creating, maybe the more appropriate phase needs to be;

The SECOND between PING and POW

It feels somehow more appropriate to the Gen Y crowd.

Summary

Keep all this in mind when you question why we are becoming more and more fascinated in the biology behind experiences. It might seem silly and overkill, even benign, to start breaking these things down so deliberately, but the the body really is a marvelous machine and the potent potential we have to manipulate it with the creation of digital experiences is not just incredible but also potentially destructive. Nobody is really sure what this new surge of artificial stimulants is doing to society and biology.

A lot of people are asking me why I’m going down this path of bringing biology into the story – It’s really very straightforward – It is simply very fascinating! A story of human behaviour spiked with biology can lead to some particularly vivid moments of recognition. The term recognition is commonly used to describe the point in a story when all of a sudden we understand what is going on, and by that very process understand ourselves better. For when we understand what is going on inside our bodies, and why, we are met with repeated Aha! moments.

Today, NeuroCX more than any other subject, throws a light into the dark corners of our lives and every time I learn something new about the biology behind design and experience I get a little hit of Cortisol that keeps me wanting to learn more. :)

dopamine

5 Tips for creating better #NeuroCX

A lot about creating great experiences online and around us requires us to study what is bad as well as what could be good. I have my golden rules but there’s a lot of other factors in play – fluke being one of them. To me, helping the customer regulate their emotions, manage their thoughts, and behave in a positive manner under the circumstances which brings them to your site or service is hugely important and trying to think with those things in mind when you build a product is hugely important.

Developing new digital product is about finding the courage to live according to the values you set it and being bold enough to create your own definition of success. Traditional KPI gets you to sales & business success, but your own customer focused definition of success might be “I want people to feel adulated when they finish a new task” or “make them whoop when they achieve a new level”.

Neuro CX involves more than just consumer willpower; it requires hard work and commitment from the customer. It’s about establishing healthy habits and getting the customer to choose to devote time and energy to self-improvement or to your product over Product Z.

Although it’s easier to achieve that dopamine rush when a task is simple — often, true addiction becomes most apparent in the midst of overcoming the really wicked CX challenges.

Identifying those really chewy challenges and working them through is the best way to prepare for your products inevitable obstacles.

Here are 5 exercises that can help you develop a plan for looking at your product in a slightly different way;

1. Evaluate The Core Beliefs

We’ve all developed core beliefs as people, about ourselves, our lives and the world in general. Core beliefs develop over time and largely depend upon our past experiences. Whether you’re aware of your core beliefs or not, they influence your thoughts, your behavior and emotions.

Your product needs a similar set of core beliefs and values. A lot of people call them experience principles, but I like to think of them as beliefs and values because it instantly gives them a more human centred approach.

Sometimes, core beliefs are inaccurate and unproductive. For example, as a person, if you believe that you’ll never succeed in life, you may be less apt to apply for new jobs — and inadvertently, you may not present yourself well on job interviews. Therefore, core beliefs may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Its the same with product values. Don’t set yourself up to fail with them.

Core values are about identifying the right tone of voice, objectives (just a few small objectives, not waves of them) and portraying publicly that the journey you’re about to go on with the customer is an exciting but supported one because you have values.

It sounds silly, but it’s so important in CX to have those beliefs. So you absolutely have to identify and evaluate the right core beliefs for your service. Look for values that are black and white, and then find exceptions to the rule. Very few things in life are “always” or “never” true. Modifying core beliefs requires purposeful intention and hard work, but it can change the entire course of a product.

2. Help The User Expend Mental Energy Wisely

Wasting brain power ruminating about things you can’t control drains tolerance very quickly. The more a customer thinks about negative problems that they can’t solve, the less energy they’ll have leftover for creative endeavors. For example, sitting and worrying about how long it’s going to take to do the grocery shopping online isn’t helpful. If you’ve got to eat, worrying about getting it sorted won’t prevent it. We can, however, help the customer to prepare for it. Help them focus on what is within their control. A line of copy at the start of an online shopping experience that tells the customer to kick-back, grab a cuppa, stick on their favourite album and head into the inevitable drawn out experience of packing their digital shopping cart is such an easy thing to do.

