Agile Commerce: Three Questions For Carmen Sebe, CEO, Avangate

I recently had the chance to catch up with Carmen Sebe, CEO of Avangate, to talk about how agile commerce is effecting its clients and how it is positioning its solution to support the transition to agile commerce.

Avangate provides software companies with eCommerce, partner management solutions, and an affiliate network; assisting them to sell their products online as well as to manage a global distribution network. Founded in 2005, Avangate currently serves more than 1,500 software companies through its SaaS eCommerce solution and has a 22,000 member affiliate network. Carmen is a seasoned technology CEO who has worked with European and global clients for many years.

Forrester: Carmen, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us about your business and agile commerce. We have been talking to clients about the evolution of their business from channels to touchpoints. You serve clients selling digital goods across a number of different models, such as B2C and B2B. How are you looking at agile commerce and what does it mean for your business?

Ms. Sebe: For our business this has a two-fold implication: on the one hand in the way we help our customers — software sellers — reach and deliver products digitally to their B2B and B2C users. And on the other hand, agile commerce will impact the way we reach our clients. With agile commerce, software vendors will expand their product offerings to allow access to their services via many if not all touchpoints — and we have to be prepared to accept and support such behavior. It’s our vision to facilitate this process for our clients and shoppers.

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Reinventing Contact Center Culture To Improve The Chat Experience

I once was told by a chat representative that “I've spent years having people yelling at me — chat is a nice change."

I’m often amazed at how elegantly contact center representatives can diffuse frustrated or angry customers, and I am not surprised that many of these employees reach a tipping point. But chat should not be the resting place for telephone-weary service representatives.

A contact center that provides an excellent customer experience is not created by accident. Kerry Bodine has recently published a document that discusses how call center culture can create an amazing customer experience, including abandoning metrics that encourage bad behavior by ditching those that don’t have a material influence on customer experience such as relieving agents from handle-time targets that focus on efficiency at the expense of customer experience.

This research is highly applicable to eBusiness professionals who offer live help via chat and manage contact centers directly or indirectly. It is tempting to get distracted by the online experience of chat and overlook the efforts that will improve the experience between an agent and a customer. Chat has the potential to be a meaningful customer experience. For insight into how this can be achieved, I encourage you to read “Elevate Chat From OK To Outstanding By Reinventing The Contact Center Culture.”

Use CORE To Adapt Your Marketing Organization For The Next Digital Decade

We’re just weeks away from Forrester’s Marketing Forum 2011 in San Francisco, and the whole Forrester organization is gearing up for a productive, insight-filled, (dare I say, “fun”?!?) event.

For my part, I’m excited to be leading the charge on the Interactive Marketers’ track, where we’ll dig deeper into the key concepts of CORE (Adapting Your Marketing Organization for the Next Digital Decade), a brand new piece of research that my colleagues Emily Riley and Chris Stutzman will unveil in their keynote presentation on April 5th.

To bring CORE to life for Interactive Marketing professionals, we’re devoting each of our four track sessions to the four pillars of CORE:

  • Customize marketing experiences: Nate Elliot will dig into ways in which marketers can strategically leverage interactive tools to tailor a brand for multiple audiences. Nate will address questions such as:
    • How tailored can — and should — online brand advertising be, and how can marketers identify the best audiences to target in this way?
    • Which marketers and vendors are leading the way in customized online branding — and what can the industry learn from them?
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Sales Coaching Strategy - Make Sure You Focus On Definitions

I was in South Africa this week, giving a keynote at a Forrester Sales Enablement event in Johannesburg. As I wrapped up the discussion of overcoming complexity and creating more of an adaptive sales enablement approach in sales organization, someone asked, "How important is the role of the sales manager in supporting the behavior change needed within the sales team?" A great question! As a sales leader, he recognized that communicating value to today’s buyers requires a behavior change by today’s sellers, and that behavior change needs to be supported by an involved manager. My answer to his question was, “Before I answer that question, who owns your sales coaching strategy, and does that strategy provide sales coaches what they need to be successful?" Sales coaching is playing an increasingly important role in helping sellers adapt to change while handing the complexity around them.











With an effective sales coaching strategy, salespeople can expand skills and advance the sales process. Perhaps this is why so many sales trainers and sales enablement professionals are asked to focus on developing sales coaching programs in support of driving more valuable sales conversations with buyers. 

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Q&A With Dana Anderson, SVP Of Marketing, Strategy, And Communications At Kraft Foods

I am so pumped that Dana Anderson is speaking at the Forrester 2011 Marketing Forum in early April. Dana is Kraft Foods’ Senior Vice President of Marketing, Strategy, and Communications, and she’s one smart lady. She works across the Kraft portfolio to bring fresh marketing ideas and innovation to icons like Oreo and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Dana also has a wicked sense of humor. Her keynote “The Bad Boys’ Guide To Digital Bliss” will illustrate what marketers can learn from Robert Downey Jr. and Jay-Z – not your usual marketing role models!

I asked Dana a few questions on how to drive digital change in a traditional organization. Her answers point to both the fundamental shifts that will characterize the next decade and the perennial truths of marketing (great ideas start with great teams). We hope you can make it to San Francisco to hear more . . .

CO: What are the biggest changes that marketers should expect in the next digital decade?

