Opinion

What is product management – myths, core values, methodologies, and scope

Various definitions of product management have been floating around for more than two decades now. In fact, product managers themselves may have varying definitions of product management.

Martin Eriksson’s representation, though overused, remains extremely relevant to the present day. The product manager’s role oscillates between gathering customer needs/wants, aligning business objectives, hand-in-glove relationship with the tech and design teams; and extensive data crunching. Product managers can perform these roles by interacting with business stakeholders or meeting users directly. He can also do market analysis, competitive analysis, derive impact of product changes and more.

“A product manager is essentially a person who is tasked with identifying the customer needs and the larger business objectives that a product or feature will fulfill, thereby articulating what success looks like for the product, and drives the team to turn that vision into a reality.”

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Myths about product management

Over the years several myths about the function have surfaced. It is influenced by the fact that there is no exact definition and job description of Product Manager or PM. Some of these myths are listed below –

PM is CEO of the product – Unlike the CEO, a PM gets pulled in all directions by various stakeholders. The PM commands minimal authority as the stakeholders try to incorporate their own suggestions into the product. Even the team the PM rallies, do not report to him/her. Hence the reality is far from this loosely thrown moniker.

PM should be creative – The primary role of the PM is to solve the customers’ problems. It is their responsibility to pull all the strings together to deliver a quality product. So rather than having abundant creativity, a PM must pay attention to all minute details.

PM should be a visionary – The PM looks for the most efficient way to solve customer’s problem. He doesn’t go deep into the future problems or solutions the customer may face or need. It is futile to expect a prediction of exact date and time of migration of entire Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 from a PM.

PM needs to make every stakeholder happy – The only person a PM should look to make happy is the customer. It doesn’t matter whose suggestions and needs get more priority as long as the customer is happy. Due to this, many times some key stakeholders will not be happy. But a PM must always look at the ultimate goal.

PM must know coding – Technical knowledge does help when allocating tasks and assigning timelines. But that doesn’t mean only software engineers can be exceptional product managers. You can do very well without knowing how to code via the help of various software tools.

Product Manager and Project Manager are the same – Product Management and Project Management are loosely interchanged in corporate parlance but essentially, they are worlds apart.

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Some common methodologies/models in product management

Agile

The idea is to set product strategy and create product roadmaps in an agile environment. Agile methodology encourages an adaptive approach to product planning and implementation. It enables organizations to quickly respond to feedback and build products that customers love. At its core, agile product management is a response to the widespread use of agile software development methodologies. These methods emphasize evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement.

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Scrum

Scrum is a type of agile development methodology. It is used in the development of software based on an iterative and incremental process. It is an adaptable, fast flexible, and effective agile framework used during development.

Scrum delivers value to the customer throughout the development of the project. It creates an environment of transparency in communication, collective responsibility, and continuous progress.

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Waterfall

Waterfall model can be best put as a linear product management approach. Here the PM creates a sequential project plan after gathering stakeholder and customer requirements at the beginning of the project. It is named the waterfall model because each phase of the project cascades into the next, flowing steadily down like a waterfall.

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General Structure of Product Manager/Product Owner Squad

The basic structure of the Product Manager Squad remains the same despite having a fluid headcount.

  • The Scrum Master handles picking up the tasks for the developers and designers and clearly capturing them in time bound sprints.
  • The Business Analyst helps in writing user stories that are captured in product management tools like Jira. They also help with data crunching – market and competitive analysis, how the changes in the product are faring, etc.
  • Then there are development team members – the ones working on the front end, back end, and middleware. They comprise of Developers, Testers, Solutions Architects and DBAs. The profiles of developers vary according to their expertise in specific technologies.
  • And last but not least comes the creative lot – the designers. They comprise of Design Architects, UX Designers and UI Designers.

Now these team members could be working on the payroll of the product organization, or they may be outsourced.

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What makes a ‘Great Product Manager’?

Before deciding what makes a great product manager, we need to understand and appreciate their role. A product manager’s role is truly a people’s role that involves taking inputs/ buy-ins of numerous stakeholders and getting work done through multiple team members.

Hence, we can say that although technological know-how/ core competencies are imperative, the one skill that really distinguishes good product managers from great ones is – stakeholder management.

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And if one wants to shift organizations for personal growth, the following aspects must be looked at with great detail:

  • The current stage of the organization – introduction/ growth/ maturity/ decline
  • Industry analysis- which sector the company operates in. The learnings in one industry will vary from the other. Hence the decision to shift should be made by weighing the learning trajectory and not just the compensation on offer.
  • Culture fit- All companies have different ways of working. What works for one product manager might not work for the other and vice versa. Look into the company philosophy and vision.

Thus, we can argue that it’s the “product management mindset” that helps you grow in this profession rather than just having skills.

List of popular tools used by product managers worldwide

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What is MVP and its significance beyond the set features?

Of all the milestones in the career span of product managers, the MVP is arguably the most important milestone.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) can be graphically represented as below:

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This graph takes the assumption that customer expectations remain static with time, which usually is not the case. All the skills, tools and methodologies are applied to arrive at this milestone. It further lays the foundation for incremental features in the product.

A timely MVP is hence the validation of all the inputs at play. These are – stakeholders’ inputs, market research and data crunching done to arrive at handpicked features, the effectiveness of the design and development teams, and of course, the dexterity of the omnipresent PM. A great MVP is reflection of a team which is working like a well-oiled machine. It is bound to achieve great heights with its vision and execution capabilities.

Why does product management continue to grow in relevance?

With the increasing adoption of tech in all spheres of life, the relevance of the PM will continue to grow. As we can see, traditional companies continue to invest in and augment their digital infrastructure. Top tech companies are pivoting their business strategies. The final execution of all these responsibilities comes on the shoulders of the PMs. Hence this is one role that keeps you at the cusp of technological innovation and the steepest learning curves over any spectrum of time.

When the flamboyant richest person in the world purchases a top social media company, it is the role of the PMs to turn things around and that too quickly.

Since closing on his $44B acquisition of Twitter, Musk and his advertisers have discussed many product enhancements, which are all in the public domain:

  • One product team is working on paid direct messaging. It would let users send private messages to Very Important Tweeters or VITs. According to seen mock-ups, the users would be able to send private messages to their favorite celebrities for a nominal fee.
  • They have also talked about adding “paywalled” videos, which would mean that certain videos could not be viewed unless users paid a fee.
  • There were also discussions to revive Vine, a one-time short-form video platform, which would attract a younger audience of coveted advertisers.
  • The billionaire announced the “Twitter Blue” subscription service, which will offer enhanced features for a monthly $8 fee.

This gives a clear indication of how intricately the pressures that Musk, the world’s richest man is under to deliver immediate results. And all these initiatives are linked to the frenzy of product development initiatives. Product Management is hence at the core of all technical innovations/ disruptions occurring in the world at any given moment.

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How emerging technologies can enable the ‘next gen’ of education

The future of EdTech enabled by emerging technologies

In 2021, online learning platform Coursera reported 20 million new learners in the year, equal to the total growth of the three years prior. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an exponential jump in the already upward trajectory of online learning. Work from home, virtual classrooms, and time to pursue learning new skills saw the US record the highest growth in online learning with more than 17 million registered learners followed by India, Mexico, Brazil, and China.

Amid the devastation caused by the pandemic, governments, teachers, students and corporates benefited by accelerating digitalization efforts. For sure, today’s generation of digitally native learners lapped up this transition by educators. And although initially resistant, teachers discovered digital tools to be welcome assistants while managing schedules, keeping parents included, and doling out and marking assignments. The forced adoption of digital technologies accompanied by wider access to smartphones, made online learning accessible and affordable to larger masses globally. The shift to remote working also saw more professionals sign up on digital learning platforms to upskill and keep pace with the evolving demands of the workplace.

With the global EdTech and Smart Classroom market size expected to reach US$ 259.07 billion by 2028, the future outlook for eLearning platforms and EdTech is bright. Touted to be the mainstay of education in the future, smart classrooms will rely on a wide range of teaching tools and technologies to assist the learning experience end to end. Companies, on their part, already heavily invest their learning budgets in online resources for their workforces. A lot depends, however, on how much EdTech companies invest in the right set of technologies that fulfil the expectations of educators and learners. Their solutions must help the teaching community reduce the burden of administration and deliver affordable, quality education.