Help them save mental energy for productive tasks, such as solving problems or setting goals. When thoughts aren’t productive, make a conscious effort to shift their mental energy to more helpful topics. The more we practice expending the mental energy of a customer more wisely, the more it will become a habit.

3. Replace Negative Moments with Productive Moments

Although most of us don’t spend time thinking about our thoughts, increasing your awareness of your thinking habits proves useful in building resilience for the customer. Exaggerated, negative thoughts, such as, “I can’t ever do anything right,” hold people back from reaching their full potential. Catch the negative thoughts before they creep into your service and spiral out of control and influence the customer behavior in a negative way.

Identify and replace negative situations with situations that are more productive. Productive tasks don’t need to be extremely positive, just realistic. A more balanced task may be as simple as helping the customer focus on what they’re good at in a Running App rather than setting them up to fail; “I have a weakness because I really struggle to run long distance (at the moment!), but I also have plenty of strengths such as being able to run quick bursts and then walk for a while.” Changing the customers thoughts requires constant monitoring of the behavior and data and providing a complex personalisation strategy, but the benefits are huge and can be instrumental in helping customers become their best self.

4. Practice Tolerating Discomfort

Contrary to the old wisdom that usability is about making things a ‘no brainer’, the world is different now and having a successful service means the customer shouldn’t just get the job done quickly and easily, but also experience a range of emotions both negative and positive along the way. It’s what makes your service addictive. Success requires you to become acutely aware of the emotions you want people to experience so you can make the best choices about how to respond to them when they occur or how to elicit them in the first place. Great CX is about accepting the customers feelings but trying to stop them being controlled by them.

Neuro CX also involves getting an understanding of when it makes sense to try and convince the customer to behave contrary to their emotions. For example, if they experience anxiety that prevents them from trying new things or accepting new opportunities, try getting them to step out of the comfort zone and continue to challenge themselves. Helping the customer to tolerate uncomfortable emotions takes practice, but it becomes easier as their confidence grows.

Encourage the customer to start a new relationship with you by behaving like the person you’d like them to become. Don’t assume in Social Media that every consumer will will totally outgoing… instead help them to choose to behave in a more outgoing manner, whether they feel like it or not – Be the devil on the shoulder “go on Ash, give it a go, you might like it”. Some discomfort is often necessary for greater gain, and helping the customer to tolerate that discomfort will help make your vision a reality, one small step at a time.

5. Reflect on Your Progress Daily

Today’s busy world doesn’t lend itself to making much time available for quiet reflection. However, it’s hugely important for you to create time to reflect upon your progress toward developing the service and product you had in your head. At the end of each day, ask yourself what you’ve learned about your customer, their emotions and their behavior. Then consider what you hope to improve upon or accomplish tomorrow. Getting the CX right for something is literally a day by day, hour by hour thing… not a “leave it for a couple of months and then come back to see if it’s working” type affair. That’s failure right there. Good CX is organic.

Developing successful Neuro CX is a work in progress. There is always room for improvement, and at times this will seem more difficult than at other times. Reflecting upon your progress can reinforce your ability to reach your definition of success while keeping the customer living according to your original values.

Marketing at the speed of culture – My UWL Lecture

In May I was invited to head a long to the University of West London to give a lecture on the changing face of digital and some of the things I thought the marketing students should know about the world of marketing in the field of digital communications. Here’s the lecture;

Here’s a couple of the video case studies I showed;

NIKE FUEL:

E.ON ENERGY EXPERIMENT

THE SAPIENTNITRO (old!) SIZZLE REEL (I just love the narrative on this)

APPLE – THE CRAZY ONES – NARRATED BY STEVE JOBS (not Richard Dreyfus)

Out of the box CX

Here’s a little known fact about me: I never studied design or multimedia or service design way back when I was a student at university in the noughties. I knew what I wanted to do and be part of (even back then!) and I wanted to learn about design, information architecture (I didn’t call it that back then, I was just fascinated in information delivery and consumption), product design, digital (or multimedia as we called it back before the interweb 1.0 proper) and the users interface with ‘stuff’ because I was always a righter-brainer & rubbish at the good stuff. I was working part-time at a CBT (computer based training) company helping put together training CDRoms (remember them?) for Helicopter Pilots and I was really unimpressed with how bad they were to use (the CBT materials, not the helicopters!) and how bad the graphics were – In todays world we’d call that ‘poor experience’, and so I got myself on the ‘Packaging Design’ course at Bournemouth University. PACKAGING? ARE YOU MENTAL?! A lot of my mates (and colleagues at the CBT company!) thought I was insane doing a degree in Packaging, they thought I’d decided I wanted to design milk-cartons and not carry on doing what I was doing… but here’s the thing, I was doing what I always wanted to do… think about the component parts of all packaging;

  1. Form
  2. Function
  3. Instruction / Product Information
  4. Design / Brand
  5. Fast moving, evolving consumer goods

Sound familiar? Not so skeptical now are you!

