I haven’t decided yet if this is the final tenet in The Customer Code or the “platform” that supports the entire Code. But I think it’s the most important of all — do the right thing, even when it’s hard … especially when it’s hard.
But it’s the difficulty and the rarity that makes this work valuable.
Doing the hard things is an opportunity to differentiate ourselves and stand out.
At HubSpot, we talk about wanting to build a business that we’re proud of and that has long-lasting positive impact. We won’t achieve that by just doing the easy things.
At the start of the series I wrote about how growth alone doesn’t interest me anymore. I want HubSpot to grow, but more importantly, I want us to grow better. I want us to grow in a way that is good for our customers, partners, and employees.
That’s what The Customer Code is all about. It’s an attempt to create a sort of “code of conduct” that defines how we run our business, and early indicators are that it is working. In our annual planning and in our investments and product decisions, one question keeps coming up: “Does this approach support the tenets of the Customer Code?”
For years we’ve talked about “Solving for the customer.” It’s been a pillar of our philosophy, but it always felt a bit nebulous. The Customer Code is how we now turn that philosophy into practice. It’s how we hold ourselves accountable to do the right thing, even when it’s hard, complicated, expensive, or time-consuming.
In the same way that The Culture Code gave us common language to describe how we as individuals work with each other, the Customer Code is giving us a common language to describe how we as teams and leaders solve for our customers.
So I hope you’ll join us. Either in adopting the Customer Code or creating a code that makes sense for your customers and business.
Every business seeks to grow, but doing the right thing for customers, even when it’s hard (especially when it’s hard) is how we grow better. The Customer Code makes sure we here at HubSpot keep on doing the hard things.
We believe the world has changed. We see businesses using more kinds of software, not less, that all needs to work together. To help our customers grow better in this environment, HubSpot is evolving from an “all-in-one” suite into an “all-on-one” platform.
Delivering remarkable end-to-end customer experiences is a team sport. Our goal in becoming a lovable platform is to make it easy to complement HubSpot with a rich landscape of apps built by other companies, or custom apps built uniquely for your business by an agency or your own developers.
We want to make it easy for our customers to orchestrate all of this.
In collaboration with our growing collection of platform partners, we made great progress in that mission over the past year. Here are our platform highlights from 2018:
1. We listed 94 new apps in our directory, growing our platform partner ecosystem by 70%.
Good platforms are flywheels: More customers attract more developers, who build more apps, which attract more customers, and so on. Customers get an ever wider set of capabilities, while developers get an ever wider audience they can distribute their apps to.
That flywheel is starting to accelerate on our platform, and it’s inspiring to see the wide variety of innovative companies who are bringing new integrated apps to our customers.
We welcomed 94 new official apps into our ecosystem in 2018, bringing our integrations count to over 200 across 17 categories, that help grow our customers’ businesses.
One of the categories that grew the most in 2018 was Calling. Just within that category, you can find 21 different apps for video conferencing, integrating with cloud-based phone systems and call centers, inbound and outbound SMS, voice-powered chatbots, AI-driven analysis of phone calls, and more.
In 2018, the top 20 most popular apps in our ecosystem by total number of installs were:
As you might expect, many of these were our earliest partners, and it’s great to see their continued success. But we were also excited to see new partners quickly gain traction. The 10 fastest-growing new apps in our ecosystem last year were:
Whenever we build an integration ourselves, we look for ways to enable other partners in our ecosystem to build off those same extension points. For instance, when we built our Shopify integration, we also created the Ecommerce Bridge API, which enables companies to sync and manipulate ecommerce data using HubSpot functionality. One of our integration partners, Unific, enables customers to connect their Magento, Shopify, Bigcommerce, or WooCommerce store to HubSpot using this API. We also recently added a tight integration with Zoom and are working to make it possible for other video conferencing providers to plug into HubSpot in the same way.
2. We added 95 new API endpoints and hosted our first annual platform partner day.
Our product teams have been enthusiastically opening more APIs and UI extension points to enable developers to build and integrate more kinds of apps on our platform.
Last year, we added 95 new API endpoints (for a total of 355), creating programmatic access to tickets, products, line items, CRM pipelines, GDPR compliance features, and more. We launched an Ecommerce Bridge API and Analytics API to facilitate deeper integrations with a wide range of partners in ecommerce and analytics categories. And we unveiled a new Workflow Extensions model that lets partners create branded, native-like actions for customers within workflows across our Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub products.
