Monday, December 3, 2018

The Ultimate Subway Ticket Vending Machine

I haven’t written for a while, it is simply because I am busy with both working and traveling.
Still working in Shanghai and traveling around Asia.
This weekend I was visiting Hangzhou and while waiting for the train I was brainstorming with myself for improvements at "ticket vending machines".
Those ticket machines you see often in subway stations.

The past weekend, I had to wait in so many lines to buy a “single journey” ticket at the subway ticketing machines, it made me realize that these machines probably have never been user tested and that there is not any analytics used to test and optimize them.

For here I use an example of a ticket machine in Hangzhou, China as here is the headquarters of Alibaba , so they should be able and eager to develop solutions for the users of these machines in this city, but it is not limited to here, the UX of subway ticketing machines is dramatic all over the world. I always surprise myself about how horrible these systems are.

But if there is one country where they can make this better it is for sure coming from China.

Here in China there are so many people always lines for these machines.
As of course in the future facial recognition or a universal mobile phone payment system, can be a big problem solver for now I just focus on solutions on the UX of the “ticket machines”.

There are a few types of people who use these machines:

Foreign Tourists or temporary visitors
Chinese Tourists or temporary visitors
Inhabitants of the city

Foreign Tourists

Let’s start with a few improvements for foreign tourists I thought of. How can technology make these machines better, make sure there are less lines and make city traveling more smooth for everybody.

Voice recognition:

It should be possible to make voice recognition work in a busy, noisy environment. Why not let tourists (at least in English) mention their station or their point of interest by voice? If a user mention a point of interest, show an image of the POI and the user can buy a ticket to the nearest station. If a user mentions a station name in English, just show the station name and let the user confirm.

Facial recognition:

When a person approaches the machine, facial recognition must be able to recognize at least for example, Caucasian, Indian, Asian, African etc. Based upon that the interface can be adjusted (f.e. start with English instead of the standard Chinese. This again saves some time because the user does not have to search for the "English" button).


Payments are always an issue, but machines should be able to handle multiple types of payments. Coins, notes, Alipay, Wechat pay and credit cards. Number one frustration is when you pay by banknote and you get many coins back, number 2 frustration you want to pay with coins but the machine only accepts notes (or vise versa). I have seen machines (at least in China, Kunming) who return banknotes. Why not make this a standard approach? Why not offer more payment methods?


If you follow a user journey, users always (after they purchased a ticket) look again on their mobile phone or subway map, to see which subway to catch. Why not make “re printable” tickets. Tickets that just print the just purchased itinerary on the backside. .
Single journey ticket Hangzhou metro


Here in China often you can choose Chinese (standard) or English (mostly). But with current memory capacity and machine translations it should be very much doable to offer at least the top 10 languages in the world in the interface. I mean even most web shops have it, so for an interface that does not change a lot it should be doable. It will speed up the ticketing process a lot.


Now here in Hangzhou at least, you have to choose a “station” (or a line). But it means you need to know the location of the station in order to find it quickly. Suppose you know your station’s name. It is not possible in the current interface to search for a station name, you only can have an overview on a visual map. Not convenient for most users. So make it possible to have a station list at alphabetical order.

If the city is bigger (like in Shanghai) you have to select a line first in order to find a station. Also here a station list on alphabet i.c.w. with a line number can help a lot.
In a tourist city like Shanghai, give the user an option to select major tourists sights. Just pictures of the famous most frequently used tourist sights, just with one or two clicks they can order one or multiple tickets to a tourist site instead of a station. At the screen the station name is confirmed and at the ticket the route is printed.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Book review: kloteklanten 3.0 --> Damn those Customers 3.0 --> how do you become the most customer friendly organisation?

Usually I post screenshots and short summary's of books I read here at this blog, just for my own convenience, if I need to review something I can quickly find the things I need. Of course if I like these reads, others might also find it useful so that's also why I share it.

Sometimes I make extensive summary's and sometimes just some "picture screenshots".

Currently I am reading the book "Kloteklanten 3.0" roughly translated as 'Damn those customers 3.0" written by Egbert Jan van Bel, the author also lectures at Beeckestijn Business School and he has inspired me a lot when I attended his classes a few years ago.

Don't be fooled by the title of the book. It is a real inspirational book about customer centricity.
The subtitle of the book is: how to become the most customer friendly business of the Netherlands.

The book is in Dutch, and as I usually write in English at this blog, I will roughly translate some pages since this is a good book for everybody who believes in customer centricity, customer experience and a new way of marketing.

Did you already make a strategic description of your customer?

The customer definiton framework:

Roughly translated:
  1. Is someone buying regularly with you? If someone just buys one time, it is not a customer but someone just passing by. 
  2. does the customer pay you, and does he/she pays in time? If not it is a bad debt customer and it cannot be an active customer.
  3. Do you make the desired profit margin per customer? If you want to achieve 10 % margin but a customer that regularly buys with you, only gives you 5%, also then it is not a customer, but a prospect and your effort should be to grow this customer from 5 to 10 %.
  4. Is a customer recommending you? What are you doing to help your customers to recommend you? And who is doing this actively?

