[SUCCESS STORY] PIERRE FABRE: Renewed clinical trial recruitment journey

Pierre Fabre is rethinking the recruitment and management of its skin research center panel. In order to ensure the good management of this activity of Pierre Fabre, SQLI has imagined and developed a new recruitment and management tool for this panel.

Going live at the end of 2019, the platform facilitates the volunteers’ journey and the Skin Research Center team accompanies each of these people with more fluidity.

Download the Pierre Fabre success story

Create value for the entire customer journey by maximizing your digital advertising

It is said that only 3% of your potential customers are ready to buy right now. If you then start your marketing at the “buy now” step – it means that you could lose the remaining 97% of the traffic that is not there, yet. Maybe they need to get to know you first before they are ready for a purchase?

I suggest we take a look at the famous funnel.

Valeur parcours client 1

To reduce the risk of potential customers going to a competitor when a purchase is in progress, we need to start higher up the funnel with our advertising. Whether it is on Facebook, Instagram, Google or in another medium. Some platforms are better suited for earlier steps in the funnel and others closer to the end, the important thing is that you have decided on the purpose and goals of each specific channel.


How to get started

If we start looking at the beginning of a customer contact, we can compare this with the contacts that take place in real life. Imagine for a second you are out on a first date. You will probably not propose marriage to the person you are with on that first date (and if you should decide to do it, your chances of getting a yes are probably quite low…). Instead, you need to start by creating an interest and gradually show who you are. Whether it is in an entertaining, inspiring or educational way. It works exactly the same when it comes to digital marketing.


What type of content is suitable for each target group?


1. Cold traffic

Suppose you are a brand new acquaintance of a person who has never heard of you before. Which is the optimal way to introduce yourself? Would you start by asking the person for something or would you instead choose to start by offering the person something? I know which approach I would choose (at least in advertising). In order to try to capture the interest of the person I would definitely start with offering something. Now, I’m not talking about material things. There are lots of other things such as knowledge, entertainment and inspiration you can use to create an interest.

By offering something, you not only create more interest, your advertising costs will most likely also decrease.


2. Cool traffic

When you advance from the first “cold” step, a person has seen your ad and received a first message. Then it’s time to talk about who you are and what your company can offer by demonstrating knowledge about your products / services and create trust with the members of your target group. For example, you could show a “how-to video”, create a quiz or link to a blog post where you offer more knowledge and experience. It’s all about building trust and thereby creating traffic to your website to capture the visitor with a pixel.


3. Hot traffic

So-called “hot traffic” consists of people who have visited your site, scrolled around (maybe even on a specific product), but have not yet made a purchase. In these cases, it is time to convince the visitor that they are about to make the right choice, ie purchase something in your shop. The question you should ask yourself now is how you can show that your particular product / service can make a person’s life easier and more hassle-free. You can do this, for example, by clearly showing what advantages your offer has compared to your competitors’ and why it is sharpest in the segment you operate in? Maybe you could also offer free shipping and free returns?


4. Burning traffic

Burning love! At this stage, the purchase has already been made, but the customer journey certainly does not end here. Now it becomes important to thank your customers, ask for a review or maybe offer them something extra just because they purchased something from your store. Give them love and I am sure you will be able to increase the lifetime value of each customer. Keep in mind that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. If you can increase the value of each customer, you will generate significantly larger sales and also create a loyal crowd of customers who are happy to tell their loved ones about your greatness.


[Pro tip: Create target groups for each action you can measure so that you can also adapt the message according to each step in the customer journey]

[SUCCESS STORY] RADIENCE MUTUELLE: a website in order to maximise its visibility

Radiance Mutuelle’s objective was to increase its audience and improve the contact process within an omnichannel logic.

The site addresses three distinct targets, with priority given to individuals

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the project was conducted entirely remotely using Microsoft Teams

Download our radiance mutuelle success story !

How to leverage agility in e-commerce

Although most e-commerce projects have up until recently been using the V-model, it’s impossible to not have noticed the growing preference for the agile methodology. Business and dev teams alike have been won over by its efficiency when it comes continuous development projects. The transparency it creates between the stakeholders minimises friction and frustration, allowing problems to be resolved further upstream and providing the dev team with more independence that, in the long term, makes them more responsible and capable of owning the delivered products.

So, where’s the problem?

Many e-commerce projects suffer from constraints such as a set budget, fixed deadline or rigid list of specifications. In these circumstances, how can the dev team estimate its user stories during sprints if everything is already so set in stone? It goes directly against the principle of business flexibility and risks indirectly leading to a V-model form of project management and thus creating frustration amongst teams.

Another common error made by inexperienced teams is the belief that carrying out a project in an ‘Agile manner’ means that everything will go smoothly. In reality, simply saying your running an Agile project doesn’t mean you actually are. It requires a few prerequisites such as engagement and maturity on behalf of all stakeholders; not only those part of the project team, but also anyone else in your ecosystem (upper management, team managers, other teams, etc.).

