When asked the question “which are the top 10 hi-tech cities in the world?”, even the most “tech savvy” candidates tend to have a hard time comparing and/or imagining what is happening on the other side of the globe. In this way, the question is worth asking, and frankly, is far from easy to answer. When searching on the web, most of rankings found in Shakespeare’s language, such as the Popsci or the Wired rankings, tend to focus exclusively on American cities. Personally, the ranking I found the most interesting was one published on the website of The Age, a mainstream newspaper from Melbourne, Australia. Based on six criteria (1. Broadband speed, cost and availability; 2. Wireless internet access; 3. Technology adoption; 4. Government support for technology; 5. Education and technology culture; 6. Future potential), here is their conclusion:
1. Seoul, South Korea;
2. Singapore, Singapore;
3. Tokyo, Japan;
4. Hong Kong, China;
5. Stockholm, Sweden;
6. San Francisco (and Silicon Valley), USA;
7. Tallinn, Estonia;
8. New York, USA;
9. Beijing, China;
10. New Songdo City, South Korea.
The presence of four cities (Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Songdo City) from the Four Asian Tigers is not surprising. However, the presence of cities like Stockholm (Sweden), Tallinn (Estonia) and New Songdo City (South Korea) is certainly something that yields the most expressions such as: “oh”, “ah”, “what’s that”, “are you kiddin’?”, “really?”.
The presence of Stockholm makes sense when looking at rankings that classify the city as the one with the fastest broadband speed in the OECD countries. Moreover, Stockholm is acting as a pioneer in the use of green technologies such as RFID technologies, and paired with the high number of engineers due in part to the presence of Ericsson, those could be factors that contribute in making this city’s ranking first among cities outside Asia.
The city of Tallinn, mostly unknown to North Americans, except for those who have learned the world’s capitals after the fall of the USSR, is known as the Silicon Valley of the Baltic Sea. The city is also known as being the first to organize an election vote on the internet using smartcards, as well as for its free wireless internet facilities across the city. Tallinn is also recognized for the well-known start-up Skype.
Finally, New Songdo City, situated 60 kilometers East from Seoul, is certainly the most fascinating city in this ranking. The city was built from scratch by Gale International, a real estate development and investment firm, and is considered by technology experts as the ultimate digital city of the future. Even if the city is still upon completion, it is already considered in the top 10 of the most hi-tech cities in the world.
I can briefly conclude this post by noting that it is nothing new for North America to be limping way behind Asian countries in terms of hi-tech development, and this ranking is only a glimpse of what’s coming next in technology development….
The right-wing is growing in popularity in the United States, Ben Ali is finally kicked out of Tunisia. Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Iceland are leaning toward bankruptcy, Fidel Castro will die soon, Duvalier is back in Haiti, and India and China are continuing to embrace capitalism. It smells change! It smells revolution! But what about business and more precisely marketing? What does it smell? I would say it smells the roast of a revolution too! But what kind of revolution? I would say three types of interconnected marketing revolutions: (1) the retailing experience revolution, (2) the automated personalization revolution and (3) the social media revolution.
Let’s first start with the retailing experience revolution, since it’s the oldest and the more marketing-related revolution. In the 90’s, companies started to become aware of the importance of store design and atmospherics and how it could enhance a consumer’s experience and thereafter leverage sales. Companies started to become aware of the power of (1) music style, (2) music tempo, (3) decors, (4) store colors arrangement and more importantly, (5) the power of building the right brand-related ambiance. All these techniques have culminated with the bestselling book “Why We Buy? – The Science of Shopping” by Paco Underhill that brought “ambiance research” to another level. An interesting update and complement published in 2010, is “Buy-ology” by the danish author Martin Lindstrom with a foreword by Paco Underhill.
Thus, running into a mall is no longer a boring utilitarian task for many of us (but it is still for some guys!), it’s more than ever an “Experience” (with a capital “E”), and the cheapest experience you can buy, the only thing it costs is gas or any transportation fees, and that … until you buy. Some companies have even brought the experience one step further, simply taking a look at the Charmin’ restrooms in New York City and the Apple Genius Bar will make you understand that it’s all about “Experience”.
Pushing the peanut one step further, the importance of a fit between a website design and its associated brand is another example of this retailing experience revolution. Thus, the creative part of ergonomics is totally inlaid in this revolution.
