Yes, Apple is amazing. In no uncertain terms, the company has had a seismic impact on our society. Apple has changed everything from what we buy to how we work and awakened both corporate executives and the general public to the value of good design. Apple has raised our awareness of the value of simplicity (and the rejection of feature overload); the importance of paying attention to every little detail (down to the layout and typography on product manuals); and the seemingly unbelievable business domination that comes from examining not just isolated customer touchpoints but the entire customer experience ecosystem.
Not surprisingly, customer experience professionals at other companies want to follow Apple’s lead. And it’s only natural for one company to be influenced by another.
But in the case of Apple, I’ve been completely stunned over the years to see the degree of blatant copying that’s taken place. This has come, of course, from Apple’s direct competitors. Take, for example, the roughly 40 tablets that were announced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show; the various Android-based phones, which look more like iPhone clones than not; and the app stores that have popped up to support every major mobile platform.
Google recently released a savings account comparison tool to go along with a similar tool launched last year for mortgages.
In a June 2010 report, eBusiness Leaders: It's Time To Take Financial Service Comparison Web Sites Seriously, we showed that 26% of comparison site users were drawn to comparison tools because of advertisements and 22% came via an Internet search. The launch of Google’s savings account comparison tool will only increase the exposure of comparison tools and sites in the US and other markets (the tool became available in the UK in 2010), mostly because of its strong tie to the buying process and prowess as a search engine.
Google’s comparison tool covers other retail banking products as well as mortgages, credit cards and checking accounts. The focus on personal finances instead of solely investment products — which for some US companies is a missed opportunity — increases the pressure on smaller firms like Bankrate.com or CreditCards.com, since it aggregates information for all key retail banking products and will likely benefit from greater exposure by virtue of being associated with Google.
The only major downside of Google’s tool is the lack of major players in the space like big traditional banks. This will be more an issue for less rate driven products like checking, where choice is based on factorsother than just interest rate.
Last night I attended Universal Music UK’s ‘Digital Open Day’. The event was aimed at trying to get UMG’s vision across, to help them become part of the debate rather than sitting quiet whilst, as they see it, the marketplace conversation portrays them as prehistoric fat cats.
I don’t normally blog about these sorts of events, but I think it highlights a few interesting dynamics. The record labels are still hung up about how people view them. I think this is something of a red herring. People don’t download music for free because they don’t like labels. They do it because they just don’t think content should be paid for. Any label-directed vitriol by freeloaders is just after-the-fact pseudo justification. The big issue is not winning hearts and minds; it is undoing 10 years+ of music being thought of as free.
If any message needs delivering, it is that of the artists. Not the big established artists who’ve had years of record label investment and suddenly decide they want to go ‘free’ in order to drive sales concert tickets and merchandise. But the small artists who are just trying to make a decent living out of something they love, ideally enough to pay the rent and the bills.
A few years ago, I posted a couple of discussion pieces on "why music can’t just be free." Not free as in no cost to the consumer, but as in no monetization. (Regular readers will know I’m a big believer in music monetization models needing to embrace free-to-consumer pricing strategies.)
I was explaining my job to my brother-in-law the other day and what I said made me realize how exciting it is to be an interactive marketer right now. I told him that in the last decade, consumers have gained power across devices and through social media. Now they know quickly if a product will break easily or if a movie is bad, and they can tell each other at mass scale. As a Forrester analyst, it is my job -- not to help marketers trick consumers into buying bad products and seeing bad movies -- but rather, to help change their marketing practice so that they make better products and better movies, and tell consumers about it effectively. It is my job, I went on, to inspire interactive marketers to be catalysts for a new kind of marketing that doesn't take a widget and force it on the market, but rather, gives a consumer something truly valuable.
I'm going to be speaking with my colleague Chris Stutzman at the Marketing Forum in April about the new role of marketers. I'd love to hear your stories about this new marketing style and how you've been a catalyst for creating a better product or service, being more transparent to consumers, or becoming more agile.
As this is my first blog post, let me begin with a quick introduction. I’m Richard Evensen, the new senior analyst with the Market Insights (MI) group at Forrester. I’ve been working in market and media research for over 15 years. During this time, I’ve done M&A and joint venture assessments, multi-lingual media analyses, competitive intelligence, customer research, and complex market/financial modeling.