The top use cases of emerging technologies that will redefine education and the learning journey include:

Modern learning is student centric. It’s about each student getting to choose what and how to learn, anytime/anywhere, at their own pace, receiving personalized feedback, and accessing tailored recommendations based on their interests, capabilities etc. With the education sector finally on board with digitalization, EdTech offers a delightful range of possibilities to make learning experiences student-centric.

Surgent CPA Review, for example, is an AI-driven, adaptive learning exam prep course. Its proprietary algorithm evaluates performance on questions, student learning styles, exam date available study hours etc. to produce tailor-made study plans. Prodigy is an educational math game that’s becoming popular globally because it can customize content that allows for different learning styles to address specific areas that pose learning difficulties.

Edtech as a teaching assistant

Technology that enables adaptive teaching and learning experiences plays a critical role as it can deliver personalized, updated content that is focused on the unique needs and abilities of each learner. It can also assist teachers across all levels of education. AI supported by machine learning can be used to automate daily administrative tasks like grading/assessments, plagiarism checks, report generation thus freeing up time for teachers and trainers to focus on improving core aspects of their course content and teaching methods . For instance, LEAD’s app for teachers comes with customized curriculum, consistent lesson plans across all partner schools, and a handy AI-driven system automatically generating assignment status updates and assessment reports.

Georgia State uses Jill Watson, a human-like yet affordable AI assistant to respond to student queries round-the-clock. An elementary school in New Jersey uses an AI-based teaching assistant to help teachers figure out problematic areas of learning mathematics and fine-tune learning methods for each young learner.

Learning companions to improve the inclusiveness of education

Assistive technology is increasing in acceptance as educators are able to extend the learning experience to students who are unable to attend regular classroom sessions. Those with special needs require simpler, easy access to educational content and personalized monitoring because of certain developmental challenges. For example, robots are helping preschoolers with autism practice non-verbal communications skills. The biggest advantage offered by these robots is that they can engage each student with the kind of individual attention and assistance required to help ease their learning journey.

Research is also being conducted to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) for improving learning for those with visual and auditory challenges. For example, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, housed at the Rochester Institute of Technology, has developed an app that turns speech into text to help deaf/hearing impaired persons interact more easily. This was in response to the communication barriers that came up for persons with hearing difficulties when face masks became compulsory during the pandemic.

ASL TigerChat explained

Another use case of AI that can be a game changer in special education is detecting patterns in large amounts of data and applying these insights to identify and define certain disabilities like dyslexia with greater accuracy.

New immersive experiences shaped by technology

Research suggests that learners retain knowledge better when they are taught using multiple modalities and delivery methods. Both formats are likely to coexist in the future.

With video becoming a popular means of consuming content, digital devices and broadcast technologies finally have an opportunity to converge. OTT platforms and 5G connectivity in combination can deliver higher quality video at reliable speeds. Through the possibilities unlocked by live streaming in 4K and 360-degree videos, learners will be able to consume educational content of their choice at an enhanced level of immersiveness and engagement in multiple formats and modes.

Augmented Reality (AR) can help medical interns fully immerse themselves in training and practice, via virtualization, of a complex surgical procedure without putting any lives at risk or incurring huge expenses in the real world. NASA teaches budding astronauts how to take a walk on Mars employing visuals generated through AR. The Metaverse too will enable close to real-life experiences, a safe way to simulate learning experiences until a desired outcome has been achieved. It provides another dimension to educational storytelling and gamification to make learning more fun and engaging. For example, Arizona State University and Dreamscape Immersive, a VR entertainment and technology company have collaborated to create virtual zoology labs for an explorative learning approach inspired by the metaverse.

Gamifying education

As learners of every age are becoming more digitally savvy, gamification ensures engagement in a highly personal and interactive manner. Kindergarten can become more enjoyable with interactive games catering to young learners. Like Pearson’s interactive education app, which is brimming with images, videos, and interactive games at varying levels, difficulties, and types, to offer fully immersive learning, individualized experiences for children – each gets their own avatar and personalized learning journey. At the same time, teachers, and parents can track the child’s progress easily.

Traditional learning methods can be gamified and infused with elements of fun and healthy competition through interactive quizzes, dynamic leader boards, reward systems, badges to acknowledge and motivate learners. For example, Tinycards has gamified the flash card learning technique and made it more enjoyable. As the learner advances through the cards, their progress is tracked and earns them brownie points for every milestone achieved.

We are rapidly entering a future where education will find its place in a hybrid environment – the offline and online formats will coexist and support each other by bringing the best of their respective worlds. Rather than being seen as a makeshift alternative to physical/classroom learning, EdTech can potentially become the enabler of a robust and resilient system of education, acting as a multiplier to the current in-campus models. With the ability to extend the reach of education across geographies, reduce the burden on teachers, and include those sections who earlier did not have access to learning, the convergence of education and EdTech will see a new era emerge.

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6 Dating App Trends in 2023 – Right Swiping Technology to find Perfect Match

6 Dating App Trends in 2023 - Right Swiping Technology to find Perfect Match

Since the dawn of time, pursuing their significant other has always been one of the life purposes of a living being. Be it humans, animals, birds, or mammals, all go through this natural order of mate selection to populate their species. While animals and birds and others usually fight it out to present themselves as the strongest candidate, things have become much easier in the case of humans – all thanks to technology and dating apps.

Cavemen and medieval men used to fight and duel over the approval of a woman. Nowadays a quirky bio and just a right swipe is enough.

The 90s saw a rise of matchmaking websites in India as well as globally with shaadi.com, bharatmatrimony.com, match.com, and others. They started out as preferred online medium to find suitable matches according to social compatibility like caste, culture, region, language education, etc. But very much like Netflix took over Napster, Tinder’s mobile first platform-based approach took over existing linear based models to become the popular choice of dating medium. Globally, Tinder was the highest grossing non-gaming app in 2017.

The online dating market showed no signs of slowing down during and after the pandemic and have been valued at US$12.37 billion in 2021. It is now expected to be worth US$28.36 billion by 2027. We are seeing an influx of dating apps such as Bumble, Hinge, Grindr, Hily, Clover, Plenty of Fish, etc. They all come with their own unique proposition of finding matches for their users. As the dating behaviors of users change with time, these apps adapt to these changes and provide what their users need.

Trend is in the app

Trends are nothing but a general direction of change in something. The biggest transition we can see in the dating scenario is that now people are being more selective of who they go out with.

A recent survey shows “61% of daters use an online dating app to meet people that shares common interests, 44% of daters use an online dating app to meet someone who shares their values and beliefs, and 42% of daters use an online dating app to meet someone for marriage”.

These numbers indicate the current mindset of people regarding their partner selection by the dating app.

The pandemic caused a lot of mental, emotional, and physical stress upon people. As a result, people had more time to reflect on their needs and priorities. The dating apps acknowledged their users’ priorities and introduced several technology-driven features to heed their needs. Below are some of the noticeable CX and behavioral trends among daters and dating apps-

#1 Let’s take it slow

While the pandemic forced people to stay inside, the dating apps didn’t suffer its consequences. In fact, research by Sensor Tower shows that dating app downloads grew 3% Y/Y in Q4 of 2020. The same research also indicates the average age for dating apps has steadily declined in recent years. The declining average age was more visible from the Q1 to Q3 of 2020.

Dating app average age of users during pandemic

Source: Sensor Tower

There are new dating terms that are making the rounds among young users from millennials and Gen Z – Dry Dating, Hesidating, Slow Dating. All terms coined due to the unwillingness of people to go all out with complete strangers.

According to Tinder’s CEO, Renate Nyborg, Gen Z consists of more than half its user base and they eventually want to take things slow in dating. Their idea of ideal dating scenario is different from millennials as they want to know their potential matches better before committing themselves romantically or meeting them. Tinder launched different intent-based swipe features for its users. They can now match by adding “Passions, Prompts and Vibes” to their respective profiles. All things helping matches to know each other better without any romantic expectations and then only take things further if “vibes match”.

#2 Discretion for safety reasons

Dating apps leveraged their digital capabilities to remain competitive in the times of full lockdown. As in-person meetings were not possible then, dating apps introduced in-app video call features for locked-in individuals. The nimbleness of dating apps to adopt to a change was one of the reasons their demand didn’t go down like other businesses.

But as people are using the video call features more and more, it raises the question of privacy and safety. This resulted in many dating apps now offering discreet video call features where users can video call with their blurred faces or silhouettes. The new video call feature also takes user’s permissions before connecting a call for increased discretion. Due to heightened safety concerns, many dating apps started taking different measures to address those. S’More defines itself as an “anti-superficial dating app” as it doesn’t straightaway reveal the image of its users. The profile image appears as blur initially and gets clearer as the conversation continues between matches.

