Technology = customer experience in 2010

AT&T Retail Surface Experience from Razorfish – Emerging Experiences on Vimeo.

Recently my employer Razorfish appointed Ray Velez to the newly created position of chief technology officer — a move that underscores the importance of information technology to the agency business.  As my Razorfish colleague Joe Mele wrote, “You better have devs in your creative department.”  In 2010 you can expect more talk about technology coming from agencies and marketers — but what we’re really talking about creating great experiences that build businesses.

Much has been said already about how agencies need to possess strong “back-end technology skills” in order to compete effectively — as if technology is supposed to be an invisible support tool.  It’s certainly true that the ability to link a web store front to an ecommerce booking engine requires gritty technology lifting skills beneath the surface.  But in addition, technology helps clients create memorable customer experiences in highly visible and innovative ways.

Clients and agencies are at a crossroads.  Customarily agencies have helped clients say things more effectively.  But clients need agencies to help them do things more effectively, like launch new products and services, create great consumer experiences, and participate in the social world.  As Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is formed, primarily, not by what your company says about itself, but what the company does.”

Technology is essential to empowering brands to do things, especially in the creation of great experiences in the digital world.  For instance, Mercedes-Benz USA and Razorfish applied CGI to bring to life the luxurious nature of the new E-class sedan via a digital campaign and immersive microsite.  Three-D technology was essential to a recent effort to demonstrate the features of the new Coors Light cold activated can on the Project:Cold microsite.  And AT&T has turned mobile phone shopping into a playful experience by applying Microsoft Surface in-store.

To be sure, the real innovation occurs when technology is coupled with customer insight, creativity, and strong user experience skills.  But technology is the catalyst, front and center.

When he was announced as CTO, Ray Velez discussed the importance of cloud computing at Razorfish.  He was thinking of companies like H&R Block, where Razorfish used an existing cloud infrastructure to create the Don’t Miss It Game (instead of building a video hosting infrastructure).  In February 2010 Razorfish will give a more complete insight into the importance of cloud computing to the marketer at our third Technology Summit in San Francisco.  Throughout 2010, multitouch will continue to play an important role in the work we do, too, shown to great advantage on the Razorfish Emerging Experiences blog.

You can get a better sense of the Razorfish technology vision on the Razorfish Technology blog, hosted by Ray Velez.  And of course through our work throughout the year.

Multitouch technologies taking Razorfish by storm

Multitouch technologies like Microsoft Surface are taking Razorfish by storm.  Encouraged by the popularity of Wii and the iPhone, Razorfish user experience designers are creating new ways for people to communicate with applications on devices through body gestures like a simple tap of a screen.  As my colleague Garrick Schmitt has cited in many blog posts, the esoteric sounding term “user gestural interface” has become part of our vocabulary.  The new Razorfish Emerging Experiences blog shows why.

The blog is the brainchild of the Razorfish Emerging Experiences team, which explores newer user experience metaphors, with a focus on multitouch.  The Emerging Experience blog gives you a glimpse at some of the ideas the team develops for commercial use.  For example, the blog showcases the Razorfashion retail application, which demonstrates how multitouch can enrich retail shopping.

Incidentally, Razorfashion was developed using the Razorfish Touch Framework.  Introduced at the 2009 Razorfish Client Summit, the Touch Framework enables the rapid development of multitouch technologies.

At Razorfish, multitouch is more than a blog.  Amnesia Razorfish just worked with Microsoft and Lonely Planet to introduce Surface commercially in Australia.  Earlier this year, Razorfish and OMD launched for Dockers the first known interactive “shakeable” ad for the iPhone.  The advertisement, which ran for about one month, featured a dancer wearing a pair of Docker khakis.  People who saw the ad between levels of game play on their iPhones were prompted to shake their devices and make the dancer perform various moves.

And as announced in 2008, Razorfish built the first known retail application of Surface for AT&T wireless stores.  Inside select stores, consumers sit down at Surface tables and play with the touch-and-recognition technology to learn about mobile devices. For instance, consumers can review features of a device by placing it on a table.  Surface recognizes the device and displays a graphics-rich overview of features.  Consumers may also use touch-and-hand movements to explore a map that reveals how much coverage AT&T provides in different areas of the United States.  (More about the design of the application here.)

We are grateful that we have clients who want to explore the commercial application of multitouch especially during recessionary times.  Meantime check out the Emerging Experiences blog for a glimpse at the future of user experience.

