Data driven fitness community

data pulse #43

sweaty betty tamara

Now I’m not one into female fashion ( just ask my wife) , nor do I hang around the shops but I do love how Tamara Hill-Norton has used data to create a passionate community with Sweaty Betty since she set up the first boutique in Notting Hill in 1998 . Initially targeting “yummy Mummies” but now broadened out to connect fitness and fashion.

Sweaty Betty is a British retailer specialising in active wear for women, featuring in 50 from London to San Fancisco  and selling significantly digitally. Sweaty Betty aims to ‘inspire women to find empowerment through fitness’.

sweaty betty 2

Sweaty Betty has a real distinctive difference to its potential competitor Amazon : It distinctively  moves beyond traditional retail practices with added value services as well as great clothing and builds an active community. This is achieved through regular Sweaty Betty fitness classes that are actively promoted to its customers. These classes range from yoga, run clubs and boot camps right through to Pilates, and are held in Sweaty Betty stores around the world. For those who can’t attend in person, there are also online fitness classes.

Sweaty Betty Live was a event where 3000 Sweaty Bettys came to sweat learn shop eat & get pampered:

sweaty betty carnaby

sweaty betty 1

Sweaty Betty was very clear on their purpose and had a very clear story that was developed starting inside the organisation, and building out into their community. A data driven approach to brand building and creating community, loyalty and interaction meant people starting telling the Sweaty Betty story themselves.

checkout Tamara story:

Sweaty Betty leverages a broad range of data-driven social tools – Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are all used. They also created ‘brand ambassadors’ and allowed customers to have a conversation, helping to underline the sense that Sweaty Betty is a ‘fitness community rather than just a sportswear retailer



Be a better you….

better you

Be a better you rather than worse them

As vulnerable humans, we’re brilliant at paying attention to threats in our midst. We are experts at mitigating against failure, which we trick ourselves into believing is the way to optimising for success. This tendency might explain our willingness to devote our resources to averting risk, solving problems and fixing mistakes. 

When we focus on getting a near perfect score we sometimes overlook the opportunity to do more of what we already do well. 

It’s possible that regularly amplifying delight can produce better results than trying to avoid the random missteps that inevitably happen.

It’s just as important to pay attention to what makes your customers happy as it is to get to the bottom of complaints. 

What do you customers thank you for? 

Make a list. Then do more of that.

  1. Rolling back Prices at Asda
  2. Good Food at Sainsbury’s
  3. Community stores at Coop


Amazon Go-Go

amazon go

In January in Seattle, queues formed around the block for the first glimpse inside Amazon’s latest retail offering – Amazon Go.

Luckily, I had a colleague in Seattle checkout what it looked like on launch day  to see what the future of retail (might) look like; overall impression was that it was remarkable at how unremarkable it was…

Inside, the atmosphere was  calm – erring on the “good side” of downright boring, in fact, given the ease of the experience.

Before entering, everyone is required to download the Amazon Go app, the digital counterpart to the physical shopping experience. Downloaded over a phone network on the walk to the store, the app provides a short animation on how to navigate Amazon Go, followed by a QR code to identify yourself at the entrance. For a digital-first company such as Amazon, it was curious to see the digital elements function largely as invisible enablers of the physical experience.

There is no interaction with the app required while you shop, and a fully itemised receipt appeared as a push notification upon departure several minutes after leaving.

There is a “Discover” section on the app, where you can browse products by category, but this is the extent of its intersection with the physical experience.

The store itself was small, reflective of the limited selection of products – largely a curated, premium selection of pre-prepared healthy fare, perfectly placed to meet the needs of time-poor Seattle office workers. Interesting to see how that can be scaled….

However, the limited space posed a problem for the few store employees tasked with re-stocking; the crates were unwieldy and large enough to block some of the shelves and were a noticeable inconvenience. This though may have been due to the anticipation of higher demand on the first day or the fact that amazon don’t ( YET) understand retail operations

Purchases are tracked by an impressive, dense array of cameras mounted on the ceiling that follow your journey around the store. While the cameras don’t use facial recognition, there were rumours that the original launch was delayed as the tech couldn’t distinguish between shoppers with similar body shapes  – suggesting there’s a certain level of personal, visual data that customers are handing over.