Revolution #2 – The Automated Personalization Revolution
If petroleum was the “Black Gold”, the water the “Blue Gold”, then the web can be defined as a golden mine of information. But it is more and more a golden mine of information for companies to find you and then target you. More and more companies know who you are, where you are, and what you want? It looks more and more like a “Big Brother” issue, to quote one of my favorite authors George Orwell. In web terminology, it could be referred to as Web 3.0 – the information finds you and meets your needs before you find it.
From Online to Offline to On-line
The beginning of this revolution started with Amazon in 1994, the objective was to target the consumer/user based on collaborative filtering. Most importantly, the automated personalization is a real-time updating (on-line) process that collects information about you and adapts its offering as you evolve in the society always relying on people similar to you. Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, is a graduate in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Princeton. Since then, tons of computer scientists and statisticians with expertise in computer programming and data mining/statistical learning emerged in start-ups or changed the business culture of already existing companies.
More and more, this personalization revolution will appear offline. With the advent of location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla, this is simply the icing on the cake. Companies can now bring your offline information online and then target you. This is marvelous for the consumer but in the long-run it would be even more interesting for the company. Offline examples include the possibility to learn about consumers using intelligent in-store displays (see my post entitled “The In-Store Displays are Watching You” on the topic), then merging the retailing experience revolution with the automated personalization revolution.
Revolution #3 – The Social Media Revolution
Let’s first put something clear. As in the ancient time, people are still communicating, they are simply communicating using different platforms. In this way, there was social life before social media, as there was statistics and KPIs before web analytics, as there was information available before the Internet. Traditional way to communicate to others should always be taken in consideration by any company and ad agency. However, what should also be taken in consideration is that what is said on the web, stays on the web. In the 1950’s at Tupperware parties, people could say what they want, and what was said, could be forgotten the other day or burned in the fireplace, but now it stays and sticks on the web as an unwanted Facebook picture. Thus, the traditional ways of communication stay, but the media changes and the information is carved in stone. Here are my top 9 changes related to social media (feel free to suggest me some others):
1. People are less patient than before, they want it right now;
2. People are more connected, but they know less about their connections than before;
3. People communicate more with strangers online, but less with strangers offline;
4. People trust less traditional advertising than before and more their weak ties than their strong ties;
5. People have less privacy than before;
6. People who have nothing important to say are gaining supporters compared to experts;
7. People are spending less time on television and more time on the Internet;
8. The information is spreading faster;
9. The information is more tractable.
But why is social media a marketing or more globally a business revolution? Since the information is easily tractable on the web, what is most useful from a business perspective is the possibility to broadly answer the 5W’s for almost any brand:
1. Who is writing about your brand?
2. What is written about your brand?
3. Where are consumers writing about your brand?
4. When are consumers writing about your brand?
5. Why are consumers writing about your brand?
Nowadays, using social media monitoring platforms like Radian6, Sysomos, Lithium (Scout Labs), etc… to answer these 5 questions is more and more common for firms or agencies. Consulting agencies using their own powerful solutions such as Nexalogy have also emerged in the business world. More and more, the social media revolution is tending toward the automated personalization revolution.
The power to the morons? – From Plato to Ashton Kutcher
In the 4th century BC, Plato dreamed about what he referred to as “The State”, where experts could lead and share their decisions. If Plato would be alive today, he would certainly kill himself. Social media platforms sure give more power, the problem is that sometimes, it reinforces power to people that sometimes simply have nothing intelligent to say. Following Ashton Kutcher on Twitter may be funny, but most of what he is saying is useless. However, he is certainly one of the most influential individual on Twitter. Overall, there is surely more information exchanged than before on the social media platforms, but there is also extremely high number of “babbles”. Getting rid of “babbles” is one of the main challenges of any social media monitoring platform.
As stated in my previous post last year, changes in the ranking are mainly due to two factors: (1) changes in the sources used by The Internet Worlwide Stats Database, and (2) natural growth. Since last year, not that much has changed, 9 of the countries in the Top 10 are still present and 29 of the Top 30 are still dominating this ranking. The only newcomer is Czech Republic in position 27. Scandinavia and Oceania are still leaders in terms of Internet Penetration rate while Germany and United Arab Emirates are the winners of this ranking, each gaining a whopping 13 positions. This change for Germany should be related to a change in the source which was underestimating the penetration rate. Furthermore, despite all the financial concerns raised during last recession related to the viability of all luxury hotels, villas and islands in Abu Dhabi, I would tend to think that most of the increase for the United Arab Emirates is linked to technological growth rather than a change in sources.
