All posts by Emily Binder

Emily Binder is a marketer who likes good copy, technology, and progress. Hobbies include chess, cooking, and rollerblading. University of Michigan alumna.

Reduce Commerce Friction: Travel and Hospitality

Remove friction from the customer experience, make the sale more likely. We are seeing a trend in travel and hospitality to make transactions and guest experiences hassle-free, higher tech, and less reliant upon hard copies and hard people. Make mobile device use free, experience-enhancing, and rewarding, and incremental revenue-generating for vendors – stay in business.

Travel and hospitality companies that don’t prioritize automation and mobility won’t be here in five years.

You can already see the market for a frictionless, more seamless guest experience in the successful offerings of progressive car rental companies like Silvercarairlines like SurfAirPorter, and Virgin, hotel chains like IHG with the health-themed, wristband-based EVEN Hotels, Marriott with Moxy, etc. Reduce check-in time, reduce waits, reduce error-prone interactions with agents. Move the printed rental contract to the cloud. Take a snooty or busy or bribed human concierge and replace them with an app. Develop culturally sensitive sub-brands focused on different market needs and smarter guest profiling. The obvious fixes abound.
Silvercar homepage screenshot
While I loathe both of these resorts, I should touch on theme parks: Disney and SeaWorld are handling the trend well.
 Disney MagicBand family
Disney World’s MyMagic+ is a billion-dollar tech project that includes hotel and resort-wide WiFi and microchip-embedded wristbands that interact with sensors throughout the park and link to a reservation system to book attractions weeks in advance. Disney’s MagicBands use radio frequency (RF) technology, replacing theme park tickets and hotel room keys with tap and pay technology. MagicBands and Apple Watch (coming early 2015) both remove commerce friction, i.e., the hassle of getting a phone out of a pocket to tap and pay.

SeaWorld’s 7/15/14 app update incorporated a new mobile payments system. Now guests can use the app to pay for gifts, food, and Quick Queue access at the ride instead of paying in advance via desktop or at the front of the park.

SeaWorld iPhone app

But isn’t disconnecting important?

One could argue that the onslaught of offerings like free WiFi and charging stations at amusement parks and resorts only perpetuates the always-on, distracted state of mind from which a true vacation should provide escape, particularly when with family. If you really want a relaxing unplugged escape, however, you shouldn’t be at Disney or SeaWorld. If a parent uses a theme park’s free WiFi and app to decrease time spent waiting in line, to augment reality and amuse the kids, or to enhance the experience by hashtagging an Instagram photo to get a free Lego toy upon exit, everyone wins (guests, park, and brand). Not to mention that having instant communication via mobile can make a family trip more manageable and efficient – as long as you can find a convenient charging station.
What traditional airlines are doing for connectivity – further reading:

 

Social Engagement Summit

The Social Engagement Summit is the premier conference dedicated to highlighting the reasons and benefits companies should embrace proactive or reactive engagements on social media.

Photos and event summary here: The Social Engagement Summit
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Topic: How can we bring direct marketing practices to social media to drive real business results?
Panel at the Social Engagement Summit
Our panel

Discussion: Extending email marketing and marketing automation strategies into the social realm to create personalization at scale.

Panel:
Emily Binder of Budget Rent-a-Car
Brent Ducote of Insightpool
Ed Peterson of YP
Ashley Sassnet of Suntrust

Foodstuff Marketing – Part 2

Updated follow-up to Part 1 about cereal games: Over the years I have tweeted and posted multiple complaints about the garbage in food that’s advertised as healthy. Cocoa Krispies box nutrition factsPart 1 originally linked to a Kellogg’s Cereal landing page encouraging activity (no longer available). Homepages for Froot Loops and Apple Jacks had pop-up messages urging kids to get outside and move around. The Frosted Flakes website was a big proponent of outdoor activity and sports participation:

Kelloggs-Frosted-Flakes-cereal-website-Are-You-Up Kelloggs Fruit Loops Get Your Move On

You see the same messaging on tons of food products. Hypocrisy rules grocery shelves. This hackneyed pro-exercise/health stance and the call-outs about vitamins and whole grain on boxes is ridiculous at best and criminal at worst considering the processed ingredients, added and artificial sweeteners, and chemical preservatives that these nutritionally devoid “foods” contain. That cereal nutrition facts have a second column for the addition of dairy milk to make it a “complete breakfast” is a problem.

