Wall Street followers found much to be concerned about in Amazon's quarterly earnings. Shipping costs went up 43%, operating costs are up 29% overall and the company's operating margin fell to a ghastly 1.8% (down from 4.2% the quarter previous). In light of all this, the stock is down 6% in after-hours trading.
Which makes the stock a buy, in my book. (Disclosure: I'm not a financial analyst, I'm a consumer market analyst, so don't take my investment advice. Oh, and I don't own any Amazon stock outside of mutual funds.)
Amazon's margin went down precisely because the right costs went up. Amazon continues to add millions of Prime customers and investing in those customers costs money. Specifically, Amazon has opened 23 warehouses since July. Those warehouses will be in position in the crucial holiday rush to ensure not just two-day delivery, but one-day delivery more and more. And in some cities, one-hour delivery.
As the Wall Street Journal quoted Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky: “We acknowledge that’s expensive,[but] customers love it.”
Your business model is under attack. And it’s not by your competitors. It’s under attack from your customers. Three years ago, Forrester identified a major shift in the market, ushering in the age of the customer. Power has shifted away from companies and towards digitally savvy, technology-empowered customers. They now decide winners and losers: Our Empowered Customer Segmentation shows that more than a third all US online adults want new and engaging digital experiences. They will switch companies to find these experiences. In this environment, being customer-obsessed can be your only competitive strategy.
In Forrester’s 2017 Prediction Reports, we are tracking firms’ progress on their customer-obsessed journeys. In our annual collection of predictions, we look at business strategy, leadership, customer experience, and technology dynamics to examine progress and predict the key events, changes, and trends that will occur in 2017.
Here are three key findings from our 16 predictions reports:
The next wave of Customer Experience will have a profound impact on firms’ P&L: The shift to a customer-led market represents an immediate and prolonged threat to company survival. Our research shows a clear correlation between the quality of customer experiences and revenue growth; it also affirms that emotion is a core driver of customer loyalty and spending. The next wave of CX will connect these dots, blending analytics, technology, and design to evoke emotions to drive affinity and directly impact revenue.
Bouncing among cognitive sessions and weaving though the crowds, it’s not clear what hurts the most, my feet or my brain. How much of this are we to believe? What is actually deployable, affordable, and usable by mere humans, and when? The cognitive exuberance at World of Watson (WOW) was certainly exhausting and even by tech conference standards, overplayed. IBM, it’s partners, and tech analysts were much better at painting the future vision then how to break that vision into an actionable sequence of steps to be followed.
And that’s one reason, IBM’s announcement of a new collaboration product, IBM Watson Workspace, got my attention. In short, it seems a practical solution to a really bad problem, our Digital Disorder. Not to sound Trump-esk, but our daily digital lives are quickly becoming a disaster. Workspace is a group messaging tool that uses Watson to help and is now available as a “pre-view “version, basically for folks to play with. While release plans are not totally baked, rumblings are that IBM will release it on a Fremium basis- taking a page from fast moving startups.
Does Workspace have a chance? It does and here’s why. Expertise routing, recommendations, and personal assistance are the new battleground for collaboration. Let’s call it people analytics. It is the last and most important mile of a less then sterling collaboration journey. Or to put it another way, cognitive may be the last hope to relieve the Digital Disorder we have created. .
Brand practitioners generally talk about transparency only when crisis hits the fan. There are text book examples of how to do it right, like Johnson & Johnson's deft management of the 1982 Tylenol poisoning episodes in Chicago. And then there are recent debacles: VW’s drawn-out admission of guilt, Samsung's self-combustion, and the Wells Fargo CEO's cringe-worthy testimony to the Senate Banking Committee. Reputation experts will tell you that transparency is the perfect antidote to crisis. But I'm here to tell you that transparency is not just for crisis control. It's fast becoming the new normal. In what Forrester has called the Age Of The Customer, a significant shift has occurred - away from institutions, and toward customers. This shift not only armed the consumer with much more information, but also created an expectation that brands share information more readily – information that may otherwise sit behind opaque corporate screens. Most of the brands are not there yet; many are still adjusting, often uncomfortably, to the vanishing asymmetry of information between brand and consumer.
For progressive CMOs, this lag between consumer expectation and brand delivery presents an opportunity to differentiate the brand. Proactively trumpeting transparent brands and giving customers the tools to benefit from this transparency can be a game changer and a source of advantage. Everlane, an online retailer of clothes and accessories, and Delta Airlines provide excellent examples of how to do this right.
