Digital Supply Chain

How Supply Chain 4.0 Creates Game-changing Customer Experience

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Supply Chain Management (SCM) has always embraced new technologies that promised to fundamentally change the way supply chains operate: Sea containers were introduced to efficiently ship goods around the globe; computer-supported planning software improved production schedules beyond imagination; and RFID technology promised to revolutionize processes by identifying products without a direct line of sight.

The accelerating digitization of supply chain in recent years has triggered many new technologies that are now becoming relevant for further investigation. All stages in the supply chain are potentially affected: Planning can benefit from the real-time availability of new data and the automation of processes like demand planning or order management; production can take advantage of additive manufacturing; warehouses are seeing performance improvements due to investments in picking automation and self-driving and platooning fleets of trucks are knocking on transportation’s door. We refer to these massive digital innovations that will transform our supply chains as Supply Chain 4.0, or SC 4.0.

Recent research indicates that most of these technologies have reached their technological prerequisites and many are already in pilot test. Figure 1 illustrates an assessment of SC 4.0 technologies based on a recent McKinsey survey among supply chain professionals on the disruption and impact of 53 innovations like automated planning, 3D printing and SC Cloud to name a few. The results highlight seven game changers (e.g., automation in planning/execution, 3D printing and Cloud/platform applications) and 34 innovations where participants expect high impact like no-touch order management, closed loop planning and the Uberization of cargo.

20161117_supply_chain_4_0_the_customer_experience_scmr_pdf__page_3_of_9_However, to justify investments, any SC 4.0 technology needs to provide tangible benefits that either result in cost reductions, in revenue increases or, ideally, both. The mechanisms for achieving these benefits differ. We distinguish four key value opportunities (see Figure 2). Process improvement with increased efficiency is the most frequent driver for introducing new technologies: AGV-based goods-to-person solutions such as Amazon’s Kiva robots enable the reduction of the cost of labor while the automation of planning and machine learning enables companies to significantly improve demand forecasts, thus minimizing overstocks and obsolescence.

A second value opportunity is the increased flexibility to react immediately to competitor promotions or to new sales opportunities. Joint planning in the Cloud reduces lead times and 3D printing of slow-moving or obsolete parts enables firms to react quickly to new demands.

A third value opportunity lies in the exploitation of data that is now available as never before. Data on traffic, weather or potential new pickup locations allows firms to improve vehicle routing, minimizing overtime and fuel consumption. So far, untapped data sources enable firms to gather information about the use of their products. Rolls Royce, for example, uses data from the turbines on its jet engines to optimize maintenance schedules and fine-tune the deployment of spare parts across the globe. Business models like “power by the hour” are enabled by more granular and accurate data.

However, a fourth value opportunity is often largely overlooked: SC 4.0 technologies can dramatically boost the customer experience. Automation, analytics, smart sensors and new data sources enable firms to make the customer experience as easy and convenient as never before: Products can be customized in ultra-short lead times, customers can minimize their effort for buying consumables and delivery issues are addressed proactively when a deviation is tracked. In the end game, a customer could order his personalized coffee capsules with the simple push of a button on the coffee machine in the morning and see the delivery person at the door the moment he arrives home in the evening, eager for a fresh cup of coffee. To enable this level of customer experience, supply chain managers have to understand the opportunities that new technologies offer and then create their vision of the customer experience.

In the remainder of this article we discuss how SCM can define its vision for the customer experience and which SC 4.0 technologies are most relevant for boosting the experience.


Building a customer experience vision

Supply chain managers typically think in terms of the material and information flows up- and downstream of the supply chain. They often focus on the key supply chain processes of plan, make, source and deliver. However, few supply chain managers take the time to understand the journey a customer faces when buying, receiving and using the product, and thus fail to understand the impact that SCM has on the customer experience. In a world of hyper-competition, great customer experiences trigger repeat purchases, upgrade requests and attract new customers while service failures alienate customers. Thus, any improvement in service quality—any positive surprise, additional personalization or improved convenience—can secure revenues. SCM plays a pivotal role if managed properly.

To understand the customers’ experiences and their touch points with typical supply chain activities, we have developed a simple customer journey framework (see Figure 3). We use this framework to identify the supply-chain-related expectations and to learn where to best leverage new technologies to enhance customer experience.

20161117_supply_chain_4_0_the_customer_experience_scmr_pdf__page_5_of_9_Any customer journey starts with the “look for solution” stage. The customer is screening the market and would often like to have a first look and feel. SCM can boost the customer experience at this stage by enabling access to prototypes, by referring the customer to the right store or by shipping test sets. For example, Nilfisk, the market leader in professional cleaning equipment, ships test units to ensure it fits customer requirements.

The next stage of the customer journey is “codesign” if the product can be customized. Here, SCM can boost the experience by offering a wide choice of customization options with instant feedback on options, prices and lead times. It is crucial to connect the available stock in real time to the configuration or shop system—thus enabling reliable delivery time of the configured products. For example, Danfoss Power Solutions—a hydraulics manufacturer—uses a platform that enables “1 day from opportunity to order” to streamline the configuration. Once the customer decides to “buy,” his experience could be enhanced by omni-channel offerings. For example, a consumer could configure and order the product online and pick it up in a store or vice versa.

In the “deliver“ stage, a customer possibly has the most interaction with SCM—important is a short and accurate lead time quote, the ability to change the delivery date and delivery location or the proactive handling of any delivery issues. Nilfisk, for example, aims to inform a customer of any delay before the delivery date with a concrete proposal of alternatives, such as using a different, but more expensive mode of transport or offering an alternative product.

In the “use” stage, SCM can minimize the effort that goes into reordering consumables. Many companies presumably offer subscriptions of consumables to minimize the customer’s effort for ordering (while also locking the customer in)—real-time data enables the replenishment on time.

If a “repair” is required, the expectations are clear: A machine should be instantly repaired or exchanged to minimize downtimes. These expectations translate to SCM requirements such as the very high availability of spare parts, service technicians and express shipments.