It seems likely they’ll be comfortable doing so, however, as it’s this “computer vision” which enables customers to ‘Just Walk Out’, without having to go through a traditional check-out.

It’s savvy too – despite various attempts by my colleague to fool the system, it was able to correctly identify who should pay for what.

This was the case when comparing products as well; while in the store, I tested it by continually picking up and replacing two different products and was pleasantly surprised to find my final choice was indeed the one on my receipt.

Known online for its relevant and contextual suggestions, Amazon’s Go has rudimentarily translated this digital capability into the offline world with signs in the wine section with suggestions based on your previous purchases (“If you bought X, you’ll like Y”).

It’s easy to see how they could quickly expand this using their wider digital infrastructure, perhaps with decisions or indecisions in Amazon Go showing up on Amazon next time you log into your account.

The “computer vision” element of the cameras is another indication of how Amazon could potentially layer this real-world data onto the digital profiles of customers. In the near future, we’ll see the computers in these cameras not just process information but also react to the world around them.

With facial recognition software in a retail context approaching, it’s not a stretch to imagine that soon these cameras could react to our disappointment at limited stock, for example, and serve us a prompt to purchase the missing item through Amazon Fresh.

It feels unquestionably odd to simply walk out with the items you’ve picked up – it truly felt like shoplifting.

Once outside though, this feeling swiftly fades into the realisation that this store has undoubtedly set a new bar for consumer expectations at retail.

As we now jump out of Lyfts and Ubers without paying, or giving it a second thought, it’s quite easy to see this retail model becoming the norm as well.

Amazon Go is certainly a glimpse into the future of retail, and the focus on eliminating queues does not do justice to the scope of change this store could usher in.

More than convenience, the store has fundamentally altered the emotional experience of shopping. For retail incumbents, it’s a look at a new way of doing things – and they’ll have to quickly decide whether their service should adapt, or remain differentiated to survive.


Check Out the Amazon Go YouTube Film :



5 ways hard-headed leaders promote innovation

retail leaders

I have known many CEOs and CMOs over my career. The best ones created innovative transformational cultures. Many tried. Some failed to comprehend the definition of the word itself; others lacked the vital leadership traits to inspire creativity and implement great ideas. Those who were adept at driving innovation and sustaining it over the long haul had one thing in common: they were hard-headed.

Their tough-mindedness came from an unshakable belief that innovation is critical to corporate survival, and that without powerful and constant change, innovation would be elusive. These trailblazers were innovative leaders, but surprisingly some of them weren’t creative, themselves. That didn’t matter because they were good a recognizing great ideas and welcoming change. No change, no innovation.

So, how do unshakable leaders create change and how to they sustain the innovation outcome?

  1. They unsettle the organization. There’s a host of companies that get things done, control performance, spot problems and deliver their budgets. But the structures, the processes and the people that keep things ticking along can snuff good ideas and block movement through the system. Innovative leaders appreciate that there is a difference between what’s needed to run a business and what’s needed to foster creativity. This ethic prevents excessive layering from killing ideas before they reach the top.
  2. They’re hardheaded about strategy.  Leaders who embrace innovation have a pretty clear idea of the kind of competitive edge they’re seeking. They’ve thought hard about what’s practical and what’s not. So the approach is not wishy-washy, but focused and driven. When this methodology brings results, employees become disciples of the strategy and the culture that facilitates execution.
  3. They make innovation a priority in the “walk” as well as the “talk.” When executive teams demonstrate innovative thinking and practices, the rest of the organization is clear on direction. This facilitates coherent cross-functional teamwork and an innovative modus operandi that encourages diverse viewpoints.
  4. They take note of what’s already going on with a view to balancing creative thinking with the discipline of assessing solutions and their implementation. The best backdrop for spurring innovation is knowledge – knowing the business cold. Good ideas often flow from the process of looking at customers, competitors, and the business as a whole.
  5. They appreciate that not many ideas work the first time, so they’re prepared to praise failure, move on, or try again until the company gets it right. From there, innovative leaders marshal resources behind a few winners and then execute like the SKY Cycle team

Innovative leaders are a special breed. They aren’t as interested in “minding the store” as they are about “opening new stores.” Nor are they shy to admit to controlling strategic direction, influencing the culture, and monitoring the process and practice that unleashes business’s most elusive success factor.

retail leaders 2

Be a better you, rather than worse them

better youBe Be a better you

This week you answered a customer query and solved her problem. You responded to every email, tweaked your resume and made your case well in the last meeting. You ticked off the things on your to-do list, had a look at your numbers and made solid plans for the weeks ahead. And that’s exactly what your competitors did too.

