On March 26 through March 28, 2014, we invited 30 Nuruners from our global network to participate in a Design Process Workshop, at the St. Paul Hotel in Montréal. The workshop was facilitated by Jean-Pascal Mathieu, Tracy Pilar Johnson, Sebastian Cavanagh, Steve Tremblay, and David Bliss. Participants explored design thinking principles to better understand how emerging technologies impacted people’s behaviors and transform businesses.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at how putting people first has helped reinvent and transform some of our clients’ businesses—as well as our own. You can also check out our photos from the workshop on Flickr.
With a blog called Digital for Real Life, we’ve come across some pretty interesting ways that technology has been used to enhance the offline world. One pretty sweet example is Boomf magical mallows. The London-based startup prints your Instagram photos on to fluffy, square marshmallows. While the pairing of food with technology is still relatively new, we’re excited to see what’s to come.
We’re excited to announce that we’ve been selected by Blu Homes, North America’s leading provider of premium prefab, eco-friendly homes, to design and build a new consumer web experience for the brand. The project, which begins immediately, includes in-depth consumer research, branding, visual look and feel, site architecture, and interactive content development.
Blu Homes’s unique business model and high-quality, environmentally responsible products makes them one of the most innovative companies in America. We are excited to design a new web experience that reflects Blu’s vision.
This is the 14th edition of the Nurun IT Download, with the latest news stories from the technology industry and insights from Nurun experts.
1. iOS 7.1 Launched with CarPlay: Apple launched iOS 7.1 with a new feature called CarPlay that allows owners of selected cars to use their iOS device with their car’s built-in touch screen display.
Applications that are designed for CarPlay will be displayed in a car-friendly user interface that is easy to control and not distracting for the driver. While some cars already had good integration with the iPhone (through the Made for iPhone compatibility system), the experience was not standard and thoroughly controlled by Apple. Furthermore, some features such as Apple Maps turn-by-turn navigation were not integrated in the car.
At the moment, only a few applications have been selected by Apple to be CarPlay enabled, but Apple has already provided some documentation as part of the iOS 7.1 release to let developers integrate the features required for CarPlay.
The Bottom Line: With Google also pushing for better Android car integration, the car industry will see interesting developments in the near future.
2. Audi Offers In-Car LTE: While cars have had Internet connectivity for some time now, high-speed offerings have been limited. Audi is the first automaker to offer LTE connectivity through the AT&T network.
The Bottom Line: While the data plans aren’t affordable enough to use Netflix for long road trips, they will enable other Internet-dependent navigation systems and in-car touch displays. With CarPlay and Android integration coming soon, cars cannot stay offline for much longer.
3. Samsung Launches Milk Music: Samsung joins the growing list of streaming music service providers with the launch of their new platform, Milk Music. The free service—currently only available on Galaxy devices in the USA—provides 200 ad-free stations and allows users to skip to six songs per station per hour.
The Bottom Line: Other than the obvious fact that the music streaming space is overcrowded, this news demonstrates the fact that Samsung is continuing to compete against Google on multiple angles, an approach that is far from the typical Android strategy.
4. Sony Presents Project Morpheus: At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Sony announced a new virtual reality headset called Project Morpheus. The headset intends to offer gaming and non-gaming virtual reality applications on the Sony PlayStation platform.
The Bottom Line: With Oculus Rift releasing the second version of their development kit and rumours about Microsoft also working on a similar solution, there is a strong push to get virtual reality products in the marketplace. What surprises us most is how such a technology has existed for so long without any successful commercial results. Does anyone remember playing Quake at the end of the ‘90s?
5. Google Announces Android Wear: The rumour of a Andorid OS designed for wearables has finally come to fruition with the recent introduction of Android Wear at a developer preview. In its usage patterns, Android Wear is designed very similarly to Google Glass. It allows users to quickly see contextually relevant information at a glance. The device can be controlled by voice commands or with minimal touch interactions, allowing the user to navigate between cards from each of their applications. Existing apps can be easily integrated with Android Wear through the use of notifications.