Short term or long term?

    Roughly translated:

    Most organisations in the Netherlands are market oriented. The most important question at sales meetings is :
    How many customer did you get today? These models used, are from the 70's, 80's and 90's at the very best. Communication is mainly "push" focused.
    The question should be: how much engagement did you realize today, is never asked.

    The long term commercial strategy is under pressure due to the short term focus.
    Marketing must do again what it started with back in the old days: creating a difference.
    Only this time not at product level, but at the level of satisfaction/need.
    Because with that, you create value for a customer.

    Saturday, May 26, 2018

    Technology in daily life in China : a view from an expat

    Since january 2018, I live and work now in Shanghai, China. Of course I had traveled to China a lot before, but now living here, makes you really experience life in China. I am really happy I got the opportunity to work here for a great company.
    I am learning so many new things, enjoying China and I let myself be amazed everyday by the technology and transportation advantage they have here.
    It is so impressive, they are way ahead of Europe and even the US.

    Here in China, I really experience how technology and design thinking can make life much more easier.


    Take a look at Alipay, an app, I use almost every day and this app makes life so much more easy for me.I will explain some functions I use regularly.

    Screenshot of my Alipay app

    In the Netherlands (or Europe) we are used paying with "debit cards'' or sometimes a credit card. Here in China, I also have a debit bank card. But I used it only once and that was for connecting my bank account to Alipay. After that I never used it again. 99% of my payment transaction I do with Alipay.

    If I want to pay in a physical shop with Alipay, I have two options:

    I press the "pay" button at the Alipay app, a QR code appears at my phone and the cashier just scans this QR code. That's it, I have paid now. A confirmation will appear at my phone.

    Or alternatively, if the cashier does not have a QR code scanner, I press the "scan" button in Alipay, and I scan a printed QR code. Usually every vendor has one. Alipay then asks me for the amount I want to pay, I type in the amount, press confirm and the payment is done. I show the vendor the confimation and I can walk away with my purchased goods.

    After payment usually a screen pops up where you can "rate" the vendor. Good ratings help the vendor ranking higher in Alipay's promotional overview. A great idea, both good for vendor and buyer.

    Alipay "are you satisfied" icons shown after payment

    I think paying with Alipay is much easier and safer then paying with a debit card. It is so convenient.

    I do not need extra cards in my pocket, that often get damaged in my pockets. Just my phone that I always have with me anyway.

    RFID copying, a scam that often happens with debit cards, is not possible with this way of payment.
    The QR code itself changes every 2 minutes or so, so it is also no use try to copy a QR code.

    Often when my bankcard is broken, I have to wait 5 days before I receive a new one and if I want to sent a new one from Netherlands to China it never arrives (believe me I tried). Here with Alipay, all you need is a working phone. As long as I have a working phone I can pay with Alipay.

    Yes, your phone battery can get empty, but in China you can charge your phone really everywhere.
    Take this "Energy Monster" a device that you can find in many restaurants. Just scan the QR code (with Alipay) a menu pops up at your phone and you can choose to charge it for 1 hour for 1 RMB, pay connect your phone and charge! You can just put this device at your table and charge it.

    Energy Monster

    A fresh orange juice a day, paid with Alipay, keeps the doctor away!

    But there are also in shopping malls special machines where you can just "borrow" a powerbank. All digitally.
    Talking about machines.
    As we all know, an orange juice a day, keeps the doctor away.
    Here in China I always say: "a fresh orange juice a day, paid with Alipay, keeps the doctor away"

    I regularly buy some fresh orange juice, at one of the many "fresh orange juice machines" that you have here in China. Also this I pay with Alipay. The machine generates a QR code, I scan this QR code, my Alipay app shows me the amount (15RMB) I press confirm and the machine get's a signal that I have paid and it starts making orange juice. No physical money needed, no bankcard needed. That's nice drinking :)

    At the office we have a shelf where products are stalled. If I scan the QR code with Alipay a menu opens within Alipay with all products on the shelf. I simply select the product, buy it with 2 clicks and I have some food or drinks. Very convenient all from within the same interface.

    Scan a QR code and buy the product.

    Monday, January 1, 2018

    Understanding Amazon, a linkdump of Amazon related article's video's and pdf's

    A few months ago, I did some research about marketplaces (in specific Amazon). I did a lot of reading, asked friends and collegues and watched a lot of webinars.

    This blog post has no intention to be complete, it is just my personal linkdump for video's, PDF's and some other info that I might need again in the future and that I like to share with others.

    If you want to be succesful at marketplaces you have to understand marketplaces. This blog post helps you in that. Also it helps (at least it helped me) in gerating idea's to make your own webshop(s) better in terms of customer experience.

    First of all I like to share this presentation (it is in Dutch) about marketplaces in cross border ecommerce. Highly interesting presentation about marketplace metric's, the choice between a marketplace or a webshop in a country and more. I saved this presenation at my dropbox and not youtube so it is not embedded. Just click here.