Finally, in the “return & replace” stage, customers expect a simple process for return handling and proactive information about the product’s end-oflife. For example, German online fashion retailer Zalando equips packages with advanced glue to make it easy to re-pack the to-be-returned items in the same carton. The address label is already preprinted. In the extreme, the delivery person can wait for the customer to try on the items and take back the return immediately.

Key SC technologies

Based on the expectations outlined above, we identified eight technologies with a particular potential for a disruptive change (see Figure 4 for an overview).


Some technologies are prerequisites for enabling the full set of SC 4.0 technologies. Real time planning is enabled by Cloud platforms that integrate data from different supply chain partners such as information on prices, lead times, capacity or product availability. This information forms the basis for supply chain integration and real-time planning. For example, SAP and UPS will include the total landed cost calculation for industrial 3D-printed parts in their Fast Radius platform, including taxes, manufacturing and shipping costs. The platform enables real-time supply chain design for individual parts. Another example is Uber,  which tracks the location and status of its associates to ensure that customers are served instantly with rides or future services such as parcel delivery or grocery shopping. Other companies are focusing their efforts on integrating inventory information to create multichannel visibility. However, many firms still struggle to provide real-time information due to legacy systems and overnight synchronization.

A second basic technology is supply chain analytics that leverages the data gathered for making better decisions. Analytics can be used along the entire supply chain to schedule production in line with expected supplier deliveries, to route trucks through the network or to analyze when a customer has the highest probability to be home to accept a delivery. Analytics provider Blue Yonder has developed forecasting methods now deployed in retailing where 130,000 SKUs and 200 influencing variables generate 150,000,000 probability distributions every day to ensure the right products are replenished in each store. Forecast accuracy can be significantly increased, thus saving on inventory and supply chain cost. More importantly, firms can move toward a just-in-time retail supply chain up to the supplier. In a transportation application, UPS has spent 10 years developing its On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation system (Orion) to optimize routes in real time according to traffic. While cost reduction is often the trigger of analytics initiatives, customers benefit from reduced stock-outs and more accurate delivery slots.

Digital manufacturing is currently transforming operations triggering fundamental changes for the customer. In particular, digital manufacturing enables smaller lot sizes and more efficient customization. For example, traditional offset printing requires firms to produce large piles of books even if demand is uncertain. In contrast, publishers using digital printing can start with small lots and reprint as required. Similarly, additive manufacturing (3D printing) allows tool-less production, thus decreasing lot sizes to one. In addition, additive manufacturing enables manufacturers to customize products as required. For example, the hearing aid industry quickly adopted 3D printing to personalize cases to the patient’s ear. However, traditional manufacturing technologies can also benefit from customization as digitization allows the efficient creation of individual bills of materials and production plans. For example, Adidas is currently exploring its Speedfactory concept, which enables largely automated manufacturing of custom-made shoes inside their stores.

To fully leverage these benefits, companies require user-friendly product customization platforms where customers can design products according to their requirements. Many companies have simple Internet product configurators that allow users to browse and choose different options, colors and materials. Well-known examples are companies like Timbuk2, which allows the creation of customized messenger bags, and Adidas or Nike for sports shoes. However, as digital manufacturing technologies advance, platforms need to go beyond pure product configuration. Customers should be able to easily add free-form extras, receive a feasibility check and get a price quote and reliable lead-time estimations. Shapeways, for example, allows customers to upload and sell their designs for 3D printing through its Website. While available materials are prescribed by Shapeways, it sets certain technical boundaries to ensure that the product can be manufactured.

Smart sensors in the supply chain change the way data is gathered. Sensors are considered smart since they gather data and then share the information via the Internet. Sensors can be physically integrated into a product and used to track the location of a truck, to provide status information on a machine’s condition or to trigger effects as customers approach a retail shelf. Other sensors can also be attached to a product as required. For example, DHL tests sensors that are placed in a cargo container or shipping box to measure temperature, pressure and light exposure. Based on the gathered data, the user knows if the product has been stored out-of-specifications or if the box was opened without authorization.

Inventory tracking is a logical extension of smart sensors that are becoming particularly important in a SC 4.0 context. While different technologies have
been applied to track inventory in the retail store, the new generation of sensors will enable inventory tracking at the point-of-consumption. Many firms are introducing technologies that use image recognition to detect inventory levels. For example, Würth, a large wholesaler of fasteners and screws, has introduced the iBin that uses a built-in camera inside a bin to track the inventory levels of C-parts. In a consumer environment, Diageo has equipped Johnnie Walker bottles with tags that can provide information if a bottle has been opened. Likewise, Budweiser has been testing fridges that track the number of remaining bottles to improve the reordering process. Manufacturers of other devices such as household fridges currently introduce inventory tracking technologies that could enable a next-generation VMI at the consumer, resulting in further reduction of inventories and boosting convenience.

Low-/no-touch order processing. A key step to further streamline the order fulfilment process is to minimize the manual effort for order processing. Amazon’s dash button highlights how processes can be simplified if customers are not willing to engage into subscription models or vendor managed inventory. The button is connected to Wi-Fi and is configured with a smartphone to represent a specific product, such as a diaper or a razor blade. The customer can trigger a new order by just pushing the button. However, to ensure that replenishments of individual items are profitable, all fulfilment activities must be carefully aligned to minimize human intervention, including picking, packing, delivery and administration.

New delivery options. While a lot of energy has been spent on the efficient delivery to the customer, new delivery technologies will continue to change the game. Logistics service providers have been rolling out new delivery options like smart public and personal parcel lockers that enable customers to pick up their goods as required. As an example, Audi and DHL are testing the delivery of packages right into the trunk of the customer’s car, which is connected to a network so that it can be opened remotely. Amazon’s drone delivery has been widely discussed in the popular press although certain obstacles remain unsolved. Other companies such as Starship Technologies promote autonomous robots (“bots”) on the street for delivery to the end customer. In B2B settings, new delivery options are focusing on automatic loading and unloading that reduce manual effort and enable 24/7 deliveries.