Cocoa Krispies “Immunity” Cereal – 40% Sugar by Weight + Trans Fats
Cocoa Krispies “Immunity” Cereal – 40% Sugar by Weight + Trans Fats

Breakfast health poser brands like Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Post tout nutrients and a healthy start to the day. Aside from government regulation (see FTC response to the Kellogg’s immunity claim), what would it take on a consumer level to make such brands replace their GMO ingredients, partially hydrogenated oils (see Cocoa Krispies ingredients), and modified corn starch with natural ingredients? You can find organic cereal brands like Lydia’s Organics, Farm to Table, Go Raw, etc. who do this, make better products, and still profit. Just not as much. And unfortunately that’s the deciding factor. But despite media exposés, documentaries and books galore about our food problems, the grocery landscape is wrought with more confusing, misleading messaging than ever.

Eat whatever you want. I’m not here on a granola crusade. Actually, I’m more interested in the larger question of selective consumer awareness and empowerment.

Society has spent decades scapegoating, punishing, and regulating the tobacco industry for its seductive marketing of addictive, cancer-causing products. How have agribusiness and food conglomerates escaped anywhere near the widespread, research-backed, trenchant criticism for the role they play in our nation’s health problems? In 2012, more than one-third of U.S. children and adolescents were overweight or obese (CDC). I barely scratched the surface talking about unhealthy cereal that is marketed as healthy. The convoluted mess that is FDA labeling regulation for terms like natural, organic, free range, etc. creates a false advertising field day.

There’s nothing automatically wrong with selling most unhealthy products as long as the consumer is fairly informed. Tobacco, alcohol, fast food, soda pop, hot dogs at baseball games, sugary bubblegum, you name it – we deserve the right to choose to indulge. But food brands and marketers need to take more responsibility when it comes to product positioning. The misinformation about what’s actually healthy is more expensive than consumers understand.

To wrap up:
Part 1: Good: a return to simplicity and creativity – kids cutting out cardboard shapes (see the Lucky Charms game).

Part 2: Bad: food brands that position themselves with health and physical activity but contain nefarious foodstuff (not food) ingredients while making claims about good nutrition.

What will force change? Maybe consumer awareness is already improving. Social helps. See Bettina Siegel’s petition on change.org which helped to remove pink slime (LFTB from Beef Products Inc.) from school lunches across the country.

Our apples are being jacked.

Multitasking Rots Your Brains

Playing online chess is like trying to get Wii Tennis to suffice for real tennis. You simply can’t digitally recreate the palpable exchange of energy with a live opponent in chess or tennis, as much as a shared physical space only seems a requisite for the sport and not the Eternal Game. (Give it time though… complete virtual reality sports with remote opponents will be quotidian soon enough.)

Beautiful female robot with computer mouseThe simulacra of social interactions that we enjoy online are stunting real relational and conversational skills.

I touched on this in Episode 25 of The Digital Dive Podcast (see 12-minute mark). We thrive off social interaction. Each transaction — from exchanging a greeting in an elevator to chatting at a coffee shop to flipping the bird in a fit of road rage, is a little rally, a serve, a distracted miss. The physiological feedback we get from connecting through technology (social media in particular) creates an addictive dopamine reward system in the brain.

We are bathing in these transactions, but they’re not happening in proximity to our bodies. So exactly what true energy are we processing? Tech addiction (i.e., checking habits) can cause a host of problems, including a loss of normal socialization skills. Something is lost when relational transactions occur primarily digitally. We’re breathing ether. I’ve tried to tweet a smell, it’s getting so bad.

