Amazon Beats Apple And Google To The Locker Room (Just To Find Out The Race Hasn't Even Started Yet)

Amazon has just beaten Apple and Google to market with a cloud-based music locker service. As with the anticipated Apple and Google services, the Amazon cloud music product enables users to upload and stream their music on multiple devices (in this instance, on PCs, Macs, and Android phones and tablets – though not iPhones nor iPads).  All US Amazon customers start with 5GB free and can then upgrade for $20 a year to 20GB, but buying an MP3 album at Amazon will automatically give the extra 20GB for free.

There are, of course, rights controversies around locker services. Digital music stalwart Michael Robertson is currently locked in legal combat with EMI over his cloud locker service MP3Tunes. The important factor with this service is that Amazon requires customers to upload their music file by file and store them rather than matching them against a cloud-based central repository of music, much in the same way that Carphone Warehouse currently does in the UK with its Catch Media-powered cloud locker service. (Which can be a pretty painful process for users. Remember the first time you ripped all of your CD collection? Now imagine doing that over the Internet . . .)

The rights issues, though of course important, aren’t the really interesting points here. What is interesting is why Amazon has done this, and what this means for the wider digital music marketplace.

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Making Money On QR Codes

This is one of the more creative applications of QR codes - tattoos. $240 to date at $80/tattoo. Given how permanent the code is, I'm wondering if they shouldn't have considered MS Tags - more branding and flexibility. It's the 2011 version of a dog tag. Would be more interesting if these were links to pages with medical records, etc. - something useful in the case of an emergency. Kidding aside, 2D bar codes have a lifetime - whether they live in a print ad, on a book cover, or on one's skin. Those employing 2D bar codes - especially on product packaging - must take into consideration the lifetime of the code and be ready to support it whether it's a marketing campaign or a link to a video with a safety demonstration.

Channel Enablement In The Era Of Cloud: One Of Microsoft’s Approaches

A lot of tech vendors – and channel partners – are struggling over what channel partners’ play in the cloud services demand chain is going to be. Technology is decreasingly delivered/consumed in the form of on-premise installation (a function performed by and the original raison d’être of channel partners), and increasingly delivered as-a-service by a service provider. In the software sector, that service provider is typically (but not always) the software vendor (think: salesforce.com).

And, in most cases, for good reason. Software has bugs. Early versions of software can be unstable and unpredictable. In the classic channel-partner-sells-and-installs-software model, the product (the software) remains in the control of the software vendor, i.e., the vendor assumes the risk of customers’ unmet expectations. The license is between the vendor and the customer, and the vendor is on the hook for providing bug fixes and tier-2 and -3 support.

As much as many channel partners would like to act as application hosters (and many of them do – approximately 15% of software is delivered via a hosting model today, and 20% of channel partners today have a hosting business [see “Channel Models In The Era Of Cloud”]), when it comes to early-version or mission-critical software, vendors simply can’t risk putting the as-a-service service level/performance responsibility in the hands of channel partners. Service failures, over which the vendor would have no control, would result in egg (or worse!) on the vendor’s brand, not the channel partner’s. Until tech vendors’ partner programs mature to the point where they can certify partners’ data centers, those vendors are going to be reticent to hand over the data center reins to partners.

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eBay Acquires GSI: What It Means

The eCommerce technology and services marketplace awoke to some interesting news today. eBay announced today that it will acquire GSI Commerce. The deal has a number of implications for GSI’s customers, partners, and competitors and also changes eBay’s position as a services provider and partner within the industry. It’s a big deal*, with eBay paying $29.25 a share, or approximately $2.4 billion.

Why did eBay buy GSI, what’s in it for them?

  • Diversification. eBay’s core marketplace business is eroding while key competitors — principally Amazon — put up huge numbers. As the auction and SMB focus of eBay and PayPal begins to plateau, growth must come from the much larger market segment of large merchants. This deal broadens eBay and PayPal’s portfolio of services substantially, though the synergies are relatively small. eBay CEO John Donahoe characterized that as $60M, so that is not the key to the deal.
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Our Mediocre Multichannel Mission

In celebration of the fact that my Forrester Boss, Patti Freeman Evans, was over this week in London, we thought we’d go on a multichannel retail shopping tour of London to see just how well some major UK retailers are integrating their on- and offline channels and enticing their shoppers into engaging with them online.

The answer is sadly, not very well at all.

Hitting Oxford Street on a sunny Friday at lunch time, we performed an eyes-on tour of a rough cross-section of some of the better-known UK brands. We went looking for exciting new uses of technology disrupting the in-store environment. Examples of beautifully integrated online/offline/mobile channels placing the customer at the heart of the brand experience. Innovative applications of technology that seamlessly blended the digital and physical brands, enticing shoppers into engaging with these premier retailers both now, and later when they got home. Or even, how excitingly, via their mobile phones.

So while a hungry band of devotees of the fruit-flavored tech-god gathered outside the Apple Store, not realizing that just round the corner they could get their paws on a new iPad 2, sans queue, we started our shopping trip.

Flippancy aside, we were looking specifically for how well multichannel retailers are integrating physical and digital channels.