Two customer experience visions leveraging SC 4.0

To show how customers can benefit from these new technologies, we give two examples—one in a consumer setting and one in a B2B setting. Let’s start with a consumer product everybody uses: a washing machine.

Figure 5 outlines the customer experience vision for a washing machine with SC 4.0 technology. In a first step, the customer could decide to customize the machine on the OEM’s Website according to her specific requirements, based on size, features and colors. Chinese white goods manufacturer Haier already uses such a model and even offers the customer the chance to watch the production in the transparent factory using Webcams—with this idea Haier aims to achieve “zero distance from the customer.” The product configurator not only enables an instant price quotation, but also provides a reliable delivery date based on realtime production schedules, capacities and availability of components. If the consumer is not willing to wait for production of the individualized washing machine, she can buy a similar model that is already available in a store. The OEM’s Website automatically proposes relevant models based on a preference-commonality analysis and shows availability from certified retailers in the customer’s neighborhood to enable a product demonstration. If the consumer decides to place an order, she can choose a specific delivery date (and time) based on the current transportation capacity/standard routing. However, the customer can still easily change the delivery time as the routing of the delivery truck is adjusted on the fly.

20161117_supply_chain_4_0_the_customer_experience_scmr_pdf__page_7_of_9_Once the washing machine is installed at home, the customer can benefit from a new built-in detergent cartridge. German premium manufacturer Miele already offers a smart washing machine that automatically dispenses detergent based on weight, quality of the water (e.g., lime content) and stain of the load. The cartridge’s filling is constantly monitored and the customer is notified on her smartphone when it is time to replace the cartridge. With the push of a button she can trigger the replenishment order or take advantage of customized promotions. For customer convenience, the cartridge can then be delivered wherever the customer would like to have it, including the trunk of the car while it is parked at work. Besides detergent inventory, the smart washing machine also monitors its status and informs the customer (and the OEM) about abnormal vibrations or water leakage. Thus, service technician visits are scheduled and the technician can already bring a selection of spare parts most likely to be required. As the machine’s life ends or the OEM decides to phase out support for the model, the OEM can use the information on the installed base on machine status to make customized replacement offers. Leveraging the machine data will increase the lifetime of the washing machine.

Figure 6 outlines a SC 4.0 enabled customer experience vision for a telecom operator that is frequently placing large orders for telecom network equipment.

20161117_supply_chain_4_0_the_customer_experience_scmr_pdf__page_8_of_9_In the design phase, a Web-based product configurator enables the telecom operator to customize products according to his requirement. The tool includes a decision-support model that provides additional technical information about all components, covering topics such as the range, noise ratio or operating conditions, to help select the right parts. It ensures the right coverage for the telecom operator and integrates parts from second-tier suppliers to ensure a one-stop shop for the customer.

As new products are integrated, the software automatically checks compatibility with the customer’s current installed products. In the buying phase, the customer receives a nearly instantaneous quotation in a low-touch process. Thus, the telecom operator is able to configure and order the new network upgrade technology within hours. The administrative effort to manage the order will decrease significantly, thus reducing cost. In addition, the OEM can quickly propose substitutes for out-of-stock items.

Technology enables many improvements for product delivery. In particular, customers are able to easily phase and change delivery times and locations as required. Once the delivery arrives, customers no longer need to count the expensive parts; instead, they can use RFID or camera-based technologies to ensure that shipments are complete. To ensure that highly sensitive parts like electronics or antennas are undamaged, customers can check gyro sensors on the pallets and boxes. Similar to acceleration sensors in smartphones, the gyro sensors measure vibrations, shock or impact. Thus, it is possible to track if (and when) any damage was inflicted during transportation—this will be of tremendous help in the claims process.

During the use phase, customers receive software updates that will improve performance and create features. Some of the features are free while others might require additional payments similar to Tesla’s autopilot where owners have to pay as much as $3,500 to upgrade. In this context, telecom operators could also take advantage of additional switching capacity that can be activated over the Web. This is already well known in computing. For example, IBM’s “capacity on demand” offerings allows users to activate any of the inactive processors on their servers as required. Using these options, customers do not require costly physical shipment and installation and might also extend capacity on a temporary basis.

Disruption 4.0

SC 4.0 will disrupt the way we set up and operate our supply chains—and also change the customer experience—from configuring the product to delivery and repair. Customers will benefit from more choices, added convenience and simpler and more reliable processes. However, firms need to identify and implement
the solutions in their supply chains that provide a business case. To do so, commercial and supply chain departments must work together from opportunity identification to the seamless integration of both processes and supporting technologies. A clear focus on customer experience helps to identify the opportunities and to quantify the impact including how to further shorten lead times, leverage available information, provide access to information that typically isn’t available.

To implement SC 4.0, firms need to overcome many obstacles. In particular, they need to realistically evaluate a technology’s maturity and potential to avoid hypes like supermarket-RFID where expectations went as far as having a tag on every yogurt. Further, firms have to deal with legacy IT architectures, engage with new external partners and quantify the impact new technologies have on the customer’s behavior. In particular, they must convince customers to give up privacy: Only data access and (partial) customer buy-in will enable new integrated processes.

Ultimately, companies need to change the way they operate and improve their supply chains—implementing the speed of a start-up company in a legacy organization is a challenging task, but will provide the right agility. Allowing projects to fail, hiring and nurturing digital talent and thus changing the spirit of an organization will be key for success.

We would like to end with a recommendation. While it might be a long way for some firms to leverage all opportunities of digitization there is an important takeaway: Be sure to build your customer experience vision; digital or not.

By Kai Hoberg is an associate professor of Supply Chain and Operations Strategy at Kuehne Logistics University. Knut Alicke is a master expert in the Supply Chain Practice at McKinsey & Company.  Source:

Lean Product

The Five Types of Virality for Product to Grow

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Every entrepreneur has the dream of making their startup’s product go viral. But too often this is couched in a naïve understanding of virality. “Let’s make our app viral!” Or your investors ask you, “Can you take your app and add a little bit more virality?” (I often hear this described as growth hacking, too.)

