Late last night, Sony revealed that it would pull The Interview from its release schedule. This decision was made in response to the step taken by the major theater chains, all agreeing that they would not screen the movie on its release day. The unprecedented decision is causing consternation among entertainment media types who feel that Sony has put the right of free speech in jeopardy. That's a conversation worth having, and I'm glad it's happening. But there is an entirely new question that this situation brings into dramatic relief, one that didn't exist before and one that our premeditations won't help us resolve. The question is this:
Can companies participate in cyber war?
Up until now, companies have prepared to defend themselves against cyber attacks as one-off nuisances. Such attacks are now so common that they no longer make the news. Even massive breaches where millions of customer data points are compromised tend to give us pause for only a few moments, perhaps a few days, and then we move on. But what Sony experienced was not just a security breach. This hack was a declaration of cyber war intended to bring Sony to its digital knees: a low-cost digitally effective cyber war that puts none of the hackers' assets in harm's way. And given yesterday's announcement, it appears to have worked.
As 2014 winds down, I have taken the time to pause, and look ahead to what top customer service trends are surfacing for 2015 and beyond. Good service — whether it's to answer a customer's question prior to purchase, or help a customer resolve an issue post-purchase should be pain-free, proactive at a minimum and preemptive at best, deeply personalized, and delivered with maximum productivity. Here are 6 top trends - out of a total of 10 - that I am keeping my eye on. My full report highlighting all trends can be found here:
Trend 1: Customers Embrace Emerging Channels To Reduce Friction. In our recent survey, we found that web self-service was the most widely used communication channel for customer service, surpassing use of the voice channel for the first time. In 2015, we predict that customers will continue to demand effortless interactions over web and mobile self-service channels. They will also explore new communication channels such as video chat with screen sharing and annotation.
Trend 2: Companies Will Explore Proactive Engagement. Proactive engagements anticipate the what, when, where, and how for customers, and prioritize information and functionality to speed customer time-to-completion. In 2015, we expect organizations to explore proactive engagement - whether it's proactive chat, proactive offers, or proactive content - delivered at the right time in a customer's pre-purchase journey to help answer customer questions. They will use learnings from these proactive engagements to improve operational performance and to predict future customer behavior.
I’ve been getting a steady trickle of inquires this year about the future of the mainframe from our enterprise clients. Most of them are more or less in the form of “I have a lot of stuff running on mainframes. Is this a viable platform for the next decade or is IBM going to abandon them.” I think the answer is that the platform is secure, and in the majority of cases the large business-critical workloads that are currently on the mainframe probably should remain on the mainframes. In the interests of transparency I’ve tried to lay out my reasoning below so that you can see if it applies to your own situation.
How Big is the Mainframe LOB?
It's hard to get exact figures for the mainframe contributions to IBM's STG (System & Technology Group) total revenues, but the data they have shared shows that their mainframe revenues seem to have recovered from the declines of previous quarters and at worst flattened. Because the business is inherently somewhat cyclical, I would expect that the next cycle of mainframes, rumored to be arriving next year, should give them a boost similar to the last major cycle, allowing them to show positive revenues next year.
China’s Xiaomi became the world's third-largest smartphone maker by market share for the first time in the third quarter of this year; it trails only Samsung and Apple and has surpassed its Chinese competitor Lenovo. As a somewhat new brand founded in 2010, Xiaomi’s achievement is impressive. Among the many factors contributing to Xiaomi's rising success, social marketing is, without doubt, a prominent one.
Xiaomi’s recipe for success contains three social ingredients:
Adopt various social platforms and tactics to engage with fans. Xiaomi has successfully integrated social into its marketing RaDaR and turned 11 million social media followers into super-loyal “Mi Fans.” It uses Weibo to attract new users (reach); its branded online community to provide detailed product and service information (depth) and to generate brand loyalty (relationship); and WeChat for customer service (relationship).
Extend the social frenzy offline. Xiaomi is a digital disruptor, but its social marketing success isn’t limited to the online world. Xiaomi values the power of its fans on social media and extends it offline. It named its annual new product launch event after its fans – the Mi Fan Festival. Xiaomi also holds gatherings for its fans in more than 100 cities in China and organizes events, such as the MiBand Run, to enhance the relationship between its fans and the brand.
with Allison Smith, Xiaofeng Wang and Vanessa Zeng
Chinese social platforms have started to engage in commerce via partnerships with eCommerce marketplaces, but online sales conversion rates from social traffic have been disappointing. For example, in May, 360buy (JD.com) — the second-largest B2C eCommerce marketplace — received a level-one access point on WeChat, the hottest social platform in China, but this didn’t deliver the large quantity of fulfilled mobile orders that the company expected. Haoyu Shen, CEO of JD.com, confirmed during the company’s Q3 financial earnings call that the majority of fulfilled mobile orders still originate from JD.com’s own mobile app. Forrester sees two major inhibitors of social commerce in China:
People don’t expect to see commercial promotions of products they don’t want on social media. Consumers normally blacklist friends or public accounts that push these ads, making it difficult to implement traditional B2C or C2C eCommerce models on social platforms. However, if social marketplaces can provide people a tool in those moments in which they actually want to buy a certain product, it may enable social commerce.
