How to Concept and Pitch an Augmented Reality Demo (in 1 Week or Less)
Week Zero: Getting to the Pitch
Sometime in the beginning of summer, the Contentstack marketing team called up Valtech, and asked them to build an Augmented Reality (AR) demo on top of our CMS.
We caught Pascal Lagarde (VP Commerce) and Auke van Urk (CTO) in a good mood. They said yes. Then everyone went on summer holidays. Until about 2 weeks ago, when Pascal called us back.
He said: “We’ll build you an AR demo. And we’re going to do it in the next 4 weeks.”
This is the story of how they did it, told (almost) live.
Today, what happened in Week Zero: how the development team at Valtech went from receiving our somewhat vague brief to pitching us two sharply defined concepts a week later.
We’ll even be sharing the actual pitch deck. (It’s at the bottom of this post.)
Getting the Brief
Jason Alderman is a senior engineer at Valtech, but he used to work designing interactive exhibits in museums. One of his favorite projects was a donation machine for a museum lobby, which was a giant glass porthole attached to a set of sails. When the machine detected a donation bill, it would suck it up through a snaking tube into the porthole, which would then activate a sensor that would make the sails blow as if in the wind.
He’s excited about the possibilities of Augmented Reality. “I like the connection between the physical and the digital world. Right now we're holding up these small pieces of metal and glass up to our faces and moving them around like a magic window. The technology is still evolving. I'm really interested to see what the end result will be.”
Jason was the first team member to get tasked with responding to “the brief” which was, admittedly, a somewhat rough Google Doc where a few Contentstack people had traded ideas with a few Valtech people along the lines of “could it look like Minority Report?” and “it needs to be interesting for marketers and developers alike”.
This was the actual brief.
Jason is positive about this experience, telling me: “We were given a lot of creative free rein. That's one of the things I love about this company — they really invest in the people and let them run with their ideas.” He planned a workshop with a few other developers, UX researchers, and experience designers. “We figured that we probably needed to get as many perspectives inside the company as we could and brainstorm things.”
Identifying the Parameters: Why Contentstack?
1. IDENTIFY HOW A HEADLESS CMS WILL BE USEFUL IN AN AR CONTEXT
Contentstack is a Content Experience Platform (CXP) with a headless content management system (CMS) at the core. It’s essentially a highly user-friendly database and environment for content creation and storage (text, media, or otherwise) with powerful APIs and integration capabilities that allow that content to easily be delivered to any kind of channel or environment. Traditionally, content management systems have been used to power the web, but today the demand for content-rich experiences is significantly more diverse. Beyond web and the mobile web and even app, brands need content to exist in an atomic form, ready to be delivered in an optimized and personalized way to digital billboards, point of sale terminals, social media, marketing automation systems — and yes, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality experiences.
Valtech is one of the founding partners together with Contentstack of the MACH Alliance, which is a governing and educational body promoting a new standard for enterprise architecture: Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and headless. Says Jason, “It's a way of having an enterprise CMS that can feed all sorts of different front-ends from mobile apps to react apps.”
2. LIST KNOWN STRENGTHS OF CONTENTSTACK CMS
The Valtech team made a list of all the strengths of the Contentstack platform that could be highlighted in an AR demo, which looked like this (see more of this in the pitch deck at the end of this post).
The strengths of Contentstack for AR demo, as identified by Valtech.
- Detailed content models can be structured easily to feed websites, apps, and of course, AR.
- Internationalization: robust multilingual support, including fallback languages — for instance, if there is no content for a given channel in Mexican Spanish you can rollback to general Spanish content.
- Robust ability to set up workflows — easily configuring layered steps comprising different actions (approval, commenting, adding elements) that can be set up to automatically push to the next stage.
- Tremendous capability for personalization through powerful integration with tools such as Optimizely or Dynamic Yield.
Isolating the Task: Why AR?
AR is hot right now. But the team that took our brief wasn’t a pure AR team. It was a group of people who know how to build experiences and augment them with technology in order to make them either useful, or really fun, or both. Given the brief of delivering content-rich experiences pulled from a headless CMS, their first question was "are we sure the best way to accomplish showing off this CMS is through AR?"
1. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND USEFUL APPLICATIONS OF AUGMENTED REALITY?
Along with Jason, leading the brainstorm efforts was Danielle Holstine, Delivery Manager — a software engineer turned project manager — who spent ten years developing AR and VR technology. She sees potential for AR in everything: “To experience VR you currently have to put this big thing on your face and it's like blinders — you can't see anything else around you. AR, on the other hand, uses what you're already seeing and just adds information on top of it, so it's additive.” Especially interesting is the potential of web-based AR and the ability to move away from native apps, which makes these experiences more accessible and easier to engage with. “Phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have been investing in the hardware required to do augmented reality functions: improving cameras, sensors, all those kinds of things. And equally on the software side, there's been a lot of development on browser-based AR so it no longer requires a dedicated application to make use of your camera and the sensors on your phone, but rather being able to access the information through just a browser.”