Sometimes it feels like people believe virality is just magic pixie dust that can be sprinkled on anything. Fortunately, it’s much more concrete than that. But to understand how virality works, you first have to know that not all virality is the same. Many successful companies have done distinct things to help make their products go viral, all in completely different ways. So I thought it would be helpful to try to classify the disparate approaches.

If you’re trying to build your company and grow your product, it helps to think as specifically as possible about how to get your product in front of people. You can engineer features that will amplify the chances that people will want to try it. Of course first, you have to make a great product that people love. Once they love it, they’ll talk about it more. But how do you actually feed them the language to talk about it and enhance that word of mouth experience? How do you remind them to talk about it when they’re having a great experience? Or later? You need to understand what’s inside your core users’ minds, and use that knowledge to help them share your product through whatever means makes the most sense.

Do you need to build incentive programs into your product and marketing plans? Or, if people are making something tangible and shareable with your product, like pictures, how do you get them to share it in a way that other people will be naturally exposed to the product? And then how do you make sure that the flow of interested people actually converts to new users as seamlessly as possible?

The most basic element common to all these different types virality is inception. The goal of all viral efforts is to insert (or “incept”) an idea of what a product can do into someone else’s head, and to get them so excited about it they want to try it and use it. That’s the most important component of any type of virality. What is that little sentence, that little hook, that little reason why somebody actually wants to try your product out?

So here’s what I’ve found are the five main types ways a product can do this. Do you have another way I didn’t cover here? I’d love to hear about it.


Word-of-mouth virality

This one is straightforward: It’s simply a product being so good that people can’t help telling their friends about it. For example, when Google was just taking off, people would notice you searching on Alta Vista or Infoseek or another search engine and they’d tell you “use Google, the search is so much better.” So the next time you did a search, you’d try it, and pretty soon you’d be telling others about it too.

A couple of years ago, when we got our first iPhone apps, geeks like me were telling everyone they knew about Evernote, because it lets you sync notes between your computer and your smartphone. It often happened when you’d see someone taking notes on their phone, and they’d tell you they were using Evernote and how simple it was to keep one copy of the notes everywhere.

One other key to word of mouth virality is making sure your product is easy to find later. Having a name that is easy to remember, *and to spell* certainly helps (Google is easier than Googol — the number it was named after). Missing vowels and doubled letters, not having the right domain name or app store name always make it trickier. One test I like to do when trying out new company names is check the typeahead in the App Store. If you are calling your application InstaGreatCoolThing, you might realize users typing ahead will see Instagram and similar apps before yours (until you are as big as Instagram).

The other key is to make sure your product is easy to describe. The words you use to describe your product — on your home page, in your press messaging, and in the product itself will be the foundation of how your users describe it. This is really important because it’s how your users will incept other users with what your product does. Funny side features like Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” or Facebook’s “Poke” often help to make the description memorable too. If you don’t have a pithy way to describe your product, you should assume your users won’t be able to either.

Incentivized word-of-mouth virality

This is similar to word-of-mouth, but with a little added incentive for people to refer their friends. For instance, 15 years ago, Paypal would give you $10 if you referred a friend and they created an account. Similarly, Dropbox and Uber have used incentives to great effect. Refer a friend and they’ll get more free storage (and you too), or a discount on their first ride.

It helps when the incentive works both ways, as a coupon for the new users as well as an reward for the referring user when the recipient creates a new account. Because you are paying for it and discounting your service, it’s not quite as clean or pure as word-of-mouth, but it can be very effective.

Demonstration virality

Demonstration virality is when the nature of a product is such that, simply by using it, people are showing it off. One great example is Instagram: In 2010 it was fairly difficult to get photos off your phone and into some useful place, so Instagram added tools for people to easily share their photos out to Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. Instagram’s filters naturally caught people’s attention on those networks. It provoked an instant “How did you do that?” reaction.

You can see Prisma blowing up this summer in the same way. You can create these incredible, stained-glass-like artworks with it, and then share them on Instagram or wherever. Of course people want to know how did you did that, so they’ll ask you — or they can see the little Prisma logo on the image, and then go get the app themselves. spreads in a similar way as users and influencers create very cool music videos and then share them on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and people decide to try to make their own.

Another example is Pinterest. If I create a pinboard of fun GIFs or wedding ideas or recipes, and I share it, the act of sharing is a built-in advertisement for Pinterest’s awesomeness.

Even Uber benefited from demonstration virality early on. You’d show up to a meeting in a black car and people would be like, “Dude, where did you get the limo?” Or you’d be leaving a party and you’d just press the Uber button and a car showed up for you. Meanwhile, your friends were trying to hail cabs or call for rides. Just by using Uber, you were a walking advertisement for the product and how much better it was.

Infectious virality

Infectious virality is when a product is designed in a way that people will work to get other people using it because it will make it better for both of them. It’s when one user is “infecting” another with the virus, I mean the product so that they are both hooked. For example, Snapchat users have a big incentive to encourage their friends to download Snapchat so they can send photos back and forth in a more authentic and safe way. Twitter works the same way: If you follow me on Twitter I’ll have more followers, and you can see what I’m doing and tweeting, and it’ll be great for both of us. Nextdoor is a really interesting example where even though people might not know their neighbors, they can send them postcards to invite them and make the neighborhood community larger and more productive for everyone. And of course LinkedIn and Facebook are the canonical examples of infectious virality where people invited you to be their colleagues or friends on the service.

Invitations are the key to spreading infectious virality. However — false invitations or overly spammy invitations often have a deleterious effect on virality. When someone invites you to a service only because they invited their entire address book, it doesn’t feel personal or connected. And if you sign up and the person doesn’t even use the product, then the likelihood for the next person to become active diminishes greatly.

This is what most people think of as classic virality, because it’s how we’ve seen social networks and communication networks spread. And who doesn’t love the special feeling of being “invited” to a product by their friend? But infectious virality doesn’t and shouldn’t apply to all products. Being invited into a product that isn’t naturally social doesn’t really work. So use this method carefully and make sure it really applies to your product.