Last spring, we also hosted our first annual Platform Partner Day at our headquarters in Cambridge. Over 60 of our top integration partners joined us to meet with our engineering and marketing teams, learn about upcoming product releases, and discuss how we can jointly create better apps and integrations for our shared customers.
We’re now gearing up for our second annual Platform Partner Day this spring with exciting new developments to share and even greater opportunities to collaborate.
3. Customers adopted integrations at a record pace.
There’s a positive correlation between the number of apps a customer connects to HubSpot and their growth on our platform. It makes sense: The more our customers invest in a unified experience for their customers, the more they can accomplish.
App adoption across our customer base in 2018 was record-breaking. The vast majority of our customers now have at least one other app integrated with HubSpot, and the average number of apps per customer jumped by more than 50% year-over-year. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of additional app installs.
We’re energized by this number, which indicates that customers are seeing benefits from our platform. But it’s also exciting for our platform partners who are seeing greater adoption among our customer base.
4. We connected our platform partners, agencies, and startups.
Some of the most valuable opportunities we can offer platform partners are connections with programs and communities across HubSpot.
For instance, our global network of thousands of agencies and consultants helps businesses leverage our software to grow better. Increasingly, these providers are adding our platform partners’ products to the solutions they’re delivering to clients. This gives their clients more capabilities, expands their own service offerings, and lays the foundation for a powerful go-to-market channel.
To facilitate these types of relationships, we launched the Apps for Agency Services program last spring. It provides a structured way for platform partners who qualify to help agencies sell and service their software, including sales enablement tools and a free subscription for their own internal use.
HubSpot for Startups is another thriving program partners with over 1,500 accelerators, incubators, and VC firms (like Y Combinator and Sequoia Capital) to provide startups with educational resources, event programs, and startup-friendly discounts on our software.
We were inspired by all the successful connections between platform partners, agencies, and startups that happened last year. We’re committed to facilitating even more of them in the year ahead.
5. We launched HubSpot Ventures and announced co-investment from Amazon Web Services (AWS) in programs to grow our ecosystem.
In addition to expanding our platform’s APIs and extensibility and creating new app distribution opportunities for partners, we also made a couple of big announcements about growing the ecosystem itself.
In December, we launched HubSpot Ventures, a new $30 million fund to invest in startups that align with our mission to help millions of organizations grow better. Some of the previous investments that we have made include Blissfully, Grow, Lorem, Privy and Terminus.
And, in the spirit of investing in our platform partners, we also extended HubSpot for Startups discounts to all certified platform partners who aren’t yet HubSpot customers but want to make the switch.
Onward and Upward in 2019
We’ve got big plans for our platform ecosystem in the year ahead. For customers, we’re eager to bring you more apps and integrations that will expand your business’s digital superpowers. To see the latest ones, check out the new and noteworthy category in our directory.
For partners, we’re dedicated to creating more opportunities for you to build your business on our platform. Last year, our entire executive team went on a field trip to learn from some of the best platform companies in the Bay Area. Our overarching takeaway was this credo: A platform should be measured by the success of its ecosystem. In 2018, we added three key hires to our team who are specifically tasked with helping our ecosystem succeed. Samantha Ceppos, our director of global partner and platform marketing, scales our ecosystem and ensures our partners are always looped in to changes and updates. Elizabeth Ruscitto, our director of developer relations, is leading the charge in improving our developer documentation, tools, and support. You can access our latest resources and sign up for a developer portal for free here. Hugh Durkin, our director of platform partner success, is focused on shaping our platform partner program to help partners grow their businesses within our ecosystem.
If you want to see an otherwise calm and collected person switch to blind rage, ask them about a time they tried to cancel a service.
Ask me about my attempts to cancel cable.
My colleague’s gym only allowed cancellations if you showed up in-person, during business hours.
And don’t even get me started on the nightmare of cancelling magazine subscriptions.
We’ve all had these experiences. They are universally loathed, and we remember them — and still get angry! — one, five, even 10 years after they have happened.
But there is often a gap between what we know as a person, and what we do as a business.
Recently our COO, JD Sherman, told me about a meeting he had with one of our customer success managers. She was nearly in tears as she told him about a customer she loved working with, who also loved working with her. They’d had a long and successful relationship together. But they were in a difficult situation as a business and needed to downgrade.
The customer missed the contractual window for downgrading, and because our customer success team is incentivized on revenue retention, she was put in the position of placing her needs and the company’s needs above the customer’s.
Legally, she had everything on her side. Personally, she knew it was wrong.
