When requesting feedback, be explicit about how you will interpret each score

To meet and exceed market expectations, feedback is crucial. The nuances of how you collect feedback, such as the audience you target and the questions you ask, can have a significant impact on eventual outcomes. One seemingly trivial decision that can significantly influence outcomes is how you ask stakeholders to score an experience. This is often done using a five- or ten-point scale, sometimes represented by numbers, stars or words.

Feedback surveys often utilise a five- or ten-point scale, sometimes represented by numbers, stars or words.

When measuring satisfaction, I always default to a five-point rating with explicitly labelled options. With any fewer, you cannot cover the full spectrum from very dissatisfied to very satisfied. With any more, the meaning of each option becomes less clear and more open to interpretation. On a scale of one to ten, who can agree on the difference between a seven and an eight?

Typically, I will use the following scale:

  1. Very unsatisfied
  2. Unsatisfied
  3. Neutral
  4. Satisfied
  5. Very satisfied

This scale makes the meaning of each score explicit, leaving less open for interpretation by the respondent.

Lastly, to score overall performance, I calculate the percentage of positive responses (i.e., what percentage of respondents answered with a four or five?).

Successful social commerce platforms will not compete with incumbent marketplaces

As social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest finally expand into social commerce, much has been said of the looming threat these platforms present to the likes of Amazon and eBay. An examination of how these social platforms differ from the incumbent marketplaces suggests that social commerce is a bigger threat to traditional e-commerce platforms than it is to Amazon or eBay.

Comparing Instagram to Amazon

The user journey towards a successful transaction on Instagram is very different from Amazon. On Amazon, shoppers start with a need and Amazon is heavily optimised to fulfil this need. This is evident by a few key traits of the marketplace:

  • Transactions usually begin with the intent to purchase and are facilitated by search—from a user experience perspective, Amazon is essentially a search engine for shopping.
  • Amazon shows a single product listing for each unique product. If multiple sellers are selling the same product, Amazon will consolidate these listings into a single product page. While users can technically choose which seller they would like to purchase from, Amazon awards the default option (the buy box) to a single seller based on several factors, including price, delivery times, defect rates, refund rates, and more. This mechanism of prioritising identical products by price and delivery times, alongside their search engine which returns results prioritised by similar factors, essentially commoditises much of what is sold on the marketplace.
  • Outside of optimising the factors prioritised by Amazon’s search engine and buy box, marketing on Amazon is enabled by traditional cost-per-click search engine advertising, allowing sellers to pay to have their products prioritised in search results.

Instagram is radically different:

  • Transactions are typically reactive to posts and ads surfaced directly in the feed of the shopper. The shopper does not need to have the intent to purchase a specific product to be coaxed into a purchase. Shoppers follow brands they may want to purchase from someday and wait until a desirable product finds them.
  • Products are primarily differentiated by the strength of their brand, with convenience factors like price, delivery times and defect rates having much less influence on sales conversions.
  • On top of traditional advertising, brands pay for endorsements from influential users, adding to the power of the feed as a way to prompt reactive purchase decisions.

While these marketplaces may sell similar categories of products (i.e., you can purchase socks on both Instagram and Amazon), very different types of sellers and products thrive within each of these models. Put simply, while Instagram almost exclusively rewards sellers who have a strong brand presence, Amazon is the go-to place for the goods differentiated by everything but the brand. Amazon fulfils the needs of shoppers looking for the most practical way to fill a need, while Instagram is about engaging with brands that shoppers love.

While products on Amazon are differentiated by their performance, products on Instagram are differentiated by their brand.

How will social commerce challenge retail?

While unlikely to threaten established marketplaces, social commerce is not simply filling an unoccupied space in the retail ecosystem. Today, shoppers in the west engage with brands through e-commerce websites and retail stores. Over time, established brands will rely more heavily on making sales through social commerce platforms than they will their dedicated e-commerce websites.

More interesting than the impact on established brands, though, will be how social commerce changes the way new businesses launch their brands. In a world where the best way to find an audience is through social media, and social platforms can facilitate any transactions end-to-end, there is diminishing value in establishing a standalone online store.

Gig work may not measure up to full-time employment, but that does not mean it has no place in modern economies

While the gig economy falls short of providing gainful employment, it does provide an approximate for people who cannot find full-time work that caters to their circumstances. In the face of a looming unemployment crisis, governments should embrace and improve the gig economy, rather than try to force it into our existing models for employment.

