What's the key to getting Beacon customer traction? Answer: Listening

Posted by Ed Anderson on Jan 29, 2015 9:25:00 AM
Ed Anderson

During the last couple weeks, Shelfbucks splashed onto the scene as a leader in the newly emerging space of beacon solutions for in store marketing. Need some proof points to corroborate that claim? Yes you certainly do.

The Best of NRF's The Big Show here. Acclaimed TV business news-CNBC here. Leading big city newspaper, the Washington Post here. The highest retweeted item from the NRF's Big Show from ad agency Leo Burnett here. And, leader in the in store marketing segment of Trinity Ventures Mobile Market Map 2.0:

Trinity_Ventures_Mobile_Market_Map_2.0-1

In a prior Blog post, we quoted renowned management practice expert Peter Drucker:

"There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer....therefore, any business enterprise has two and only two basic functions: marketing and innovation."

Peter Drucker felt that creating a customer hinged on really understanding and listening to the customer's situation before you build a product. Is your in store marketing vendor sales rep trying to create a customer or do they want to use you to make their quota this year? Have they already completed their analysis of user requirements in order to lock and load on their product roadmap? How will they adapt to your needs and swerve to incorporate your shoppers reaction to the way their software works with them? If your in store marketing vendors product roadmap is already done, are you going to get a software solution that meets your needs?

There is a better way; Lean, agile and scrum development

According to an HBR article, from 1986, "the old approach, a product development process moved like a relay race, with one group of functional specialists passing the baton to the next group. The project went sequentially from phase to phase: concept development, feasibility testing, product design, development process, pilot production, and final production....Under the rugby approach, the product development process emerges from the constant interaction of a hand-picked, multidisciplinary team whose members work together from start to finish. Rather than moving in defined, highly structured stages, the process is born out of the team members’ interplay:"

HBR_on_lean,_agile_and_rugby_development

Although this approach has gained a lot of followers in the last ten years, it's hard to understand why it isn't pervasive. In an interesting Forbes article, Steve Denning asks, "how do you get disciplined execution along with continuous innovation?" The answer is simple:

Over the last decade, these management practices, under various labels such as Agile, Scrum, Kanban and Lean, have been field-tested and proven in thousands of organizations around the world.

In new software markets, it takes time to converge on the features that users find useful. It's easy to have hypotheses, but after you deploy, you get feedback. If you misread the market, you've lost precious time. There are many theories about what users want for in store marketing.

Recently McKinsey published an insight "Busting Mobile Shopping Myths." For instance, videos are popular with Millenials, and we even wrote a Blog piece how Jason Dorsey, an expert on Gen Y said, "Gen Y is a visual generation, and we learn everything on YouTube... If I’m in your aisles I don’t want to see some printed recipe." But McKinsey concluded: "Few mobile shoppers are actively looking for “bells and whistles,” such as video, expert opinions, or magazine-style articles—at least not yet. They want clean, mobile-optimized sites with easy-to-read pages that load quickly, easy-to-use shopping carts, and smooth checkouts."

This underscores the need to fail fast. There isn't a perfect process to identify what you should build...the big failure is not to learn quickly what the retailer and the shopper want...and to be able to adjust and deliver quickly.

We unknowingly followed McKinsey's advice implementing "clean, mobile optimized sites with easy to read pages that load quickly." This resulted in comments about our Booth at NRF such as "eye popping", or about our impact from the Washington Post "may change the way you shop." In the literature on lean and agile, this approach is sometimes called "minimum viable product."(slide 29 of 41) The retail shopper and trade press at NRF reacted to Shelfbucks' minimum viable product by calling our beacon solution "eye popping" because it filled up the iPhone almost instantly.

Conclusion: listen to the customer to get the basics right and use a lean and agile development process.

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