eBooks Ready To Climb Past $1 Billion

Consider it an inauguration of sorts, a celebration of the eBook industry becoming a member of the major media club just as digital music and online video have before them. When you influence a billion dollars, people have to take you seriously. In the book business, it means that traditional publishers can no longer live in deny-and-delay mode; meanwhile, digital publishers get invited to better parties and people in other media businesses like TV and magazines look over and wonder if they could cut a slice of this new pie just for them.

To honor the occasion, we have just published our five-year forecast for eBooks in the US for Forrester clients. The punchline is this: 2010 will end with $966 million in eBooks sold to consumers. By 2015, the industry will have nearly tripled to almost $3 billion, a point at which the industry will be forever altered.

Right now, the number to track – and the one that determines how many eBooks will sell – is the percent of a consumer’s books that are bought and consumed digitally. To get at this number, we have to understand how people get books today. Did you know that the two most common ways people get books today is borrowing them from a friend or getting them from the library? Evidently content – at least in the book business – is already quite free, even without the help of digital.

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Participate In The Next-Generation Multichannel Research: We Need Your Help!

Customers have changed. They are more than ever connected, informed, and in control — their mode of operating and the ways they want to engage continue to change rapidly. They expect to find information, make a purchase, and get service when and where they want it, across touchpoints. Yet businesses are struggling to deliver well in even one channel. They are not organized to meet the changing customer needs and struggle to empower their employees and partners through enabling technology and operations. Businesses across verticals are faced with the pressure to revamp tired business processes, hierarchies, and technology road maps and innovate to meet the stream of innovation and market transformations they face.

This is a topic we are working on now. But we need your help. If you are an eBusiness leader, please help us by participating in our research through this survey. You are not alone in facing these challenges, and the more information we collect, the clearer the insights we can share back with you.

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The Data Digest: Mobile Online Activities By Generation

Having analyzed consumers' technology behavior for more than 11 years now here at Forrester, I've seen a certain pattern surface in the uptake of technology: When new technologies become available, it's Generation X (ages 31 to 44) that adopts it first, but it's Generation Y (ages 18-30) that runs with it. Gen Xers have money to spend on technologies when they're still premium-priced, but Gen Yers have the time on their hands to really explore all possibilities. For example, when we look at online activities, young consumers spend more time online and are involved in more activities (especially when we look at social networking). However, for mobile Internet, we see a different pattern emerge.

Forrester's Technographics® data shows that Gen Xers are equally active on their mobile phones, and in some instances, like playing games, they rival the usage of their younger counterparts. In other instances, like checking news, sports, or weather or checking travel status, Gen Xers actually outpace Gen Yers.

Companies that want to target these groups should ensure that their mobile Internet experience is consistent with the regular Internet presence, ensuring a seamless experience for their consumers. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is a perfect example of a company that identified the mobile needs of its clientele and then created a unique experience that allowed users to effortlessly connect both through their mobile device and online.

Making Competitive & Market Intelligence (CMI) Relevant Again

Competitive & marketing intelligence (CMI) leaders are currently being torn between two points of view.  But, these two views cannot be reconciled, and CMI leaders cannot sit on the fence! I know because I tried!

As a CMI leader, I participated on a team to restructure the company's approach to pricing. On one side of the table sat the "corporate" team who wanted to simplify the product catalog, making it easier to manage.  On the other side sat the "field" team, who wanted to simplify pricing when talking with customers. I wanted to find an "elegant negotiable" that would achieve both objectives.

A talented sales engineer put me in my right mind! One day, she came into my office, closed the door, and proceeded to "school" me. She rightly pointed out that there could not be two different design points - we needed to decide whether the company would design around back-office operations or frontline conversations with customers. 

CMI leaders across the tech industry face a similar choice, albeit with less drama! 

Earlier today, the CEO of a sales-tool provider made this point: "In the past, salespeople for tech vendors had to educate customers on what a product could do, how it worked, and process orders. In today's Internet economy, customers already know what your products do from your web site, have already compared it to your competitors, and probably spoken to some of your existing customers through social media links. What is the role of a salesperson?"

CMI leaders need to reposition their organizations back to the place where competition matters - the frontline.

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Can Sales And Marketing Operate Like A Well-Oiled Machine? Should They?

There’s no shortage of people saying that B2B sales and marketing teams need to operate as a well-oiled machine, and an endless supply of advice out there on how to achieve greater alignment between your teams. Most of it is theoretically sound and what you’ve heard many times before . . . things like “involve sales in marketing strategy discussions,” “align sales and marketing around the needs of the customer,” “build joint accountability and measurement,” and "send your marketing folks on sales calls." So why is it that every company I talk to is still struggling to get these teams to play nicely together? 

I think there are deeper-seeded reasons for why this chasm is so hard to bridge. And it may not even be possible, or desirable, to have these groups operating like one integrated engine. I won't say any more about my hypothesis right now, because we're doing research aimed at uncovering the REAL obstacles to sales and marketing alignment and coming up with ways to break through these underlying obstacles so that the age-old best practices can start to have an impact.

If you're a sales or marketing leader, take the survey to give us your input, and get your counterpart on the other side of this equation to take it too.