Art of the idea

In a recent blog post I mentioned that a recession is the right time to innovate.  Looks like BusinessWeek agrees.  The March 23-30 issue, “Game-Changing Ideas for Business,” highlights breakthrough business ideas that have emerged during tough times when companies need new ways to manage and grow.  In the article “There Is No More Normal,” BusinessWeek discusses how Cisco innovated during the dot-com crash and emerged from the recession “more profitable than ever and went on to outperform many tech rivals.”

You can innovate and deliver results now.  For instance, the Emerging Experiences team from my employer Razorfish is researching ways that computer screens can interpret human gestures like the wave of a hand or touch of a finger (commonly known as gestural interface design).  The latest Emerging Experiences research, DaVinci, explores the application of Surface in commercial environments.  But these are not pie-in-the-sky ideas.  In 2008, Razorfish helped AT&T create the world’s first retail application of Surface at AT&T wireless stores, where Surface helps AT&T sales people demonstrate wireless phone capabilities in a more fun, interactive way.  Following the pilot launch in New York, AT&T now has 50 Surface tables operating in 12 stores.


DaVinci (Microsoft Surface Physics Illustrator) from Razorfish – Emerging Experiences on Vimeo.

Similarly, at the Razorfish Living Lab in New York, Razorfish employees have created Carville, which uses Surface tables to show you how learning about automobiles at a car dealer can be fun and educational.  Inside the Living Lab, Razorfish designers experiment with ways in which people and technology interact. Past Living Lab projects have focused on the connected living room and digital youth.  It’s a place where clients can envision how technologies can help them succeed — not tomorrow, but today.


Carville – A Razorfish Surface Application from Bryan Hamilton on Vimeo.

AT&T isn’t the only Razorfish client that’s using gestural interface design to innovate during a recession.  Recently Dockers worked with Razorfish and OMD to design the world’s first “shakeable” ad designed for an iPhone.  On your iPhone, a model appears wearing Dockers khakis, and you can make him dance by shaking your phone.  It’s a good example of where advertising is headed — physically involving the consumer through a playful experience.  Dockers can also track consumer engagement by seeing how long people shake the ad (and then follow up with more content).

At the 9th annual Razorfish Client Summit April 21-23, Razorfish will showcase its Marketing Lab as we do at each Client Summit.  The theme of the 2009 Client Summit is “Art of the Idea,” and the Marketing Lab is one of the ways Razorfish will show our clients what we mean by that.  At the lab, Razorfish will feature three “slice of life” vignettes to demonstrate the impact of digital on everyday life.  For instance, the Home Entertainment vignette will show you consumers can interact with a 30-second ad on TV.  And in the Retail vignette, we’ll demonstrate how consuemrse can use digital to locate goods and services more effectively in a store.

Razorfish clients like AT&T and Dockers aren’t waiting for the recession to end in order to innovate.  Many of them will appear at the Client Summit, and some of them — like Ford, Intel, Levi Strauss & Co., Mattel, McDonalds, Nike, and Terra — will share their experiences on the agenda.

What’s the best example you’ve seen of a company using an economic downturn to innovate?

The inside scoop on Microsoft Surface

On April 17, AT&T worked with Microsoft and my employer Avenue A | Razorfish to launch the first retail application of Microsoft Surface touch-and-recognition table technology at a limited number of AT&T wireless stores. Surface promises to improve upon the often-confusing process of buying a mobile phone in a retail store, and even make learning about mobile devices fun. Until its public launch, though, most consumers hadn’t even seen a Surface table. Few user experience designers had, either. So what was it like to create a user experience design for the launch? Superhype sat down with Rich Bowen of Avenue A | Razorfish to find out. Rich is a user experience lead dedicated to the AT&T account. He lives in Denver, and his work supports AT&T digital advertising and website design across the agency’s Atlanta, Austin, and Seattle offices. His job was to work with a team to design how consumers would interact with Surface tables in the stores. Here is his story.

Superhype: Rich, most consumers haven’t even seen a Surface table. Why are they important?

Rich Bowen: Surface can make the buying experience a lot more fun, especially for products that require high levels of consideration before purchase. With Surface, a salesperson does not need to explain how a mobile device works or whether AT&T can provide coverage to your area of the country. Instead, the consumer and salesperson can sit down at an interactive screen and see the information they need. For instance, using Surface, consumers can review features of a device by placing it on a table. Surface recognizes the device and displays a graphics-rich overview of features. Consumers can also use touch-and-hand movements to explore an interactive map that reveals how much coverage AT&T provides in different areas of the United States.