But UX researcher and designer Hayley Sikora had questions. “Knowing that we’re working with an amazing CMS and that the brief was to convey information through it, my question was, why are we doing it in AR? Because it’s very difficult to get large amounts of information across in AR.”
Britt Midgette, Sr. Experience Designer, agrees. “We can’t just do AR because it’s cool. It must enhance the experience in a needful way. VR is a different thing — you are creating worlds, there’s "no reason” to do that — but it’s fun, and you can add a lot of stuff in that world. You can still show people a lot of things in an AR world but really — why?! Some things should be static. AR can just get in the way of what people are trying to do.”
2. FRAME THE BRAINSTORM TO SERVE THE OPPORTUNITY
The resolution came from framing the question in a storytelling narrative:
Since Augmented Reality is layering information on top of the real world, hopefully to make things easier and provide context, there are industries that have complex information, which can be simplified or explained, personalized, and delivered through an AR experience.
The team (Jason, Danielle, Hayley, Britt, Pascal, and engineers Alex Olivier and Brian Harrington) then broke down this narrative into its component parts and discussed each in turn.
The goal was to come up with 1-2 strong concepts that could be presented to Contentstack in a pitch the following Monday
BRAINSTORM Q1. What are industries that have complex information?
The team used Miro as a digital whiteboard.
The Miro board with dot voting star stickers.
The ideas did not start out clustered together, but rather as a brain-dump of all kinds of industries that have complex information that might be difficult to understand, or that people might need some help digging through and figuring out what is relevant. Some of the ideas included:
- Vitamins, health, skincare, beauty products
- Medicine & pharmaceuticals
- Software documentation, technology
- College admissions
- Insurance, credit cards, finance
- Real estate, apartment hunting
- Outdoor equipment, travel
- Home goods, auto parts, instruction manuals (and IKEA)
The team plotted it all out in a grid of post-its, then clustered it into meaningful groups, then voted on their favorites. The two industries that seemed to be the most popular were skincare & beauty and museums & education.
What are industries that have complex information? Miro board brainstorming.
That was the first part of the narrative: There are industries that have complex information, which can be simplified or explained, personalized and delivered through an AR experience.
The next step was to identify the kinds of information that could be simplified and explained in the two most favoured industries.
BRAINSTORM Q2: Given the industries “beauty & skincare” and “museums & education”, what is their complex information?
The questions that people had around beauty and skincare came naturally to many people in the room, like Hayley, who admits, “I have so many questions about what goes into my own skincare regimen.”
Ideas listed included:
- Ingredients: How can I understand the composition of this product? Are there known allergens in this? How have these ingredients been sourced?
- Benefits: What is actually healthy, versus just a “scam”? What is this product promising to do, and how can I track whether it’s actually working?
- Reviews: Can I see a rating or review? Who recommends this product? Are there influencers that have covered it?
When it came to museums & education, Hayley was inspired by the experience of her aunt, who recently decided to homeschool her children: “I was thinking that it would be a really amazing opportunity to provide kids across the world with some interactive learning tools that could, first of all, give their parents a break from having to be their homeschool teachers 100% of the time — but also give them some fun ways to learn this content."
Ideas for museum & educational complex information included:
- Learning management: Tracking systems for grades, assessments, progress
- Additional context: Who was the creator of an artwork? What are narratives behind certain artifacts which give them context, beyond just the names and dates?
- Details: Virtually dissect a dinosaur skeleton — pull out different bones and see where they were found, what they were for, and how they evolved.
- Media: Sound clips, 3D models, music (instrument types, styles)
- Provenance: How did the artifact get to the museum? Where was it originally created; what hands did it pass through; will it be, or has it been repatriated to the original cultures or people to whom it belongs?
What is the kind of complex information that we could work with?
Here the team had fleshed out the second part of the narrative: There are industries that have complex information, which can be simplified or explained, personalized and delivered through an AR experience.
The final piece of the puzzle was personalization.
BRAINSTORM Q3: How can we personalize this information?
Jason explains that without personalization, any content experience, AR-enhanced or otherwise, is just a bundle of information. The benefit of using technology to represent content in a dynamic format like AR is that it can be personalized, made highly relevant and specific to the person accessing that information.
Adds Hayley, “Personalization is only going to continue to get more important. The newest generation is seeking more personalized material than ever because they get instant gratification all day long with personalized content that is sent to them on their social media feeds, so they're expecting that out of other channels as well.”
