3 important takeaways from LeWeb 2013

LeWeb Paris Audience

LeWeb is a fantastic conference.

All year I get invites to attend conference after conference, but LeWeb is the only one that really interests me. Why? Simply because it has a broader outlook, better speakers, and a more philosophical approach than other events (it even had a session on meditation!)

Where some events focus on the ‘doing’, LeWeb looks at the ‘why’. As a result the content is fresh and invigorating; it actually makes you think.

In London this June, the focus was on Sharing Economies (which I wrote about for Forbes). This time around, in Paris, it was looking at the Next Ten Years. The interesting thing about a conference like this is not in what the individual speakers say, although they are very interesting, but in the feeling that you get from the conference. There’s a sense of it being one giant ‘meta-presentation’, with trends leaking out and pervading the atmosphere around you, and speaker after speaker adding to the big picture. So, in light of this, here are three trends that have emerged from LeWeb 2013 that I want to share with you.

Trend 1: Human experiences, not technology, will rule the next ten years

Just to be clear, technology is still underpinning everything – in fact I can’t think of a more exciting industry to be working in at the moment – but the face of this technology will be human. Technology will be applied to create human experiences and meet human needs, it will not be a goal in itself.

Forrester CEO, George Colony, described the next ten years as ‘The Age of the Customer’ – an age in which enterprises will need to reinvent themselves in order to be successful. This age will require completely frictionless customer experiences to be created, based around the maturing technologies of mobile, sensors, location, social, and data. Products will be highly personalised and anticipatory in nature – knowing what you need based on where you are and what you are doing. Robert Scoble’s ‘Age of Context‘.

Colony, quite fittingly, gave the example of a taking a trip to a conference. In this example the products and services were completely transparent: when entering the airport you would be directed to your gate automatically, your seat would indicate itself when you came near, and when you got to your hotel the lift would take you to the right floor by communicating with your phone, with your door unlocking  itself when you arrived at your room.

The companies that can create these experiences will be the ones that thrive.

Trend 2: You are your product

It’s easy to think of a product as something separate from you, but actually it’s more than this. The best innovations come from the heart, and are linked tightly to things you care about solving. In this respect, you are your product. If the product is central to your purpose, if it isn’t your passion, then the chances of succeeding are much lower. Being able to stay on the path, to believe on your idea, and to have the courage to see it through are the outstanding characteristics that will build the successful products of the future. Ask yourself, why do you do what you do? What is your purpose? What drives you to act? It was no coincidence that the majority of successful entrepreneurs speaking at LeWeb had started their businesses based on a very personal experience. This was exemplified by Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber. Uber was founded at LeWeb in 2008, when Travis was unable to get a taxi to the conference. That frustration, and his sweaty appearance onstage, gave birth to the idea that would disrupt the taxi and ride-sharing industry. It’s a personal crusade for Uber, one that has led to bigger ideas in its wake. Expect big things from the $3.5 billion-valued ‘Urban Logistics’ company over the next few years

Trend 3: In future, all companies will be software companies

This is a trend that is very close to my heart, and very close to my purpose. Products are evolving, customers are evolving. In the next ten years, it will be the company that adds value to its products, be it smoke detectors or tyres, that has the competitive advantage. As a result, all companies will be come software companies, as this will be the primary medium through which companies add value to their products. For example, Nest are disrupting the home safety market through building smoke detectors that communicate with you proactively, that give you warnings that are useful to you. What if a tyre company could produce tyres that told you when they ended to be changed, or informed you – or your car – how to drive more appropriately for the current conditions. the possibilities are endless, and it touches every industry, every product.

What next?

I’m really excited about the possibilities for technology in creating a better user experience for us all, actually, a better life experience for us all. It’s going to be great to watch develop, even better to be a part of. The ability to create new businesses and disrupt existing industries has never been more accessible. Even if some of the predictions don’t turn out to be right, there’s no doubt that things will be a lot different in ten years time.

See you at LeWeb 2014!


Why no analytics?

At the end of January, Forrester released their Agency Predictions for 2011. Since that day, one of the predictions that Sean Corcoran made has stuck with me. He said:

#6. Everyone continues to (pretty much) fail at analytics.

Analytics positions are hot at agencies right now. Every type of agency is trying to improve their capabilities. But the truth is that marketers themselves are still very much fragmented in their approach, and until that is sorted out, the great majority of agencies will be stuck managing the data in their corner of the world. Expect improvement, especially with real-time metrics, but agencies will continue to struggle to tell the full story through analytics in 2011.

The big question here is ‘Why?’ Why can’t agencies use analytics effectively for their clients? Why are we so fragmented?


Graph showing upward trend
Analytics should be our friend. Is it?

Before we start, let’s remember that Analytics and Reporting are different things. Reporting is the simple act of understanding what happened, usually after the fact. Analytics is the ongoing use of reporting and data investigation to improve ongoing activity. Reporting has its place; it’s good to know how many visits we had on our website this month or which were the top 5 posts on our blog, but until we put those facts into context we’re not going to learn anything. Analytics – treated the right way – takes us to that next level. In this case, maybe we would change our content strategy or look at why numbers on the site were falling; who knows, maybe they’re linked!

So why are we failing? In my experience, there are three reasons.

  1. Short-termism
    In all honesty, I’m not sure that’s even a word. But it is an issue. So many Marketing departments think in terms of quarters and half-years, focusing on delivering for that time period and not thinking beyond it. If we’re going to get the best from analytics, we need to plan much further ahead so that  our core digital assets can evolve over time. Analytics require forward planning; we must understand what the success factors will be prior to a campaign starting or a website launching. That way we can cut the data correctly and understand whether the actions we take move us closer to or further away from our goals. Short-termism is the antithesis of this, focused on execution only. Get it done, get it out, then give me the reports. This approach discards any learning and dooms us to repeat the same old mistakes.
  2. Cash
    Where there is an appetite, we do our very best to shoot ourselves in the foot. High-end analytics packages are expensive, really expensive. Unless a site is transactional in outlook and focussed on the sales funnel, the price just doesn’t weigh up with the return. And time-wise, they can take up to 4-6 weeks to integrate into a site, which is just too long for most businesses. Of course, there’s also free analytics packages, such as Google Analytics and Piwik, they’re both good but to get the best out of them you require in-house knowledge. Until client’s have the appetite to invest in using the analytics available, agencies aren’t going to skill up as much as they could; there’s simply not the incentive, just another salary on the bottom line.
  3. Technology
    We’re in a time of rapid technological change. The landscape is changing so fast that metrics are hard to define, because there isn’t the understanding out there, or the research, to make clear decisions. Take m-commerce for example, although retailers are scrambling to put themselves online, via native apps or mobile apps, there isn’t yet the historical data to understand how effective they are. They’ll understand the revenue generated, granted, but what about average conversion rates, dwell time, how does my app compare when matching against other industry players? All this will come in time, but for the moment we’re all playing catch-up.

Unless agencies and their clients can start to think long-term about their digital real-estate, we will all continue to fail at analytics – to a lesser or greater degree. As agencies we must present strong strategies with the client’s business objectives at heart (not just our own creative vanity), and clients must have the cojones to put some money and resource behind a long-term digital strategy that is supported from the top levels of the organisation, or at least the top level of Marketing. Once that’s done we might start to see a change.

Until then I won’t hold my breath, instead I’ll just wait for the 2012 report to tell me the same thing, but I’d love to be proved wrong.