Episode 23: Users Not Customers - Interview with Aaron Shapiro - My Quest for the Best

Episode 23: Users Not Customers – Interview with Aaron Shapiro

aaron_shapiro

Author and CEO of HUGE, Inc.

New York, NY

Listen to this interview to learn:

  • How a company pivots based on customer feedback.
  • What steps a full-service digital agency take to insure success with high stake assignments from Fortune 1000 firms, including Comcast, Target, and HBO.
  • How the magic of good design leads to rapid product adoption.
  • The demand for a great online experience (and how the bar keeps getting raised) by the generation of consumers now in their 20’s.
  • What Forrester research says about the role of online sales transactions in 2012.

Interview Insights

Click to Read the Show Notes

1:08 How Shapiro’s experience in business school pointed him in the direction of a digital career.

1:53 “I actually thought that I was first getting involved in the internet because it was the next generation of cable TV, I was really interested in media back then. So the idea of getting on the ground floor of something that I thought was going to be the next cable TV or media ecosystem was this really exciting thing.”

2:23 Shapiro tells about pitching “internet for your television,” and how although no one would fund his project, they all wanted him to build their websites.

3:50 [On his second company] – “We developed a technology for people to be able to send rich e-mail. You could put in photos, and video, and graphics in an e-mail message and send them to people. It was initially designed for consumers.”

4:29 “We evolved the company from a consumer play to email marketing where our customers were businesses.”

4:50 “HUGE is a full-service digital agency, and what we do is the full range of digital services for what clients need to be successful online.”

5:41 HUGE’s evolution from design company to full service.

6:10 How HUGE helped with launch of HBO Go.

6:49 “The biggest challenge for [HBO Go] as well as with a lot of other clients is the pressure we’re put under. So HBO hired us not to do an interesting reader, they had a single goal, which was to create the single best entertainment experience which you can have on a mobile device or on an iPad.”

7:37 “The secret, and the real challenge, for this project and a lot of others is to really understand why are users using your experience and what are the core things that they want to accomplish?”

8:58 “Users are notoriously bad at guessing what they want.”

9:27 [On the use of ethnographic research to create personas] – “There’s a few things we do to differentiate between what users actually want and what they say they want.”

10:28 “[Personas] are hypothetical people describing who these people are, their characteristics, and what they’re common tasks and problems are”

10:57 “The key thing is: You can think of lots of problems, but what are the core one or two  problems that are motivating them to use this product.”

11:23 Why extensive testing is essential in developing breakthrough user experiences.

12:43 How HUGE screens subjects to remove the potential for unhelpful outliers.

13:07 “People tend to use products and solve problems in very similar ways. Our goal is not to find quantitative data to find whether something works or doesn’t work, it’s to find problems.”

14:08 “People actually use the internet in remarkably similar ways around the world.”

15:25 Shapiro explains how great design encourages users to fall in love with the product.

16:11 [On the emotional impact of design] – “We’ll often spend a lot of time creating small visual cues and little things to surprise and delight users so they feel that the something that they own is really special.”

17:15 [On why HUGE is a full service agency] – “Design becomes this gateway to the customer experience, and what a lot of other folks do, that work in the company, have nothing to do with the design, but are equally important in making clients successful on the internet.”

18:51 Shapiro discusses why transformative change within the organization is essential for companies to be successful in the digital arena.

19:28 “Every company must be a digital business to be successful in our economy today, and a lot of companies don’t really understand this.”

20:06 Why organizational lag in embracing digital as an essential business component led Shapiro to writing his book.

20:40 Shapiro’s biggest challenges in writing the book.

20:57 “Writing a book forces you to formalize your ideas.”

22:20 “The most successful companies think about users as the core to their business.”

23:36 “Removing the anonymity to digital traffic and thinking of those people as real users that are gonna interact with your company, and making sure that they have a good experience is really the core to being successful.”

24:30 How Shaprio analyzes companies to see how their web experience can improve.

26:41 “If you’re company is not set up to resonate with a digital first customer, then you have a real problem, because those people are just gonna work with your competitor who is set up.”

Expert Bio

Aaron Shapiro is CEO of HUGE, a digital agency that helps companies re-imagine how they interact with their customers and manage their business in the online economy. He has spent more than a decade as a technology entrepreneur, venture capitalist and management consultant. This includes being founding CEO of Silverpop Systems, a leading email service provider, and starting a national magazine distributed by Time Warner.

Aaron frequently writes about the digital economy at AaronShapiro.com and for publications including The Huffington Post, MediaPost, and Fast Company. He is the author of Users Not Customers: Who Really Determines the Success of Your Business, and was named one of Crain’s “40 under 40″ for 2011.

For more information, visit Aaron’s website.

Contact Info for Aaron Shapiro

Business Phone: 718-625-4843

Web Address: HugeInc.com

Web Address: AaronShapiro.com

Travels From: New York, NY

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