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Lessons in Customer Engagement from the UNICEF Kid Power Program

In today’s fast paced, connected world, it has become crucial to engage with our customers, not just find ways to advertise to them. Customer engagement is actually a strong branding vehicle because it helps us align with the causes our customers love. And it can drive more profitable growth because it realigns our business with its higher purpose.

The UNICEF Kid Power program provides some great lessons for how businesses can drive such programs.

The purpose of our products

unicef-williamWhen my son brought home the UNICEF Kid Power band, I could see just 1 thing on his mind – he was doing good for someone else by being fit. The other features of the band such as counting steps, iPhone pairing, sharing with people etc. were not important at all. They were taken for granted. It was almost as if they didn’t matter because the decision criteria was different. In other words all the other devices were commoditized. He discarded other sophisticated devices once he knew his daily steps with this band would help a kid somewhere get better. This fitness band was different. The band drives fitness by driving a higher purpose. Perhaps, the struggles of the leading fitness wearable providers is probably because of this simple reason. They are fighting on features, while customer engagement is done on aspirations.

What is UNICEF?

UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) is an organization dedicated to helping children worldwide. It was established in 1946 and is headquartered in New York. Their primary stated goals are to:

  1. Solve the global problem of malnutrition: About 25% of the children worldwide are malnourished (with more in developing and poor countries) leading to severe health issues.
  2. Get children to be more physically active: In developed countries, the levels of physical activity have reduced by almost 50% leading to obesity and related health problems.

The Kid Power Program

unicef kidspowerThis is such a creative program by UNICEF! Essentially, through a fitness wristband, they encourage children and families to be active and unlock points, which in turn are used to unlock nutritional food packets supporting children worldwide that need help.

In addition, the program has created “Missions” which have a celebrity champion from sports or entertainment. These celebrities own a mission. For example, a mission to help 100 children in Haiti in 6 months. Every child worldwide who has the kid power band now can join the mission and start earning points by being more active. Every 2400 steps unlocks a point, and every 25 points unlock a food packet. Right now the key sponsors are Target and Star Wars, and  more are expected.

This year there are 170,000 children participating in the UNICEF Kid Power Schools Program – a teacher-led experience. In spring of 2016 alone, 61,000 students in over 2600 classrooms across 13 Kid Power Cities participated in the program. That was a 500% increase over 2015.

How does it apply to us?

What a wonderful way to be part of the community, and build a community. I hadn’t heard of UNICEF in so many years and then I heard it from my son. I remember how we had to be told what UNICEF and its mission was, and even then it was something remote, to be appreciated and admired, and join once we had the means. And now our kids are actually participating directly and contributing to the mission – without any money!

The simple – and not novel by any means – business lesson I took away was this: as the world becomes digital, and traditional business models fall by the wayside, who will win? My guess is that a business that has established an ecosystem and customer engagement through the right emotional connections with its customers will win.

Isn’t this just another advertising gimmick?

Depends on how you run it. By being in the middle of such an engagement program, you promise 5 things to participating members / customers:

  1. You will help them meet their aspirations
  2. You will bring like minded businesses and customers together
  3. You will not sell at every chance you get
  4. You will adapt your business model to align with aspirations of your customers
  5. You will engage continuously and actively

unicef-make-a-differenceThe first one is obvious. The second promise above means that you will get started with enabling a platform that other businesses can join to boost the program. In short, you will  do what today’s digital world is all about – build ecosystems. Just like health insurers are partnering with fitness centers, banks and retailers can join in too.

The 3rd and 4th promises above are linked because you will not sell, but you will adapt to provide enough value and reduce friction to the right level so that selling is natural and automatic. It’s a proven fact that value is no longer measured only in monetary terms if it enables something aspirational (that’s why branding exists). I might invest with my bank if the rates are reasonably comparable and if it helps me easily support  my favorite causes (aspiration), and if it makes it seamless to invest my surplus funds (feature). Moreover, I might favor one brand over another just because it aligns better with my personal passions – just like I am now a Unicef Kid Power dad although they don’t have anything like that yet. Ultimately that’s what a brand is if you equate away the core quality and price.

Such a program also forces you to look at continuous customer engagement and reinforcement, and not just when an offer is available. In fact, customers who have more meaningful touch-points and interactions with a brand or product are likely to spend more and be more loyal. An engagement program like this solves that problem comprehensively.

The UNICEF Kids Power program is only a model

The possibilities for customer engagement in a community are endless. The UNICEF Kid Power program shows again a model that is proven – people care and every business can help. For example, banks can solve the financial security and inclusion problem, health insurers and fitness centers can solve the problem of people coming out together and socializing, and retailers can solve the problem of clothing and food for all. We can be as inventive as we want to be with our goals, and the power of working together multiplies everyone’s reach manifold. Every hobby and passion in the world can be part of such a program, with every business driving what it chooses to. The model can of course be extended by introducing tiers of engagement, promoting social status, providing meaningful rewards  and recognition, linking different types of organizations and so on.

