Get inspired with our latest podcast featuring George Kiley, Author and Ted Talk Veteran, and Jamie Harding, Head of Research, and both co-founders of One Connected Community. Listen in for a refreshing conversation about customer-first thinking, the importance of customer expectations, and how creating a culture around the customer can elevate your brand, your company, and drive innovation.
Don't miss this one, you'll love it. We did! Take a listen.
Read George Kiley's book "Who's Afraid of the Big Idea?" for free here.
Dave: Hi, this is Dave Feinleib, host of "Bricks to Clicks". And today, we're fortunate to have with us George Kiley and Jamie Harding, the founders of One Connected Community. They wanted to bring a new way of thinking to the business intelligence community when they started their new firm. They've got an exciting new book out called "Who's Afraid of the Big Idea?" and George recently gave a TED Talk entitled "Originality: Breaking the Mold." We're excited to have you guys both on the show. Welcome.
George: Thanks for having us. Thank you.
Jamie: Yeah. Thank you, Dave.
Dave: So a TED Talk's a pretty big deal. Tell us a little about that. And, you know, I'm sure everyone's interested to know how did you get on to TED and what did you talk about?
George: Yeah, so TED. We're big fans of TED. Obviously, it's got global reach now. And myself, in particular, and Jamie, we listen to a lot of podcasts and TED Talks to help stimulate new ideas. One of the challenges when you start a small business, obviously, by nature as a startup, you're a fairly small team. And you want to keep your ideas and your thinking fresh. And things like TED, and podcasts like yours, and other podcasts in general help keep that creativity and new inspiration within the team. So we're always big fans.
I do a lot of work and share that work across LinkedIn and other platforms, like Twitter. And it was doing that activity that I connected with some of the local TED team here in London. Through that ongoing relationship the opportunity came about. They had hosted a day here at King's College, London. For any of your listeners who know London, it's right by Somerset House. But the King's College buildings, it's a perfect setting for the talk.
Their day was all focused around madness and embracing madness. There was a whole range of speakers from different backgrounds and different scenes. For myself, I wanted to look at madness from my point of view. And that was all around if we do a lot of the same things over and over, ultimately we won't create anything new. A big reason, a big inspiration for wanting to jump and create the business One Connected that Jamie and I work on so closely together now was to take a different path and to understand that there are opportunities out there to create new things and, particularly, new ways of doing business.
For us, that news, that innovation, was putting customers first and having a bit more of a moral and ethical stance to the way we go about business. So I lent my views, and experience, and a few anecdotes in a talk all around originality and breaking the mold, particularly from a business sense. But also from the kind of social structure around us. My personal background, obviously educated here in the UK, went to university, did a business masters afterwards, and then went into work with a number of corporates. And all along that process, there were kind of best practices and guides and paths that had already been trodden.
And what do I learn? My energy in a few years had came from walking down some of those untrodden paths and creating new opportunities, not just for myself but for other people. And that was a huge, huge impetus for us to start the business today. And that's what led to the talk.
Dave: Love it. Love it.
Jamie: We touch on this before the recording started, Dave, that our British accents can lend themselves quite nicely to sounding intelligent. And so that probably helped with the TED Talk, too. Particularly myself being from Oxford, I speak kind of the Queen's English. So even if I say something which is pretty gobbledygook, at least it kind of comes across as though it makes sense.
George: It's an interesting point, though. Obviously, I'm more of a London accent. So your listeners might be able to tell I'm a little bit more from closer to town than Jamie. But on the lineup for the TED event, there was sort of 12 fantastic speakers. And I think only a handful, about three, were actually from London. And the committee organizing it, again, were representatives from all over Europe. And just that alone was fantastic to be a part of. Input from...the organizer was from Sweden, we had a host on the day from Estonia. Like I said to myself, and only one other, I think, speakers were from London. So it's just a great opportunity to get, again, input and new ideas into our team and into our thinking.
Dave: Well, you look at kind of companies that we think of as disruptors. And one that potentially comes to mind is Amazon. Does that company kind of adhere to your definition of breaking the mold and having big ideas? I mean, how do you think about them in the context of the work you're doing?
George: It's a great question. For me, and this comes back to, again, kind of the heart of our business. Customer expectation is just that, it's what you expect from a brand. So if you and I...if I was to fly over to you guys in the States and I bought a ticket with maybe a cheaper airline, I have an expectation of that service. And as long as that service matches that expectation, for me, that's a good experience. And I think that's generally how people feel. They have expectations.