Smore dating app

#3 Minimal efforts maximum gain

Almost all the freemium dating apps like Tinder offer a limited number of free swipes per day to their users. However, the introduction of AI based recommendations has increased the likelihood of users being hooked to the app. AI and ML learn from user’s personal data and preferences to ensure every match has the possibility to be “the one”.

There are over 300 million dating app users worldwide with about 20 million subscribed to one of their premium features. It creates an opportunity for dating apps to increase the likelihood of in-app purchases by offering more value or better matches to their users.

#4 Inclusivity for exclusivity

The huge popularity of value-driven, niche dating platforms in recent years have indicated a change from mindless swiping by global users. People now prefer quality over quantity and are looking for dating apps where they “truly belong”. There are already successful apps like Grindr catering to gay, bisexual and bi-curious men. Similarly, there are other niche dating apps that cater to either sexual preferences, hobbies, or interests of users.

Dig – for dog lovers is a niche dating app consisting of only dog loving users. It totally eliminates the concern of daters about what their match would think about their favorite pet.

Veggly is a dating app specifically for vegans and vegetarians.

Tastebuds is especially built for music lovers who match and can immediately start discussing their favorite artists, bands, etc.

BLK is a dating app for Black singles in the black community. It strives to create a warm, inviting, supportive, and inclusive space where Black love is celebrated and respected in all its forms.

Her dating app is specially built for lesbian, bi and queer community. The free version of the app lets you add friends, view profiles, start chats, view events, and join communities.

Other popular apps like Tinder, Hinge, Bumble have taken cues from this and redesigned their apps to included more sex orientation selections, more varied interests, suggestive bios to showcase on a profile.

#5 It’s a social thing now

One of the most difficult steps in online dating is the talking phase where you try to find common things to talk about. That’s when you feel the need for a friend to support you and guide you. Dating apps like Fourplay encourage people to form a tag team and team up with two more as they start messaging each other.

Thursday app helps skip the talking phase altogether and brings the online dating community directly offline. It hosts secret parties where only singles are allowed. The most likely scenario is a person would be taking along one of their single friends to these events and “socialize”. Ship (now discontinued) allowed users to become a matchmaker and find a suitable match for their friend. It also offered a group chat feature for better validation of the potential match.

Thursday dating app

#6 Gamification could be the key

Tinder’s “Swipe Night” was a huge success. It allows the user to solve a mystery based on game narration and first-person adventure. User’s choices allow to dictate the story and reveal different answers based on that. It then allows users to highlight their game answers in their respective Tinder bios. They are more likely to match with people who have similar answers and thinking patterns

Bumble introduced sets of recommended ice breaking questions to help matches get over the initial nervousness and start talking. Both users answer one of the chosen ice breaking questions and match their answers. Based on the answers they can carry forward their conversation.

Technology – the ultimate matchmaker in the digital era

Dating apps are indeed tech companies leveraging technology to offer social values. The fast adoption of newer technologies and digital transformation in every industry can be seen in dating apps as well. Dating apps are now taking advantage of cutting-edge software and technology such as AI/ML, VR, Metaverse to provide a whole new experience in dating to its users. Let’s take a deeper look at how these technologies are playing a matchmaking role in our dating lives –

AI/ML

Earlier Tinder used an ELO algorithm for matching profiles on the platform. It worked on a weightage system where users with most right swipes had a better probability of finding matches quicker. It then now moved away from this and now relies on a “dynamic system” that monitors the user behaviors on the platform through their swiping patterns and what’s on their profiles. Although not mentioned clearly, this dynamic system could be all but AI and ML deployed by Tinder for matching profiles.

“In a recent interview, Jennifer Flashman – Tinder’s director of analytics, explains that in leveraging AI to build better user experiences, it’s become clear to her that the future of dating will increasingly occur over texts and DMs rather than blind dates and phone calls. As this shift continues to accelerate, here are the top reasons she thinks companies are “swiping right” on AI in dating—and why other industries should be figuring out how to swipe right!”

AI and ML are already creating efficient and smart business processes in different industries. It has potential to transform the dating industry as well. The dating app Hinge employs machine learning as part of its algorithm by suggesting a “Most Compatible” match to its users.

5G

5G with its increased bandwidth, reliability, and speed has made it possible for dating apps to introduce more video-based features in their apps. Although the main beneficiary of 5G services is the OTT industry. But dating apps also can enjoy a few benefits of 5G. Dating apps now offer buffer-less video call, uninterrupted live streaming, Netflix party, etc. to their users for increased engagement. With time we can only imagine other benefits 5G and its subsequent updates may bring to the dating world.

Blockchain

The two founding principles of blockchain are full transparency and immutability. These two factors can play a major role in verifying user identities in dating apps while maintaining the option of privacy.

German company Hicky was one of the first to introduce blockchain based dating app back in 2018. It was built to ensure security and incentivize good behavior of its users.

Luna works on a tokenized dating system and incentivizes people to choose their contacts more carefully.

Ponder uses blockchain-based recommendation system and game mechanics in its app. It also offers financial rewards to motivate everyone to play matchmaker for their friends.

Ponder dating app

VR and Metaverse

The possibilities of Metaverse are endless for daters. It opens the gate to a whole new world of possibilities for them. Dating in metaverse framework depends on the idea of avatars, an advanced articulation of an individual. Nevermet strives to find matches for people in the Metaverse and VR. Dating applications with a metaverse framework depend on the idea of avatars, an advanced articulation of an individual.

Read more: Metaverse or MetaAverse – A Design Thinking Approach To Future Digital Ecosystems

Finding meaningful relationships in virtual platforms like online gaming is nothing new. But VR dating apps like Flirtual and Planet Theta provide the feeling of being physically present with others as well as bring a significant portion of body language into the mix.

VR technology enables the users to connect with their matches authentically in fantastical environments that are impossible to replicate in the real world. People can visit any location, go to any bar, play with unicorns, all on their first date.

Find your ‘lobster’

Contrary to popular beliefs, it’s the nerds that get the dates. Quite literally!

Being tech companies first, the top dating apps are always in an advantageous position to pivot and redefine their value proposition. They continuously vie for users’ attention and roll out new features whenever deemed necessary. Bumble and Hinge rolled out their new voice prompts while Tinder is working on a social mode called Swipe Party. Bumble also recently had its first acquisition in Fruitz – described promptly as a “Gen Z dating app”.

There is still a large untapped market out there waiting for something in their niche. Currently we have over 1500 dating apps or websites worldwide and with new apps quickly emerging, nothing is certain for established big players. There are plenty of fish in the sea if you have the right strategy in place to catch them. The dating industry is facing a real need to embrace innovation or get overshadowed by newer dating apps with fresher ideas and newer technology behind them. Dating apps have the impetus to improve their transparency and provide users with a more complete experience.

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How the next gen of education can be enabled by emerging technologies

New technologies in EdTech

In 2021, online learning platform Coursera reported 20 million new learners in the year, equal to the total growth of the three years prior. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an exponential jump in the already upward trajectory of online learning. Work from home, virtual classrooms, and time to pursue learning new skills saw the US recording the highest growth in online learning with more than 17 million registered learners followed by India, Mexico, Brazil, and China.

Amid the devastation caused by the pandemic, governments, teachers, students and corporates by benefited by accelerating digitalization efforts. For sure, today’s generation of digitally native learners lapped up this transition by educators. And although initially resistant, teachers discovered digital tools to be welcome assistants while managing schedules, keeping parents included, and doling out and marking assignments. The forced adoption of digital technologies, accompanied by wider access to smartphones, made online learning accessible and affordable to larger masses globally. The shift to remote working also saw more professionals sign up on Learning Management Solutions to upskill and keep pace with the evolving demands of the workplace, learning about emerging technologies, wellness and personal growth, and management behaviors.

With the global EdTech and Smart Classroom market size expected to reach US$ 259070 million by 2028, the future outlook for eLearning platforms and EdTech is certainly bright.

A lot depends, however, on how much EdTech companies and educators invest in the right set of technologies that fulfil the expectations of educators and learners. Whether in educational institutions or corporate learning, solutions must help the teaching community reduce the burden of administration and deliver affordable, quality education to their audience, which is increasingly relying on this format for their learning and training needs. Touted to be the mainstay of education in the future, smart classrooms will rely on a wide range of teaching tools and technologies to assist the learning experience end to end. Companies on their part, already heavily invest their learning budgets in online resources for their workforces.