It was literally the only course I could find that would teach me everything I wanted to know about design. About the esthetic form of something, the information architecture of something, the design of something that needs to stand out in a crowded aisle, the typographic quality of something (print anybody?), the brand of something, the perishability, materials, mass appeal, recognition, touch… you name it and in those 3 years I learnt the lot. I just did it using the paradigm of cardboard, tetra-pack and plastic. We even covered sales & marketing as part of the course. It was great.

It’s also something I continuously refer too today because it’s even more relevant in towards world. All our UX is just packaged design.

Packaging on a supermarket shelf has less than three seconds to grab the attention of a consumer.

Those three seconds are exceedingly important when you consider that more than 70% of purchasing decisions are made at the shelf. Add to this the fact that supermarkets can contain on average 40,000 packs to choose from, then that pack has got to work hard. It’s the same with websites, apps, digital outdoors etc.

Packaging’s role is threefold:

  1. To sell the product
  2. To protect the content
  3. To facilitate the use of the contents

Ditto, the role of digital is the same. The component parts are the same too;

Graphics

Packaging graphics have more to do than simply look pretty. They must work to cut through the white noise that is the crowded supermarket shelf, and attract a potential buyer.

Shape

Packaging comes in all shapes and sizes. The structure of a pack can serve to create shelf standout and sell the product, to prolong the life of the product and to facilitate the use of the product. There’s also a lot we can learn from packaging that ‘just is’. It’s practical & boring in some cases, but absolutely necessary to transport the precious cargo to the end user.

Sustainability

The packaging industry has been vilified over the years, not least on the subject of plastic bags. Yet, brands have always been looking for ways to reduce materials and maximise packaging for both environmental and financial reasons. Web optimisation in UX is the same.

Materials

Traditionally certain materials have been associated with certain markets. But as markets change and consumer attitudes adjust it is unsurprising that material choice has also changed in the packaging sector accordingly. Same in digital, only our material is now ‘content’ and ‘conversations’ and bits of media.

Regulations

The packaging industry spans many markets and so is regulated by many different forms of legislation and voluntary codes. More parallels – I work a lot in Financial Services so I know this all too well.

Golden Rules

There are 8 golden rules of packaging design that we were taught at uni too that I stilI also apply in UX:

  1. Conduct a thorough audit of all competitors in your market before you start, and make sure you understand their respective positionings and attributes. Then create your own.
  2. Look at what is happening in other markets, e.g. if you are just considering the UK or Europe, what is happening in the US or Far East that might give you a point of difference?
  3. Put measures in place at the start so you can track and learn as you go, e.g. measure awareness of and attitude to your packaging now and in the future. A good research agency will tell you how to do this.
  4. Be different and ensure your pack has its own visual equity and has a strong personality and attitude.
  5. Make sure your pack works at all stages of its life cycle, from leaving the factory to ending up in the user’s hands.
  6. Mock up how your pack would look alongside your competition. Test it in store and make sure it really does leap out at point of purchase.
  7. Design with tomorrow in mind. Create a pack that is in keeping with current market trends and future trends.
  8. Consider doing some pre-market testing to make sure your pack will find a willing audience. But be careful how you test it as consumers never quite know what they are looking for until someone shows them something new. Henry Ford once said: ‘If I’d listened to what people wanted I’d have built a faster horse!’

Out of the box UX

Everybody in the field of UX should be digesting and using content and background materials from the field of Packaging Design. It’s a rich seam of knowledge that can be directly applied to what we do. Take a website for example, it’s just in many cases a fast-moving-consumer-good and it comes with all of the same elements. Now that interfaces are merging with the real world it’s more relevant than ever.