At the end of their conversation, her customer said, “Okay, you’ve got me. I’ll pay, but after we’re done with this I don’t ever want to work with you again.”
Wow. I am so sorry — to both our customer and our employee.
The goals we had in place for our customer success team forced them to solve for revenue dollars instead of the success of our customers.
We were blocking the exit even though it meant destroying the relationship.
Jason Lemkin says concisely what we as humans know to be true, but we as business leaders too often forget:
If I can make a purchase with one click, I should be able to cancel that purchase with one click.
If a company makes it easy to buy, they should make it easy to stop buying.
And I’m not just saying this because it’s the right thing to do; it’s also better for business.
The HubSpot Research team asked, and 89% of consumers reported they are more likely to buy if a company makes it easy and simple to cancel.
If a customer’s meant to be, they’ll be. If they’re not meant to be, let them be.
The 9th tenet of The Customer Code is: Don’t block the exit. I give HubSpot a 7 out of 10 on this. We’ve done a lot in just the past year to improve here. Most notably, we reduced our cancellation notice window from 45 days to 10 days, but we’re not finished yet.
I want customers to be able to cancel or downgrade with a click of the button. My hope is that the experience of leaving HubSpot feels more like quitting Netflix and Spotify than it feels like cancelling a business contract — or a cable subscription.
Not only do I want it to be easy for customers to stop paying us money, I want it to be easy for customers to take their data with them. Today, we support exports of key CRM objects. In 2019, we want to support the export of all activities associated with those exports. If it can be brought into HubSpot, we want customers to be able to take it out of HubSpot.
I don’t want anything blocking the exit, because when we block the exit, we also block the return.
This solves for customers and it solves for employees. And any change that is good for both of those groups is ultimately good for the company.
We all know that companies that retain customers grow. But companies that gracefully allow customers to leave, grow better (and leave an open door for customers to come back to them in the future).
Here’s a secret — I wanted to launch the first version of The Customer Code at INBOUND 2017. I was excited about the idea, and wanted to start talking about it.
But our leadership team pushed back on me. They said there was no way we could ask other companies to step up and embrace their customer-first ideals when we still had so far to go ourselves. Of particular concern was the communication around our pricing and how customers got billed.
We had to be the change.
The way our pricing works varies quite a bit throughout our product lines, for customers at the Starter level, it tends to be extremely simple, but as our customers’ businesses gets more sophisticated, pricing tends to get more sophisticated as well. And feedback made it clear that, when it came to pricing, our most unhappy customer segment were customers at the Marketing Hub Professional and Enterprise levels — so that’s where we dug in.
Like many SaaS companies, we lock-in pricing for customers during their billing period so what they’re paying won’t increase even if their number of contacts does increase. It’s a way to show value before we extract value. But of course:
Customers often wouldn’t remember pricing was locked in for the billing period (they’re busy)
During the year, usage would increase
(If you want to get into the weeds, you can read our Terms of Service here, but that’s the high-level gist.)
So year two renewal would roll around, and a lot can change in a year — a customer’s business may have grown, people forget about the details of a contract they signed 12 months ago, or perhaps the person who originally signed the contract is no longer with the company and a new person is now managing the account — and suddenly customers were getting a bill that was noticeably higher than the prior billing period with little context on why. Yes, many were very (and rightfully!) unhappy about this.
The change needed on our end was actually quite simple–we simply changed the communication approach in our renewal process. First, we adjusted the timing of our communication about the new bill and made a change to our Terms of Service which reduced the number of days notice we needed to honor a non-renewal request – dropping it from 45 days to 10 days. Second, we now go out of our way to inform customers about growth in their contact database before the notice of non-renewal window closes. These changes give our customers far more time to evaluate the product, the value delivered over the past year, and decide if HubSpot still made sense for them. But most importantly, we can feel confident that we’re not surprising customers with an unexpectedly large bill.
And with those simple changes in place…no more upset customers.
Because our customers don’t mind paying, but they do mind feeling played.
The same is true for your customers.
No one should be surprised by an unexpected bill.
No one should need a math degree to figure out what they’ll pay you.
No one should need to jump through hoops to figure out what it might cost to do business with you.
If we had gone live with The Customer Code in 2017, I would have given HubSpot a 5 on Tenet #8: I don’t mind paying, but I do mind being played. Today, I give us a 6. We’ve been doing some things right for awhile – our pricing is transparent and available on our website – and we’ve made substantial improvements on improving communication around renewals, but we’re not done yet.
