Socialize your financial goals

If there’s one topic I’m passionate about, it’s personal finance.
I tend to be very open about this topic and over the years many of my friends will buy me a coffee for some quick advice. Over the last month, I noticed some interesting observations from meeting with a dozen or so ladies:
  • All said they didn’t have a clear goal for savings and future investing (ie: I’m saving money, but don’t have a strategy or plan for investing)
  • All said they were not comfortable talking about personal finances (ie: I’m not seeing an advisor and I wouldn’t talk about it in a group setting)
  • Most said they keep 100% of their take-home pay ($100K+ annually) in just a checking account and standard savings account (Really?! That means no interest or compounding benefits)
Given that this is purely a personal qualitative study talking to friends who work in tech and live in San Francisco, I did some research and found my qualitative findings weren’t too far off…

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, shared some great findings in Refinery29.
  • About half (51%) of women report feeling positive about their financial futures
  • 42% of women say they are confident they are making the right savings and investment decisions
  • Of all the assets controlled by women, 71% are held in cash — a.k.a. not invested.
In addition to Sallie’s work, a number of studies attribute the gender savings and investing gap to lack of confidence. Only 47 percent of women feel confident when talking about finances with a financial professional—compared to 77 percent who would be comfortable discussing medical issues with their doctor.
If women are afraid to share with financial professionals, then we’re definitely not discussing savings or investing in social settings.

From my coffee date surveys, it wasn’t easy talking about this stuff at all.
But by the end of the conversation, all agreed that it was one of the most productive coffees they had all year. I’ll be the first to admit that socializing your goals is a really scary thing, but it’s the only way to build community and accountability.
So, here’s my story and some helpful tools curated from friends and mentors:
When I started a business in Australia in 2013, “the money stuff” was the one thing that scared me most.  As a first time entrepreneur, I didn’t want to take outside funding to ensure I had complete control of the business and the flexibility to exit whenever I was ready to move back to America.
I self-funded the business, which forced me to get really good with numbers.
As a self-proclaimed “words nerd,” I loved doing just about anything but activities involving the numbers. This forced me to seek out the best professional help and self-help programs to get the business running smoothly. Within in a week, I had a fancy financial advisor (who thankfully didn’t charge his usual fees and gave me way too much of his time for free) and enrolled in 10thousand girl.
As part of 10thousand girl, I joined a GIG group (Girl Investment Group).
Think: local book club, but we talk about personal finance, investing and goals
Outcomes from the group included: creating life plan, budget, day-to-day money management, increasing saving levels and understanding investing.
While all of these things you can learn on your own, I found it was much easier to do this in a group setting and hold each other accountable. If any or all of these things sound interesting, there’s also an online version which works too.

Once you set clear financial goals, there are a number of free tools to help you smash them.
Not to mention, most of these are new (launched in 2016) and free in the App Store:
  • Penny: Your personal finance coach
    • Penny will categorize your spending and text you updates
      • Food (and coffee and cocktails)
      • Transportation (hello, Uber)
      • Bills (rent, internet, etc.)
      • Other purchases such as groceries (Amazon)
      • Income
  • Digit: The app that’ll save for you
    • Automate your savings
    • Every few days, Digit checks your spending habits and saves a few dollars from your checking account if you can afford it
    • You can then transfer the savings back to our bank account (hint: vacation funds, etc.)
  • Truebill: Find, track and cancel your subscriptions
    • This app is a lifesaver… period. Comcast, Netflix, Rent the Runway, all in one place.
    • It pulls all monthly subscriptions, which is particularly helpful if you sign up for any “first month free” services
    • Plus, the average Truebill user saves $512 per year
  • Read Ellevest’s Seven Chapters on Financial Feminism 
 As we head into 2017, I hope to apply the same process to other aspects of my life as well.
Socializing goals is scary, but from my personal experience it’s the only way to really stay consistent. Would love to hear your thoughts and tools you’re using!

A newbie’s thoughts on conversational commerce

I’ve recently had a number of friends in marketing ask for my thoughts on the future of customer experience: chatbots, conversational commerce and other hot topics for 2017.