Furthermore, I would also add some doubts about the strange downward variation for Spain that should certainly be related to a change in source too.
Logic and statistical interpretation 101
When looking at this ranking, it is important to understand that all countries have different ways of measuring the Internet Penetration Rate, but globally unless there are bombing destroying a country similarly to Japan in World War II, there should not be more than a 2% downward variation, a variation that could be related to statistical noise. Even for growth, more than 10% for a year is generally associated to a change in the source used, especially for European countries, since absolute and relative growth is mainly seen for BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries. Thus, even though these countries have low Internet Penetration Rates, they account for nearly one-third (32.36%) of the world Internet users population, China alone accounting for more than one-fifth (21.35%). Here is below a table representing the Internet Penetration Rate of these four countries but also the percentage of users in comparison to the world total.
In conclusion, there is not that much new concerning the Worldwide Top 30 countries for Internet Penetration Rate. However, what will be more and more interesting to look at in the future is the growth of the BRIC countries. Furthermore, I know it’s only the beginning of the year, but if you’re looking for a techno-trendy country or city to visit, this ranking is a good complement to my post entitled The 10 Most Hi-Tech Cities in the World, but also to the lucky 13 cities in the world described in my post entitled The art of Being Perceived as an Innovative Mind in Marketing.
Canada is one of the countries where consumers pay the highest mobile contract fees in the world. In short, this situation is mainly due to an oligopolistic/cartelistic structure that favors providers/retailers over consumers, which lowers competition and encourages scarcity on the supply side. The customer empowerment concept can essentially be thrown away for that particular market. To better understand how this market is evolving in Canada, and especially in Quebec, one interesting approach, that some may argue simplistic, is to use the 5 components of the Porter model: (1) manufacturers, (2) retailers/providers, (3) new entries, (4) substitute products, and (5) consumers.
Let’s start with manufacturers. This is where the competition is most aggressive, since it is an international competition. Companies continue to evolve and many new products are launched. The following companies are actually selling/competing in Canada.
1. Apple (iPhone)
8. Research in Motion (BlackBerrY)
Providers have to be considered as the starting point of our anti-competition story. First, there are not many providers/retailers, and secondly, all of these providers control other sub-brands.
1. Rogers controls Fido
2. Telus controls Koodo
3. Bell controls Solo & rent its network to Virgin Mobile
Thirdly, as in most countries, the low number of providers encourages exclusivity for a specific phone. For instance, Telus has, at the time being, exclusivity on the HTC Pro 2 which reinforces the power of the provider over consumers.
3. New entries
The end of this oligopolistic structure is still under legal fights, notably for access to networks. Up to 6 providers (for more on the topic, I would suggest to read the following post by Ian Hardy) are supposed to join the market in the next few years. Here is the list:
1. DAVE Wireless
4. Public Mobile
6. Videotron (already slowly entered)
Like in most oligopolistic markets, the entry of these new competitors would favor lower prices and give more power to consumers.
4. Substitute products
In comparison to other products, with the emergence of powerful smartphones that are integrating features (see my post entitled Three types of convergence – Is the future friendly? for a discussion about convergence), the mobile market in Canada is taking market shares away from other products such as cameras, MP3 players, electronic agendas,etc…
Many customers are still locked-in with awful 3-years contracts. Furthermore, the structure of monthly contract fees encourages these 3-year contracts. Some providers have even started to pay the end of some consumers contracts’ with another provider in order to gain new clients they would thereafter locked-in with 3-year contracts.
To conclude, the mobile market in Canada doesn’t favor competition at all which puts the consumers handicapped with expensive contracts. However, the possible entry of new providers should favor more competition and lower the prices in the next few years. Let’s wait and see what the future will be, and like the Telus catchy sentence say, we only hope that the “future is friendly” for the consumers that we are? Any comments?