The results were (depressing) surprising :

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Forrester's Vision On The Next Generation Of Digital Financial Services

Many of today’s financial services websites seem increasingly outdated. Why? More and more people are using the web as their primary banking channel and firms like Amazon, Apple, and Google are raising the bar on what customers — especially the younger generation — expect from their banks.

Despite the fact that the online channel is more than a decade old, most retail financial services companies have yet to make full use of its potential. Many banks still don’t make it easy for customers to achieve their goals online, they struggle to provide compelling cross-channel experiences, fail to tailor content and functionality to individual needs, and don’t enable customers sufficiently to take action by themselves.

We believe that a new generation of digital financial services is required — one that provides a fundamentally improved digital experience. To be successful, these next-generation digital financial services should be SUPER — simple, ubiquitous, personal, empowering, and reassuring.

This framework presents Forrester's vision of the of future of digital financial services and describes the technologies, processes, and organizational aspects that will enable it. It also provides examples of leading financial services firms that provide next-generation experiences today.

A key enabler of the Next-Generation is Agile Commerce which means optimizing people, processes, and technology to serve today's empowered, ever-connected customers across a rapidly evolving set of customer touchpoints.

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What Do B2B Marketing Budgets And Charles Dickens Have In Common?

"Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule." That was the advice Mr. Jaggers gave to Pip in the Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations. The same advice goes to B2B marketing leaders, because this is how your CEO, CFO, and other executive team peers are looking at your marketing plans.

Forrester's recent Q4 2010 North American And European B2B Marketing Organizations And Investments Online Survey shows that marketing budgets have grown by 6.7% in 2011. Seventy-eight percent of companies in our survey have increased their marketing budgets this year, and almost one-third have increased by more than 10%. Companies on average are spending almost 3% of revenue on marketing.

But the higher budgets come with "great expectations." CMOs need to spend more time allocating, managing, adjusting, and defending their budgets than ever before. When we look at how CMOs are allocating their budgets, we see that:

  • They are shifting some investment from lead origination to lead nurturing to further develop leads generated from previous efforts.
  • Although product marketing and product management remain the highest areas of investment, marketers plan to shift budget from those areas to community and interactive marketing to focus their messages on solving their customers' problems.
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Current Events And Market Insights: Knowing Doesn't Equal Understanding

At the end of January, I spoke at the Esomar Shopper Insights Conference and part of my speech was about how technology makes the market insights professional role more challenging in some ways. For example, technology has made the world flat: The Internet makes it possible for information to travel fast, and it feels like we know everything about anything (or at least we could).* But my point was that knowing doesn’t equal understanding.

And in the past weeks, with the world on fire, this thought has been nibbling at the back of my mind. It was there when I watched television and followed the latest developments in Egypt or Morocco. When I read the news or watched the videos and pictures from the earthquake in Japan, or more recently when Britain, France and the US decided to intervene in Libya. I can follow the news minute by minute via Facebook or Twitter (and I do), but I feel I lack the context and local background to really understand what’s going on — like most of us. How will the intervention in Libya change the relationships in that part of the world? How will the earthquake and the issues with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant affect the Japanese economy? The world is flat, but we are still limited by our own horizons.

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How To Close The Loop Without Being Creepy

As Andrew McInnes pointed out in his report "Ten Major Voice Of The Customer Trends," more companies are closing the loop with their customers. During Forrester's 2009 Voice Of The Customer Awards, entrants with closed-loop processes were the exception. In 2010, they were the rule, with many top finalists integrating closed-loop processes into their sales and marketing efforts. For this year’s awards (by the way, nominations are now open), we expect to see a new crop of innovative closed-loop applications.

But just like any well-intentioned action, closing the loop isn’t always the right thing to do.

A few months ago, a friend of mine got married. I was really excited to see that her gift registry site included severable charitable donation options, and I quickly decided on a $100 donation to the Massachusetts SPCA. On the gift registry site, I needed to enter a “quantity” of $1 donations to get to my desired total donation which is a bit weird in and of itself but the real problem I had was that the quantity field would only accept two digits! So instead of making a nice round $100 donation, I ended up donating $99.

Because I didn’t want to look like a complete weirdo to my friend and her new hubby, I added this explanation to the gift message I sent them through the donation site: “Hmmm. The field where I could enter the quantity of our donation would only allow for two digits, so that's why you're getting a wacky $99 donation.  :)  I just can't take a break from usability . . . ”

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Finally A 21st Century Music Product, And It's From EMI!

I’ve been covering the digital music space for over a decade now, and when I first started doing so, EMI were one of, if not the, most innovative of the major record labels. They soon relinquished that mantle though, with Universal Music rushing to an apparently unassailable lead in the innovation stakes. And of course in more recent years EMI have had other more pressing distractions. But I’ve always had something of a soft spot for EMI, and it’s nice to finally be able to write about some truly innovative and "ahead of the curve" news coming out of Wrights Lane.

EMI have just announced a new iPad app version of Swedish house producer supergroup Swedish House Mafia’s "Until One." The product is actually an app version of the trio’s book and album combined with additional features layered on top (see screen shots below). Features include:

·         9 tracks from the album.

·         All of the photos from the book.

·         Live and behind-the-scenes footage.

·         Interviews.

·         Social feeds.

·         Dynamically updated news content.

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