With the education sector finally on board with digitalization, technology offers a delightful range of possibilities for EdTech to transform learning experiences.

The top five use cases of emerging technologies that will redefine education and the learning journey include:

1. Adaptive teaching that is human-centric

Learning is becoming more student centric with a growing preference for personalized experiences. While research suggests that modern-day learners prefer reading the more affordable and convenient digital form of their textbooks to the print version, Bay View Analytics research found that 43% of college faculty believe students retained knowledge better when learning from printed matter. Research also suggests that modern learners retain knowledge better when they are taught using multiple modalities and delivery methods.

The world of education has changed irrevocably, creating disparities in the teacher-learner dynamic. The role of the teacher has transformed too, becoming more significant – teachers are not supposed to simply pass on information but also required to function as facilitators of the learning journey. They are therefore, expected to switch modes to suit the student’s learning style and capacity. They also have to continuously monitor and assess the learner’s journey so as to customize and make the experience delightful and meaningful for their audience. Educators who have traditionally seen themselves as the controlling authority of educational material, now have to adapt their teaching mindsets to suit modern preferences and expectations of easy, inclusive accessibility.

Technology enabling adaptive teaching and learning experiences holds the key as it can deliver personalized, updated content that is focused on the unique needs and abilities of each learner. And the best thing is that adaptive learning works across all levels of education. Surgent CPA Review, for example, is an AI-driven, adaptive learning exam prep course. Its proprietary algorithm evaluates performance on questions, student learning styles, exam date available study hours etc. to produce tailor-made study plans. Prodigy is an educational math game that’s becoming popular globally because it can customize content that allows for different learning styles to address specific areas that pose learning difficulties. Room to Read, developed by Robosoft, is a leading non-profit organization based in California provides an interactive & feature-rich digital platform to foster a reading habit among children. Test Coach is another comprehensive online learning platform developed by Robosoft for students. It brings the best of both offline and online learning to the students by providing a seamless digital experience.

2. AI as a teaching assistant

Teachers bear a significant burden of administration, lesson planning, assignment grading, learner assessments and recommendations, reports and metrics on performance at an individual and group level. Artificial Intelligence (AI) lends itself to automation of certain daily administrative tasks like grading, report generation thus freeing up time for teachers and trainers to focus on improving core aspects of their course content and teaching methods.

AI supported by machine learning is used for customized content delivery, learning assessment, plagiarism checks, virtual assistance, multiple language support, and computer vision. AI tools like ElevateU help colleges assess student performance and decide on the content and format best suited for each student. Georgia State uses Jill Watson, a human-like yet affordable AI assistant to respond to student queries round-the-clock. An elementary school in New Jersey uses an AI-based teaching assistant to help teachers figure out problematic areas of learning mathematics and fine-tune learning methods for each young learner.

3. Learning companions to suit each learner’s pace

Assistive technology is increasing in acceptance as educators are able to extend the learning experience to students who are unable to attend regular classroom sessions. For example, those with special needs require simpler, easy access to educational content and personalized monitoring because of certain developmental challenges. Accounts of assistive technology like the one on robots helping preschoolers with autism practice non-verbal communications skills, have been making waves on the internet in recent years. The biggest advantage offered by these robots is that they can engage each student with the kind of individual attention and assistance required to help ease their learning journey.

AI can also play a valuable role in enhancing learning outcomes by identifying patterns in erroneous answers, areas of improvement in course material, and enabling individualized feedback messages relevant to a specific learner, which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Experts believe that AI can help provide feedback in alternative formats such as a video/audio message that may go down better with the recipient learner and help break down their resistance to consider criticism in a positive light.

4. Gamification and visualization of real-life situations

Augmented Reality (AR) can replace paper-based learning material as all that the learner requires is a smartphone. With a smartphone in almost every hand, it is much easier to create an immersive learning experience, for example, of plant life through a walk in the park. Smart classrooms that are more interactive, immersive and collaborative have also become readily available.

As learners of every age are becoming more digitally savvy, AR brings alive the visualization and ensures engagement through gamification in a highly personal and interactive manner. For example, medical interns can safely and fully immerse themselves in training and practice via the how-to virtualization of a complex surgical procedure without putting any lives at risk or incurring huge expenses in the real world. NASA teaches budding astronauts how to take a walk on Mars employing visuals generated through AR. At the other end of the spectrum, kindergarten can become more enjoyable with interactive games catering to young learners.

The Metaverse too will enable close to real-life experiences, a safe way to simulate learning experiences until a desired outcome has been achieved. Important and practical tasks such as performing advanced medical surgeries, conducting astrophysics experiments, visualization of a rocket launch etc. It provides another dimension to educational storytelling and gamification to make learning more fun and engaging. For example, Arizona State University and Dreamscape Immersive, a VR entertainment and technology company have collaborated to create virtual zoology labs for an explorative learning approach inspired by the metaverse.

5. Seamless consumption of multi-format, multi-genre content at the learner’s convenience

With video becoming a popular means of consuming content, digital devices, and broadcast technologies finally have an opportunity to converge. OTT platforms and 5G connectivity in combination can deliver higher quality video at reliable speeds. Live streaming in 4K, 360-degree videos, highly interactive experiences – the opportunities to generate an immersive learning experience are almost limitless.

We are rapidly entering a future where education will find its place in a hybrid environment – the offline and online formats will coexist and support each other by bringing the best of their respective worlds. Rather than being seen as a makeshift alternative to physical/classroom learning, EdTech can potentially become the enabler of a robust and resilient system of education, acting as a multiplier to the current in-campus models. With the ability to extend the reach of education across geographies, reduce the burden on teachers, and include those sections who earlier did not have access to learning, the convergence of education and EdTech will see a new era emerge.

For this to come about, EdTech needs to befriend emerging technologies such as OTT/5G, AI, AR/VR, metaverse, data analytics to enable seamless, enhanced learning experience while bringing more learners into its fold. This way, EdTech companies will also be able to move quickly to capitalize on new revenue streams that technology opens up as education settles into its next-gen avatar.

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Design Thinking Opinion

How To Sell In The Digital Era (Hint: It’s Not About Technology But Human Emotions)

how to sell in the digital era Robosoft Technologies

Contrary to popular belief, humans aren’t inherently rational when making decisions. Our buying decisions stem from the subconscious mind 95% of the time. The rational mind is good at justifying what the emotional mind has already decided.

A good brand understands this well and builds digital products and experiences that tap into the emotional and irrational side of the users’ brains. They apply design principles and theories of psychology to understand what resonates with users and create digital platforms and apps around it.

To build a successful digital product, you can start by understanding and applying the following design theories and frameworks.

1. RWW Framework: The real-win-worth it (RWW) framework is a go/no-go screening method that helps you eliminate bias from the decision-making process and maintain objectivity. Ask yourself questions such as:

  •  Is it real? Is there a market opportunity for my product? Is it feasible to build it?
  •  Will it win? Is there an opportunity for the product in the market? Can it help my brand gain and sustain a competitive advantage?
  •  Is it worth the effort? Is the idea worth implementing? Will it help me achieve my business goals or open doors for future opportunities?

2. Tim Brown’s Design Thinking: Tim Brown defines design thinking as a set of cognitive, strategic and practical processes that help you develop design concepts. The five components include:

  • Empathizing with the users and understanding their challenges.
  •  Defining the core issue that they face while using your product.
  •  Ideating potential solutions to solve the problem.
  •  Building a prototype of the solution to check if it can address the user’s problem and work on the product if it’s successful.
  •  Evaluate the outcome of the solution by defining the metrics and measuring them regularly.

3. Don Norman’s Three Levels Of Design Appeal: Great products always make users feel things. They trigger an emotional response and spur behavioral changes based on those responses. Don Norman calls it the three levels of design appeal in his book Emotional Design. The three levels are:

  •  Visceral: Evoke the proverbial love at first sight response within your users by targeting their old brains with your product design.
  • Behavioral: Build an immersive experience that helps users feel empowered and derive value. They should feel happy or productive after using the product.
  • Reflective: Target the logical side of the human brain by making the users feel proud of using the product and enabling them to share their experiences with others.

You can implement these principles by:

#1. Demonstrating trustworthiness. Most users (66%) revealed that they would purchase a product because of positive reviews. Request users to rate and review your products and publish them on all channels. Offer them freebies or discounts for their unbiased reviews. Use pictures of real people endorsing the product to build trust. An A/B testing experiment by a web company revealed that using real, happy people’s pictures on a landing page increased sign-ups by 102.5%.