Does that mean that agile methodology and e-commerce projects are incompatible?

Rest assured that it is entirely possible to use an Agile methodology with e-commerce projects! The first step is to analyse early on, from the kick-off if possible, the possible frictions and find a solution for each one. That might mean one or several people taking part in an Agile training course, writing down the main principles that will guide the production team (independence, transparency, engagement, etc.) or assigning an experienced Scrum Master (if it is a SCRUM) who will be available at the start of the project, if the team thinks they need it.

Great, but what about the list of specifications I have to adhere to?

While it’s true that a dev team needs visibility on the project so they can adapt their work accordingly, let’s not forget that a need expressed at the start of a project is most likely to change as development progresses. A specific need may be refined or, inversely, might be deprioritised or even scrapped.

Why not simply provide a loose outline of the need so that everyone has a general idea of the end product, and then wait for this need to be refined naturally and for the project to progress enough before drawing up a list of concrete specifications? This approach avoids the team taking two steps forward and one step back, which would incur additional costs and delays. When working in an agile manner, you don’t need to precisely and definitively plan out all the functions from the outset — leave some room for the need to evolve.

It is also important to note that a developer who spends time on a function, only to see it abandoned a few weeks later by the business team, may feel frustrated and less motivated for future sprints. It’s essential that teams remain motivated and stimulated if the project is to run as smoothly as possible.

I also have a deadline and a budget…

One thing is for sure, the dev team will always be the best placed to estimate the various functions to be developed. The more they talk with the Product Owner, the more independent they will become, honing their estimations and mastering their velocity (production capacity).

For the business team, the important part is prioritising the various functions as best as possible. They must sincerely question how necessary each one is for the first version of the end product. Ideally, they should deprioritise the more immature ideas and plan a V2 right from the start, postponing less critical needs until after the release of a functional MVP, or even waiting for feedback from the first version to redesign and adapt functions accordingly. It’s a win-win situation: it saves the dev team time by enabling them to later refine its design, documentation, unit testing, performances, etc. and also ensures a better time-to-market for the client.

My Dev Team/Product Owner don’t understand me

It’s important that for each sprint, everybody knows their role and responsibilities and the responsibilities of the other team members. The dev team must be engaged, transparent and guide the Product Owner when the need manifests itself (writing specs, technical support, testing).

For a Product Owner, being the middleman between the business and dev team is not always easy to do for the entire duration of the project. They need to remember that the dev team knows the project best: the product owner must listen to what they say, accept their choices and heed their warnings. And that also means saying no to the business teams if necessary.

Lastly, it is also good to remember that the dev team and Product Owner are all part of the same project team and need to work together in harmony. They both need one another.


While a set budget, rigid list of specifications or fixed deadline may seem like obstacles to applying Agile principles, what often happens is that they become less of a problem as the project progresses, since the business team matures in its thinking and all the teams become more invested. Being aware of them and planning ahead thus gives you more peace of mind when taking on the project and enables you to aim for success in an Agile manner!

Are digital practices leading to overload in companies? 

Digital transformation is a necessity for practically all organisations today, whatever their type and activity. With fast-changing practices, generational imbalances and the current health crisis, there are many reasons to embrace digital. Besides the daily challenges it poses, what if this forced transition produced employee overload? What if it was actually counter-productive?  


The daily challenges of digital transformation 

Most companies are working on their digital transformation. And they manage this necessary step with varying degrees of success. Events such as World Mobile Free Day, held on the 15th of April, highlight simple observations in the world of work:   

  • Well-being at work is an essential priority (related to the place and role of Social and Environmental Responsibility) 
  • Digitalisation is gathering pace and becoming more widespread (video-conferences, processes, services, documents, training, etc.) 
  • Environmental impacts are under scrutiny (waste reduction and processing, responsible energy choices, etc.) 

Normality is now based on constant change. Business leaders’ strategies are now supposed to be based on ‘directions’ rather than ‘goals’. This means defining a path to a destination that is never really known, which can be somewhat disorienting! For employees, whose careers are getting longer, adapting to the acceleration of changes, in order to handle them better in the future, is a question of balance. Finally, companies are under financial pressure and must remain innovative, productive and profitable. None of this is really conducive to feeling relaxed! 


When change + transformation = overload 

Change and transformation should not be confused. 

Change is generally seen through the lens of projects. More often than not, they are numerous, occur simultaneously and add up. Projects involving change are generally initiated by the Information Systems Department and are seen as “obligatory”. Because there is a form of urgency (real or perceived), they are given a beginning and end date, but in many cases they suffer from disorganisation, stop-and-go progress and poorly identified targets, while collaboration rituals celebrating project completion have less value or disappear altogether. Furthermore, various forms of change may be involved, including unexpected situations that we have experienced and know how to respond to, and more chaotic changes that we have never encountered and catch us off guard. The latter cause the most difficulties and sometimes damage. 