Well, how that links to disruptors and irregularity and the way we think about things, Amazon has this fantastic mantra. It wants to be part of anything. And it is the place for everything. So my expectation on some of the actions it takes and the way it goes about business is perfectly aligned with its vision and its mantra. And for me, that's what expectation in meeting experience requirements is all about. The problems arise, I think, or where businesses don't necessarily succeed is when your customer expectation isn't met.
We all face a world now where those expectations are rising. Customers are becoming more savvy, more fickle. There's so many competitions that there, you know...I can tap the bit of glass on my phone and within minutes look at competitive pricing. So experience becomes even more important. And if at the heart of that is expectations, I think business must, as a starting point, really identify not, you know, not just the sales guys in these businesses. But in large organizations, everyone, from the front line to HQ, who are we? What do we stand for? What's our goal?
Then making sure every element of that service, and particularly customer-facing aspects but also internal facing, reflects that. And that way, you'll ensure that expectation is met. And the experience, as a natural consequence, will be better and people will enjoy it. And I think the brands will be successful. Amazon does that very well. It wants to be part of everything, and it is part of everything. And it's succeeding and it's innovation because it knows who it is and it knows where it's going.
If you rewind back to the acquisition of Whole Foods, and people saw that as there was a lot of corporate talk, a bit of controversy around it. An online player going physical, so many online players now are developing physical presence because people are aware of that experiential aspect of brands. We don't want to do everything in a digital space. We want to experience people. Retail specifically, which is my bread and butter, is a social element.
And if you can go to a store, you can meet a person, you can have an experience and that experience matches your expectation, if not exceeds it, you're gonna talk about that brand and you're gonna share that brand. And it goes back to some of those basics of marketing. You want people to talk to their friends about you, what you stand for, and the experience you deliver. So that's my take on it. I hope I answered the question. Jay, I don't know if you have an opinion?
Jamie: Yeah, absolutely. Amazon, without a doubt, is one of the best and most disruptive companies out there. Kind of omnipresent and seems to be taking over the world. But what I'm personally interested in is how smaller e-commerce businesses can kind of punch above their weight a little bit.
And so, for example, a good friend of mine runs a marketplace, an online marketplace for florists. And they are a digital business and one that sell their products online. But they took out a space, a common garden in London, where they had a fantastic flower display. And they successfully kind of bridged the physical and digital gap. And what it meant for them as an output was that they got so much attention from social media that the marketing reach just from having that physical presence far outstripped any other spent marketing that they'd done up to that point. And I just think it's an interesting take on the physical and digital world, and how those two are merging. And how physical retail is actually now supplementing e-commerce businesses from an experiential standpoint, but also helping to reach new audiences.
George: You know, to come back to your original question, it's giving people what they want. And something I'm really fond of, and I'm sure some of your listeners, In-N-Out Burger on the West Coast. You know, I don't know if you've followed the...well, the news over the last sort of 48 hours about the burger emojis? Apple's burger emoji, Google's, and Microsoft's?
And, you know, it's one of these things that's become a bit of a viral debate, an ongoing conversation. But the fact that Apple all the way down to its burger emoji got, you know, cheese in the right place, the lettuce in the right place, the patty in the right place, that's detail. And that's thinking about everything. And I know I've kind of sidetracked the moment there for a second. But Apple being the other people big player? You know, that level of detail is fantastic. And Google, in fact, had it the slightly wrong way around. And it's those little details, those lessons you can learn from something as simple as that in a huge, you know, organization that reflects the level of detail and thinking which you want to convey here. So, yeah.
Dave: Yeah, for sure. Now if you look at some of the traditional players, I think they would...let's take the Tescos, the Krogers, the Albertsons here in the U.S. How should folks add these retailers--some of whom have been operating for 3, 4, 5, maybe even 10 times longer than a company like Amazon--how should they be thinking about the big idea and breaking the mold? How do they go about that?
George: It's a huge piece that...the way I look at things, I break it down into a three-prong attack. First and foremost, it comes back to the point I started with. Who are your customers? What do you stand for? What's your USP, or what's your brand value? What's your mantra? That's where everything starts here.
So if you're a retailer and you're selling grocery or if you're selling shoes, Who are your customer? What do you stand for? So it's the understanding that. And it's looking and understanding, you know, some bit of function. Things can, you know, assumptions can easily slip into it. If you're looking at the data you have and reminding yourself. And not just the top level, the HQ, but also everyone on the front line. So I think that's firstly.
Then secondly, obviously, you've got this cultural aspect. You have to have flow with conversation. Flow with communication both ways. From customer to staff and then from top-down and bottom-up. And retail, inevitability, has some silos in it because, you know, online is still relatively new. It seems crazy to say, but you know, in the...it's still only 30 years, 40 years in space. So there's still these silos where you have e-commerce teams sitting in one bit of the office and you have your store team in another bit of the office. And you have branding, marketing, sales.