2013 is the year where I go right back to my roots and start to bring packaging to the forefront of the area of UX that I work with. I’m going to start taking packaging examples to client meetings & as part of all my Discover, Define, Design phases. It’s actually one of the single biggest areas of parallel comparative research available to us so when you start a new brief this year, make an effort to go down to the supermarket & decide what kind of package your making for your digital content.

Resources

Agency Thought Shifting

Agencies have always done ‘campaigns’. It’s what we do… be that a massive one that lasts for years or a couple of tiny ones to support some above the line marketing hullabaloo. But paradigms change when we look at things from a different perspective. We often sincerely believe something from one perspective, but when we view it from another angle, our beliefs can change. It changes how we think, and how we react to something. What some people call “magic” is based on this same principle. Once you understand an illusionist’s “trick”, your paradigm shifts, and you will likely never see that trick the same way again.

So with that idea of ‘thought shift’ in mind what if a digital agency did things differently too. I had a fascinating debate with a planner at an agency I was working at who was suggesting the agency might sell 100 little experiences to a client instead of 1 big one. A brilliant idea. It fitted neatly into my distributed experience idea I was trying to sell the same client too… The client agrees to pay a wedge of money and the agency agrees to concept, design, develop, and launch 100 individual digital experiences (sites, apps, whatever) in 52 weeks rather than one huge one.

It makes sense when you consider that an agency for ‘now’ needs to increase their odds of creating a big hit when it’s impossible to predict what’s going to catch on?

Most digital agencies rely on selling the execution of a big beautiful campaign or website. The more complex the site is, the more expensive it is, and the better it is for the agency’s business. But, the market for that business is disappearing.

When an agency pitches to clients, they don’t just come up with one big idea, they usually come up with lots of ideas and then choose the best ones to sell-in hoping that one will make the cut. The ideas that got the chop originally might have the winning formula in there, so why not just do those as well?

No one can predict which idea is going to become and internet sensation. And not every potential hit will get approved by the client’s legal or PR department. These concerns don’t matter because you’re going to launch every good idea you come up with. Work for the client initially launches without the client’s name attached. If it takes off and becomes a hit, they get to claim it. If they don’t want it, the agency can either take it for themselves or kill it.

Everything is iterative – A tiny fraction of what you launch will be worth additional time and investment. Create strict qualifications for what makes the cut. Work on all of these select projects using an agile process, making small changes as you go. There’s no finish line, there’s just one improvement after another.

What do you think?

How Do Consumers Engage With Brands In An Increasingly Digital World?

Marketers have never thought of digital as a wonderful place to build a brand, but they should:

  • 65% of consumers have had a digital experience change their opinion about a brand
  • 97% of them report that experience influencing whether or not they purchased a product or service from that brand

Actions Speak Louder Than Advertising

Branded experience is the new advertising. And consumers are increasingly hungry for them, sometimes ravenously so:

  • 97% have searched for a brand online
  • 77% have watched a commercial on YouTube
  • 69% have read a corporate blog
  • 65% have played a branded, browser-based game.
  • 73% have posted a product or brand review on a site like Amazon, Facebook or Twitter

Brand Culture Or Fan Culture?

Conventional wisdom holds that consumers don’t want brands encroaching on their social lives – but that’s just not true:

  • 76% of consumers welcomed brand advertising on social networks (FEED, 2008)
  • 40% of consumers “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace
  • 26% of consumers have “followed” a brand on Twitter

The Outlet Malls Of Tomorrow? Facebook, MySpace & Twitter

Marketers shouldn’t assume that consumers are as passionate about their brands as they are: Consumers don’t want a conversation with brands – they want deals.