Transformation, on the other hand, is cross-cutting It includes a set of projects, without a precise time frame, and takes place over the long term, through changes in behaviour, attitude and lifestyle among employees. 

When these collective changes and transformations become greater than the company’s ability to “absorb” them, overload occurs, as well as the accompanying disengagement. 


How to recognise the symptoms 

In terms of projects, they enter into conflict with one another, there is no segmentation over time, and they come in rapid succession, without the time being taken to celebrate successes. 

In terms of employees, emotions get out of control and are expressed in various ways, including fear of not managing, resigned but fundamentally unwilling acceptance, or a feeling of powerlessness, disorientation and rejection. These emotions understandably bring with them stress and uncertainty, and highlight the courage that needs to be demonstrated to tackle changes. 

This is where change management comes in. Introduced at the beginning of each project, alongside project management, this is an essential component, mainly focussed on human aspects. When based on a suitable methodology, this approach can ensure the following:  

  • Faster adoption 
  • Improved use of the new tool or solution 
  • A more agile team 

The 2018 PROSCI longitudinal study reveals that “projects with excellent change management were six times more likely to meet objectives” and ”by accelerating adoption among employees, excellent change management ensures that project budgets are met and there is a better return on investment.” 


Which solutions can help avoid overload and disengagement? 

Seen through the lens of the highly unusual year that was 2020, when changes came fast and digital uses grew rapidly, change management is a clear choice. People have had to learn quickly and efficiently, and adapt more than ever. Certain forms of resistance to change have disappeared altogether. That said, employees still need to be supported. Now that people are forced to work separately, it is essential to use actions/formats that create time for sharing and co-construction, which facilitate change management: communication from the management team, identification of needs, assessment of systems implemented, training and events. All of this with the spirit of benevolence, appreciation of competencies and gratitude that is essential in everyday life.  

As for managers, they now need to adapt to their teams’ new ways of working and learn how to operate in an uncertain environment. Communication plays a crucial role here. Messages from the CEO or a member of the management team are essential to explain the reasons and aims of expected changes. They should be widely disseminated. 

To communicate about change, managers can demonstrate their intentions by “telling the story”:  

  • Put the current situation into perspective 
  • Highlight past successes 
  • Present the desired situation 
  • Specify why the change is needed and how it will be achieved 
  • Demonstrate the benefits it will bring 


Managing resistance 

First and foremost, managers need to take into account their own resistance. How can they win over their teams if they are not convinced themselves? Next, resistance should be managed collectively: communications should be addressed to the group, and sticking points should also be dealt with in the group. 

Individual resistance should be addressed last. It should also be anticipated as far as possible. If this is not possible, it should be identified when it is expressed by employees. Here, the ADKAR1 method is particularly relevant and can be used to manage, and even rapidly resolve, weaknesses and/or issues that generate resistance. 


When they build a wall to protect themselves from a frightening change, employees can be reassured and encouraged to move forward by management teams that adopt a methodical, confident and benevolent approach. They will then willingly contribute and take part in the adventure. They will be proud to do so. This is the ultimate sign of a successful, overload-free transformation. 

Why you need to upgrade your digital customer journey

The impact of a global pandemic has taught us many things, but most of all it has taught us about the importance of meaningful and real contact with the people around us. In a digitalized and automated world, we often replaced personal contact with a chatbot, an automatic e-mail or a call center. In this article we answer the “Why as a brand should I shift my automated customer journey towards a personalized approach and how do I do this?”. We’ll give you a head start with some concrete examples as well.

Happy reading !


Brand perception versus brand experience 

The way people perceive a brand is mainly thanks to marketing efforts, Public Relations and influencers. But when people start to buy from a brand, that’s when perception versus experience come into play. Most customer dissatisfaction stems from the difference in these two factors.

During the outbreak of the pandemic, we all saw brands either communicating in a transparent and honest way, and thriving via the core values they believe, or brands that remained silent, by putting up walls and not being easy to get in touch with. You can guess which ones received a better perception and experience.

Whatever the global crisis or brand crisis, we strongly believe in these 2 insights:



Where to start with your online brand experience

Personalization is key, it’s everywhere in every digital marketing blog article that you read (including this one). But it’s not just about mentioning your customer’s first name when they visit your website again or adding that name to the intro line of your automated mails. It’s knowing:

  • Who are my customers? Do they fit into the standard persona’s I created for them?
  • What moves them to keep on buying from my brand?
  • What are they not getting from me as a brand?
  • Are my core values clear? Is this a main USP to make customers loyal?

How can you get the answers? Check your demographics data from your social media channels and website metrics. Test with multiple ads and communications where you show your main USPs and see which gives the best results. Or simply by just asking them via a questionnaire or via your customer service (make.it.personal)

The moment you have clear eyes on the above questions. You can start building or upgrading your online experience.