    This article (PDF) explains how Amazon works and it specifically explains Amazon prime, the customer experience and Amazon's vision.

    Amazon's vicious circle of destruction, read the complete article on click.

    Recently Amazon started in Australia, altough I live far from Australia, some very interesting articles have been written about Amazon starting there. This is one of them.
    Read about Amazon's customer first policy and how local businesses need to adapt. The idea is pretty simple but most online retailers that I know, unfortunately still do not place the customer as first as Amazon making them vulnarable to lose customers to Amazon.

    Amazon's customer first policy. Amazon sets the standard.

    This screenshot is from another magazine in Australia where they again explain the importance of service for local businesses to adapt to the standards Amazon sets.

    This retailer is active at many marketplaces throughout the world and I have learned a lot from them. Best is to download the article instead of using the dropbox internal PDF viewer as I see it misses a page if you use this viewer. This article explains the importance of technology when you use marketplaces:

    The importance of technology when using marketplaces , on click for complete article

    One of the most strategic interesting video's I watched in 2017 is one:

    Just be ready for those Alexa Ads in 2018

    Now my experience is, talking to a lot of people the past 2 years, you have two ways of ding business with marketplaces. They do not exclude each other but they are different:

    One is to do business via a "marketplace pipeline" system like channeladvisor, or tradebite or channable. I suggest to keep an eye at these companies as they usually publish interesting information about marketplaces and technology.

    2 ways of selling at marketplaces

    Using their marketplace pipleline you can easily connect to many marketplaces, you have a stronger negotiation position with the marketplaces and your local IT department does not need to develop to the API of the marketplaces themselves, meaning more ease of working. If the marketplaces change anything technical the "marketplace pipeline" company takes care of it. Usually this is faster then to do it yourself. The problem with these pipeline companies is that they partly serve different marketplaces. So at the end you might need multiple of those agency's (but they do not come cheap). Their way of working is often the same so you do not need to adjust your processes.

    The second way of doing business via and with marketplaces is to do it yourself. This way you (partly) manually optmize your products at the marketplace.
    There are many toolings available both on and offline that help you rank higher at a marketplace.
    For Amazon this German tool, JTL Wawi can be helpful. It can even help you with the customer experience as this tool allows you to automate sending emails to people who bought your products at a Amazon, which normally spoken is not possible.
    If you work (partly) manually you can improve your ranking (at least with Amazon) by for example:

    • Store at least one product via FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon)
    • Use a tool to insert more keywords then standard possible.
    • Use "Amazon" vouchers to increase your sales (f.e. think about these vouchers when a product is temporarily out of stock)
    • Amazon has a "parent-child" structure, use it to keep your Amazon ranking
    • Find partners where you can insert your flyer in their Amazon sold parcel's (that include a voucher for a purchase with you)
    • Don't forget about Amazon advertising (usually cheaper then Adwords).
    • Create landingpages that let visitors do the purchase at your Amazon webshop

    Of course there are much more ranking factors, read about them and implement them with creativity to stay ahead of the competition. Click here for an e-book about selling at Amazon. (direct download via my dropbox).

    To be succesful at marketplaces think like a marketplace. Think customer first. Make sure your processes (customer centric processses, see below for examples),logistics and technology (f.e. PIM system, content in PIM, EAN, auto enter orders in CRM, use of Amazon vouchers in your backoffice etc)  is ready,  because marketplaces will penalize you very easily if you do not do what you promise to the customer. Once get panalized it can be very difficult to get back online.
    Marketplaces do everything for their customers and their success depends at their customer experience. So if you care about your marketplaces customers, you will be rewarded.

    What marketplaces lack

    What marketplaces at this moment lack and what are opportunities for other ways of selling, to my opinion are these aspects:

    • It is very difficult to really "brand" your marketplaces webshop, to really give users the brandfeeling you want to give them.
    • The after sales customer journey is often impossible to set up , because you cannot use the contact details from the buyers from marketplaces for these purposes and they do not offer journey possibilities themselves. (altough you see they try to improve this)
    • And if you are a seller it is often very difficult to get the right contact at a large marketplace.

    Amazon's working culture and customer centricity

    To conclude and to understand more about how Amazon works a few screenshots from the book "The Amazon Way". When I read this book for the first time a few years ago I became totally enthousiastic. That kind of culture that is described in this book, really fits me.
    I publish it here below also for other companies as I encourage them to create such a culture. It makes working more nice and it is better for the end user :)

    Great, solving problems for customers before they know they have a problem!

    I always hated when you try to solve customer issues and someone says "that is not my job so I cannot help you with that now ask a manager. Good to read at Amazon this does not happen.

    Customer centricity is to prevent bureaucracy!

    Sharing is caring! 

    Generate your fulfilment KPI's and metrics from a customer point of view instead of an internal point of view:

    Set your (internal) SLA's extremely high to keep customers!

    And more on that:

    Short term vs long term

    Leadership principle: how to gain trust with the "open your kimono principle"

    The two way pizza team, to get things done!

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