Having not updated its AA.com Web site since 2002, on November 14, 2010, American Airlines launched a new home page. Compared to the previous version of the home page, the new design is cleaner; all essential content appears above the fold. The site uses a brighter color palette as well. Site navigation has been greatly improved. Key tasks, like flight booking, account log-in, and flight check-in, now appear in the same navigation menu. The “Book Travel” tab consolidates non-air product sales, including third-party ancillary services like hotels and cruises, with flight booking. The result is a home page that looks more like a travel retailer than “just” an airline Web site.
Even so, given the long time since American last updated AA.com, it’s disappointing that American didn’t push its new home page concept further. For example, American could have used this opportunity to launch a truly pacesetting home page, allowing users to personalize both content and placement of modules. As Forrester noted in a 2009 report, more than 7 in 10 US online consumers use a personalized portal site like iGoogle or My Yahoo! A flexible, “modular” home page would have helped American further increase AA.com’s utility to its customers and allow the airline to use analytics to better understand what is important to its travelers. That insight could, in theory, be used for everything from targeting offers to product or route network development.
Facebook made yet another big announcement today. The company introduced a new communications systems aimed at enhancing digital dialogue between friends and family. It isn't yet live, but you can request to be an early user of the new system here. To get a sense of what Facebook's new messaging platform is about, check out its official 4-minute video at the end of this blog post.
Since it involves a new Facebook.com email address, some people shrugged the new functionality off as a weak email tool. They're right — but that's like complaining an apple makes a poor orange. The new platform is a poor email client because it isn't intended to be an email client. Instead, this is a new form of communications; as Mark Zuckerberg said (more than once) "This isn't email," and he's right. Here's why it's worth paying attention to the new Facebook messaging platform:
It's a Gmail wounder. There's been a lot of buzz about Facebook's messaging platform being a "Gmail killer." It isn't, but it's certainly going to wound Gmail and other popular email clients. With the combination of individuals’ social graphs and Facebook’s new functionality, Facebook will succeed at pulling away some time and attention from Gmail, but it won't kill Gmail or other email clients. Facebook isn’t interested in being a management or response tool for your flood of bills, email newsletters or other communications; instead, it’s about facilitating and enhancing your personal relationships. Facebook wants to be the platform for personal communications and leave the boring stuff to Gmail and others.
Forrester estimates that in 2010, $80 billion of leisure and personal travel will be bought online – an amount that will increase to $110.7 billion by the end of 2014. Our research also shows that more than 7 in 10 online leisure travelers in the US use social media. Naturally, we’re seeing many firms begin to offer social trip planning solutions. The latest group looking to make a run at the prize is “Gogobot,” a self-described “social recommendation platform for travel” scheduled to launch in beta test on Tuesday, November 16.
Gogobot recently briefed Forrester. In opening up the conversation, Gogobot’s CEO Travis Katz (a MySpace alumnus) stated that “friends, not strangers” are what help to make a trip enjoyable. Hokey, but he has a point: we value advice from people we know. Gogobot allows us to leverage not only the wisdom of the crowd, but also our existing social networks in order help with the discovery and inspiration we value, but is often lacking from most mainstream travel sites, including those belonging to major online travel agencies and travel suppliers.
The key to Gogobot is its ability to help a user find not just advice and content, but relevant advice and content. Gogobot users can sign in via their Facebook account – making Gogobot convenient – and discover which of their friends have recommended a particular restaurant or hotel in one of thousands of locations. Yes, I know –pass the popcorn, we’ve seen this movie before. Where Gogobot’s true benefit becomes apparent is the control it extends to its users.
We’ve launched four specific areas of focus (although you can always suggest more). Will 2011 be . . .
The year location-based services go mainstream?Thus far, checking in from real-world locations has been an activity reserved for early adopters, but this behavior is growing, being spurred on by innovation from foursquare and Facebook. Will this be the “hockey stick” year for foursquare, where growth kicks into hyperdrive? Or will Facebook roll over foursquare as it did MySpace? And what will it take to hook the masses in the check-in craze?
The year of trust?Trust has always been an important brand attribute, but in 2011 it will become crucial for brands to earn followers, affinity and advocacy. How will brands earn trust in social media channels? How will trust be measured? What happens to brands that lose on trust? What steps will Facebook take to earn more trust as the social network continues to integrate itself into consumers’ surfing, social and mobile habits?