For me personally, I really excited to see what happens in the chat and voice space.  

While current chatbots are fun to try, most are buggy and lack a compelling use case for long-term engagement. Much like Alexa is really only good for dad jokes (and arguably a good excuse for why your kids are rude), the technology is there but the use cases could use some work.

Now, more than ever, consumers are expecting more from brands. Instant responses on social media. Timely, relevant push notifications. And most importantly, they want honest and authentic conversation. No bullshit, no pre-canned responses or delayed replies. As marketers, this means we need to understand mobile, social and build for real-time conversation.

I’ve heard the term “conversational commerce” being thrown around, so I wanted to do a little research and break down what this means for marketers. To keep things simple, conversational commerce means communicating in an authentic way (generally this means using mobile messaging to sell your products). Sending the right messages at the right time to add the most value for you customers (and ultimately, make the most impact across the business). It may sound complex, but it’s really all about building the right conversation engine and creating something that can scale quickly.

From a product perspective, this may raise a lot of questions.

Who will own this internally? Is it Product, Marketing, Customer Support? What channels do we need to set up? Do we need in-product messaging, push notifications, Facebook Messenger?

For every business the actual application will vary, but the overarching theme is really clear: customers want a more intuitive, human experience.

Here are some simple questions I’ve been starting to ask:

  1. Are you communicating at the right time?
    1. Urgent SMS messages (delivered and read immediately)
    2. On-time updates (arrival alerts and deliver confirmations)
  2. Are you communicating in a friendly manner?
    1. Un-intrusive SMS messages (easy to read, doesn’t warrant phone call or email)
    2. Reduce emails and phone calls (quick communications, without being viewed as spam)
  1. Are you communicating instantly?
    1. Triggered instant messages to reduce your initial response time (Keep in mind: Very Responsive brands on Facebook need to reply within 15 minutes of initial message)

Let’s look at Nordstrom as a good example.

For over 100 years, Nordstrom has focused on exceptional customer service.

As more and more competitors have entered the market, Nordstrom has successfully maintained its ‘customer first’ approach.

As a general rule of thumb, delivering on customer centricity involves these steps:

For Nordstrom in 2016, this is no easy job. Providing a seamless, omni-channel experience is tough and increasingly competitive. Consumers are spending up to 21 minutes per day discovering new brands on Instagram. Online retailers like Amazon offer same day shipping and new disruptors like Everlane promise radical transparency. Sounds like a tough gig for a century old retailer, right?

For Nordstrom, they needed a way to deliver exceptional service in a mobile friendly way.

With help from Twilio, Nordstrom developed NEXT, a service that lets customers text their salespeople privately when they need assistance or have requests. Whether it’s sharing the latest fashion trends and asking questions about size and fit, Nordstrom has created a unique platform for sales associates to connect with customers in a meaningful way.

Diving a little deeper, here are some specific use cases for NEXT:

  • Remind customers of product arrivals that they’ve been waiting for
  • Offer exceptional support: sizing, style suggestions and more
  • Exclusive invites to events and sale previews
  • Photo sharing: style tips, pictures of merchandise, etc.

With advancements in technology and a shift towards mobile, customers expect personalized communications. Disruptive brands are thinking more and more about meaningful engagements and what it means to bridge online and offline communications.

For retailers like Nordstrom, here are two potential ways to offer customer support via SMS

  1. Real-time alerts: “The dress that you have saved in your favorites is now available online. Should we ship this to your home address?”
  2. Engagement and referrals: “This is Katie at Nordstrom, we’re having a free makeover event this Friday. Can I put you and a friend down for this?”

Putting myself in the customer’s shoes is really easy for this one. I’m not brand loyal or price sensitive, however I’ve fully embraced the “buy fewer, but better things” mentality.

Given that I have a very particular style and make very considered purchases, I would welcome style suggestions from Nordstrom stylists. I never have the time (nor the desire) to search for new pieces for my ultra-minimalist wardrobe, which is mostly constrained by classic San Francisco-sized closet.

For me personally, I’m still waiting to see interesting use cases for conversational commerce outside of retail. Please comment with relevant examples you’ve seen.