A number of us from Forrester offices inside and outside of China converged on Shanghai for a few days last week for our annual Marketing & Strategy event. The trip proved to be especially timely given the extensive media focus on China’s eCommerce market with the recent news on Alibaba's US IPO.
When March comes to a close, the madness in the US picks up: March Madness, the national college basketball championship, gives sports fanatics the chance to rally around their alma maters, while sports novices get to observe college basketball culture at its best. Personally, I tend to lean to the latter end of the spectrum — but this year, thanks to a redesigned mobile app and enhanced social engagement strategy, I find myself moving away from observer status toward that of participant.
My story isn’t unique: The features and functions of sports-related mobile apps allow fans of any knowledge level to receive immediate updates, learn more about players and teams, and connect with fellow spectators across the region — and globe. From reviews of the recent winter Olympic Games to preparations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, “sports fever” is universal. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that while the impulse to engage with sports-related apps on portable devices is evident around the world, it is most noteworthy among consumers in Metro China and Metro Brazil:
Which brands did UK consumers rate as the best for customer experience? The highest score went to Amazon, with a Customer Experience Index (CXi) score of 81. Five more retailers — Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Debenhams, Next, and Boots — scored 75 or more, which is Forrester’s threshold for a customer experience to be considered “good.” It's evident that retailers are doing a better job, on average, of meeting their customers' expectations than the other industries that online consumers rated in this study — airlines, banks, electronics manufacturers, hotels, retailers, and TV service providers.
Among bank brands, Halifax was the top performer with a CXi score of 70, fully 13 points ahead of the lowest bank in the index — Santander, with a score of just 57. Bringing up the rear in Forrester’s index were TV service providers and mobile telecommunications providers — Virgin Media, BT (TV Service), Vodafone, and Orange all had “very poor” CXi scores of less than 55.
If you’re familiar with the Customer Experience Index that Forrester has conducted annually in the US since 2007, you will know that this research provides allows us to compare the experience at leading companies — as rated by their customers. We achieve this by asking customers if their experiences with leading brands met their needs, were easy, and were enjoyable:
In my last post I outlined the research we just finished on digital transformation. Today I'd like to highlight the key takeaways for CIOs.
CIOs are destined to play a pivotal leadership role in the transformation of business to a digital business. The nature of business is changing and, in turn, the technology investment priorities of the past must change. The report - Unleash Your Digital Business - describes the dynamic ecosystems of value that drive customer behaviors and transform the linear value chain into a dynamic network supported by open APIs. CIOs must partner with CMOs to drive the business transformation needed to become a digital business. To survive, your business will need to embrace digital customer experiences within ecosystems of value, and digital operational excellence to drive the agility and innovation required to survive and thrive in the age of the customer.
Digital Is More Than A Bolt-on Strategy
Bolt-on digital is like painting go-fast stripes on a car; it doesn’t change the underlying business. To become a digital business requires fundamental enterprise transformation; something CIOs are accustomed to leading and shaping. The partnership with the CMO must be extended to create operational excellence through digital technology, augmenting customer value with digital products and services and driving rapid innovation across the business.
Dynamic Ecosystems Of Value Drive The Ability To Win Serve and Retain Customers
Your company is likely to face an extinction event in the next 10 years. And while you may see it coming, you may not have enough time to save your company.
Business leaders don't think of digital as central to their business because in the past, it hasn't been. But now your customers, your products, your business operations, and your competitors are fundamentally digital. While 74% of business executives say their company has a digital strategy, only 15% believe that their company has the skills and capabilities to execute on that strategy (see figure). These are just some of the findings from our latest research (Forrester clients click here).
For the past few years, companies have been bolting “digital” onto their existing business like teens paint go-fast stripes onto their cars. “Look, we’re digital” is the message CEOs want to send to investors. But the piecemeal strategy of bolting digital channels or methods onto the business is no longer sufficient. Instead, you must think of your company as part of a dynamic ecosystem of value that connects digital resources inside and outside the company to create value for customers. To do this, you must fully harness digital technologies, both to deliver a superior customer experience and to drive the agility and operational efficiency you need to stay competitive.