Outbreak virality

Finally, some things just spread because they’re fun to share, or because they’ve got a lot of popular momentum and people want to look cool by sharing them. YouTube videos blow up because they’re funny, or addictive, and it’s just fun to share them with your friends.

In a similar way, Pokémon Go took off this summer in part because everyone was doing it, and it was just fun to tell your friends about it and to participate yourself. Of course, there are other aspects to this game’s success, such as the fact that it was leveraging a very established, beloved brand, but it also benefited from this virtuous circle of fun, popularity, and sharing.

Putting it all together

When you understand the different tools and that they all work differently, you can design or build virality into your product in a way that’s very natural.

I often see founders saying something like, “I’m just going to add an invite flow to my product.” That doesn’t work in most cases. If it’s not well positioned and well integrated, an invite flow is just going to produce a bunch of ineffective invites that won’t convert into new users. It might just bring in a bunch of transient users who don’t stick around. You don’t want to try infectious virality unless it really is applicable — that you want each user to bring another user into the product experience so that it will be better for both of them. If your product is about creating content or having experiences that are easy to show off, it’s often much better to focus on demonstration virality. And if your product costs money and has value, an incentivized word of mouth strategy can really pay off.

When you successfully create that moment of inception, and get the idea of your product into someone’s mind, you do need to follow that up with a smooth new-user flow. The person who shows up to your website or the App Store is ready to try it. They are excited to try it and give your product some attention. This is your best chance ever to get them to learn more about what the product does and get it set up for their value. You need to start the onboarding process right so the product has a chance to become a habit, and then for that user to spread it to the next set of people.

It’s entirely possible to have mass deception, where you find a good growth hack and get a bunch of people show up and try your product quickly. But if you’ve enticed them for the wrong reason, they don’t actually adopt the product, or if they do, they don’t stick around long enough to feed the next round of viral adoption. So whenever you’re thinking about engineering virality, you need to be sure that it’s reaching the right people, gets them interested for reasons that align with the intrinsic value of your product, and leads them to the right actions.

I still remember when I was first invited to Snapchat. A friend texted me to join them so we could send funny faces back and forth and they would be deleted. When I joined up, the first thing he did was send me a funny face and we ended up having a lot of fun with it. The viral hook connected directly with my first use. Over time we learned to send a lot more types of communication together and added more and more friends and it took off. But if Snapchat had offered free beer to everyone who signed up for Snapchat, they might have driven a lot of new users even faster, but those people would all be gone as soon as they finished the beer.

Remember, at the end of the day, there’s only one metric that really matters: How many people are actually using your product. Not downloading it, not clicking on it, not trying it for a day. Actually using it. So your viral techniques all need to be aligned toward the goal of increasing the number of actual users.

By Josh Elman, Partner at Greylock, Product Guy in Twitter, Facebook Connect, Zazzle, LinkedIn, RealPlayer.  Source:

Highlights Lean Startup

Entrepreneurial Stress: 10 Scenarios and Their Solutions

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Entrepreneurship is not easy, and it is not for everyone. The reason lies in the exact quote: putting Sundays in the same phrase as Fridays. Just as this award-winning article on Inc. states, there is a psychological cost involved when having your own business. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index shows that 34% of entrepreneurs reported high anxiety levels. That’s 4% more than employees. And 45% of entrepreneurs said they experience stress very often. That’s another 3% more than other workers. So things got real. And it’s okay; there are ways to deal with them.

Check out these 10 entrepreneurial stress scenarios and solutions.

Identifying The Triggers and Solutions

The first thing to keep in mind is to identify early-stage triggers. Here are things that can cause you pain and uneasiness, and this is how to deal with them:

1. Impossibility to differentiate between private and business life

The problem: Sometimes, having a home-based business can be too big of a burden. While you don’t have to pay for an office downtown, and save time with commuting, it can turn against you if you don’t stick to a routine or schedule. Don’t get buried in work at home just because you can do it all day, all night.

Solutions: Ideally, get an office close to your home. Walk there or bike instead of taking your personal car, Uber, or public transportation. This will help you separate your office life from your private one. If you don’t want to give up your home-based office, then create a schedule and stick to it. This means, taking a day off at least once a week. This habit will have great benefits for the brain and productivity – backed by research.

2. Not having a private life at all

The problem: We tend to withdraw from social life under the premise of attributing the right focus to our businesses. While being focused is a great business practice, it can backfire if done in an exhaustive manner. We all need moments with friends, family and loved ones; they help us go through rough times and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Solutions: Social aspects are imperative to a healthy lifestyle and can help relief stress. More vacations and parties with family and friends. This is a good way to resuscitate your social circles. Reconnect with college or high school former colleagues. Go to networking events in your city and in other cities. If you’re single, don’t be afraid to date and ask people out – the worst thing that can happen is you get to discover another human being, which is not so bad!

3. Failure and self-doubt

The problem: In your entrepreneurial journey, expect to fail and fail again. But do not fear the word “failure.” Failure is the source of your lessons and knowledge. Don’t let your doubts get in the way. It’s not a matter of “not being good enough,” but rather of growth and learning.

Solutions: Self-doubt is something you have to work on yourself. The best way to do it is through self-rediscovery, which can be difficult to achieve when in physical proximity to your business HQs. Join a yoga or meditation camp outside the city. Go backpacking or hitchhiking. Mountains or the seaside in an off-season can provide a huge reset button and help your mind relax. Enthusiastic travelers can enjoy this summer end’s 20% off sale from EagleCreek. The main idea? Whatever you decide to do, and wherever you choose to go, book two weeks off. Period.

4. Bad routines

The problem:: Having a routine can be a double-edged knife. While it can settle things and help you become more organized, sometimes routines can mess up growth opportunities. To give you an example: a bad routine would be driving your car to your office every day. Or checking your email every 30 minutes. Or getting just 4 hours of sleep per night.

Solution: Decrease the number of bad routines and replace them with good ones. An example of a good routine: hydrotherapy every evening, for 30 minutes. This involves creating a relaxation corner in your bathroom (see suggestion below by ACS designer bathrooms) and spending quality quiet time, accompanied by instrumental music, candles, and aromatherapy oils. Allow access to plenty of light and if possible, have it accompanied by a nice window view to a garden or park. Repeat daily.