Continue reading

The inside scoop on Microsoft Surface

On April 17, AT&T worked with Microsoft and my employer Avenue A | Razorfish to launch the first retail application of Microsoft Surface touch-and-recognition table technology at a limited number of AT&T wireless stores. Surface promises to improve upon the often-confusing process of buying a mobile phone in a retail store, and even make learning about mobile devices fun. Until its public launch, though, most consumers hadn’t even seen a Surface table. Few user experience designers had, either. So what was it like to create a user experience design for the launch? Superhype sat down with Rich Bowen of Avenue A | Razorfish to find out. Rich is a user experience lead dedicated to the AT&T account. He lives in Denver, and his work supports AT&T digital advertising and website design across the agency’s Atlanta, Austin, and Seattle offices. His job was to work with a team to design how consumers would interact with Surface tables in the stores. Here is his story.

Superhype: Rich, most consumers haven’t even seen a Surface table. Why are they important?

Rich Bowen: Surface can make the buying experience a lot more fun, especially for products that require high levels of consideration before purchase. With Surface, a salesperson does not need to explain how a mobile device works or whether AT&T can provide coverage to your area of the country. Instead, the consumer and salesperson can sit down at an interactive screen and see the information they need. For instance, using Surface, consumers can review features of a device by placing it on a table. Surface recognizes the device and displays a graphics-rich overview of features. Consumers can also use touch-and-hand movements to explore an interactive map that reveals how much coverage AT&T provides in different areas of the United States.

Continue reading

AT&T launches a Surface-level consumer experience

microsoft_surface.jpg

I cannot say I know anyone who would characterize shopping for a mobile device as “fun and engaging.” AT&T, a client of my employer Avenue A | Razorfish, hopes to change things. At the CTIA Wireless Conference April 2, AT&T demonstrated how the company will use Microsoft Surface touch technology for consumers to explore mobile devices at AT&T retail stores. According to Microsoft, AT&T is the first company to employ Surface in a retail environment.

Here’s how the experience will work: consumers visiting AT&T retail stores will sit down at Surface tables and play with the touch-and-recognition technology to learn about mobile devices. For instance, consumers can review features of a device by placing it on a table. Surface recognizes the device and displays a graphics-rich overview of features.

Consumers may also use touch-and-hand movements to explore a map that reveals how much coverage AT&T provides in different areas of the United States.

The Surface tables will be piloted at a small number of AT&T stores in the United States (planned launch date: April 17) and later on at more AT&T stores.

Avenue A | Razorfish provided strategy, user experience, and technology to support AT&T and Microsoft. What’s interesting to me is the test-and-learn nature of the experience. I doubt anyone has mastered the art of designing an experience for consumers hunched over a table and touching it — Surface is just too new. No doubt the designers will learn lessons from the pilot and make adjustments . . . but the designers — and hopefully consumers — will have fun along the way. Meantime, check out this AT&T demonstration of Surface at CTIA.

AT&T launches a Surface-level consumer experience

microsoft_surface.jpg

I cannot say I know anyone who would characterize shopping for a mobile device as “fun and engaging.” AT&T, a client of my employer Avenue A | Razorfish, hopes to change things. At the CTIA Wireless Conference April 2, AT&T demonstrated how the company will use Microsoft Surface touch technology for consumers to explore mobile devices at AT&T retail stores. According to Microsoft, AT&T is the first company to employ Surface in a retail environment.

Here’s how the experience will work: consumers visiting AT&T retail stores will sit down at Surface tables and play with the touch-and-recognition technology to learn about mobile devices. For instance, consumers can review features of a device by placing it on a table. Surface recognizes the device and displays a graphics-rich overview of features.

Consumers may also use touch-and-hand movements to explore a map that reveals how much coverage AT&T provides in different areas of the United States.

The Surface tables will be piloted at a small number of AT&T stores in the United States (planned launch date: April 17) and later on at more AT&T stores.

Avenue A | Razorfish provided strategy, user experience, and technology to support AT&T and Microsoft. What’s interesting to me is the test-and-learn nature of the experience. I doubt anyone has mastered the art of designing an experience for consumers hunched over a table and touching it — Surface is just too new. No doubt the designers will learn lessons from the pilot and make adjustments . . . but the designers — and hopefully consumers — will have fun along the way. Meantime, check out this AT&T demonstration of Surface at CTIA.