  • 44% of consumers who follow a brand on Twitter do so for deals
  • 37% of consumers who “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace do so for deals

Bottom Line: Digital Brand Experiences Create Customers

Digital is not simply an “awareness” or CRM play, it’s a customer-creation play. The overwhelming majority of consumers who engage with a brand online move from passive “receivers” to advocates almost instantly:

  • 97% report increased brand awareness
  • 98% show increased consideration
  • 97% will more likely purchase a product
  • 96% may recommend the brand to their friends

Consumers Turning First, Foremost To Digital

According to Forrester consumers now spend nearly as much time online as they do watching TV*. We found that their technical fluency is far greater than most believe:

  • 57% of consumers actively customize their homepages
  • 84% share links or bookmarks
  • 55% subscribe to RSS feeds
  • 33% get their news from Facebook
  • 20% get their news from Twitter

*Forrester 2009 Technographics Survey

Mobile Internet Service Use Skyrocketing

Mobile Internet services are being consumed broadly. Majority of consumers own a smartphone and;

  • 57% access the Internet from their phone
  • 50% have downloaded an app for their phone
  • 30% have interacted with an ad banner on their phone

Connected Consumers Are The New Mainstream

Are Consumers Really In Control? Conventional wisdom says that every generation of consumer grows smarter, shrewder and more immune to marketing. But that’s not true – consumers are actively choosing to engage with brands, everywhere.

  • 40% have “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace
  • 26% have “followed” a brand on Twitter
  • 77% have watch an advert on YouTube
  • 69% have read a corporate blog post
  • 73% have posted a review of a brand on a site like Amazon or Yelp
  • 52% have blogged about brand’s product or service

Facebook And Twitter Creating Fan Culture For Brands

After deals, the main reason consumers “friend” a brand? Because they *really* are a fan (or a customer, at least). Social media platforms are proving to be customer service platforms.

  • 33% friend a brand on Facebook/ MySpace because they are a customer
  • 24% follow a brand on Twitter because they are a current customer
  • 23% follow a brand on Twitter for “interesting or engaging” content, which shows promise for a new type of relationship

Fans And The Future Of The Marketing Funnel

Brand culture and fan culture are dramatically reshaping the traditional funnel as consumers leap from experience to advocacy (or the inverse) almost instantly.

  • 70% have participated in a brand-sponsored contest
  • 24% have produced content to participate in a contest
  • 26% have attended a brand sponsored event, such as Nike’s Human Race
  • 24% have downloaded a branded application for their mobile phone

Experiences Not Only Build Brands, They Make Or Break Them

Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple and Nike are all experiential brands that know consumer preference isn’t formed in reaction to a message, but to a series of experiences over time. There’s good reason. Of consumers who interact:

  • 97% report increased brand awareness
  • 98% show increased consideration
  • 97% will more likely purchase a product
  • 96% may recommend the brand to their friends

Getting To The Bottom Of Brand Engagement

Everyone is chasing after a metric to define brand engagement. Millward Brown says “digital consumers” have 15% stronger relationships with brands. The Altimeter Group attempts to correlate social media activity to financial performance, citing Dell, Starbucks and eBay as leaders.

We took a different tack: we simply wanted to know if there was any direct correlation between a consumer’s digital interaction with a brand and their likelihood to purchase a specific product or service. 

Digital Experience Create Customers

The answer was a resounding “yes”. Experiences have a much greater influence over brand affinity and consumer purchasing than even we anticipated:

  • 65%of consumers have had a digital experience change their opinion about a brand.
  • 97%of those report that experience influencing whether or not they purchased a product or service from that brand.
  • 64% of consumer report making a first purchase from a brand because of digital experience (e.g. website, banner, etc.)

Five Brands That Are Excelling In An Experience-Driven World…

  1. UNIQLO: Japanese Retailer Surprises And Delights Audiences With Every Interaction
  2. Red Bull: Pioneered Experiential Marketing With Subversive Events And Sponsorships
  3. Barbie: Reinvented An American Icon For The Pop Sugar Set And Broke Sales Records
    “We’re not in the business of keeping the media companies alive. We’re in the business of connecting with consumers.” – Trevor Edwards, Nike
  4. Nike: Human Race. Chalkbot. Nike Is Setting A New Standard For Experiential Marketing
  5. Virgin America: Brand Built By Breakthrough Experiences – And The Marketing Of Them
  6. Microsoft’s Bing: Accomplishing The Impossible By Putting Experience First And In Every Ad

iPad usage by numbers

The “now” generation wants their news, entertainment, information and access to online stores instantly whether that is on the bus, bedroom or even on the beach.

A recent survey by seven.co.uk announces some rather rather revealing stats on how the iPad.. which is the fastest selling technology hardware device in history with 15 million sold in 11 months, is impacting our media consumption habits both online and offline. The iPad buyers are not exclusively early adopters as is often assumed, as 63% describe themselves as people who normally wait for a gadget to become established before they buy it.