I’m happy to be part of the amazing brain trust at Forrester and will be supporting MI professionals with research and guidance on customer satisfaction (CSAT), competitive intelligence, emerging markets, and research best practices.
Over the past several decades, I’ve experienced significant changes in our profession. For better or worse, we’re nowhere near our steady state. Dimensions that have changed, and will continue to change, are:
Breadth. MI professionals cover an increasingly broad portfolio of responsibilities, providing insights across: industries, segments, geographies, product/service lifecycle stages, customers and competitors, and, now, real and virtual worlds. With high growth in emerging and online markets, competition increasing, and customers becoming more connected and savvy, MI professionals need to have very long arms and research reach.
Depth. Our industry has moved from providing data to research to insights. Increasingly, MI professionals’ clients want actionable recommendations, which require a strong working knowledge of multiple business areas. As these demands grow, MI professionals need to move up the value chain.
I recall my first visit to News International’s London HQ a few years ago. It takes several minutes to get through security at the vast complex, surrounded by barbed wire. Once in, I was struck by the sheer scale of the operation, and how only a tiny percentage of the floorspace was given to those creating the content (the bit, in my naivity, I thought of as important). Most of the site was devoted to printing, with articulated lorries jockeying for position as they lined up to take the newspapers off around the country.
Yesterday’s launch of The Daily gave us a glimpse of the future for news organisations, where the focus is on an editorial product, not manufacturing logistics. The distribution is electronic and through one platform only – the iPad. Newspapers have looked at salami slicing their old structures and realised that the numbers don’t stack up. In the long term this kind of radical product innovation is needed.
So will it work? The mantra in media circles is don’t bet against Murdoch, noting the success he has achieved with Pay-TV and to a lesser extent, with reinventing the newspaper business (in the UK certainly) in the 1980s. The Daily, he says, will need 1m paying subscribers to work, at the current (and attractive) price point. Given Forrester’s forecast for Tablet sales in the US, that may not be an unreasonable ask.
And although it will take time for the new product to bed in, the signs are promising. The first edition reflects a lot of thought about how content can be packaged and consumed to maximize the qualities of the iPad (and perhaps the real story here is the potential power of a relationship between Apple and a major publisher). The photography works well, for example, and there are some neat navigational tricks.
The most important finding was that for almost two-thirds of the brands in our study, their customer experience ranges from just “OK” to “very poor”. In fact, 35% of scores fell into the undifferentiated “OK” range — our most heavily populated bracket and not a good place to be if you want your brand to stand out from competitors. Only 6% of firms ended up in the “excellent” category, down from 10% of the brands in last year’s report.
What this tells us is that mediocre-to-bad customer experience is the norm, and great customer experience is really hard to find. But why does this matter? Because the old adage “A customer who gets good service will tell one person, yet a customer who gets bad service will tell 10 people” is very true. Another Forrester study shows that about one in three financial customers with a bad experience tells her friends, about one in five recommends that her friends avoid that given company, and one in 10 reduces their value of her accounts.
Question: What do Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and a computer named "Watson" all have in common?
Answer: The two humans and computer will all compete on the US game show Jeopardy! the week of February 14, 2011.
In case you're not a Jeopardy! fanatic, both Ken and Brad are previous Jeopardy! champions, and they're credited with some of the longest winning streaks and largest take-home earnings in the game show's recent history (see endnote 1).
And here's the scoop on Watson:
For over three years, IBM has been developing what they call the "world’s most advanced question answering machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human language and respond with a precise and factual answer" (see endnote 2).
Features of Watson:
Runs IBM's "DeepQA technology" to help identify context, and answer questions quickly
Runs on Linux OS / 10 racks of IBM POWER 750 / 15 terabytes of RAM /2,880 processor core
Tens of millions of documents stored
Access to the equivalent of 200 million pages of content
Note: Watson is not connected to the Internet, so it does not do Web searches.
In mid-February, Augie Ray will be leaving Forrester to lead the social media efforts at a Fortune 500 company. I’m going to miss working directly with Augie. But at the same time, I understand why he’s taking this new role. The analyst job boils down to two amazing responsibilities: 1) Do courageous research; and 2) Apply your research to help a client. Every so often, while doing the latter, an analyst decides it’s time to move back to the practitioner world. I wish Augie the very best (i.e., thousands of positive customer reviews) as he creates and implements the social strategy for his new company.