Uber, like much of the gig economy, is a two-sided marketplace, disruptive to the taxi industry in many markets, which connects riders (consumers) with drivers (service providers). Uber's most prominent competitors largely share the same business model. In the decade since its founding, Uber has received significant scepticism from governments and incumbents, adoration from the tech community, and mixed feelings from consumers. Apparently, you need to break a lot of eggs to make an omelette.

As the controversies of Uber-circa 2017 have waned, the public has largely conceded that the consumer side of Uber’s marketplace is generally an improvement over the pre-Uber status quo. Uber is probably safer than taxis, often cheaper, very convenient, and generally boasts greater rider satisfaction. So, while criticisms of the company absolutely persist, criticisms of the business model have become more focused on the driver-side of the marketplace, particularly how low prices can impact drivers.

In a pure marketplace, pricing is tied to supply and demand. For example, eBay sellers are able to set their own prices and do so based on what the other side of the market will tolerate. Shoppers and retailers negotiate pricing through the mechanisms of the marketplace (i.e., set a price, measure sales, adjust pricing accordingly). With the exception of surging in extreme circumstances, most rideshare apps do not function as a pure marketplace where pricing is negotiated between participants on both sides. Rather, prices are set by the owners of the marketplace based on what works best for consumers and the owners. To maintain this equilibrium, prices for riders, and therefore returns for drivers, must remain low. Low prices, while a perk for riders, is the root of much of the indictments of the rideshare business model.

The reality is:

  • Drivers are considered contractors, not full-time employees, so do not receive key benefits. These vary per market but include the likes of superannuation, paid leave, and healthcare plans. Providing these benefits would inevitably result in drastically higher prices for riders. Not providing these benefits puts the wellbeing of long-term drivers at risk.
  • After factoring in asset depreciation (i.e., vehicle wear-and-tear), returns for frequent drivers dwindle. Asset depreciation is not an immediate cost to drivers and is therefore potentially invisible to them.
  • Drivers essentially have no influence on pricing in the marketplace. They can take it or leave it. This results in many drivers earning below the minimum wage.

There are, however, benefits:

  • Driving for Uber is extremely flexible from a schedule perspective. Due to extenuating circumstances, some people require a very high degree of flexibility that only the gig economy can provide.
  • The only barrier to entry is ownership of a suitable vehicle and the passing of a reasonable background check. Many people who have otherwise struggled to find employment have found refuge in the gig economy.
  • The gig economy provides a safety net for the under-employed. During periods of unexpected unemployment, individuals can stay afloat through gigs.

Despite the flaws, these benefits are unique. Forcing the gig economy to conform to the parameters for traditional employment will, in many situations, make these business models untenable. At best, prices would need to increase significantly, leading to a reduction in demand that would mean that the marketplace would support fewer drivers, significantly limiting the opportunity for willing participants. Governments would benefit from finding better ways to fit gig work into the larger job market in a more equitable way.

Will the West get a WeChat?

For those unfamiliar, WeChat (微信, or, "micro letter") is the dominant messaging platform in China. But, it's more than a messaging app—it's essentially the mobile operating system of China. WeChat is different from messaging apps popular in the West simply because it does so much more. It is a payments app, a hookup app, a lottery app, and, most importantly, it's a platform for third-party apps. Official Accounts on WeChat can be heavily customised for users to navigate and interact, essentially replacing the need for a website. In China, the most important layer of the mobile stack is not operating systems like iOS or Android, it's WeChat. This is because most of the essential apps in China's mobile stack are not iOS or Android apps, they are WeChat apps. With WeChat available and dominant on both platforms, mobile operating systems are left with very little opportunity for software differentiation. This could partially explain why Apple has struggled in the Chinese market.

In the West, nobody dominates in the same way, but platforms are inching closer. Facebook and its subsidiaries have a clear lead and are taking inspiration from WeChat. Mark Zuckerberg has announced that messaging is the future of Facebook. He expects "future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main ways people communicate on the Facebook network". For many small businesses, Facebook pages have replaced websites and Facebook Messenger has a slew of commerce functionality. Apple's iMessage platform has received R&D attention in recent years but is yet to break out as more than a messaging app. WhatsApp is ubiquitous but limited in functionality. Google has repeatedly fumbled. Instagram seems to be in the lead for millennials. Hospitality venues around the world are using highlighted stories to add content and navigation to their Instagram profiles in place of a website.

