Tag Archives: Amazon

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Did anyone notice it was my birthday?

So today I turn 43. Ouch. Well actually less ouch and more wahay! That’s how I feel today. With a wonderful family, some great friends and heading a business which focuses on helping brands make customer experience work for them, I’m doing what I enjoy, so I am looking forward to the next year.

I’ve had a stream of well wishing LinkedIn, voicemail, text and emails so far. Italy, London, Latvia, Edinburgh, Australia – as far and wide as I could imagine messages have reached me. And with the school run still a priority even on this momentous occasion, a table full of cards and presents waiting at home when I return this evening for a special birthday dinner. It’s a day I look forward to and moments of it I will remember forever.

In fact, most media has been active in congratulating me. I clicked on Google and was welcomed with this simple but effective personalised message:

google birthday


How wonderfully simple. An opportunity to tailor content to me (and the other 23rd Februarians) and they took it.

So I then thought, how many other brands know my age and are always trying to find an angle to create relevance and cut through? They are always trying to hit me with messages relating to stuff of theirs I’ve looked at but not bought. I wondered if they’d managed to connect their business model to my world and recognise it was my birthday in their CRM programmes?

Of course not. CRM doesn’t stand for ‘Christopher Really Matters’. So unless I’ve popped up on a ‘he should be buying this widget he browsed for 2 seconds over 10 days ago’ list, or similar, I’m not of value to them today. To prove my point here are two of the most prolific data rich e-marketers communications which hit my inbox yesterday, at about the same time my wife was wrapping presents and boys writing cards:

amazon birthday

expedia birthday





Missing the art of personalisation

In fact, Amazon are asking me to buy gift cards for someone else! Here was a great opportunity to personalise content to me in a light-hearted, but emotionally connecting way. They miss their moment. Or rather the CRM algorithm does.

However, when I’m browsing a site, the company can manage to collect every impression I make and serve that content back to me as an offer I’ve obviously missed. I’m not quite sure how this logic stacks up. That would be like assuming we never take a wrong turn when driving, or we never say anything we don’t mean, or we are never inquisitive.

But who is to blame for this shortfall? is it the CRM or brands fault, or is it the people who instruct the decisions on personalisation?

I attended an airline conference last year where one of the ‘industry expert’ facilitators barked out the virtues of passenger personalisation as being the future for airlines. Along with empathy, I could buy this point. But then his colleagues proceeded to share an array of ‘made up bundles’ of packages of airline benefits they have created, which cost the customer more but actually give them less. And with a wink of his eye finished with a, “Now that’s personalisation”. To which the audience applauded. Oh dear.

The true art of personalisation

If you want to get it right, leave the CRM system at the door, leave the marketer intent on tripping the customer up at home and start thinking about how to really connect with consumers when and how it really matters to them. Because, it really doesn’t matter if we all get the same thing. If it feels personal to me, then it is.

Thank you Google; you’ve gained a few advocacy points today. All the others who missed their chance, remember it’s my world and on the whole I choose (based on how they behave on days like today), which brands live in it.

dragonTo finish here’s a little personalisation that can go along way. It’s an example of how to deliver a standard message in a personal way. The customer has completed the ‘any other request’ box with a cheeky, ‘draw a dragon on the box’ comment. So that’s what the pizza firm did. No doubt increasing advocacy and sales from customer who will be more committed because of the personal attention.

Happy birthday to me.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Consultant Lexden.

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Unordinary Thinking No. 36 – Gestating elephants, mice and Kindles

I found out about gestation periods today. Did you know it takes 19 months for a baby elephant to develop from mummy and daddy elephants doing the business to birth (try not to linger on that image)? Or that it takes a mouse a mere six weeks from sperm and egg making acquaintance to lots of little mice arriving?

Amazon’s Kindle, or more specifically the technology to read on an electronic device, was conceived, in its basic form, in 1973 in Xerox’s Research Centre in Palo Alto, California (incidentally also where the computer mouse was first developed). If we define ‘birth’ as mass adoption and seeing people everywhere with Kindles in their hand, then that occurred in and around 2007. Which means the Kindle was born after a pregnancy of nearly 35 years.

Elephant and babyWhen I first found this out, I was surprised. After all, if the initial technology was available in the 70s, what has taken so long?  But it was not the technology that caused the delay. It was the translation of a cool, clever bit of tech into a proposition that consumers decided they wanted and would buy which has taken the time.

And, where numerous others had tried and failed, it took a clever and charismatic visionary, deploying what we at Lexden would call unordinary thinking, to bring an electronic reading device into all of our lives. That visionary was Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos.

If you think about it, an electronic reader was a counter intuitive thing for Bezos to pursue. With an inordinately successful online business based on shipping paper books, a more conventional thinker might well have persuaded himself that people would continue hundreds of years of habit and never switch to electronic books. That analysis would certainly have suited him. Except Bezos did not look at it that way. All he could see was something which could destroy his business. He might have thought “if my customers love getting books delivered in 2 days, what happens if someone can get them the same books in 2 hours?  Or two minutes?” It was a brave call but, if anyone was going to destroy his business, it was going to be him.

There is a secondary element which is at the core of Jeff Bezos and his ethos. He has an obsessive, overwhelming and intrinsic focus on the customer. It is how he built Amazon and is summarised best by the man himself: “Whenever we are facing one of those too-hard problems, where we get into an infinite loop and can’t decide what to do, we try to convert it into a straightforward problem by saying, ‘well, what’s better for the customer?’”. There is a big clue for all of us here and is why so many people love their Kindles.

Finally he knew the limitations of Amazon as an organisation and what would get in the way of launching a successful product. After all, what did they really know about developing a technological product? So he empowered a completely separate and new business unit-Lab 126 in California – hundreds of miles from Head Office in Seattle. By doing this, he knew that the Kindle project team could get on with developing their product without the distractions, potential negativity, office politics and budget pressures that are a feature of all corporates – even one as new as Amazon.

But why has the Kindle succeeded where other attempts, notably Sony’s Librie which had launched three years earlier, failed?Kindle

It was not the technology. In fact, the Librie actually had a better screen with eight different shades of grey rather than the four on the Kindle. Instead the difference was in how the Kindle set out to address, one by one, all of the reasons which would get in the way of consumers falling in love with their reader.

For instance:

  • Being able to wirelessly download books instead of having to link to a PC
  • Tens of thousands of books available through Amazon’s relationship with publishers
  • Leveraging the book reviews and recommendations of 65m existing Amazon shoppers
  • Ability to purchase with one click of a mouse
  • Books sold at a significant discount to their physical counterpart

When you look it at it like this, it seems easy doesn’t it? Of course, it was not. It must have been really hard. But it shows that by following the customer, doing all you can for them, and putting absolutely everything into brilliant execution, there is a road map for all of us who are hoping to launch propositions we hope consumers will, one day, love.

So think of it like this: even if the conception of your idea was over in a flash, your baby is gestating nicely. Just figure out everything you have to do to get down to the maternity ward and give birth.


Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency. We put customers at the start and the heart of the business strategy.

We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers. We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.

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For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548.  And you can follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris