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What is failure?

December 2017, by Vanina Delobelle[ —]
What is failure?
There is NO failure, there are only lessons! I personally never use such term with my teams. I never talk about failure while I talk about success. I tend to focus on the positive and always show them the right side of the story. We learn, we need to keep learning and not being successful all the time is part of this learning. If you try something new, you might miss the first time, you will learn and them you will succeed. When giving feedback and coaching people, I want them to focus on what makes them strong. It is easier to develop and expand their positive sides than fixing their weaknesses. I take what people are good at and help them be aware of the other side in a way that it will not occult their good side. Nobody can be perfect and nobody can fail constantly. If this is the case, it means, that they are not learning and if they are not learning it is because they are not interested or because their ego is too big.

Failure is just part of the game. You play, you win, you play you lose. If you never try to get outside of your comfort zone, you will never lose but you will also never win. I have much more respect for people who tried and failed rather than those who never tried and can never report a failure. I was reading that some companies are looking for talents who failed many times. The reasons:
  • They are pushing the limits constantly and are not happy with the status quo. They are innovators who are going to see much beyond and therefore offer a lot to a company.
  • They are not afraid to fail. They know how to step up again. It will not diminish them, it will grow them. They are stronger and tougher.
  • They are usually more positive people as they know both sides of success. They also know that with success comes failure so when success is here they recognize it and they know how to trigger it by knowing the pitfalls.

I am not afraid of failure even if I do not like it. I will not trigger it but I will not prevent myself from trying something big because I risk to fail. I am not afraid by risk, this is where the fun is coming. No risk, no challenge and therefore no reward. I am disappointed by our society that sometimes does not give a good credit to failure. When hiring, I have seen some companies having rules where they do not hire somebody who failed or somebody who got fired. I disagree as you might have failed in one context, have learned from it and bring a wealth of success to your next company. I have had people like this and they have been some of the best in my organizations. We need to look beyond, we need to look differently, we need to open our minds, we need to challenge, we need to push the limits, we need to put people on the edge and see how they react, we need to lead people by giving them the confidence that they can try and that it is OK to take the risk. You will see at the end your people grow and become some of the best, if they do not freeze.

People are afraid of what they do not know. People are afraid because they look at the big picture instead of taking one step at the time and making progress every day. If you look at the mountain you have to climb, then you might get demotivated but if you look at your feet and make all it takes to move them one at the time, then you will make it to the top. Failure is just a concept and has in reality no real mean. Also failure is subjective as it can mean different things to people, depending on people’s values, criteria and how high they put the bar. In my world there is no such thing as failure, there are only lessons.

The process of innovation

December 2017, by Vanina Delobelle[ —]
The process of innovation
One of my favorite topic: innovation. It is when a company stops to innovate that she dies. This is just the basic Darwin principle that applies to products and corporation. It might seems obvious but experience has taught me that this concept is not always applied. Innovation cannot be just a cycle, a project, and we are done.

It needs to be part of the DNA of the organization. All organizations, somehow, should have somebody responsible for innovation, who is looking ahead and trying to disrupt, break and redo for a better future. We can argue that innovation can come from everywhere. I would say yes for the idea generation but not for the execution. Managing innovation is an expertise. It does follow a process and it takes a very specific mind. People more comfortable with innovation show the following traits:
  • They are not afraid of failure
  • They are not happy with the status quo and redoing the same thing over and over
  • They are prompt to testing and incremental development
  • They are very humble and always ready to put into question their own ideas by testing, researching, confirming
  • They are very open minded and open to what is happening out there. They do not rehash things they came across 10 years ago, like they did not learn anything new since then
  • They love learning and will not impose ideas to others thinking they know best because they know that knowledge becomes obsolete very quickly
  • They need to have a great emotional intelligence in order to get the buy in and get people to rally and be motivated about the project
  • They know to manage the innovation process which is more than coming up with ideas. A lot of people have ideas but few know how to bring them to life.

Innovation means:
1. Ideation: generation of new ideas. These ideas are collected in a repository and organized based on pre-defined criteria important for the customer, the company or both.
2. Prioritization: the ideas need to be analyzed, measured from an ROI perspective, or a lifetime value or some other weighting criteria depending on the goal to achieve. These ideas will then be ordered by importance.
3. Definition: these ideas now need to become projects. Plan, requirements, budget, resource allocation, duration and return need to be put in place and worked out within the other priorities the organization is working on.
4. Execution: the projects need to be executed by iterations, giving the time to measure, assess and rectify when needed.
5. Testing: The new concept will be tested before execution, during execution and after execution
6. Enhancements: the project will have many steps that need to be executed in the right order. The series of iterations will bring the final product to life.
7. Letting it go: this is very often the hardest for people working on innovation is to let the concept go. Either because it failed or because it succeeded. If it failed, they need to know when to stop and move on. Some people do not know to fail fast and they stick to a dog for ever. If it succeeds, we need to be ready to hand it off to other teams who are going to mature the project and bring it back to a larger portfolio. The product becoming live will then take different skills to market it.

Within each of these step, specific technics and tools are used to move through the cycle. As innovation can be fascinating, it can also cost a lot of money when badly done. People working on innovation are learning to do things on the cheap for a series of phases before moving to another one. I have seem some people spent 2 millions on a concept where we spent $200K for the same project for the whole process (including execution). It is a skillset and therefore not surprising that universities do offer curriculum specialized in the topic.

Hot US IPO coming up in the internet space

December 2017, by Vanina Delobelle[ —]
Hot US IPO coming up in the internet space
Last year, 2 big IPO were to watch and participate LinkedIn, and Facebook, where you would have made +100% of your investment.

This year, there are few IPO I am watching in the US that are certainly going to be great deals and shake the Internet market:

  • Alibaba: certainly the biggest. This China giant is bigger than Amazon and eBay and is a global incumbent in the international ecommerce. Yahoo has 24% of the shares and it is for a reason. I think this one is going to be big. Alibaba is a huge marketplace but also has great assets to disrupt the global market and break prices even more with their Aliexpress business.

  • Snapdeal: this is to me the second big one. Ebay has invested $50M in Snapdeal, again for a good reason. Indian company, their strength is in the mobile commerce. They are growing fast every day and have a lot of resources looking at the development of the market they are currently addressing.

  • Pinterest: the well known image sharing/social network is also considering becoming public. Pinterest has become a place to be for a lot of brands and companies. The audience is younger and female which is the growing market on the internet space.

  • Roku: TV is back. Roku is democratizing streaming and getting our small screens back to the big screen. With more affordable devices, everybody can now afford TV for cheap. Your Comcast subscription out, you can now invest into TV differently. Combine a Roku device and a Netflix subscription and here you go, you are back on TV. Consumption is shifting. It is no longer about channels, it is about streaming content.

  • Spotify: the streaming of music is there. Spotify is the new generation of music provider. Following the path defined by Pandora, it is now their turn to claim their chair.

  • Weibo: it is the Chinese Twitter. Weibo and is filing in the US.

Note: Foursquare is still in the air and not ready for 2014, but things might change.


December 2017, by Vanina Delobelle[ —]
Customers are not loyal to brands; employees are not loyal to companies, companies are not loyal to employees…why is there no longer loyalty?

Loyalty implies multiple principles in order to exist:

  • Reciprocity: you are loyal when you feel loyalty on the other side too. You know that you can trust, you know that the person in front will not fail you. For a brand, she will make her promises. She will reward you correctly for your loyalty and she will engage you.

  • Transparency: you need to be transparent and collaborative. People will not feel loyal if they feel that you are not telling the truth or that you are only telling one piece of the story. If they feel left aside, then, they cannot be loyal.

  • Communication: it is about talking and being honest by telling the things that are easy but also the ones that are more difficult. It is about being comfortable to expose weaknesses and not believe that you should always show strength.

  • Sharing control: you do not need to be the one on the spotlight constantly but you want to share the stage with the others. You should be comfortable being the man in the shadow some days as long as it makes the whole system work better. The ego should be left on the side if you want people to be loyal. It is OK to give control to customers for a brand as they will give even more power to it at the end of the journey.

  • Constant check: loyalty needs to be nurtured. You always need to watch yourself and make sure it is there and that you did not slip somewhere in the process. Talk, ask feedback, explain, say you are sorry, but check that it is there as it can go away very easily nowadays.

Life360: big brother on my data

December 2017, by Vanina Delobelle[ —]
Life360: big brother on my data
We know how sensitive personal data subject is lately. It has been a hot topic at SXSW, where Snowden appeared to be the hero of a new era. How much do we want to be public? How much data are going to change our relationships?

I discovered the Life360 app that enables you to know where your family and friends are at any time. I can track when my husband leaves the house, when he returns, when my kid is done with his basketball practice and spy any of their movements. Of course, said like this, it might appear scary as there is no longer an ounce of privacy for anybody. Private investigators are out of job as I can now do the job myself. How much does my husband want me to know each of his movements…I can say he does not.

Now, let’s look at the other angle of the question, which is certainly why such applications have great success. In our crazy world, where schedules are tight, where nobody has any time, not even to give a phone call when we are late because we are tight in a meeting, the app can help. It can also help increase security with children and see when they leave school, when their bus took them, and when they arrived. It also tells us if they are leaving the house in your absence or if they are going to places where they are not authorized. As people are more and more scared and where security is less and less a given, this can help.

I am sure, some people might do a funny face when they look at these apps; the same way they did a funny face when Facebook launched. ‘’What is the point of telling the world about what you are doing…can we keep our privacy?’’ Now they might say ‘’What is the point of knowing everything about your family?’’…things will change. People safety and safety of data in the digital world are very important topics that people have not finished to debate.

Power vs. Money

December 2017, by Vanina Delobelle[ —]
Power vs. Money
As I was watching House of Cards, Kevin Spacey said about a person that she was more interested in Money than Power. Very interesting to me and it made me think further. Let’s look at people who got successful in business. Once they reach a certain level, what they are looking for is to increase their power and this is why they invest in newspapers, they start to lobby or they work or support a certain government/candidate. Why? Is money just not enough?

If we are looking at human roots, we are animals who need to apply our power on others. There are always been leaders and followers. There are always been a need for the people to follow somebody. Power is part of our genes, while money is not. Look at kids! Some are dominants and others subordinates. Power comes first! In Social Media, we are talking about influencers. Influencers set the tone, show the way, embrace new technologies and have some power via their knowledge. People do not become CEOs because of money, they become CEO because it is a way for them to change the world. Their power, defined by their position, will allow them to achieve goals and make the changes they want.

Very often money and power go together and some would argue that money is power. Certainly to some extend. However, ask to the vast majority of people and after a certain level of wealth, they will say they are looking for power. Once their primary needs are fulfilled (in reference to the Maslow's hierarchy of needs, then power is on the list.

Quizup and Buzzfeed: Quiz apps forever

December 2017, by Vanina Delobelle[ —]
Quizup and Buzzfeed: Quiz apps forever
Trivia apps are super trendy. Everybody loves trivia, everybody plays trivia. Buzzfeed is the king in Facebook. Everybody shares the last quiz of the day about what country you are , what city you are, what star you are, what old person would you be, …It is easy, it takes few seconds and it is fun. We share with our friends and we react to the results they get. Most of the time, it means absolutely nothing and has no reflection on your personality at all, but…it is fun.

My latest discovery is Quizup, which is much smarter, covers a lot of subjects and what I like the most is that you play against others. You have to beat them, the faster you answer, the more points you get. You can launch a challenge, you can keep playing the same person and you can play against your friends (note: for those who received an invite from me…no surprise). The subjects are varied. You can play countries of the world, web culture, mathematics, colors, logos, science, music…whatever you are interested in, you can find it there. This app is very addictive. If you like competition, you will like it. There is also this music when you play that reinforces the challenge atmosphere. You get a question with a text and image and you have 4 answers to pick from. Pick your answer, see how fast you are, how many points you score and win badges! 6 rounds only and a bonus round, which make each game super fast so that you do not have time to get bored; on the contrary...,you ask for more.