My second post on this blog entitled Canada in the Worldwide Top 3 for Internet Penetration Rate, which is one of the most viewed, was about a worldwide ranking based on one of the most important macroeconomic indicators of innovation: “the Internet penetration rate”. This post did not generated lots of comments at the time, but many people find it useful to cite for the first steps of a presentation. However, with time, new data have become available and the shape of the ranking has changed. Using data from The Internet World Stats database, this post is an update of the Top 30 countries with the highest Internet penetration rate for nations with more than a million individuals, so here is the new Top 30 compared to the previous one of April 2009:
United Arab Emirates
The changes in the ranking are mainly due to two factors: (1) changes in the sources used by The Internet Worlwide Stats Database, and (2) natural growth. The new ranking includes all members of Scandinavia in the new top 5: Norway (ranked 1st, 90.9%), Sweden (ranked 2nd, 89.2%), Denmark (ranked 3rd, 84.2%) and Finland (ranked 5th, 83.5%). In terms of changes, 6 of the previous nations in the Top 10 are still in the Top10 (Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand & Japan).
In conclusion, Scandinavia and Oceania are still leaders in term of Internet Penetration rate while nations such as the Four Asian Tigers (South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong & Taiwan) should improve their position in the next few years even though the new ranking did not revealed strong improvements. However, even though this macroeconomic indicator is quite reliable to reflect a nation’s innovation, it is important to note that it tends to favor nations where the population is highly concentrated in urban areas. In this way, this ranking is a good complement to my post entitled The 10 Most Hi-Tech Cities in the World.
Happy new year to everyone and feel free to express what you think of this new ranking?
Is Twitter the next big thing or is it the next MySpace? And what about Facebook and Google? These are interesting questions managers keep asking themselves. I was reading earlier this week an article published in Business Week on how Twitter has made the real-time web an important issue on the Internet and how it can be considered a potential competitor for Google. Briefly, the author interviewed a truly biased specialist who has invested money in Twitter and companies that offer solutions to track Twitter information. Personally, I think the article was biased and off-the-track, and I don’t want to offend the pro-Twitter squad, but Twitter has many similarities to past social platforms that have failed such as (1) Friendster, (2) MySpace and (3) Second Life. This leads me to pretend that Twitter tends more to be the Next MySpace than a potential competitor for Facebook. Here is my reasoning in 8 points:
1. Too much reliability problems
2. Too much spamming
3. Not enough privacy
4. Too much babbles
5. Not enough readers
6. Too hard to maintain conversations
7. Too simple
8. Too much competition on the radar
1. Too much reliability problems
This seems similar to what Friendster and Second Life have experienced in the past as Twitter is getting attacked from everywhere on the planet; how many times will you hear “Twitter is down… again”? Is there anything worse than trying to log onto a website that is not working? These reliability problems are not causing too much damage for the moment, but one day, users will get tired and trust will be broken.
2. Too much spamming
Spamming on Twitter is just starting. For instance, just add 10 Internet gurus to your “follow” list and you will receive tons of new followers (spammers) that will chase (follow) you not to connect with you, but more to add you (if you reciprocate) as an extra follower. There is a developing market of companies sharing techniques to increase their number of followers; Mashable even wrote an article that summarizes this emerging market. What is the point of having new followers if these followers don’t care about you? Anyway. Personally, the worst type of spam I have experienced is when non-followers mentioned me, with the known symbol @ in a non-targeted corporate tweet. Sure, it is possible to block them and report spam, but this is time-consuming for nothing.
3. Not enough privacy
Some may also say that Twitter is really bad in terms of privacy, and I totally agree, but for now, if I want to have more privacy, I just log onto another platform and share with my friends on Facebook or on the good old MSN.
4. Too much babbles
In a recent study, it was said that 40% of the content on Twitter was insignificant babbles. I would totally agree with the point of view of researcher and social networks specialist danah boyd who argued that babbles are not necessarily babbles for everyone. However, these « babbles » are generally information I categorized as spam for the writers (my “following”) I don’t really know personally – and if I know the writer of those babbles, well then, maybe they are not always to be considered as such.
5. Not enough listening
What is really surprising on Twitter is that you can have 10,000 followers but it can happen that almost none of them will read what you post. To read you, they need to be online, they need to be connected to their Twitter account via the Twitter website, via Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Twitterriffic, depending which tool they are using, and they need to actively follow you. The Dunbar number stipulates that one human cannot follow intimately more than 150 people. Good luck! This is why Twitter is a paradise for quantity and not quality.
6. Too hard to maintain conversations
Have you ever tried to maintain a conversation of four to five tweets exchange with someone on Twitter? This is really hard, and personally, when I want to do that, I just use another platform.