Multitasking is Just Stuff

We should not assume that the quantity of available matches, so to speak, makes up for lost quality. You can’t multitask while playing chess or tennis. Finishing a live game satisfies a deep need for connection, competition, and stimulation. In play, we’re exchanging raw energy, we’re focused and mindful. You cannot be in positive psychology’s beloved zone (feeling flow) while watching TV, eating, texting, and Candy Crushing.

business man and woman multitasking acrobaticsSure, you can multitask continually throughout the day and imagine you are adequately returning simultaneous serves, nailing forehands, and setting up tidy gambits with your network, coworkers, clients, family, and friends as you tap and click, fire off emails, Facebook updates, texts, reblogs and Likes. But it’s fragmented. You aren’t focused. As Lester Burnham said, “This isn’t life, it’s just stuff!”  (- American Beauty)

Since I doubt many of us are willing to give up our technology, whenever possible, let’s return to the simple purity of focusing on just one task at a time. Read more books and fewer articles. The end game will be a disappointment otherwise.

Chess quiz – White to move and mate in 2 moves:

chess problem

Alain White, American Chess Bulletin, November-December 1941. Solution

Original chess move challenge posted 8/23/10, post updated 1/28/17

How To Turn On Google Chrome Voice Search

The problem: You are trying to enable Google Chrome Voice Search but you are not being prompted to grant Google permission to your microphone.

illustration retro woman speaking in speech bubble

The solution: You need to adjust your Chrome settings and/or Adobe Flash Global Privacy Settings. At one point you may have denied Google access to the mic and the settings saved, never to ask again. When you click the microphone icon on the Google Chrome search bar at google.com, you see a link to Learn More, instead of being prompted to Allow or Deny permission (because you already denied it). On Chrome for Mac you’ll see “Voice search has been turned off. Details”

Google Chrome Voice Search searchbar microphone icon

Clicking on “Details” on Mac or “Learn More” on Windows 7 takes you to a page entitled “Voice search and voice actions on Chrome” where you can read about how great Voice Search is and how to enable Ok Google but there is no information about turning the mic on/allowing permission. How do you adjust your permission settings for the microphone in Google Chrome? 

Enter chrome://settings/ in your omnibox. Click Advanced Settings. Under Privacy, click Content Settings.

You’ll see these options on Windows (similar on Mac):

Google-Chrome-Content-settings-Media-camera-AdobeSelect “Ask me when a site requires access to my camera and microphone (recommended).” Click on Manage Exceptions. You may see some entries for Hostname pattern and Behavior. If you see the Hostname https://www.google.com:443 you will want the Audio to be set to “Allow.” If it says block, simply highlight this row and click the X to delete it. Then Google will ask for permission to access the mic when you return to google.com and click the microphone icon to use Voice Search. The problem should be solved now.

However, if it says “Allow” here and you are still having issues, just click on the URL to highlight it, then click the X to delete it. We’ll try and reset the process. If you see no entries for Hostnames here and are unable to type any in manually, that is also okay. Let’s make sure you don’t have any settings in Adobe that are at play:

After you’ve clicked Manage Exceptions, at the bottom, click the “Change” link in: “Adobe Flash Player camera and microphone exceptions are different. Change” and you will end up at Adobe Flash Player Global Privacy Settings: http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager02.html. (Note: it does not matter if you’re logged into Adobe.)

Look for Google in the list of website settings. Delete it. Now you should have no settings regarding Google Chrome in your Chrome Settings or Adobe Flash Player: try to click the mic at google.com again. You should see Allow or Deny pop up.

You’ll find the basic instructions about setup and voice search examples on the Chrome voice search information page (but this page does not allow you to adjust the permission settings and the troubleshooting section doesn’t touch on Adobe). If you have problems after managing the Adobe settings though, the troubleshooting tips there could help.

I’m a fan of any technology that helps us get away from typing.