How-to build your online brand experience

Whether your customers visit you offline or online, it’s all about the experience and the positive (or negative) vibes that last. How to create these vibes:

  • A frictionless environment (no bugs, short loading times, fast checkout, …)
  • Clear and transparent communication: what you see is what you should get
  • No unexpected extra costs during checkout or during delivery
  • Show your phone number, e-mail address or contact form. Don’t hide it or make it a mission impossible to get someone on the phone for help
  • Fast response times: don’t let your potential customer wait for a week
  • Stick to your true core values. Never “borrow” popular core values which you can’t make true in reality and make sure you live by them in your online environment as well



Example of the Live chat update on the Ethias website




Let‘s say you are preaching closeness and personal contact, but the chatbot on your website clearly is a programmed machine with some standard replies. How can you still automate the process but make it more human?

Start by giving the bot a name, preferably someone from customer service and use a real-life picture. Then create an introduction and let the conversation be natural. Most bot technologies rely on Natural Language Processing (NLP) to make fluent conversations without using standard replies or a “I don’t understand your question”, it’s the backbone of your conversation. You can use this technology to give your chatbot a personality and a specific tone-of-voice. He or she can be funny, make some small talk first or just  check in on how you are feeling today. A bonus is when you store previous conversations, and your bot takes this into account the next time there’s a new question from the same user.

You can even use this on your Facebook page, with standard replies when you are out of reach at that moment. Golden tip: link your WhatsApp to your Facebook business account to always keep a finger on the pulse when customers need you urgently.


Example of integrating WhatsApp in your Facebook account



Example of automating a conversation on Facebook Messenger


Conversational marketing campaigns 

Most of your Paid media campaigns will be one-sided push communication where it’s the brand talking and the customer viewing. With conversational banners you can upgrade your campaigns and make it a two-sided conversation where you get to know your customer and ask them what they are looking for. Just like a chatbot, you can program the questions and answers in advance, fully adjusted to your own tone-of-voice and core values. It’s a fun new way to engage with your target audience and to start a conversation without first asking your viewers to “click here”, “like this” and “buy that”. Not only do these banners drive high quality traffic to your website, but it also uplifts the online perception and experience of your brand.



Example of a Conversational Banner for Adidas


Instagram live shopping events

One of the key take-aways from this pandemic is that you always need to be able to shift fast towards an online environment. Brands look for many ways to present their products online, but it just simply does not replace any offline engagement. Luckily there’s an in between state thanks to Instagram, Facebook or YouTube live streaming. Via Instagram it’s even possible to link your product feed to your livestream and showcase your products while answering questions from customers and engaging with them. A great way to show the face of your brand in a personal way, or even include your ambassadors or biggest fans, is via an online event (such as Urban Decay did on their website) . In addition to boosting engagement, it also instantly increases sales online as customers can view and shop for the product directly on Instagram.


Example of online event from Instagram live and on the website of Urban Decay


Our predictions for the future

Don’t get us wrong, we still highly recommend investing in marketing automation, but it only works if you invest an equal amount in personal contact with your customers. As global pandemics can come back at any time, you should always be prepared as a brand. Coming up with new ideas on how you can keep on servicing your customers both online and offline and how to streamline the experience should be continuous. We believe people have now learned that choosing brands with the right values and the right approach actually bring value to all of us. So, keep on investing in your values, your communication, your transparency and your trustworthiness.


Who could have imagined the major changes the current health crisis would bring to our personal and working lives? This forced adaptation has affected our consumption of online resources and tools, which are now a lasting part of our lives. UX professionals do not see these new constraints as an obstacle, but rather as a means of leverage to create useful and positive experiences, in a world where physical contact is becoming limited.

To begin with, let us take a look at some incredible figures from CES 2021:

  • e-Commerce: increase in e-commerce deliveries (the equivalent of 10 years of deliveries in 2 months)
  • Telemedecine: increase in virtual consultations (10 times more in the space of 2 weeks)
  • Video streaming: nearly 50 million subscribers to Netflix (the equivalent of 7 years of subscriptions in 5 months)
  • Distance learning: increase in online students (250 million in 2 weeks)

Growth in certain sectors has clearly been boosted by the health crisis. This shows the extent to which digital solutions enable us to rapidly adapt our habits when faced with an unexpected situation. It seems likely that these figures will continue to grow quickly over the course of 2021.

In light of these unexpected upheavals, which UX trends are being boosted by the pandemic in 2021?



While the world was already moving in the direction of remote working, the virus sped up the trend by a dozen years in the space of six months. In order to remain in touch with our colleagues, suppliers and clients, we have had to adopt tools such as video conferencing and virtual white boards in very little time.