#2. Facilitating snap decision-making. Facilitate quick decision-making on your digital platform or app. One in five users abandons their purchases due to an inconvenient checkout process. But one-click checkout options, for instance, can allow users to save their address and payment methods as a default option to accelerate the checkout process. Find out what stops your users from completing the desired action and eliminate those deterrents to create a seamless experience.

#3. Addressing by name. The bystander effect theory states that if one person sees someone in distress, they are likely to help them 70% of the time. If multiple people see distress, that number would be around 40%. Eliminate the bystander effect by addressing the user by name. This will elicit their response faster. You can do it through personalization. Research shows that 60% of people want personalized offers in real time.

#4. Using the power of commitment. Social validation compels users to complete a task. Allow users to make their private commitment public. If the user is participating in a 30-day fitness challenge, for example, give them an option to share their progress or completion badge on social media platforms. The response from friends and followers will boost engagement.

#5. Talking to the reptilian brain. Humans have three regions in the brain: the reptilian brain, the emotional brain and the rational brain. The reptilian brain works on instincts and controls the behavior for survival. Talk directly to the reptilian brain to improve conversions. Tap into emotions such as fear and greed through images and text. Center the experience around the user, such as their challenges and victories, through stories and powerful words like trust, safety and love that imply an emotional connection.

#6. Performing usability testing. Always perform usability testing to understand the interaction between your users and the product. Empathize with their challenges to build a better human-centric product. You can conduct various usability tests, such as the thinking aloud test, in which you ask the participants to express what they feel about the product as they use it to get firsthand, undiluted responses. You can also use eye-tracking technology to track participants’ eye movements. This allows you to record areas where the eye movement stops or moves faster. Observe and collect empirical data such as how long it takes for users to complete the desired action to identify the possible bottlenecks and fix them.

Ad guru Bill Bernbach said, “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion, and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.” His words still hold true in today’s digital era. New technologies and platforms have come, and the metrics to measure effectiveness have changed. But selling is still about how we persuade and sell to humans centered around users’ experiences.

As Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group put it, “True user experience goes far beyond giving users what they say they want or providing checklist features.” So, understanding human psychology and appealing to their emotions is key even in the digital era.

This article was originally published in Forbes Technology Council.

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Media & Entertainment Opinion

How Over-The-Top (OTT) Players Can Get Tech-ready to Tap Into a World of New Opportunities

New opportunities for OTT

As over-the-top (OTT) matures as a medium, consumers are looking for fresh experiences. Shaping new engagement that caters to changing demands will be key to OTT providers’ profitability.

The time is right to imagine new engaging experiences in media and entertainment (M&E), by taking advantage of the latest technology developments in broadband cellular networks. 5G becoming mainstream means increased bandwidth, no more buffering, enhanced viewing with 4K video, at a minimum. With bandwidth no longer an issue, smart devices can also provide interactive experiences. Newer applications will emerge supporting collaboration, which extends beyond web conferencing.

But there’s more – Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) can enhance the live streaming experience. Gaming is expected to swell in popularity as augmented reality and virtual reality bring the user interface and experience even closer to reality. Participating in conferences and exhibitions will become more realistic. As will online learning and online consulting businesses, which will gain traction in hitherto unexplored areas like medical, legal, or management consulting.

For OTT providers, the way forward is to plan for scale

While OTT is currently making leaps and bounds in entertainment, OTT providers must peer into the looking glass to foretell and prepare for the opportunities that lie in wait. They must revisit the way they view the platform and look for innovative solutions that prepare the foundation for scale, such as:

Agility of scalable architecture: Consumer expectations are volatile; companies need to be agile and not rely on a monolithic framework to build their streaming services. Some companies are strengthening the spine of their platform, making it robust, modular, scalable, and easy to integrate with a microservices approach. They might choose to work with a technology partner such as Robosoft to bring together services like ad servers, recommendation engines, billing services, payment gateways, etc., to offer a holistic solution with complete security.

The right development strategy: In building a platform, OTT providers can choose to offer ready-to-use streaming or bespoke solutions – both have advantages and need to be evaluated based on how they want to position themselves. Off-the-shelf solutions are more affordable upfront, quicker to deploy, and best-suited for OTT providers who want to offer video as a nice-to-have service with just the basic features. Custom-developed solutions, even though they take longer to deploy and have a higher initial investment, offer full control and technology ownership to the OTT platform provider.

Off the shelf or bespoke solutions for OTT platform?

The right monetization strategy: The current monetization models of OTT are nascent, and as young as the medium and technology itself. With new applications such as gaming, television commerce, learning, event streaming, and personal video conferencing, successful experiments in revenue models will spell the next level in maturity for the OTT industry. Stemming from traditional broadcasting roots, advertising and subscription are two prevalent models of revenue – both have their distinct advantages. The OTT provider may prefer one monetization model over the other depending on the nature and format of content and the kind of technology investment they are willing to make.

For example, the advertising monetization model enables free content with ads to consumers across multiple platforms such as connected TV, desktop, and mobile ecosystems. Here, finding new users is easier as it has in-built technology to target opportunities using more accurate data on user preferences. Also, providers can leverage predictive and prescriptive analytics using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and use data for greater personalization of services.

• In contrast, providers choosing the subscription model might be those in the business of entertainment, health, eLearning, etc., and stand to gain long-term value by delivering consistent quality content. Investing in the right technology will help them implement security and encryption integrations that are necessary for this model. In addition, on the web and Android, various payment options can be provided for users to make subscription payments, since viewers may have their own preferred payment modes, and benefit from discounts, rewards, and cashback that third-party payment apps offer.

Stickiness of the omnichannel experience: Both video and audio streaming services are booming. OTT companies can enable multi-channel, multi-device options for a multi-sensory, seamless experience, especially to woo the digital consumer who is migrating from the traditional platforms. They can improve stickiness by incorporating the adaptive bit rate feature for smooth playback, regardless of device, location, or Internet speed, making it best suited for usage in low bandwidth areas. Other features such as ‘download and view later’ can be embedded with appropriate technology solutions to protect Downloads from video piracy or copyright infringement.

If omnichannel is about having a presence in multiple touchpoints and devices, a multiexperience (a term coined by Gartner) approach connects them all.  It is a customer-first & experience centric design that promises a seamless experience to customers. Below is a comparison chart between multiexperience, omnichannel, and multichannel.

Multiexperience vs omnichannel vs mutichannel

Protecting proprietary content through Digital Rights Management (DRM): Protection of licenses and prevention of unauthorized distribution of their proprietary content are major concerns for OTT providers that can be addressed through investing in the right Digital Rights Management (DRM) solution.

Nurturing a long-term love affair with OTT

A PWC study estimated that movie theatre box-office revenues fell 71% in 2020, even as Netflix attracted a record 37mn net additional subscribers. As digital consumption in media and entertainment (M&E) continues to build, OTT is poised to replace traditional media & entertainment channels, in a big way.

By gearing up on different aspects – technology investment, business model, and operations – every kind of OTT provider, from the established to the newbie, can fully cash in on the opportunities that are opening up. By becoming future-ready in an already-crowded market, they can promise a consistently engaging and engrossing experience on their platform/app that consumers come back to and fall in love with, all over again.

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Opinion Retail

What’s Next For Q-Commerce: The Golden Child Of E-Commerce

What's next for Q-commerce?

Fast & Furious. It is not just a reference to the famous franchise, but a principle the time-scarce millennials today live by. Whether it is content to be streamed, coffee or noodles – everything must be instant, and the sooner it is, the more appreciated it is. The latest to join this trend is Q-commerce, promising to deliver customer delight in 30 minutes or less.

Valued at around USD 20-25 billion in 2021, the quick-commerce industry is expected to grow to USD 72 billion by 2025. A major contributing factor for this is the ongoing pandemic, which has not just fast-tracked digital transformation by decades for businesses, but also altered consumer behavior, a shift that will stay for years to come. Consumers who were earlier willing to step out and visit their neighborhood mom and pop stores or malls now prefer to stay home and be served. Add to this the work-from-home lifestyle for the busy professionals and the concerns of the aging population to step out, the consumers today are willing to pay a higher price for on-demand instant delivery. As shifts like urbanization, rising disposable incomes and single households continue to grow, this number will only multiply.

Beyond US, quick-commerce is a global phenomenon. According to a report, 30 new quick-commerce companies have emerged in ten months in Western Europe alone. Berlin-based Gorillas became the fastest company to achieve unicorn status in Europe – just nine months into launch. In India, while existing delivery startups are overhauling their operations & supply chain to cater to this segment, specialty players are now targeting this segment, with a promise of 10 to 15-minute deliveries. A consumer tweeted that a brand delivered groceries in unbelievable 2.5 minutes – which was then used on its billboard.