We recently asked our customer-facing teams how we’re doing when it comes to pricing transparency. Our support and success teams care deeply about the customer, but also understand the needs of the business, and we wanted to know how they think we’re doing when it comes to pricing.
The vast majority of our customer-facing team members feel that our pricing, discounting, and cancellation process are all fair. But when we asked them what one thing they would change for our customers today if they had a magic wand the #1 request was simplifying pricing, packaging, and renewals.
Fair isn’t enough to create a great customer experience.
Transparent doesn’t always equate to simple.
We’re being honest, transparent, and fair; but our customers don’t always feel that way.
We can do better, and we’re going to. We have two plays kicking off that pair VP-level executives with our Voice of the Customer team to improve the billing and contract experience.
Confusing pricing is a negative force on the flywheel of every business. Sixty-nine percent of people said that confusing pricing keeps them from making a purchase.
After seeing this data at INBOUND one HubSpot customers, WashCard, went back to work and decided it was time to give transparent pricing a try. While the industry standard is to require a conversation with a salesperson before giving pricing, WashCard saw this as creating friction in their flywheel so they pulled back the curtain–boldly displaying pricing on their website for all to see.
Amy Olson, the Director of Marketing at WashCard said, “A month into this, we’re getting more leads out of our pricing page than any other page on the website, they make up two thirds of our online conversions. Our sales staff can see that a prospect has looked at the pricing page, and it totally changes the conversation when contacting new potential customers. Game. Changer.”
Customers don’t mind paying, but they do mind being played, they mind unexpectedly big bills, and they mind jumping through hoops to figure out how to budget for your product or services.
If you want to grow, you have to charge for your services. But companies that are open and honest about their pricing, while making it simple to understand – grow better.
Companies that use data effectively have made my life so much easier.
I used to call a cab and explain my location, now Lyft just detects where I am and lets my driver know.
I used to manually program my phone so it could tell me who was calling, now my phone looks at my email contacts and just tells me (or makes a pretty good guess).
I can’t imagine running my business without data, and today I take an abundance of dashboards and charts for granted.
I want companies to use my data, when they do the end result is that my life becomes a little easier, a little more convenient, I’m able to get more done in a day.
But I don’t want companies to abuse my data.
Spammy emails. Sloppy data storage. Eerily targeted ads. Data that is collected without my permission. That’s data abuse.
The fourth tenet of The Customer Code is: Use my data, but don’t abuse it. I give HubSpot a 9 out of 10 on this. This is one of our highest scores, and there are three reasons for this:
1) We are sticklers about doing the right thing when it comes to protecting our customers’ data.
To some extent data protection can be solved with money and time, which we have done, investing money and human hours in data infrastructure and security.
We’re thoughtful in how we build the architecture of our software–from the way our Sales Hub products connect to customers’ email accounts, to the SSO implementation that allows seamless (and safe) transition across portals.
We made the decision to apply GDPR principles globally, meaning that regardless of a customer’s location, we will apply the principles around fairness, transparency, and data portability.
But where I see our team really standing out is that we have optimized for fast resolution of vulnerabilities. There is no vulnerability-free software, and attempting to achieve that often slows the pace of innovation. Instead, we’ve invested in testing: in-house testing, four annual penetration tests, continuous vulnerability scanning, and a bug bounty platform. Our team is able to identify, prioritize, and resolve bugs quickly and efficiently.
2) We are sticklers about helping our customers do the right thing when it comes to protecting their customers’ data.
We’re big fans of GDPR, which aligns very nicely with the philosophy of inbound.
Earlier this year, we released a set of features that make it easy for our customers and their teams to comply with GDPR and other data privacy regulations. These features are made available to all HubSpot customers.
3) We want to make our customers’ lives easier by helping them use data to make their customers’ lives easier.
HubSpot customers are growing businesses, many of whom have more impactful things to do than figure out a full AI integration.
Our team is doing the work to figure out when, where, and how growing businesses can leverage AI:
Our content strategy tool in Marketing Hub uses machine learning to understand the themes that search engines associate with your content.
In the Sales Hub, we launched a send time optimization tool that gets your emails to the right person at the right time.
Our machine learning team is currently building automated A/B testing that will run in the background, quietly optimizing campaign performance.
HubSpot stores an enormous amount of data for our customers. We want to protect that data, help our customers derive value from it, and put a stop to all forms of data abuse.
Data is a powerful tool that can be used for good, evil, or just general annoyance. Companies that choose to abuse customer data can certainly grow. But companies that protect data and use it thoughtfully to make customers’ lives just a little bit easier, grow better.