The Bottom Line: Android Wear is not the first Android OS ported to wearables—Samsung, Sony and other already have Android-based watches. This news comes interestingly after Samsung released a proprietary OS for its wearables called Tizen.
6. LG and Motorola launch Android Wear watches: Following the announcement of Android Wear by Google, both LG and Motorola announced new smart watches that use the SDK.
The Bottom Line: The watches look very promising, and for now, we’ve picked Motorola’s as our favourite based on its great design.
This article originally appeared in Strategy.
Like many of my fellow shopaholics, I’ve long disliked shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores. For me (and an ever-growing number of Canadians), e-commerce convinced me “shop until you drop” wasn’t just a catch phrase. For as long as I can remember, shopping at a physical store has been an unsatisfying activity I endured out of necessity or happenstance, rather than enjoyment. Traditional bricks-and-mortar stores’ inflexibility, often chaotic and uninspiring environments and lack of informed sales staff have fuelled and encouraged my love of online shopping, which better fulfills on its promise of ultimate convenience, control and choice.
I’m not alone in my shifting attitudes and behaviours. According to eMarketer, annual Canadian e-commerce sales are projected to grow by 17% in 2014, totalling $25.4 billion.
Digital technologies have created savvier, more empowered consumers, and our expectations are understandably very high when it comes to what we demand in quality shopping experiences. Yet, despite the sea change that’s occurring, retailers have been slow to thoughtfully and effectively integrate best practices from online shopping with the ages old practices from offline shopping. The results? Smart shoppers who aren’t feeling the love from bricks-and-mortar stores are fleeing in droves to the fast, smart, brightly lit spaces of e-commerce.
What will it take to increase the appeal of in-store shopping for a generation of demanding, digitally-savvy consumers? Based on our ongoing qualitative consumer research along with insights from my personal shopping habits, here are three expectations of today’s smart shoppers that thoughtful retailers can and should meet by implementing a few changes.
Thoughtful retailers bring familiar online merchandising patterns to the store.
“Highest rated,” “most popular” and products “most frequently purchased together” are some of the most common online merchandising features used by online retailers to highlight complementary products and encourage impulse purchases. Yet why, in a physical store, do I often find myself using my smartphone to help me discover the highest-rated faucets in aisle three, and then walking all the way across the store to aisle 22 to look at the most the most popular bathroom vanities? Facilitating informed decision-making and complementary purchases shouldn’t be the sole province of e-tailers. Thoughtful retailers understand the value of guiding consumers through their purchase journeys in ways that can avoid unnecessary annoyances in-store.
Thoughtful retailers use real-time data to intelligently shape the in-store shopping experience.
E-tailers frequently rely on web analytics, A/B testing and e-mail marketing platforms to effectively target, optimize and automate the delivery of personalized shopping experiences. Through interactive digital signage and in-store analytics platforms, bricks-and-mortar retailers can measure the effectiveness of their window displays, help in-store shoppers discover new products and deliver contextually relevant offers based on the expressed local preferences of their customers, or real-time footfall traffic patterns.
Thoughtful retailers enable store associates to service customers across channels.
If it’s in-stock online but out-of-stock at my local store, why is it often difficult for in-store associates to place an order for those items and have them delivered to my home? Sales associates need the training, tools and support that enable them to service consumers, regardless of channel. Thoughtful retailers enable associates to bridge the gap between in-store and online commerce by providing them with tablets or other mobile devices that can access both customer relationship and inventory information.
With the mainstream adoption of e-commerce in Canada, smart shoppers have come to expect that offline retailers offer the same levels of findability, convenience and personalization that we experience online. The connected store of the future, with its promise of personalized window displays, curated assortments, information-rich signage and loyalty-driven pricing may seem intrusive for some, but personally, I can’t wait to enjoy in-store shopping once again.