7. Too simple
If the idea behind Twitter is simple, this is mainly what makes it popular; however it is sometimes too simple. The only thing you can do is post a tweet or read a tweet, so once again I use another platform.
8. Too much competition on the radar
Facebook has bought Friendfeed, launched Facebook Lite and Google will launch Google Caffeine and Google Wave. What does this mean? This means that even though Twitter is growing fast, it is a matter of time before competition gets the better of it. In other words, every user should say thanks to Twitter for forcing Facebook and Google to come up with ideas to exploit the real-time web as fast as possible.
Should your company be on Twitter?
After listing all these reasons why Twitter is not the next big thing, the main question some would ask me is: “should my company be on Twitter?” And my answer would be: YES. Why? Mainly because Twitter is an interesting way to control your brand image, not to build it, but to control for negative comments against your brand. However, is Twitter the next big thing? NO, and if you want to build for the future, focus your energies on Facebook and follow the launch of Google Wave.
What will we learn from Twitter?
We should at least learn two things from Twitter, that there is need for the real-time web and a need for fandom.
1. Need for the real-time web
The 140-word tweet has been a good vehicle to bring the real-time web as an Internet mainstream issue which could have been predicted by the emergence of SMS. This trend is there to stay. This is also why Google will launch Google Caffeine and Google Wave soon enough, in order to answer Twitter’s growth.
In conclusion, I personally don’t think Twitter is the next big thing, but more likely a fad that will soon go away like Friendster, MySpace and Second Life did in the past ten years. However, we must thank Twitter for bringing the real-time web to another level. Any other opinions or thoughts on the topic?
As a follow-up to my last post entitled The 10 Most Hi-Tech Cities in the World, I was thinking about another simple and easy-to-understand ranking that could impress, destabilize, or even wake up, for a single minute, a curious audience in a business happy-hour cocktail. While preparing myself for a Macromarketing Conference, I ended up discovering interesting findings concerning one of the most important macroeconomic indicators of innovation: “the Internet penetration rate”. Personally, my Top 3 ranking would certainly have included countries such as South Korea, Japan or Singapore. However, strangely, while looking at The Internet World Stats database I ended up being exposed to results that surprised me. I decided to compile my own Top 30 countries with the highest Internet penetration rate for nations with more than a million individuals:
1. Netherlands – 90.1%;
2. Norway – 87.7%;
3. Canada – 84.3%;
4. New Zealand – 80.5%;
5. Australia – 79.4%;
6. Sweden – 77.4%;
7. Japan – 73.8%;
8. Portugal – 72.9%;
9. Israel – 72.8%;
10. United States – 72.3%;
11. South Korea – 70.7%;
12. Hong Kong – 69.5%;
13. Switzerland – 69.0%;
14. Denmark – 68.6%;
15. Finland – 68.6%;
16. United Kingdom – 68.6%;
17. Taiwan – 67.2%;
18. Slovenia – 64.8%;
19. Germany – 63.8%;
20. Spain – 63.3%;
21. Belarus – 61.9%;
22. Italy – 59.7%;
23. Estonia – 59.7%;
24. Malaysia – 59.0%;
25. Singapore – 58.6%;
26. France – 58.1%;
27. Austria – 56.7%;
28. Bulgaria – 55.1%;
29. Romania – 53.9%;
30. Jamaica – 53.5%.
The penetration rates for the Top 5 countries were not that surprising: Netherlands (90.1%), Norway (87.7%), Canada (84.3%), New Zealand (80.5%), and Australia (79.4%). However, what was most surprising is the low Internet penetration rate for what I thought would be the Top 3, that is to say, Japan (ranked 7th, 73.8%), South Korea (ranked 11h, 70.7%), and Singapore (ranked 25h, 58.6%; for some reasons explaining the low penetration rate of Singapore, I would refer to Chandler Nguyen’s blog). Moreover, the extent of rural regions, the importance of traditions and the high number of individuals older than 65 years old are amongst the reasons that could explain low results for the Old Europe countries such as Germany (ranked 19th, 63.8%), Italy (ranked 22nd, 59,7%) and France (ranked 26th, 58.1%). A map summary from The Internet World Stats database concerning the Internet penetration rate by country for 2007, is proposed in the figure below.
In conclusion, after reading this post, I hope you’ll network a little more during your next business happy-hour cocktail, but be careful and stay alert to be sure that your new knowledge doesn’t make you a strong candidate for closing the bar…