Other examples include 10 minutes of meditation per day. 30 minutes of daily exercise. Eat three meals per day, your dinner no later than 7pm. Get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night, and go to sleep at approximately the same hour every night.

5. Falling out of love with your passion(s)

The problem: Everyone can fall out of love with their passions. Being “married” to your business doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be any downs along the way.

Solution: When that happens, instead of stressing out, calm down and think of how you can improve your experience. Sometimes, you don’t have to let go of the passion; you just have to rediscover it, or add a complementary one to the bigger picture. Volunteering also helps in the passion rediscovery process, as it is an action not driven by financial means, but by inner motivation.

6. Letting go

The problem: Sometimes you don’t have to let it go. Other times, you do. When you are forced to let go, there is this battle inside between the person who wants to keep things as they are and the leader who wants to break from the chains. This also applies when you have to fire great people (see what Moz had to say about letting go of 28% of their staff) or give up good clients.

Solution: Surround yourself with people who understand that this is the best decision, whether it concerns you or your employees/clients. In dealing with loss of any nature, the cycle of recovery is to: 1) Let go., 2) Accept, 3) Forgive (yourself), 4) Move onDon’t let your world end after the first. Carry on, be open to new challenges!

7. Losing synchronization with your clients/associates

The problem: When your business is more than just a product/service/both, the main direction is creating long-term collaborations with your customers and community. Sometimes, however, things don’t go as planned. Even a business relationship that has history can fall apart.

Solution: If you’re falling out of sync with a client or an associate, discuss and be transparent about your feelings. A business relationship that stopped working can become a huge stress factor. Solving it usually comes from both parties. It won’t work if only one side makes the effort.

8. Losing interest in a project

The problem: It’s not just the clients you can fall out of sync with. Or the business partners. Or the team. It’s also the projects. Some ideas just don’t motivate the entrepreneur in you or are not aligned with your core focus. If you’ve lost interest for a topic, don’t let it become an element of displeasure in your life.

Solution: First, inform the other party about your feelings toward the project. Then, transform the process, from management changes, to tools, communication channels, an upgrade on expectations, mission and vision. Try new approaches. If nothing can trigger a solution, walk away, but not before recommending someone else for the task.

Remember to always leave room for friendship. This project may be a goner, but the future is bright.

9. Public “judgment day”

The problem: The way people see and talk about you can become quite stressful. As entrepreneurs and leaders, we are often viewed as examples for the communities we are part of. Not only that, but it can feel like failure is not an option. Somehow, because you are in control of your business, people will not allow you to screw up. And when you do, people start talking, analyzing, and mentioning you in their “mistakes to avoid” round-ups on websites and social media. How can you deal with that?

Solution: Don’t fear what people have to say about your successes and failures. People will talk. And there’s nothing you can do to change their mind. Like Socrates once said, “Strong minds discuss ideas, weak minds discuss people.” I would add: Strong people are not afraid to show their vulnerabilities in public. And, to ease out the stress, just have a good laugh about it. It helps!

10. Financial stress

The problem: Sometimes, not getting it right can have a huge impact on your finances, especially when you bet everything on one business idea. As this entrepreneur says, “Debt doesn’t make you a good entrepreneur, and you need to get out of it asap.” But that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Sometimes, debt can be a huge motivator, though not an ideal one, in getting things done.

Solution: Start by clearly evaluating what you can do to minimize costs. Whether it’s cutting staff numbers or giving up on fat salary flyers for yourself, buying cheaper technology or repurposed equipment, you do what you have to do to get out of financial struggles. 1% reduction of debt means earning an extra percent for a clear mind. While not advisable to go fully optimistic and ignore your problems, it doesn’t hurt having a bit of hope that things are going the right way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Nowadays, there are crowdfunding alternatives, Kiva being one of them for micro-entrepreneurs.

So Where Does This Leave Us?

Entrepreneurial stress is a reality, whether we like it or not. And, as with any reality, the best possible way to deal with it is to accept it and find solutions that can improve it. There are many stories out there about entrepreneurs who had it extremely rough in the beginning. That doesn’t mean yours should be just as tough too.

But hey, if that happens, you’ll just come out stronger.

Love this article? Share it with your friends on social media.


Infographics Lean Startup

Startup Founders Salaries: Why Less Is More #infographic

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It’s no surprise many entrepreneurs dream of becoming millionaires. After all, the startups we always hear about are the wildly successful ones. Mark Zuckerberg is now one of the top 20 richest people in the world after starting Facebook in his college dorm room, and Jeff Bezos is worth billions after starting Amazon out of his garage.

But most startup founders are far from billionaires, even if their companies are successful. In fact, the majority of startup founders make less than $50,000 per year.

There are more than 20 million startups around the world. A key to whether they succeed or not is how much the founders pay themselves. According to a study by Compass, a benchmarking company, 75% of startup founders in Silicon Valley have a salary below $75,000 and 66% below $50,000.

If your top priority is to get rich from your startup, you might be better off working your way up the ladder in a more traditional career in an established company.

Wondering exactly how startup founders determine their salaries, and how all these factors that come in to play? Check out the statistics below and the numbers might surprise you.

Startup Founder Salaries: Why Less Is More #infographic

Infographic by: whoishostingthis

Cognitive Computing

4 Ways Every Business Needs To Use Artificial Intelligence


The field of artificial intelligence got its start at a conference at Dartmouth in 1956. Optimism ran high and it was believed that machines would be able to do the work of humans within 20 years. Alas, it was not to be. By the 1970’s, funding dried up and the technology entered the period known as the AI winter.

Clearly, much has changed since then. In 2011, IBM’s Watson system beat the best human players in the game show Jeopardy! More recently, Google’s DeepMind had similar success against Go Champion Lee Sedol. Microsoft has also opened a cognitive services division and others are sure to follow.