How could personalization be used to de-complexify the types of information that we identified in beauty & skincare and museums & education?
Beauty & Skincare:
- Ingredients: Which of these ingredients will help me achieve my goals?
- Recommendations: Based on your purchase history, preferences; hide products that might cause an allergic reaction or are otherwise incompatible with your personal history. Upload a “shelfie” and get an analysis of how this would fit into your existing routine.
- Face scans: Similar to other Valtech projects showing makeup on someone’s face “live”, can products be recommended based on a scan of your face?
- Phone a friend: Are there reviews I can see from people I know, or from elsewhere online? Can we support or mimic the social buying experience?
Museums & Education:
- Game mechanics: Tour, scavenger hunt, quiz
- Social dynamics: Tether two people virtually to join in a trivia battle, or to share the experience in a personal way
- Responsive content: Dynamically generating a layout of a physical space to match your preferred experience, such as drawing a “map” for you personally to follow through a museum exhibit
- Avatars: To protect kids’ privacy, instead of putting in all of their own personal information into the app, can they create an avatar that represents their preferences and personality traits?
- Text to speech: Keeping in mind that a lot of content stored in Contentstack CMS is text-based, could text-to-speech be implemented to create a personalized audio tour experience using existing written content?
How can we personalize this information?
There are industries that have complex information, which can be simplified or explained, personalized and delivered through an AR experience.
This was the end of the brainstorming session, where two strong concepts had emerged to be taken into the pitch presentation.
Can It Be Done?
From here, the final question was, can this be done in our timeline: 3 weeks from this point on?
Here’s Danielle: “We knew we had three weeks, which is a very short time, to implement something this complex. A traditional two-week sprint process obviously isn't going to cut it for this. This work needs to move so rapidly that we don't have extended periods of time to wait, to have something blocked, those kinds of things.
“So as the brainstorm team was talking, I sketched out a three, one-week-sprint plan with rough goals for each of those weeks.
“The first week is really focused on nailing down the technology we're going to use. So what are the AR libraries that we're going to use? How are we going to track the items? Are we going to do it with fiducial markers, are we going to do it with image-based markers, are we going to do it with object tracking... Each of those has an increasing level of complexity. So we need to make that decision really soon. The next step was nailing down our interaction models and what we want the experience to be.
“Then the second week goal is going to be focused on really hard development: making the application, getting the data into Contentstack, and getting the data back out and visualized the way that we want it in the AR space.
“And then the third week would be really focused on polishing and refining. So, the intention is between the first week and the second week, to actually have our proof of concept — a working thing that we can send around to everybody to test and manipulate, get some feedback on it. And then spend that last week editing, adjusting, and refining. And if we have time, adding in some of the many nice-to-haves that we left on the drawing board."
1. LOWEST EFFORT, HIGHEST REWARD
Based on what they knew they could accomplish in 3 weeks, and that had the highest potential to deliver a “wow”-factor demo, Valtech pitched Contentstack two ideas for an AR proof of concept.
2. PRESENT IN AN EASY-TO-IMAGINE FORMAT
Valtech kept the presentation short, and pitched only one slide per concept, complete with hand-drawn illustrations that showed the concept, but made it clear that it was a mere idea, and not a fully living thing.
Knowing that it was possible, and armed with a wealth of ideas, here are the two ideas Valtech presented to us.
Beauty & SkincareWhat’s Inside the Bottle?
Scan a product on the shelf or at home to get personalized recommendations based on the ingredients in the product. See other products that are similar based on some criteria (feel, effect); products that are different (avoiding allergens, discovering other product lines); learn about sustainability and sourcing of the ingredients; or get instructions (see influencer content on tips and tricks, see usage and recommendations from the brand.)
The beauty and skincare concept, with sketch illustration by Jason Alderman and Lindsey Harris
Museums & EducationPersonal AR Audio Tour.
In a museum gallery or a simulated at-home environment, receive a personalized museum audio tour using text-to-speech technology, including; paths based on how objects in the museum are related to each other; paths that follow a particular preferred narrative thread or subject; synchronize the audio tour with other devices so users can experience the tour together with family or friends.
Museums & education concept, with sketch illustrations by Jason Alderman
3. OFFER RECOMMENDATIONS & GUIDANCE
The team also gave some personal guidance on their preference, which was towards the retail app. Says Jason: “I love museums, but we did not think that museum demo would be as effective as one that retailers could translate their business onto more easily.”
Hayley adds: “The opportunities in education are almost endless because there’s so much we could make interactive and gamify. The challenge with education and museums is bureaucracy — who actually takes ownership of it? What school system is going to pay to create an AR learning program for their kids? That's just not feasible. So I think taking this down a route where we could be talking about products that can go to a broader consumer audience makes sense.”