This post is part 5 of 11 in a series on HubSpot’s Customer Code. You can find more info on The Customer Code and how we score ourselves here, and watch my INBOUND talk on this topic here:
“Unriddled” is HubSpot’s weekly digest of the tech headlines you need to know. We give you the top tech stories in a quick, scannable way and break it all down. It’s tech news: explained.
Unriddled: The Tech News You Need
1. YouTube Subtly Adds Free(ish) Movies to Its Collection
AdAge reported late last week that YouTube added free films to its Movies collection in October, allowing users to watch full-length features with commercial breaks. The ad-supported model creates an alternative to other feature-film-for-pay options online, like iTunes or subscription-based streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. The latter two services haven’t yet introduced the option to view movies for free with commercials. Read full story >>
2. Messenger Makes Its Unsend Feature Facebook Official
Last week, we covered a story that Messenger would imminently roll out an unsend feature to all users — a feature that was previously (and controversially) only available to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Now, according to TechCrunch, the feature has officially become available to users in Poland, Bolivia, Colombia and Lithuania, with hopes of global rollout “as soon as possible.” Read full story >>
3. Instagram Launches Its “Time Well Spent” Tools
Over the summer, Instagram and its parent company Facebook both announced they would integrate new tools to show users how much time they spent on each app.
There was no clear timeline for this rollout when the announcement was made, but last week, Instagram officially launched its “Your Activity” dashboard — which not only gives users a visual time management display, but also helps them set daily limits for using the app and mute notifications. TechCrunch has more on how to find and use the new feature. Read full story >>
4. How Do People Really Feel About Amazon’s Big Announcement? Here’s What We Found Out.
News of Amazon’s geographical selections for its second headquarters has received mixed responses. We asked hundreds of people to weigh in on the news — here’s what we learned. Read full story >>
5. Instagram Cracks Down on Fake Followers
Instagram has started removing followers from user accounts that have gained a following through automated apps that leave comments, follow, and then later unfollow other accounts on their behalf. Although these apps were made to help users build an audience, Instagram considers this behavior (and many of the new followers gained) to be “inauthentic.”
With these changes, Instagram accounts that have used these apps to build a following might see that following shrink — an occurrence of which Instagram has warned users with an in-app message. Read full story >>
6. LinkedIn Might Be Adding New Social Tools
According to a report from Social Media Today, LinkedIn might be testing social tools such as emotion-driven “reactions” to posts — similar to Facebook’s Like, Love, Laugh, Wow, Sad and Angry post reactions. The possible new feature, which the company has yet to confirm, was first discovered by computer scientist Jane Manchun Wong, who tweeted that LinkedIn’s versions of reactions appear to include “Like,” “Clap,” “Insightful,” “Hmm,” and “Support.”
If LinkedIn does roll out these reactions, it could be the latest in a series of moves by other social networks to emulate and potentially provide alternatives to Facebook’s business and social tools (see below). Read full story >>
7. Why the New Google My Business App Makes for a Pivotal Marketing Moment
Google has built a new place for businesses to build a profile and connect with customers. Find out why it represents a pivotal moment in marketing. Read full story >>
8. Self-Driving Cars Will Hit the Road in a Few Weeks. Are We Ready?
In a matter of weeks, self-driving car company Waymo is rumored to pilot a commercial, driverless car-hailing service. But are people ready for autonomous vehicles to hit the road? Read full story >>
9. Google Used Search Data to Create This Report to Help You Navigate the Holidays
Data nerds and holiday enthusiasts alike, rejoice: Google has compiled historical search data to help users navigate Thanksgiving this year. Here are the report’s highlights. Read full story >>
10. Is Gamification the Key to Better Video Engagement? [New Data]
App and video developers all over are creating a new type of video: the kind that invites the user to participate and interact with it, a la a digital game show. But is that truly the key to better video engagement? Read full story >>
Editor’s note: This is the third post in an 11-part series on the HubSpot Customer Code. You can subscribe to the full series here.
Businesses need customer personas.
Personas are a powerful tool to help align vectors. When everyone understands who your customer is, what their problems are, and how your business can help them you find that making decisions about hiring, budgeting, and even specific tactics becomes much easier. We’re big fans of personas at HubSpot, and even built a tool to help people make personas.
But while a business sells to a persona, people sell to other people.
A person has fears, hopes, and dreams.
A person is unique.