We spend a lot of our time doing the busy work of trying to gain an advantage in an attempt to compete and win. It turns out that the most sustainable path to significance is to do the things that the competition would never dream of doing—the things that only you would do.

You don’t need to compete when you know who you are.

what applies for corporate brands, also applies for our personal brand

Be a better you rather than a worse them.

Blow Up Bedrooms….


Data Pulse #23

When a few programmers and bloggers bought some air-beds , built a website and offered an air-bed with a coffee on their floor during a particularly busy conference season in San Francisco, they didn’t think they’d be creating a dis intermediation business to rival Marriott or Intercontinental Hotels.

Airbnb is a lodging rental platform with headquarters in San Francisco, California.

airbnb has grown staggeringly quickly over the past half-dozen years. The mind-boggling numbers show its incredible popularity; 1.5million listings in 33,000 cities in 191 countries around the world have attracted 65million guests – and counting.


Last June the company was priced at $25.5billion (above hotel giant Marriott’s $20.90bn), and ranked the third most valuable start-up business in the world, behind transportation network company Uber ($51billion), and Xiaomi, the world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker ($46bn).

airbnb has used data to deliver against the brand purpose, tell the brand story and build the customer experience . “Experience the world like a local” 


airbnb describes itself as a ‘community marketplace where guests can book spaces from hosts, connecting people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay.’ A super brand that is community led.

The hosts are business partners, and airbnb is led by what the business partners say, continually getting their opinion and gauging reaction to business challenges and opportunities. It quickly builds a sense of openness, trust and meaningful interacton to form a strong community.

Every year, some 5,000 hosts from more than 100 countries are invited to the company’s airbnb Open (the 2015 edition was held in Paris) and encouraged to talk about the nature of their work. It is a great opportunity to both connect with the hosts and understand how airbnb can help serve them better. It is also a good way to feel part of that broader global community and the local area.

airbnb ran an innovative campaign to engage not only hosts but visitors in the airbnb community. The One Less Stranger campaign – where 100,000 hosts woke up on New Year’s Day, 2015, to an email from airbnb’s founder Brian Chesky saying he had paid $10 into their bank account – was an instance when “full editorial control” was taken away from Airbnb. Brian wrote that we would like the hosts to do something to help someone else, and to meet someone new with that money, It was a $1million marketing campaign where we gave full editorial control to the hosts. Some people just pocketed the money, but the idea here is that you can allow people who are your biggest advocates to be your spokespersons, and do your marketing for you, on social media and word of mouth.

It all builds up to the goal that your brand is driven by community rather than people in a marketing department.

 ‘It’s far better to have 100 people love you than 100,000 people sort of like you.’

airbnb also use data to make a ever growing core of people love them . The platform has disrupted the traditional hotels industry by eliminating the middle man and connecting travellers directly with people who have space to offer. airbnb collects detailed data relating to how customers are using the platform and attributes much of its success to an ability to analyse and understand how to improve the service.

airbnb employs extensive A/B testing to score multiple configurations or designs of its website and apps. Different users will also be exposed to different ranking and recommendation algorithms – the variation they experience is then linked to their next actions – viewing patterns, bookings and ultimately reviews of their stay.

airbnb uses natural language processing to decipher users’ true feelings about their stay, finding this to be more accurate than simple star rankings (which, they hypothesise, are overinflated due to the personal contact between guest and host).

Must admit i was a little nervous using airbnb for the first time ,. Found a little room in deepest Shoreditch, better than the local Premier Inn and cheaper… but now i’m a convert

Use Storytelling to explain your company’s purpose


The idea of “purpose” has swept the corporate world. Encouraged by evangelists like Simon Sinek, myriad firms like Coop, are devoting real time and attention to explaining why they do. But activating purpose is impossible without storytelling, at both the corporate and individual levels. Purpose is essential to a strong corporate culture, it is often activated and reinforced through narrative. Individuals must learn to connect their drives to the organization’s purpose and to articulate their story to others.