On the Contentstack side, me (I’m Varia — Director of Marketing) and my colleague Gal Oppenheimer (Manager, Solutions Architects) immediately gravitated towards the retail and skincare application idea. So that's the application we'll build — and over the next few weeks, we'll share with you exactly what that looks like.
We're calling it Project Spyglass.
In the coming weeks, we will show how Gal and his team helped Valtech to build the content models that will help to power this experience from Contentstack. Plus, Valtech’s software engineers research AR frameworks, interaction design storyboards start to take shape, and we wrestle with the surprisingly sticky problem of marker tracking. Read the week 1 post now.
See the full pitch deck presented by Valtech below:
Why your company’s future depends on modernization
In the early stages of my career, I joined a “cutting-edge” software company as an architect in the IT department. I don’t want to spoil the story, but the company was not, in fact, cutting-edge. While the company purchased all sorts of tools it considered modern, its leaders didn’t stop to consider what successful implementation might look like, or how to educate and empower their people to use it well. Instead, we just accumulated new tech. I left the company less than a year after joining.I was reminded of this experience while listening to Chief Digital Officer of Dawn Foods Bob Howland share his story in a recent episode of the People Changing Enterprises podcast. He led the transformation of the 100-year-old bakery supplies company.I love his perspective: Don't modernize for the sake of modernization. Don't do it because there are shiny new tools. Do it because your organization’s future depends on it.If I could go back to that company and tell them why driving digital transformation is important, this is what I would say.You no longer have to compromise all three: speed, quality and costIn the podcast, Bob referred to speed, quality and cost as the triangle that all companies chase. I like to refer to that quest as the “Pursuit of Happiness.” Think of the elements as sliders on a mixing board. You are constantly adjusting the mix in response to your priorities at the moment and you can usually get a perfect sound with two of the three elements. The third hopefully is not far behind. A general rule of thumb is that all can improve, given the right circumstances.When we were a young startup, we bought certain functionalities of our technology rather than building them, for the sake of speed — for example, our rich-text editor. As we grew, we doubled down on enhancing every aspect of our product to our standards. That’s when we rebuilt our rich-text editor to be one of the most advanced available in any CMS today.But when you’re a legacy company with outdated processes and technology, speed, quality and cost tend to be:Unaligned with company prioritiesLagging far behind what they could beAs a result, the company suffers from unrealized potential and unnecessary complexity that limits them in some way. The quality of what you’re offering might be good, but the right technology could enhance it. While you might be able to operate with a level of speed that is good enough, there is a possibility to be quicker and more agile. Bob said it like this in the podcast: “Someone would say we're doing fine, and they would be right. And here comes this person that thinks about the world differently, and says, ‘We can still be that company, but we can be better.’ And when I say better, I mean better revenue, trajectory, lower costs and improved customer experience. That's how I define better.”Your employees will feel empoweredBefore their transformation, Dawn Foods’ sales team could better be referred to as order takers. The only way a customer could place an order was by writing it on a piece of paper and physically giving it to the rep when they were visiting their store. So when the company pitched the idea of an online ordering system to shift the team’s priorities to strategic growth opportunities for the customer, they were hungry for it. Modernizing your technology stack is not just to achieve speed, cost, and quality for the business — it’s for your people, too.One of my jobs as a CTO is not only to create the tech roadmap for the future, it’s to empower the people the vision is for. Whether that’s implementing a new tool, iterating on an old process or making space for innovation.For example, when my engineering team does “sprints” — meaning, working on development projects for two weeks at a time — we always allocate time for innovation. Twenty percent of an engineering sprint is dedicated to bug fixes and feature requests from customer success; eighty percent is given to their creative endeavors.One benefit of digital transformation is that your employees can shift their focus and skills to meaningful tasks that can have impact. Your customers will be happy, and your employees will be satisfied and motivated. You can deliver what customers need when they need itFor a customer, there’s nothing more frustrating than needing a feature to solve a problem and knowing that it might happen in the next year if it happens at all. One of the goals of digital transformation should be that you are able to respond to customers’ needs much faster. You become an agile organization, like Dawn Foods. In just 22 weeks, they delivered a world-class catalog to get their customers excited about their products and streamline their experience. They couldn’t do that without moving to composable architecture and upgrading their technology stack. At Contentstack, our head of global customer success and I sit down every two weeks and discuss what our customers have requested. We prioritize by making a “top 10 wish list” and we leverage our tech stack to deliver what they need. This is how we prioritize continuous transformation.And this is what I know: Transformation is a constant, iterative improvement. It doesn’t have a designated stop or start period. There is no before and after. You nurture the relationships, set up the systems and processes and onboard the right tools. When you do that, your business and its stakeholders will thrive.For 100 years, Dawn Foods was hugely successful. But when Bob came to them and showed them what they could be, the entire board agreed it was their only option to keep that success going for another hundred years. Any enterprise can benefit from modernization — especially if it has been around for a very long time.