Yet for all the dazzling technological wizardry, we’ve seen little effect on most businesses. Artificial intelligence, much like PC’s in the early 80’s or the Internet in the early 90’s, remains little more than a curiosity for most managers. So I talked to Josh Sutton, who heads up the AI practice at Publicis.Sapient, to learn about what we can expect in the years to come.

1. Virtual Assistance

The first and most obvious way to use artificial intelligence is for virtual assistance. Many have already had the experience of speaking into a phone to search for answers to basic questions, like who invented the paperclip or directions to the nearest gas station. It’s become so commonplace that we rarely stop to think that it would have seemed like science fiction a decade ago.

Now we’re also seeing companies deploy chatbots for a variety of uses. The most obvious is customer service. Although some believe that this causes more problems than it solves, because the last thing a customer with a problem wants is to get stuck talking to a machine, there is potential in blending machine driven assistance with human customer service.

For example, when there is a spike in demand for customer service, such as when a plane is delayed or when cable service unexpectedly goes out, an artificial intelligence service can be used to answer simple questions, like what other flights are available or when service is expected to be restored. Deployed in this way, customer service can actually be enhanced, by allowing human agents to focus on more thorny problems.

Marketers are also seeing the value of chatbots. For example the Hello Barbie chatbot allows little girls to have conversations with their favorite toy, while Lionsgate films created a chatbot app to help market its film, Now You See Me 2.

Sutton told me that, “Chatbots and virtual assistants are enabling a fundamental shift in how people interact with technology. I believe that over the next decade we will see virtual assistants become a core part of our normal experience across almost all of the activities that we engage in during a normal day.”

2. Generating Insights

Data has been called the new oil because it is essentially the raw material of the digital economy. What used to be trapped in a vast maze of incompatible database and protocols — or worse, filing cabinets — is now quickly becoming a fungible commodity that can be accessed by new technology platforms like Hadoop and Spark.

Yet much like oil, data is largely useless without effective machinery to transform it into something of value. That’s the role that machine learning is starting to play. Today’s systems can not only take in billions billions of data points and analyze them in minutes, they can also learn from the data and get better over time.

For example, Sutton and his team at Publicis.Sapient have used machine learning technology to build a system that can predict a consumer’s demand for a mortgage based on specific life events as well as market-based factors. This allows loan originators to identify high value prospects earlier and increase deal flow.

What makes artificial intelligence systems so powerful is that, unlike purely statistical approaches, they can learn. That allows them to adapt when market behavior changes as well as continually improve performance as more data comes in.

3. Automation of Manual Processes

One of the constants throughout the rise of technology is the automation of work. First, came labor saving machines such as tractors and home appliances and later industrial robots and basic systems to automate things like travel reservations arrived. Today, more advanced robots are even able to work alongside humans in factories.

Yet David Autor, an economist at MIT sees a new era of automation emerging, where the primary division of labor is not blue collar vs. white collar, but routine vs. nonroutine work. In other words, artificial intelligence is quickly automating routine cognitive processes much as industrial era machines automated physical work.

This is a trend that is already very much underway. Smart algorithms are already replacing junior lawyers for legal discovery and companies like Narrative Science can do routine journalistic work, such as summarizing box scores and financial reports. These technologies not only do a very capable job, they can work 24 hours a day without coffee breaks.

Publicis.Sapient helps its clients automate routine processes in a very similar way. For example, a bank can use artificial intelligence to automate the very labor intensive process of compiling data from various reports, including industry reports not found in standard databases, and perform an analysis to determine a particular firm’s profitability.

4. Unlocking Unstructured Data

Traditionally, almost all of the data we analyzed was structured data, the kind that gets captured and stored in a database. So we were reasonably good at deriving insights from data generated for that purpose, like sales from a cash register or answers to a consumer survey, but most everything else got lost.

That’s a bigger problem than most realize, because structured data represents only a small part of the information available to us. In fact, it has been estimated that 80% of digital data is unstructured. “Analyzing unstructured data is a small area today, but over the next ten years I think it will be the most impactful,” Sutton says.

To understand the how important this data can be, he offered the example of an energy company that needs to lay a gas pipeline. What was built there before? How has the area been used? What problems had arisen in the past? Much of this information resides in old inspection reports and training manuals that have been sitting on a shelf somewhere for years.

Another area of potential is the ability to understand consumer conversations. One company, Mattersight, uses call center conversations to identify customers’ personality types, so that they can be served by someone with a compatible service style. We are really just beginning to unlock the potential of unstructured data.

An Operating System For Data

In 1936, Alan Turing invented the idea of a universal computer, but for a long time it was just that, an idea. Computers were largely specialized machines that were built to perform a very narrow range of tasks, like scientific computations or back office functions such as handling payrolls. In effect, computers were little more than calculating machines.

That began to change in the 1970’s when operating systems came into wide usage, which allowed computers to easily switch from running one application to another. Soon after, the rise of personal computing made it possible for someone to easily switch from writing a document, to balancing a budget to shooting aliens in a video game.

We’re at a similar point now. Theoretically, we have access to mountains of data, but practically we have little ability to derive insights from most of it. We are drowning in data more than anything else. That’s the true potential for artificial intelligence, to be an operating system for data so that we can derive its full benefits.

“If the Internet gave us access to on-demand data, an AI-first world will give the world on-demand insight,” Sutton says. We are entering a new era of cognitive collaboration in which machines become far more than just agents to perform tasks, but help us to understand the world and make better decisions.


By Greg Satell, SVP – Strategy & Innovation at Moxie Interactive


Growth Hacks Infographics

The Definitive Guide Growth Hacking #Infographic

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Today, many online businesses enthusiastic are struggling with their confusion about the concept of growth hacking and customer acquisition strategies, mainly because there are only a few reliable growth hacking guide for entrepreneurs

Many digital marketers spend hours applying so called growth hacking techniques that they have read from here and there without paying close attention to the most important factors that can boost their conversion rate, Obviously the result is not satisfactory. The main reason they can’t achieve a great result is overlooking the value of a lean Business Model, and unique value proposition.

