One of the recommendations in my new report, Web Site User Experience 2010: Australian Banks, is that Australia's "big four" banks should study online retailers as as precursor to fixing their own broken website search systems. At present, these banks serve up a hodge-podge of media releases, FAQs, customer memorandums, product pages and more in their search results, giving users little clue about which search results they should click and why. By contrast, leading online retailers provide highly usable search results, which they help users to effectively preview, sort and refine.
But banks are far from the only businesses that need to look beyond the narrow confines of their own industry.
For example, when speaking with pharmaceutical marketers in Sydney yesterday, I was reminded that almost no Australian marketers in that industry set aside a portion of their budgets as internal seed capital, funding marketing experiments that are small enough to fail gracefully, but audacious enough to perhaps exceed all expectations. Big pharma, at least in Australia, could learn from how the leading global consumer packaged goods companies are supporting marketing innovation with devices like internal seed capital.
Likewise, as they prepare for the age of the electronic book reader, parts of the print publishing industry are clearly heeding an important lesson from music: that those who embrace digital might thrive, but those who resist it usually wither and die. Many newspaper and magazine publishers are thinking about how to update their content for new presentation formats. However, they should also learn from the new business models that are emerging in the music industry. For example, how many are willing to give away books to sell tickets to public readings instead of holding free public readings in order to sell books? I'm not arguing that the latter is a viable business model; I'm just asking how many publishers are considering radical options that are emerging in other industries.
It's natural to focus on the specifics of one's own industry. As a bank, it's natural to compare your own website search system to the broken systems provided by most other banks. But inspiration is one of the sources of innovation, and the best ideas can come from places you least expect.