What is an API?
For all its power and opportunities, the digital economy demands continuous adaptation and flexibility to satisfy evolving customer demands for unforgettable, personalized experiences. How do you rise to this challenge? By adopting a headless approach to your content management system (CMS), which separates a website’s visuals (the front end) from its content library (the back end).In this composable architecture, the logic and functionality are assigned to a network of application programming interfaces (APIs) that relay messages between applications aimed at reusing content securely across multiple projects. As more and more businesses move toward composable architecture, you’ve probably heard of APIs but may not know how they work. Read on to find out what an API is and how it works in a modern CMS. What is an API?An API is a medium that allows two software components to communicate with each other. It transfers information from the client to the server via requests sent through an application.The internal parts are hidden from the user since the purpose is to connect various tools and services, initiating calls to the endpoints residing in another system or device. APIs are categorized into four types depending on the format of stored data: SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol): A standardized API that relies on XML texts and structured databases to send requestsRPC (Remote Procedure Calls): Compatible with distributed applications, which execute code on a server outside the clientWebsocket: Allows client and server apps to communicate by passing data through JSON files using callback messagesREST (Representational State Transfer): Responds to server requests by performing a function and returning its output data An API houses many microservices that your developers can implement into various programs, similar to a menu for selecting items. It lets them retrieve pre-made templates that improve existing content without reinventing the wheel for every web element. If someone needs to upload groups of files, they can simply pull this feature from the source code that has the solution in place. Let’s go over the steps to processing a request from an app to the server. How do APIs work?APIs make it possible to connect cloud services, mobile devices, custom workspaces and real-time analytics, whenever you need to maintain, access and share large amounts of data on a single platform. They can restrict access to particular software and hardware, protecting your company records from users who don’t have permission to view them. First, a client app will fetch the HTTP request and transport it through the URI consisting of a header and body. Next, the API proceeds to call an option recognized by the program or web server. Then, the client will process the request and fetch the correct information. Finally, the data is transferred to the client app in JSON format to wrap up the session. An API interface optimizes the exchange of data throughout departments, software engineers and external vendors. This saves you time and money on product development or even managing web services, lending itself to flexible interactions between cross-functional teams, thus opening up opportunities for innovation. APIs are depicted as layers that translate what happens on both ends of the network. The same idea holds true for modern web browsers — when you visit a site, it may ask you about enabling cookies, which you can deny if you don’t want third parties tracking your preferences. What are some examples of APIs?APIs are important for developing and securing resources, giving you control over what assets are available to your partners and consumers, in contrast with those built for employees. For the most part, they blend into the background of the graphical user interfaces you come across. Here are several APIs you’ve probably heard about: Google MapsGoogle Maps has become the de facto GPS for planning car routes, supplying detailed street maps through satellite imaging. The map API’s geolocation tools provide users with traffic conditions near their destination along with the estimated time of arrival. PayPalPayPal processes payments beyond digital wallet transactions. In fact, the option to pay with PayPal is a staple of e-commerce sites that operate based on its REST APIs. This protects sensitive data from unauthorized entities after checkout. FacebookThe Graph API lets developers extract core functions directly from Facebook, using HTTP requests to share pages and posts from a user’s timeline. It has extensions to collect insights on marketing campaigns, video impressions, conversion rates and more. It’s likely that you’ve used APIs at some point when installing a website extension or downloading a phone app, but they exist in other spaces as well, such as when you add items to a cart while shopping online or when you have food delivered to your doorstep. Advantages of using an APIThere are APIs on the market to enhance databases, operating systems and remote machines — classified into either private or public versions. An API offers many benefits that improve software solutions and overhaul IT systems, upgrading customer-facing apps to grab the user’s attention. Internally, there are APIs for database communications that invoke protocols, authorizing the end-user to write queries or upload new entries. These are inserted automatically under the relevant criteria to ensure the data is reliable and consistent across multiple verticals. Another type of API covers operating systems including Windows and Linux, with a set of developer tools for executing native programs stored in the hard drive. OS APIs govern the success of critical operations to keep the servers running at full speed. In the face of a changing digital landscape, companies at times have to rethink their marketing strategy to continue attracting prospective buyers. That’s why most social media outlets host external APIs to raise their brand visibility and pull in millions of users to engage with posts. Because connectivity is a driver of productivity, companies are now automating building-wide workflows to reduce the cost of labor. Additionally, APIs are drivers of innovation, transforming businesses while they expand into a diversified market and propose new product ideas. The Role of APIs in MACH architectureMACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless when discussing enterprise architecture. This principle states that technology should be modular, pluggable, and capable of evolving, shedding light on scalable and replaceable components at every turn, designed to