Welcome to Q&Agency! Each week, I talk to agencies small and large and get to hear (in their words) what differentiates them and the experiences they create. To help bring some of that information to you, I'm showcasing an ongoing series of interviews with small to midsize interactive and design agencies. If you'd like to see your agency or an agency you work with here, let me know!
On November 1st, I talked with Laura Porto Stockwell, the VP of experience strategy at POP. Edited excerps from that conversation follow.
Forrester: Tell me a little bit about POP.
Laura: POP was founded in 1996 by our President, Bill Predmore. So, we’ll turn 15 this summer. Over the past 14 years, we’ve grown to more than 150 people, primarily in Seattle and an office in New York that services clients on the East Coast. We create innovative experiences for the Web, mobile devices, and digital platforms. Our clients include Target, Microsoft, EA, and Epson. Our primary services are experience strategy, design, Web development, mobile application development, and social media.
Forrester: What is your elevator pitch?
Laura: Informed ideas and flawless execution; that speaks to our two key strengths. We’re strategic thinkers, and we’re able to get things out the door. We pride ourselves on that.
Forrester: What are the three key things that differentiate POP from your competitors?
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of US-based companies entering or planning to enter into the Mexican market. For example, Best Buy has rolled out an aggressive plan to invest $400 million to open 20 stores in Mexico over a three-year period. Lowe’s announced earlier this year that it spent roughly $40 million to open two stores in Monterrey, Mexico. And Target is setting its sights on expanding into Mexico, with goals to enter into the market no later than 2013.
Without question, there are many challenges with entering into a new market, such as understanding the country and cultural norms that influence shopping habits, determining how to transfer and modify successful strategies of a winning brand in one country to another, and understanding what the current size of the new market is as well as its growth potential. However, despite these hurdles, my colleague Tamara Barber and I contend that US-based retailers can use the factors that influenced the growth of the US Hispanic eCommerce market as a guide for developing effective growth strategies in Mexico.
Customer advocacy is the perception among customers that the bank does what’s right for them, not just what’s right for its own bottom line. In every country we survey in our Consumer Technographics® research, we’ve found that customers who view their main bank as a customer advocate have more accounts at their main bank, are more likely to consider their bank for their next financial purchase, and are more likely to recommend it to others.
There's a big announcement coming from Facebook on Monday. It is rumored that Facebook will unveil a new email and messaging platform, although the announcement could also or alternatively relate to mobile chat or Skype. If Facebook tackles email (which seems inevitable, whether next week or next year), it promises to change the way consumers think about digital communications.
If that sounds like a big statement about a company that's already had a profound effect on consumer communications, consider for a moment how the Web changed information gathering. When people needed information prior to the advent of the Internet, the operative question wasn't just "What do I need?" but "How do I get it?" The "how" affected everything: If I turn to the encyclopedia on my shelf, I might get old information. If I turn to a single source, I might get biased information. If I need to get into my car and drive to a library, it will take a great deal of time and effort. And if the "how" was sufficiently difficult or murky, I might simply give up.
The Internet changed that — it provided a single "how." The browser became our window to whatever data we needed. Of course, we still needed to find that data on the World Wide Web (which is where Google and other Web 1.0 solutions stepped in), but once "how" turned to "what," it changed everything. Consumers who saw the benefit of instantaneous access overcame the relatively extreme challenges of early Internet adoption (such as slow speeds, expensive PCs and costly ISPs) and adopted the Web in huge numbers in a relatively short period of time. That's the power of eliminating "how."
In the past five years, the global Internet population has grown from about 1 billion to 1.6 billion, and this growth isn't about to stop any time soon. However, the future growth isn't equally spread across regions. Forrester's ForecastView model shows that the Internet population will increase in every country in the world over the next five years, but emerging markets will grow at a faster pace. In 2014, one-third of Internet users will come from Brazil, Russia, India, or China (the so-called BRIC countries).
The sheer number of online buyers and the increased online spending per capita will position several emerging markets to challenge North America and Europe from an eCommerce perspective. Companies that want to capture this growing number of online users — and their growing funds spent online — will need to look beyond the markets of North America and Europe and approach their online strategies much more globally.