Not only is treating your prospects and customers like people the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. Here’s one story that demonstrates this pretty well:
Our email marketing team is always tweaking our email process to improve engagement. By early 2017, they had tried some clever ways to segment and promote content to our list:
Segmenting by the topic of the first offer downloaded (i.e., social media, email marketing) — showed some positive results.
Segmenting by business goals of the first offer downloaded (i.e., generating leads, improving sales pipeline) — showed even better results.
Then they thought of something so simple, it was truly revolutionary. What if, instead of guessing what someone cares about based on the content they downloaded, we just asked them?
In other words, instead of trying to bucket people by persona, we treat them like a unique individual and say, “What do you what to learn more about?”
Once again, we’re starting with the goals of a unique individual. Like our email marketing team, the sales team also starts by asking: What are you trying accomplish? What does success look like for you.
They’re selling to people, not personas.
The second tenet of The Customer Code is: Treat me like a person, not a persona. We gave ourselves an 8 out of 10 here.
We’re doing quite a few things right here. In addition to the stories mentioned above:
We’re making it easier for prospects/customers to contact us how they want to contact us: Phone, email, chat, or a knowledge base that allows them to help themselves.
We’re making it easier for prospects/customers to contact us when they want to contact us by offering 24-hour support.
But we’re not where I want us to be yet.
One area we’re focusing on that will help us get closer to a 10 is what we call the Nth user experience. When we onboard the first user of HubSpot, we once again use the GPCT method to understand that person’s priorities. We go deep with them to understand who they are and how we can help them get the most possible value out of the product. As a result, NPS for our first users is very high.
But as additional users are added–Nth users–we see their NPS begin to slip. We’re not doing that deep “get to know me as a unique person” work. In many ways, that first user becomes the “persona” that we expect all users from that company to adhere too. But people are unique, even people who work for the same company. They might even be solving the same problem (increase revenue), but be focused on unique angles of that problem (increase brand awareness vs. increase MQL to SQL conversion rate).
Nth users represent tens of thousands of people. There is no way we can give them the high-touch, human-led onboarding that happens for our first user in the first 90 days. So our product team is experimenting with more automated onboarding flows that orients additional users to a busy portal while also putting their unique goals front and center.
Today, we onboard accounts. In the near future, we want to onboard individual people.
Businesses should always look for patterns: Finding patterns is how we grow. And personas are powerful patterns to find broad similarities and direct our efforts. But we need to remember when we send an email, pick up the phone, or respond to a chat message that we are never communicating with a persona. We are communicating with a person. Respecting that individuality and uniqueness is how companies grow better.
Ah, the holidays. It’s a holly, jolly time of year that’s full of egg nog, seasonal foods, and — in a word — chaos.
Here in the U.S., the November holiday of Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season, with millions of people hitting the road and airports to visit relatives and partake in turkey feasts, parades, Black Friday shopping deals, and similar merriment.
To help us navigate it all, Google has released a study using (none other than) its very own search data.
Leveraging Google Maps data from the time surrounding last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, Google compiled a report designed to help guide users on holiday-specific ins and outs — the most popular travel destinations, the best times to visit them, and the most optimal (or sub-optimal) times to be on the road this year.
Below you’ll find our favorite tidbits from the seasonal study.
Holiday Search Trends
First, let’s have a look at the U.S. national search trends in the days leading up to and following Thanksgiving.
The data shows a pattern of shopping for video games during this time period, suggesting many people take advantage of seasonal sales leading up to December holidays — with particular enthusiasm for gaming.
What specific category of video games people might be shopping for is another story. However, it’s worth noting that virtual reality (VR) headset manufacturer Oculus is launching a major, star-studded ad campaign in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Perhaps the trend toward video game shopping signals a major step in the direction of the company’s lofty goals to make VR a mainstream technology.
It wouldn’t really be a true-blue Google study if it didn’t drill down into micro search trends, too. That’s why the report also features an interactive tool that allows viewers to see searches by state.
Google also rendered a visual representation of the most popular Maps searches according to each state during the Thanksgiving holiday period. Here in Massachusetts, the trend points toward “cultural center,” whereas in California, the most popular search seems to be for “city courthouse.”
The Hottest (Holiday) Spots
Solving for the user first, if you’re Google, also means letting users know how to avoid crowds and traffic.
To address that first item, Google looked at Maps search data to determine the most popular business categories during the Thanksgiving holiday season, and when those establishments are the busiest.
Food and drink reign supreme here, with bakeries and grocery stores topping the charts on the afternoon and evening before Thanksgiving.