New Facebook Places Features Poised To Expand "Checking In" To The Masses

Today Facebook announced three mobile enhancements for Facebook Places, including new functionality that developers of mobile applications may incorporate into their products and a powerful new (and free) platform for connecting mobile consumers with relevant ads for nearby businesses.  Today's pronouncements demonstrate the ambition and vision Facebook has for itself in mobile computing and socializing over the long term, but in the immediate future Facebook now is poised to bring the wonders of checking in to the masses. 

Chances are, you are NOT reporting your location (aka "checking in") to your friends and followers in social networks.  According to Forrester data from earlier this year, just 4% of US online adults have ever used location-based social networks on their mobile phones.  Simply put, there hasn't been enough WIIFM ("What's In It For Me") to entice and retain the typical consumer.  Now, Facebook is set to change that, lowering the bar and improving the WIIFM for a wider range of consumers. Average Facebook users who previously felt "checking in" was better suited for narcissists and techies can now realize benefits from location-based services (LBSes, also known as geolocation) via a larger and richer set of offers and deals.  

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Channels In The Era Of Cloud: Vendors And Channel Partners Are Jockeying With Each Other For Position

Cloud computing has arrived on the market in a big way, with virtually every tech vendor, regardless of size, geography, or solution, vying for a cloud position. But in the race to the cloud, many tech vendors have forgotten that ever-critical customer relationship vehicle: the channel. Or, if they haven’t forgotten it, they’ve coaxed channel partners with the pat mantra, “Do more consulting” (“… while we take care of delivery”). To get channel partners’ perspectives on how the technology value chain is changing in an as-a-service delivery model world, Forrester recently teamed with Outsource Channel Executives (OCE) to survey executives of channel companies across 39 countries, from the local level to the global.

The results of the survey are in, and they tell quite a story: that there is a good deal of angst and confusion among channel partners over their role/value in the cloud services technology value chain; that they aren’t sitting on their hands, waiting for tech vendors to tell them what to do; and that they need a lot of help in transforming their marketing and business models in this new era of cloud computing.

Now, not all channel companies are going to be able to make that transformation (nor should they – after all, cloud computing will never represent 100% of the technology market). But there are going to be many that will try and fail, ultimately resulting in a 12%-15% channel company washout. So think about it – supply (the number of channel companies) goes down; demand (for channel partner assets) remains high. It’s those tech vendors that amp their channel game to enable their partners’ cloud aspirations that are going to come away as the new “channel chiefs.”

Where Can You Go For Preference Management Support?

In recent inquiries and in one-on-one meetings at our Consumer Forum last week, I’ve had several discussions about the preference management landscape. We’ve written about the trend, but many of the questions relate to the players in the market. Given that I am unlikely to have time to write a landscape report in a reasonable timeframe, I figured I’d outline how we view the market and highlight some of the players.

Conceptually, I divide preference management into managing compliance versus managing preference. I don’t have a problem with compliance management — I would strongly urge companies to focus on it. But I don’t think of it as true preference management.

Compliance management can be further divided into a) complying with legal requirements, and b) complying with consumer requests relating to how you communicate with them. Legal requirements are pretty straightforward and in many cases channel specific — CAN SPAM for email communications, The National Do Not Call Registry for telemarketing, The Telemarketing Sales Rule for telesales, etc. Not complying with these laws has legal ramifications, and we usually find legal departments playing some sort of role in governance and compliance.

Consumer compliance usually relates to opting in or out of communication. That “opt” is sometimes done with the company directly — think “unsubscribe” or opt-in pages for email communication — and sometimes through third parties such as the DMA and many of the catalog opt compilers like PrivacyCouncil.org, Catalog Choice, and the DMA’s DMAChoice.

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Just Published: The Forrester Wave™ For Community Platforms

The community platforms market has been heating up for the past few years.  Today, there are more than 100 vendors in the space, and we evaluated the top 5 in our most recent Wave: Lithium, Jive, KickApps, Telligent, and Mzinga.*

When we started this research, we spoke with many interactive marketers to understand what they look for as they assess community platform vendors.  Through these conversations, we determined that some of the criteria has evolved since the last time we looked at the space, and so our evaluation has placed a greater emphasis on: 

  • The vendors’ specific focus on interactive marketers as key customers for their business.
  • Strategic and technical services offered by the vendors.
  • Intuitiveness of the tools and administrative console for less- or non-technical users.
  • Ease of deployment for marketers who want to minimize their dependence on IT resources and timelines.
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Breaking News: Twitter Ads Coming To Your Tweet Stream - Good News Or Beginning Of End?

Twitter watchers have long awaited (and some feared) this moment: Ads are coming to your Twitter timeline.  Twitterers thus far have supported and shown little concern over Twitter’s Promoted Tweets program, so long as those paid tweets were easily differentiated from unpaid tweets and stayed within search results or at the top of the Trends list.  But now Twitter is taking the next step that many expected and inserting promoted tweets into users’ Twitter streams (see image below), and that means comingling authentic, unpaid tweets with paid, advertising tweets.

This is the riskiest move Twitter has ever made.  There is a big difference between displaying paid tweets at the top of search results and inserting them into the timeline — just ask search engines, which for a while in the early days of the Web struggled with their own monetization models. Search engines experimented with comingling paid search ads with organic search results, but the backlash from consumer advocates and users was sufficient to force a different model. Today, paid search ads are not just differentiated with words, colors and fonts but are substantially and consistently separated from organic results into special portions of the screen.

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