The Q-commerce ecosystem consists of:

Third-party delivery platforms: existing delivery platforms who deliver items from neighboring retail outlets, usually just fulfilling delivery or picking the order. From promising one-day delivery, they have now moved to several hours to 30 minutes or less.

Popular retail giants: both offline and online giants have initiated the shift to an omnichannel experience & Q-commerce with drone deliveries, faster processes

Vertically integrated specialists: These companies create neighborhood warehouses, called dark stores and delivering often-purchased items to shoppers, typically within 10–30 minutes. In India, many of them target the ‘top-up and unplanned purchases’ of Gen-Z and millennials, by solving inefficiencies of the familiar neighborhood store.

With the threat of further lockdowns looming over the consumers, convenience and safety will be paramount, leading to a large influx of consumers ordering online. It will also subsequently lead to more players & investors entering the ecosystem. However, players will be under immense pressure to acquire customers as fast as possible and with low profitability margins, especially on grocery items; this will be a challenging exercise. The key will be to find a differentiation factor outside of similar items, offers and prices for the brand.

Here are some trends apparent in Q-commerce in 2022:

Diversification of inventory: While grocery items today form most of the stock of a Q-commerce setup, the premise of <60 mins delivery can be extended to other categories like medicines, books, food items and even electronics & accessories. With the right infrastructure & logistics, this is a plausible option with startups like Glovo a Spanish quick-commerce start-up, leading the way with electronics & furniture.

Better inventory & supply chain Management: The constraint of a rapid delivery makes inventory & supply chain management an essential part of the equation. The supply & inventory management for dark stores will be more tight-knit in 2022, with the delivery partner able to check in real-time the nearest next store option in case of stock-out. Real-time inventory management tools will have a critical role here- constantly updating the status of inventory, calculating & estimating times for delivery and freshness of products (especially for perishable items) to ensure that the delivery partner does not waste precious minutes figuring this out.

Personalized customer experiences: In a market where everyone has the same inventory, offers, and prices a personalized & seamless customer experience will be the key that differentiates a brand and makes them a market leader. With AI & ML, tailored customer preferences based on past purchases and frequency can be suggested. Personalized messages & notifications can help users feel more connected to the brand and lead to user retention. A distinct UI, intuitive design & hassle-free user journey can also drive retention. For instance, here is how McDonald’s India enhanced their delivery experience & conversion through a revamp of experiences on their website & app.

Brand Partnerships & Influencer-based marketing: Brands have already started to see Q-commerce as an opportunity to get their product to their consumers the instant they think about it. Even premium brands like Estee-Lauder signed up with Uber in 2021 for a 60-minute delivery of their products. 2022 will see a rise of many brands trying this out. Another prevalent trend might be the rapid delivery of brands promoted by influencers

More strategic warehouse hub locations: At the heart of q-commerce lie the dark stores, the mini-warehouses located conveniently across delivery points. The strategic location of various hubs and their proximity to each other can determine the efficiency of the delivery process. AI & ML have a vital role in providing valuable insights about the purchase volumes & values, suggesting locations where a new store can add value.

Sustainability & eco-friendliness: As Sustainability & Net-zero emissions initiatives take global center stage, sustainable options must be chosen in every process. Some low-hanging fruits here can be using eco-friendly or reusable packaging options for delivery and electric vehicles for delivery executives to save unnecessary strain on the environment.

Quick commerce is a great opportunity globally. The right mix of technology, infrastructure and an unwavering focus on customer experience can succeed in this rapidly evolving landscape. 2022 promises to be an exciting watch-fest, with popcorn delivered in 15 minutes or less.

This article was originally published on Forbes Technology Council.

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Media & Entertainment Opinion

How OTT providers can shape engaging content experiences for the empowered consumer

OTT engaging content experiences

Over-the-top (OTT) is a medium where customer is king and content rules. The pandemic served as a catalyst for greater OTT adoption, driving home this truth stronger than ever. OTT channels exploded, providing many hours of entertainment at home, and on any device. As the global pandemic took hold in 2020, 36% of consumers say it was a direct driver of them taking out a new OTT subscription.

Propelled by the widespread distribution enabled by OTT, companies are in a race, pursuing content in various ways – generating their own content or turning aggregators, working with small creative houses to produce short films, increasing localization of content, or crowdsourcing.

However, today, to develop a platform and enable OTT is only completing the first lap. The market is crowded with players, big and small, jostling for a toehold. Today’s empowered consumers crave engagement, which means, providers need to build targeted content that will reel in customers and keep them hooked over time. To be a marathoner, the OTT provider needs to be able to both engage and retain.

Building sustained customer experiences led by content

The empowered consumer is spoilt for choice – avoiding both app fatigue and subscription fatigue will be important. This approach is backed by a 2020 Deloitte survey of US consumers – their reason for choosing a particular brand of service seemed to indicate a preference for both a broad range of shows & movies, and content not available elsewhere.

Deloitte OTT streaming video subscribers survey

OTT providers can look to win the war for viewers through a number of ways including:

  • Top of the mind recall: optimizing AI-based tools and segmentation will be essential for targeted content consumption. For instance, huge success of Korean TV series “The Squid Games” has shot up the demand for similar drama TV series in local languages. Thus, enabling AI to push localized content to a wider audience and providing them with new content areas to explore.
  • The right positioning: carving out a unique selling point through a niche segment or a curated experience targeting a hobby or lifestyle preferences will be key. Discovery+ for its unscripted content targeting lifelong learners, Disney+ Hotstar for family entertainment and sports viewing, Netflix for premium or affluent audience, BritBox for British TV shows, Hayu for reality TV shows could be examples.
  • New content forms: as more physical events and activities move online – learning, exhibitions, business consulting etc. – podcasts, edutainment, gaming will augment the experience and bring it closer to reality.
  • Socially relevant content: With more consumers moving away from traditional platforms, content that integrates the social elements will be in demand.
  • Tough going for smaller companies: with their content limitations, they face reduced DAUs, flattening out of subscriptions, and reduced or stagnating advertisement revenues. One way out could be to form alliances to provide variety and choice to viewers or get acquired by larger players.
  • Loyalty/Gamification: It will play a role in keeping users engaged. In fact, Netflix has already started to offer exclusive gaming options varying from simple card games to theme based games based on popular TV series like “The Stranger Things” to their subscribed users.
  • E-commerce website for entertainment a no-no: over time, intake of users, consumption, revenues, ad revenue are bound to fall and wave of subscribers will flatten or taper.
  • Digital Rights Management (DRM): Protection of licenses and prevention of unauthorized distribution of their proprietary content are major concerns for OTT providers that can be addressed through investing in the right DRM solution.
  • Super Apps: Super Apps mostly need business collaborations and partnerships to offer various services. Thus, the rise is largely driven by large conglomerates and huge e-Commerce companies to have a sophisticated app addressing all the basic needs of a consumer. Amazon Prime Video launched Prime Video Channels in India in collaboration with 8 OTT partners to showcase premium content from them and make all content available inside the Prime Video App. These partners include Discovery+, Lionsgate Play, Docubay, Eros Now, MUBI, Hoichoi, Manorama Max, and Shorts TV.

Prime Video Channels super app

Irrespective of the specific genre or direction, the OTT provider chooses to follow, the mandate is clear – shape engaging content experiences for the consumer. The provider can’t become complacent but needs to be ready with a roadmap for retention as well. By investing in technology to build content, engage and elevate consumer experiences, they stand a better chance to gain the elusive competitive edge.

Enabling the X-factor with right experience

The instant global success of OTT as a medium, and is a turning point and milestone in the history of entertainment and broadcasting technologies. There is no other medium that allows a wider potential reach, yet puts the audience in charge. With digital re-shaping the way we interact with each other and how we entertain ourselves, the success of OTT is only the beginning for this medium. From training to gaming to keeping in touch with family, the potential is limited only by imagination.

CX/UX/Personalization: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence power up algorithms and predictive analytics to identify consumer behavior, viewing patterns, preferences etc. and tailor the user/customer experience down to the individual consumer. These technologies are already helping the biggest in the business, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, offer unique experiences through product or content recommendations that are most relevant to that individual.