Then, there’s road traffic, where Google again provides a general chart breaking down when traffic congestion peaks during the Thanksgiving holiday in select metropolitan areas. The company’s findings also incorporate a localized, drop-down menu to help users determine the best times to hit the road.
So, why do these search trends matter to the rest of us — like marketers or small-to-midsize businesses?
Well, as is the golden rule with creating quality work, having this information can help marketers plan and develop content that pertains to these seasonal trends, and adapting them in a way that makes them relevant to your key audiences.
Go forth and get festive with your strategy. And from our little, data-nerd family to yours, we hope all those celebrating Thanksgiving have a wonderful holiday.
A recent Bloomberg report says that self-driving car maker Waymo is planning to launch a driverless car-hailing service imminently.
In as little as a few weeks, the story says, Waymo — which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet Inc. — will debut a commercial, self-driving car service that some have likened to ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.
The launch, if the rumors prove to be true, is said to be small, consisting of anywhere between “dozens or hundreds of authorized riders in the suburbs around Phoenix, covering about 100 square miles,” according to the Bloomberg story.
But it raises a question. Are we ready for self-driving cars to hit the road?
To find out, we asked 3,325 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada about their experiences with and expectations of autonomous vehicles. Here’s what they had to say.
Most People Have Not Ridden in a Self-Driving Car
Despite much of the excitement around them, autonomous vehicles remain a highly emerging technology.
Within our survey, over 88% of respondents indicated that they had not yet experienced riding in a self-driving car.
People Want to Try the Self-Driving Car Experience
However, despite most people not having ever ridden in a driverless car, many of them are curious to try.
Nearly half of our respondents indicated that while they haven’t ever been in an autonomous vehicle, they’d like to try riding in one — suggesting that, once these cars do hit the road, the interest in experiencing them could help them go mainstream.
Self-Driving Cars Will Be a Dominant Form of Transportation, but Not for a While
We found that over three-quarters of respondents indicated that they believe autonomous vehicles will make up the majority of cars on roads — some day.
However, most believe that it might be a while before that happens, with the highest number of respondents saying that they believe it will be a decade or two until self-driving cars take over.
Safety Concerns Abound
Despite the enthusiasm among respondents to experience riding in a self-driving car, few of them (about 17%) would describe autonomous vehicles as “very safe.”
At the same time, most people agree that while there are still some safety issues to be worked out with self-driving technology, these vehicles are generally safe enough to be on roads.
Safety has been a significant part of Waymo’s message throughout its autonomous-vehicle-building journey. According to the Bloomberg story, for instance, the company said in a statement that “safety [is] at the core of everything we do.”
Approaching with caution can delay launches and slow the process of such a new technology going mainstream. Waymo’s own CEO, for instance, has remarked himself that he believes it will be “decades” before self-driving cars comprise the majority of vehicles on the road.
.@Waymo CEO John Krafcik says it will be decades before autonomous cars are all over the place, and there will always be some limitations to them, including geographically or climate. Not going to be fully autonomous in all conditions. @WSJ#WSJDLivepic.twitter.com/PehKCXlodw
However, Waymo’s “safety-first” mindset gives the company what some believe a positive, competitive advantage — especially when compared to some other autonomous vehicle makers.
Comparing @Waymo to @Tesla – Waymo’s AV strategy is focused on safety and long term. Tesla sees customers and everyone else on the road as research subjects. Waymo’s careful approach gets the lead for now. Neither designing for #pwd. https://t.co/40sfT8FWfP
“Unriddled” is HubSpot’s weekly digest of the tech headlines you need to know. We give you the top tech stories in a quick, scannable way and break it all down. It’s tech news: explained.
Unriddled: The Tech News You Need
1. Amazon Officially Announces HQ2 Locations
Confirming rumors that began swirling last week, Amazon officially announced yesterday that its second headquarters — better known as HQ2 — will be split between two locations: Crystal City, VA (considered by some to be a neighborhood of Washington, D.C.) and Long Island City in the Queens neighborhood of New York.
The announcement comes as no surprise to those who were saying for months that Amazon was likely to select the Washington, D.C. area as an HQ2 location — such as NYU Stern professor Scott Galloway, who earlier this year pointed out the proximity of Crystal City to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s home in the area, as well as his preexisting ownership of the Washington Post.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia also commented on the Crystal City selection.
“As a former Governor, now Senator, but also as a former technology executive, I’m really excited about the potential Amazon offers not only to Northern Virginia,” Warner said in a statement, “but the whole capital region and the entire Commonwealth.”