This is hard for most business leaders. Great leaders are often humble and reticent to speak about themselves. This impulse is admirable, but it falls short of what’s needed to inspire people to join in the purpose of an organization. And many businesspeople feel more comfortable with waterfall charts and P&Ls than with telling their own stories.

Only narrative can do that. Storytelling is a skill that leaders can — and should — hone.

Self, Us, Now

Ganz argues that for people to inspire others with the mission of their organization or cause, they must first link that mission to their own motivations, and then connect it through story to those of the people they are hoping to persuade. Ganz has developed a simple framework for those hoping to develop a narrative approach to their purpose-driven organizations: ” Self, Us Now”


To create a public narrative for your own organization, start with “self.” This is perhaps the most difficult part for many businesspeople because it involves focusing on real events in one’s own life and explaining how these incidents established the values that will later link to the values of the organization.

steve jobs stanford

An excellent example of this is Steve Jobs’s address to the Stanford graduating class in 2005. The address was largely a deeply personal reflection on Jobs’s personal history — his working-class upbringing, his dropping out of college. Perhaps more importantly, however, he spoke about how his love of calligraphy instilled with him a love of design that would later guide his work at Apple, and how his cancer diagnosis reinforced in him a deep desire to live passionately and authentically — as if each day were his last. It’s beautiful storytelling, and it gives you a glimpse into who Jobs was, what he valued, and how that would later guide his work at Apple and elsewhere. What’s compelling about Jobs’s address is that it seems authentic and raw. A great story of self has to be a real story of self. Finding that story may require a leader to reflect deeply on her past and motivations, and communicate them honestly — even those parts that are embarrassing or imperfect.


The next step, “us,” aims to connect these values with broader shared values of the audience — clients or employees, for example. In this step, you weave your own personal narrative into the narratives of others through shared values, experiences, hopes, and aspirations. In doing so you create a common narrative for the group or organization. In literature, a well-known example of this (one that Ganz often highlights in class) is the St. Crispin’s Day speech from William Shakespeare’s Henry V. In it, King Henry, attempting to motivate an English army demoralized by their lack of strength, calls on his troops to be a “band of brothers” fighting valiantly together for each other, their country, and the values they share.

anita roddick.jpg

While it’s miles away from the battlefield of Agincourt, The Body Shop is a Good example of how a business applied this technique. They focused telling the story of their mission : ‘To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change.’ using our stores and our products to help communicate human rights and environmental issues. They feature the story of their founder Anita Roddick on the website. The story of Anita and her husband founding the Body Shop in Brighton in 1976. Anita wanted to found a health and beauty products skin care, hair care and make-up that are produced ethically and sustainably. It was the first beauty company to ban testing on animals use Fairtrade products and still sources Fairtrade products from around the world.  Anita was company spokesperson for years beyond her operational involvement. Just before Anita’s death in 2007 Body Shop was sold to L’Oreal , acting as a “Trojan Horse for environmental change within multinational organisations”.  A great “story of us” establishing a community, its values and how they came to be.


Finally, the close is what Ganz calls the “now” — an urgent call to action for those who wish to share the purpose of a group or an organization. Consider Great Ormond Street Hospital. one of the most trusted charities in UK.  The organization’s purpose is “Finding Cures. Saving Children,” and their site is filled with the stories of the kids they serve. Their call to action – often, simply to give financially — is simple, direct, and compelling in their videos and materials. meet patients like Dominic….. ( and Joe,Lara.Matthew,Sophia,Stanley, Zihora….)


Kickstarter, similarly, has an impactful way of asking people to join its team. That narrative starts by having its founder tell the story of the company (the “self”). Their website includes pictures and short descriptions of each and every company employee (“the us”). Finally, the narrative culminates its “now” call to action with a careers page asking: “Love Kickstarter? You’ll fit right in.” These stories are most powerful when they are individually authentic, build to a collective narrative and values, and then seal the deal by asking the person reading, watching, or listening to join in.

Storytelling can be awkward and unfamiliar to many professionals, particularly if you’re sharing personal experiences. Yet the motivation for this storytelling is not self-aggrandizement, but to create a purpose and culture that others can share.

Purpose is what builds real passion, motivation, and buy-in for the stakeholders of any organization. And it can be articulated by leaders who’ve learned to tell their stories and the stories of the organizations, people, and causes they serve.