As we get connected, and go digital, the basic need for people to form communities and work together towards a cause must still be met. As business models are under pressure, some of these activities have taken a hit. But the UNICEF model shows how with a little bit of creativity, we can adapt our customer engagement models to become an integral part of our customers lives. When we speak of Omni Channel customer engagement, perhaps this kind of engagement should be a part of that strategy. Examples do exist such as the Amex OPEN program for small business, the CVS fitness program among others. Our business must mean something to our customers, because the products don’t make a brand (well, some do).

PS:

  1. Images taken from the Unicef Kid Power website. I encourage you to take a look at the program. I am in no way affiliated with them so this is not an advertisement.
  2. This blog is based on the principles in my latest book Connected! How #Platforms of today Will Become Apps of Tomorrow. Its free for Kindle Unlimited members. You can also write to me for a discounted paperback(signed by me if that matters at all!)

 

Fintech Innovation Watch – What’s next!

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There’s so much is happening in the financial services world that its enough to make your head spin. At the same time, if you take a look at the news today, you can see who’s getting it and moving forward, and who’s content with playing the same old game risking their very survival.

Here’s my Fintech Innovation Watch. With a twist! With every news item, I’ll also go out on a limb and derive some future potential innovations that might happen (or might not)!

APIs: Xero tied up with Capital One. Its a great partnership but the news is getting old now with Wells, SVB etc. already on this bandwagon. I’m sure better things are coming soon. This integration is great for a customer to import their bank transactions into Xero (and hence be happier with Capital One), but banks need to prepare for the new frontiers in customer engagement? For example, in a connected world, a simple 2-way API that helps build up context of the customer transactions that’s available in Xero to help with analytics on receivables and other cash management needs? The number of value added services (perhaps paid) that can be developed by banks are countless. We only need to look beyond the traditional products of business checking account and loans. Read the original news item here.

Core banking and community: In another interesting development, Fiserv signed up Apple Creek Bank. This is a small community bank in Ohio. The reasons for moving to Fiserv are based on traditional metrics of faster processes and providing additional digital services like PopMoney to customers. Fiserv has started to do that really well no doubt. And great goals by Apple Creek too. But if you think about it, the goals also reflect the pains of all banks who are severely constrained, and perhaps trapped inside their own perimeters. With less than deep pockets, many of them rely on their foundation platforms to carry them into the new world. Banking providers should be enabling Internet of Everything for community banks, and helping to actually build a community connected by exciting types of commerce. By serving same old same old, the community banking menu of offerings won’t be able to make escape velocity. Read the original news item here.

Payments: Then we see the continued rise of seamless payments. M&B restaurants are leading the way just like Uber and Lyft did, by making the payments and ordering seamless with Flypay. We order, we eat and drink, and we walk away. Its like Panera++ and Starbucks++! There’s also the added bonus of seamless loyalty across all the M&B brands, not to mention lots of labor efficiency gains. No doubt future enhancements like order ahead and recommendations are on the way, and we should be closely watching how these sector specific payment models will work with more traditional models such as cards and even Apple Pay. Will the list of payment options always be available? Going even further, will restaurant platforms open up APIs for ordering and payments  – to be skinned by anyone? Now, that would be a mashup to watch! Read the original news item here.

Robo-Advising: What a model this news represents! Something for all banks to think about. Danske bank launched its digital investment platform (June) to put to work deposits that are earning practically nothing where they are! Sure, all of us need a little cushion for the rainy day but lets face it – most of us have way more sitting in our checking accounts than we would like. So Danske has turned that simmering dissatisfaction into something of a delight. Independent robo-advisors watch out! Even though June itself is a robo-advisor it is showing us a model that so far has been limited to the large wealth managers like Vanguard and Schwabb. Now if only my own trusty old bank can get its act together, and actually help me manage my money better! Danske got a couple of things right – first they make it easy for customers to take an action, they offer a defined and tailored portfolio, and they’ve opened it up to customers outside of Danske. Now that’s a nice escape from the Innovators Dilemma and creating new business models of the future. Way to go! Read the original news item here.

Hope you liked my take on these innovations. Each of these innovations is awesome in its own right of course. It does take a lot of make a change, however incremental it may be. Do let me know what you thought of this Fintech Innovation Watch. These leaps of faith are based on the principles I used in my new book Connected! How Platforms of Today Will Become Apps of Tomorrow.