As for the Long Island City location, Amazon notes that its selection is related to the area’s “diverse community with a unique blend of cultural institutions, arts organizations, new and converted housing, restaurants, bars, breweries, waterfront parks, hotels, academic institutions, and small and large tech sector and industrial businesses.” Read full story >>
2. An Unsend Feature Is Coming to Messenger
Facebook has confirmed, via an iOS app store description, that users will soon be able to “remove a message from a chat thread after it’s been sent.”
“If you accidentally send the wrong photo, incorrect information, or message the wrong thread,” the description reads, “you can easily correct it by removing the message within 10 minutes of sending it.”
This teaser of the new feature — which is said to be “coming soon” — arrives after months of speculation, and follows Facebook’s admittance that CEO Mark Zuckerberg had the option to delete messages after sending them. Read full story >>
3. Twitter Follower Counts Drop (Again)
After alerting users that their follower counts might drop in July, Twitter has once again said that, thanks to a bug, these previously “locked” followers reappeared and have once again been removed.
According to Reuters, the bug caused these accounts to be “briefly added back [to] follower accounts” for a “few accounts.”
Twitter itself lost about 7.8 million followers in the initial July purge, got 2.36 million of them back by October, and lost another 2.4 million on Friday. Read full story >>
4. Google’s AI Is Getting to Work
Earlier this week, it was announced that Google would open source its artificial intelligence that plays a vital role in distinguishing one human voice from another.
The formal term for this distinction, “speaker diarization,” describes the process of being able to tell different voices apart in audio where many people might be speaking at once. It’s “an important part of speech recognition systems,” the company says, playing a vital role in “solving the problem of ‘who spoke when’.”
According to VentureBeat, the newly open-sourced AI can tell voices apart in this situations with up to 92% accuracy. Read full story >>
Also in the world of Google AI, The New York Times is using the company’s technology to help make its archive of photos (which date back to the 1870s) “smarter” — that is, to help recognize and translate text that describe the photos.
In other words, writes Stephen Shankland of CNET, the NYT is using Google AI to “turn a historic archive of more than 5 million photos into digital data that’ll appear in the newspaper’s features about history.” Also a future possibility, Shankland writes, is exploring AI technology for object recognition in the photos. Read full story >>
Help Me Finish That Thought
Think of it as a visual-content autofill. Google announced this week that its AI technology will also be applied to Android devices to suggest GIF images, emoji, and stickers that it believes fit into your conversation.
Starting yesterday, Google said, phones using the Android operating system and the company’s Gboard will use machine learning to know which of these visuals that best fit the specific context of a conversation.
“With thousands of emoji and stickers, and an endless number of GIFs, it can sometimes take awhile to find the perfect way to say ‘I love you,’ ‘hooray,’ or anything else you’re trying to communicate,” writes Gboard Product Lead Angana Ghosh. “This makes it faster and easier to share your #feelings and your glowing personality with whoever you’re chatting with.” Read full story >>
5. Apples to Amazon
Yes — there’s more Amazon news. Last week, it was revealed that Amazon reached an agreement with Apple to carry more of the latter’s products on its website, including the latest models of iPads, iPhones, and the Apple Watch. The product selection will not, however, include Apple’s HomePod smart speaker, perhaps due to its potential competition with Amazon’s own Echo smart speaker products.
But, there’s a catch. This new product expansion means that independent vendors selling refurbished Apple products on Amazon’s marketplace will now face high restrictions. Their listings, explains CNET‘s Ben Fox Rubin, will be removed after January 4 of next year, and they’ll “have to apply with Apple to become authorized resellers on Amazon.” Read full story >>
6. Marketers, Take Note: Samsung Is Going All-In on Voice and Now Is the Time to Prepare
At last week’s Samsung Developer Conference, the name of the game was connectivity — and voice assistant Bixby is what’s tying it all together. Here’s what marketers should know about it. Read full story >>
7. Meet the People Building the TV Controlled by Your Brain
Imagine a TV that’s controlled only by the brain. Meet the people developing that technology today — and discover the future they envision for it. Read full story >>
8. The Voice Search Barometer: Where Do Users Stand? [New Data]
Studies say that more and more online transactions are taking place via voice. But what do these transactions look like — and how many users are really adapting voice? Read full story >>
9. The What, Where, and How of Video Consumption [New Data]
With new online video products popping up with increased frequency, we wanted to know how people really prefer to watch. Read full story >>