So what are the iPad statistics that you should take notice of ?

iPad’s Time Usage

This has implications on how publishers should be developing content so it is optimized for the appropriate device

  • Use of desktop computers is down for 35% iPad owners since they bought the device
  • Use of laptops is also down since they bought an iPad at 39%
  • 87% of owners are using it every day of the week
  • 26% for half an hour to an hour per day
  • 32% for 1-2 hours per day
  • 24% for more than 2 hours a day.

Where do they use it?

Its versatility makes it a flexible and ubiquitous device with

  • 69% of respondents using it in the bedroom
  • 42% in the kitchen
  • 20% of men can’t be parted from it in the bathroom

The last statistic certainly show that men’s habits for reading in the small room have not changed just the device!

What do they use the Apple iPad for?

  • Accessing the web – 75%
  • Emailing -63%
  • 53% of iPad owners say they use their device mainly for entertainment
  • Playing games – 48%
  • Social networking – 41%
  • Researching products and services – 29%
  • Reading books – 25%
  • Listening to music – 21%
  • Shopping – 19%
  • Reading magazines – 13%
  • For work – 13%
  • Watching TV – 11%

What is interesting to note is that 51% who have read magazines in print and in interactive format on the iPad say they prefer it on the iPad, vs 23% who prefer a magazine in print.

The Stats on Apps on the iPad

The apps market that started with the Apple iphone has not diminished but has continued to grow into the iPad market place. Content is the key driver in app purchases. The survey shows that this is more important to consumers than the price of the app when making a purchase decision.

  • 16% have bought a branded app from a company
  • 84% of respondents would be very interested in an app from one of their favourite brands, if it was free and non-subscription.
  • Free apps are almost twice as popular among iPad consumers as paid-for (the average iPad has 18 free apps on it and 10 paid-for)
  • Buying an app is most strongly influenced by the app’s perceived usefulness at 64% of owners
  • Content is very important when buying the app at 47%
  • Price comes third at 44% when considering buying
  • Friend recommendations is important at 27%
  • 15% say that recommendations by industry experts are very important when making an app buying decision.

Taken from the Jeff Bullas blog-post.

Mobile by numbers

I’m fascinated by mobile. The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it… and I genuinely believe the digital world will change unrecognizably in the next couple of years because of mobile. A typical mobile user is on the go in an unpredictable environment, interested in quick glance-able information, focused on discrete individual tasks and is often distracted, so we’re already having to rethink our traditional approaches to accommodate this kind of behavior.

Mitch Joel at TedX Montreal made this brilliant statement; “We’re in a world of one line of connectivity. That’s us. You see… we don’t have to “go” to the internet any more because the internet is now an intricate part of our lives” which I think sums up effortlessly the UX we’re creating now. Context is King so circumstances or conditions that surround a person, place or thing affect behavior because content is of little value it it does not address the context of where you are. User Experience isn’t about lines & grids & boxes anymore, it’s about making sure content flows ubiquitously around users digital lives in a way that makes (common) sense.

2010 estimates put the world population at almost 6.8 billion inhabitants and it’s growing by 1.14% year on year. Eric Schmidt from Google estimates that there are about 35 billion devices connected to the internet at this junction in time and the U.N. Telecommunications Agency estimates that 77% of the population of the world own a mobile device. Soon there will be so many that we’ll probably stop counting.

There’s more to this as well… Former adviser to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Professor Manuel Castells from Cisco predicts that by 2014, the number of mobile internet users will surpass the number of users browsing the internet via a desktop computer and a Morgan Stanley mobile report from 2010 backs this prediction up. Statistically modeling that if current rates continue by the middle of 2013 we’ll be using more mobile data up than fixed lined data.

Cisco also predict that mobile Internet traffic is expected to quadruple to a whopping 767 exabytes (one exabyte is equal to one billion gigabytes) a year by 2014.

So what was the tipping point? Well obviously smartphones have played their part in moving us forward into the a new mobile internet world, but it’s that pesky iPhone that made it ‘easy’. Increasingly, mobile phone usage is about Data not voice. An average mobile phone user uses their phone for 70% voice whereas an iPhone user is only 45% voice. The thing about mobile that’s so brilliant is that people can reach for the internet using whatever device makes sense to them at that time and where ever they may be.

