The Britton Digital Update—Week of March 13, 2017

Five minutes to get you up to speed on this week’s digital, business, social media, entertainment, and marketing news

As a child, there was one series of books that I couldn’t put down: Choose Your Own Adventure. Why did I find them so appealing? Choices. I was in charge of the story. Flipping to a different page could change the entire outcome of the story. It was a user experience that was truly engaging for the reader. Many tech companies today also are trying to personalize the user experience. Netflix is one of those companies, and it is going way beyond using data to suggest shows you would be interested in watching. Netflix is experimenting with that same choose-your-own-adventure concept for movies and television shows! While it would require additional content-creation costs, it could also increase time spent on Netflix and a more satisfactory user experience. We’ll have to wait and see how users react to Netflix’s tests to see if additional content is produced. Can you imagine how Stranger Things could have ended if we were in charge?

In this week’s Digital Update, user experience is a common theme, and for good reason. The user experience often determines where consumer dollars or time is spent. A bad one is a huge turnoff. A good one can turn you into a brand champion and customer for life.

You Get a Story and You Get a Story!

You should have read that headline using your best Oprah impression. It seems like you’re not cool these days unless your app has a “stories” feature. It started with Snapchat and then moved to Instagram, Medium (called Series), WhatsApp, and Messenger. Now it is expanding to Facebook.

Last week, just before our deadline, Facebook released Messenger Day, the stories feature for the Messenger app. To be honest, I haven’t been very impressed. Unlike Instagram, it doesn’t feel like a natural home for the feature. Maybe it’s just a clunky user experience that is more confusing than it needs to be. Now comes word that Facebook appears to be rolling out its beta test of Facebook Stories to additional countries before it rolls out globally. It seems to be extremely similar to Instagram Stories, and perhaps it will have a better user experience than Messenger Day’s.

If you are having trouble keeping up with it all, you’re probably not alone. Confusion is part of the problem that exists with Facebook’s apparent quest to kill off Snapchat. It may even be part of Facebook’s plan. There are some drawbacks to the confusion, though. To reach all of your audience, do you need to create (or upload) your story to six different places? Eventually that becomes too much work. If a few apps don’t make the cut, you end up going where you can reach the widest audience. Earlier this week, I experimented with content that I uploaded to multiple features. The story in Instagram reached more than twice the amount of people as Snapchat, with Messenger Day coming in last (although, the feature has been available for only a week). This—reach—is one of the reasons why Snapchat has lost some of its users to Instagram. The biggest pros that Facebook and Messenger have going for them are their user bases. With 1 to 2 billion users, they can reach more people in your network than any other social platform. Is this how the social landscape will ultimately shake out? Time will tell. Until then, we’ll be patiently waiting for the Facebook update to test the reach on its Stories feature.

Oh My Gosh, They Killed CAPTCHA!

This week, Google announced it is killing one of the most hated user experiences on the internet: CAPTCHA. This is when websites give you tests (such as typing a phrase or identifying a series of pictures) to prove you are human. Google is simplifying the process and using machine learning and risk analysis in the background to determine if your behavior looks suspicious, like a bot’s, or if your activity looks human. If it is suspicious, you will still see the prompts to prove you are human. If there are no suspicions, the entire headache is bypassed and you’re on your way to your World Wide Web destination quicker than ever. Google doesn’t give any other information about the change (so it doesn’t tip off the bot people on how to game the system). If it enhances our user experience, then we’re all for it.

Shop ’til You Drop

In case you missed a new study released this week from the International Council of Shopping Centers (how could you miss that?), consumers are looking for more technology integration in their retail shopping experience. The study shares that by 2020, 62 percent of consumers want to “have access to products/sizes available in store without engaging a salesperson,” 55 percent of consumers hope to “view how home furnishings and how accessories fit in a home before they make a purchase” (think augmented reality), and 54 percent want to be able to “compile a shopping list on a store app and receive a floor map to locate products.” What can we learn from the survey? Consumers are adopting technology and retailers need to keep up or get left behind. It will improve the user experience, reduce barriers to purchase, and most important of all, consumers will expect it.

The Future’s So Bright ...

You gotta wear shades that you can use to pay for things? At SXSW this past week, Visa announced that it has created a prototype pair of sunglasses that uses NFC-chip technology to allow users to pay for items by just waving their glasses in front of a credit-card terminal without having to swipe (or even needing) a credit card. The glasses, which are not yet available to the public, would actually act more like a preloaded debit card, according to CNBC .

I have a funny rule about sunglasses. I never spend more than $12 on a pair (yes, they are usually gas-station sunglasses). This is due to an endless string of sunglasses lost or sat on, followed by a rant filled with four-letter words. I’m not sure how I would feel sitting on or losing a pair of glasses that had a few hundred dollars preloaded on them. And what do you do when it is cloudy and you don’t need sunglasses? Or at night when sunglasses aren’t needed? For me, it raises more questions than answers when it comes to a relevant user experience. I’m not seeing it as a viable opportunity. Of course, that could just be a smudge on the lens.

For the rest of the news this past week, here’s a compilation of the best news stories that we don’t have time to expound upon but that you should probably take notice of:

If you liked this, check out our previous Digital Update posts or the Digital Update on Flipboard.

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Photos: BMDG

Dave Goode

Dave Goode

My name is Dave B. Goode (yes, it is my real name). If it sounds like a radio name, it is—well, it was. I had a 22-year radio-broadcasting career as a brand manager and morning-show host. I’m an amateur photographer. I love to cook. I am obsessed with social media. I have come to the realization that Chia Pet seeds do not work on a human head and that it is OK to be bald.

Meet Dave Goode