Recently, Instagram announced Instagram Checkout, a significant expansion of their commerce capabilities. Already, merchants have been able to push their product catalogues to Instagram (via Facebook), allowing audiences to browse their selection in-app and allowing merchants to tag their posts with links to relevant products. But, the in-app experience has always ended with browsing—with shoppers directed to a brands website to complete any purchase. Instagram will now begin to allow users to complete transactions in-app, bringing consistency and expedience to the experience at a fee to the merchant. It is not yet clear whether merchants will be able to opt-out of this new flow and continue to drive users to their websites to complete transactions.

While this may come across as Instagram muscling its way into a transaction it has traditionally had no claim to, I think this will be positive for many retailers. In a world where just a few marketplaces continue to consume the ecommerce market with the online store taking a backseat to other channels, competition should be welcomed. Further, many of these dominant marketplaces focus on commoditising all merchandise, focusing heavily on price and convenience over customisation and specialty—product lines become offers and brands are all but relegated to a note on the buy box. A world where all online shopping takes place on these commoditised marketplaces, while convenient, could turn out incredibly dull for consumers and difficult for specialised brands.

Instagram, however, has always been brand-focused, if not obsessed. Even personal users with no ambitions to become an influencer are considering their personal brand and how the content they post can establish it. The Instagram user-interface is very friendly to brands seeking to stand on their own, control how they are represented and reach out to their audiences. For the most part, Instagram users are generally pretty happy to subscribe to marketing and advertising from the brands they like, with 80% of people following at least one business account. As a result, Instagram seems to have fallen into a place where it has become the dominant platform for specialised retailers to market their goods to their existing audience and grow their audience through paid advertising and collaborations with influencers. It's inevitable for Instagram to seek to better monetise the relationships they are facilitating and advisable for merchants to take advantage as early adopters of features that can make transactions easier for their audience, keeping them from instead browsing today's dominant marketplaces.

Following suit, WhatsApp Payments (which apparently will not be developed in Silicon Valley) has been announced, alongside WhatsApp Product Catalogs

While there is not yet a single app dominating this layer of the mobile stack, the battle is well underway, and, while Facebook probably won't be replacing government IDs anytime soon, they are leading the race.

A Guide to One-on-One Meetings for Managers and Employees.

Over the past four years, I noticed how almost every person I talked to did not know the answer to that question. They held one-on-ones — but felt in the dark if their one-on-ones could be run better (or, if they were working at all).

In these guides, you’ll learn…

  • The purpose of one-on-one meetings: What’s the point?
  • How long, how often, and with who to hold one-on-ones with
  • How to prepare for a one-on-one meeting
  • The best 8 questions to ask during a one-on-one
  • What to put on your one-on-one meeting agenda (with 4 agenda templates)
  • How to get honest insights from your one-on-one
  • Best practices for writing notes during a one-on-one meeting

— Claire Lew (2018, August 8). Announcing: A Guide to One-on-One Meetings for Managers and Employees

Excellent and concise resource for managers and employees doing one-on-ones. Easy to peruse and find takeaways.

The Library of Congress is going to stop preserving all tweets

The Twitter archive may not be the record of our humanity that we wanted, but it’s the record we have. Due to Twitter’s original terms of service and the public availability of most tweets, which stand in contrast to many other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Snapchat, we are unlikely to preserve anything else like it from our digital age.

Undoubtedly many would consider that a good thing, and that the Twitter archive deserves the kind of mockery that flourishes on the platform itself. What can we possibly learn from the unchecked ramblings and ravings of so many, condensed to so few characters?

Yet it’s precisely this offhandedness and enforced brevity that makes the Twitter archive intriguing. Researchers have precious few sources for the plain-spoken language and everyday activities and thought of a large swath of society.

Most of what is archived is indeed done so on a very selective basis, assessed for historical significance at the time of preservation. Until the rise of digital documents and communications, the idea of “saving it all” seemed ridiculous, and even now it seems like a poor strategy given limited resources. Archives have always had to make tough choices about what to preserve and what to discard.

However, it is also true that we cannot always anticipate what future historians will want to see and read from our era. Much of what is now studied from the past are materials that somehow, fortunately, escaped the trash bin. Cookbooks give us a sense of what our ancestors ate and celebrated. Pamphlets and more recently zines document ideas and cultures outside the mainstream.

— Dan Cohen (2017, December 29). The Significance of the Twitter Archive at the Library of Congress

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