Thanks to Finextra for the daily sources. If you liked my take, do subscribe to the blog for when the next edition comes out in a few days. And PS: If anyone wants to partner up to target any of these innovations, look me up! Image courtesy Pixabay

Until next time!

List of References for Connected!

Here is a list of references I used while writing Connected! Very helpful and informative sources. I encourage you to take a look.

  1. The HorizonbFit program – https://members.horizonbfit.com/horizonbfitmobile#. The program is powered by Advanta Health Solutions.
  2. Alfa-Bank, with its save more when you move program. http://activity.alfabank.ru/Activity/
  3. Plenti, the multi-retailer and cross industry loyalty program by American Express. https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/card/plenti/
  4. COLLOQUY: An average household uses only 30% of the loyalty programs they are signed up in. https://www.colloquy.com/latest-news/2015-colloquy-loyalty-census/
  5. Report on loyalty by Capgemini Consulting: https://www.capgemini.com/resources/fixing-the-cracks-reinventing-loyalty-programs-for-the-digital-age
  6. The Bond Brand Loyalty report – 44% of customers feel that it is easy to replace the rewards program, http://info.bondbrandloyalty.com/hubfs/Resources/Bond_Brand_Loyalty_2015_Loyalty_Report.pdf
  7. Effect of Customer-centric structure on long term financial performance – Lee, Sridhar, Henderson, Palmatier. http://www.msi.org/reports/effect-of-customer-centric-structure-on-firm-performance/
  8. Ambidextrous organizations – HBR – https://hbr.org/2004/04/the-ambidextrous-organization
  9. Putting The Balanced scorecard To Work – https://hbr.org/1993/09/putting-the-balanced-scorecard-to-work
  10. How to acquire profitable customers: https://warrington.ufl.edu/centers/retailcenter/docs/papers/Lewis2004.pdf
  11. Field experiments in trust and brand consideration – http://web.mit.edu/hauser/www/Hauser%20Articles/Liberali_Urban_Hauser_competitive%20information%20IJRM%202013.pdf
  12. MIT paper on Trust imperative – http://ebusiness.mit.edu/research/papers/175_Urban_Trust.pdf
  13. Customer loyalty is fleeting: https://thefinancialbrand.com/51081/banking-big-data-opportunity/
  14. Millennials find banks irrelevant – https://thefinancialbrand.com/37787/millennial-banking-survey-viacom/
  15. Millennials find banks irrelevant – http://www.millennialdisruptionindex.com/
  16. 18 months for innovation in banking – Innovation and the Future Proof Bank: A Practical Guide to Doing Different, James A Gardner, http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470714190.html
  17. Solving the warranty problem for consumer using Blockchain, https://www2.deloitte.com/nl/nl/pages/deloitte-digital/artikelen/warranty-solution-based-on-blockchain.html
  18. How Wells Fargo is integrating with Xero to make life easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs, https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/press/2016/new-dataexchange-method_0607/
  19. How to help your customers engage with you on Facebook Messenger, https://developers.facebook.com/blog/post/2016/04/12/bots-for-messenger/
  20. How UK is pushing for bank interoperability through its PSD2 regulation, https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/implementation-of-the-revised-eu-payment-services-directive-psdii
  21. PayPal, Visa and MasterCard enter into agreements to open up business for each other, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-21/paypal-and-visa-end-battle-unveiling-pact-on-fees-and-data
  22. Facebook impacts the importance of business pages and fans, https://www.facebook.com/business/news/update-to-facebook-news-feed
  23. New FinTech innovations to target millennials and passive savers, http://www.barrons.com/articles/two-new-mobile-investing-apps-for-millennials-1453527209
  24. What is a Robo-Advisor, http://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/roboadvisor-roboadviser.asp
  25. Multi-sided platforms and the Fidor example, http://www.causeit.org/multi-sided-platforms-and-the-fidor-example/
  26. What is blockchain technology, https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/
  27. The value of keeping the right customers, https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers
  28. What went wrong at J. C. Penney? http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/what-went-wrong-at-j-c-penney
  29. Banks must differentiate, https://thefinancialbrand.com/51778/millennial-bank-switching-study/
  30. A Thousand Tribes: How Technology Unites People in Great Companies, https://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Tribes-Technology-Unites-Companies/dp/0471222836
  31. Walgreens links healthy choices with rewards and loyalty, https://www.walgreens.com/steps/brhc-loggedout.jsp
  32. Will the sharing economy disrupt trucking, https://www.trucks.com/2016/08/24/sharing-economy-trucking-transportation/
  33. Can we regulate Bitcoin, https://www.wired.com/2016/03/must-understand-bitcoin-regulate/
  34. How millennials will transform industry, http://www.millennialdisruptionindex.com/
  35. What is NPS? http://www.netpromotersystem.com/about/index.aspx
  36. Accelerate! (XLR8), Book, https://www.kotterinternational.com/book/accelerate/
  37. The Innovators Dilemma, Clayton Christensen, http://web.mit.edu/6.933/www/Fall2000/teradyne/clay.html
  38. Wearables down but not out, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-wearable-craze-isnt-dead-yet-2017-01-31
  39. Pressure in food cereal category, http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Business_News/2016/12/Pressure_in_cereal_category_pr.aspx
  40. How connected devices are affecting brands and established channels, https://evrythng.com/why-amazon-dash-is-a-threat-to-brands-and-how-they-can-fight-back/
  41. The Connected Company, http://manishgrover.com/connected-company-framework/