Becoming more ‘immersive’ with 5G: As 5G becomes mainstream, increased bandwidth will support more immersive streaming services such as 4K video and Virtual Reality (VR). Newer applications supporting collaboration – beyond Web conferencing – will emerge as a result. By combining 5G with OTT services, the provider can ensure less buffering and faster streaming, and therefore, venture into 360°live streaming of events etc.

Online gaming: The increase in Smart TV viewing means that passive consumption needs to be supplemented by gamification engines, interactive live television, real-time polls and more – these can be implemented with the help of 5G that promises up to 10Gbps speed and faster response times. With near-zero lag, better connectivity and data speeds, the gaming experience can be truly enhanced.

Shared OTT experiences: consumers realized the importance of spending time with family/friends during the pandemic. This led to the success of events such as Netflix’s Teleparty and Amazon Prime’s Watch Party. Powered by high-speed internet technologies, such services – consumers staying apart, watch movies together on the same video chat, or stream simultaneously within their social networks – could soon become the norm.

Multi-device, multi-platform experience: Consumers can enjoy immersive experiences on different mobile platforms, switching between devices seamlessly – including iOS & Android mobile phones, iPad and Android tablet, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick, Roku or any Android-based smart TV.

Building a multiexperience OTT

Implementing analytics and monetization strategies

The current monetization models of OTT are nascent, and as young as the medium and technology itself. Still stemming from traditional broadcasting roots advertising and subscription have been the existing models of revenue.

Advertising monetization vs subscription monetization: both models have their unique advantages. The nature/format of the content and the kind of technology investment can be deciding factors in the model that the provider chooses eventually.

Learn more about OTT monetization models in detail

The advertising monetization model enables free content with ads to consumers across multiple platforms such as connected TV, desktop, and mobile ecosystems. Here, finding new users is easier as it has in-built technology to targeting opportunities using more accurate data on user preferences. Providers can leverage predictive and prescriptive analytics using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

In contrast, providers might choose the subscription model if they are looking to gain long-term value by delivering consistent quality content such as those in the business of entertainment, health, eLearning etc. Investing in the right technology will help them implement security and encryption integrations that are necessary for this model.
With new applications such as gaming, television commerce, learning, event streaming and personal video conferencing, successful experiments in revenue models will spell the next level in maturity for the OTT industry.

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Opinion

Web 3.0: Technology’s Next Frontier

Web 3.0 Robosoft Technologies

A little over 30 years ago, the first web page was created at CERN, imagined by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and fellow scientists. They wisely determined that the web should remain an open standard for all to use. Web 2.0 transitioned the internet from sharing information to the age of social media, allowing users to create, share and collaborate without needing web design or technical skills. As the euphoria dies down, we’ve now encountered the flipside of this social revolution, with its power to influence and misinform, and the issues of data privacy. The Cambridge Analytica scandal proved the power of data to literally elect world powers.

Dubbed Web 3.0, the third generation of the web is already making waves, because it promises to return to the initial euphoria of the World Wide Web, and give the power back to users. This means:

  • Users have more control over content
  • They manage all internet activities with just one account per user to hop from one platform to another, shop, browse, manage devices etc.
  • Innovative use of AR, VR, sensors will elevate their internet experience, ushering in the era of connected things

Why we need a paradigm shift in the way the internet works

Through massive innovation in mobile, social media, and cloud technologies, Web 2.0 touches the everyday lives of billions of people across the world. The dynamic nature of its pages means that users consume information, communicate better, enjoy interactive experiences, and generate content that can, in turn, inform creators and developers on areas for improvement. However, its fundamental shortcomings cannot be dismissed lightly. Apprehensions around the lack of autonomy users have over personal data, increasing government control, and the predominance of a few, large intermediaries over web content are well founded.

Web 3.0 aspires to be even more life-altering in expanding the scope of internet applications. Plus, it aims to address these pain-points in a comprehensive manner and by becoming more human centric. Web 3.0 will be underpinned by blockchain technologies that enable, edge computing, and artificial intelligence. Its operations will rely on decentralized and autonomous data networks, public digital ledgers, peer-to-peer communications, cryptocurrency, smart contracts and tokenization. All of this means fundamental and welcome changes for users.

How will Web 3.0 give the power back to users?

So how will Web 3.0 take away the power from data monopolizing corporations and authoritarian, anti-social governments and give it back to users? By re-structuring the transactional nature of the World Wide Web and re-defining the value that users extract.

The biggest differentiators for users are:

  1. The ability to create and share personalized content
  2. Data will no longer be owned by a single entity but be a shared resource, developed and owned collectively

A safe and transparent, yet personalized and seamless user experience with Web 3.0

  • Users of the web will protect their personal data in non-fungible tokens, which are cryptographic assets on a blockchain. Each token comes with a unique identification code and metadata, indicating that the user owns that particular virtual good or digital asset obtained through cryptocurrencies. Even if the system is breached, the user’s original sensitive data will not be compromised as the tokenized data becomes undecipherable and irreversible while preserving its business utility.
  • Content on sites and pages will be chiefly derived from what users provide on various media including online, voice, text sources. Drastically different from the current version, each user will view the same content differently as it will be processed, customized, and presented based on insights and feedback that are unique to them. As the back-end aspects of development will get their due share of attention this time around, visual appeal of the content will not be the only consideration – its ability to cater to user requirements, relevance of the content, and personalization will be defining factors.
  • Applications will use open-source software created by an accessible community of developers in a completely visible, open, and transparent manner.
  • Another giant leap forward would be in the way communities are built and operate – from business communities to social communities to private communities. Interoperability is one of the primary goals of Web 3.0, which implies that users can move or extend their personal accounts or avatars from one community to another, seamlessly.

Web 3.0 envisions a new order – a democratic, permission less system

Blockchain will ensure all transactional data is verified and immutably stored in a public, digitized ledger that is available across the peer-to-peer network. We might even think of the system as being permissionless since anyone, a user or provider, should be able to engage in consensus validation within the network without taking explicit permission from a governing body or an intermediary. Such a system is inherently trust-less as no single entity owns or has authority over it, and none of the participants need to know or trust each other or rely on an intermediary for the system to function. They only need to trust the system itself – this trust is built and distributed between participants through redefining the economic transactions and incentivizing ethical and honest behavior of those complying with network security guidelines, for instance.

Incentivization of operations, transactions, and behavior – in short, everything that makes the system work smoothly – is a desirable outcome of such a network and offered to service, data and content providers, which includes users as well.

The vision for Web 3.0 is to

  • Decentralize and cut out the middleman and challenge government-imposed control and the monopoly of large tech corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter
  • Make room for smaller, more players to emerge and thrive in the content generation market.
  • Restore content control to the user
  • Manage data as a collective, shared property
  • Incentivize engagement, data contribution and behavior for greater people participation and build a sense of earned ownership and value towards it.

Are we there yet?

We see blockchain being adopted across a widening range of services – from managing individual land records, passports/visas, social security to applications that intersperse multiple entities such as banking. A step towards the new reality, Opera recently brought out a beta version of its Web3 Crypto Browser with a non-custodial wallet to support blockchains.

There will be a greater prevalence of computing resources pushed out to the edge of the network and closer to the source of the data (such as phones, computers, everyday appliances, sensors, and vehicles) in lieu of/addition to centralized, legacy data centers. Incentivization will be a major factor here – for example, a user would be encouraged to barter or trade their personal data on their health, vehicle location, performance reviews on appliances etc. without having to give up ownership rights or privacy and operate independent of an intermediary’s intervention.

While the web’s newest iteration has many gaps to be bridged and its share of sceptics who consider it vaporware, Web 3.0 aspires to bring together the best of both worlds – the human-centric and machine-driven – to democratize the internet. In the attempt to breach technology’s next frontier, it continues to evolve and is more likely to coexist with, rather than replace Web 2.0 in the near future.

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Mobile UX/UI

The Basics of Creator Economy and the Role of Digital Experience

Since time immemorial, there have been a small class of people who were creators and a larger group who ‘consumed’ such content. Books, plays, music, paintings, movies and much more were created and performed to an audience. As new platforms and technologies emerged such content took several shapes and forms.

In the pre-digital world, those who offered and controlled a platform or medium decided which content was to be promoted. A newspaper could decide to promote a news item prominently or push it away to the back pages. A studio could offer a platform for worldwide release or a niche audience. Radio stations played a major role in the popularity of a song. Higher the reach of such a medium or platform, better the impact.

In the digital era, while the content format became different, several old media rules were still at play. Online portals, social media platforms with huge reach either decided or controlled which content went viral. Sure, there was no scientific or empirical way which guaranteed which content bubbled up to the top but user-generated content came into its own. This trend owes a lot to YouTube – its ease of use and popularity. Of course, affordable high-speed data plans and mobile handsets played a role too.

