News, insight and events
from across the Group.

I moved to Queensland from our Sydney office some 5 years ago and back then the startup eco-system was almost non-existent. In order to connect the community somewhat, I started chapters of Silicon Beach on the Gold Coast & Brisbane at the end of 2011, which has a combined community of around 2,700 members.

Having moved no less than 10,541 miles across the world and essentially starting over, I often question whether I have gotten far enough in my life and in my career. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and I'd consider moving to Melbourne one of best decisions I've ever made, but it does get me thinking. One of my colleagues quite rightly pointed out that conversing with some of the smartest people in technology on a daily basis - from data-science wizards to AI enthusiasts, can also affect the ego with questions of why am I not that intelligent/ successful?

When I initially heard that some aeroplanes were introducing wifi to selected flights, my immediate thought was - why? What is so important whilst in transit that it can't wait till landing? Is this removing the modern worlds final place of total freedom from hashtags and likes?

Admittedly, on a recent Emirates flight to the UK I got lured in fifteen minutes prior to my first layover by two-hours of free wifi. I was curious as to what all the fuss was about and it was handy arranging my airport pick up ahead of time. However, was it really necessary? There are two primary methods to enable a passenger Internet connection on an airplane; if you want to know what these are, you’ve come to the wrong article.

I'm a huge advocate for new technologies that simplify and improve our lives; and there are some pros to having wifi access on planes. If it is a business trip, it could reduce time wasted travelling and increase productivity. However fellow opposers argue that it could actually inhibit productivity with the added distraction of people making phone calls, and unlike being on the underground, you can’t move seats when you’re on a plane.

Year by year we use our screens considerably more - we order food from them; handle our banking; we even use them to work out. These are all arguably very useful additions to our app-store; however there has been a lot of persuasive research lately about the effects of smartphones on mental health - anxiety, depression and disturbed sleep are a few of the many linked side effects. I will chat through some of these in the paragraphs to follow.

Like a smoker going cold-turkey, the vast majority of smartphone owners experience anxiety and distress when they are without their device. This is added stress on top of the day-to-day stress of normal life, and is not something we need if you ask me. As Hooked author Nir Eyel powerfully stated, “we use our booze and our tech for the same reason - an escape from restless reality.” And this is coming from a guy who wrote a guideline book to teach technology people how to build habit-forming products.

The strong and significant association between social media use and depression is also widely recognised and tested. A US-based study found that levels of depression increased with total amount of time spent using social media and number of visits to social media sites per week. Although some other studies have produced mixed findings, it is easy to see why the constant use of "likes" could cause people to continually seek validation from others to bolster their self esteem; or why scrolling through other people's holiday snaps could make a relaxed weekend at home feel slightly less appealing.

What else is really worrying is that, according to a study published in September 2015, the amount of caffeine in a double espresso has less of an effect on sleep quality than bright light exposure from smart-phones at night! My boss recently bought an old-school alarm clock, and leaves his phone in the living room before bed at night for this precise reason.

In summary, although there are some obvious benefits to having wifi access on aeroplanes for business use; surely on the whole it is more beneficial to protect the last remaining refuge we have free from constant mobile interaction. I can think of a few more useful ways we could be spending our aeroplane time - sleeping, meditating, journaling; or whatever happened to getting stuck into a good book?

Do you see air travel as a safe haven from screen-time, or are you counting down the days until airplane mode is a thing of the past?

In case you have been living under a rock for the past 20-odd years, you will be well-aware of the ecommerce giant Amazon. In fact, it is the largest online retailer by market share and sales in the world.

The question is, are Australian retailers fearful for the impending launch of Amazon in Australia; and if not, why not? They very well should be.

Perhaps I am more concerned than others, growing up in the UK, where if you couldn't get it from Amazon; it pretty much didn't exist. Amazon have been using clever tactics to get users on board ever since they announced their Aussie launch in 2016. I've already signed up and am receiving email updates; I only wanted to buy an Audio book.

There are of course question-marks around what the launch will look like in reality. Luckily for some it has been pushed back almost a year until late 2018, instead of the original date of September this year. Will they undercut the main electrical goods retailers? How will the logistics work? Will deliveries be shorter? Will they pay all of the Australian taxes? One thing is for sure, this isn't going to be a hasty move; and no doubt they’ll put their best foot forward for all of the above.

Those who are actually concerned about the launch, which was revealed to be only 14% of retailers in a survey conducted by Commonwealth Bank; what are they doing to retain their customers?

I recently had a chat with the Head of Marketing for one of the leading Australian electronics giants, and their tactic is all about retention. Unable to undercut Amazon on all product prices or compete with their technical expertise, keeping loyal customers happy is their chosen lifeline. This can be achieved through loyalty discounts, free delivery offers and exclusive deals for returning customers. Take note from startups like Rewardle who are killing it in the customer loyalty space. This I suspect will be a successful method, at least for a while.

When push comes to shove, all customers really want is their chosen product, at the right price, in their hands as soon as humanly possible, right? As such it is a no-brainer that cutting delivery costs could and should be an option for vulnerable retailers. However, it might be worth noting that last year Amazon charged its customers USD $4bn for deliveries that cost them USD $8bn. With that in mind, retailers should be prepared to invest. Myer and David Jones see this as their biggest challenge to profitability.

Like Australian organisations across the board, retailers too are beginning to realise the value in investing in CX (Customer Experience). New and innovative digital products, for example Apple's new iBeacon app, gives shoppers personalised messages while they’re in store, as well as micro location services. For me, technological advancements to the customers in-store experience is one method that bricks-and-mortar retailers can use to compete with overwhelmingly powerful pure-play retailers like Amazon. 94% of sales in Australia are in store as opposed to online (compared to 72% in the UK) - therefore there must be something to be said about improving in-store customer service and switching the mindset to improving the customer journey in its entirety (store; email; online; returns, etc).

There is always a silver lining. Amazon is one of the largest employers in the United States; which means thousands more jobs for Australians are set to come out of the launch. Interestingly, digital marketing agencies are predicted to benefit from the ecommerce-giant's’ presence in the Southern Hemisphere thanks to a goldmine of opportunities for internet marketing. Although the situation look does appear bleak for some retailers, experts don't think there will be much to be seen in the first five years (which means ample time to get fearful).

This week I had the absolute honour to speak with Chris Hadfield - a man who needs little introduction (but I will anyway). Chris is a man of many accolades, namely, the first Canadian to ever walk in space, and who famously sang David Bowie’s Space Oddity on the International Space Station, racking up over 4000 hours in space and 36 million youtube hits. More than just a mere Astronaut and Commander of the ISS, Chris is also a musician, writer, leadership coach, and had a previous life as a downhill ski racer, test pilot, fighter pilot and Director of Operations for NASA at Star City in Russia.

Over the past 3 months, one of the most watched sporting events has been unfolding in Europe without almost any reporting in Australia whatsoever (much to my frustration). This of course, has been the Rugby Union Six Nations - an annual tournament where the national rugby teams from England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and Ireland, square off in the ultimate of sporting battles. Much to my delight, England emerged victorious.

In the beginning

There I was, in Sussex, with an approved visa and my 3 bed semi expertly packed into a shipping container that would land in Sydney in 53 days. That hit me. 53 days is a long time, Sydney is far away. As the fumigation bomb went off inside the container, the ‘there's no going back now' thought went off in my head. The upcoming flight with two children under three was reminiscent of giving birth to my first; it took 30 hours, at points I thought I was going to die, but I made it through. And in this case the end result was landing at Sydney's Kingsford Smith.