Let’s look at some other fascinating numbers from a MediaScope Mobile Population Study conducted in 2010. In the UK, 76% of the population owns a mobile phone. The biggest market in the is the 14 to 24 age group and 87% of this age range own one or more mobile devices. A 2010 Mobile Shopping Study by Yahoo/Nielson revealed that 30% of respondents believe that mobile internet is more convenient than a home connection, sounds obvious but it’s still a relevant number because it proves users mental models are changing. 80% of people in the same Yahoo/Nielson study said that they use mobile during miscellaneous downtime and 76% use stated that they use mobile while waiting in line or for an appointment. 62% said they DIDN’T have time to interact with brands on phones unless it ‘got straight to the point’. 59% sometimes visit a site on a mobile and then follow up on the desktop and 34% visit a site on a desktop and follow up on a mobile. So users are starting to time-shift. 69% said that they use mobile for point of sale research while shopping and 62% use mobile while watching TV… So people are starting to interact with TV via their phones. Largely down to services like Twitter if we’re being subjective about this.

In 2010, 9 percent of Superbowl ‘Ad Blitz’ views were on mobile devices, which is why YouTube made the site mobile… In 2011, 23 million, 481 thousand & 693 people viewed Ad Blitz… with a staggering 3.45 million of those views coming from mobile… up to a cool 15% of views from last years 9%.

Simon Mainwaring, former Nike creative at Wieden & Kennedy said “[In the future] brands will no longer be places you visit, but people you meet along the road” which I think is an interesting way at looking at the new mobile trends and what that’s doing to brands.

…and get this… the most expensive item sold via ebay’s mobile app was a 1985 Piper PA-46-310P Malibu airplane for $265,000 according to Mashable and Marketing Week told us in January that the largest purchase on the M&S mobile website at Christmas in 2010 was two sofas costing over £3000! People are making serious purchasing decisions straight from their pockets now. Something we never would have seen a few years ago. The sleeping dragon is awakening.

What about who people are currently using to interact with the internet? I’ll let the brilliant guys at www.icrossing.co.uk help me there with this mobile infograhic:

Good stuff. Apple clearly have the market wrapped up… but for how long I wonder. There’s that free platform that will easily interface with low cost components and it’s called ANDROID… I predict the market will change dramatically in the next 18 months because totally new handset manufacturers will have the ability to start to pop up running on Android. Put it like this:

a free operating system (Android)
+ dual core ARM 9 @ 416MHz2G GSM/EDGE
+ 2.8” QVGA resistive touch screen
+ 2MP camera
+ GPS
+ WIFI and BlueTooth silicon
= $90 components + plastic case
4 weeks to market!

Looks easy doesn’t it. Apple might be the giant, but the Google beast is going to be fighting them hard very very soon.

How about an interlude… let’s look at 2010 in a format that’s more digestible. This rapid-fire tour of 2010’s key consumer and technology mobile trends shows the staggering growth in consumer mobile usage across a dizzying array of applications and social media platforms.

Looks amazing doesn’t it. Summary:

Massive increase in apps downloaded

  • FIVE BILLION apps downloaded — up from 300 million in 2009

Whopping expansion of location-based services

  • FIVE MILLION Foursquare users — up from 200,000 users in 2009

Surge in mobile social media platforms

  • 347 PERCENT growth in Twitter mobile usage
  • 200 MILLION mobile Facebook Users
  • 100 MILLION YouTube videos played on mobile devices everyday

Ongoing explosion in data traffic

  • 3,000 PERCENT growth in one carrier’s data traffic since 2008
  • 3,339: average number of texts sent per month by US teens.

Unprecedented competition and choice

  • 96 PERCENT of mobile users can choose from 3 or more providers
  • 92 PERCENT of mobile users are satisfied with their provider
  • 4 CENTS: average voice rate per minute in the US
  • 77 MILLION: number of smartphones shipped in the fall of 2010.

So tell me I’m not going mad. The mobile world (mobile is beyond phone and encompasses anything internet connected away from a desk by the way – I’m mobile now & on my laptop!) is an exciting and potentially game changing one.

To be continued.

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