Video conferencing is now one of the pillars of our working lives. Including meetings, brainstorming sessions, presentations and virtual drinks, we can communicate via video and audio using a computer, tablet or smartphone. Skype is on its way out, while two other applications head the field: Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Zoom boasts impressive figures: 300 million daily users and growth of nearly 3000% since the beginning of 2020. Despite some security issues, which have now been resolved, the platform was rapidly adopted for business and personal use, thanks to its ease of use and audio-video quality.

Teams saw its daily user figure grow from 32 to 75 million in 2020. Very popular in companies, Teams is much more than a video conferencing tool, enabling users to share files, interface easily with Office 365 and use functional modules, such as project tracking and task allocation. What’s more, a new artificial intelligence function known as Together can be used to display participants in a unique virtual environment, making it seem like everybody is sitting together in the same room. Another noteworthy feature is automatic translation in multiple languages, enabling a person to speak in their native language while their contacts read the translation as subtitles in the language of their choice.

Two other video conferencing software programs delivering high performance are also making waves: Google Meet and Cisco Webex.


Online whiteboard applications simulate a virtual work environment, of unlimited size, in which participants can share content, generate ideas, express opinions, vote, plan and build together. In short, it enables users to remotely conduct entire work sessions.

Whiteboards all offer the same basic features:

  • Several workshop templates (retrospective, kanban, user experience map, etc.)
  • The ability to create your own workshop canvas from scratch or based on an existing template
  • Co-creation functionalities inspired by Design Thinking good practices (ideation, voting, joint construction, etc.)
  • Multi-device operation (responsive design website and mobile apps available)
  • Interactions with other applications (Google Drive, Adobe XD, Dropbox, etc.)

Three main leaders have been clearly identified: Miro, MURAL and Klaxoon. Their approaches and features are roughly the same, with the exception of Klaxoon Box, which generates its own WiFi network, making it possible to use Klaxoon everywhere. Competition drives them to constantly innovate over time. Happily, these tools provide regular information in the form of contextual help and webinars (good practices, feedback, etc.).

All of this naturally requires time to prepare the template used (facilitator) and to get to grips with the tool (users). Combined with a video conferencing tool (sometimes natively integrated), whiteboards make it possible to remotely conduct collaborative work sessions that are comprehensive and fun, so much so that several facilitators and sprint masters have decided to continue to partially use the tool for their classroom-based workshops and design sprints.



Video conferencing has firmly established itself, and some users want to go further down the digital path by using immersive technologies, previously used for entertainment alone. While virtual reality and augmented reality have been around for a while, they have so far not made much inroads into the world of work. The health crisis could well change all that.


Here are a few relevant and recent initiatives in this area:

  • The 2020 Game Developers Conference was held using virtual reality, including visits of the stands and chat rooms.
  • Some museums and theatres, such as the Louvre and Tate Modern, use virtual reality to remain open and enable performances.
  • Office digitisation solutions are flourishing, such as the impressive Spatial, which cleverly combines virtual and augmented reality.
  • One of the biggest events in virtual reality coming in 2021: the opening of Facebook Horizon, which will enable users, appearing as avatars, to chat, share content and play in an immersive 3D world.


Augmented reality is not being outdone. While it is less immersive than virtual reality, it makes it possible to overlay objects and other virtual forms in the real world, using smartphones and tablet cameras in particular. Initiatives making it possible to try products at home (such as L’Oréal) offer solutions to the health restrictions encountered by stores. The IKEA configurator is winning over many customers looking to optimise their interior spaces.

And not to forget Google ARCore and Adobe Aero, software development kits that make it possible to design and visualise augmented reality experiences on mobiles, whether it is for gaming, sales, learning or creativity.


Medical illustrators have joined forces with UX design experts in order to enhance media information with curves, maps and other visuals that are attractive, clear, fun and sometimes interactive. The health situation is constantly changing, with the spread of the virus, vaccinations and variants. Needs related to medical data visualisation designed for the general public look likely to remain for years to come.


The pandemic means that we have to be particularly careful about physical contact with shared interfaces, such as touch screens on supermarket payment terminals and ATM keypads. Contactless interactions therefore have a bright future ahead of them.


Voice user interfaces (VUIs) remain underexploited in France for example. With the growing popularity of voice assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa, there is a growing role for the voice in interactions with the digital world. VUIs have become one of the biggest trends of 2020. Today, more than 25% of the world’s Internet users use voice searches on their mobiles.


This technology captures users’ movements, enabling them to interact with the target system, with no physical contact. Most touch interfaces can be easily replaced by an in-air gesture control system. Recent use cases of note can be found at DS Automobiles, as a replacement/complement for traditional steering wheels, levers and dashboards. It is also possible to control televisions using hand gestures, or follow a recipe in the kitchen using a digital book in augmented reality, for example.


The most precarious stages for new users to applications are often subscription, followed by the first steps. An optimal user experience is designed to remove friction/frustration points in these stages in particular (sometimes collectively referred to as “onboarding”). In view of the massive growth in use of online tools during lockdowns, particular attention is now being paid to how applications are accessed.