These quizzes are very popular on phones. People like competition but they do not want to get too much invested. They play easily for few seconds and get out with a nice feeling of learning something. Next to the long strategy games that requires time investment and a bigger screen; quizzes can be played on the go in couple of minutes; ideal when you wait for a bus, when you are at the doctor office or at a kid’s game. It is seamless and completely integrated into your life.

TV shows, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and, name it, started back in 1938 and are still part of people’s lives. Now that digital is everywhere, it is very normal that people are still addicted but simply play on different devices. Quizzes are the number one game being played.

Your turn to play now! Name the 3 tops quiz apps in number of users…

10 years after the social revolution…

December 2017, by Vanina Delobelle[ —]
10 years after the social revolution…
Fad? We now can say it was not! What did this revolution bring to our life? How did we change? How different are we today?

Things got settled now and social has blended into our lives. There is no such thing as social anymore, there are just habits.

After the rail revolution, we just changed our way of traveling and it got integrated; we stopped talking about trains as something special.

As I was mentioning 10 years ago, social will blend into the list of functionalities websites will require. It was the case for Search functionalities years ago, it is definitely now the case for social functionalities. User generated content is just part of who we are. We are used to read reviews, articles created by users, look at people’s pictures, click on share buttons, login with our Facebook. We are just used to it, without asking more.

10 years ago we were talking about creators, curators and consumers. Where the vast majority of people were consumers, the trend has changed. The number of creators has indeed increased but not to the largest extend. I believe that the number of curators is the segment that increased the most. While people used to be consumers, they are now consumers and curators. They curate all the time and they share. This segment has grown proportionally much more than the other segments.

10 years after the social revolution…

Who are we? Human social…but now we are truly digital social. People are addicted, they cannot imagine living without social. They spent hours on Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and Pinterest…and…

Would you imagine not having trains or planes today? I would not imagine not having social. My friends from there are just here with me. We read the same articles, we talk about our kids, we keep each other informed. I sometimes have more contacts with my friends online, who I have not seen for years, than others who are close by. It is a revolution and it is how our interactions are now formed.

Homesickness and distance are not perceived the same way because, even when people are away, they are close. I can see my kid takes skype as often as he wants to talk to his grand-parents. My family is informed on everything we do on Facebook, they see pictures of my kid growing and we have sometimes the feeling that they are not that far after all.

When I research about a school or about a program for my kid, I do not look for the corporate information; I look for what others have to say, I want to understand their experience. People are looking for others' opinion more often. We care more about others, and because others have tools to express themselves, it can reach more people.

Social has just become who we are. It changed our interactions, it changed our communication channels, it changed our habits, it changed our society. For 10 years, I have been looking at what would be the next big thing that will fascinate me as much as social did when it started. I am not a kid of the age of the rail or the plain, I am not a kid of the age of the internet, I am a kid of the age of social. I was old enough to understand and to see it growing and changing who we are. Being the witness of a revolution is always a privilege. I am looking forward the next revolution...

What does eCommerce cover?

December 2017, by Vanina Delobelle[ —]
What does eCommerce cover?
When we talk about eCommerce, we sometimes do not realize how many functions it covers at the same time. As I wrote prior, eCommerce is an expertise and requires a lot of skills in many different areas from the executive who is leading the charge.

  • Product management: will roll under this expertise both functionality, user experience, design and technology. It is about understanding what the best usability practices are and how to create a delightful and swift experience for the customers. More than that, today it is about creating a seamless experience across the different devices and channels whether it is stores, mobile, social, online, email, TV…This implies understanding the technology, making the best technology choices and being able to execute. Some technology choices might not enable you to achieve the goals you have because the platform is too rigid and therefore there is no room for improvements or scalability for a quick go to market and to keep up with competition and innovation. Technology is evolving very fast so the executive needs to know where to bring the platform next in order to stay competitive. One of the challenges I have seen with some executive is that they believe that their experience is representative of how customer are using the tools. The difficulty is about being able to remove yourself from the experience and create tools that will be useful using focus group, usability testing and A/B test and getting back to A/B testing and customer feedbacks. We are not the typical customer and we have therefore to put our ego and experience on the side to be open to understand what they need. In some cases, you want to push the customer with innovation, but it does not prevent to test with him, even if sometimes he will not know exactly what he wants. Design is also much more important than a lot believe. Having the right imagery, the modern look and the right colors has a lot of influence on the customer perception and therefore purchase. As the end it is all about experience. If the experience is right, the customer is taken through an easy path that will make him more likely to buy.