These silos naturally lead to different kind of internal cultures being created. And whether ideas are shared are not, there's breakdown. So my second piece would be, let's look at that culture. Let's try to get rid of any inertia that might be in the culture and stimulate new flows of ideas, innovation. And actually thinking from a customer's perspective. If I go shopping for some shoes, I might check out online the look and color, and the price, and the availability. But then I'm gonna go into the story to try them on. How can the people within your retail business behind that journey?
Then thirdly is obviously the technical piece. It's all well and good having the best intentions but you need to manage that data. As everyone knows, it's a new world, it's super important. And it's not important for the sake of it. Over here in the UK now--or in Europe more widely, I should say--we've got changing data regulation. And that applies to any business that operates within the EU market and has customer information. General Data Protection Regulation, that's called. That comes into play May 25th. And that is all about looking at the data you hold. What's important? What's not? And respecting the customer's ownership over that data.
There is this...you know, it's not necessarily a ritual, but folklore was within retail here in the UK, you know, you've got that data, "We can do what we want with it." And it was never really the case but that was the mentality and the prevailing headwind. Now, there's a change in attitude, partly being brought by legislation but also retail is seizing the opportunity to really put customers at the heart of their business. So it's no longer, "Let's just collect everything."
You know, I was in conversations with a leading fashion retailer here and they were giving me the store analogy. If you're a lion, you know, what would you actually do in a physical store? So if we're tracking someone, if you were shopping for your groceries in your local neighborhood, you wouldn't want someone following behind with a notepad looking exactly at what you're doing, making notes, looking over your shoulder, recording it. And then if you were to say drop the basket because you had an emergency to get home to, you wouldn't expect someone to run up to you outside and say, "Oh, sorry. You've left your basket. Would you like to come and buy these later?"
And that's sums on what we're delivering on the online experience. So you've got to think about it from both perspectives. And that all requires...they said that looking at data in a new way, and realizing what's commercially important for you as a business, respecting the customer's ownership over that data, and how can you as a custodian of that data provide the best experience for that customer and therefore, the best business opportunities for you to grow and hit your sales figures. So it'll be a three-pronged attack from me. And I hope that helps.
Dave: Yeah. Yeah, that's great. What have you seen that is working the best in some of these organizations? Is it to keep the e-commerce organization kind of separate from the rest of the business? Is it to integrate the two functions? You know, I've seen it work different ways in different brands and retailers that we work with at Content Analytics. But I'm curious what you've seen the effect of with some of your clients.
George: Well, I think Click & Collect is an interesting way to answer that question. So we have a homeware and kind of electronics retailer here that has a huge property footprint. They very carefully integrated both teams and it led to huge success. An analogy I can share with you. For Click & Collect, they have some retail stores in high footfall areas. Shopping centers, shopping malls, town High Streets. And that's great for a certain type of customer. They also have their stores in more industrial parks or...sorry, I should say retail parks. Out of town. And there that's a different type of customer.
But having the teams together, what they realized was those stores in the more out-of-town locations became particular hubs for Click & Collect. Reason being is people could park their car and collect their product from the store. Those teams working together, they quickly realized, "Actually, you know what, the store team? We don't need to have a huge shop of all the different product we offer. We don't need to have necessarily tablets in-store, different ways to pay within the stores because people and customers are predominately using that store in the retail park as a Click & Collect. So why not build that store, repurpose that store and think about that physical store as a Click & Collect destination? Whereas, some of the stores on the High Street where people are coming in to browse and not necessarily in an in-and-out mission," so it comes back to that customer's mission, "Let's use that to display some more of our products, to the more experiential piece."
And that all come about from cleverly looking at data, but more importantly, connecting those two teams, the e-commerce team and the store team, and thinking, "How, collectively, can we benefit the brand?" And that touches on some of the culture aspects I mentioned, around, you know, KPIs and incentives. Within some of these silos, you still got store managers who are incentivized on the store performance and what counts as a store fail.
Part of this piece that I mentioned, the retailer, the analogy, they're re-incentivized to say, "You know what? Any order within this postcode is a collective bonus for everyone, whether that be financial or otherwise." But it's about relooking at incentives and working collaboratively to see what's best for your customer and therefore, what's best for your brand.
Dave: That's great. That's a great example. So before we wrap up, tell us a little about One Connected Community and about the book. Who should read it? And without giving away everything in the book, what are some of the key ideas that people will learn about?