The term ‘YouTuber’ became common and one heard of a select few earning millions of dollars through advertising on their YouTube channels. Ryan Kaji, a 9-year old boy earned nearly $30 million from his channel which features reviews of toys and home science experiments. Marques Brownlee or MKBHD, a popular tech & gadget reviewer has 14.9 million subscribers at the time of writing and earns through advertisements, affiliate income and more. Undoubtedly the content created by such YouTubers benefits from the platform’s popularity and reach. Google, in turn, earns from advertisers who place ads in such videos. In 2020, YouTube earned $19.77 billion – approximately 10.9 percent of Google’s total revenue, from advertising. Monetization through advertising was pretty much the only business model up until a few years ago for creators.

What is the creator economy?

The creator economy refers to 50 million+ independent content creators, curators, and community builders involved in free & paid content creation and distribution on software platforms/apps to their “followers”.

A combination of factors has resulted in a change in the ecosystem leading to what is now called the creator economy. Over the years, a small group of creators (writers, photographers) published content and acquired a small base (mostly) of readers and followers. WordPress, Flickr and such apps enabled such distribution of content.

According to Stripe, ‘the earliest creators uploaded Flash animations to DeviantArt or scanned manga illustrations to Xanga. But they didn’t have the tools to sell their content to earn a living as a creator online.’ The hallmark of such a trend was that most such content was free to consume. Popular YouTubers and bloggers who baked in Google AdSense into their sites earned money through ads, but this wasn’t an option for smaller players. The ‘creator’ mostly never got paid through a regular, predictable business model. The rise of social media and acquisition of a large number of followers, even for non-celebrities changed the equation.

The creator economy and its landscape

While there are many definitions and expressions of creator economy, a simple way of understanding it is to see it as:

“An ecosystem which enables any creator to monetize their output.”

The key difference between the digital era of just a few years ago is that the creator economy has widened the base of ‘creators’ and practically enabled everyone to be a creator and monetize their work. It is no longer only about the famous writer or established filmmakers – regular everyday folks can express their skills and passion – be it in cooking, singing, dancing or teaching. Also, the tools which enable this economy are diverse and easy to acquire and use.

The monetization model too changed beyond just advertising – with options such as subscription, sponsorship deals with brands, one-off purchases and donations. Also, the ability to reach and influence a small group of like-minded people or groups with similar interests is higher in the creator economy. Someone with deep knowledge in say, investing can create a loyal following through a podcast or video series. A writer can acquire several thousands of subscribers through newsletters. In 2017, nearly 17 million Americans earned income posting their personal creations on nine platforms.

Read: Driving Growth by Designing Experience-Based Subscription Models

“A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, video maker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 true fans to make a living”

Kevin Kelly, 1,000 True Fans

The creator economy is also referred to as the Passion Economy as it is different from the concept of being paid for gigs such as driving or food delivery. As Ji Lin says, ‘New digital platforms enable people to earn a livelihood in a way that highlights their individuality’.

Creator economy and the common content types

Below are some of the content types, platforms and tools which have gained popularity enabling the creator economy:

#1 Text: This could include short essays, long form content and newsletters: ‘The home for great writing’ is the simple premise of Substack, which started off as a tool for starting paid email newsletters. While a majority of its newsletters are free, there are more than 500,000 paying subscribers. According to The Guardian, ‘Substack takes 10% of subscription earnings and payment company Stripe takes a further 3% with writers taking the rest. Writers charge around $5 a month (£3.66) or $50 a year for access to their newsletters, although the platform’s many free newsletters also have a big following.’ The Top 10 publishers on Substack earn $7mn per year between them.

Substack creators hub

Source: Substack 

There are several stand-alone portals and newsletters which offer both free and gated content. Niche subjects such as business journalism, especially the investigative kind, find takers who are willing to pay for such content driven by the belief that it’s worth it. The USP of such business models is offering opinions, trends and analysis.

#2 Video content: Short form videos sit well with those seeking casual entertainment on the smartphone. After the success of TikTok several clones emerged in various countries.

Instagram Reels

Source: Instagram 

Instagram’s Reels and YouTube’s Shorts have made video creation easy for many. Google even set up a fund of $100mn as a means to payout to video creators. The biggest advantage of such platforms is they don’t need expensive shooting gear, just a good smartphone and an app.

#3 Audio content: Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, podcasts had a huge fan following (remember the buzz around Serial, the podcast from 2014?). The long stretch of staying at home boosted consumption of both audio and video streaming content. Aside from the pioneer Apple Podcasts, the rise of Spotify and other regional platforms augurs well for content creators. Tools such as Anchor, Podbean and more make it easy for content creators to only record but distribute their content on popular platforms.

Podbean creators economy

Source: Podbean

There are also stand-alone tools like Canva which allow for easy creation of a wide variety of content – from slides to infographics. Even niche interests such as app development, teaching and fitness instruction can now be monetized through relevant app platforms and supporting ecosystems.

Here are a few startups which cater to niche segments:

Pietra: helps influencers connect with designers and manufacturers in product creation.

Trading.TV: is a streaming platform for the financial community.

Stir: is a money management platform for creators.

The role of UX in the creator ecosystem

If all of this sounds as if one simply has to sign up on a platform and be ready to count the money, that is far from the truth. When designing a platform or tool meant to aid the creator economy the following needs to be kept in mind:

Information overload: all of us are facing information load from both traditional and new media. Many in the digital world are opting for a break if not going offline completely. In that context, the content out there has to be truly compelling, slick and convey that it adds value for the intended audience.

Subscription fatigue: consumers have a limit to what they can consume. And when it comes to subscriptions, even more so. So be it an OTT service or a paid newsletter a consumer will face a moment of trade-off before committing to a payment.

Need for educating and guidance: the entrants to the creator economy are not just the digital natives. Many who have established careers may try their hand at monetizing their expertise. The platform they choose to adopt with this intent should be able to guide them on the steps that need to be taken to complete the desired action. It takes a combination of copywriting and design as exemplified by Substack which has a Resource Center with inside tips and expert advice for writers.

The role of technology in the creator ecosystem

Technologies such as Non-Fungible Tokens powered by Blockchain are enabling the creator economy. NFTs are units of data which prove digital ownership. The use cases may include any asset such as a movie, song, photograph or collectibles. Celebrities from the entertainment industry and sports professionals have taken to NFTs in a big way. After all, a winning moment in a sports arena is something a professional would cherish and should be able to monetize. NFTs are also a boon for sports fans looking to own collectibles. NBA Top Shot is a marketplace for the fans to purchase and sell video clips of basketball games.

NBA NFT Tokens

McLaren Racing, the popular F1 racing team, has launched a platform where its fans can purchase McLaren Racing branded digital collectibles or NFTs. The platform, named the ‘McLaren Racing Collective,’ will serve as a destination for future opportunities to own a piece of exclusive McLaren Racing collectables.

Boonji Project, the debut NFT project by world-renowned artist Brendan Murphy has surpassed $15.5 million in its Dutch Auction Primary Sale, anointing the project as the largest NFT primary sale in history.

In India, cricketing legend Sunil Gavaskar and others have taken to NFTs to launch collectibles. Reports indicate that the Indian film industry too has shown interest in this trend – autographed posters, clips and more are eminently suited for use of this blockchain technology.

Crafting a digital experience in the creator economy will need to follow the basics of any process to create products which consumers love. First off, scanning the market for need gaps and consumer pain-points to identify the opportunities. Next, defining the intent of the app, the feature set and a road map. The feature set will depend on the domain – such as education, video creation or any other. Profile creation, chat systems, shooting and uploading of documents, ability to complete frictionless payments could be some common features. Intuitive design, the right technology stack are other elements of the process.

Summing it up

The creator economy is still in the development stage but has the power to make a huge societal influence consisting of a diverse set of creators. It provides equal opportunity to all its creators despite large differences in their net worth and fan following. The creators can be celebrities, content producers, and influencers. The advent of the creator economy has stretched the meaning of influencers too as it can further be classified to – key opinion leaders (KOL), brand ambassadors, affiliates, and customer advocates.

This microcosm of creators has led a resurgence in how brands are now finding new innovative ways to reach their customers. The subsequent effects are seen in these creator platforms innovating within their app/platform to attract more creators and brands.

In conclusion, the creator economy is an exciting opportunity for content creators, users and enabling platforms, powered by the engines of intuitive design and technologies.

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