DA: Whew, 10 years is a long time in the digital world. Facebook is only seven years old and Hulu is only four years old. While I wish I could predict how things would be in 2021, I can tell you the hints I’m seeing right now that foretell a very exciting future for marketing. 

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Customer Intelligence At Forrester's Marketing Forum 2011

A few weeks ago -- over on the The Forrester Community For Customer Intelligence Professionals -- I gave a sneak peek at the Customer Intelligence agenda for our upcoming Marketing Forum in San Francisco on April 5th and 6th. But now that we're only a few weeks out, I wanted to share the exciting content here too.

This year's theme of the Customer Intelligence talks is "Accelerating Intelligence: How Marketers Leverage Customer Intelligence To Drive Decision Making." We think this content aligns with Customer Intelligence professionals' interests and goals and the sessions will deliver actionable insight from our star CI analysts. We've published a lot of great research recently and are excited to share it at the forum. Here's what our team will present at the forum:

  • Sri Sridharan will speak on How To Enhance Your Marketing With Improved  Customer Segmentation.
  • Fatemeh Khatibloo will speak on How To Implement Cross-Channel Attribution.
  • Emily Murphy will speak on the intersection of Customer Intelligence And Loyalty.
  • Joe Stanhope will speak on The Road To The Online Marketing Suite.
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Postbank Tops Our German Bank Content & Functionality Benchmark 2011

eBusiness executives at financial firms often ask Forrester: "What can I improve about my website to sell more products online?"

The short answer to this question is: "You need to help customers on your websites achieve their goals". But what exactly does that mean in terms of content and functionality? To give a profound answer, we have analyzed how customers use financial services websites to research and buy financial products and what content and functionality they expect – based on our Consumer Technographics® surveys.

With this knowledge, we have created Forrester’s Website Functionality Benchmark methodology that tests how well financial services websites support the phases of the customers journey and help drive online sales.

In Germany, the Internet is an important distribution channel for financial products. Some 23% of German Net users researched and 9% have bought a financial product online in the past 12 months. 

To help eBusiness executives at German banks drive online sales, I have reviewed how well the websites of eight German retail banking brands help customers to research and apply for a giro account – and published the results in the report: "Benchmarking German Banks’ Sales Sites 2011".

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Differentiating On Customer Experience

Michael Porter famously wrote that companies differentiate themselves by performing a unique set of activities from their competitors' or by performing the same activities differently.

Here are some numbers: 86% of companies say customer experience is a top strategic priority for 2011; 76% seek to differentiate based on customer experience; 46% have a companywide program for improving customer experience currently in place and another 30% are actively considering it; and 52% have a voice of the customer program in place with close to 30% more actively considering it.

With the majority of companies focused on improving customer experience, how can a company expect to differentiate on it? Because there remains a tremendous amount of lip service and intellectual dishonesty about what it takes. Let me give a few examples:

  • Friendly agents game the numbers. Although not able to answer the two questions that I had, a super-friendly phone agent at a major telecommunications firm ended the conversation by asking: “We aim to not only meet your expectations but to exceed them. Have I done that today?” From the tone of the agent’s voice and the question asked, it’s clear that someone at the company is thinking about customer experience. However, the gaming of the question indicates that the company’s culture has a long way to go to actually improve the experience beyond the superficialities. 
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Cool Tools: How Emerging And Innovative Methods Can Help You Understand Your Consumer

There are only three weeks left until Forrester’s Marketing Forum, and the excitement surrounding this event is growing exponentially. Our focus this year is on how companies must radically shift their marketing practices to account for the myriad of new methods and media that people use to engage with a company and its brands and products. Our goal is to help you learn how to adjust to this new digital world we call the Splinternet.

In classic Forrester style, we run our presentation tracks to cater to each of the roles we serve within the marketing and strategy organization. For the market insights (MI) professional track, my colleagues Tamara Barber and Jackie Anderson have prepared some great content, starting first with Tamara’s take on the future of the MI department and then shifting to the awesome panel of speakers Jackie has lined up on what youth research can teach us about 21st century market insights. Next up for our track, I will walk you through some cool, emerging, and innovative research methodologies that you can use to understand this new type of customer.

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"The AOL Way": Can Creativity Be Industrialized?

Tim Armstrong is not the first CEO of a media company to try and bring some rigour and process to the creative process, and he won’t be the last. Whether The AOL Way, the training document that maps out a vision of 21st-century editorial production, will succeed — first, in getting AOL’s editorial team on board, and second, in creating a content experience that will engage fickle users and generate revenues — remains to be seen. But the exercise reminds us of the eternal challenge for the media industry — how to channel creativity to produce valuable and differentiated content.

From my experience working as an editor on magazines, on websites, and in TV, I wish Armstrong luck in implementing his vision. Much of what he is looking for makes sense: creating more content, more quickly; thinking about search optimization, traffic, and revenue; using more video. But such thinking is at the heart of Demand Media’s model, too. What is it about AOL content that will enable it to stand out in a crowded marketplace? Where is that X factor? How can AOL be distinctive as well as more efficient?

AOL, like its contemporary Yahoo, does not have the established brand values of an “old” media company like ABC, for example; arguably, it has had to acquire newer companies — such as TechCrunch and Huffington Post — to become a genuinely nimble and relevant content provider. The fear now is that if it’s a choice between “The AOL Way” and the highway, those within AOL who already know how to create compelling content will choose the highway: The signs from Engadget don’t look great.

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