Adrian MacLeod left his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, just over two years ago to seek new adventures in the big city. He came to Toronto and quickly landed a front-end development gig at Nurun, but soon he noticed a problem. There are two men’s rooms at our Toronto office, one on each floor, and each only has one stall. “When you start to consider the amount of men working at Nurun,” says Adrian, as he pitches his hack idea to a panel of Nurun directors and VPs, “you quickly realize that it doesn’t take long before there’s a conflict with one of these stalls.”
“What happens when there’s a conflict?” Adrian asks rhetorically. “You get up from your desk, walk to the washroom, and see the stall is occupied. So, you try the washroom on the other floor. Maybe that stall is also taken; maybe it’s not. If it is, you walk back to your desk, sit impatiently, and don’t get a lot of work done because you’re uncomfortable.” The panel bursts out in laughter, surely they’ve all experienced it (at least the men on the panel).
“After five minutes or so, you get up and try again—maybe you’ll find relief this time, or maybe you won’t,” Adrian says, “basically, you have to repeat your visits as necessary to find an empty stall.” More hearty laughter from the audience as they begin to warm up to Adrian’s wry sense of humour. “The lack of accommodations poses a problem for the individual but also for the company. It’s a waste of company time, it’s distracting, and it lowers productivity and morale. Nobody wins.”
Adrian’s ingenious solution, The Attendant, is a prototype that Adrian built during one of our Toronto office’s PureHacks Hack Weekends. The hack was designed to address what Adrian calls the problem of “bathroom roulette.” The small device, housed in a mint tin, is mounted to the washroom stall and allows users to check the availability of a stall through a web app. The UI of the web app was created by Kate O’Rourke, a designer at Nurun’s Toronto office.
Adrian and Kate originally designed and built The Attendant with the men’s rooms in mind, but feedback they received revealed that the women’s washrooms are equally in need of technological intervention. In order to build three additional devices, hook them up to a permanent power supply, and tweak the web app UI to accommodate new user flows, Adrian and Kate knew they needed additional support from the company. That was when Adrian decided to pitch The Attendant to the senior leadership team for backing. Needless to say, the pitch went extremely well. The Attendant was backed by two VPs and soon will be implemented in the men’s and women’s washrooms on both floors of our Toronto offices.
PureHacks is an employee-driven initiative that aims to foster a culture of innovation at Nurun from the grassroots level. It began a year ago as a hobby group, organized by a group of employees who would get together over a weekend, take crazy ideas, and try to bring to bring them to life. PureHacks quickly evolved into an official employee perk at Nurun in Toronto because it aligns so perfectly with our mandate of supporting a bottom-up culture. The program has been such a hit that it ranked higher than cake day and beer cart in the most recent employee perks survey. Yep, people choose innovation over beer.
Anyone who participates in PureHacks is given limited company time and a small budget for supplies and materials. Usually, in the weeks leading up to a Hack Weekend, which occurs approximately every six weeks or so, teams would organically form around a shared interest and the need for cross-disciplinary collaboration. Someone with an idea that they wanted to bring to life would recruit co-workers to come onboard and lend their skills.
Teams whose ideas involve electronics and hardware hacking have full access to the Deconstruction Zone, our makerspace complete with a MakerBot Replicator 2X and Google Glass. There are no restrictions to the kinds of hacks people decide to pursue; the only real constraint is time, with teams expected to showcase their hacks during PureHacks Demo Day on the following Friday. Demo Day is organized like a tradeshow, where teams are stationed in common areas around the office and demo their hacks to colleagues as they pass through.
At Nurun, we believe that a grassroots, bottom-up approach is key to building and sustaining a genuine culture of innovation. We find that when people are given a safe space in which they can explore crazy new ideas, they will step out of their comfort zones, take risks, experiment, and bring those crazy ideas to life. It also gives them a boost in creative confidence that they can bring to client work. So far, we’ve hosted five Hack Weekends with 30 percent of our staff participating and 11 hacks produced. Two of these hacks have received official backing for further development. Our goal is for at least half of our staff to participate in at least one Hack Weekend by the end of the year.