We can see four key success factors:

  • Rapid access to the application, if possible without subscribing (baskets on BtoC websites that can be filled without having to log in first are a good example)
  • Simple subscription (via Facebook / Google Connect, or few fields to fill in to get started)
  • Light and efficient user assistance (for example: Miro and its succinct “new features” tips)
  • And last, but certainly not least, an instinctive, elegant and reassuring interface


2021 promises to be a year rich in immersive experiences and quality e-products. We can expect to see further growth in the use of video conferencing and process digitisation. Online events and trade shows will be getting creative with 3D and virtual reality to attract visitors. The need to adapt our personal and work lives in the face of the pandemic is unfortunately likely to continue in 2021, but thankfully we can count on some amazing innovative efforts using the Internet to help us do so.


Where to Play – Innovating in three steps to seize opportunities in an uncertain environment

In the uncertain environment we are experiencing, it is crucial for all entrepreneurs, business leaders and innovation managers to identify the various market development possibilities and assess related opportunities, in order to look ahead with peace of mind and build a growth strategy that will be able to adapt to change. 

Make sure you are running in the right direction and remain agile, without losing your focus!

This is the ambition of the methodology imagined and developed by Marc Gruber (researcher and Vice-President of Innovation at the EPFL science and technology institution in Lausanne) and Sharon Tal (lecturer and former director of the Technion Entrepreneurship Center at the Israel Institute of Technology), who drew on fifteen years of research and business creation support (with more than one hundred business cases studied and analysed)1 

This methodology is recommended by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (authors of the Business Model Canvas), who make it a perfect partner for the lean startup approach and Business Model Canvas tools to define your field of play.  

It is based on three steps to provide step-by-step assistance with your thinking, linking each one with decision-making tools, in order to: 

  1. Explore opportunities and clearly understand your field of play 
  2. Assess options through comparison, to identify the most attractive ones 
  3. Define an agile strategy with a focus on a single option, while keeping alternatives open to take new directions 

These three steps will enable you to make a well-informed decision, establish a common language and receive support over time.


1.Identify newopportunities 

The aim of this first step is to gain an overview of essential technologies and capacities that are specific to your organisation, in order to identify opportunities on the market. To help you do so, the methodology suggests using the ‘Generate your Market Opportunity Set’ model. 

  • The first step involves identifying your business and technological expertise, through the resources and skills that you currently possess or are being developed. View them as they are, uncorrelated with their usage context (product, customer need, etc.), in order to describe them in a generic way, in terms of properties and functionalities, in the ‘Abilities’ section.  
  • Once you have established a list of your capacities and technological assets, you can move on to the discovery step by looking for potential applications. The idea here is to look beyond your market of choice, in order to generate a diverse range of applications and unleash your creativity. Do not hesitate to combine your technology with other types of technology in order to enrich your range of applications. Exploit all of your knowledge and experience, and use external sources, online platforms, patent databases, etc. 
  • Alongside this discovery phase, for each application, you need to identify potential customer profiles. Segment them in order to identify sub-segments, which will enable you to be more relevant in your analysis. 
  • Finally, combine applications and customer profiles to obtain market opportunities that you consider to be promising, in order to fill your basket of opportunities and move on to the next step: evaluation.  

This discovery phase can take a fairly long time, which is normal, and even preferable, as this is a reflection of serious work and should produce a large number of opportunities, which will need to be filtered, in order to discard those that are not promising enough: no existing customer need, lack of skills, technical constraints that are too great, not in line with your values, etc. 


2.Evaluate youropportunities

Once your basket is filled with the most promising opportunities, you will be faced with the challenge of prioritising them! They will not all be equal, so you need to compare them in order to focus on those that are most attractive and have the greatest chance of coming to fruition.  

The methodology is based on two dimensions: the potential they represent and the challenge of implementing them. This provides you with a map that you can use to compare them. 


Before you get to the map, however, you need to evaluate each opportunity by asking the right questions and confirming assumptions, in order to transform them into knowledge and analyse them, which will enable you to draw precious lessons for decision-making. This is the key moment to gain a better understanding of your customers, your environment, the market value chain and your internal capacities.  

It is also the right time to set up workshops bringing together your team, to jointly evaluate each of the opportunities, through the lens of two dimensions, each with three parameters: 

  • The potential 
  • A convincing reason to buy: would someone want our product/service and would they be willing to pay for it? Is there a real unsatisfied need? Are we able to meet the need and, if so, can we do it better than others?  
  • Market volume: what is the size of the market today, how many potential customers are there, and how much consumption does this represent over a one-year period? What are the growth prospects and what is its maturity? Has the market grown over the past two years? 
  • Economic viability: is the investment-revenue ratio interesting from an economic point of view? Do the target customers have the necessary financial means? Will they be loyal? 