Customers have poor discovery and buying experiences on social commerce platforms. Social platforms in China that sell products and services online have limited search functionality, which does not make for a user-friendly customer discovery stage. Chinese consumers have gotten used to being able to compare many products and prices when making online purchases — but current social commerce platforms can’t support that.
As researchers, we can’t underestimate the power of perspective. When the Eiffel Tower was erected 125 years ago, it became the tallest manmade structure in the world and, more importantly, allowed visitors to look down over Paris for the first time; perhaps it was the first real instance of a “birds-eye view.” At the same time, artists like Picasso and Stein were pushing the limits of perspective by portraying every angle of 3-dimensional concepts in one painting or poem. In many ways, the research world today is akin to this historical period of creativity. With more data at our fingertips than ever before, we are able to observe consumer behavior from new vantage points and produce a fresh understanding of customer trends by analyzing multiple angles at the same time.
Here on the data insights innovation team at Forrester, we’ve called our multiperspective research approach Technographics 360. Officially launched this year, Technographics 360 blends Consumer Technographics® survey output, ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community insight, social listening data, and passive mobile behavioral tracking to synthesize a 360-degree view of consumer behavior. Instead of analyzing research questions by breaking them down, we can synthesize comprehensive solutions by building our knowledge up.
In a move that would boost BT’s standing as the leading integrated telco and increase pressure for competitors, Orange and Deutsche Telekom have entered into exclusive negotiations with BT Group regarding a potential divestment of 100% of their shares in EE, their joint venture in the UK. The purchase price of £12.5 billion on a debt-/cash-free basis would be split equally between Orange and Deutsche Telekom. At a price of roughly 7.8 times EV/EBITDA the deal isn’t outrageously overpriced. So what could this mean for the various market participants? Should the deal go ahead, we believe that the implications for the UK telco market would be significant as:
BT becomes once again the leading integrated telco in the land. A deal would have a larger impact on BT’s consumer than its business activities given EE’s customer base of 24.5 million mostly consumer mobile customers. As the strongest 4G LTE provider in the UK, EE would give BT a platform to deliver interesting new bundles such as dedicated sport channels for smartphones and tablets. EE would be an important asset to enhance BT’s already successful retail arm, in particular its IPTV activities, where BT is one of the few telcos that manages to offset the decline in traditional telco services with a new offering. The deal would fail to bring any significant new customer relationships in the business arena. Going forward, however, this would finally provide BT with the opportunity to develop mobile moments for its business customers.
I’ve been talking to a number of users and providers of bare-metal cloud services, and am finding the common threads among the high-profile use cases both interesting individually and starting to connect some dots in terms of common use cases for these service providers who provide the ability to provision and use dedicated physical servers with very similar semantics to the common VM IaaS cloud – servers that can be instantiated at will in the cloud, provisioned with a variety of OS images, be connected to storage and run applications. The differentiation for the customers is in behavior of the resulting images:
Deterministic performance – Your workload is running on a dedicated resource, so there is no question of any “noisy neighbor” problem, or even of sharing resources with otherwise well-behaved neighbors.
Extreme low latency – Like it or not, VMs, even lightweight ones, impose some level of additional latency compared to bare-metal OS images. Where this latency is a factor, bare-metal clouds offer a differentiated alternative.
Raw performance – Under the right conditions, a single bare-metal server can process more work than a collection of VMs, even when their nominal aggregate performance is similar. Benchmarking is always tricky, but several of the bare metal cloud vendors can show some impressive comparative benchmarks to prospective customers.
Since the dawn of big data data quality and data governance professionals are yelling on rooftops about the impact of dirty data. Data scientists are equally yelling back that good enough data is the new reality. Data trust at has turned relative.
Consider these data points from recent Forrester Business Technographics Survey on Data and Analytics and our Online Global Survey on Data Quality and Trust:
Nearly 9 out of 10 data professionals rate data quality as a very important or important aspect of information governance
43% of business and technology management professionals are somewhat confident in their data, and 25% are concerned
In the first season of the hugely popular CBS Undercover Boss series, GSI Commerce founder and CEO Michael Rubin went undercover for a week in one of his firm’s eCommerce distribution centers to find out what it was really like to work on the front lines. Last week, SucharitaMulpuru and I were invited by eBay Enterprise to follow in Michael's footsteps and go work the floor in one of eBay Enterprise’s (formerly GSI Commerce) largest eCommerce distribution centers at the peak of the holiday shopping season. Now luckily we didn’t have to wear any stick on facial hair as we weren’t actually undercover, but we did put in a grueling four hour shift: picking, sorting and packing online orders (yes they made us work).
The experience was fascinating, humbling and a reminder that you can have the best eCommerce website in the world, but it means nothing on Cyber Monday unless you can get those orders out to your customers in time. So what did we observe from our brief career change?