improve API functionality for both your users and developers.MACH is focused on the best-of-breed approach to building enterprise-level SaaS while it introduces modularity to legacy systems. Above all, MACH constructs a centralized network that spans multiple channels with agile frameworks in mind. Microservices arrange applications as an assortment of deployable services instead of leaving the features on a single instance or database. As such, you can update apps on-demand without impacting other API functions. API-first suggests that your connected apps depend on the API to fetch, store, and receive information throughout various points of contact. It allows two or more apps to interact regardless of the status of other programs.Cloud-native defines the SaaS framework used for storage and hosting, with the ability to scale flexibly and update functionality on every available resource. The server is maintained by a vendor so you don’t need to manually configure individual apps. Headless is what isolates the front end from the back end, making it easier to customize the visuals on mobile and desktop. The code is decoupled to expand design options while still giving your developers room to write and test scripts. A MACH API strengthens the security of its intermittent layers: You never have to worry about data leaking from your phone to the server, knowing that packets of data only share what’s necessary to approve the transaction. A few lines of code can make a huge difference in extending API use cases. As a result, workplace collaboration is much better because of integrations on the cloud that communicate effectively with each other. APIs have a lot of potential for monetization if their capabilities are leveraged to gather consumer data, empowering businesses to personalize future customer experiences with valuable research derived from AI analytics. You can create digital experiences faster than you dreamed possible with Contentstack. Schedule a free demo and see why top brands are choosing our content experience platform.
How to have difficult conversations with your CFO
I've heard CFOs described as executives who are "exceptional at finding the smartest way to say no." While there may be some truth to that, CFOs are also motivated by the smartest reasons to say yes.When that clicked for me earlier in my career, my approach to CFO conversations shifted. It wasn't about drowning them in data or trying to convince them my idea was the one; it was about painting a picture.That picture should tell a simple story: where the organization is now and where it could be if we make a change. As Chief Digital Officer of Dawn Foods Bob Howland said in a recent episode of the People Changing Enterprises podcast: "Everyone wants to be part of success. Everyone wants to be part of the future."Given the economic environment, many of us are having more conversations with finance than we're used to. So, I thought I'd share some of my strategies for fruitful CFO conversations here.Face Issues Early and Head-OnDawn Foods' Bob Howland calls this: "Be the bringer of bad news." Howland joined Dawn Foods in 2019 to propel the 100-year-old baking ingredients company into its next 100 years. Before Howland, orders were only taken by hand. His "bad news" was that their future wasn't bright if they didn't become an agile organization. Digital transformation hit the baking industry, too.And he told the CFO that within his first few days on the job. Talk about early. But he also came up with a solution: to release a beta ecommerce site in six weeks built on composable architectures and get some results. That eventually became a full-blown solution in 22 weeks.As Bob said, "If something is broken, tell the people that should know right away. Then figure out what's the action and who should take it?""Broken" to a CFO typically boils down to one of two things: something is costing us (or will cost us) a lot of money with no return in the long run or competition is eating our lunch. Know what the problem is going in and get rid of the noise around it to focus your conversation with the CFO. Noise can be anything from emotion, to office politics, to vanity issues that don't get you closer to the heart of the problem.Find a Common LanguageThere's a reason I'm CEO and David Overmyer is Contentstack's CFO: Finance is not my area of expertise. But, here's the thing. We share a passion, which is scaling high-performing organizations in sustainable and purpose-filled ways. So, when we talk about allocating money, the underlying question isn't how much it will cost, but where will that spend take us?We focus on a few key metrics for business-as-usual meetings. Those include ARR, CAC, gross margins, and customer retention. When new opportunities arise, we agree on the overriding KPIs together and then dig deeper.Come up with a common language upfront. Don't risk derailing a meeting with jargon. Once questions like "what does that mean" start springing up, you've lost your way.Let me challenge you with one additional perspective on common language: It doesn't have to be about words or numbers. Values can take the lead.When March 2020 hit, a lot of companies responded with layoffs. Since David and I agreed when we first started working together that taking care of our people was our highest priority, we came up with creative solutions — executive pay cuts, investing in training and development — to pandemic problems. For us, brains and heart matter.Find (or Make) an AdvocateIf you're as lucky as I was with David, you may make an ally out of your CFO. I would go so far as calling him a mentor. But for most people, that's out of reach. In the podcast, Howland shared the golden question that opened the door toward marketing/finance partnership and transformation: "Who is the most trusted person on your team?"Howland turned that person into an e-commerce expert and an advocate. It took time and education. Mostly, it took enablement — sharing information and allowing him to come to his conclusions. Author Bernard Desmidt called this mindset "win with" vs. "win over" in CFO Magazine this year.Allowing this slow journey to unfold builds trust, which improves the relationship and, ultimately, the organization in the long run.I was lucky early in my career to participate in Crucial Conversations training. A lot of that training is reflected in this piece. In Crucial Conversations, opinions tend to differ, and the stakes and emotions are high. Conversations with finance are often like this.But if handled properly, these conversations can create breakthroughs that unlock the potential of people and organizations.