Once you have answered all these questions, you can first give a score to each parameter, ranging from ‘weak’ to ‘medium’, ‘high’ and ‘very high’. You can then give an overall score, which may be weighted to reflect the relative importance of the parameters (to be decided based on your specific situation). The score is purposefully non-numerical in order to take into account all the subtleties of the evaluation.  

  • The challenge 
  • Obstacles to deployment: what difficulties will you encounter when developing your product/service (technological, UX/UI, regulatory, etc.), accessing the market (distribution channel existing or to be created) and getting funding (seed capital)? 
  • Return on investment time: How long will development take before production can begin? Is the market ready? How long is the sales cycle and what is the buying process (B2B)?  
  • External risks: how strong is the competition and what threats does it pose? Are you dependent on third parties or regulations? Is your product/service compatible with existing practices? 

As with the potential dimension, each parameter should be given a score before an overall score is given. 

Once each of the opportunities has a score, it is important to perform a global review, in order to make any necessary adjustments to the scores and ensure a consistent evaluation, before moving on to the next step: the attractiveness map.  

To complete this map, simply take each opportunity and position it according to the scores it has been given. This will give you an overview, enabling you to compare the opportunities, and then identify a main market opportunity and alternatives. 

  • Gold mine: these opportunities generally reflect a need that is important, but remains unsatisfied, which is relatively rare these days. If this is the case, then you most probably have a unique capacity to address a very widespread issue. This will undoubtedly be your main market opportunity.  
  • Moon shot: highly technological and innovative offerings, which involve a significant degree of risk, but are the most interesting if they succeed. If you are robust in terms of technology, then this is a main market opportunity for you. If not, it can be seen as a long-term option. 
  • Quick win: these opportunities offer little in terms of results, but also require little investment. You can integrate them as initial milestones in the short term, as part of a more global long-term approach. 
  • Questionable: the least interesting opportunities, ultimately bringing little value and difficult to implement. To be put to one side. 


3.Build your Agile Focus Strategy

The discovery and evaluation phases will have enabled you to define a set of market opportunities with many lessons to be learnt. Now, it is time to make a decision to focus your efforts on the most promising opportunities, while remaining agile to deal with uncertainty. And it is in this decision that one of the keys to success of any entrepreneur lies: knowing how to consider other options to turn to if things don’t work out as you expected… because things do not always go to plan! 

Rather than putting your focus entirely on a single opportunity, Sharon Tal and Marc Gruber put forward a strategy that makes it possible to strike the subtle balance between focus and agility. This strategy is based on their various works (500 plus technology projects put under the microscope), which have demonstrated the benefits of selecting a main opportunity to focus your initial efforts, while keeping options open to fall back on and respond to changes. 

By using the above-mentioned map, you will be able to choose the most attractive opportunity, but the aim is also to build an intelligent portfolio of options that will strengthen your agility. This is what the Agile Focus Strategy is all about. 

 There are two categories of options: 

  • Backup: an attractive opportunity that does not involve the same risks as the main opportunity and will give you something to bounce back off if you don’t succeed. 
  • Growth: an attractive opportunity that enables you to create value over time and know what to do next if you succeed. 

Ideally, all of the opportunities you choose should be linked, so that you can reuse the capacities and resources that you will have implemented for one or another. 


How to build your Agile Focus Strategy? As a team. Team discussions are an opportunity to develop various points of view and drill down into the details, so you can make a well-informed and shared decision. Success begins with the creation of a team! 


1- Choose your main market opportunity 

This is not such an easy choice, as it is rarely the case that one opportunity really stands out. Most of the time, the options are either very similar or diametrically opposed in terms of risk versus ROI (quick win vs. moon shot). The only advice that the two researchers give is to consider your personal preferences (values, passion, ambition, risk appetite, etc.) and the interests of your stakeholders, on the one hand, and to avoid choosing an option in the ‘questionable’ quadrant, on the other. 


2- Look at backup and growth options 

List all of the attractive opportunities that remain as potential candidates. Next, evaluate those that are not veryfairly or very similar to the main opportunity, in terms of products or markets. 

  • To what extent do the products share the resources (human, material, etc.), technological capacities (foundation, functionalities, etc.) and networks (commercial, distribution, partner, etc.)? 
  • How well do customers know your brand (value, reputation, promotion, etc.) and do they use existing distribution channels? 

Define the type of each option: 

  • Backup option (plan B): it does not involve the same risks and is not based on the same assumptions, but it shares resources or technological capacities with the main option, so those that are already deployed can be reused. 
  • Growth option (long-term plan): this will enable you to use the main opportunity as a springboard to increase your value creation potential. It should be part of a long-term roadmap. 