A new and pernicious myth as taken hold in many B2B Sales and Marketing organizations. The myth - that buyers are 60-70% of the way through their buying cycle before they talk with a salesperson - is an intentional fallacy based on a false generalization that “buyers” means “all buyers”. Search the web for phrases around this topic and you’ll find a substantial volume of vendors selling the myth as truth, much to their short term benefit. In my discussions with both vendors and practitioners (leaders in Sales and Marketing), it is disturbing when they throw out the "60-70% ..." statement as if it were "fact" when, in reality, it is not only false but damaging to the revenue engine of companies who sell in the B2B space.
Not All Buyers Know What They Need
Our point of view is that not only are there different types of B2B buyers (we've identified four categories we call archetypes), but that in today's economy there are multiple buyers involved in decisions and they operate in what we call agreement networks. Some of these buyers - especially most executive buyers - want help in understanding complex problems in their business (including “unrealized opportunities”) before they ever think about products. They may not yet be aware of a problem they are faced with, or they may know that they have a problem but don’t yet understand its patterns or implications or impact on their organization. They are (appropriately) weeks or months away from a search for a product or service. It is these buyers who set the direction, before asking others in the agreement network (e.g. their teams) to get deeper into the details, including acquiring solutions.
I attended an NG Telecom summit in Hong Kong recently; at the event, I chaired a discussion on how telcos need to improve the customer experience.
Consumers now have powerful mobile devices in their hands, speedy access to social platforms, and the ability to call up information on the go. More importantly, customers today can choose to easily switch to a competitor if they don’t like the customer experience they are receiving. As a result, telcos no longer “own” customers — it’s the other way around.
The discussion participants all agreed that telcos must do the following to meet customer-centric needs:
Simplify systems and processes. The debate on how to simplify complex telco business support systems (BSS) to make it easy for customers to consume services is an ongoing one. When BSS cannot provide a single, unified view of the customer, it’s difficult to provide a consistent customer experience. This happens with CRM systems: Call center agents struggle through five or six screens just to get a complete customer profile while irate customers spend time repeating their personal details or waiting for a resolution. Telcos must be like OTT players, which have very complicated businesses, systems, and processes on the back end but present a simple front-end interface to the customer.
It was five years ago, March 2009, when Cisco formally announced “Project California,” its (possibly intentionally) worst-kept secret, as Cisco Unified Computing System. At the time, I was working at Hewlett Packard, and our collective feelings as we realized that Cisco really did intend to challenge us in the server market were a mixed bag. Some of us were amused at their presumption, others were concerned that there might be something there, since we had odd bits and pieces of intelligence about the former Nuova, the Cisco spin-out/spin-in that developed UCS. Most of us were convinced that they would have trouble running a server business at margins we knew would be substantially lower than their margins in their core switch business. Sitting on top of our shiny, still relatively new HP c-Class BladeSystem, which had overtaken IBM’s BladeCenter as the leading blade product, we were collectively unconcerned, as well as puzzled about Cisco’s decision to upset a nice stable arrangement where IBM, HP and Dell sold possibly a Billion dollars’ worth of Cisco gear between them.
Five years later, HP is still number one in blade server units and revenue, but Cisco appears to be now number two in blades, and closing in on number three world-wide in server sales as well. The numbers are impressive:
· 32,000 net new customers in five years, with 14,000 repeat customers
· Claimed $2 Billion+ annual run-rate
· Order growth rate claimed in “mid-30s” range, probably about three times the growth rate of any competing product line.
In 2014, customer loyalty is a bit of an anomaly. Customers are empowered, informed, and have myriad options to choose from. They don’t really need to be loyal. But for companies doing business in the Age of the Customer, earning customer loyalty is more important than ever before. Satisfied loyal customers are the only reliable source of growth.
So, what do loyalty strategies look like today? For most companies I talk to their loyalty program is their strategy. While narrow, this approach doesn’t completely miss the mark. After all, the premise of a loyalty program is to create a mutually beneficial exchange for rewarding customers and collecting customer insight. And, for many marketers I talk to in retail, hospitality, and other industries, their most valuable customers are active participants in their loyalty program. The issue is that programs today are better positioned to “lock-in” customers rather than leverage member insights to drive personalization and improve the way they serve their customers. The traditional means of “driving” loyalty with points and discounts are no longer sufficient. It’s time for companies to evolve their approach to loyalty programs and strategies with a focus on relationships, advocacy, and engagement.