Videoconferencing technology has the awesome power to connect teams separated by oceans or internal silos, but it’s still not frictionless. Technical difficulties that delay videoconferences account for millions of dollars a year in lost productivity. In our brief Start Your Videoconferences On Time, we take a look at some best practices to avoid productivity loss. Inside the report is an interactive calculator so that you can customize the scenario to your business and build the case for change.
From 2013 to 2015, the prevalence of web- and videoconferencing use by global information workers grew 40%, according to Forrester Business Technographics data. But companies have multiple VC vendors or don’t deploy it universally and that contributes to technical difficulties.
Wow! It may have taken place seven days ago, but I am still exhausted — and exhilarated — from our inaugural B2B Marketing Forumin Miami last week. Here is a short recap of what we covered during the two days. And you can even watch this video of me opening the event (20 minutes of your time).
Day 1: Obsess On Customers; Orchestrate A Relationship; Conduct An Engagement
The opening main session began with Forrester’s James McQuivey, who inspired us all to understand both how to understand customer obsession and how to drive the necessary organizational, process, and even cultural change. Molly Murphy, from Eaton Industries, presented a best practice example of doing exactly that in her marketing organization. Forrester’s own Laura Ramos then explained how an account-based marketing strategy enables a full commitment to customer obsession in both marketing and sales. Amanda Kahlow, CEO and founder of analytics vendor 6Sense, rounded off this topic by telling her very personal story.
Then we broke out into the first of three repeated track agendas (so that all could attend each session of interest and not make sacrifices because sessions were competing):
Technology has become the foundation for nearly every customer experience, enabling companies to provide new sources of value to customers with each interaction. It’s no surprise, then, that business leaders are shifting their mindset and their approach to technology.
Specifically, tech-empowered customers and their rising expectations have led to changes in:
Business priorities and areas for improvement.
Who is involved in the decision-making process for tech purchases.
Overall budgets for technology investments.
The infographic below dives deeper into these new purchasing trends:
As business leaders begin to play a larger role in tech investments, it’s important to know the kinds of decisions they’re making and what they expect from you along the way. A deep understanding of your changing tech buyers will help you succeed in an era where technology underpins everything we do.
On October 22, 2016, AT&T announced its intention to acquire Time Warner for an equity value of $85.4 billion. The deal is essentially about the combination of quality content and content distribution, as it transforms AT&T into a content producer and owner — rather than just a distributor of content. Many telecom regulators restrict revenue growth opportunities for telcos in highly regulated telco markets. As a result, telcos are increasingly looking outside their markets for growth opportunities. This deal is evidence of this trend.
Telco CIOs Must Become More Strategic To Prepare For The Content Opportunity
The AT&T-Time Warner deal deserves special attention by telco CIOs. The deal needs to be seen against a challenging backdrop for the telco industry, where revenue growth from traditional revenue sources is hard to come by. Yes, AT&T already operates the largest US pay-TV business through its ownership of DirecTV. The Time Warner deal — should it materialize — would enable AT&T to offer its own premium entertainment programming to its pay-TV, mobile phone, and internet customers. AT&T’s intention to acquire Time Warner opens a new chapter for telcos, because the combination of quality content and content distribution potentially helps telcos to:
Now that I’m back from Forrester's B2B Marketing Forum in Miami last week, I thought I’d share a few observations. This was my second Forrester event as an analyst, but my first at a B2B Marketing Forum.
It’s worth noting that my perspective as an analyst is completely different from that of an attendee, because so much of our time is consumed by one-on-one meetings. This means that I didn’t see much of the mainstage proceedings other than the first-day opening and part of one presentation over a hurried lunch on the second day.
If you’ve never been, a big part of the value of Forrester's events for attendees is these one-on-ones, which provide various opportunities: to sit down across the table from analysts with whom you may speak regularly but have never met face-to-face, to make first-time introductions, or to simply reconnect with old friends. The one-on-ones are set up speed-dating style — 20-minute conversations scheduled on the half-hour, starting at breakfast and stretching throughout both days of the conference. And maybe I’m bad at time management or just get caught up in interesting conversations, but just about all of my meetings ran into each other. So it was a whirlwind experience, exciting and exhausting at the same time.
I did my best to take notes, and here’s a few of the major themes I observed, based on my interactions with dozens of B2B marketers throughout the entire event:
Changes in consumer behavior and technology are driving seismic shifts in media buying. Marketers are feeling this acutely as they reach out to media agency partners for strategic support and solutions. At the same time, media agencies are struggling to carve out ways to differentiate — broadening capabilities and moving into new marketing realms.
The result: a crowded market where it’s difficult to identify which agency partners can strategically engage customers through paid media.