3- Define a strategy for each option 

A final choice needs to be made: you need to select a backup option and a growth option to accompany your main opportunity in your Agile Focus Strategy. To do this, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Use now: Can we use this option now? Are we able to support its human and financial investment? Does this option enable us to reduce risks and/or increase the main opportunity’s value creation potential? 
  • Keep open: Should we keep this option open? Should we stay informed about the target market and develop a flexible service or product? This means that, alongside the main option, you will need to allocate some of your time and budget to watching the market (new trends, studies, competition, network, etc.), and take the modularity of your offering into account very early on in order to reach several targets.  
  • Put in storage: How about the remaining opportunities? Keep them on a list, as they may come in handy one day. 


You are now all ready to describe your Agile Focus target. Use the diagram below to position your main option, backup options and growth options. Don’t forget to accompany your chosen options with arguments that will defend their position and convey the right messages. Success requires effective communication! 


While the methodology and associated tools are designed to define your strategy, the learning process along the way is just as important. It will help you better identify your organisation’s strengths, your competitive landscape, your clients and the difficulties you will encounter. The knowledge and lessons you will gather are equally precious. 



Putting the charm back into the digital buying journey with a human touch

The COVID crisis has undeniably enabled e-commerce to take a giant step forward by converting new consumer profiles to this form of buying. While successive lockdowns have demonstrated retailers’ resilience, they have also removed one of the essential components of buying journeys: human interaction and the role of in-store sales staff. Creating additional value and putting the charm back into the buying experience will only be possible by bringing the human touch and the digital buying journey back together.  

A sense of history  

While e-commerce is a practical response (and the only response in certain situations, such as when buying “non-essential” products in France) to COVID-19 restrictions, and everybody is being encouraged to switch to digital, brands and shops need to think carefully about the experience they want to offer consumers. In order to rekindle or strengthen the emotional or symbolic relationships that customers have with brands, and introduce more personalisation in their customer experience, brands need to make the best use of technology to (re)integrate the human dimension, which is inseparable from a digital buying journey.  

With the exception of impulse and repetitive buying, customers do not only want to buy in order to consume, but to have a buying experience, sometimes including discoveries that delight the senses. With this in mind, the RoPo (research online, purchase offline) trend shows the limits of e-commerce in its mono channel dimension: while digital offers access to catalogues and product information, the act of buying itself is often better done in a brick-and-mortar store.  

Behavioural studies carried out in the first half of 2020 show that, with digital uses becoming more widespread (among senior and rural population segments), the need for advice and assistance has never been greater. The closing of shops has deprived us of human interaction, so how can we bring it back to life behind our screens?  

The human dimension in the digital buying journey: how, why and, above all, when?  

To understand the value of the human dimension in the digital buying journey, we simply need to look at the added value that an efficient customer relationship approach generates for brands and shops. Everywhere, this relationship is a vehicle for customer satisfaction and loyalty and is an integral part of business strategy. The challenge is to know when and through which touchpoint human interaction is meaningful and value-creating in the buying journey.  

Downstream of this journey, customer service centres, which are already positioned as the cornerstone of the customer relationship strategy, are seeing a transformation of the way they work. Traditionally present for customers in the event of a complaint, service centre staff are increasingly playing the role of advisor and assisting customers in the buying process. Assisted by various modules and storefronts integrated in omnichannel solutions, they manage product recommendations according to individual customer profiles, assistance with placing orders and the setting up of personalised offers.  

Upstream of the buying journey, the work of sales staff is also undergoing a transformation in the era of unified commerce. An approach based on the idea of “clienteling“, or the “augmented salesperson”, is used to build a continuous customer relationship, by giving salespeople back their role of advisor. Many retail brands have created various online systems to book sessions where salespeople located at the point of sale provide a remote product discovery experience. Soulless chatbots are being replaced by sales advisors available via video chat, who are helping create a shopping experience in customers’ homes or kitchens.  

Creating a new contract of trust with customers  

In order to further integrate customer-salesperson exchanges in the digital buying journey, brands have an opportunity to embrace this new paradigm and strengthen the digital, but no less real, presence of sales advisors. These “remote advisors”, who must be highly accessible in order to be able to adopt the immediacy of digital journeys, will be at the heart of this ultra-personalized relationship. This can be achieved, for example, by enabling customers to chat with a salesperson very rapidly. Sales staff will also be able to handle tasks such as subscriptions, and adding to the basket or wish list Lastly, they will be able to manage product returns, instead of using forms or impersonal systems.  

It will only be possible to achieve the ideal of “re-humanised e-commerce” by exploiting the fundamentals of unified commerce. It is essential for the salesperson, who can maintain contact with customers via all communication channels, to be able to rely on solutions designed for consulting, assisting and advising. This means that the remote advisor will be properly equipped to have a 360-degree view of both their customers (buying history, wish lists, etc.) and products (the entire brand catalogue; not just the one that is available at their point of sale).  

Faced with customer experience challenges and digital transformations that have been accelerated by the current health crisis, brands have much to gain from bringing meaning back to the act of buying. Those that take heed of the need to draw on their human resources to put the charm back into the digital buying journey will stand out from the rest.  

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