 

How to create 3-Tier loyalty models?

In Connected!, one of the 5 strategies I outlined towards being a connected company was about creating 3-tier loyalty models. It means that we start thinking about extending our loyalty programs. Every industry can do it – banking, retail, CPG, travel etc. All we need to do is to think of what our customers want beyond the products we are selling. (The book is on Kindle as part of the launch offer for 99c) and this post is sort of an advt too (sorry about that)!

3-Tier-Loyalty-Model

In Tier 1, I show how traditional redemption based models (miles, points, discounts etc.), can be expanded to consider experiential, and finally aspirational loyalty. Studies have shown that our loyalty programs are becoming too discount focused, and customers are getting used to (even waiting for) the discount. That’s not bad but we can do even better! So the 3 levels of loyalty in Tier 1 are not just a way to jazz up the program, but also leapfrog competition by engaging customers as per their core purpose. And before you start getting nervous, know that this is not dramatically new. Anyone remember the awesome concerts that our Amex cards used to give us exclusive access to? The trick is to start thinking of exclusivity for our customers, and ultimately something they can look forward over a longer time horizon.

In Tier 2, I show how we can extend our programs to include additional players who will make our programs more effective. That’s the core idea of connected anyway – build an ecosystem. The basic premise is that the needs of our customers are broader than the products we are selling. So why not address that by being more inclusive. Being digital is about escaping our silos, and looking outside-in. Don’t just pay lip service to outside-in, do it!

And in Tier 3, I show how we should become reference anchors in our customers minds. We can do that by 2 ways. First, every brand today needs reinforcement. How can we translate the promises we make in our advertisements and slogans into physical experiences? If we claim trust, do we deliver it during and after purchase? Second, how do we start providing advice instead of just selling. We all know that customers always look for second opinions (check prices while in your store or bank branch, go to aggregator sites for travel bookings etc.). Instead of fighting it and calling it showrooming and other negative things, think of how we can make it easier for customers to get the same advice from us! Don’t let normal customer behavior cause a break in their engagement with you. I won’t say that Tier 3 is not complex but I will definitely say that it is not difficult. All we need to do is to start putting customers at the center of our universe! Rest will follow.

In short, reduce the cost of redemptions, encourage higher wallet share, and boost retention! Isn’t that what we all are looking for!

Get your copy of the book to read more. It’s available for 99c only as part of the introductory launch offer! That’s as close to FREE as you can get on Amazon Kindle. Sorry again for the shameless plug! Images are from the book.

Kindle Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y3SZBZK

Connected! is now live!

connected book frontExcited to announce from Barcelona, Spain, that my second book “Connected! How #platforms of today will become apps of tomorrow” is now live as a Kindle eBook! The paperback & hard cover versions will out through the distributors soon. I’ll also make the eBook available on Barnes & Noble & Apple in the next few weeks.

For a limited time, get  it now at the special price of 99 cents only!

This launch is truly special to me because it’s on my Dad’s birthday. I’ve been working towards this goal for a while, so its very fulfilling. 47K words seem to do just enough justice to this topic, and I did have this important deadline to meet!

The book covers some pretty awesome ground on how the new digital and connected marketplace is going to evolve, and how we can take steps to prepare our products and companies for it. The notion that platforms will become like apps is a very interesting one, but is also a gradually emerging reality. Something we should all be thinking about as we evolve our products and companies. I’m sure you’ll like the book. I’ll be posting blogs on on my website to cover some of the topics in more detail.

A note on reviews: Some independent reviews are coming soon, but do let me know if you’d like to review the book (a brief 2-3 sentence or longer honest review). As a sincere thanks, I’ll send you a signed paperback for free when the review is posted. Your reviews will help a great deal to spread the word, and to cover additional material through blogs and articles. The process is just a little involved when you don’t have a traditional publisher’s army behind you to guide you and do all the heavy lifting! I’ll appreciate your help. Access the Kindle eBook here.

Looking forward to yet another amazing journey! Adiós amigos, and see you soon!

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” – TS Eliot (courtesy Brainy Quote)