Unpacking the Week’s News: Friday, March 10, 2017

Google Goes after Slack with Collaboration Chat and Video – Ben Bajarin

Collaboration software and services suites are increasing their enterprise penetration. More companies we talk to are less interested in cobbling together disparate systems for their collaboration software and prefer to have employees and teams collaborate in one place. Most organizations, like colleges and other educational institutions, use some combination of Google Docs, Microsoft Office, and a messaging/teams service like Slack. It seems with the latest moves by Google to integrate better messaging and video conferencing into their G-Suite offering of applications, they are attempting to further bundle collaboration suites together in the hope of boosting sales of the G-Suite apps to businesses and schools.

Both Microsoft and Google seem to be taking a integrated approach to bundling these services. They are saying you need to use all THEIR apps and services to have the whole suite. What make Slack interesting is they are coming at it more as a collaboration platform for which other third party services can integrate their services. For example, we at Creative Strategies use Slack but we also like the Zoom video conference system. Zoom has Slack integration that allows us to video conference as a team right from a channel in Slack. While not exhaustive in third party services, Slack has a robust offering from many different enterprise services sectors which integrate into Slack (demonstrating the power of a platform approach), versus a more walled garden strategy of Microsoft and Google.

Considering businesses and schools don’t always prefer or work with walled garden approaches, I find myself thinking Slack’s “collaboration as a platform” is the more interesting approach and aligns more closely with how organizations work in the real world.

Snap’s Celebration of Women Backfires – by Carolina Milanesi

On International Women’s Day, many tech companies took to social media to celebrate women and, in many instances, call out their own in-house female talent.

In true Snapchat fashion, Snap wanted to celebrate women by creating filters of famous women in history you could superimpose on your selfies. The three lenses featured Frida Kahlo, activist Rosa Parks, and scientist Marie Curie. The Kahlo lens gave people a set of thick eyebrows, red lips and a flower headband, true to the style the artist displayed. The Rosa Parks lens gave users a sepia-toned picture, with a hat, hair and glasses styled like the civil rights activist. While these two are far from perfect and some Snapchat users pointed out they were borderline racist, it is the Madame Curie lens that caused more furor. The scientist’s lens featured heavy eyeliner and smokey eyes. It is no surprise many women took to Twitter to point out the poor choice Snap had made. This is not the first time Snapchat lenses have raised eyebrows. Over the summer, there was the release and quick withdrawal of an Asian and a Bob Marley lens which were, of course, seen as offensive.

The kind of response Snap received about these lenses underlines two major points: first, good intentions are not always enough and marketing blunders are much more painful now, thanks to social media.

Snapchat is a fun app and lenses are a means to entertain, not educate. Trying to use lenses, which are designed not to be taken seriously, as a political or social statement is not only dangerous but inappropriate in my view. Even with the best intentions, as it was in the case of International Women’s Day, the room for error is very limited. Even if the lenses were not racist and sexist, they would still have come across as a diminishing rather than a celebration of the work these three women had done in the arts, activism, and science. Snapchat would have been much better off by creating a red filter – the color that this year was celebrating women around the world. With diversity and sexism being such a hot topic in tech right now, Snapchat came across as out of touch and insensitive.

Thanks to social media, many marketing and PR faux pas that, in the past, would have gone almost unnoticed are today there for everybody to see. More often than not, these missteps are also right in the face of those consumers who are the most important audience for the brand. Think about the #deleteUber campaign or #DumpKellogs. The second issue with social media is the pace is so fast that apologies and rectifications have only limited impact. By the time these come about, your audience has moved on to something else and the damage was done.

As I think about this issue, I do wonder if many brands, especially brands that deal with social media and content, are underestimating how politically aware Millennials are — maybe even more than my generation.

Amazon Announces its 10th Physical Bookstore – Jan Dawson

Amazon this week announced the location of what will be its tenth physical bookstore. This latest one in Bellevue, Washington, where it has a large office presence already. It has four stores open and six additional locations to come, just under 18 months from when the first store in Seattle was announced in November 2015.

Amazon’s physical retail strategy continues to be a tiny minority of its overall business, but it’s clearly a part of its business it feels is working and worth investing more in. Beyond the bookstores, it is also working on its first grocery store near its headquarters, which will feature automated checkout. There’s a certain irony in a company held to be responsible for the demise and struggles of many physical retail stores and chains investing so heavily in building them itself. But this is a concession that there are certain things for which physical retail stores are just better.

Chief among those is the browsing experience which, for books in particular, continues to be sub-par online versus in a bookstore. One of the things physical bookstores have always been really good at is presenting lots of options in a an easily digestible way and it’s what makes spending time in bookstores so fun. I don’t imagine anyone has ever spent any significant amount of time simply browsing Amazon.com for the fun of it. Physical bookstores restore some of that enjoyment and the serendipity that comes with it.

But, of course, physical stores are also still the best way to show off most consumer electronics, which people generally like to see in person and try before they buy. So, as Amazon deepens its investment in physical hardware, it will also likely need to do more to own a proprietary retail channel for that hardware, especially items like the Echo range and its Fire TV devices.

The reality is though, anything like a national footprint is still years away. All but one of Amazon’s ten announced bookstores are in coastal states or near big cities, with the planned Chicago store being the only one in the middle of the country. As such, the vast majority of Amazon’s customers won’t ever see one of its stores even if it builds several times as many, let alone live within a few miles of them. This becomes yet another aspect of Amazon’s infrastructure which will be very real for some of its customers while remaining highly theoretical for many others.

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Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

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