How Your Business Can Market With AR
Augmented reality (AR) is a set of technologies that superimpose digital data and images on the physical world. AR technology is used by businesses in many different industries and has a wide range of applications. One of the most popular applications for this technology is in marketing. Businesses today can use AR to increase awareness of their brand by creating a variety of immersive and memorable digital experiences for their customers. As technology advances and powerful mobile devices become more ubiquitous, more businesses are beginning to incorporate AR into their marketing efforts, and the benefits of AR marketing are gaining greater recognition. If you’re looking to grow your business in new ways, AR can be a highly effective and accessible tool, but it’s important to understand exactly what AR marketing is and how AR technology can fit into your branding. What is AR Marketing? AR marketing is defined as the strategic integration of AR experiences. It operates alone or in combination with other media to achieve overarching marketing goals by creating value for the brand, its stakeholders, and societies at large. There are many content and marketing tools available to modern businesses, but not all are created equal, and it’s important to use methods that will fit well with your brand identity. The versatility of AR allows you to create fully customized digital experiences for your target customers and share them through a range of different mediums. Brands today are constantly exploring new applications for AR in their marketing, such as simulations that allow customers to “test” products virtually before they buy, or interactive virtual shopping assistants that can provide customers with more information about products. It’s critical to consider your brand goals and target audience when determining the optimal AR marketing tactics for your business.AR vs AI: What’s the Difference? While augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are commonly mistaken for one another, these two terms refer to different concepts and are far from interchangeable. AR deals with integrating digital content into real-world settings and AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines.AR technology is typically geared at fostering interactions between people and computers, while AI is meant to help machines make decisions and solve problems without human assistance. Understanding the different applications of AR and AI can help you determine the best way to incorporate these technologies into your marketing. Which Should Your Business Use? While AR and AI are very different technologies, there’s no need for your business to choose between them. Both technologies can be used as part of an effective content management system (CMS), but it’s important to understand their distinct functions. AI is also useful for devising and planning effective marketing campaigns. Implementing AI into your marketing can help you more accurately analyze consumer behavior and predict which types of content will resonate with your target audience. AR technology is generally used to engage consumers directly and provide them with more exciting and immersive experiences. These technologies can often work together in marketing, as AI can be used to improve the functionality of augmented reality applications. For example, integrating AI-driven data analytics into a virtual shopping assistant tool can help the program generate more personalized product suggestions for individual consumers. AR and AI are both highly versatile and can benefit both traditional and headless content management systems, but the best way to apply these technologies in your marketing depends on your business's unique goals and brand identity. Where Can Businesses Use AR to Market? When deciding on a medium for your marketing strategy, it’s always essential to consider the type of content you’ll be creating. Certain platforms are far more suitable than others for augmented reality marketing: The Metaverse The Metaverse is defined as an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds that can be accessed through a virtual reality headset. It’s commonly associated with interactive multiplayer gaming but is also used to host virtual events like concerts and viewing parties for sporting competitions. Because it’s accessed through virtual reality, the metaverse is ideal for supporting AR marketing. In this virtual environment, it’s far easier for brands to create fully immersive experiences for consumers. Some common AR marketing tactics for the metaverse include creating virtual venues where customers can gather and offering digital goods or collectibles that relate to your brand. AR Portals AR portals allow you to create detailed virtual environments that consumers can access by scanning a code with their mobile devices. These portals are represented by physical doorways and can be placed in retail stores or other public spaces. Once they’ve “entered” the virtual portal on their phone, users can freely look around the environment as if they were physically standing there. In marketing, these portals can be used to create virtual showrooms where consumers can preview your products in detail before they buy. They also provide people with a fun and interactive experience that helps familiarize them with your brand. VR Platforms Several other virtual reality platforms can be effective mediums for AR marketing. Similar to the metaverse, these platforms provide immersive virtual environments where players can interact with each other using 3D character models. Using these platforms, businesses can create virtual locations where they can engage in real interactions with consumers. Some of the most popular standalone VR platforms include Oculus Mobile SDK, Tethered, SteamVR, PlayStation VR, Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) and Windows Mixed Reality. These platforms can all be effective mediums for AR marketing, but not every platform works for every business. Choosing the right platform for your brand can help ensure that your content reaches your target audience and conveys your intended message.Is AR the Future of Marketing? Augmented Reality has quickly become popular in marketing because of its ability to combine traditional advertising methods with immersive experiences powered by new technology. This rapid growth has led many people to wonder about the role of AR in the future of marketing. While there is some concern to be had about technologies like AR and AI replacing traditional jobs in marketing, these technologies also have the potential to make a positive impact on the industry. By providing businesses with a new way to engage people, AR can help marketers obtain key insights into consumer behavior and enable them to create a wider variety of exciting content for their brand.