George: Sure, sure. So One Connected Community, we've been running three, four years now. At the heart of our business we're thinking about customers and how can we give customers better experiences. So we work day in, day out with retailers and brands to help them reposition their organizations, culturally but also technically, to put customers at the heart of the business. And also look at challenges in new lights to create opportunity, to seize the moment.
So whilst there might be some culture inertia, some technological inertia in changing regulation, like the data piece I mentioned, we look at those with a positive take. How can this help retails almost clean out the spare room, you know? Something they're been putting off for awhile, how can they tackle that with a new perspective and new energy to bring about a better business for them and for the customers?
So that's what we do day in, day out. The way we go about that is working collectively on a research basis with a number of big brands and retailers in the UK. So once a month, we'll sit down in workshops. We'll have, you know, closed forums where we share very detailed challenges, which we then process and share insights around, whether that be across our own podcast that we do, or through video channels, or through some of the white papers and reports. So that's what we do in the business.
And the book come out of that. The book was essentially a summation of 12 months on the front line in retail. And what I quickly realized was some of the challenges that retailers were facing applies not only to the retailers...and Jamie touched on this right at the start. His role within the business has been to explore other verticals. And you know what? Beyond those other verticals as well. Some of the challenges of putting customers first, they don't just apply to online retail, High Street retail, banking, insurance, travel, hospitality. They also apply in the B2B world.
And that's where the book became really interesting, from my point of view. Those barriers between B2C and B2B are breaking down. And how can we think about people and individuals and customers and humans in new ways? So how can a B2B business really look at some of its customers and say, "You know what? There's a lot of, for example, technology companies out there with solutions. How can we look at you in a new light? How can we really understand what's your challenges are, where you are as a business, who your collective decision makers are? And how can we provide useful context and opportunities and insight around the solutions we offer in a contextual way?"
So for me, the book is ultimately about, there's lots of big ideas out there. And sometimes a little bit of inertia can get in the way, but let's challenge some of the systems and the defaults in place and think about new and untrodden paths. And if we do that and we do that with customers first, whatever our business may be, and if we use and utilize data and technology to test those hypotheses, then we'll be in a better place. So that's ultimately what the business is about and the book.
Dave: Wonderful, wonderful. Now, before I let you go, I'm currently a big buyer of diapers online because I just had...we just had a son. And so that is currently my favorite e-commerce product is buying diapers. Not too exciting. But very important, very critical. What are some of your favorite products for the upcoming holiday season?
Jamie: Good question. My favorite products? My favorite product at the moment is probably...and you wouldn't believe it if you saw me because I'm quite a small fellow. But it's the bodybuilding supplements. And the reason being is because I get a text message every week with a 30% discount code for these supplements. And so I get them pretty cheaply. And there was actually one week where I didn't get the text, and I was tempted to call them up and ask for my own personalized discount code because I was so frustrated at not having it.
But I think, and as a lesson for business. I think they've probably gone too far into sales mode and they're probably affecting their margin a little bit. But a product for me that I'm enjoying is my cheap supplements. Because without them, I'd be a bit of a shrimp. But what am I looking forward to buying this Christmas? It's a difficult question. I'm not sure. George, anything for you?
George: Well, when you said that, this probably, you know, shares more than we need to with your audience in terms of our relationship in business, but I was actually thinking more scented candles than weight supplements. For me, you know, we're switched on a lot. We operate in lots of hours, so you try to get as much sleep as possible. And I find that switch off period between work and play and sleep is challenging sometimes. It can be pretty wired by the end...
George: And the best bit of advice, you know? Sleep is so important. You know, I could write a book about that as well, I think. But I'm really passionate about getting, a good amount of rest so you can perform the best to your ability the next day. And I've found scented candles just help take me from a very upbeat, fast-paced working world. And that, for me, is the transition between, "Right, now I'm gonna sleep." And, for me, doing a crossword, lighting a scented candle, it's a real, you know, life changer. I actually order those online as well, funny enough, because I get through quite a few and it's good to make sure I'm stocked up. So, yeah, what...
Dave: Why is it so hard to unplug and unwind these days? I hear you on that. And things are just on all the time. So I think those are great ones that you guys have brought up. So that's really terrific. Well, thanks so much for being on the show. I've really enjoyed talking with you. I hope that our listeners will look for your book, "Who's Afraid of the Big Idea", and once it's available online, look for your TED Talk "Originality: Breaking the Mold." And, of course, look you guys up at One Connected Community. And would love to have you back on anytime.
George: Fantastic. Super, thanks very much.
Jamie: Thanks for having us.