The secret to success with your growth hacking strategy is to have a proven framework in place, and align your growth marketing initiatives with your business plan. Following a proven growth pattern can increase your success ratio, significantly. Generally, you can break down the growth hacking framework into 3 steps: attract, activate, and engage.

Check out the below definitive guide for growth hacking Gifographic (animated infographic). It is fun to read and very informative as it explained the four essential steps of customer acquisition process, and growth hacking strategy.

The Definitive Guide Growth Hacking #Infographic

Source: Visualistan

Infographics Lean Product

Design Trends 2016 #Infographic

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Design principles are timeless, but the past few years have been amazing for great design. More organizations are beginning to value design as a competitive advantage. A cohesive design strategy moves beyond just the web and print, as it expands to mobile and other platforms. The best design trends will continue, but we’ll also start to see more innovate new ideas appear. Lets take a look at what we can expect in 2016.

Design Trends 2016 #Infographic

Source: Visualistan

Digital Marketing Infographics

6 Steps to Creating a Successful Infographic for Your Business #Infographic

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Want to boost your referral traffic and generate more social shares from your content? Then craft engaging infographics. Here’s how to get started.

First, “identify what your target audience will be interested in,” states SerpLogic in its infographic. “A successful infographic will highlight the expertise of the company creating it while satisfying the interest of its audience.”

Second, choose the type of infographic—static, motion, or interactive—to create.

Next, “source the content and data points for the infographic,” recommends SerpLogic. “Reference all data to give credit to the original source of information.”

For more tips on creating a successful infographic, check out the infographic:

uv8z0v2Why Infographics Should Be Part of Your SEO Strategy

By Veronica Jarski is the Opinions editor and a senior writer at MarketingProfs.

Big Data

The power of predictive analytics

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Forecasting sales with predictive analytics is a valuable business asset, but must be used with care and in-depth understanding.


Source: Raconteur Media

Infographics Leadership

20 Habits of Unsuccessful and Ineffective Leaders #Infographic

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What not to do if you want to succeed in leadership? These are habits best avoided, if possible!


1. Believe They have All The Answers

They know that the reason that they have been put in charge is that they are smarter and better than everyone else. So when it comes to deciding strategy, solving problems, or resolving issues, there is no need, or point in involving anyone else.

2. React, Don’t Respond

Driven by their emotions, they react quickly to situations without worrying about factsor the repercussions of their actions.

They can always show good emotional intelligence by apologizing later.

3. Take Big Risks, The Bigger The Better

They like to gamble and take big risks. Believing in the adage “Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained” and that Smart Risk taking is for wimps.

When I questioned a decision that one boss was taking his response was, “that’s not your concern I get paid big bucks to take the big risks and make the tough calls.”

Personally, I though he got paid the big bucks to take the right risks and to be successful, but what did I know.

4. Believe That Talking About It and Doing It Are The Same Thing

I always remember the first boss I worked for, when the CEO asked him how it was going, he said: “It’s going great, we have been discussing the problem for two days now.” The only problem was that was two days that the business couldn’t operate, and we were no closer to finding a solution.

5. Focus On Blame Not Solutions

It’s better to know who’s fault it is so that we can fire them and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

6. Believe Their Own PR

There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance; the former helps build trust in the leader, the latter destroys it. As soon as you start to believe your own PR, then you are leaning more towards arrogance and starting down a path that is going to end in tears.

7. Don’t Waste Valuable Time on Planning And Preparation

Sometimes you just have to dive and get it done. Don’t worry about what’s involved, or whether you’re focused on the symptom or root cause, just do it. My favorite comment was “we can’t  afford to spend time and money on planning; we just need to get started”.

Which was interesting because we found the time and money to do it again correctly, after that first attempt failed badly.

8. Hire People Beneath Them

As a leader, it is critical that you are the most skillful and knowledgeable member of the team, that way everyone can focus on their job rather than working out how they could replace you.

I worked at one company where the boss told me that he liked to recruit from the bottom quartile because it kept the costs down. He then added, “the only problem with that was the results sucked.”

9. Focus Instant success

It’s all about results, and if we find that they are not coming, then we need to move quickly on to another topic.

They believe that a lot of short-term success will lead to long-terms success.

10. Focus On The Big Picture, Not The Details

Don’t worry about the details, focus on the big picture, as that will keep you motivated. We all know the devil is in the details, but that could lead to concerns, a lack of belief and even worse de-motivation.

11. Focus on Weaknesses Not Strengths

As leaders we cannot have or show any weaknesses, so we need to work on eliminating them, or failing that, hiding them.

12. Confuse Stubbornness With Determination

“Winners never quit, and quitters never win” is a great approach to achieving results.

However you’re bordering on stubbornness if your approach is failing but you refuse to change it.

13. Don’t Play Well With Others

It’s hard to play well with others when you adapt a command and control approach to leadership. People like to be led not managed.

14. Think Praise is For Wimps

It’s ok to praise people once we have achieved success, but praising people just to keep them happy is not a good approach to building a strong, resilient team. We’ve got to be mean to keep them keen, and praising people too often makes a team soft.

15. Take Don’t Give

The more we take, the more we have, that’s how winners are made.

It’s a dog eat dog world, and we have to fight for our share.

16. Quick to Criticize

If you want people to improve, you need to point out their mistakes quickly and clearly. It’s also best to do this publicly so that others can learn too.

17. Easily Distracted

Never content with their current goals they are constantly looking for the next big thing that the get involved in. I think the reason for this is it’s much easier to start something new than to finish something important.

18. Make Excuses

There are a million and one reasons why things don’t work out as planned, so it’s not always our fault, and we need to remember that so as we don’t become too de-motivated. One boss told me never ever accept responsibility it could be career limiting, always have someone ready to blame or a good excuse handy.

19. Love To Micro Manage

It’s hard to trust everyone, so by micro-managing your staff, you can keep a close eye on things, and look to offer advice or step in if things start to go wrong.

20. Practice Inconsistently

It’s great to be inconsistent because it keeps your team guessing, which in turn keeps them on their toes. Predictability, on the other hand, can lead to complacency.

BY GORDON TREDGOLD, Founder and CEO, Leadership Principles