How Augmented Reality Is Changing Our Lives
Augmented reality (AR) is a digital experience that combines real-world surroundings with computer-generated sensory input, like sound, graphics or video. AR differs from other digital experiences, like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), in that it doesn't create a completely separate digital world. Instead, AR enhances real-world surroundings by adding digital elements like computer graphics, interactive experiences and information.AR became popular in the 2010s with the release of devices like Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens and even smartphones with sensors that could track the user’s position and orientation, allowing them to view digital content layered on top of their real-world surroundings. This could be anything from a map overlay to an animated character that interacts with the individual.Since its inception, AR has found several applications in fields like marketing, entertainment and even education. Let's take a look at some of the ways AR is already changing our everyday lives.How AR Is Changing Our Personal LivesAugmented reality is affecting our personal lives by giving us digital experiences in the real world and changing the way we interact with technology.In the past, if you wanted to use a digital device, you had to sit in front of a computer or hold a smartphone in your hand. But with an AR headset, digital content can be overlaid onto the real world around you, so you can interact with it naturally. For example, you can use AR to see turn-by-turn directions while you're driving, or get information about the products you're looking at in a store.These experiences are not only more convenient but also more immersive and engaging. And as AR technology continues to evolve, you can expect to see even more ways that it will change your life.Social InteractionsActivities such as conducting meetings, attending classes or playing games with friends are all now possible through AR, giving people new ways to bond and make friends from all over the globe.AR technology can also be used to create more immersive experiences at events like concerts, sporting events and even theme parks by giving attendees the ability to see interactive digital content that enhances their surroundings.How We Consume MediaAR is also changing the way we watch television and movies. For instance, the popular show “Stranger Things” has used AR to let viewers explore the show's setting, and the movie “Ready Player One” features a number of scenes that take place in an immersive virtual world.As AR technology continues to develop, you can expect to see even more movies and TV shows that make use of it. How We Purchase ProductsConsumers are also using AR to get more information about the products they're interested in. For example, IKEA Place is an app that lets users see how furniture would look in their homes before they buy it.This type of AR experience is not only convenient but it can also help people make better purchasing decisions by allowing them to see how a product will look and fit in their space.Other retailers are also starting to experiment with AR shopping experiences. For example, Sephora has an app called Sephora Virtual Artist that lets users try on makeup by using facial recognition technology.Augmented reality can be used to track consumer behavior, which can help businesses better understand how buyers interact with their products and services. This allows businesses to customize and maintain content through content management systems based on the information they collect from AR.These new shopping experiences made possible by AR are likely to change the way you shop in the future by making it easier to purchase products.How AR Is Changing Our Professional LivesAugmented reality is not only changing businesses and consumers but also the way we work. AR will affect many professions and create new opportunities for fields related to marketing, data analysis and technical support.AR MarketingAs businesses try to engage with consumers in new and innovative ways, AR provides a unique opportunity for marketers.One way is by changing the strategies marketers use for content marketing and traditional advertising. For instance, rather than using TV or radio commercials, businesses can now use AR to create interactive experiences that allow customers to try out products before they buy them. This gives customers a more realistic idea of what they're buying and can help increase sales.AR also changes the way marketers view their job. Traditionally, marketers have been responsible for creating ads and other promotional materials. With AR they can also create interactive experiences that help customers learn about products and services. This means that marketers need to be more creative and have a better understanding of how technology works.Understandably, some people may worry that with artificial intelligence, jobs will be replaced by computer software or machines. However, with AR, this is not the case. There will be more opportunities for marketers since businesses will need individuals who can create unique AR experiences for their customers.Data and Product VisualizationsAs AR technology develops, it will become increasingly important for data analysts and product managers to be able to visualize data in new and innovative ways.AR provides the ability to view data in a three-dimensional space, which can help people better understand complex concepts. AR can also be used to create simulations that allow people to test products before they are released. This can help businesses save time and money by identifying potential problems early on.Increased Tech Literacy Demands From EmployersThe advancement of technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) is increasing demand for workers who have strong skills in using technology to do their jobs.With the rise of AR, it is more important than ever for workers to be able to use technology to its full potential to keep up with the demands of the workplace.