  • Merchandising: this is about merchandising and promotions. We do not merchandise digitally as we do offline. The demand is different. Because customers have access to pricing and competition at their fingertips, we need to take this into account and understand how to react quickly. Up-sell and cross-sells are also very important. Recommendation can represent up to 30% of the revenues made in ecommerce. How to do it smartly, taking into account all the customers touch points, is where the difficulty is coming. How to use location base promotions, how to move promotions quickly? With online, you can push promotions at the minute. As you can see that you are not making your number for the day, the week or the month, you can push a promotion that is going to turn things around or prevent a very bad result. This implies some planning and some strategy. I always have the B and the C plan in my pocket to be able to react at each instant.

  • Marketing: this covers SEO, SEM, display ads, social. It is not necessary to pour more and more money and SEO but it is important to understand what is best working on SEO and what is best working with SEM so that you define the right balance between the 2. We believe that because we pay, it should work and this is a wrong expectation. It is about how subtle you are distributing your strategy among all the tools. You do not advertise the same thing on social as you would do on display ads. How I talk to the customers depending on the channel is very different and the results may also vary. It is all about constantly fine tuning the results and the approach.

  • Content: a lot has to do with your content. The photos you use, the descriptions you write, the editorial you publish. Customers want authenticity and details but only those that matters. Sometimes they will complain that you put too much description and sometimes they are asking for details that are missing. What is important to convey? Do we need to write pages of blurb or shall we limit the content? In general content is key and is critical for customers to make decisions but also for SEO purpose. Social content is really important. Not the corporate messages because customers do not care about this but the real content. I am always asking myself, do I bring value to our customers if I publish this?

  • Analytics: as an ecommerce executive, I always look at the revenues and how we are doing every single day. However my performance is not only measured on revenues and my metrics can be very unique compared to the offline world. I will measure conversion, time spent on site, Average order value, number of links we have, return frequency…a lot of metrics that enable to have a very fine tuning of the business. Each metric can tell me where my merchandising performs better, what merchandising works better, what is a customer pain point. I keep telling my teams that this is my compass and it should be theirs to make the right decision. Without analytics, I am blind. I can only use my instinct and my experience but all know that this is not enough. Then it is an opinion and it is not tangible and I am fighting against opinion. The decisions should meet the purpose in a tangible way. We analyzed a trend thanks to analytics, we fix it and we measure it and we keep measuring it.

Ying and Yang

December 2017, by Vanina Delobelle[ —]
Ying and Yang
As always when some situations in the society become more radical, the opposite will arise to provide some balance. In our society, where everything is baked, processed, refined, to the point where we do not even know what it is made of, the opposite, is a complete return to mother earth food.

You might have seen the documentary Super Size Me showing how processed food, offered at some famous restaurant, can be toxic to our body. I suggest you also watch this horrifying movie about animal food, to never eat meat any more.

As opposed to this trend where junk food has become the norm in our plates, there are more and more vegetarians and vegan people. Their manta, let’s eat what mother earth gives us in its natural way. Of course, some may object the fact that even vegetables today are not as good as they are grown with chemical products and are waiting long in the chain before getting to our bellies. However, the revolution is here and some are making big time of this.

Whole Foods is king in the market of organic and is a go to place for all of us being interested in the quality of what we are eating. Some new comers in the market, still find their place like Mrs Greens that is in the same spirit, with some product differences. As this trend might have been minor few years ago and more spread within the running community, it has now extended much further. There are more and more people around me who are vegetarian and vegan that anytime. People are tired about what we consume and are looking for a better life. Kids can find courses about the Ecosystem on Khan Academy and are interested in what happens to our Earth.

As we have the wave to go to more and more process food, we also have the one that opposed to it by going even more and more to raw food. People want to grow their own produce; they want to eat organic products because they do not trust anymore the industry. I read that by 2025, the number of cancers is going to double and one of the 2 causes is food. When you read this, it makes you think…

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